House of Representatives
20 July 1904

2nd Parliament · 1st Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., andread prayers.

page 3392

MILITARY ATTACHE IN JAPAN:

Mr.CROUCH.-I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the non-receipt of advice’ from Colonel Hoad at Tokio that he has been allowed to proceed to the front, he will cause representations to be made to the Japanese Government with a view to induce them to permit the’ only military attaché representing the Commonwealth to pursue the object pf his journey, and not occupy hig time in Japan, itself.

Mr WATSON:
Prime Minister · BLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– My honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence, has been considering that matter already. I have not had an opportunity of speaking to him on the subject to-day, but 1 understand’ that his intention is to endeavour to induce the

Japanese Government to grant permission to Colonel Hoad to go to the front. Fail- ing such permission, he will instruct Colonel Hoad to return to Australia.

page 3392

ADVISORY BOARD TO SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES

Mr CARPENTER:
FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister of External Affairs to a statement in the press, to the effect that a proposal is being made’ that the High Commissioner of Australia, together with similar representatives from Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, should be appointed an Advisory Board to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I would ask, further, whether the Minister has any official information with regard to the proposal, and, if . ‘so, whether he will lay it before the House, so that, in dealing with the High Commissioner Bill, , we may be able to define, as far as possible, the powers attached to the office, particularly in this connexion.

Mr HUGHES:
Minister for External Affairs · WEST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– I am not in possession of any official information, or of - any information other than that which the honorable member has indicated as having been derived from the press. If such a proposal be made to this Government officially, every opportunity will be afforded honorable members to consider the’ powers and duties of the Commissioner as a member of the proposed board, when the High Commissioner Bill is before the Chamber..

page 3392

PAPERS

MINISTERS laid, upon the table the following papers : -

Report by Mr. Chesterman upon the proposed Federal Capital site, in the Tooma district.

Report on opium smoking in New South Wales.

page 3392

QUESTION

ELECTORAL ACT ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

Motion, (by Mr. McLean) proposed -

That the Select Committee on Electoral Act Administration have leave to move from place to place.

Mr WATSON:
Treasurer · Bland · ALP

.I would urge upon the Committee the advisability of presenting their report to the House as soon as possible, because, if it is intended to amend the Electoral Act during the present session, it would be well to have the report before us at an early date. .

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 3393

QUESTION

REDISTRIBUTION OF ELECTORAL DIVISIONS

Mr BROWN:
CANOBOLAS, NEW SOUTH WALES

– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government have taken any steps to redistribute the electoral divisions in those States in which no redistribution took place prior to the last election ?

Mr WATSON:
ALP

– I announced, when I outlined the Ministerial programme for the session that we purposed doing something in that connexion as soon as particulars were available. My honorable colleague, the Minister of Home Affairs, has already taken preliminary steps in all the States, and in some of them, including New South Wales, arrangements have been completed for there-collection of the rolls for Federal purposes.

Mr Batchelor:

– The whole work is nearly finished

Mr WATSON:

– As soon as the necessary particulars are available the Government will take steps for -aredistribution of the electorates, if, as we anticipate, the rolls show that such a course is neccesary.

page 3393

COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS

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

– I would ask the Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the Government to appoint a Committee of Public Accounts. The late Government promised that this matter’ should receive attention, and I think it is desirable a committee should be appointed, if only to preserve the simplicity that is at present observed in the public accounts.

Mr WATSON:
ALP

– I have not yet given any detailed attention to the suggestion, but I think that the principle is a good one. It has been adopted by a number of the States and also in Great Britain. I must say, however, that looking at the matter as a private member for a considerable time, I thought that the system followed by my predecessor, the late Treasurer, was such a good one that there was no urgent necessity for making a change.

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

– We should taks measures to preserve the present simplicity.

Mr WATSON:

– Quite so. In view of the desirability of preserving a good system of keeping the public accounts, it may be necessary to create such a body as that indicated by the honorable member. The Government will consider the matter shortly.

page 3393

TASMANIAN FORCES

Mr WATSON:
ALP

– Last week the honorable member for Franklin asked me what steps, if any, had been taken in connexion with the Southern Tasmanian Forces, since the recent unfortunate trouble in that State. At the time I was only able to state that I would have, inquiries made. I now have the following information to offer: -

Provision is being made on the Estimates, 1904-5, for the placing of the Military Forces in Tasmania upon the same footing as regards pay as their comrades in other States, i.e., by conversions from volunteers into militia.

In view of the large additional outlay involved, it is not considered practicable to proceed at present with the reconstruction of the corps recently disbanded; and it is proposed, therefore, to postpone the consideration of this question until the financial year 1905-6.

The grant of militia rates of pay in Tasmania represents an increase of about ‘ £6,000 ; but, owing to the decrease in the number of troops by 484, the nett increased expenditure involved will be about £4,000.

Sir John Forrest:

– Does the proposed change embrace all the troops?

Mr WATSON:

– Yes.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is not the case in any other State.

Mr WATSON:

– There are some troops that are admittedly volunteer coips, and it is not proposed to pay those. Under the new scheme proposed by the General Officer Commanding, a certain proportion of the troops in Tasmania are to be placed on the footing of militia. That intention was not carried out last year, owing to the desire of the late Treasurer to assist’the Tasmanian Government; but this year we propose to spend . £4,000 in converting the volunteer corps into Militia Forces-

Mr Storrer:

– In the meantime, Hobart is without defences.

Mr WATSON:

– I can say nothing as to that.

page 3393

QUESTION

FEDERAL QUARANTINE CONFERENCE

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

– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he intends to lay upon the table the report of the recent Conference on the question of Federal Quarantine, and, if so, when.

Mr WATSON:
ALP

– My honorable colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, is now absent from Melbourne, and I am not aware of his intentions in this respect, but if the honorable member will repeat his question next week, my honorable colleague will furnish him with an answer.

page 3394

QUESTION

FEDERAL EXPENDITURE IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Mr HUTCHISON:
HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

asked the Treasurer, upon notice - _

Whether there is any justification for the following statement by the Honorable R. W. Foster, ex-Commissioner of Public Works for South Australia : - “ The increasing burdens consequent on Federal extravagance cannot be much longer borne with equanimity. It is exasperating to know that, as .the State is economizing at every point, the Federal powers continue to spend with airy prodigality.”

Mr WATSON:
ALP

– I find it difficult to compare the present expenditure with that which was incurred before Federation, for the reason that certain services are now charged to the votes of the Departments, which, in the various States, were either free or charged to votes of other Departments under State control. The principal of such services now debited to the Departments are

  1. cost of maintenance of buildings and works; (&) rents; (c) water and sewerage rates ; (d) printing, advertising, and stationery; (e) postage and telegrams; (/) railway travelling; (g) audit. Of course, it is possible that certain of these services were charged to the Departments in South Australia, but I have no accurate information to guide me on this point. It is admittedly difficult to glean from the mere perusal of the Estimates or Appropriation Acts of the various States the exact position prior to the transfer of the Departments to the Commonwealth. It would, therefore, be impossible to make an accurate comparison, unless a special officer were sent to South Australia to collect proper data. Another difficulty presents itself owing to the fact that, in order to institute a fair comparison, the expenditure for arrears should be eliminated from the years to be. compared. As caref ul an examination as has been possible without incurring the expense of sending an officer to South Australia, has been made, with the following result : - The cost of the Customs Department in 1900-1 was £25,846; in 1901-2, £27,295; in 1902-3, £25,951; in 1903-4, £25,618. Thus, there has been a net reduction of £200. The expenditure in connexion with the Defence Department was, in 1900-1, £55,’999 :j in 1901-2, £54,188; in 1902-3, £49,583;. in 1903-4, £66,457, or .an increase of -approximately £10,000. The expenditure upon the Post’

Office was, in 1900-1, £222,271 ; in 1901-2, £231,198; in 1902-3, £237,073; in 1903-4, £240,103, or a net increase of about £18,000. The total expenditure upon the whole of the transferred Departments was - 1900-1, £304,116 ; 1901-2, £312,681; 1902-3, £312,607; and 1903-4, £332>17%- Therefore, there is an apparent total increase of £28,000. The expenditure of the Defence Department for the year 1903-4 shows an increase of £10,458, when compared with the expenditure for the year 1900-1, but included in the expenditure for the year 1903-4 is a charge of £22,892 to cover arrears in connexion with the maintenance of the Auxilary Squadron, the usual annual charge being only £10,000. That fully accounts for the increase in the expenditure of the Defence Department. Under the heading New Works, the expenditure of the Defence Department in 1903-4 was £12,035, which included £10,294 for rifles and reserve ammunition provided out of revenue, whereas, in the year 1900-1, £16,256 was similarly expended, but the money was provided from loan funds. The paying for stores from revenue is in accordance with the policy adopted some time ago by the Commonwealth Parliament, that all such expenditure and the expenditure on new works and buildings should be provided for out of revenue, and not out of loan funds.

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

– It is a sounder policy than that of paying for such things with loan money.

Mr WATSON:

– In my view, it is. The expenditure of the Post Office, shows an increase of £17,832 during the three years under review ; but it must be remembered that, prior to the classification of the Public Service Commissioner just issued, the ordinary increments due in accordance with the South Australian law, have been paid to South Australian officers, and these payments account for a total expenditure of £11,167 in the three years 1901-2, 1902-3, and 1903-4. The minimum wage provision of the Commonwealth Public Service Act has involved an increase of £5>447; Of course, the amount paid in salaries has been reduced a little by deaths, dismissals, and so on ; but there is no doubt that a large proportion of the increased expenditure is due to the operation of the South Australian Act providing for increments. The extension of the telephone service is also responsible for an increase in the expenditure of the Department. Another cause of increase in the expenditure pf the Postal Department is the transmission of a larger number of telegrams in South Australia, owing to the reduction of rates made by this Parliament.

Mr Hutchison:

– The number of telegrams transmitted in South Australia has been increased by nearly 300,000.

Mr WATSON:

– About 300,000 additional telegrams have been sent, and, of course, their transmission has involved expense in the payment of extra officers. The figures which I have given show conclusively that there is no justification for the charge of extravagance against the Federal Administration. The net result is that the transferred services in South Australia show a nominal increase of about £20,000 for the year 1903-4, as compared with that of the previous year; but £11,000 of that expenditure was due to the operation of the South Australian Act, providing for increases, for the passing of which the Commonwealth was not responsible, and ,£12,000 went to pay arrears on account of the Auxiliary Squadron. In regard to other matters, charges now properly debited to the Federal Departments, but formerly debited to other departments, more than account for any difference.

Mr Hutchison:

– The Federal Administration has been cheaper than the State administration was.

Mr WATSON:

– The Federal Departments in South Australia are administered on a more economical scale now than was the case under State control.

page 3395

QUESTION

POST AND TELEGRAPH MASTERS

Mr WATKINS:
NEWCASTLE, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Are those post and telegraph masters who, in the State of New South Wales, have to perform the duties of registrars of births, deaths, and marriages, and electoral registrars, to perform such work without being remunerated for doing so ?
  2. Did the Public Service Commissioner, when grading and fixing the salaries of post and telegraph masters in New South Wales who have to perform the duties referred to in question i, take those duties into consideration?
  3. If not, will he, the Postmaster-General, see that arrangements are made for the payment of such postmasters for the extra work entailed upon them by having to perform such duties?
  4. And will he see that remuneration is made to such postmasters for the four years they have been performing the above work without !remuneration ?
Mr MAHON:
Postmaster-General · COOLGARDIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes, when the work is performed during regular hours ; overtime payments have been made for States electoral work performed after the usual hours. Postmasters who are Divisional Returning Officers receive £26 per annum.

    1. Yes.
  2. Answered by replies to 1 and 2.
  3. Any claims that are made for remuneration for such work, necessarily performed outside regular hours, and prior to the operation of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, will be considered.

page 3395

QUESTION

CUSTOMS REVENUE AND ADMINISTRATION

Mr LONSDALE:
NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Was the Customs revenue for each of the two last financial years larger in New South Wales than in Victoria; if so, what were the figures for each State?
  2. Why did the Public Service Commissioner classify the salaries of forty-nine Customs officers in Victoria at .£19,235 - he, at the same time, classifying forty-seven officers doing similar work in New South Wales at £14,415?
  3. How was it that under the circumstances the salaries of the forty-nine Victorian officers were increased £576, and the salaries of the forty-seven New South Wales officers increased only £360?
  4. Why are a Chief Clerk and an Inspector of Accounts, at salaries of £750 and £650 respectively, required in Victoria, and not in New South Wales?
  5. For what reason is the Excise Inspector in Victoria to receive £535, and the corresponding officer in New South Wales to receive only £360?
  6. Are not the collections of Excise revenue about £250,000 greater in New South Wales than in Victoria. In addition, has not the officer in New South Wales to control the payment of £40,000 per year as bonus on white-grown sugar ?
  7. Why are the Accountant. Cashier, Clerks in charge of Jerquery Statistics and Correspondence Rooms, and Revenue Detective Inspectors in New South Wales to be paid lower salaries than similar officers in Victoria?
  8. Why is there such a marked difference between the salaries of the Clerks in the Long Room, Warehouse Accounts, and Statistical branches in New South Wales, and those of like officers in Victoria?
  9. Why are thirteen Examiners in Victoria to receive a total of £5,120, and thirteen examiners in New South Wales to receive only £4,290?
Mr WATSON:
ALP

– In the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, I bee to reply as follows : -

  1. Yes, the figures for the periods stated were as follow : -
  1. The difference is accounted for owing to the dissimilar tariffs in the two States prior to Federation. Under the State iaw, Victorian officers, as a rule, had more responsible positions, owing to the Protective tariff, and received higher salaries than in New South Wales, and in accordance with the principles upon which classification is made, no salary has been reduced. When the Commonwealth tariff was introduced in New South Wales, the staff had to be supplemented by a number of new hands at lesser fates of pay than those received by the Victorian officers who had longer periods of service to their credit. In time, however, the New South Wales officers will work up to the higher salaries, the. law providing that officers must progress through the subdivisions of their classes ; they could not be suddenly raised to the same rates as the Victorian officers who had worked through their subdivisions.
  2. It is not known, what particular officers are referred to out of the large number in both services, but the difference probably arises from the fact that there were a large number of Victorian officers receiving salaries between subdivisions, and being meritorious were adjusted to a subdivision under the Act.
  3. The Chief Clerk in Victoria occupies a position with relation to the Collector similar to that of the Chief Inspector in New South Wales. In each case the officer is next to the Collector, and acts in his absence. The difference is practically only a question of title. The officer in Victoria is shown at a salary of £750 because he was receiving such salary when the Department was transferred from the State. The Commissioner has, however, ruled down the salary in classification, and any future occupant of the position will be appointed at a minimum of £520, and cannot exceed £600 per annum. The Inspector of Accounts and his staff are really Audit Officers. Under the system in Victoria, the audit of the Customs transactions is performed by a special Customs staff. A. proposal is now being considered to transfer this staff to the Audit Office. The Inspector of Accounts also received his present salary prior to classification.
  4. The Excise Inspector in Victoria receives £535 per annum because he was receiving such salary at the date of transfer. The classification of the positions by the Commissioner in New South Wales and Victoria is now, however, made the same, the maximum salary of which is £500 per annum. The maximum salary of each class will be attained by an officer through length of service and ability displayed in his position. For instance, if the officer in Victoria were to retire at once, he would be replaced by an officer promoted from a junior class, who would commence at the minimum, and if meritorious, would in course of time progress through the subdivisions of his class to the maximum value of the position. The officer, in New South Wales will follow the same course. The Inspector in Victoria has 38 years’ service, and has had the full responsibility of the Excise Branch for many years. The Inspector in New South Wales has thirteen years less service, and has not been very long in his present position. He has had, moreover, an addition of £60 made to his salary - the greatest given to any officer in the Department - under classification, with the prospect of further advancement.
  5. Yes. The excess of New South Wales for 1903-4 was £242,920. The amount of sugar bounty paid during 1903 was £40,154, but was controlled by the State Collector.
  6. The differences in these positions may arise from a variety of causes. The position itself having been considered, and placed in a certain class, the officers themselves have to be dealt with, their length of service in the position, the Departmental reports on the ability they have displayed therein, the measure of responsibility taken by each officer, are’ all factors to be taken into account, and though two officers may be occupying similar positions, they themselves may be dissimilar in any of the respects mentioned. For instance, the Revenue Detective Inspector in New South Wales has seventeen years service - the Victorian officer twenty-eight years. In the Statistical Branch the difference is merely that of a subdivision, which will disappear as the effects of classification come into force. . The New South Wales officer had an increase of £35 on his present salary - the Victorian officer £20. The Jerquer in Victoria has charge of a staff of Drawback officers, which increases the responsibility of his position. In New South Wales these officers constitute a separate branch. The differences in other positions are due to one or other of the causes previously mentioned.
  7. Work is done in the Long Room in Victoria which is not done in New South Wales. In Victoria five officers in this Branch with salaries of £450, £300, £200, £200, and £180 respectively, were in receipt of such salaries under the State, but in each of these cases the position has been marked down, and the salaries that will be obtained by future occupants of the positions will be much less in every case. The same applies to the Statistical Branch. The Commissioner’s classification of the positions is similar in each State, one Third Class, two Fourth Class, and the remainder Fifth Class officers. Four Victorian officers receiving salaries of £300, £300, £260, and £200 respectively, do ‘ not get theseby the Commissioner’s classification, but received them Under the State. There is a marked difference also in the service of these officers. The average service in the Statistical Branch in Victoria is seventeen years, in New South Wales seven, hence the salaries of the former “were higher. In the Warehouse Branch the positions of the Victorian officers have been marked down in a number of cases, amongst others, officers receiving salaries of £325, £325, £300, £300, obtained these amounts under the State, and not by classification. There are a larger number also of Fifth Class officers in this Branch in New South Wales as compared with Victoria, and they will receive annual increments until they reach the maximum of their class.
  8. It is assumed the thirteen Senior Examining officers in each State are referred to. In Victoria, the three highest salaries with five others were obtained under the State, and not by classification. The systems of the two States also vary. In New South Wales a separate Invoice Branch is in existence, which shares the responsibility borne in Victoria by the Landing officers alone. Going beyond these thirteen officers, and taking the whole of those engaged upon the work, the difference is in favour of New South Wales, the total number of officers in the Landing

Branch (including Invoice Room and Laboratory), being sixty-eight, with total salaries of £15,500, while an almost exactly similar amount is divided in Victoria for the same branch among seventy-four officers.

page 3397

QUESTION

WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MONEY ORDER BUSINESS

Sir JOHN FORREST:

asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -

What was Hie total amount of Post and Telegraph Money Order business fo and from Western Australia from and to each of the other States of the Commonwealth for the years 1901, 1902, and 1903?

Mr MAHON:
ALP

– The following figures have been furnished by the Acting-Deputy Postmaster-General of Western Australia :-

page 3397

QUESTION

VOLUNTEER FORCES

Mr CROUCH:
CORIO, VICTORIA

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. What was the number of volunteers in each of the States of the Commonwealth in January, 1902, when General Hutton took office?
  2. What was the number in each State on the 30th June last?
  3. By what number does General Hutton now recommend that the Volunteer Forces be further reduced in each State?
Mr WATSON:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. There are no records at Head-quarters showing the strength of the Volunteer Forces on the 1st January, 1902. The following return (marked “A”), however, shows the strength on the 1st March, 1902, and the 30th June, 1904, which will, perhaps, answer the purpose.

  1. The General Officer Commanding has recommended the conversion of . Volunteers into Militia, as shown in the following return (marked “B”); but no disbandment has been recommended. te A »

Return showing strength of Volunteers in each State of the Commonwealth on 1st March, 1902, and 30th June, 1904.

Number of Troops of the Existing Establishment to be converted from Volunteers to Militia.

page 3397

QUESTION

NEW SOUTH WALES PATENT REGISTER

Mr JOHNSON:
LANG, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -

  1. Whether the Register of Patents for New South Wales has been removed to Melbourne for. duplication ?
  2. Whether (he duplication of the Register could not be as easily accomplished in Sydney as fh Melbourne ?
  3. Whether, in” the absence pf the Register, it is possible to obtain immediate and accurate information on the subject of existing patent rights in New South Wales? -4. If such important information is not now readily available, will he cause it to be made no as speedily as possible, in view of the dislocation of business involved?
Mr WATSON:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes. The New South Wales Registers have been removed to Melbourne.

    1. No. The registers must be duplicated under supervision. Moreover, they are required in Melbourne for the purpose of completing, pending proceedings, and of giving effect to existing rights of New South Wales Patentees.
  2. Yes. In point of fact it is often necessary for the Commissioner of Patents to refer to the records in New South Wales for the information he requires.
  3. Copies of the Registers will be made as speedily as possible for the State use.

page 3398

QUESTION

VICTORIAN ARTILLERYMEN

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Has the statement that “ there are 103 permanent artillerymen kicking up their heels in Victoria Barracks, Melbourne,” been correctly attributed in the press to the Honorable the- Minister of Defence?

    1. What number of guns are there at these barracks on which these scientific artillerymen can be practised ?
  2. What reason is there why these men should not ‘be stationed at the guns at the Heads, and not in Melbourne?

Mr WATSON:
ALP

– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. Yes. The Minister of Defence stated in the Senate that there were over 100 Permanent Artillerymen stationed at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne; and that therefore he saw no reason to increase the Force to man the forts. Subsequently, the Minister received a return showing the actual number to be 116. The Assistant Adjutant-General for Artillery, in the absence of the General Officer Commanding, reports as follows in reply to 2 and 3 : - ¥ «/
  2. Eight. ^ recruit
  3. With the exception of twentyfour recruits completing musketry course” under their instructors, the “ C “ Instructional Cadre of thirty-six men, and twenty-eight non-commissioned officers and men required to furnish the guard over the residence of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, they are employed at duties which would not permit them to be stationed elsewhere. The recruits will join- their comrades at the Heads as soon as- their musketry course is completed.

page 3398

QUESTION

GEELONG LETTER-CARRIERS

Mr CROUCH:

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. Are there several letter-carriers employed in the Geelong Post Office who, under the new classification, will receive ^132 yearly?
  2. Were these men paid, prior to 1st Jul)’, £i$o yearly?
  3. ls not this reduction inconsistent with the practice in other cases, where the pay is not reduced, although the rate of the office may be, in future, decreased?
Mr BATCHELOR:
ALP

– The Public Service Commissioner reports -

  1. Yes.
  2. Yes; under the provisions of the State Act 1 72 1, section 19.
  3. There is no inconsistency in the classification, because at the time it was made these officers were in receipt of” ^132 per annum. The Victorian Reclassification Board had previously reduced the maximum for letter-carriers to £108 per annum, but the Commissioner, by his classification, fixed as a maximum ^138 per annum for letter-carriers throughout Australia.

page 3398

SEAT OF GOVERNMENT BILL

Second Reading

Mr BATCHELOR:
Minister of Home Affairs · Boothby · ALP

– I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

It may be well to recall to the minds of honorable members’ the steps which have been taken in this Parliament up to the present time to provide for the choosing of a site for the Federal Capital. It will be remembered that at the end of the first session of the First Parliament, the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, moved in this House the adoption of a series of resolutions, which were also introduced in the Senate, with a view to providing for a joint sitting of the two- Houses, so that their members might vote together in the choice of the Capital site. The resolutions were agreed to in this Chamber, but rejected in the Senate, so that the arrangement for which they provided, and which presented some distinct advantages, in being likely to secure an early settlement of the question, could not be carried out. The next step taken in connexion with the matter was the introduction by the honorable member for Hume of a Bill very much on the lines of the measure now before us. In one of the clauses of that Bill a blank was left, which was to be filled by the name of the site chosen, and that blank was filled in Committee of this House by the insertion of the word “ Tumut. “ The Senate, however, when it received the Bill, struck out the word “ Tumut,” and substituted for it the word “ Bombala.” Those proceedings occurred very late ‘last session, and towards the close of the life of the last Parliament, so that no further action was taken in connexion with the matter. I do not know that the delay which was caused has created any particular disadvantage. Indeed, I think that it has resulted in manifest advantage, though I do not agree that that admission is necessarily an argument for further delay. The reason why I say that the delay which has occurred has not been an altogether unmixed evil is that previous to our consideration of the matter a large number of sites were ready for submission, and the effect of parliamentary action has been to reduce that number to two or three, so that public attention is now concentrated, not on some nine sites scattered all over New South Wales, but upon two or three only. These sites have been compared one with another, and criticisms have been directed to their particular advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, a great deal of additional information has been obtained in regard to them since last session closed. Most valuable reports upon the sites in the Southern Monaro district have been received from Mr. Surveyor Scrivener, and equally valuable reports on the sites in the Tumut district from Mr. Surveyor Chesterman ; while I have to-day laid upon the table a report from the- latter gentleman in regard to the latest proposed site, that near the township of Tooma, on the Upper Murray. This report has not yet been printed, but it vill be printed and made available for honorable members at trie earliest moment possible.

Mr Crouch:

– Is there a site in the Hume constituency which has not been reported upon?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Any number of suitable sites in that district have not been reported upon. The constituency is one which does not suffer from a paucity of suitable sites, nor, as the Attorney-General reminds me, for want of a good man to represent it. These later reports are a distinct advantage, because they enter into so much more detail than did the earlier reports. By their aid we are able to come to a definite conclusion much more readily. We have had . most complete contour surveys of the two principal districts. We have also had the advantage of receiving reports prepared by the right honorable member for Swan, the ex-Minister of Home Affairs. Those documents are, in my opinion, distinctly valuable. Further, we have had a report from Colonel Owen, and Mr. Pridham’s report concerning the water supply of the various ‘ sites. In addition to this additional information, a great many more honorable members have seen the sites than had had an opportunity of visiting them when the Bill was discussed on a former occasion. I believe that honorable members all round are in consequence better equipped for coming to a wise decision than they were when the Bill was previously before the Chamber. I should not have troubled the House with any general remarks upon the question - confining myself directly to the Bill itself - had it not been that the honorable member for Corangamite has given notice of an amendment on the motion that the Bill be read a second time. His object is to bring about an amendment of the Constitution by altering what has always been considered to be a compact with the State of New South Wales. Even if that object were not attained the carrying of the amendment would cause considerable delay. Though the honorable member may be serious in moving his amendment, I do not think that he will receive very much support, either in this House or outside. My own view is that there are very many reasons why the question should bie settled as early as possible. I do not argue that it is a matter of extreme urgency, but certainly there are very many reasons for a setlement without unnecessary delay. In the first place, the Crown lands around the suggested sites- at all events around those which have been,, regarded as having some chance of selectionhave been expressly reserved by the New South Wales Government from occupation. Those lands cannot be leased or sold. The consequence is that a considerable area of New South Wales territory is, for the. time being, without value. Failing an early settlement, we should withdraw the request made by the Federal Government to the New South Wales Government, and allow them to sell or lease these Crown lands. We have no right to dilly-dally with this matter, and at the same time keep New South Wales lands - closed from settlement. Another reason, and a much stronger one to my mind, why we should bring the matter to a definite issue, is that the needs of the Commonwealth Departments for accommodation are growing. We require a habitation. We need to have some place where we can build the necessary offices for the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth.

Mr Cameron:

– We cannot be much more comfortable than we are now.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The honorable member for Wilmot is one of those who believe in a man having a bit of land that he can call his own. I admit that we are most comfortable in our Melbourne quarters, and I appreciate to the very fullest the generosity of the Victorian treatment of the Federal Parliament in the matter of accommodation. The hospitality of Victoria has certainly been more generous than I expected. We ought to remember that we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to this State. Our work would have been exceedingly difficult if we had not had such arrangements made for us. But we cannot indefinitely trespass on the hospitality of Victoria. This magnificent pile of buildings cannot be occupied by us for all time.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– I do not think Victoria will grumble.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I question very much whether Victoria would not grumble. I believe that these Parliament Buildings cost about £800,000, and I do not know that Victoria is prepared to allow us to have the perpetual use of property of that value rent free. At any rate. I am quite sure that we have no right to ask for any such thing. We have no right to continue in indefinite occupation of these premises without paying rent for them.

Mr Cameron:

– We shall be frozen out if we go to Bombala.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I do not wish to discuss the relative merits of the suggested sites. There will be many opportunities for doing so later on. I fully acknowledge that we have been splendidly treated by Victoria. But, at the same time, there are some inconveniences attached to the present arrangement. We have no opportunity of providing for the increased accommodation which is becoming necessary owing to the growing demands of the Federal Public Service. Our Departments will continue to grow, however much some sworn economists may deplore the fact. It is- their nature to grow. As the Commonwealth Administration branches out into other fields, as we commence to do all the work which we are empowered to do under the Constitution, and possibly secure extended powers, the necessity for increased accommodation will become more and more urgent. During the past few months considerable difficulty has been found in providing the absolutely necessary accommodation for Commonwealth administrative purposes. Having to lease private . buildings which were not erected for the purposes of public ‘offices, but for much smaller operations, we are not able to concentrate the Departments sufficiently. The lack of concentration means that the supervision cannot be so good as it otherwise would be. We also labour under the disadvantage of being able to offer only short terms for leasing the premises that are available. That means that we are paying more than we otherwise should pay. These are some of the considerations which I urge upon honorable members to show the absolute necessity of the Commonwealth having some habitation - some place where we can build the necessary accommodation - as early as possible. The accommodation which we provide should not be larger than is required, and it should be so planned thai the Commonwealth can remain in permanent occupation. Another reason which I urge as being important, though I do not think that it is of the greatest importance, is the anxiety, not to say restiveness, exhibited in New South Wales amongst politicians and the press with regard to the settlement of this question.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– It extends beyond the politicians and the press.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I have no doubt that that is the case, but it is expressed through politicians and the press. I have not any doubt that there are in New South Wales a very large number of people who entertain the same feeling. Indeed’ I think that the people of that State generally have good grounds for asking that the Federal Capital question shall be settled. But the fear that has been expressed that there is any sort of combination or any general desire on the part of any of the States to do New South Wales out of the Capital, or to baulk her in the carrying out of the agreement that was entered into, is entirely groundless. There is no such desire anywhere or amongst any section of the people. So far as I can gather the facts, the objections that have been raised to proceeding with the* selection, of the Federal Capital at once, arise from the fear that the undertaking will be costly, and from the feeling that some cheaper method might be adopted than the one that has been proposed. A good many people think that it would be better to locate the Capital in one of the principal cities - either Melbourne or Sydney. However, the people of New South Wales may fairly ask that the question shall not be postponed, but that it shall be settled at the earliest possible moment ; and the allaying of any possible source of friction which might arise if the present delay were continued, is a good reason for coming to a definite conclusion. Mr. Waddell, the Premier of New South Wales, recently made a request that the selection, of the site should be postponed until the new Parliament was elected in that State. His idea was that the New South Wales Parliament should select a site, and, I presume, offer it to the Commonwealth Government. Of course, the Government should be very pleased - and this Parliament, I take it, would also be pleased - to have an expression of opinion from the New South Wales Parliament as to which site, in their ‘opinion, is the best. We should be pleased to have an expression of opinion on the subject from an)’ State Parliament. But we cannot get away from the fact that the duty of selecting the site rests upon this Parliament. It rests upon the only body which is representative of the whole of .the States of the Commonwealth. This Parliament is the only body which can properly carry out this duty- We must recollect that this is entirely a Commonwealth proposal. It is not a question affecting only the interests of New South Wales. It is not a question primarily for New South Wales, except in so far as that State has to grant the land. It is a matter in which every State of the Commonwealth is just as much concerned as is the State of New South Wales. This Parliament being the only Parliament which is representative of all the States of the Commonwealth, it is the only body that is properly qualified to select the site. Besides, there is the fact that we are directly charged by the Constitution with the duty of selecting the Capital site.

Mr Cameron:

– If we do choose the land, it remains with the New South Wales Parliament to say whether or not it shall be given.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– We can discuss that point later on. I do not for one moment anticipate that if this Parliament selects a site, the New South Wales Parliament will raise the question of our right to do so, or of their right to have a voice in the matter. My own opinion is that New South Wales will cheerfully acquiesce in the decision of this Parliament. There is another objection to the proposal of the honorable member for Corangamite ; and it indicates the chief reason for having the matter settled at the earliest possible moment. The honorable member’s amendment suggests - ….. that with a view to securing greater ^freedom of choice in the future, steps should be taken to alter the Constitution by striking” out the words “ and be distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney,” in the 125th section of the Constitution, and to add the words “ or Sydney “ after “ Melbourne “ in the same section.

I understand from that amendment that the honorable member’s desire is to enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth to meet in either Melbourne or Sydney.

Mr Wilson:

– No.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– In Sydney, particularly. I understand the honorable member’s desire is that the 100-miles limit shall be removed, so that, if desired, the Seat of the Federal Government shall be in Sydney.

Mr Mauger:

– Would that not be more expensive than to create a capital?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I think it would be a great deal more expensive; but I shall deal with that matter presently. In my opinion the effect of the establishment of the Seat of Government in Sydney or in any other of the States capitals would be to thwart the whole object for which a Federal Capital is created. The Seat of Government is, in my opinion, specially intended to be altogether free from any State or local influences. We must not forget that this is a Federation of States, and that, in some respects, each State has interests separate from the interests of the other States. There are State interests which frequently conflict ; there are antagonistic circumstances which cause a good deal of friction. The Commonwealth Parliament is charged with the duty of giving the fullest and freest consideration to all those conflicting interests when they arise in connexion with any legislation which may be before us. It is a great deal better, therefore, when we are considering such questions, that the Commonwealth Parliament should be away from any existing capital, because there we find focussed, as it were, whatever special State interests there may be. We are largely the creatures of environment.

Mr Reid:

– The Minister would probably be a free-trader in New South Wales.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I might have been a free-trader had I resided in New South Wales. I have heard a great many very sound protectionists say that had they resided in England they would have been free-traders.

Mr Mauger:

– -That only means that they would have been free-traders if they had never left England.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I have heard of New South Wales free-traders who, on coming across the border into Victoria, became pronounced protectionists; and this only shows the influence of environment. If the Commonwealth Parliament were permanently situated, say, in Melbourne, the majority of honorable members would have to live in the city, and would obtain all their information of the world’s doings through the Victorian newspapers.

Mr Mauger:

– They might do worse.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I quite agree that honorable members might do a great deal worse; but that does not alter the fact that all the world’s information, including that affecting the affairs of the States which they represent, would be conveyed to them mainly through Victorian and Melbourne channels. And, further, all the information of the doings of the Federal Parliament would be transmitted to the world through the various Melbourne press agencies. Victorian industrial and commercial interests would be ever before us; and though I do not say we should get a bias in favour of that State - I shall not put it that way - the other States would be placed at a distinct disadvantage. Victorian interests of every kind would be continually insisted upon in the morning newspapers, and our association with the business men of Melbourne might result in their affairs being continually before us. Take the question of the Murray waters, for instance, on which there is considerable difference of opinion in the various States. I am prepared to say, and I think honorable members will agree with me. that if this Parliament were sitting in Adelaide when that matter was under discussion in the form of a Bill, we should obtain a very different class of information from that which would be supplied if the business were being conducted in Melbourne. It seems to me, therefore, that the real object of creating a Federal Seat of Government, and of providing this limit of roo miles, was that the Federal Parliament should be in an atmosphere detached from any peculiarly local interests. Precisely the same argument would apply if the Parliament were meeting in the capital of any State. What we want is to get a clear Commonwealth view of the questions which come before us ; and I do not think that such a view can be so well obtained if we meet in any one of the big cities, where, as I pointed out, the whole of the special interests of the State would be focussed or presented in the most marked degree. If we ask ourselves what possible objection there can be to this provision of a limit of I 00 miles - what possible objection there can be to what has been called a “bush capital” - we are at once told of the expense which must result, and of the possible inconvenience to honorable members. But as members of a Federal Parliament we must all admit and bear the inconvenience of residing away from a State capital. So far as I am concerned. I . should find it much more convenient and pleasant in many ways if we were to continue to meet -in Melbourne ; and the same circumstances, of course, affect other honorable members. But the convenience of honorable members is hardly the whole .reason for the creation of a Seat of Government. While that consideration ought to have some effect, it is a long way from being the’ whole question. As to the question of expense, 1 am certainly of opinion that what has been called a “bush capital” would not cost nearly so much as would the erection of the necessary buildings in Melbourne or Sydney.

Mr Mauger:

– Why not determine not to build except out of ordinary revenue, and thus disperse all alarm ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– All alarm might be dispersed, but all alarmists would not be suppressed. I do not believe for one moment that the Government would be justified in borrowing money for the purpose, of erecting buildings for a Federal Capital, and no suggestion .of the kind emanates either from the Government, or the party behind it.

Mr Mauger:

– If we stick to that determination, we shall not go very far wrong.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– I hope the Government will not borrow money ‘for any purDose.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I hope not. B.ut pursuing the comparison of the cost of establishing a Federal Capital in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, or any of the States capitals, with the cost of establishing a Capital as proposed by the Constitution, the two principal factors are the land values and the style of architecture. So far as land values are concerned, it is obvious that they must ‘be very much less in what is called a “bush capital” - and . for want of a better term, we may just as well, perhaps, adopt that one. The cost of building in Sydney or in Melbourne would, of course, be enormously greater than in the country.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Unless the New South Wales Parliament gave us the Centennial Park.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– If the New South Wales Parliament gave us the Centennial Park the cost of the land would not be so great to us; but the land values would be infinitely y greater than in the case of a “ bush capital.”

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

– It would be £3,000 per acre as against 30s. per acre.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The style of architecture enters very largely into the cost, but I suppose that the only buildings really necessary are. those for the accommodation of Parliament, and for the accommodation of the officers.

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

– And some tents.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I think we may leave honorable members to provide tents for themselves; I have reason to believe that some members, at . any rate, are prepared to put up their own tents if necessary. Honorable members will agree with me that the only buildings necessary are those for the Houses of Parliament, and for the Departments of the Commonwealth Public Service.

Mr Ronald:

– What about the GovernorGeneral ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– And probably it might be necessary to erect a residence for the Governor-General; but beyond those I do not know of any buildings which are necessary. We have had extravagant estimates, showing that something like £1,250,000 would be necessary for the provision of a variety of buildings, including a national art gallery, official residences for the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. These and other fancy estimates, which run into many hundreds of thousands of pounds, are only so much waste of good ink Nobody has ever seriously thought that such buildings were necessary or would be provided.

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

– These are “ weak inventions of the enemy.”

Sir John Forrest:

– What does the Government propose to spend?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I will tell the right honorable member what buildings I consider necessary for the present; and it will be for future Parliaments to decide the amounts to be expended. I should say that Sir Edmund Barton estimated that not more than £500,000 would provide for everything, except the resumption of land, for the next generation.

Sir John Forrest:

– The building in South Australia cost £250,000, and it is not half finished yet.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Surely the right honorable member does not propose that we should build a Federal Parliament House on the scale on which that one was started. He knows that it was built on a very expensive design, that most expensive material was used, and that, in many respects, there was a most wasteful expenditure of public money. Probably he does not know that hugh blocks of faced granite - which cost 5s. or 6s. a yard to cut and polish - are buried in the ba’sement. That was simply throwing money away, and that is how the cost was piled up. The very handsome pile of buildings in which we meet cost about £800,000. I should be very sorry indeed if we erected a building in this style of architecture, handsome though it undoubtedly is. It is far beyond what is required from the ornamental point of view. We have a magnificent space in the Queen’s Hall, splendid corridors, and a lot of unnecessary mosaic work in the lobbies.

Sir John Forrest:

– Similar buildings are to be found all over the world.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I shall raise my voice against the erection of such a building every time it may be proposed, as I do not think it is necessary-

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable gentleman proposes to regenerate the world.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– No ; but I propose to try to keep, as I think we can, well within the estimate which Sir Edmund Barton gave.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Does that include the means of communication?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– No.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– It is only fair to add that to the cost.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The cost of providing the means of communication must be borne in mind ; but the honorable member will see that that will not necessarily be a Federal expenditure. The estimate will include, I understand, all the expenditure necessary for laying out the city and so on. Now, far more room and far more conveniences are provided in the old barracks of a Parliament House in. Sydney than in this building. From the standpoint of comfort and convenience, I would prefer a structure of that kind to this building, magnificent as it is. I know that the views of the right honorable member for Swan in this connexion are always pretty large.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– When the expenditure is actually incurred, the honorable gentleman will find that the right honorable member will be nearer the total than he is, that is, taking the history of all other Federal capitals into account.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The right honorable member has not given a total yet. If we had a Parliament comprised of members such as the right honorable gentleman, we might run to a ruinous expenditure; but so “long as the money has to be provided out of revenue, and not out of loan account, there will be not much fear of our out-running the constable. The buildings in which we meet would not have been erected, if their cost had had to be defrayed out of general revenue, nor would the parliamentary buildings in South Australia have been erected.

Sir John Forrest:

– Tin pot !

Mr Mcwilliams:

– The Commonwealth can run the States into’ a condition of insolvency by taking revenue which ought to be returned to them.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Of course the Commonwealth could do all kinds of things, but each State is a portion of the Commonwealth, and we have all to be elected by residents of the States. They will not send us in here to so spend money as to render them insolvent; they will very soon draw the line at any proceeding of that kind.

Mr Hutchison:

– The people have given the Commonwealth a quarter of the Customs and Excise revenue, and it is not being spent.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– We are expending an amount not farshort of it.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The right honorable member for Swan interjected “tinpot.” I am prepared to stand any amount of such criticism, because I believe that we ought to try to economize, and not to spend unwisely. It is idle, merely for the sake of trying to condemn this proposal, to suggest that there is any serious intention to spend millions of money on elaborate buildings. Nothing of that kind is proposed to be done, nor would it be permitted by the House. I am now led to the question of the area proposed in the Bill for the Federal territory. The minimum area provided in the Constitution is 100 square miles. All kinds of estimates have been made, and opinions expressed as to what area is really necessary for the purpose. Some honorable members, and other persons, have proposed to take as much as 20.000 square miles. Another proposal was to take 5,000 square miles. The Government have proposed jan area somewhat less than that which was agreed upon by the House during last session, and which we think is a happy mean between those extravagant ideas to which I referred, and the minimum area which is provided in the Constitution. It has been . said that this area is being proposed for the sake of makmaking an experiment in Socialism, or land nationalization, or something of that kind.

Mr Liddell:

– So it is.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– If the honorable member- will consult those persons who have urged that this experiment should be made, he will find that it is not specially a Labour proposal. In the last Parliament, practically every member of the House was in favour of it.

Sir John Forrest:

– I was not, anyway.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– In the last Parliament practically every honorable member - excluding, no doubt, the right honorable gentleman, for a very good reason, because every other member of the Government he was in was in favour of it - was in favour of this proposal.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think so. I do not think they said so, anvwav.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Suppose we start with the right honorable gentleman’s leader, Sir Edmund Barton. I should be surprised if the right honorable member for Swan agreed with any proposal of the late Government.

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

– That is very rough.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– It is very true.

Sir John Forrest:

– Coming from that source, it is not worth much.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– What the right honorable member was in that Government for I have been at a loss to ascertain ever since he left office. He seems to have been in disagreement with everything that his colleagues proposed, or else he must have discovered, after he had left office, that he was entirely wrong in all his previous opinions’.

Sir John Forrest:

– Does the honorable gentleman know that this was an open question in the Cabinet?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Apparently in that Cabinet everything was left an open question.

Sir John Forrest:

– Does the honorable gentleman know that?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– How can I know it?

Sir John Forrest:

– It was said to be the case.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The right honorable gentleman does not know anything of the kind ; he is trying to confuse the issue. The question I am discussing is not the selection of a site, which I admit to have been an open question, but the method in which the land should be afterwards dealt with.

Sir John Forrest:

– That was in the Bill.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– No.

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

– It was in the Maitland manifesto.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– It was. Referring to this matter on the 22nd September, 1903, the Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, is reported, at page 5281 of Hansard, to have said -

I prefer, not for every purpose, but as a business proposal for this purpose, the system of leasing, with periodical re-appraisement 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 if 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.

This was put, not as a wild socialistic experiment in land legislation, but purely as a business proposal.

I regard this matter as quite different from the ordinary proposal in regard to land nationalization.

The right honorable gentleman proceeded in a similar strain for half a column. He said : -

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.

Sir John Forrest:

– He did not mention any number of acres, did he ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– What has the number of acres to do with the question? The right honorable gentleman said that the object of this proposal was to have an experiment in land nationalization.

Sir John Forrest:

– When did I say’ that? I said nothing of the sort.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The right honorable gentleman just cheered a remark to that effect.

Sir John Forrest:

– I do not think so. .

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Well, I misunderstood the right honorable gentleman if he did not

Sir John Forrest:

– I made no observation of that kind.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– At any rate, the right honorable gentleman denies that the leader of. the Government, of which he was so distinguished a member, was committed to this very form of what is called land nationalization.

Sir John Forrest:

– I never was committed to it.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The right honorable gentleman most carefully refrained from getting up in the House and-

Sir John Forrest:

– Do not mind what the Prime Minister said at Maitland ; let us hear what he said in the House.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I have just been reading what Sir Edmund Barton said in the House. The right honorable gentleman does not seem to have grasped that fact yet. He spoke after the Prime Minister, and I do not see that in any part of his speech he denounced his leader.

Sir John Forrest:

– What for?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– For putting forward this experiment in land nationalization.

Sir John Forrest:

– I never said that I was opposed to leasing.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Then what is the right honorable gentleman’s objection? I propose to quote just one more sentence from the remarks of Sir Edmund Barton -

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.

Sir John Forrest:

– The honorable gentleman has made a great fuss about nothing.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Then we had a speech by another authority, who, I understand, has lately taken an opportunity to denounce the project for an area of 900 square miles as a proposal for experiments in socialistic land legislation. While Sir William McMillan was acting temporarily as leader of the Opposition, he said, as reported on page 5283 of Hansard -

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 shall not trouble honorable members with any further quotations. I have shown that the former leader of the House, and the leader of the Opposition, agreed that none of the land included within the Federal territory should be sold. Therefore, they committed themselves to what is now described as a new suggestion on the part of the Labour Party, .which, in making it, is said to be imbued with fanciful socialistic ideas.

Sir John Forrest:

– How do the Government propose to raise the money necessary to purchase 640,000 acres? If the money is not borrowed, where will it come from ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– If the right honorable gentleman will only wait, I shall show him that the enormous amount of money which he seems to think will be needed for the purchase of the resumed land will not be required. A comparatively small sum will suffice for all .purposes, and the Commonwealth will easily be able to command it.

Sir John Forrest:

– A large sum will be required for the purchase of 640,000 acres

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The provision in the Bill that the Federal territory shall embrace an area of 900 square miles cannot be regarded as constituting a proposal to establish another State. An area 30 miles square would not be equal in size to many sheep runs over which I have travelled. I know of many individual pastoral holdings in South Australia which exceed in area 1,000 square miles. Some pastoralists hold 3,000 or 4,006 square miles.

Mr Wilson:

– Would the Minister like to live upon any of such holdings?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The honorable member may not know that the Wilgena run, within which the Tarcoola gold-field is situated, and through which the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie would pass, embraces 3,000 square miles. I have been on that run, and I know (hat, although the rainfall is light, it is a very good place to live upon. I do not mention Wilgena as a very large holding, because I have known of a block embracing 70,000 square miles, for which an annual rental of only 30s. was paid. That country was, of course, situated away back in the interior, and, I need hardly say, was never occupied. , Speaking, however, of occupied country, we know very well that a sheep station of 1,000 square miles is not regarded as a very large holding.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– There are plenty of such runs in Queensland.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– There is a public park for recreation purposes in Ottawa, the capital of the Dominion of Canada, which embraces an area of 1,700 square miles. Further, within a short distance of Sydney, there are recreation reserves with an aggregate area of over 300 square miles. In view of these facts, the proposed area of 900 square miles should not be regarded as a very large one for the Federal territory. It seems to me that it is idle to suggest that an attempt is being made to rob New South Wales of a large slice of her territory. The Commonwealth is entitled to take such measures as will secure to it the benefit of the unearned increment resulting from the expenditure of Commonwealth funds.

Mr Crouch:

– What does the Minister propose in view of the statement of the Premier of New South Wales that he will not grant the Commonwealth more than 100 square miles?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– The Premier of New South Wales is not the State.

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

– He represents the sentiment of New South Wales upon that particular point.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– He does nothing of the kind.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I do not wish to interpose between the representatives of New South Wales, between whom such a marked difference of opinion appears to exist, but I venture to say that the State of New South Wales will not act the part of the dog-in-the-manger in this matter. Notwithstanding the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta, I believe that that State will treat the Commonwealth in the same way that she has treated it hitherto, and will not for one moment attempt to bind it down to the minimum area provided for in the Constitution.

Mr Liddell:

– Perhaps not; but she must get fair play

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Of course. I do not propose that we should approach New South Wales with a pistol in our hands, and demand that she shall deliver up to us 900 square miles. What we require to do, however, is to express our opinion as to the area which should be embraced within the Federal territory. We have a perfect right to do so, and that is one of the objects of the Bill. We are also entitled to claim that any increase in the value of land which may result from

Commonwealth expenditure shall be retained by us, and that the area of the Federal territory shall be sufficiently large to insure that result. The question as to whether New South Wales is compelled to grant us, free of cost, more than 100 square miles of territory, depends upon the construction placed upon the Constitution. It is not necessary to discuss that question, and I do not propose to do so. I am quite prepared to believe that New South Wales will, when the question of the site is settled, be prepared to meet the Commonwealth Government in a reasonable manner, and that no great difficulty will arise in connexion with the negotiations.

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

– New South Wales will, without doubt, deal fairly with the Commonwealth, but’ will’ not hand over such a large area as 900 square miles.

Mr Liddell:

– TheCommonwealth are proposing to take the pick of the country.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Do all the sites proposed embrace the pick of the country ?

Mr Liddell:

– Yes.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth will not select bad country.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I hope so, too. It is natural to suppose that, other things being equal, the best land in any country would be developed first.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– That depends on the locality. to a large extent.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I admit that a great deal depends on accessibility, but it is not to be supposed that there are many unoccupied blocks of land in New South Wailes, embracing 900 square miles of land like that to be found about the Hunter River vallev. or in the Richmond district.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– We are told that all the sites embrace splendid land.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I wish to give honorable members the benefit of some figures which have been compiled by Mr. Coghlan. Mr. Carruthers, the leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, in com- menting upon some remarks made by the Prime Minister, stated that the population of that portion of Southern Monaro included within the 900 square miles which it was proposed should constitute the Federal territory contained a population of 40,000 persons, and he also made some very extravagant estimates as to the value of the land, and the great loss that would be sustained by New South Wales if it were . appropriated by the Commonwealth. We asked Mr. Coghlan to compile a state ment showing the value of land within a radius’ of 17 miles of Batlow, Bombala, Dalgety, Lyndhurst, Tumberumba, and Tumut respectively. A 17 -miles radius, with these towns as a centre, would, in each case embrace an area of 900 square miles. Mr. Coghlan was asked to include whatever towns would come within the radius, and not to exclude any important towns near the border - as probably will be done when the Federal boundaries; are actually delimited. Mr. Coghlan shows that, in connexion with the Batlow site, the population, including that of Tumut and some other towns within a 17-miles radius, is 7,425 ; that the unimproved value of the land is £230,000, and the value of the land with . improvements, £529,300. The Bombala site1 embraces a population of 3,894 persons, and the unimproved value of the land is £362,200, and the value of the land with improvements, £691,600. At Dalgety, the population within a 17 -mile radius is 3,568, the unimproved value of the land is £352,000 - about £10,000 less than at Bombala - : and the value of the land with improvements, £460,200. At Lyndhurst, the population, including that of Blayney, which, as honorable members know, is a considerable town, is 9,626, the unimproved value of the land ‘is £449,000, and the value of the land with improvements, £814,000.

Sir John Forrest:

– He has placed a verv low value upon the unimproved land.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– These are the official figures used for the land-taxation, purposes.

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

– The return refers to only the alienated lands and does not embrace the Crown lands.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I do not know whether that is the case.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– The best of the land would naturally be alienated.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Tumberumba is taken as a centre in order to obtain a radius of 17 miles upon the New South Wales side of the Murray. The population within that area is 2,213, the unimproved value of the land is £185,124, and the value of the land with the improvements, £377,000.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is only about 7s. per acre.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Yes. I am inclined to think that these figures cover the unalienated land, as well as that which has been sold. Otherwise, there must be a very large area of rough country included within the . radius I have mentioned. It must not be supposed that all the land is suitable for agricultural purposes. The unimproved value of the land included within the Bombala site is given as £362,200.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is only about 12s. per acre.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Included within that area would be a large proportion of hilly country.

Sir John Forrest:

– Land is sold at Bombala at the rate of £4 per acre.

Mr Webster:

– Only the best of it.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Of course, these are official figures, and I am sure that honorable members do not suggest that they are not absolutely reliable.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– We are only expressing our surprise at the low value which has been placed upon the land.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– It must be remembered that there is a good deal of very rough country included in some of these areas - land which is not fit for occupation under present conditions. Almost all the land within the Batlow site, except that just at Batlow itself, is rather inferior grazing country, and is therefore not worth very much per acre.

Sir John Forrest:

– What about the Lyndhurst land ? “Mr. BATCHELOR.- The land in the Lyndhurst site is valued at about £449,000.

Sir John Forrest:

– That is about 15s. per acre.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– It is rather more than that.

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

– What about the Tooma land?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Tooma is included in the Tumberumba site. If a radius of seventeen miles from Tooma had been taken, some of the Victorian country would have been included, and therefore the radius has been drawn from Tumberumba and just touches the Murray. The value of the land and improvements within the Tumberumba site is estimated at £377,124. The population of the Tumut site, which includes part of Gundagai, is 10,356, and the unimproved value of the land £497.000 ; but, reckoning in improvements, the total value is estimated at £948,100. Only part of Gundagai is within the Tumut site, and most of the population in the district is in and around the township of Tumut itself, so that the value of the improvements in that part of the district is very great. When the New South Wales Parliament has passed an

Act granting us the land, and we have passed an Act accepting it, that land will become ours, except so far as any Crown land outside the limit provided for in the Constitution is concerned, about which there is a doubt. The question, however, is not one which it is necessary for me to discuss now; it is a legal question which depends on the interpretation of one or two words in the Constitution.

Mr Conroy:

– I do not think that such land would pass to the Federal Government’

Mr BATCHELOR:

– At any rate, it would be idle for us to discuss the matter now. The Government wish to insure that the very best method shall be adopted in connexion with the choosing of a site. We must agree to a mode of selection which will give absolutely fair results. I think that perhaps it will be well to discuss the sites in districts rather than separately. Thus, we might discuss the sites in the Monaro district, the sites in the Western district, and the sites in the Southern district.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– How many districts would the Minister suggest?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– That is a matter for t’he House to determine; but I think that the proposed sites might be grouped in three districts.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– Does the Minister propose to group thirteen sites in the Southern district?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– There are not thirteen sites.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– There are eleven sites dealt with in the reports which have been placed before us, and the Government are now making provision for a visit bv honorable members to two more.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I am not aware that we are making provision for a visit to two more sites. Does the honorable member refer to the proposal that honorable members shall visit Tooma?

Mr Austin Chapman:

– I understand that a visit to Tooma and. a visit to Welaregang are in contemplation.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I understand that those two places are not far from each other, and can be considered as one site. However, the matter may be verv fully discussed when we come to deal with the sites individually. I propose to ask the House to pass a series of resolutions similar to those carried last session, providing for the choosing of a site by the process of an exhaustive ballot. On the whole, I think that that is the best method to adopt; but the Government are not going to stand or fall by any particular method. Our only desire is to obtain the best method, and it is for the House to say which is the best. The honorable and learned member for Corinella placed in my hand last night a scheme for the ‘choosing of a site by preferential voting. A good deal may be said in favour of that scheme, but I should like to hear its author make out a case for it before accepting it. A number of copies of his proposal have been printed, so that honorable members may the better understand it.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I suggest to the Minister and to the House that we should at this stage, as the Standing Orders require, discuss only the second reading of the Bill, and that the best mode of balloting to be adopted should be discussed on a separate motion, between the passing of the second reading and the consideration of the measure in Committee.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– I merely desire to indicate now that it is the wish of the Government that the method of selection adopted shall be that which seems likely to give the best and fairest results. I need not go further into the matter now. I have mentioned it to show that the Government are not wedded to any particular scheme.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Can the honorable gentleman inform the House as to the means of communication between the various sites and the capitals of the States ?

Mr BATCHELOR:

– That information is contained in the printed reports.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I think that it is a detail which may be left to the Committee discussion.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– Yes ; but . with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to say that, in compliance with the request of the honorable and learned member for Wannon, I have had a return prepared, showing the actual time which should be occupied, under present conditions of railway and coach service, in reaching each of the various sites from Melbourne and Sydney. The information has not been printed, but there are a dozen copies available for the perusal of honorable members.

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

– I think it should be printed. The information is most important.

Mr BATCHELOR:

– It can be printed, if honorable members so desire. In conclusion, I wish to express the hope that, in choosing the site of the Federal Capital, no personal, party, or parochial considerations will have influence. The question is absolutely a non-party one, and the site, when chosen, will stand, either as a monument to the sagacity of the members of this Parliament, or as a permanent proof of our incapacity. We may fairly hope, therefore, to obtain such a choice as will reflect credit upon us.

Mr SPEAKER:

-I wish to intimate to the House that, as the Minister of Home Affairs has not in any way referred to the comparative merits of the respective sites, and as I have understood from his speech that a later opportunity will be given for such a discussion, I propose, with the concurrence of honorable members, to rule against their discussion now. Mr. WILSON (Corangamite). - I move-

That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the follow, ing words : - “ in the opinion of this House 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 be taken to alter the Constitution by striking out the words 1 and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney ‘ in the 125th section of the Constitution, and to add the words ‘ or Sydney ‘ after ‘ Melbourne ‘ in the same section. “

The Minister of Home Affairs attacked my amendment before I had an opportunity to move it, but I recognise that he had a perfect right to say what he has said, and I am indebted to him for one or two admissions which, it seems to me, should strengthen my arguments in its favour. He told the House’ that the delay which has taken place in connexion with the choosing of a site has not been altogether disadvantageous, and, in point of fact, has produced manyl advantages. I may fairly contend, therefore, considering the great importance of the question to Australia, that further delay will be advantageous. We have heard a great deal of the compact in the Constitution in regard to this matter. I take it that the spirit of that compact is that the Federal Capital shall be placed in New South Wales, and my amendment recognises that compact. It provides, not only that the Federal Capital shall be situated in New South Wales, but that after three years, and as soon as the necessary arrangements can hi made, the provisional capital shall be removed from Melbourne to Sydney. I hope thus to allay most of the irritation which has been caused in New South Wales by the delay which has occurred in settling the

Federal Capital question, and I expect to have, on the conclusion of my remarks, the solid support of all the representatives of that State. I have no parochial feeling in this matter, and no desire to press the claims of the State in which I was bom before those of the mother State.

Sir John Quick:

– Apparently the honorable member is ready to give them away.

Mr WILSON:

– They have been completely given away by those who were responsible for the framing of the Federal Constitution.

Sir John Quick:

– Under Certain conditions.

Mr WILSON:

– What are those conditions? A site may be chosen 101 miles from Sydney. The amendment gives away nothing, but it allows the Commonwealth the privilege of choosing whatever site in New South Wales may be considered most suitable.

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

– Can the honorable member guarantee that there will be no alteration of his proposal if the amendment is agreed to?

Mr WILSON:

– If the amendment is agreed to, and a site within 100 miles of Sydney is chosen-, it may be necessary to amend’ that provision of the Constitution which says that the Federal territory shall contain an area of not less than 100 square miles.

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

– Can the honorable member guarantee that that would end the matter ?

Mr WILSON:

– The matter will be ended only when the Capital site has been chosen^ and the expenditure necessary for the erection of public buildings thereon has been undertaken. Honorable members must, I think, be satisfied thatthe amendment strictly recognises the spirit of the compact in the Constitution.’ The Minister of Home Affairs asked whether I was in earnest in this- matter. I can assure him, and the House generally, that I am thoroughly in earnest. Throughout the- whole of my electoral campaign I strongly advocated the principle contained in my amendment. I am aware that other honorable members did the same, and that there are many of . them who are quite prepared to support me. So far as general support is concerned, I have no fear. I do not count noses before a proposition is thoroughly thrashed out. My proposal is, I believe, what the Victorian people desire to have enacted. They wish to see the Federal Capital fixed in a sensible district, at as small a cost as possible compatible with efficiency. I believe that the same can be said of the people of the other States. The people of New South Wales would, I am quite certain, infinitely, prefer that this amendment should be adopted than that we should carry as it stands a Bill which provides that the territory shall be not less than 900 square miles in extent.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– Does the honorable member think that the people of New South Wales will be prepared to give that area to the Commonwealth.

Mr WILSON:

– The people of. New South Wales would insist, and properly insist, that the Capital should be within their State.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– Why “properly?”

Mr WILSON:

– Because it has been so provided in the . Constitution. That is a compact to which we must adhere at all costs.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– A compact which should never have been made.

Mr WILSON:

– But it has been made, and by reason of that fact New South Wales was drawn into the Federal bonds. Under these circumstances, we have no justification whatever for asking that the compact shall be set aside; and I for one, as a Victorian, am- perfectly satisfied to observe it. I believe that other Victorian representatives are . prepared to do the same.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– Cook. - The proposal to extend the area does not adhere to the compact.

Mr WILSON:

– It is not a question of extending the area. I am proposing that the Federal Capital should be adjacent to the capital of New South Wales. The Minister of Home Affairs stated that the Government of New South Wales had, at the request of the Federal Government, decided not to lease, sell, or in any way alienate Crown land in any of the areas which have been suggested as probable sites of the Federal Capital. He urged that if we continue to dilly dally with the question, those lands would be still further hung up. But if honorable members will assist me in carrying this amendment, there will be no dilly dallying, and the areas iri New South Wales which have been reserved from occupation, can be dealt with as the Government of that State chooses, without any let or hindrance from this Parliament.

Mr Batchelor:

– How does that follow?

Mr WILSON:

– It follows because the Capital site under my proposal would necessarily be nearer to Sydney, than has hitherto been proposed. Consequently, the thousands of square miles outside the 100- mile limit, might be alienated.

Mr Batchelor:

– That does not follow at all ; that is only another, guess.

Mr WILSON:

– It is not a question of guess-work in any way. As the honorable member for Franklin said with regard to another interjection, it is simply a question of common sense. If my amendment were carried, it would necessarily follow that the area chosen for Federal purposes would have to be less than 100 square miles ; and wisely so.

Mr Batchelor:

– That would not necessarily follow.

Mr WILSON:

– I do not understand the Minister. At present the Constitution provides that the Federal territory must be not less than 100 square miles in extent.

Mr Batchelor:

– Even if that provision were struck out of the Constitution, it does not necessarily follow that the Federal territory would be less than 100 square miles in extent.

Mr WILSON:

– It does not follow necessarily, but if .a site for the Federal Capital were chosen within 100 miles of Sydney it would b’e necessary on the ground of economy to choose less than 100 square miles; because 100 square miles within 100 miles of Svdney would be very much more valuable than the same area at a greater distance from Sydney.

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

– Not necessarily; 100 square miles in the Blue Mountains would not be so valuable as 100 square miles on the Monaro tableland.

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

– No.

Mr WILSON:

– There seems to be a diffierence of opinion amongst the New South Wales representatives, and I will leave them to fight it out amongst themselves. I contend that as a matter of economy it would be necessary to curtail the limit of too square miles if the site were near Sydney. The Minister of Home Affairs stated that one of the great arguments in favour of having the Capital city away from Sydney or Melbourne or from any of the large centres of Australia was that such a situation would create “a Federal atmosphere.” I suppose there must be something magical in this “ Federal atmosphere.” There certainly seems to have been a great deal of “ hifalutin “ talk about the Federal Capital. The Minister has spoken about the buildings, and has asserted that the strictest economy will be observed. That has been the tale told by all the Governments that have ever existed in Australia since responsible government was granted.

Mr Batchelor:

– And it was never acted upon until a Labour Government came into office.

Mr WILSON:

– It has never been acted upon as the Minister admits. Honorable members opposite persistently state that they are the be-all and end-all of economy, but outside the House we hear talk of what the Labour Party has done in quite another direction, more particularly in connexion with the administration of Departments in other State capitals. We hear people saying that they have been guilty of gross extravagance, and that the debts of the various States have been piled up by means of the support of that party. But I am digressing. The Minister further stated that if the Federal Capital were located in Sydney or Melbourne, the opinions of honorable members on Federal questions would always necessarily be moulded by their environment, and that the Melbourne or Sydney daily newspapers, as the case anight be, would influence their votes.

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

– They do it to a considerable extent now ; although we say that they do not.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– They would do it just the same wherever Parliament sat.

Mr WILSON:

– Wherever this Parliament might sit, the great newspapers which are established in the States’ Capitals, and which have become a power, would still exercise their influence. There is no corner of Australia in which we could establish the Capital city . where we should escape from the influence, more or less powerful, of the leading journals. They have worked themselves, as it were, into the minds of the people. Perhaps the Minister supposes that, in the wonderful Federal Capital which is to be established, a daily newspaper press of a totally different character would spring up. May I suggest to him as the name for the Federal Capital daily newspaper - the Federal Lyre Bird! Another point that assists me in my argument is the fact that there are within a short distance of Sydney 300 square miles of reserved park land. It would be very easy, if my amendment were carried, to apply to the New South Wales Government to grant to the Federal Government a suitable area in one of those park reserves.

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

– Does the honorable member know the character of the land upon which those parks are situated?

Mr WILSON:

– I have the pleasure of knowing the character of some of the parks which are adjacent to the “city of the Beautiful Harbor.” The honorable member for Lang assures me that the land is very suitable. Another Sydney representative shakes his head. There, is evidently a difference of opinion amongst the New South Wales representatives on the subject. I, at all events, am satisfied that a suitable area could be found within a short distance of Sydney upon, which we could erect our Federal Capital. Without going into elaborate detail, with regard to the capitals of other’ Federations, I would ask honorable members to consider the history of Washington and Ottawa. Let them consider the time that it took to establish these capitals, and the rate at which they have grown. Their history should act as a warning to Australia. £b far as Washington particularly is concerned, honorable members should find in its history a warning to Australia not to create in our political life “ a Federal atmosphere,” such as has been created in the capital of the United States.

Mr Batchelor:

– The honorable member surely does not suppose that what has taken place there has occurred from the fact that Congress is absent from the large cities, such as New York?

Mr WILSON:

– I believe that the events to which I allude have occurred largely because the legislators of the United States have become a kind of political ascetics, who have established themselves in a place distant from the great centres of population, and removed, to a great extent, from the influence of the press.

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

– There could not possibly be any more lobbying than there was over the Tariff.

Mi. WILSON. - The honorable member knows that I was not present when the Tariff was before Parliament. The Minister, in speaking of what he called the “ Federal atmosphere,” told us that in South Australia there is a run of 70,000 square miles, which was let for the magnificent sum of £1 ros. per year. I should say that the middle of that run would be one of the finest places in the world for getting what might be called a cool, clear, Federal atmosphere. I feel that I need offer no apology for submitting this amendment. The Prime Minister has already foreshadowed an amendment of the Constitution in connexion with a proposal to nationalize the tobacco industry ; and, considering the enormous expenditure which the creation of a Federal Capital will entail, I claim that my proposal is of much greater importance to Australia than is any proposal in connexion with that industry. I should like to draw attention to various items which will go to make up the proposed enormous expenditure. In the first place, there must be connecting railways constructed on almost every site mentioned ; and that is a very serious matter. Then there must be buildings, dams, pumping stations, and so forth, for water and electric supply ; and, in addition, the making of roads, the laying out of parks, and so forth. Another matter, which has been neglected to a great extent in the estimates placed before us, is that of establishments in which the members of Parliament may reside.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– They could live in tents.

Mr WILSON:

– In my youth I spent a considerable time living in tents, and enjoyed the experience immensely ; but I have now, somehow, lost the taste for that sort of thing. I know that the taste remains with the honorable member for Darwin, and possibly with other members, even on the Opposition side of the House. But if the Capital were established amongst the snowy ridges of the south-eastern portion of New South Wales, I should much prefer to live in stone, brick, or even a wooden house, than in the best tent ever made. I do not think I need delay the House longer; but I most seriously urge that the amendment should be taken into earnest consideration, and mainly from the point of view of common-sense and economy

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– I wish the honorable member would explain where the economy is.

Mr WILSON:

– If the amendment be carried, it will be possible for the provisional Capital to be established in Sydney, and there is no reason why it should not remain there for fifty years.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– How would that be any cheaper than having the Capital in Melbourne ?

Mr WILSON:

– The honorable member for Bourke has already conveyed by interjection that he is in favour of breaking the compact made with New South Wales.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– On the contrary, I am in favour of keeping. the compact.

Mr WILSON:

– My contention is that the amendment will do away with most of the irritation which exists in New South Wales.

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

– The honorable member is endeavouring to show that, by breaking the compact, we may keep it.

Mr WILSON:

– Perhaps the honorable member is too dense to grasp the fact, but I think I. have shown that the amendment is keeping the true spirit of the compact, and it is the spirit, and not the letter, to which we must have regard.

Mr Spence:

– Does the honorable member wish to have the Federal Capital in Svdney permanently ?

Mr WILSON:

– My suggestion is that the Federal Capital might remain in Sydney for the next fifty years, by which time I think I am quite safe in saying most of the honorable members here will have ceased to take any interest in the question. The creation of a Capital is by no means an urgent matter, and my amendment will leave the final decision to the Australians of a future generation. We have heard a great deal from time to time to the effect that the improvement in the value of the land selected will repay the cost of creating the Capital; that the granting of leases and periodical revaluation will result in sufficient revenue to meet all expenditure. We have heard similar arguments used many times in Australia; and I think that they were not unknown during the time of the Melbourne land boom, the after effects of which we all remember.

Mr Batchelor:

– Let that lesson be a warning to the honorable member in the matter of the Federal area.

Mr WILSON:

– It is a warning that we must not lay stress on the hope that there will be any considerable increase in the value of the land. Although a “bush capital’’’ would be somewhat lively for a short time during the Parliamentary session, it would for the rest of the year be a place of magnificent distances and deadly dulness

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

– And of silent solitude.

Mr WILSON:

– The honorable member has supplied the very words I wanted. In the districts surrounding a “ bush capital.” there will be places where melancholic lunatics could live and thrive. I hope, in all seriousness, that honorable members will consider this amendment on its merits, and not prejudge it in any way. I ask honorable members to regard the amendment apart from any promises they may have made, or any conversations they may have had, in relation to any of the proposed sites, and to look at it from the point of view of economy and common-sense. If honorable members do so, I am satisfied that I shall have far more support than the Minister has indicated.

Mr ROBINSON:
Wannon

– In seconding the amendment, I feel that the honorable member for Corangamite has correctly stated the reasonable view of the Federal compact, a view which, I think, ought to be accepted by most honorable members. The situation of the Capital was undoubtedly a consideration which largely influenced a portion of the electors of New South Wales in assenting to Federation. I take it that had the Federal Parliament been given the right to choose a site in any . portion of New South Wales, the majority for Federation in the State would have been larger - that the effect of limiting the choice, judging by a careful examination of the newspapers of the State at the time, had a prejudicial effect on the number of those who voted for Federation. The object of the amendment, as I understand it, is not to break faith with the people of New South Wales, but to give them and this Parliament a wider area of choice - to give New South Wales a greater privilege than that State now possesses under the Constitution - a larger concession. It is not out of place to offer some reasons why I believe it is in the interests of the whole Commonwealth that that larger concession should be given. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo interjected, when the honorable member for Corangamite was speaking, that the amendment was a giving away of Victorian rights. I cannot appreciate the force of that view, because I think the advantages of” a Federal Capital are very slight. When Federation was established, I was one who thought that it was an excellent stroke of business to have the temporary seat of Government fixed in Melbourne; but after three years’ experience, I am convinced that there is not such advantage attaching to the compact as I then imagined. The people who have derived most advantage are the proprietors of the Grand Hotel and Menzies’ Hotel, and some boarding-house keepers in the suburbs.

Mr Mahon:

– Do not forget the proprietors of the two large newspapers.

Mr ROBINSON:

– And the proprietors of the newspapers may also have received some advantage. The general expenditure of public money has been very slightly increased in Melbourne by reason of this city being the Seat of Government, and I am convinced that the people would not have been in a worse position than they now are if the Federal Parliament had met elsewhere. I do not think that the volume of business in Melbourne has increased, or that there has been any great increase in the value of property ; in short, I believe that if the Seat of Government had been elsewhere, quite as much business would have been done in Melbourne during the last three years. Therefore, I feel that in seconding the amendment I am not a party to the giving away of Victorian rights. All that Victoria has a right to expect, I understand, is that the Federal Parliament shall meet in Melbourne until the Capital site be selected, and buildings for its accommodation established. I support the amendment, on the ground that it will effect a great saving to the people of Victoria to do away with the idea of building a new city in the backblocks of New South Wales. Any man who has studied the various reports with which honorable members have been surfeited during the past six months, must recognise that the establishment of a Federal Capital will land the Commonwealth in the expenditure of millions of money. The various estimates which have been submitted, seem to me to have been put forward on the most swelledhead principles. Every scheme has been discussed as if the minimum population of the Federal Capital at its very initiation would be about 25,000, and upon the supposition that in a few years it would run up to 300,000 or 400,000. If we turn to the great Republic of the United States; what do we find in the city of Washington ? Admitting ‘ that it is the richest country in the world, and that its population has been increasing by leaps and bounds, and that it now numbers over 80,000,000 - notwithstanding these enormous advances it has taken over 100 years for the population of Washington to reach 250.000. Yet we have put before us in solemn earnestness estimates of how much it will cost to establish a Federal city for a population of 250,000. It seems to me that those estimates are a great waste of public money, that they are ridiculous in the extreme, and that we. cannot look forward to having a larger population than 15,000 or 20,000 in the Federal Capital for the next thirty years at least, and possibly not for fifty years. I ask honorable members to consider what are the sources on which we shall rely for a population in .the Federal Capital. The residents will’ include the head officers of the various Departments and the Parliamentary staffs. The Customs officers will still be located in the Customs Houses at the big ports. The big staffs of the Post and Telegraph Department will still be located at the capital cities of the States. The bulk of the transferred officers will still remain in their present habitations, and only a fractional proportion of the public servants will be removed to the Capital - I venture to say not more than 5 per cent. Then, in connexion with Parliament, we have to look at the fact that honorable members will, meet there for not more than three or four, or five, months in the year. The Parliamentary staffs - I hope not, for their own sake - may have to exist in the Capital all through the year. Of course there will also be the necessary shopkeepers and traders to supply the residents with the necessaries of life, and one or two coffee-palaces or public-houses for the accommodation of honorable members.

Mr McWilliams:

– No public-houses.

Mr ROBINSON:

– It is suggested that we may have clubs - and possibly that would obviate the difficulty - as is done at Mildura. What elements will exist for the building up of a big city? What development of manufacturing, or agricultural, or mining industry will be assisted by the establishment of a Capital ? I cannot see that any new industry will be built up. I cannot see that the wealth of the country will be added to one iota by the expenditure of millions of money in this way. Therefore, the more of that money we can_ save the better it will be. The sole reason why I support the amendment is to save not only Victoria, but every other State in the Commonwealth from having its revenue depleted by such an unnecessary expenditure. The Minister in charge of the Bill told us that the expenditure on the Federal Capital should come out of revenue - a sound principle, I believe - but it must not be forgotten that every pound taken out of revenue means a pound less for the States to receive and a pound more to be raised by taxation from the people of the States. If £5,000,000 be spent on the Federal Capital during a term of ten years it means that £500,000 less per annum will be returned to the States. It means that the burden of taxation on the people of the States must be increased,, or else the weight of retrenchment, which has been very severely felt in Victoria in the past few years, will be increased. From every point of view the expenditure means a disadvantage to the citizens of the States. It will be much more sensible to keep that money in the pockets of the people. If the amendment be carried we can have the temporary Seat of Government in Sydney for the next quarter or half of a century. I, as a Victorian, am convinced that no great detriment to Victorian interests can result from adopting the proposal. In my election campaign I addressed meetings in forty-seven townships. At every township I advocated that the temporary Seat of Government should be transferred to New South Wales, foi the purpose of lessening and allaying the jealousy which exists between the two great States, and in no solitary instance did’ I find- an elector who had an objection to raise to my proposal. On the contrary, I found a deepseated conviction that it would be to the advantage of the taxpayers of Victoria if we Victorians would give up- whatever rights we possess under the Constitution,, and let the Federal Parliament meet in Sydney. By doing so we should save a large expenditure of money and all the taxpayers of Victoria would be benefited. I have not yet heard, either through the press or any other source, of any disadvantage which would ensue to Victoria from the temporary Seat of Government being removed to New South Wales. It seems to me that a proposition which will save the expenditure of millions of money, and enable the first years of the Commonwealth Parliament to be marked by a due regard for economy, and by as much concern as possible for the convenience of the various States, ought to commend’ itself to honorable members as an advantageous one. But, apart from those grounds, I feel that the proposition to establish the Federal Parliament in some out-of-the-way township is, from the stand-point of the purity of politics, one of the most dangerous propositions which have ever been suggested. Those honorable members, who have studied Mr.

Bryce’s monumental work, The American Commonwealth, know that he lays it down clearly that one of the great causes of corruption in American politics has been the fact that the Legislatures of the States, and the Congress of the Republic, have met in back-block townships, and that the great organs of the press have not been able to fully present their doings to the people of the States, or to the people of the Republic.

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

– Does the honorable and learned member think that it would have been better if they had met in New York?

Mr ROBINSON:

– I certainly think that it would have been better if the Congress had met in New York. I also think that it would be better if the Legislature of New York met in the city of New York. From my study of American politics, I am convinced that the meeting of the Legislature of New York, in the city of Albany, many miles from the great centre of population in New York city, has led to corruption and to bad and wicked influences being felt in the legislative halls of the State. Any honorable member who takes an interest in municipal government or affairs of that kind -would do well to turn to the records of the meetings of the Legislature of Illinois - not at Chicago, the capital of that State in point of number and wealth, but at a small township. We find that in small townships the large capitalists who seek special privileges have been able, by log-rolling and bribing members, to gain advantages at the expense of’ the rest of the community. As the Federal Parliament meets in a big city, the powerful organs of the press are able to expose daily to the public gaze the doings of honorable members. I know that sometimes the criticisms of the press hurt us. I suppose that I have as much right to complain as has any honorable member ; but we must look at this question from a broad point of view. It is to the advantage of the whole community that our doings should be laid bare to the people of the Commonwealth, : and that the fullest publicity should be given to the proceedings of Parliament. ; If the Parliament meet in a small town- ! ship, hundreds of miles from any big centre, where public opinion can be felt : only to a very small degree, we shall not secure proper scrutiny and publicity, and the result will be that wicked influences < will creep in. We shall create further opportunities for corrupt influences to undermine the moral fibre of honorable members, and bring about jobs which will be a disgrace to the Parliament of the day. That has been the universal experience of the States of the great Republic. Honorable members know that in the United States - I believe without exception - the State Legislature meets not at the real capital of tihe State, but at a smaller township, and, as Mr. Bryce points out, upon evidence which cannot be gainsaid, it has been found that the meeting of the States Legislatures in those small townships, far away from the influence of the press and the pressure of public opinion, has resulted in jobbery and corruption of all kinds. The lobbyist - the man who seeks special privileges at the expense of the whole community, the man who has an axe to grind, and is prepared to grease the palms of honorable members in order to fill his own pockets - has a far better chance to attain his end if he can do his work where there will be no publicity afforded to his doings. If he can operate in the bush, where the reports sent by the representatives of the newspapers to their head-quarters will be but scanty, then his opportunity will indeed be a golden one.

Mr McCay:

– They would not be very scanty if anv corruption were tried.

Mr ROBINSON:

– I am not so sure of that. It is much easier to cover such things up in a small out-of-the-way township than it is in a place where we have the full blast of public opinion about our ears day by day.

Mr McCay:

– In a small community thev become more easily known.

Mr ROBINSON:

– The small official atmosphere that there would be in a Federal Capital in the bush would make it all the more easy to cover up injustice and wickedness of every kind.

Mr McCay:

– Does the honorable and learned member think that an official atmosphere tends to correct those things?

Mr ROBINSON:

– I think that the official atmosphere in our Federal Capital will be very small, and that the few officials will not care to attack those who may be in power for the time being. I support this amendment, not only on the ground of economy, but also on the ground that I believe it will make for the purity of public life. I do not pose as an apologist for the press. Pressmen are well able to look after themselves, and I believe they do it very well from all we hear. However unpleasant it may be to us to have the press dictating to us at times, still it must be conceded that the publicity which it gives to our doings is in the highest degree beneficial to the people, that we cannot receive too much publicity and too much crossexamination concerning our acts.

Mr Tudor:

– Does the honorable and learned member think that the press is fair?

Mr ROBINSON:

– I do not say that the press is fair or unfair.

Mr Tudor:

– It is unfair.

Mr ROBINSON:

– People’s opinions of fairness differ. Sometimes I think that the press is unfair to me, but I am quite sure that the writers of the paragraphs think that they are dealing with me generously. I am not objecting to that. It is in the highest degree desirable that we should all get at times a “ dressing down “ from the press.

Mr Batchelor:

– Who is objecting to the press?

Mr ROBINSON:

– I do not say that the honorable gentleman objects to the press, but I suggest that we cannot expect to receive adequate press criticism if the Federal Parliament is shifted from a big centre to a back-block township.

Mr McCay:

– We shall receive all the newspapers.

Mr ROBINSON:

– The reports of Parliamentary proceedings will be telegraphed, but in a big city there are always two, three, or four large newspapers which may be relied upon to keep a strict eye on what is going on in Parliament. It does not matter to me in what city Parliament meets so long as there is a powerful press ready to report and expose what is being done in the legislative halls. I advocate that the Parliament should meet in Sydney, because I believe that New South Wales has a moral claim upon us, apart from any provision in the Constitution. During . the Federal campaign I was one of those who travelled from town to town in Victoria, and stated that, in my humble judgment, New South Wales had a right. to expect that the Federal Capital would be established within her boundaries. What I now affirm, however, is that the temporary Seat of Government should be established in New South Wales, so that the vast expenditure contemplated in connexion with the establishment of the Federal Capital may be held over for some years, until our population has expanded, our resources have been developed, and the finances of the States have been placed upon a sounder footing. In the reports presented to us, I find that in some cases the expenditure of millions . is contemplated. I do not wish to discuss the merits of the respective sites, but I propose to mention them in order to indicate to honorable members the expenditure in which we shall be involved if any of them are chosen, as compared with the small outlay that will be incurred if we simply rent a few suitable buildings in Sydney. In connexion with the Bombala site, for instance, it is gravely proposed that a railway should be constructed from Bairnsdale to the Victorian border, and thence to Bombala and Cooma.

Mr Batchelor:

– By the Commonwealth Government?

Mr ROBINSON:

– I do not know who is to construct the lines, but some one would have to build them. Is the Government of Victoria to be called upon to build a most expensive railway, which would not pay for the axle grease - hardly for the matches that would be used in lighting “the engine fires? The lines proposed to be constructed in New South Wales would also entail a considerable outlay on the part of the State Government. That proposal appears to me to be unthinkable, and no State or States would be justified in incurring such an expenditure as would be involved.

Mr Spence:

– The construction of a railway from Cooma to Bombala has already been authorized.

Mr ROBINSON:

– It is very easy to induce members of Parliament to vote in favour of the construction of railways. Unfortunately log-rolling has been the curse of Australian politics. One honorable member says to another, “ You vote for the railway that I want, and I shall support you in securing what you desire.” I do not wish to disturb the equanimity of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro by making special reference to the site in which he is so deeply interested.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– I do not care what the honorable and learned member thinks - all I am concerned in is the way in which he intends to cast his vote.

Mr ROBINSON:

– I shall vote in -favour of the establishment of the Seat of Government at Sydney, and, failing that, at some plate as near to Sydney as possible. I believe that the closer to a large city we can establish the Seat of Government, and the more direct the influence exerted by public opinion and a- powerful press upon Parliament, the better it will be for the whole Commonwealth. I do not take the slightest notice of considerations of centrality, water power, climate, and other matters to which so much importance has beenattached in the reports which have been placed before us at such great cost. The chief question is : How can the public be best kept acquainted with the doings of Parliament; how can they best keep their eye on Parliament? If that can be best done by the Parliament meeting in Sydney, then by all means let us meet there, or at the best available place near that city. The proposal involves no sacrifice of Victorian rights. I am not aware of any doctrine of Victorian rights upon this question. I do not know that the meeting of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne has been attended with very much advantage to the people of that city. As I have said, the only benefit has been derived by a few hotelkeepers. In the next place, if the proposal be agreed to, the finances of the States will not be dislocated by expenditure upon buildings and other projects in connexion with the establishment of the Federal Capital. We shall insure economy, and, at the same time, safeguard the rights of the people in New South Wales. - Finally, the doings of the Federal Parliament will be more fully reported than if it were to meet in a small city in the back blocks, and the wide dissemination of knowledge as to Parliamentary doings will’ afford the best safeguard against corrupt influences undermining the morality of the.Legislature.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I cannot agree with many of thesentiments expressed by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I atn much more inclined to support the view of the Minister that the Constitution, especially in a matter between one State and the other States, should be carried out to the strict letter. I consider that a question of altering a provision in the Constitution, which represents a distinct agreement between one State and the other States of the Union, is quite distinct from a proposal to alter a provision which affects all States alike. If, for good reasons from its own stand-point, any Colony refused to enter into a federation - refused on the ground that joining the union would involve heavy taxation upon its people, and possibly the adoption of a fiscal policy to which it was opposed - and the other States then proposed, as a set-off against such disabilities, to give the hesitant State the honour, privilege, and pecuniary advantage - so far as there is any advantage; personally, I do not think much of it - of having the Federal Capital within its boundaries, it would be an extraordinary thing if the other States, after making such a bargain, should turn round and, among themselves, agree to vote the condition out of the Constitution, and so deceive the State which had entered the union under that specific agreement.

Mr King O’malley:

– The honorable member need have no fear upon that ground.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I do not entertain any fear. I am only answering the argument used by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I wish it to be understood that, in the remarks which I am about to make - and I shall have occasion to refer to some statements which have appeared in the press - I do not wish to imply that either the people of Victoria, or the members of this Parliament, desire to commit any breach of the bond entered into with New South Wales. I know that a section of the people of Victoria, which is represented by a portion of the press, may entertain such an idea, but I believe that neither the people of that State as a whole, nor the people of the other States, contemplate such an injustice. I desire to point to the reasons which the people of New South Wales have for believing that something of the kind is intended by some Victorians. The following statement appeared in the Age when this matter was previously before Parliament : -

A divergence of opinion between the two Houses will secure a further opportunity for inquiry, and above all for delay. It will be impossible at this late period of the parliamentary session to adjust any disagreement between the two Houses, and this will insure just what ought to happen - that the selection of a Federal Capital shall be left to a future Parliament, one which will take a higher view of its duty in the matter than that which operates with the present New South Wales Opposition.

The article was written during the life of the last Parliament, and we are now in another Parliament. It continues:

In time, when we have broken down the unreasoning jealousy of the mother State, and when the Commonwealth is financially in a position to turn its thoughts to the establishment of a capital city, we may repeal the fettering conditions of the 125th section, and leave Parliament absolutely free, as it ought to be, to take the very best site available, wherever it may be found.

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

– That is what the amendment means.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I do not believe that the honorable member who has moved the amendment means anything of the kind, but his amendment would probably have that effect if it were carried. Here we have a great press organ advocating absolute repudiation of the agreement with New South Wales. The same newspaper, in its issue of to-day, publishes the following statement : -

There is a belief amongst members that New South Wales would not be averse to boxing up the Federal Capital area in a territorial trap, and cutting it off from free means of ingress and egress. For this reason there is a strong desire to have either the Murray River or Twofold Bay as the boundary of the Federal area. A territorial limit of 900 square miles in the centre of New South Wales would be the same as if a man were to give his friend one acre out of a 340 acre paddock, and were to fix it in the centre without any means of access.

There is an insinuation that ordinary consideration and fair play will not be given by the State of New South Wales to the Federal Government, if the capital is situated within its territory ‘in such a place that it cannot be approached without entering the State of New South Wales. It is extraordinary that the Age, which is quite satisfied that we should be boxed up in a territorial trap in Victoria - as we are at present, according to its own line pf argument - for any length of time, should tell us that we must’ not trust ourselves to the tender mercies of New South Wales. The case put by the Age is similar to that of a State Government objecting to erect its Parliament Houses within a municipality because of a f ear _ that the municipality might bar ingress’ or’ egress - just ‘ as if they could not trust the people whom they were to govern. The Age cannot recognise that we are not separate peoples, but are all people ‘ of the one Commonwealth, and that it is the Government of that people, which is seeking a site for its own buildings, for its own Departments, and a home for its own officials. Surely, arguments of that sort indicate that, at any rate, there are some who would make a breach of the condition in the Constitution, and who, though ready to trust their own State to deal fairly towards the Commonwealth, are not ready to trust any other State to deal with equal fairness. There is a further statement in the newspaper to which I refer, advocating trie resumption of a larger area of land than that provided for in the Constitution. But the writer objects to expenditure, and speaks pf the cost of the land. He says -

It has to be remembered that in any site chosen the Federal Government must absolutely purchase all the private land it requires at the valuation which that land bore last year. This might amount to some millions more, and the interest on that purchase money must be met before anything can be said about the profits of unearned increment.

The writer objects to the cost of the land, and gives that as one reason for not establishing the Federal Capital at the present time, while immediately afterwards he says that a much larger area than that provided for in the Constitution should be taken. I hold that, the provision in the Constitution is a protection to the interests, not only of New South Wales, but of the other States as well. There is no doubt, in my mind, that, if that provision had not been placed in the Constitution, the Federal Parliament would have commenced its sittings in Sydney, and would probably have remained there. The other States, however, are protected from the dominating influence of Sydney, by the condition that the Federal Capital shall not be situated within 100 miles of that city.

Sir John Quick:

– Quite right.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I do not say whether it is right or not; but it is a security for the interests of the other States. I have also noticed that, in certain quarters, attempts have been made to have the Federal Capital located as far away from Sydney as possible ; to place it on the borders of New South Wales, and, if possible, nearer to some other capital than to the capital of that State. I think that such action is reasonably regarded by the people of New South Wales as unfair, and in support of that belief, I will quote some of the statements which were made when the matter was being discussed in New South Wales prior to the acceptance of the draft Constitution by the people of that State. This is a statement as to the resolution which was passed by the Conference of Premiers in 1899 -

It is considered that the fixing of the site of the capital is. a question which might well be left to the Parliament to decide; but in view of the strong expression of opinion in relation to this matter in New South Wales, the Premiers have modified the clause so that, while the capital cannot be fixed at Sydney or in its neighbourhood, provision is made in .the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales at a reasonable distance from that city. 6 b 2

The writer of the article in which that statement is published adds -

Victoria insisted upon two conditions : that it should not be within 100 miles of Sydney, and that Parliament should sit in Melbourne until it met at the seat of Government.

There is no doubt that an effort is now being made to do something which is quite opposed to the understanding then arrived at. The effort to which I refer has for its object the location of the Capital, not “ at a reasonable distance from Sydney,” but at a place as far away from Sydney as is possible. It is being made one- of the conditions of eligibility of a site that it shall be as distant from the capital of New South Wales as it can be. When this question was raised in New South Wales by those who opposed the acceptance of the draft Constitution by the people of that State, certain prominent men in Victoria replied to the objections of the leaders of the movement against the Bill. In the first place, let me quote what was published on the subject in the Argus -

The broad fact is that no English community is ever guilty of deliberate “treachery and deceit, and that in this instance the people of Victoria will be as the people in any of the Colonies would be, faithful in word and spirit to their bond. They will nol be allowed to break their compact, and they would not seek to do so if allowed.

I have already shown the spirit in which the Premiers framed the provision in the Constitution after passing a resolution which requires, first, that the Capital shall not be situated within 100 miles, of Sydney, and, secondly, that it shall be within a reasonable distance of Sydney. Then we have the statement of the right honorable member .for Balaclava, who, on behalf of Victoria, made the compact with New South Wales. He said -

I am perfectly certain that the representatives of Victoria won’t attempt in any way to prevent the Federal Parliament fixing the site in New South Wales, an3 getting the necessary buildings erected at ah early stage in the Federation. No doubt the question will be submitted to Parliament during its first session and decided, providing that New South Wales is ready with the necessary area of land and several alternative sites. I am sure none of the Colonies will do anything unfair. We in this Colony have made a compact with New South Wales, and we are not going back on it.

That statement was quoted from one end of New South Wales to the other by those in favour of the Bill, as evidence of the intentention of the- people of Victoria to act fairly towards the provision in the Constitution. Then Mr., now Sir Alexander, Peacock, at a later date, said, when interviewed by a reporter of the Sydney Daily Telegraph -

There is an unaccountable impression in New South Wales that Victoria will keep the capital, once she has the Federal Parliament sitting in Melbourne. I assure you that no good ground whatever exists for such a belief…… The talk about ‘Victoria intriguing with the Federal Parliament, plotting against New South Wales to have an alteration made in the Constitution -

That is the present proposal - or throwing difficulties in the way of the selection of a site, is utterly without foundation, utterly unjustifiable, and unworthy.

In answering the reporter’s question as to whether Albury was the site likely to be chosen, he said -

Albury is too near to Melbourne, you know. A province of Melbourne. You might as well have the capital in Victoria as in Albury. Oh no, this is a serious business. Albury is impossible. We admit it.

New South Wales is prepared to carry out her part of the compact. She has not asked - although it would be a great advantage to Sydney, though I do not think an economy to the Commonwealth to have that city chosen as the site of the Capital - that the bond in the Constitution should bebroken for her benefit. She has not asked the other States to render up the security given to them by the provision in the Constitution that the Capital shall not be within too miles of Sydney. I admit from my “experience since I came to Melbourne that a State gains many political advantages by having the Federal Parliament sitting in its capital, but those advantages, although they are very great, have not been claimed by the people of New South Wales. All that they ask for is the fulfilment of the bargain in the Constitution. They say, “ We are bearing a heavier burden of taxation consequent upon the adoption of Federation.’ We have been taxed to the extent of millions since the Commonwealth was inaugurated. We have taken the risk” of the adoption of a fiscal policy obnoxious to the views of the majority’ in the State, and we ask in return that the compact shall be fulfilled. We do not ask for more than is in the bond. We do not desire that Sydney shall be given an advantage over Melbourne, Adelaide, or Hobart, but that a site shall be selected for the Federal Capital which will be within reasonable distance of our metropolis, though beyond tha hundred miles limit, to which the repre- sentatives of every State will have to travel, so that the difficulties of attendance will be common to all, and the terms of the Constitution will be observed.” Surely that is an honorable and straightforward request. The proposed alteration of the Constitution, whatever its object may be, means delay, and as I have shown by quoting the remarks of leading Victorians, it was not intended, in the first instance, that there should be delay, nor was delay expected by New South Wales. Not only would an alteration of the Constitution mean delay, but it might happen that the other States would destroy the bargain which induced the people of New South Wales to enter Federation, and would substitute for it something different. I think that honorable members must admit that the representatives of New South Wales in this House have not unduly pressed for a settlement of the Federal Capital question. Although there Has been delay, which has caused much irritation, and, although the statement of the right honorable member for Balaclava, which was largely used in New South Wales to remove the doubts of those WhO opposed fh: acceptance of the Constitution, was to the effect that the matter would be dealt with promptly, ana, in his opinion, decided in the first Parliament - -

Mr McDonald:

– So it should have been.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– Although that promise has not been fulfilled, the representatives of New South Wales in this House have not unduly pressed for a settlement of the question. We have recognised that, while there is a section in Victoria, or at any rate in the Victorian press, determined to delay the settlement of this question, and, if necessary, destroy the understanding arrived at, the bulk of the people of the State, and the large majority of the members of the Federal Parliament, have no such intention, but there is a desire on their part to honorably and promptly carry into effect the provisions of trie Constitution. If we had thought differently, what would have been our duty? We should have said, “ You are not fulfilling the conditions of the Constitution ; you are not carrying out the promises that were made by your public men. You are adopting this course deliberately. You have a wrong and an ulterior object in view; and it is the duty of the New South Wales members of this Parliament to see that no business is done until that wrong is remedied.” That attitude has never been assumed ; but it would have to be assumed if it were considered that there were deliberate obstruction. It has never been considered that such is the case, and consequently that attitude has never been taken up by the representatives of New South Wales.

Mr Crouch:

– The Sydney Daily Telegraph is always taking up the position that Victoria is trying to obstruct the selection of the Capital.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– That view is justified by the attitude of a section of the press in Victoria. No doubt the honorable and learned member for Corio heard what I read from the Age. That extract justifies the feeling that there is in Victoria a movement under strong auspices for breaking the Constitution, and for dishonouring the bond that was entered into.

Mr Mauger:

– The only feeling amongst the people of Victoria is that extravagance should not be indulged in, and that there should not be any great buildings constructed in the Capital.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I quite agree with the people of Victoria in that respect. I think that we ought to manage the finances in connexion with this business with the greatest care. We ought to incur the least possible expenditure.

Mr Mauger:

– When there is talk of the expenditure of millions, it naturally frightens people.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The smallest amount that can possibly meet the case should be expended. The New South Wales people have done their share. They have had to pay extra taxation in consequence of their entering into the Federal compact. They have had to find extra money month by month, and year by year, since the imposition of the Federal Tariff. The establishment of the Federal Capital in one of the existing large cities would not reduce proposed expenditure, but would increase it considerably. A thousand feet of land in a city like Sydney would possibly cost £.500,000; and of course 1,000 feet would be nothing like sufficient to meet requirements.

Mr Mauger:

– The buildings would cost far more than the land.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The buildings for Federal purposes, in a city like Sydney, would have to be of a character in keeping with the leading buildings already erected in the city.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– The buildings would not cost so much as railway communication with some of the sites.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– The question of railway communication is one of the elements which will have to be considered in the selection of the Capital. I do not intend to discuss the sites themselves at this stage; but, evidently, one of the first and most important considerations is centrality. The Capital should be in a portion of the country where settlement is gravitating, and where there will be a tendency for population to gravitate in the future. It should not only be on a railway line, but, if possible, on a line which connects, or will connect, the different States, and be used as a main line. Water supply is, of course, an important factor, but I do not feel so strongly as do some honorable members upon the importance of natural features. It must be recollected that the 100-mile limit has disqualified some of the most beautiful, spots in New South Wales. If we go west, over the mountains, we are forced on to the plain areas. Of course we could go south, along the coast of New South Wales; but Commissioners, and te some extent also members of this House, have objected, for climatic reasons, to selecting a site near the coast, although, strange to say, some of those same members have suggested that Sydney, which is actually upon the coast, should be the site of the Capital. The coastal climate of New South Wales, for about eight months in the year, is perhaps as fine a climate as there is in Australia. I admit that for the remaining four months there is a humid heat which, some people object to. But when we are forced to choose a place 100 miles from Sydney, and we object to the climate of the southern coastlands, we are forced on to the plain country, where there is not the same amount of beautiful scenery as we find in the coastal regions. We must, however, remember that Australia is a new country, and that the beauties which wc admire in other lands are not always - indeed, are not often - due to purely natural features. Many of the most famous beauty spots have been the creation of centuries ; and many parts of New South Wales, which look very unpicturesque at the present time, will, in the course of a generation or two, become very different in character, and will possess some of those scenic beauties which are to be met with in older lands. For instance, take

England itself. I suppose that it would be possible to find thousands of splendid places for a Capital City in England. But’ the natural features of that country - that is, ‘ the formation of the ground - are not grand, are not imposing, speaking generally. I think I am correct in saying that there is not a mountain in the British Isles over 5,000 feet in height. There are very fewmountains approaching that altitude. There are no great natural features in the shape of large rivers, such as there are in the United States. But cultivation, the growth of trees and hedges, the construction of buildings, and improvements made bv one generation here, and by another generation there, have created many of those beauty spots in England which most attract the visitor to that country. We in Australia can, by the same means, turn many situations which are now not at all picturesque into sites which years hence will display many of the beauties which have proved an attraction in older countries. Therefore, scenic beauties, and the presence of grand natural features, have not so much influence upon my mind as they seem to have upon the minds of many honorable members. And after all, we have to remember that we are a Federal Parliament, and that our public departments are created for business purposes - to perform important services for the community. The most important question is where that business can be most effectively performed in New South Wales. I do not wish to delay the House by further discussion upon this point. I merely desired to answer, in the first place, some of the statements which have appeared in a portion of the press, and also to point out the true position, which I do not think is altogether apprehended by those who are supporting the amendment. Undoubtedly it would be an advantage to New South Wales to place the capital of the Commonwealth in Sydnev. The ef-feet would be to bring the Federal Capital under the influence of the intense local atmosphere of the main city of that State. It would enable the New South Wales members to attend with greater facility than they can when Parliament meets at a greater distance. Many men, whose services cannot be obtained at the present time, would be enabled to enter the Federal Parliament. Consequently,^ the influence of New South Wales in the. counsels of the nation would be increased. But I can quite see that on the ground of fairness, the other States may object to that.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– I do not think that they will.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– I do not object, as a New South Welshman, but I try to look at this question from the aspect of the other States, as well as from the aspect of New South Wales. I can quits see that the other States would have objections - reasonable objections - to New South Wales acquiring such influence permanently. Therefore, even in the interests of New South Wales, I am not prepared to support an alteration of the Constitution, such as that suggested. But I do hope that this House, this Parliament, and the States will prove - as I believe that they will - that any doubts as to their intentions in carrying out the bond in its strict integrity are not justified. I believe that if such a breach of honour were to be committed by this Commonwealth in its early days, it would go to show that a national life was being created, founded on dishonour, from which we could expect. very little good in the future.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:
Franklin

– I rise to support the amendment. I wish immediately to say that I certainly am not doing so in any spirit of antagonism to New South Wales. If we endeavoured in any way to abrogate the bond without the consent of those interested, into which we have entered, it could be said of us, in the words of one of our most beautiful writers, that our “ honour rooted in dishonour stood.” But can any one take up the proceedings of the Federal Conventions, and read what was said about the Federal Capital, without being shocked at the miserable spirit of jealousy which prevailed? First of all, New South Wales said, “ We will not enter into Federation unless you give us the Federal Capital within our territory. “ Victoria said, “ Very well ; we will give you the Federal Capital, but you must not have it near Sydney.” I am aware, sir, that you have ruled - if I may say so, respectfully, very properly ruled - that we cannot now discuss the merits or- demerits of rival sites. But I may perhaps express the opinion that in the future Sydney will become the natural capital of Australia, no matter where we attempt to create an artificial capital.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
DARWIN, TASMANIA · ALP

– I think that Melbourne is sure to be the natural capital.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– In my opinion “ the stars in their courses are fighting for Sisera “ in this respect.

Mr King O’Malley:

– But the sun and the moon are fighting for Melbourne !

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– I have not the slightest doubt that when the Panama Canal is finally open for traffic, Sydney will become the commercial capital of the southern hemisphere. But at this stage we have to consider whether the time is ripe for the people of Australia to launch into an expenditure of a very large sum of money on the erection of a Federal Capital. It is quite idle to talk of creating a Federal Capital in the bush at practically no expense. Are we to have a Parliament House of galvanized iron? Are honorable members to emulate the very laudable desire of the honorable member for Darwin, and live in tents? If we do intend to create a Federal Capital, it is a serious -question whether it would not be better to face the cost from the start, rather than have a lot of patch-work buildings. If it is intended to dump down in the bush a make-shift Parliament House and make-shift public offices, we shall be the laughing-stock of the whole of the civilized world, as Washington was for sixty years. Although Washington had been in existence as a Federal Capital foi that long period, or, certainly, for over fifty years, it was not until after the Civil War’ that the United States capital ceased to be an object of ridicule for ali visitors and writers. In Ottawa, where the expenditure on public buildings has been over £2,000,000, the population is not much greater than that of Hobart. In the Dominion there is a population of about 6,000,000, and, although people are now pouring in at the rate of considerably over 1,000 per week, in Ottawa there are very little over 50,000.

Mr King O’Malley:

– That is because the land there is in the hands of private citizens, who are waiting for big pi ices.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– I am afraid the idea of population and of comparatively, little expense being incurred is visionary, and it may lead the Commonwealth into an expenditure which will prove a veryserious handicap on the people of Australia.

Mr Mauger:

– It is the duty of Parliament to see that excessive expenditure does not occur.

Mr McWILLIAMS:

-It is the duty of Parliament to see that expenditure is kept down at the present time. I know that practically every member of this Parliament will say that there is no extravagance in connexion with the Federal Government or with Federal public life. The Treasurers of all the States are complaining that there ‘is Federal extravagance - that ‘the new cost of our public life, owing to Federation, is a very serious handicap on the States. I was exceedingly glad to hear the Minister of Home Affairs say that there is to be. no borrowing in connexion with the Federal Capital. Such an undertaking will, I hope, have the unanimous approval of this House. I am sure it will receive the general approval of the electors of the Commonwealth. But, unfortunately , owing to the financial arrangements between the Federal Government and the States Governments, it is the fact that while the Federal Treasurer has more money than he intends to spend, or has any desire to spend, every one of the States is in financial difficulties. Every penny that the Commonwealth takes out of the revenue that should be returned to the States is virtually additional taxation on the people.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– The States were all in financial difficulties prior to Federation.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– No, they were not. In my own little State, for the five years prior to Federation, we had a surplus of over ‘ £100,000 per annum, which, in the larger States, would mean proportionately a surplus of very nearly £1,000,000.

Mr King O’Malley:

– But what has been the increase of business with the other States since Federation?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– At any rate, we have the fact that since Federation the States have been pressed financially ; and the. first duty of the Federal Parliament, in relation to all proposals for expenditure, is to see that we do not expend one pound more than is absolutely necessary, seeing that the money must be taken out . of the pockets of the people who sent us here. Although we are not directly responsible to the people for the taxation, we are indirectly responsible, if, by any proposal of ours, we cause additional taxation to be imposed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– We must meet our promissory note.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– I am quite prepared to meet our promissory note, and to go even further than would the honorable member for North Sydney. I am prepared to vote to-morrow for the Federal Capital being in Sydney - for the Federal Parliament to sit in Sydney until a Federal Capital is created. It cannot, therefore, be said that I am attempting to deprive New South Wales of any concession - that I wish to deprive that State of any right conferred by the Constitution.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– What would be the advantage of moving the seat of Government to Sydney?

Mr McWILLIAMS:

– The advantage would be that in close proximity to Sydney we could erect our Parliament and other public buildings, the cost of which, under the circumstances, would practically represent the whole expenditure on the Federal Capital.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
DARWIN, TASMANIA · ALP

– More would have to be paid for the ground in Sydney than would be required for 1,000,000 acres at Bombala.

Mr McWILLIAMS:

– I am informed that the Government of New South Wales can make arrangements to give us sufficient land for our Parliament House and Public buildings.

Mr Webster:

– Where?

Mr McWILLIAMS:

– I am not in a position to give localities, but I have been credibly informed that such is the case. It has never been seriously proposed, I think, that the Federal Government should buy property in the heart of Sydney and clear the land for the purpose of erecting Federal buildings. To do so would be the height of absurdity. We have been told to-day that the idea that a Federal Capital would cost millions exists only in theminds of those who do not wish to see the Capital created. It is not the fault of honorable members that they entertain that idea. If we take the reports of any of the officers who were appointed by past Federal Governments to make inquiry, we find that the cost will run into millions. The Minister of Home Affairs very rightly ridiculed the idea of spending £10,000 on a house for the Prime Minister, and large sums on residences for the other Ministers ; but if we consider the cost of water conservation, of laying out streets, and of providing railway communication, it is evident that, so far as some of the proposed sites are concerned, the expenditure must run into millions. One honorable member has said that railway communication is not a matter for the Federal Government, but is one for the State Government. On that I join issue with him immediately. I do not think that any State would be foolish enough to build a costly and useless railway - that is, useless from a State point of view - in order to connect the present system with the Federal Capital. In the first place, what traffic could be expected?

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– That all depends on what land is opened up.

Mr mcwilliams:

– There, again, I think that we are building far too much on the hope of revenue out of the land. The mere fact of taking land for Federal territory will not add one iota to its real value, which is exactly what can be got for it.

Mr Batchelor:

– The presence of population will add to the value.

Mr mcwilliams:

– An artificial value may be created ; but does the Minister really think that the factof dumping down in the bush buildings such as he proposes will create population? Do honorable members really think that leasehold instead of freehold, will induce, people to take the land, when freeholds may be obtained in other portions of the State? The whole history of the world, so far as the Anglo-Saxon race is concerned, proves that if population is to be encouraged to settle on the land, one thing above all others is necessary - absolute freehold.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– The land system of Britain has caused more wretchedness and misery than any other system.

Mr.Mcwilliams. -If we turn to

China, where there is land nationalization to a very great extent, or to India, where there is absolute land nationalization, we see a greater degree of poverty and wretchedness, and a lower state of civilization, than prevails in any other country where there is land ownership pure and simple.

Mr King O’malley:

– There is no land ownership by occupiers in London, an immense area of which ‘is owned by the Duke of Westminster.

Mr mcwilliams:

– -Where there is an artificial value, such as may be created in a citv. it does not matter whether the system be leasehold or freehold. Does any honorable member propose to extend the Federal citv over the 900 square miles of territory ?

Mr King O’malley:

– The city will be in the centre, and there will be the unearned increment from the land outside.

Mr mcwilliams:

– I wish I had the beautiful faith that some of my honorable friends have in the revenue to be received from the Federal area. If I could believe what some of those honorable members, I am quite prepared to admit, honestly believe, namely, that the setting down of a Capital in the centre of this J and, especially the very modest Capital proposed, will give any enormous intrinsic value to the surrounding land for agricultural purposes, a great deal of my objection to the proposed expenditure would be removed. But when we settle down to hard facts and argue the matter out, can any one really believe that the few hundreds of population, at the very, outside, who will be on the area for some time to come, will add so enormously to the producing value of the land, that people will pay a high price merely to become tenants of the State?

Mr Batchelor:

– Nobody believes any such thing. It is a matter of time; we are not creating the Capital for a generation only.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– Then the Minister must .admit that, during the life of the present generation, the expenditure on the Federal Capital will be a handicap on the taxpayers of the different States.

Mr Batchelor:

– I do not admit anything of the kind.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– Unless there is some extraordinary system of finance, which, at present, has not been expounded, every penny spent on the Federal Capital will, in the absence of any return, have to be taken out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

Mr Batchelor:

– But the revenue will have to be made up in any case. We cannot live on air, even if we do not establish a Capital.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– I quite admit that. If we could put aside the beautiful visions in which some honorable members have indulged ; if we would only come down to hard fact, and say, “Let us erect our parliamentary and public buildings in a civilized community within direct reach of the people,” then the expenditure would be a comparatively small one, and one which I believe the taxpayers of Australia are prepared to undertake.

Mr Webster:

– What would it cost for land, resumption in the place which the honorable member indicates?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– If, in the search for a suitable locality in the vicinity of a large town, we look a quarter of the care which has been taken in exploring the wilds of -Australia, ‘planning gigantic waterworks, and estimating the cost of railways, we should secure a site with everything requisite, and well within the limit of our financial position. The erection of a Federal Capital is not a new undertaking. Certainly it is new to Australia, but it is not to other countries. I would ask honorable members, before giving a vote, to carry their minds back to what has occurred in Washington and Ottawa, and to what is occurring there to-day. Washington is supposed to be one of the most beautiful cities in i*he known world. But at what cost has it been created? For probably sixty years it remained dormant as a federal capital - a disgrace to the United States.

Mr Batchelor:

– What about Ottawa, which has been erected within a generation ?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– Is the honorable gentleman prepared to propose an expenditure as large as that which has been incurred at Ottawa. Is he prepared to come down with a proposal to expend over £2,0005000 on the erection of public buildings in the Federal Capital ?

Mr Austin Chapman:

– How long was that expenditure spread over ?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– The chief expenditure was incurred on public buildings, and, speaking from memory, it was spread over not more than twenty years. Ottawa was a little village known as Bytown before it was selected for the Seat of Government. It could not be selected as the site of the Dominion Capital until after the North American Colonies had federated in 1867. But in that brief time, to make up a population of slightly over 50,000-

Mr Batchelor:

– Seventy thousand

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– I think I am fairly accurate when I say that the population of Ottawa is about 50,000. Let it be remembered that it is the capital city of a Dominion with a population of 6,000,000, and that Australia is not in nearly so flourishing a condition as is Canada. Here the growth of population has practically ceased ; in fact, in some States - Victoria, to wit - there is practically no natural increase. Our trade is not nearly so large- as that of Canada if we consider the goods that pass over the border line into the United States. Probably the exports from Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide are greater than the exports from Montreal ; but in the United States, Canada has a neighbour with a population of 80,000,000, and there is an enormous interchange between the two countries. The population- of the Dominion is now increasing at the rate of over 1,000 per week. The latest returns are rather startling. The Salvation Army sent over 700 penniless persons, landing them with just sufficient money to enable them to comply with the Immigration Restriction Act, and within one week every one of those persons was in full employment. Can it be said that we can do anything like that in Australia?

Mr Cameron:

– Or would we do it if we could ?

Mr mcwilliams:

– i would if we had employment to offer. There is no comparison between the position of Canada to-day and that of Australia. Unfortunately for us, the Australian Colonies federated with an indebtedness of about £250,000,000, while the North American provinces federated practically free from indebtedness. The State debt of Canada to-day is a trifle, but the State debt of Australia is, per head of the population, by far the heaviest in the world. And now, before Federation has got well on its feet, it is deliberately proposed to incur an expenditure which must press very heavily, and particularly, upon some of the smaller States. Unquestionably, we have to look at these matters from different stand-points. It is very unfortunate, indeed, that in this Commonwealth one has to consider more particularly the interests of his own State. In the interests of the Federation, perhaps, we should all take a broad view, and consider the different States alike ; but it is only natural, and I think only proper, that an honorable member should express the opinion of the State with whose circumstances he is more directly intimate. I am reminded of the old eastern proverb about the different bowls - the glass bowl and the copper bowl - drifting down the stream. In a federation, the smaller States represent the glass bowl, because in all matters the smaller States suffer most, financially, for the reason that all their payments are on a smaller scale, and they have not resources to fall back upon, such as have the larger and richer States. The new expenditure on Federation is pressing heavily on some of the smaller States. Unfortunately those of us who are in direct communication with the local Governments, know that the States are compelled to impose on their people direct taxation of a very serious nature, in order to make good to them the cost of Federation. Therefore, it is only right for this House to stay its hand a little, and even to postpone some works which may not be immediately needed, until the States can put their financial house in order.

Mr KING O’MALLEY:
DARWIN, TASMANIA · ALP

– Would it not be better for .the Commonwealth to help the weaker States, than to inaugurate a period of stagnation?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– The smaller States do not want any assistance in the direction which the honorable member suggests. There never shall be, if it can be stopped, any serious proposal made here to make a pauper of the State I represent. It is prepared to face the responsibilities of its position whatever they may be. If a proportion of the cost of this Federal Capital is forced upon the people of the State, I suppose that they will have to grin and bear it. If the House goes further, and authorizes a heavy railway expenditure, I presume again that the people of Tasmania will again have to grin and bear it. But I would submit to honorable members that it is not the true spirit of Federation that would force very serious financial difficulties on the weaker States. They have already made the greatest sacrifices in the interests of the Union.

Mi. Dugald Thomson. - All the States agreed to that.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– Tasmania, with my consent, did not agree to join the Federation ; but I am prepared now to accept anything rather than go back on a bond which was deliberately entered into by the States. If the House in its wisdom - I must not say its unwisdom - deliberately decides to create a Federal Capital, to go into the wilds and erect even modest buildings, and to make very costly railway communications- in order to be in touch with the different States, it will become my duty to try to save every pound which I think ought not to be spent. But I urge honorable members to consider if it is not in the interests of New South Wales - if it is not in the interests of Australia as a whole. - that instead of authorizing a huge expenditure of money, from which the Minister of Home Affairs anticipates that no direct advantage will be obtained during the present generation at least-

Mr Austin Chapman:

– The Minister did not say that.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– The Minister, said, “ Remember, we are building the Federal Capital for the future ; of course, we do not* . anticipate any great return from it during the present generation.” In one sense, Ave all agree with him. In the meantime the financial pressure is felt. Some of the States are now subjected to that pressure; and if this idea of having a Federal Capital is carried out, the pressure will be increased. Is there any necessity for the immediate creation of a Capital ? Some honorable members say we shall get a healthier Federal spirit if we get into the bush, but I doubt that very’ much. They seem to be exceedingly anxious to run away from the daily press. I think I said, in speaking to the Address-in-Reply, .that they are emulating the example of the ostrich, which puts its head in the sand and thinks it will escape the hunter.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906

– “Where will they run to?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– Thev will not run to any place inside Australia where the representatives of Victoria will not be under the direct influence of the Argus or Age. Does the honorable member think the representatives of New South Wales will care anything for the opinion of the Tooralrooral Gazette or Bombala Times? The public opinion of New South Wales will be expressed by the existing daily press, and that remark applies to other States. It is not because we sit in Melbourne that the daily press is exerting more influence than it would exercise elsewhere. What influence, for instance, has the daily press of Melbourne with the representatives of Queensland, or Western Australia, or other States? It is only the press of the State that influences their constituents that they care a straw about. If honorable members think that by going away into the bush they will escape the vigilance of the daily press, they are very much mistaken.

Mr Spence:

– Who has suggested any such thing?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– It has been stated more than once in this House that the influence of the daily press in Melbourne is creating a provincial feeling in the Federal Parliament; but I regard all such talk as sheer humbug. When the Seat of Government is permanently established, the daily press will exercise precisely the same power that it does to-day, except that, as has been pointed out by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, the personal influence of the press may not be so openly and freely exercised as at. present.- The people of Australia will derive a distinct advantage if we have a strong and powerful press, which can exercise a salutary influence upon Federal politics.

Mr Mauger:

– A good old pressman is talking.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– I plead guilty to having been a pressman. I won my seat out of the reporters’ gallery, and I am not ashamed to own it. The very newspaper upon which I was employed opposed me, and I did what I would earnestly advise all other honorable members to do, namely, I took my gruel as quietly as possible. The proposal to build a Federal Capital at the present time should not be seriously entertained. If it were not for the wretched .provision in the Constitution, of which none of those responsible for its inclusion are at all proud-

Mr Spence:

– Is the honorable member now censuring the leader of his party ?

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– My ‘ leader can look after himself. Not one of those responsible for placing the provision relating to the Federal Capital in the Constitution are at all proud of it, because it stands as a monument of the antagonism which exists between New South Wales and Victoria. If Federation is to be attended with the beneficial results that have been predicted, the two largest States must set a good example to the other States by working more in unison than they have done in the past. If it were not for the provision in the Constitution, I have-not the slightest doubt that the Seat of Government would have been located either immediately in Sydney, or close to it.

Mr Batchelor:

– We should have had a perambulating Seat of Government.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– If a vote of the people of Australia were taken to-morrow, I have very little doubt that Sydney would be chosen. Owing to its position, its magnificent harbor, and the splendid territory behind it, Sydney must become the commercial capital of Australia.

Mr Batchelor:

– Is that any reason why it should be the Seat of Government ?

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Yes, it is. in my view, it is better to have one capital, instead of two. One of the great curses of Australia is that far too many pf our people are living in the cities.

Mr Batchelor:

– And yet the honorable member wants fo concentrate all the people in one city.

Mr MCWILLIAMS:

– Nothing of ‘ the kind. My fear is, however, that if we build a Federal Capital upon any of the sites proposed, we shall probably , draw the population principally from the States capitals. If that were the result we should certainly not confer any advantage upon Australia. We should seek to draw population from outside the Commonwealth. I am apprehensive that a new Federal city would add another to the inducements to our young men, who ought to be producers, to leave the better and purer life of the country and settle down as hangers-on in the centres of population.

Mr Batchelor:

– But Sydney would offer still greater inducements than would the Federal Capital.

Mr mcwilliams:

– i do not think that the attractions of Sydney would be greatly added to by the establishment of the Seat of Government there. The fact that the Federal Parliament has met in Melbourne for the past four years has not had any appreciable influence upon the financial or commercial conditions of that city, and I do not suppose that the results would be any more marked if Sydney were chosen as the Seat of Government. By establishing the Federal Capital in the manner provided for under the Constitution, we shall simply create another bloodsucker, and impose further burdens upon the direct producers. I shall, therefore, vote for the amendment. If it is rejected, I shall assist honorable members in selecting the best site possible under the circumstances, and will try to guard against inflicting further oppressive burdens on the taxpayers.

Mr SPENCE:
Darling

– The honorable member for Franklin has stated that he will vote for the amendment, but more than once during his address he assured us that he would not be a party to breaking the bond entered into between New South Wales and the other States. I cannot conceive how the honorable member can reconcile the two statements. It is provided in the Constitution that the Federal Capital shall be situated within New South Wales territory, not less than 100 miles from Sydney, and that the Federal area shall em- . brace at least 100 square miles. Those are the terms of the bond which the honorable member says he> is anxious to observe, and yet he proposes to vote for an amendmant which entirely ignores the agreement entered into. The people of New. South Wales are just as anxious as are those of the other States to observe the compact which is embodied in the Constitution. Some public men in New South Wales have, for party political purposes, talked very loudly about breaking away from the Federation, unless their views are, considered in connexion with the selection of the Capital site; but we need not pay very serious attention to such statements. The honorable member for Cor angamite proposes that the Constitution shall be altered by eliminating the provision with regard to the 100-mile limit, and he also contemplates that until the Capital site is selected, the Federal Parliament shall meet in either Sydney or Melbourne. He does not, however, propose to interfere with the provision in the Constitution, to the effect that the Federal territory shall embrace at least IOC square miles. The honorable member poses as an advocate, of economy, and yet he would practically commit us to the selection of a Federal Capital site, embracing 100 square miles, at or near Sydney. Does the honorable member realize that the purchase of 100 square miles near Sydney would involve a ruinous outlay? The honorable and learned member for Wannon has expressed an absolute disregard for all such considerations as water supply, and salubrity of climate. His sole concern is that the Federal Parliament shall be dominated by the press. He expects the daily newspapers to give to the public a complete account of everything we do, and to keep a vigilant eye upon the doings of honorable members, in order that the public may be safe-guarded against our engaging in swindles such as have occurred in other parts of the world. Honorable, members surely will not claim that the press fairly represents the doings of the members of this or any other Parliament. We should, at least, be satisfied that the reports of our proceedings published by the press will be fair and accurate before allowing any consideration for the newspapers to weigh with us. I recognise the need of a powerful press to inform the public as to the proceedings of Parliament, and in some degree to act as the people’s watchdog. Although we are sometimes severely criticised in the newspapers, .the press is one of our modern institutions which we could not very well do without. It is, however, not correct to say that the public are well and correctly informed as to the doings of Parliament by any one particular newspaper. All newspapers boom the political party whose doctrines they favour, leaving it to the newspapers holding opposite views to boom the opposing party. It is only where there are newspapers representing both sets of views that the public, by reading both, can get a proper idea of what is going on. I would remind the honorable and learned member for Wannon that no matter where we go, whether to one of the proposed sites, or to a State capital, the position, so far as the press are concerned, will be much the same as it is now. No more space will be given to our proceedings than is given to them now. If we met in Sydney, the newspapers of that city would, no doubt, have the advantage which the Melbourne newspapers now possess, while the newspapers of Victoria, South Australia, and the other States would have to depend, as the newspapers of all other States but Victoria now depend, on messages telegraphed to them by special representatives. Therefore, the argument of the honorable and learned member in regard to the press seems to me to have neither weight nor application. The effect of passing the proposed amendment would be merely to leave the situation of the Capital an open question, though making possible its location in any part of New South Wales. The honorable member for Corangamite has argued that the Capital should be in Sydney ; but be must know that, if a site were chosen in or near to Sydney, a further amendment of the Constitution would be necessary, in order to strike out the provision which requires the Commonwealth to resume an area of 100 square miles, since it would be ruinous to try to secure such an area close to an existing capital.

Mr Wilson:

– I have mentioned that such an amendment of the Constitution would have to be made.

Mr SPENCE:

– It was not sufficient to mention it. The honorable member should have made provision for it, as a necessary corollary to his main proposal. He also argued in favour of making the Federal territory an area of less than 100 square miles ; but if that were done, the Commonwealth, by the expenditure of money in the erection of public buildings, would be merely adding to the value of the surrounding property.

Mr Wilson:

– Verv little.

Mr SPENCE:

– We all know how the value of property increases when adjoining property is improved; and the buildings which will be erected in the Federal Capital will be such as must greatly increase the value of surrounding property. Especially would that be so if the Capital were located near Sydney, because in such a position we could not erect buildings of the temporary character which might be thought sufficient for a country site. But if we resume the area proposed by the Government to be resumed, we shall receive a return for our expenditure in the improved value which will be given to the neighbouring land, and will thus benefit the people of the Commonwealth by saving them from a considerable amount of taxation, while the honorable member would hand over to private individuals the added value given to private property by Commonwealth expenditure. I do not think that the House will be deceived by the.amendment. Whatever its mover may intend, its effect would be to postpone the settlement of the question.

Mr Wilson:

– Not longer than it will be postponed if a bush site is chosen.

Mr SPENCE:

– If a referendum were taken immediately, the Commonwealth would be put to an expense of something like £45,000.

Mr Wilson:

– I propose that the referendum shall be taken at the next general elections.

Mr SPENCE:

– That ‘ would mean a delay of nearly three years, and we have already had. a delay of nearly four years, which makes seven altogether. At the end of that time it might be practically impossible to get a site selected. If honorable members art prepared to carry out the letter of the Constitution, and to keep the bargain which ha., been made, they will select a site as soon as possible. The honorable member for Corangamite suggests that Parliament should meet in Sydney until the permanent site be chosen. I presume that if, three years hence, the referendum showed the people to be favorable to our removal from Melbourne to Sydney, Parliament would continue to meet there for the next fifty years.

Mr Wilson:

– There would be no objection to that.

Mr SPENCE:

– If that happened, the question would be handed over for settlement to an altogether new generation of politicians. There are so many contradictions and so much weakness in the arguments of the honorable member, that I feel certain the House will give his amendment very short shrift, when a vote is taken upon it. The position is this : - We must, if we are to maintain the Constitution, select a site for the Federal Capital. The Constitution declares that there shall be a Federal Capital, that is, a Capital belonging to the Commonwealth, and not swallowed up in some big city. We should be unheard of if we met in the vicinity of Sydney. The people there would know more of the doings of the State Parliament. Those who have contended that, if any of the proposed sites were chosen, the Federal Capital would be buried in the bush, forget that if the Parliament met in Sydney, it would be buried in a great city. It is not in keeping with the dignity of this Parliament that we . should be hidden away in some big city like Melbourne or Sydney, and I am opposed on principle to having the Federal Capital in a big city. I think that we should be at a considerable distance from the present cities. I do not say whether it was or was not wise to provide in the Constitution that the Capital should be in a particular State. I am of opinion that if no such provision had been inserted, public feeling would have determined the location of the Capital in New South Wales. But the bargain having been made with the people of that State that the Federal Capital should be within its boundaries, it should be kept. Honorable members should- realize that, in allowing the settlement of this question to be continually deferred, they will not be acting fairly and Squarely .towards New South Wales. For more than five years past the Crown lands in the vicinity of the sites reported upon by Mr. Oliver as suitable for the location of the Federal Capital have been reserved from alienation. The honorable member for Corangamite proposes that the Government of New South Wales shall continue to keep this land put of use for another three years at least, leaving the people of that State in a simmer of expectation and uncertainty for probably another ten or twelve years. That would* be the effect of his amendment, if it were carried.

Mr DAVID THOMSON:
CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND · ALP

– It would mean repudiation.

Mr SPENCE:

– It would mean practically the repudiation, not only of the bargain made with New South Wales, but of the Constitution which the people of the Commonwealth adopted. It may be said that those who accepted the Constitution may alter it. No doubt that is so ; but no desire for alteration has been expressed. If we are to take the statements in the Victorian newspapers as an expression of public opinion in opposition to the selection of a site for the Federal Capital, that opinion is based on the most miserable provincial grounds. The Age, especially, deals with the question in the most narrow spirit. The articles published in that newspaper speak of the- probable expenditure upon ‘ the

Federal Capital as likely to amount to millions of pounds, although the writers of them know that it would be nothing like so large. Of course, when the people are told that the building of the Federal city will be so costly , as to necessitate the piling up of taxation upon them, they are ready to say, “We do not want a Federal Capital.” The honorable member for Franklin has pleaded the cause of the smaller States, whose people, he says, are now overloaded with taxation ; but, as a matter of fact, the average taxation of the people of the Commonwealth is not higher now than it was prior to Federation. Then, we are asked to wait until the Governments of the States have a surplus : but does any one expect that if a State Government ever has a surplus it will not at once proceed to spend it ? Do we not know that Governments and Parliaments ‘have a tendency to spend, all the money they get? The State of Victoria, that has been described as going down hill to ruin, has a surplus this year, and its Parliament is considering how it shall be spent. The various States will have time to economize before any taxation in connexion with the Federal Capital can be imposed upon them. They can save money in directions which have not yet been touched They might tackle the question of their second Chambers and their Governors; and they would find that there is plenty of room for economy in that and in other directions. My own opinion is that the taxation of the people will not be raised one penny. So far, the forecast of the effect of Federation in this respect has been proved to be correct - that is to say, that we could unite the Australian States under one Government without adding to the burdens of the people. I admit that there has been an increase of taxation in some of the States ; but, taking the average for Australia there has been no increase, and it has been clearly proved that we are maintaining the Departments which we have taken over more economically than the States did previously. That shows that we can be trusted, as a governing body, to consider the . interests of the taxpayers carefully in dealing with the Federal Capital. There is now in power a party which was the first to make a stand against the borrowing policy. In the last Parliament, this party prevented the late Government from floating a loan of ,£500,000. It was urged that it was “ only a little loan,” but we put a stop to it, and said, “ Construct your public works out of revenue.” Has the country suffered from that policy? There has been no delay in the construction of public works. Buildings have been put up where they were wanted, and we have proved that we can construct public works out of revenue. Any one who faces the facts need have no alarm that the Commonwealth is going to be extravagant, or to rush into any expenditure of an unseemly kind, or to be hasty in erecting elaborate buildings costing large sums of money. But it is our duty to be true to the trust that has been reposed in us, and to carry out the Constitution. We must have a place for the meeting of Parliament, and buildings for carrying on the administration of the Departments. At the present time we are meeting in a building belonging to the State of Victoria. We are here on sufferance. We are renting offices in Melbourne for Commonwealth purposes, and are paying .heavy rents for them. If we have buildings of our own, paid for out of revenue, we shall have to pay no interest on their construe tion.

Mr Wilson:

– But we must have regard to the interest on capital cost.

Mr SPENCE:

– The honorable member, and those who think with him, cannot get the idea of interest out of their heads. If the honorable member had saved up money, earned by his own labour, and built a home for himself out of it, he would recognise the importance of having no interest to pay. When we construct our buildings out of revenue we discharge ‘ the cost of construction immediately, and have no interest to pay. At the present time we are saddled with heavy rent charges. Some honorable members urge that we should locate the Capital in Sydney and erect buildings there. The cost of doing so would be enormous, as compared with the cost of erecting buildings in a Capital city of our- own. The appeal that has been made to us to delay the selection of the Capital is unfair to New South Wales. The people of that State have been waiting patiently. They have given us every facility. The croakers who are making statements in the press in favour of delay are simply doing so from reasons of party political bias. So far as I can learn the New South Wales people desire to be generous towards the Commonwealth. The noise that is made about New South Wales not being willing to grant to the Commonwealth a larger area than 100 square- miles does not represent the true feeling of the people of that State. It was surprising to me that the late head of the Government in New South Wales, Sir John See, should have expressed his disapproval of the granting of a larger area than that State is forced to grant under the Constitution. We do not desire to take land from New South Wales without paying compensation to those who now own the land that may be resumed. There is no desire to act unfairly to any one. But some persons in that State overlook’ the fact that the expenditure of money .in that State, whether it be half-a-million 01 the millions that the honorable and learned member for Wannon has looming before his mind, will be of benefit to the people who live there. He supposes that

Ave shall construct buildings costing millions of money. No one dreams pf any such thing. Sir Edmund Barton’s calculation was that £500,000 would suffice.

Mr Wilson:

– That is, every . year for ten years.

Mr SPENCE:

– No, £500,000 altogether, and that not necessarily spent in one year. It surprises me how .Sir John “ See could have expressed such alarm with regard to the proposals of the Commonwealth Parliament. Let me put it in this way. Suppose that a capitalist - such as we hear so much of when the fiscal question arises, as going round with £1,000,000 in his pocket looking for a place to spend it - came to New South Wales, and said: “ I want some territory ; I am going to spend a million pounds here.” The people of New South Wales would be breaking their necks to give him the land he required. They would chase him all over the city, and say to him, “You can have whatever you like, because you are going to spend money in the country.” But when the Federal Government, in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth, proposes to spend £500,000 out of revenue’ to improve a certain district in New South Wales, an- alarm is raised, and it is represented as a serious thing that is going to ruin the country. Mr. Carruthers threatens secession from the Commonwealth, and seems to suggest the idea that we may have to call out the military to prevent civil war with New South Wales. Such talk is simply nonsense, and shows that there is still much prejudice on the part of certain persons in the States towards the Commonwealth. We ought to select the Capital site as soon as possible. Let us have the question settled in fairness to New South

Wales. The people of that State have been patient enough, and to talk of delaying the settlement for another seven years is manifestly unfair. It practically amounts to the repudiation of a bargain made. In our own Capital we should have our own building in which to do our own business, and should be established as the central governing body of Australia. I favour taking 900 square miles. After all, that is a very small area. The paddocks of some of the pastoralists in my electorate, are nearly as large as that. Some of the smallest of them are five miles across. A piece of territory, thirty miles each way, is not very extensive, and such an area is absolutely necessary to secure to the people of the Commonwealth that unearned increment which the improvements made will undoubtedly add to the value of the land. I presume that, when the area is located, friendly . negotiations will be entered into with the New South Wales Government for the acquisition of the land. Any Crown land over 100 square miles may well form the subject of negotiations. Then we shall have to put up buildings of a simple character. There is much more importance attaching to the idea of simplicity than some people think. I am an admirer of the artistic, but we are a young nation, andare not yet in a position to afford very elaborate buildings. We should not, for instance, erect a building like this, which is very handsome, though I do not think it has much of the utilitarian element about it. There are a great many rooms in the basement which are used for storing documents, but are not of much use for- any other purpose; though it has struck me that if ever we were engaged in war they would be very useful places for stabling cavalry horses. Simplicity in a democracy should always be- aimed at. We should consider simplicity combined with beauty. We do not require to waste money on buildings that are elaborate and showy. We must consider the utilitarian element, which seems to have been lost sight of in the noble building in which we are located. If we had to pay rent for the structure which we are now using, I do not think that some of our economists would favour remaining in Melbourne. We should have to pay a nice little sum, unfinished though the building is. We require merely to erect the necessary buildings for Public Offices and for parliamentary purposes. The honorable and learned member for Wannon assures us that not 5 per cent, of the Common- wealth offices will be within the Federal Territory. If that be so, the expenditure cannot be large. All other buildings would, be left to private enterprise. The remark may- seem to be a remarkable one for a Labour member to utter. But we have to stand up for old principles occasionally, because there is a tendency for honorable members in opposition to throw them overboard. The ownership of the land would be retained by the Federal Government; but it would be let out to private persons. Of course, we should have to frame regulations with regard to buildings within the Capital area, as is done in any other city. Some remarks have been made concerning railway connexion, involving an added cost to the Commonwealth. That will depend upon where the Capital is located. But the idea that the Commonwealth will be expected to construct a railway to connect its territory with State railways, supposing the territory not to be connected already, seems to me to be groundless. The Federal Territory will be isolated. We are not going to build a Chinese wall around it. Probably,, when the Capital is located, a person crossing a border from State terri.tory to Federal territory will not recognise anything to mark the dividing line. Nearlyall the areas which have been considered contain good land, and the New South Wales Government has either constructed or has projected lines to them. If the area selected contains no railway, there is no reason why the State should not extend railway communication to the border Evidently the State would get the benefit of trade with the Capital. Too much has been made of the idea of distinguishing between State territory and Commonwealth territory by those who have discussed the question, both in this House and outside. It seems to be assumed that we intend to Avail off the Federal Territory. People ought to realize that it is territory which will be owned by the people; that it will be the centre of the Commonwealth, where the governing power is exercised ; and that, in the future, especially if it has good surrounding country and is located some distance away from any existing large population, there will certainly be a city worthy of the name. All that will take time, and before the fifty years mentioned by the honorable member for Corangamite are over, I venture to say that a fine city will have developed in a natural way. And, as it develops, the income from the leasing of the land will be sufficient to meet the expenditure. It is an important point worthy of consideration that all added value from the improvements in the surrounding country, as well as from the improvements within the territory itself, will increase the rental return, which will mean so much less to be taken from the taxpayers. Under ordinary circumstances, such rental goes into the pockets of private individuals ; but in the case of the Federal Capital, the taxpayer will, to that extent, be relieved of the necessity to put his hand into his pocket. Surely that is a result worth achieving.; and not one to which the States ought to raise any objection. I am thoroughly- in accord with the sentiment expressed by the Minister of Home Affairs, when he deprecated any expenditure beyond that which will just meet our wants for some time. The buildings ought to be of an admittedly temporary character, but sufficient for the requirements of a young nation.

Mr Wilson:

– Of galvanized iron.

Mr SPENCE:

– No good is done by sneering remarks of that kind. A great many exceedingly worthy taxpayers have to live under galvanized iron roofs, which are sometimes unpleasantly close to their heads in hot weather. Wilful misrepresentations are made in the press, with the deliberate object of misleading the ordinary taxpayer, who relies too much on newspapers to chew up his mental food for him, instead of thinking for himself. I do not believe there is a member of the Federal Parliament who favours excessive expenditure on the Federal Capital ; on the contrary, I think there is a general agreement in favour of economy. I strongly urge the House to reject the amendment, and I hope it will do so in so emphatic- a way that the vote will be a clear repudiation of the idea that we desire to in any way depart from the provisions of the Constitution. We recognise that what has been termed a bargain has been made between two States, and we ought to recognise that bargain, and proceed to the selection of a site once and for all. There will be plenty to do afterwards, and that will cause delay enough to satisfy even those honorable members who support the amendment. 1 have seen no evidence of any desire on the part of Victorians to have the Seat of Government continued in Melbourne merely to suit their own convenience, and I have contradicted statements to that effect in New South Wales, and characterized them ‘ as most unfair. I believe the desire of Parlia ment is to carry out this provision of the Constitution within a reasonable time ; and hence it is that I am surprised that a Victorian member, who was not a member of the last Parliament, should submit a proposal the acceptance of which would practically mean a delay of many years. The honorable member for Corangamite did not say a word about extending any consideration to New South Wales ; he did not tell us whether he proposes that that State shall continue to reserve the various sites which have been inspected and reported on at considerable cost to the local Government, who have done everything they could reasonably be called upon to do to assist the Federal Government in this . matter. The New South Wales Government placed special trains at the disposal of members of the Federal Parliament in order that the sites might be inspected, supplied State officers to assist, and in other ways expended much time and money. It would be unfair to New South Wales to any longer delay a settlement. To postpone the selection for years would be a new departure, entirely out of keeping with the spirit shown by the last Parliament, the desire of which was to have the matter settled irrespective altogether of personal considerations. I hope we shall proceed at once to the selection of a site; and that Ave shall afterwards take care that there is no money wasted. We know that the financial condition of the poorer States is gradually improving. The change of Government in Queensland has made that State somewhat solvent for the first time; and as Labour Governments are now taking charge in Australia Ave may be sure that there will be prosperity in the future.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– From the Victorian point of view it would probably be popular to vote for any proposal which would have the effect of delaying the selection of a Capital site.

Mr Batchelor:

– Does the honorable member think that that is so?

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– I believe that the people of Victoria are not anxious that the Seat of Government should be removed from this State.

Mr Mauger:

– Why should they be?

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– The people of Victoria, like people elsewhere, are probably a little selfish, and glad to get the advantages which the Federal Government and its services bring to the State. But, of course, Victorians, like the rest of Australians, have to recognise something more than their mere individual wishes; and I feel satisfied that if a poll were taken in . this State, there would be just as big a majority as would be found in any other State, for the keeping of the compact with New South Wales. Before Federation was accomplished, I felt it my duty to speak in Victoria and other States in support of the Constitution under which we now live. In addressing various meetings I said that there were a number of provisions in the Constitution to which I objected, but as there were so many other provisions which were worthy of support, we were bound to take the bad with the good. One of the mistakes of the Constitution was the provision in reference to the Federal Capita], but as the bargain has been made, it must be kept. I wonder what honorable members of the first Federal Parliament would have said if a Victorian member had proposed to excise, for example, the proviso which gave ‘ Western Australia the right to levy a special Tariff for a certain number of years. Thai was one of the provisions which, from my point of view, ought never to have been in the Constitution; yet, in order to get Federation, we had to concede that special Tariff just as we had to concede the Federal Capital to New South Wales. Those special provisions were objected to by myself and a number of other persons; but, having invited the people to vote for Federation, I conceive it to be my duty to see that all compacts are kept. New South Wales declined to federate unless the Capital were placed within the territory of that State, and that compact has to be kept just as we have kept the compact with Western Australia in regard to the Tariff. In those circumstances, the airy proposal put forward to alter or vary the Constitution fairly surprises me, coming from the special quarter it does. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Corangamite and his seconder will, a few days hence, when another proposal is put forward to alter the Constitution, be amongst those who will seriously condemn any interference. They will tell us that the Constitution is a matter not to be trifled with.

Mr Wilson:

– I condemned that proposal as I spoke.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– If the proposal for an alteration of the Constitution had come from the Labour Party, the hon orable member for Corangamite, and those who now support him, would have been most severe in their condemnation; yet in order to delay - possibly, honestly enough - the selection of a Federal Capital, they resort to the same expedient.

Mr Wilson:

– There will be no delay.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– The amendment cannot mean anything but delay, if it does not mean something worse, namely, repudiation. At the best, the amendment can only mean delay of a kind which will be far more irritating to the States concerned, and more particularly to New South Wales, than would any other proposal that could be made. When the honorable member for Corangamite talked about keeping the spirit of the compact, I could not possibly follow him. What does the honorable member, and those who think with him, mean by the “spirit of the compact ?” Are we keeping a compact when we break it up ? Do they propose to keep the compact by, if not destroying, at any rate varying it in such a way as to make it of no use? When those honorable members speak of the experiment of building a Capital in the back-blocks, the fact is that it would be an experiment to place the Capital anywhere else. The history of Federations shows that the” Capitals have always been distinctly removed from any of the existing large cities. There may be some little disadvantage in such a policy, but I am one who thinks that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and that eventually we shall be delighted to think that we took the step. I am surprised bv the statement made by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, that the location of the provisional Capital in Melbourne has been of no use to Victoria, and, indeed, that that State would have been better without it. Practically the whole of the new expenditure in connexion with the Commonwealth takes place in Melbourne. If there have been any advantages hitherto from Federation, Victoria has enjoyed those advantages. Is Victoria, therefore, to stand selfishly by, and, because she is reaping benefits, say to the other States, and particularly to New South Wales, “ You shall never get any of the advantages which we pledged ourselves to give you “ ? If the compact is to be kept in that “way, it is a pity that any compact was ever made. I repeat that, in my opinion, none of those bargains should have been made. Parliament should have had the right to select the Capital wherever it pleased, without restriction; but, having indorsed the compact, we are in duty bound to keep it. We are told, as an inducement to vote for the amendment, that it would be more economical to go to Sydney. Can any one prove to me, or to any sensible body of men, that we can get 100 square miles of territory in or around Sydney on a more economical basis than we could anywhere outside that < area? Or does any one mean to assert that the people of Sydney would surrender any portion of its public parks or reserves for this purpose ? Is it to be imagined, for instance, that the people of Australia as a whole would be satisfied to have its Seat of Government in a park in Sydney ? They have a nobler ideal before them than that. In any case, I am strongly of opinion that no land could be obtained in the neighbourhood of Sydney for anything like the sum at which it could be obtained elsewhere. To talk of economy in this particular, is idle nonsense. Economy ought to be practised, rather, along the lines indicated by the last speaker, although, perhaps, he did not make his meaning quite clear. For the rent .of premises for the conduct of our business we are paying large sums which we would not require to do to the same extent if we owned our own buildings. I do not deny that we should have to provide an interest account in respect of the capital cost. But what I contend is that the interest on the capital outlay in connexion -with an undertaking such as we have in prospect, would not be nearly so great as the cost of renting premises all over this city. We should not only save money, but we should save time and expense, and have greater conveniences. If a man has any business to do with one office, he has to go to the other end of the city ; if he has any business to do with another office, he has to come to this end of the city ; or if he- has any business to do with a third office, he has to go to some place in the northern portion of the city or elsewhere. All our alleged conveniences are far from being satisfactory. Our offices should be situated close together, and built in such a fashion as to facilitate and cheapen business rather than to add to its expense. I shall, however, be no supporter of a proposal which seems to be in favour in this House and elsewhere, for the erection of temporary buildings at, the Federal Capital. What we ought to do is to make provision, so far as it can be foreseen, for all possible requirements, and then build on those plans, and in accordance with our present needs.

Mr Batchelor:

– To build permanently in sections?

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– Exactly. I shall not support the erection of any bark humpies, or galvanized iron structures, nor will, I trust, their construction be supported by any one in this House. A true economy in this particular would be to build our offices in sections as they are required, and in a complete fashion, so far as we go.

Mr Wilson:

– A million pounds for a Parliament House !

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– I trust that whatever is .done the Parliament House will be worthy of the nation which we hope to see here same day. If the people of Victoria did not begrudge £800,000 for a Parliament House, unfinished as it is, for their State, I should say the people of Australia will not begrudge a million pounds for a Parliament House for the Commonwealth? The argument which has been most strongly in evidence here this afternoon has been that the States are too heavily taxed to warrant the erection of a Federal Capital now. It should be remembered that all the States knew when they were accepting the Constitution that it contained that provision. If they did not understand that it involved taxation, the fault was theirs ; for it was pointed out to them that the erection of the Capital and its maintenance would involve some expenditure. It is wrong, therefore, for any one to talk about our forcing a Federal Capital on the States. Either the States gladly accepted the Constitution containing this provision, with others, or they accepted it for other benefits which they thought the Federation would bring to them. The honorable and learned member for Wannon seems to imagine that, unless the Federal Parliament is located in a big- city, such as Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane, some dreadful thing will happen to its members. He makes the bold assertion, that unless there is a press constantly watching over the actions of the members of the Federal Parliament, it will be in danger of degenerating into a corrupt and venal body, and of carrying on all sorts of vile, unconstitutional, or improper practices. How he has arrived at this conclusion I do not know, for it is to the credit of the Australian people that, with very few exceptions indeed, so far, its public men have occupied, and still occupy a very high position as regards their moral conduct in the carrying out of public affairs. I do not know that there is likely to be any change in that regard. If one can judge the public mind of Australia in the future by what it is at present, a very short shrift indeed will await the man who may dare to betray a trust. It is also to the credit of Australia’ generally, that wherever any corrupt practice has been brought to light, the offender has been immediately sent to the right-about, and kept there in almost every instance. That is, I think, likely to continue to be a characteristic of the people. We have an alert, up-to-date, active, honest public; and, so long as the public retain those attributes, we shall have alert, up-to-date, active public men. -But to assert that Members of Parliament are more open to bribery than members of the press, is to make a statement which I .cannot accept. I do not know why the press should not be charged with the possibility of corruption as well as Members of Parliament. I do not know that the press are any more likely to withstand offers of bribes than Members of Parliament. But, so far as we know, the press of Australia has been just as free from corruption df this kind as have been our public men. That, too, is a very fine feature in connexion with the conduct of public affairs. It is true that in other portions of the world corrupt practices have been indulged in by public men. It is a standing disgrace to the United States that so many cases of bribery have been brought to light.

Mr King O’malley:

– It is not direct bribery. It is the hiring of men as lawyers in the States Parliaments..

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– It is a sort of bribery which would not be tolerated for twenty-four hours in Australia, I am happy to say.

Mr King O’Malley:

– It will be seen here if we are kept starving in this way.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– The conditions in America and Australia are essentially different. These allegations of bribery are not made in connexion with the Parliament of Canada.

Mr McDonald:

– Oh ! What about Sir John Macdonald and that crowd ?

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– I have heard of an instance or two in Canada, but in the United States we are told it is a common practice. I could instance a case in Victoria, and there have been instances in other States; but, of course, those instances are not to be taken to indicate the common trend of politics in Australia as in the United States. In Australia we have a great deal to be thankful for in the conduct of our press and public men. I do not think it would make a tittle of difference whether we met in what is called a “ bush capital “ or in Sydney or Melbourne. Public men would still continue to do their duty without fear and without favour, and no sufficient reason has been shown for breaking or delaying the execution of this compact. Finally, I say, that though the Constitution contains many provisions to which I have objected, still, having from public platforms and elsewhere asked for its acceptance by my fellow-countrymen, I feel that I am in duty bound to vote for the second reading of this Bill.

Mr WEBSTER:
Gwydir

– I am very pleased to find in this House such a unanimous desire to proceed with the selection of the Capital site, with a view to the erection of the necessary buildings thereon. It was unfortunate to some degree that there was a limit put in the Con’stitution as to the location of’ the Capital - not because I think it would have been wise to locate the Capital in Sydney dr anywhere immediately adjacent to that city, but because the insertion of that limit excluded many very eligible sites. For that reason I regretted that that part of the Constitution was adopted. It will be remembered that during the first referendum there was no talk of a distance limit in regard to the location of the- Federal Capital. But after that event-when New South Wales was not allowed to abide by majority rule - there came the question of making terms with Victoria, in order to induce the people of New South Wales) as it was alleged, to accept the Constitution. I have a clear recollection that “the Convention passed the Constitution without inserting in it any provision of this kind. In my opinion, it is not true to say that the people of New South Wales were not prepared to accept that Constitution unless such an addition were made as a guarantee that the Federal Capital would at least be within their territory, for they had already, by a majority, approved of the Constitution. I admit that the effort to secure the location of the Federal Capital in New South Wales was a clever piece of diplomatic tactics at the time. Of course, something has to be done when a change of leadership is imminent. It was partly because of a change of leadership and partly because it was necessary to run another flag to the top of the mast than the Braddon blot that we got the provision for the Federal Capital, which enabled certain persons to apply all their ability in urging on the people the importance of that concession, as against the all-important question which had been made the pivot of their addresses at the first referendum - that hideous thing called the Braddon blot. I presume’ it is necessary at times in politics for men to adopt new arguments, but I remember quite clearly that that was one of the reasons why the distance limit was placed in section 125 of the Constitution. I do not think that any man in the House is inclined to interfere with the decision of the people in that regard. If so, is it not wise at this juncture for the House to pass the second reading of this Bill, and thus take one step forward in the direction of settling this very important question? If we are to abide by the compact made with the State of New South Wales, which was coaxed into the Federation, we should undoubtedly pass the second reading of the Bill, and proceed to select a site. There are many reasons why we should set about this at once. Some people declare that the Victorians are anxious to keep the Seat c.f Government in Melbourne as long as possible; but I do not think that they are so selfish as they are represented to be. It is only fair, however, to the representatives from other States that the Government should be established in its permanent home as soon as possible. At present they are placed at a great disadvantage compared with the ‘ representatives of Victoria. Honorable members who have to travel from their homes to Melbourne are feeling keenly the expenses which they have to incur. Not only have they to bear the cost of travelling and to incur a greater outlay upon living expenses, but they have to absent themselves from their businesses. The Victorian representatives are in a position to attend to their own affairs whilst they are not immediately engaged in discharging their legislative duties; but the position is different in the case of honorable members who have to leave their homes for long periods, and to either allow their businesses to take care of themselves or engage others to attend to them. Those who have attempted to attend to their private affairs, and to also conscientiously discharge their functions as representatives here, have utterly failed. The Victorian representatives should recognise that they have had a fair innings, and that some years must still elapse before the Seat of Government can be transferred to the Federal Capital, and they should be prepared out of consideration for their fellow members from other States to facilitate the selection of the site. I do not think that there has been any unnecessary delay up to the present. The matter of selecting a site for the Federal Capital of Australia is one of very great importance, and the time which has elapsed since it first became possible to devote attention to the question has been well spent in obtaining reports and making visits of inspection. I know that many people are under the impression that the visits paid by honorable members to the proposed sites were arranged in order to enable honorable members to pass a pleasant holiday; but I can testify that the tours of inspection were made under circumstances which involved great personal inconvenience. I regret that many honorable members have taken so little interest in this question that they’ have not troubled themselves to inspect any of the sites. It will be impossible for any honorable member, who has failed to inspect the sites, or to read the reports presented to us, to give an intelligent vote.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– They plead that they have read ‘the honorable member’s letter, and that that is sufficient.

Mr WEBSTER:

– That may be some excuse, but it is not an adequate one for those honorable members who had done nothing prior to the publication of my letter. I know that my honorable friend is very much exercised about that document, but’ I can assure him that I have only done that which I consider to be right, and that- 1 am very pleased to know that it has had the effect of awakening in the minds of some honorable members a certain amount of interest in the question, and has impressed upon them the necessity of making themselves acquainted with a site which had previously escaped their attention. I may say that the report which I have read this afternoon from the officer who was instructed to inspect the site referred to fully indorses every conclusion at which I arrived after a cursory examination of the locality. I do not wish, however, to be drawn into a discussion upon the merits of the respective sites. I promise the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that I shall not willingly misrepresent the facts relating to any of the sites. I do not think that we can be charged with undue delay if we do not arrive at a decision before the end of next week. I realize that the site which has been brought under our notice by the honorable member for Hume is one that merits inspection by honorable members, and believing, as I do, that it is the duty of honorable members’ to obtain the fullest possible information with regard to all the sites suggested, I think that every facility should be offered to honorable members to pay the proposed visit. I believe that the sole object of the honorable member for Corangamite, in moving this amendment, is to cause delay. I fail to see how any other interpretation can be placed upon hia action. If the honorable member, as a Victorian, is not prepared to abide by the compact entered into between the right honorable member for Balaclava and the right honorable member foi’ East Sydney in days gone by, and has no hesitation in repudiating the promises made to NewSouth Wales, I think that he will stand almost alone in this Parliament. I do not agree with those honorable members who advocate the erection of temporary buildings at the Federal Capital. I think that any buildings erected there should at least be of such a character that they will reflect credit upon the Commonwealth, and provide reasonably good accommodation for all those who will have to transact Government business. Furthermore, I am not in accord W kt those honorable members who object to borrowing money for the purpose of laying the foundations of the Federal city. How can it be pretended that we shall be able to provide out of revenue money sufficient even to make the most unpretentious beginning? Those honorable members who seek to tie the hands of the Government by preventing- them from borrowing money are practically imposing conditions which will render it impossible for the Seat of Government to be transferred to its permanent home for many years to come. It is not desirable that we should start the Federal Capital upon lines similar to those which have been followed in connexion with all our great Australian cities. We do not desire to see within the Federal area those features which have marked most of our settlements in their primitive stages. We could not contemplate with pleasure bark humpies or huts constructed of kerosene tins, such as may be found in interesting variety upon our mining fields and other places. We should take advantage of the experience gained in connexion with the foundation of our great cities, and proceed upon lines which will from, the outset make the Federal Capital a creditable home for the Parliament and administrative offices of the Commonwealth.

Mr Spence:

– It is better to have a bark humpy that has been paid for, than a palace that has not been paid for.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I think that that is an extreme view to take, and that it is not in accord with the reasonable attitude generallyadopted by my honorable friend. In the first place, we shall have to provide for an adequate water supply, for the installation of thorough lighting, and sanitary systems, and for the laying out of the city, before we proceed to erect the necessary buildings. Is it reasonable to suppose that we can perform even these preliminary works out of revenue within the next twenty years ? It is nonsense to talk about building the Federal Capital without borrowing money. If we look at the matter from a business stand-point, we must remember that the Commonwealth is paying a large sum of money every year to rent buildings in this city for the accommodation of the Federal Departments. It is true that we have the use of Parliament House free of charge, but that concession was made to the Commonwealth by Victoria in return for advantages which her people hoped to obtain from the meeting of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne. The honorable member for Bourke has referred to the advantages which the people of Melbourne obtain from the expenditure undertaken by the Commonwealth in this city ; but every representative of a Federal constituency is nevertheless grateful to the State of Victoria for the accommodation which he is permitted to enjoy here. But does not the honorable member for Melbourne Ports realize that it might be a very good business transaction to borrow money to erect Federal buildings, instead pf paying interest on rented buildings ?

Mr Mauger:

– I am opposed to borrowing altogether.

Mr WEBSTER:

– It seems to me that the honorable member is opposed to expedition in the settlement of the Capital site question. If he is against borrowing where a fair return could be obtained in excess of the saving of rent brought about, he is impaled .on the other horn of the dilemma, and must be regarded as opposed to proper provision being made for the accommodation of the Federal Parliament and officers. If he adopts this line of opposition to prevent a site for the Federal Capital being chosen, I mistrust him more than I do the honorable member for Corangamite, who directly advocates delay. When we hear the honorable member speak of the large amount which it will cost to construct a railway to give communication to any of the proposed sites which may be chosen, I ask if it is expected that we should walk to the Capital, carrying our “blueys” with us. Surely the honorable member must recognise that railways are necessary to enable us to get to the Federal Capital, and that to make these railways it will be necessary to borrow money. We are justified in borrowing for that purpose, if we can obtain a profitable return for our expenditure. I believe the honorable member for Corangamite has not seen any of the proposed sites.

Mr Wilson:

– No, but I know from reading the reports that none of the proposed railways, if constructed, would pay for the axle-grease used on the trains.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I do not understand how the honorable member can make a remark so discreditable to his intelligence, since he has not seen the country through which any of these railways would run. I have visited all the sites, and while I admit that some are better than others, I know that it would pay to construct a railway to any one of them. In one case in particular, to say that the expenditure of money to give the necessary railway communication would be unprofitable is absolutely untrue.

Mr Wilson:

– Is the honorable member in order in stating that I have said what is absolutely untrue?

Mr SPEAKER:

– If the honorable member for Gwydir made that remark, I ask him to withdraw it.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I withdraw what I said, and apologize to the honorable member for Corangamite, if he thinks that I meant to infer that he wilfully told an untruth. I did not mean to do anything of the kind. Perhaps I should say that if a railway were constructed to one particular site which I have in mind, the conclusion in regard to its paying capabilities which the honorable member stated would be shown to be quite the reverse of sound.

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

– To which site does the honorable member refer?

Mr WEBSTER:

– We are not allowed to discuss the merits of the various sites at this stage, and, therefore, I shall not answer the honorable member’s question. Speaking generally, I say that in nearly every instance the construction of railways to give communication to the proposed sites would provide a good return on the money invested.

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

– The Commonwealth could not construct railways upon State territory.

Mr WEBSTER:

– No ; but the return would be profitable, by whatever authority these railways were constructed. I do not agree with those who are opposed to reasonable borrowing. It is always wise for the public, as well as for private individuals, to borrow money for the construction of works which will pay a good return upon its investment. If we got a good return for the money we borrowed, we should not be acting injudiciously in borrowing it. Whatever site we select, we must borrow -money before we can build upon it.

Mr Spence:

– Why? The Commonwealth has plenty of money.

Mr Bamford:

– There should be no more borrowing.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I shall not preach what I know to be impracticable, merely to please the public. I do not wish them to believe that the Federal Parliament can perform miracles, by erecting public buildings without money. What we have to see is that the money we borrow is wisely spent, and applied to a legitimate purpose, so that we shall get a good return from its investment. So far as the Federal Parliament House is concerned, I do not think it would be necessary to erect an elaborate building, such as that in which we now meet. I should like to see plans pre pared by a competent architect which would allow the building to be put up in sections, so that we could gradually increase our accommodation as our requirements expanded. I understand that the buildings in which we meet cost £800,000, and there is more wilful extravagance to the square, foot in them than I have seen in any other public building with which I am acquainted. This Parliament House is practically a collection of corridors, with a room here and there to join them together. One can see the very finest work hidden away in recesses where it is never noticed, so that the money which it cost is practically buried from sight. Bluestone has been cut and moulded at tremendous cost, and there is embellishment everywhere; though when one traverses the place from end to end, one becomes conscious of the monotony of the decoration, and the lack of architectural skill. Considering the amount of money expended, the people of

Victoria might have obtained, instead of the present building, a Parliament House which would have been solid and commodious, and at the same time architecturally beautiful. But what is to be expected twenty years hence from the plaster work on the walls of this building, forming panels, pilasters, cornices, flutings, and other decorations? One may expect that every bit of plaster will by that time have fallen, leaving the walls a monument to the incapacity of those who devised the mode of construction employed. As a builder, I say that it is deplorable to see plaster work which has cost so much preparing to leave the Avails. In some places the plaster has ceased to cling to the original foundation.

Mr Mauger:

– Where?

Mr WEBSTER:

– As one walks out of the chamber, if he sounds the walls he will get a hollow sound, as if from a plate hung against them. In a number of places the plaster is . cracked, and ready to lea.ve the Avails. At the time the Work left the builder’s hands, and before it showed its present imperfections, it Avas at least a credit to the workmen who were responsible for it, though not to the architect who advised the use of such material. The architect engaged at such great cost to design this building should have known what was likely to happen. I hope that quite a different kind of building will be erected in the Federal Capital. . I do not wish to see £800,000 expended there in the construction of a Parliament House so ill-ventilated in the summer time that, after honorable members have been sitting in the chamber for two or three hours, the atmosphere will be so thick- that one could cut it Avith a knife.

Sir John Forrest:

– We are dealing now, not Avith the building of the Parliament House, but Avith the selection of a site for the Federal Capital.

Mr WEBSTER:

– The selection of the site is only a first step. We shall not select the site and then not proceed to build on it. The real question before us is whether it would be wise to choose a site and to erect upon it, for Federal purposes, buildings which will be a credit to the Commonwealth. I do not agree Avith the honorable members for Corangamite and Franklin that the construction of the Federal Capital will run the Governments of the States into debt. If Ave erect buildings of our own, Ave shall, by decreasing our ex penditure in rent, lessen the Burdens of the’ States. The people accepted the Constitution knowing that its acceptance involved the building of a Federal Capital. The people must expect, if Ave are to have a Capital city, to have to provide the money for the purpose. How can they expect to escape their share of taxation? It is not logical at this time of day to say that Ave will not undertake to build a home for the Federal Parliament because it will involve some cost to the taxpayers of the smaller States. During the discussions upon the Commonwealth Bill I realized that some of the points referred to by the honorable member for Franklin were bound to arise. I admit that he has some justification for referring to them. I protested against the people accepting the Constitution. Having done so, I can say with perfect sincerity that I almost regret that they did” accept it, because now they are beginning to find that the results foretold by those who advised them to reject it, are coming’ home to them. But what is the use of arguing that the Capital should be located in the vicinity of Sydney ? I do not think there is room for argument on the point. To resume even ten square miles for Commonwealth purposes in the neighbourhood of Sydney would involve a very heavy expenditure. I would far rather resume territory in a part of the country where Ave have a prospect of constructing railways, opening up new lands, inducing settlement, and furnishing homes and opportunities for our people. I would rather see new railways built in districts where there is a prospect of their being payable by reason of the productiveness of the land, than I would spend large sums of money in the vicinity of one of our present State capitals. Having selected the Capital site, undoubtedly Ave shall first have to consider the possibility of making railway communication Avith it. Next, Ave shall have to consider the design of the city and its surroundings. Then Ave shall have to make arrangements for its water supply, its sanitation, its lighting, and other services. Finally, Ave shall have to make arrangements for the erection of the necessary buildings. Yesterday an appeal Avas made to the Government to afford relief to the unemployed in the shape of public works. The various works that will be necessary in connexion Avith the Capital will afford one means by which Ave, as a Parliament, without reverting to the Tariff, can make some provision for the unemployed.

Mr McWILLIAMS:
FRANKLIN, TASMANIA · REV TAR; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917; CP from 1920; IND from 1928

– How would the honorable member obtain the money for building railways?

Mr WEBSTER:

– From the same source as we have obtained money for building railways in the States. Does not the honorable member know that the security of the Commonwealth in matters of this kind would be of the best?

Mr Mcwilliams:

– But the Minister tells us that we should not borrow the money.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I do not intend to be bound by what any Minister has said. I have been sent to this Parliament because Providence has endowed me with sufficient common sense to form my own opinions, and regulate my own actions. I am quite prepared, when my own experience is not sufficient, to avail myself of the experience of others who know more than I do. I am always ready to sit at the feet of any man who can teach me anything ; but, having determined what is practical and advisable, I am not going to be guided by any Minister in making statements that cannot, in my opinion, be fully carried out.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Then the honorable member proposes to borrow the money ?

Mr WEBSTER:

– I- propose to borrow the money where there is a prospect of a return. In my opinion, railways constructed through such country as we should select for the purposes of the Federal Capital, which would open up the land and tend to settle the people upon it, would be amongst the best paying works rhat the Cammonwealih could undertake.

Mr Mauger:

– Does the honorable member know of any money that was ever borrowed which it was said would not provide a return?

Mr WEBSTER:

– Yes, I know of many cases, in all the States, where money was borrowed, when persons in authority, who were best able to judge, stated that the result would simply be to place a “ white elephant” on the Treasury- for all time.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– That is what we are saying now.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I have not said that I am prepared to do that in connexion with the Federal Capital. I am prepared to borrow money where there is a guarantee that there will be a return, providing interest and sinking fund, from the expenditure.

Mr Mauger:

– Who is to give the guarantee ?

Mr WEBSTER:

– It will be given by officers who are best able to judge of the possibilities of the work. Failing that, we might call upon the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to give us the guarantee.

Mr Mauger:

– It would be about as valuable.

Mr WEBSTER:

– As a Federal Parliament, we must do what the States Parliaments have had to do - be guided by expert evidence, furnished by men who have spent a lifetime in studying particular work and spending Government money.

Mr Mauger:

– I always view the reports of such experts with the greatest suspicion.

Mr WEBSTER:

– It is all very well for the honorable member to view such evidence in the way that suits his purpose, but I am quite certain that money spent on such a railway as I contemplate would provide work for men engaged in legitimate occupations - artisans, railway men, navvies, and mechanics, whilst at the same time it would open up opportunities for the settlement of the people, and for increasing the production of the country. I must say that I doubt the sincerity of any man who says that he is willing to construct the Federal Capital, but is not prepared to borrow money for any works connected with it.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– Would the honorable member borrow money in order to find work to relieve the depression caused by the present over-borrowing ?

Mr WEBSTER:

– I would borrow money only where I was sure that by means of it I could provide work that would be profitable to the men engaged in it and profitable to the Government that employed them. That is what I mean. I do not wish the honorable member to misunderstand me. He has got himself into a peculiar position by saying that he desires to carry out the Federal compact with New South Wales, whilst at the same time he is prepared to break it. I do not wish him to get into further difficulties by misunderstanding ray meaning. I am always prepared to indicate what I am willing to do quite independently of anything that may have been said either bv a Minister or by a colleague on my own side of the House. Before a site is definitely selected, I hope to say a word or two about it. The question certainly is a most important one. It will have to be settled only once in the history of Australia. The site once determined upon, it will be of no use complaining that a mistake has been made. It will be of no use to say, as has been said in the course of this debate, that it’ is a pity that a clause was inserted in the Constitution which limited the allocation of the Federal Capital to an area at least I00 miles from Sydney. I do not want to have any regrets, so far as my action is concerned, after the site is chosen. I hope that every honorable member who has the interests of the Commonwealth at heart will read the reports or visit the sites, and go into the merits of the relative localities for himself, so that he may know that so far as his vote is concerned, he is helping to choose the best possible position. I trust that we shall be able to decide upon it without any considerations of parochialism affecting the issue. I trust it will not be settled because we wish to have a site near to some railway, or in some honorable member’s electorate. It should be decided broadly, and upon strictly Federal lines, in the knowledge that in a few. years io come all the parochial jealousies which now tend to disturb our judgment will have passed away. Let us act in accordance with the’ Federal spirit that was referred to so eloquently by the leader of the Opposition when he was appealing to the New South Wales people to come under the Federal Constitution, and by the head of the late Government, when he appealed to the people of Australia in his own eloquent style, inviting them to accept the Commonwealth Bill. I remember sitting in my place in the New South Wales Assembly, and listening, to a discussion upon the action of the last Federal Parliament in reference to the enlarged area which it was desired to take for Federal Capital purposes. . Member after member rose in protest against the large area that was asked for. But I can assure the House that when this question is brought to an issue, so that the alternative is as to whether New South Wales will give us the territory that we ask for, or remain without having the Capital within the borders of that State, thev will soon see the wisdom of acquiescing in the proposals of this Parliament. Here Ave have the game of politics played in the way Ave used to see it played bv oldtime politicians. We have the Premier of New South Wales pleading Avith the Federal Parliament not to decide the question until after the elections. I remember the Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, appealing to Sir John See, Premier . of New South Wales, to assist the Federal Parliament in coming to some conclusion: and Ave know that, from time to time, in the New South Wales Parliament, the matter Avas burked and set aside. Now. at this time, when we are about to decide the question, Ave have this appeal by the Premier of New South Wales to delay the matter until after the general elections - that is, until he comes back Avith a majority, to do what? The Premier of New South Wales has stated publicly that his intention is to recommend Garland-Carcoar as the site which the Government of that State are prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth. This is playing the game top low on the part of a man in the responsible position of Premier of the mother State. I say, without fear of contradiction, that the Garland-Carcoar site is closely adjacent to the Premier’s own electorate, and he is endeavouring to make a little political capital out of the circumstance, ‘ in the hope that it may be to his advantage on polling day. The Premier of New South Wales does not show a true Federal spirit when he talks of selecting a site against the wishes of the members of this Parliament, whose duty it is to decide the question. He does this, not sincerely, but merely as a piece of political claptrap, for the purpose of pandering to the electors, whose votes he wants ; and I should have no hesitation in telling him so if I were alongside him on a platform, even in his own electorate. What guarantee have we that this matter will be fairly dealt Avith if Ave do w ait for the new Parliament in New South Wales? If the Premier of that State is returned Avith any force behind him. it naturally follows that he will exercise a certain sway in the local Parliament .; and his action will have the effect of harassing the Commonwealth Parliament and Govern-‘ ment in trying to arrive at an honest conclusion on this important question. I have another appeal to make. I have heard several honorable members say that they have never visited any of the proposed Capital sites, and I am rather surprised to find that most of those honorable members represent Victorian constituencies. Other members are favorable to one site, because they think they will be able to proceed to Eden by boat ; but I do not Avant to see an important question like this decided on such grounds. We know that, in this Chamber there are men not actuated by a broad, comprehensive view or knowledge of the various sites, but by parochial influences which should find no place in a Federal Parliament. Because of this I ask honorable members, if they have not seen the sites, at least to endeavour to visit as many sites as they can before the day comes to finally decide the matter. If ‘honorable members cannot find time to pay any visits of inspection, they ought to read the reports of trusted officers. When we decide this question, as I trust we shall do next week, once for all’, I hope our conclusion will be such as will redound to the

Credit of this Parliament, and be of lasting benefit to the Commonwealth. When Ave have decided on the site, I shall be prepared, as I said before, to go forward and make a home for this Parliament as early as possible, so that Ave shall not, as now, have to travel long distances in order to visit our homes for a few hours each week, but may have an opportunity to enjoy some domestic comfort.

Sir John Forrest:

– What about other honorable members besides those from

New South Wales ?

Mr WEBSTER:

– I am speaking for all honorable members, who would then be in the same position, seeing that the Federal Capital would be just as near to one State as to the other. We should then be able to make our homes at the Federal Capital, or, at any rate, be placed on the

Same footing in regard to the transaction of our own private businesses.

Sir John Forrest:

– The New South Wales members will be the best off.

Mr WEBSTER:

– I do not see much difference between travelling 340 or 440 miles, and travelling 560 miles. To .me, personally, however, the removal to the Federal Capital would make a difference. Since I am likely to be permanently a member of this House, I should fix my home at the Capital, so that the time which I now spend in railway carriages could be devoted to developing my intelligence and improving my knowledge of the legislation required, and the duties of the position which I have the honour to hold.

Mr JOHNSON:
Lang

– Had this amendment been moved by a representative of New South Wales, I could readily have understood the cry about “keeping the bond.” But, considering that the amendment has been proposed by one Victorian representative, supported by another Victorian representative, and also by a representative from Tasmania, I really do not see that it was incumbent on the honorable member for Darling to raise that cry. The bond was not sought by New South Wales, but exacted from that State; and, therefore, I cannot see that there is any force whatever in the cry at the present time. I should like to ask the honorable member for Darling this question - Is it not a general rule ‘ that people who enter into a bond may agree amongst themselves to cancel that bond ? If the right exists to make an agreement, there, is an equal right to cancel that agreement, if the parties to that agreement so wish

Mr Poynton:

– Does the honorable member apply that argument to the removal of the Federal Capital from New South Wales ?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I am speaking about a bond which has already been entered into, and, contending that if there Avas the right to make the bond, there is an equal right to cancel it, provided all the parties are agreeable.

Mr Poynton:

– Would the honorable and learned member be prepared to apply that argument to the choice of a Capital, altogether irrespective of New South Wales.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I should have been prepared to deal Avith that argument if it had been necessary to my point ; but I do not see that it is necessary at the present time. A great deal of stress has been laid on the fact that, according to the Constitution, an area of not less than 100 square miles must be granted for the Federal Territory. The honorable member for Darling pointed out the absurdity of even suggesting the possibility of Sydney being selected as the Capital while this provision remains in the Constitution ; but if it is permissible to alter the Constitution, in respect to the deletion of the 100-miles limit, it is also competent to alter the. Constitution’ as to the exact area to be given.

Mr Spence:

– The amendment does not propose that alteration.

Mr Mcwilliams:

– It will form the subject of a subsequent amendment, if the present amendment be carried.

Mr JOHNSON:

-There is nothing to prevent such an alteration of the Constitution. But I agree Avith those honorable members who express the opinion that the 100-miles limit) should never have been provided for. That provision Avas a mistake ; but Are have now to accept the Constitution as it is, until it be altered. I was one who opposed the Constitution on each occasion, when it Avas submitted to the people of New South Wales. I saw. many defects which I thought it my duty to point out at various public meetings, along with other opponents of the Bill; and I fought as hard as I could against the acceptance of the Constitution. But we have to recognise that the people of New South Wales, with their eyes open, accepted the Constitution with those provisions.

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

– And they gloried in the fact.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I do not go so far as to say that; but no doubt honorable members who advocated the Bill find room for satisfaction. I am speaking as one who conscientiously opposed the Constitution, which I conceived to be against the interests of New South Wales. No one more than myself would like to see the Constitution amended in the direction of enabling Sydney to be chosen as the Capital city - or any other area within the I00miles limit.

Mr Poynton:

– Or any other area within the Commonwealth?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I must stand up for New South Wales, but not merely because I happen to represent that State. If I represented a constituency in, say, Western Australia, the central idea by which I should be guided would be that New South Wales is the mother State, and that Sydney is destined by its geographical position, topographical features, and general surroundings to be the great distributing centre for the whole of the continent of. Australia.

Mr Poynton:

– The geographical position belongs to South Australia.

Mr JOHNSON:

– I am speaking of the geographical position of Sydney in relation to the,, commerce of the world, especially in the light of the new developments promised by the construction of the Panama Canal. It’ does not matter where we place the Federal Capital, the prestige of Sydney, as the chief city of Australia, is fully established. The Panama Canal will shorten the distance from Europe and America to Australia to such a considerable extent as to make it a foregone conclusion that it will be the highway of commerce between Australia and the rest of the world, just as the Suez Canal is the highway between east and west. I should like to mention incidentally that in this connexion the strategic position of the New Hebrides group of islands in the Pacific is a question of grave significance to the future of Australia and British commerce on the Pacific Ocean, and their importance to Australia should not be overlooked in the consideration of this question. I am not in accord, however, with the mover of this amendment in his argument about the use of park lands in the neighbourhood of Sydney for the purposes of a Federal Capital. I hope that all lands which have been dedicated to the public for recreation purposes will be jealously guarded against appropriation to any other purpose. But if the 100miles limit were once repealed, I could call the attention of honorable members to an ideal place for the establishment of a city, perhaps one of the fairest sites in the whole world, and that is a site between George’s River and Port Hacking River. To my mind, in all the vast areas in which we are asked to make a selection at the present time, there are not to be found any areas equal to those which are contained within the 100-miles limit. The area bounded by George’s River on the one side, and Port Hacking River on the other, with its picturesque bays, its magnificent stretches of water, the beautiful undulating character of its conformation, and its contiguity to water and fuel, would certainly incline me, but for the knowledge of the certainty of the whole question being shelved, to give my adherence to the amendment. Although I opposed the acceptance of the Constitution as strongly as I could, still I should be one of the last to lightly agree to any attempt to alter one of its provisions until it has had a fair trial. I recognise that once we do make the attempt to alter the Constitution in any one direction - quite apart from the difficulties to be met-we shall open the way to its alteration in various other directions, of which we may not approve. If we adopt the plan of supporting the amendment, it will simply mean that the question of selecting an area for the Federal Capital will be hung up indefinitely, to the great prejudice of everybody concerned, and to the great inconvenience of not only the representatives of New South Wales, but the representatives of other States. There is a point which has caused me much perplexity ever since I read the Constitution, and that is in regard to the question of the Seat of Government. Section 125 reads in this way -

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.

In a note on the Seat of Government, in the Annotated Constitution, Quick and Garran say, at page 979 -

The phraseology of this section, and its involved grammatical construction, raise several difficult questions of interpretation. How is the Seat of Government to be. acquired by the Commonwealth ? What is the effect of its acquisition ? And what is to happen pending the determination of the Seat of Government? These and other questions must be answered ; though the obscurity of the section makes it impossible, in the absence of judicial interpretation, to answer them with absolute confidence.

Here is’ one of those cases where, through an ambiguity of phraseology, even the most skilful legal minds are left in doubt as to the interpretation of a certain sentence or paragraph. I could easily understand that territory which is granted is intended to mean territory which is granted by the State ; but the section contains the words - territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth.

I do not find in the Constitution any provisions which cover this point of the acquisition of territory. How is territory to be acquired? The Parliament of the Commonwealth may select, in New South Wales, certain territory with a desire to acquire it, and the State may refuse to grant it to us. In that case, can the Commonwealth, by force of arms if necessary, secure the territory ? That is a point which does not seem to be made clear in the Constitution ; yet it is one which I think should have been fully developed and explained so as to leave no doubt on the subject. Of course I do not anticipate that there will be any trouble of that kind. 13 ut still these are points which have to be considered beforehand, and involve possibilities and contingencies which, in my opinion, ought to have been provided for by specific .enactment. I very much regret to find that there is nothing definite as to what, is meant by the acquisition of territory. The only thing we can hope for is that, whatever territory may be decided upon by this Parliament, no objections to its acquisition will be raised.

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

– Even if we should want to take half the State?

Mr JOHNSON:

– I shall not say that. I disagree entirely with the honorable member for Gwydir’s remarks, which seemed to me to be somewhat in the nature of a threat against the State Parliament, if it did not agree to a demand which it could not have been expected to be called upon by the Com0 mon wealth to agree to. Certainly section 125 of the Constitution provides that the area of the site shall not be less than 100 square miles ; but I think that the spirit underlying that provision was that it should be somewhere near that area. If we make a demand for 900 square miles, we shall invite a great deal of opposition, which there is no necessity to provoke.

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

– We might negotiate for that area, but it ought not to be mentioned in the Bill.

Mr JOHNSON:

– Certainly. I do not think that we ought to go to the Government of New South Wales, and with a pistol pointed at its head, say, “ We shall have this large territory, or none.” That is not the kind of spirit in which the Commonwealth Parliament should approach the State Parliament; but the ordinary rules of courtesy ought to be observed. I am hot by any means in accord with those honorable members who have spoken about using temporary structures in the’ Federal Capital. My idea is that the best advice available should be taken. If possible there should be a conference of the most skilled architects and engineers to consider and devise a plan for the Federal city, or competitive designs invited at a suitable premium, in order to induce the best architects to compete. While I recognise that every attention should be paid to the development of such an important place as the Federal city, and that it should be our ultimate aim to make that city an example in architecture and every other respect to the whole world, of what a model city should be, and as showing what Australia is capable of doing - while I hold that that should be the central idea, I admit that it would be simply madness to attempt to erect the buildings at once. But whilst the general idea could be kept in view, such sections of a general plan could be carried out as would meet present requirements first, and others proceeded with as they became necessary from time to time. Every addition to the original structure would then be part and parcel of the whole plan. The principle would be the same as that on which so many magnificent cathedrals have been erected, and the buildings when completed would make a harmonious whole. I do not agree with the honorable member for Gwydir that the honorable member for Corangamite desires to promote delay in the consideration of this question. While I do not feel myself able to fall in with the idea of the amendment to the extent of giving it an unstinted support, still I am perfectly prepared to give its author full credit for sincerity of purpose. I feel quite satisfiedin my own mind that he was actuated by a desire to get rid of the spirit of provincialism, to economise in public expenditure, and to settle this question as early as possible by placing the Federal Capital in Sydney. I -feel sure that not only the mover of the amendment, but also its supporters, are actuated by those motives alone, and that nothing sinister underlies the amendment, as has been suggested. If we were to accept the amendment, it would mean that we should have to drop the consideration of the Bill, and the selection of the site would be hung up indefinitely. That is a result which I do not desire to see. Whilst I desire to see the . 100-miles limit abolished, I recognise that if we once commence to tamper with the Constitution attempts will be made to override it altogether. I am not prepared to risk any such possibility, and, although I have every sympathy with the idea which underlies the amendment, I cannot see my way clear to support it. I trust, however, that the consideration of this . question will not be marred by provincial jealousies or parochial sentiment, but that the broader ground of national sentiment will prevail, so that we may strive earnestly to secure a site chiefly on account of its suitability and accessibility, and which shall he worthy of the great future in store for the Commonwealth of Australia.

Sir JOHN FORREST:
Swan

– The subject with which this Bill deals is now being brought before us for the second time, and I do not think that any good will result from an extended debate upon the motion for the second reading, or upon the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Corangamite. The object of the Bill is to determine the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth,’ and the amendment would have the effect of deferring that determination, and causing us to embark upon an amendment of the Constitution. I may say at once that I am not in favour of amending the Constitution in the wayproposed. When we reach the Committee stage, we shall be called upon to assume the responsibility of locating the Federal Territory, and of choosing a site within that territory for the Seat of Government. I take it that there cannot be much difference of opinion as to the advisability of passing a measure of this kind, because it is designed to give effect to one of the specific provisions of the Constitution. At the’ outset, I should like to say a word or two with regard to a somewhat personal matter. On several occasions, honorable members sitting on the Government benches have considered themselves justified in making adverse comments upon the attitude I assume in regard to the various matters which come before the House. The Minister of Horrie Affairs this evening, in replying to an interjection of mine as to the acquisition of a large area for the purposes of the Federal territory,, did so. My attitude upon that point has been consistent all through, and the fact that I take that view does not afford the slightest justification for the observation of the Minister that I disapproved of everything advocated by the late Government, of which I was a member. The honorable member added that he could not understand why I had remained a member of that Government. I think that that is somewhat strong language for a Minister to use with regard to my actions, which are not in the keeping of the present Government, or of any member of it. The statement of the Minister was as incorrect as it was rude, and as unnecessary as it was offensive. I was not very much assisted in dealing with this question by the speech delivered by the Minister. I agree with him that we have not been furnished with too much information in reference to the proposed sites, and that we are now in a better position to deal with the Bill than we were when it was before us last session. I have always considered that we should be afforded every information with regard to the suggested sites, because, unless we are fully acquainted with all the facts, we cannot properly discharge the responsibility which rests upon us. We have to select a territory, in the first place, and then to choose a site for the Seat of Government within that territory. Our position is rendered somewhat more difficult by the fact that within the . last few days two fresh sites have been brought under our notice. I believe that no less than eleven sites in the district represented by my honorable friend and late colleague, the member for Hume, have already been reported upon, and two more have been brought under our notice during the last fortnight.

Mr Tudor:

– That is a sufficient number of sites to be embraced within one electorate.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I quite agree with the honorable member. What I complain of, however, is that the honorable member for Hume, who has taken so much interest in this matter, should have waited so long before placing us in possession of the names of all the sites that he considers worthy of examination. It is rather late in the day for us to enter upon the inspection of further sites.

Mr Batchelor:

– The suggested new sites were included in the territory fixed by the last Bill.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– They were included only in the territory which extended from the Murrumbidgee on the north to the Murray on the south. The sites were not named, and if we had known that there were sites other than those previously mentioned which would be likely to meet with the approval of the House, we could have had surveys made, and have placed honorable members in possession of the fullest information.

Sir William Lyne:

– I asked the right honorable gentleman to inspect one of the sites, and he would not go.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The honorable member was Minister of Home Affairs for two years, and did not take any steps to have the sites now suggested examined and reported upon. He did not make any request to me to inspect the sites, except by sending a telegram whilst I was at Tumberumba, suggesting that it would be well for me to pay a visit to a certain place. Our arrangements had been made, and we could not then alter them. The honorable member has not even told us which of the thirteen sites in his electorate he favours. I compliment the Home Affairs Department on the excellence of the plans and contour surveys which accompany the reports of Messrs. Scrivener and Chesterman on the sites in the Southern Monaro and Tumut districts. The information thus afforded is most valuable to those who take a real interest in the matter under consideration. I do not know why we should be asked to deal with this subject before similar information has been obtained inregard to the two other sites which a number of honorable members are about to visit, and in regard to which we have only the report laid upon the table this afternoon, which does not contain sufficient information to enable us to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Mr Tudor:

– Does not the honorable member think it better that the sites to which he refers should be examined now ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– If the Government think that they are sites which might be chosen, they should, undoubtedly, be inspected; but we should defer the consideration of the general question until we have full information about them. I have no objection to the carrying of the motion for the second reading of the Bill, to which I think there will be no opposition ; but we cannot deal with the measure in Committee until we have full ‘information upon all the sites.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH:
MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT

– Did the late Government take the proposed new sites into consideration ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– No.

Mr Conroy:

– They were not suggested to that Government.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The honorable member for Grampians mentioned them, and the honorable member for Hume recently referred to them in a telegram which he sent to the late Prime Minister, and also spoke of them to me. The Bill introduced last session provided that the site of the Federal Capital should be located in an area within twenty-five miles of the tGwnship of Tumut, at an altitude of not less than 1,500 feet above the sea-level, and the instructions issued to Mr. Chesterman restricted him to an examination of the sites within that radius.

Mr Kennedy:

– Those instructions were contrary to the provisions in the Bill introduced last session.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Hats should be removed when’ interjections are made. . On two or three occasions lately interjections have been made without that courtesy being paid to the House.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The honorable member is confusing the Federal territory with the Capital site. The Bill provided that the Federal territory should extend from the Murrumbidgee to the Murray, but the Capital site was to be located in an area within twenty-five miles of Tumut. I should like now to say a few words in regard to the constitutional powers of the Parliament in this matter. The Constitution provides that the Seat of Government shall be within New South Wales, and distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney. Section 125 provides that it -

Shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth.

No doubt, even the legal members of the House will find it difficult to decide what is the difference between the meaning of the words “ granted to “ and the words “ acquired by.” My opinion is that the words “ granted to “ apply to Crown lands, which “ shall be granted to the Commonwealth without any payment therefor,” and that the words “ acquired by “ apply to freehold land, and to land in process of alienation, which will have to be purchased by the Commonwealth. The power of the Commonwealth to acquire land to add to the area granted fo and acquired for the Seat of Government, except under the provisions of section 125 of the Constitution, is doubtful. We have, of course, power to acquire property for public purposes, but I am not sure that that power would enable us to extend the area of the Seat of Government. There is no doubt, however, that we have power under section 125 of the Constitution to acquire for the Seat of Government territory containing an “ area of not less than one hundred square miles.” I am surprised at the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite. It is a specific provision of the Constitution that the Federal territory “ shall contain an area of not less than one hundred square miles.” It was on that condition that New South Wales entered into the Federation. In my opinion it is impossible . for us honorably to interfere with that provision in any way, unless at the express wish of the people of New South Wales. On any other condition I cannot lead myself to think that we should be justified in departing from that specific provision of the Constitution. It would be an act of gross repudiation - I would even say an act of gross treachery - towards the people of New South Wales to attempt, without their consent, to alter the Constitution in such a way as to reverse what was specially agreed to when the Commonwealth was established. It was on this statutory undertaking that New South Wales joined the Federation. Other States may also have statutory undertakings that must be respected in the same manner ; but there is no more binding undertaking in the whole Constitution in regard to any State than this one, and I could never think of assisting in the slightest degree to alter, unless asked to do so by New South Wales, what was agreed to by the whole of the people of Australia. There are some other understandings upon which I need not dwell just now which are not statutory. The construction of a railway to

Western Australia is not a statutory undertaking, although there was a good understanding with regard to it. That railway certainly was used as an inducement to influence the people of Western Australia to vote for Federation, though there was no legal bargain with regard to it as there was in regard to the Capital. The only questions that we have to decide .when we reach the Committee stage are, first the position and extent of the Federal Territory, and next the locality of the site. The Constitution provides that the area shall not be less than 100 square miles. I will state the reasons why I am of opinion that an area considerably larger than 100 square miles was not intended by the framers of the Constitution to be taken. I have no objection on general grounds to a large area. The Minister of Home Affairs is absolutely wrong in thinking that I object to a large area because of the way in which it is proposed by some honorable members that the territory shall be dealt with after it is acquired. It is for the Legislature to determine whether the land shall be leased or sold. The leasing system has been tried over and over again in various parts of the world. To say that I object to acquiring a large area because I object to leasing, is absolutely contrary to the fact. The reason why I object to the area proposed in the Bill is that, in my opinion, the proposal is not in conformity with the spirit of the Constitution. In my view, the fact that the area named is to be “ not less than 100 square miles,” is an indication of what the framers of the Constitution intended. I have some personal knowledge of what ,was in the mind of the Convention. If it had been intended that the area should be 1,000 square miles, the Convention would not have provided for a minimum of 100 square miles. The terms of the Constitution mean., in my opinion, a minimum of 100 square miles, ‘ or something like that area. Possibly 200’ square miles might be taken ; but to say that it means 1,000 square miles is, in my opinion, to place a construction upon the section which the framers of the Constitution never intended.

Mr Batchelor:

– A minimum wage of £110 per annum does not mean that a man mav not receive £1,000.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– If I were to speak for hours, I could not put my view more clearly- ‘ What I have stated is my opinion, and I am not singular in holding it. I have argued the point with many persons who hold various views with regard to it ; and, while all agree that the ‘ section does not bind the Federal Parliament to take only 100 square miles, nearly every one agrees that the framers of the Constitution did not intend that a’ very much larger area, such as is proposed, should be taken.

Mr Frazer:

– Then why did they not fix a maximum ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– It was never thought by the Convention that the Federal Parliament would ask for such a large area . as is now proposed. I remember suggesting the wording of the clause to embrace the best way of putting what the Convention desired. We had in our. minds the acquisition of a territory similar to that occupied by Washington, in the United States. That territory covers about eight miles square. We considered that if we provided for an area ten miles square it would give us a Capital site on the model of the Washington territory.

Mr Austin Chapman:

– But the latitude is allowed, and there is no maximum in the Constitution.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I am simply explaining the reason why I have never favoured the acquisition of a large area. I repeat that it was not the intention of the. framers of the Constitution, and . it is not, in my opinion, within the spirit of the Constitution, that1,000 square . miles should be taken. Holding that definite opinion, formed not only upon my own reading of the Constitution, but upon my knowledge of what took place at the Convention, when the proper time comes, my vote will be cast in opposition to the acquisition of a larger area than, at the most, zoo square miles.

Sir William Lyne:

-Did not the right honorable member vote’ for the area which was provided for in the last Bill ?

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– Ido not remember whether there was any vote upon it-

Sir William Lyne:

– Yes, there was.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– That does not alter the fact that, in my opinion, the true interpretation of the Constitution is what I have stated.

Sir William Lyne:

– But I think the right honorable member voted for a larger area than100 square miles.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I have always expressed the same opinion. The honorable member for Hume knows very well that on the very first occasion after the present Government came into power, he himself voted in a contrary way from that in which he had voted a few daysbef ore.

Sir William Lyne:

– I never voted on the question.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– The presenr Minister of Home Affairs may not, perhaps, know as much as I do. about constitutional government ; at- any rate, I can tell him that in regard to matters on which there is disagreement amongst members of a Government, those members, when they are relieved of responsibility, are free from Ministerial obligation, and are at liberty to exercise their own judgment. The Afinister would make it appear that I always how vote against my late leader ; but I have taken the trouble to look up the records, and I find that out of fifteen divisions on the Arbitration Bill, I voted with my late leader in nine or ten.

Mr SPEAKER:

– Order! The right honorable member must not discuss that Bill.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I do not wonder that the. Government of New South Wales, knowing the terms of the Constitution, and also having some knowledge of what was intended by the Convention, should object to any large and unnecessary encroachment oh their territory.

Mr Frazer:

– We are not dealing with the intentions of the members of the Convention.

Sir JOHN FORREST:

– I really cannot follow the honorable member. I could understand honorable members’ anxiety for a larger area if a precedent could, be established in the United States or in Canada,, or if any great necessity could be shown. My own idea is that a large area is not wanted, and that was the opinion of the Convention. At any rate, weought to try to definitely make upour minds on the subject. I have decided opinions on the matter, and I express them, because I think it is far better that we should understand one another. I shall act on my opinion, and vote for an area of between 100 and 200 square miles, but not fpr any further extension. I have also strong opinions as to the site which I think should be chosen, but I am well aware that it is undesirable to discuss that phase at the present juncture. I may say,- however, that from all I have seen, I prefer the Dalgety site, for which I intend to vote at the proper time. We have heard a good deal to-night about the necessity for economy, and I do not suppose that any honorable member would be found speaking against such a policy. It is a politician’s most common expression that he believes in economical administration; and, therefore, it is rather late to tell us that economy should be the order of the day. On the question’ before us, the desire for economy goes so far as to lead to a suggestion to build some shanty in the wilderness in order to house the Federal Parliament ; but I fancy that when we entered into this shanty its present advocates would not then be satisfied. In those States where the cry for economy is loudest, there would appear to have been a good deal of extravagance in the past. We often hear railway construction blamed - most unjustly, I think - for the waste, of public money ; but my opinion is that railways have made Australia what it is. If money has to some degree been wasted in connexion with railway construction, the extravagance has not been carried to the same extent as in connexion with other public works. It appears to me that those who were parties to the borrowing policy of the States and who joined in spending the money as fast as possible, until it was difficult to borrow more, are now on the opposite tack and are opposed to any further borrowing. Only . the other day, when a very advantageous offer was made in connexion with our naval defences, we were told, by these advocates of economy, that we ought to have a local navy, apparently unmindful of the fact that it meant a large loan expenditure, In fact, those who preach economy one day, support extravagance the next. I think, however, that when the time comes for us to establish ourselves in the Capital city, we shall find that the people and their parliamentary representatives are in favour of good, substantial buildings which will be no discredit to the Commonwealth. I hope no’ long speeches will be found necessary on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, and that we shall dispose of the amendment quickly. I feel quite sure that there is no large number of honorable members who would vote for the amendment in the shape in which it is presented. It would be most unwise, and most improper, for us to allow it to be thought in New South Wales,’’ or any other part of Australia - in our constituencies’ or anywhere else - that we are inclined to depart in the slightest degree from the

Sir John Forrest. erms oof the compact entered into with New South Wales.’ We should show that we are determined to carry out that compact to the fullest extent It is only bv so doing that we can uphold our own good name, and expect upright and honorable treatment to be extended to us. I shall oppose the amendment, and be glad when the time comes to vote for the second reading.

Debate (on motion by Mr. G. B. Edwards) adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.25 P m-

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 July 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040720_reps_2_20/>.