2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster- General if he will give the House the assurance that he will not ratify an agreement with any steam-ship company for the carriage of mails between Australia and England until Parliament has had a full opportunity to discuss it.
– I cannot give such an assurance. We intend to call for tenders this month, and if a tender were received which it would be advantageous to accept at once, it would be unwise for the Government to wait until the meeting of Parliament before ratifying it, though, in every case, the representation’s made by honorable members will be taken into consideration.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs when steps will be taken to fix an Enumeration Day, and to carry out the other procedure laid down in the Act for the distribution of the electorates.
– Enumeration Day was fixed last week, and steps are being taken to give effect to the intentions of the Act without delay.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been called to certain statements of the Premier of New South Wales, made in the Legislative Assembly of that State, alleging that the State has been unfairly treated by the Customs Department?
– I did not know that the honorable member intended to ask me that question, but the matter was brought under my notice by the Prime Minister. The following is a summary of the statements of the Premier of New South Wales, with my replies to them: -
This statement is incorrect, as the whole of the detailed work of the Customs, New South Wales, is still transacted in that State.
It is true, of course, that the central administration is in Melbourne, that city being at present the seat of Government, but that administration has to do with the Customs of the whole of the Commonwealth.
To show how misleading the statement is, it may be mentioned that the Customs staff of New South Wales is 334, while the whole staff of the Ministerial office dealing with matters referred from all the States, and with many other important matters besides those relating to Customs administration, is only 20.
The arrangement under which the Customs collected wharfage rates for the Melbourne Harbor Trust, and for which the Trust paid a lump sum of £800 a year, was terminated on 1st July, 1905, the Trust having decided to collect these rates with its own officers.
The remuneration to the Customs for collecting these rates had, for some time, been considered inadequate for the services rendered, and, if the arangement had been continued, the Department would probably have required the payment to be raised from £800 to (at least) £2,000 per annum.
No official request from the Government of New South Wales can be traced. The matter was, however, discussed with the Comptroller-General by the Chairman of the Trust two or three years ago, and a desire was expressed to meet the Trust’s wishes.
The first difficulty connected with this suggestion, and one which at the time could not be overcome, was the lack of accommodation in the Customs House, owing tothe large amount of space occupied in the building by State Departments.
Great inconvenience was, and still is, caused to the mercantile community of Sydney owing to the congested state of the accommodation in the Sydney Customs House, and it was impossible, without causing an intolerable state of affairs, to undertake work which would have meant finding accommodation for an increased number of officers.
Negotiations between the Commonwealth and State Governments with a view to obtaining more accommodation in the Customs House for the business of the Customs De- partment have been carried on for some time, but nothing definite has yet resulted.
As to the Harbor Trust, the position has been explained under (2) above.
After the passing of the Commonwealth Patents Act, it became essential for the transaction of the business of the Patents Office, that the Examiner should have access to the records of all States, and it was at first proposed to transfer the New South Wales records to Melbourne for that purpose.
The Minister (Sir William Lyne) decided. however, that the original records should remain in Sydney, and copies be made of such records as were required at the Central Patents Office.
The Copyright Bill is not yet passed, but if it does pass, the Minister has decided that a branch registry shall be established in Sydney.
It has been the policy of the Customs Depart- ment ever since it was established to render every possible assistance to the State, and it always does so whenever in its power.
This was laid down as a guiding principle by Mr. Kingston - the first Commonwealth Minister of Customs - and has been followed by Sir William Lyne, the present Minister, and by other Ministers of the Department.
The chief officers of the Department have loyally co-operated throughout in carrying out the wishes of Ministers in this respect.
There is not the semblance of truth in any of the statements made by the Premier of New South Wales, and I cannot understand his action in making them.
– As, yesterday, we decided to give special concessions to candidates to this Parliament, will the PostmasterGeneral see that similar privileges are given to candidates for the State Parliaments ? If he cannot do so under the present law, will he bring in legislation which will enable him to do so?
– I shall be obliged if the honorable member will give notice of his question.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a telegram from Kerang, appearing in this morning’s Argus, in which it is stated that the local farmers’ league has passed a resolution requesting him to resign. Does he intend to take that step, seeing that the redistribution of the electorates has not yet been settled, and knowing the general unpreparedness for an election which exists ?
– I saw a heading which indicated that some such resolution had been carried, but have not perused the paragraph itself. The little leaguers of Kerang have as much right as any one else to seek a cheap advertisement.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral made up his mind to adopt the toll system of charging for telephonic services?
– Both the toll and the flat rate systems are under consideration, and, when a decision is arrived at, I shall be glad to inform the honorable member.
– What does the PostmasterGeneral propose to do to make the Pacific cable a paying concern?
-The question is under my consideration, and will have every attention.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Patents Act 1903.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to make certain necessary amendments in the Patents Act of 1903, chiefly to prevent persons from losing their rights because of omissions from that Act. Clause 2 gives the Commissioner power to extend the prescribed time for doing any act, or taking any step in relation to an application for a patent made under section 29 of the principal Act, and to revive any application which has lapsed by reason of an omission to do any act, or take any step within the prescribed time. There are not many cases which will be affected by this clause, though the Commissioner informs me that there are four or five important ones in regard towhich, without the proposed amendment, he will be unable to do what he considers to be just to certain applicants. Clause 3 expands the definition of patentees in the principal Act, and is an amendment consequential to that of clause 4, which makes’ the rights granted to a patentee personal property, capable of assignment, and of transmission by operation of law. Clause 5 provides that the forms of letters patent may be varied, it having been found that the forms provided in the original Act will not meet every case. Clause 6 amends section 71 of the principal Act, which provides that, where a patent has been mortgaged, the request for leave to amend the specification - shall be made by the mortgagor and the mortgagee, or by the mortgagor, with the written consent of the mortgagee, or by the mortgagee.
It is proposed to add the words - with the written consent of the mortgagor.
Clause 7 provides for a verbal amendment of section 74. Clause 8 gives power to remedy lapses arising from faults or errors in the Patents Office. Owing to the rush of work when the administration of the Patents Act was entered upon, mistakes were made by the Department which cannot be remedied unless a provision of this kind is agreed to. For instance, a patent was applied ‘for by some one in Maryborough, Queensland, and, as the reply to the application was sent to Maryborough, Victoria, and failed to reach him, he did not complete the necessary payments, and the patent was not sealed. As these cases have arisen through the fault of the Department, it is only fair that they should be remedied. The last clause of the Bill - clause 9 - amends the schedule of fees. There is no real change in the charges made, but it is provided that the fee for lodging an application for a patent, accompanied by a specification, which is £1, and the fee for lodging a complete specification after the provisional one has been lodged, which is £2, may be paid in one fee of on lodging an application for a patent accompanied by a complete specification in the first instance. This is a convenient arrangement, and will put an end to the mistakes which have occurred through omission to make the second payment.
– I did not see this Bill until about five minutes ago, but I have no hesitation in, saying that it is full of danger. The Minister tells us that it is only a formal measure, but it proposes to place in the hands of the Commissioner the right to go back on some of the most important provisions of the existing Act. The Minister has not said a word about the vested rights which may already have been affected by a strict observance of the rules of the Patents Act having been insisted upon. I have no desire to interfere with the passing of a formal Bill, but I wish to point out to honorable members the very serious consequences that may follow from provisions such as those now submitted to us. Clause 2 provides -
The Commissioner may, in relation to any application for a patent made under section twenty-nine of the Principal Act -
– That applies to within six months of the commencement of the Act.
– Very valuable properties may be affected by these provivisions. There are certain rules laid down, within which certain steps have to be taken, and certain precautions have to be observed; and very often where people interested in patent rights see that all the rules have been complied with,and that there is no further chance of competitive patents coming into conflict with them, they enter into negotiations which involve very large sums of money. I think that the Minister has unintentionally misled the House.
– I think that the honorable and learned member is unintentionally misleading the House.
– I can assure the Minister that I should not have taken the trouble to speak if it. had not appeared” to me that thismeasure was so full of danger. The Minister can have no practical knowledge of the business of dealing with patent rights.
– The honorable and learned member need not be insulting.
– No one, apparently, can criticise a measure without exciting the anger of the Minister. Probably the Minister is acting on information, and has not studied the matter at all.
– That is another insult.
– I shall not be prevented from saying what I desire by any such interruptions of the Minister. I am not attempting to lay down any distinct proposition, but I am warning the House against being led away by the statement of the Minister that this is a merely formal matter. The Patents Act of 1903 lays down a number of provisions which are intended to regulate the procedure in applying for patent rights. People, in dealing with certain rights may assume that all the requirements have been complied with, not only in regard to a particular patent, but in regard to competitive patents, and large transactions may be entered into on the strength of the fact that other patent applications are out of time, and have thus been finally disposed of. This Bill, however, provides that the Commissioner shall have practically unlimited power in relation to any application that comes before him. He could extend the prescribed time, probably in regard to future patents, and revive any application. There might have been an application in opposition to a patent which has since been granted, and which has been the subject of important negotiations. But the Commissioner will have power to revive any application which may have lapsed by reason of an omission to do any act, or take any steps within the prescribed time. Clause 3 is pregnant with danger. In sub-clause 2 it is provided -
The prescribed time for doing any act or taking any steps may be extended under this section although the time has expired.
The Minister told us that the Bill was introduced owing to a flaw in the Act, but he has not indicated any flaw. He is seeking to unfasten all thestrings that were tied up when the Act was passed. We do not know what may be underlying this Bill. Suppose that a patent worth£10,000 has been granted because an application for another patent has failed. Negotiations may have been entered into because of the knowledge that the competing patent had not been registered. Yet we are asked to place in the hands of the Commissioner, who is, no doubt, a very capable man - in fact, I know that he is - the power to revive an application, not one month old, or six months old, but, it may be, five years old. This is a deliberate attempt - I do not say with an improper purpose - to untie the strings of the Act of 1903, and give the Commissioner power to receive past applications, to get rid of past inaccuracies, to take up past applications which were previously out of time, and to generally do many things calculated to disorganize the patent laws. Sub-clause 3 of clause 5 provides -
Strict compliance with any prescribed form of patent shall not be necessary, but any such form may be varied to suit the circumstances of the case.
Who ever heard of such an unconditional power being given to the permanent head of a Department? Why were our patent laws passed? Because we recognised that a citizen who made an invention should be protected. A regular code of procedure is laid down by which patent rights are protected from stage to stage. If these precautions are not necessary, why should the Act have been passed? Having adopted the Act, I ask why should we unconditionally relax its provisions, as the Minister now proposes?
– The honorable and learned member cannot have read the Bill.
– I am reading the Bill now, but I would ask the AttorneyGeneral to look at its provisions for himself.
– I have had a good deal to do with it.
– Then I say that honorable members have received very poor treatment in that no explanation whatever has been offered to them with regard to any flaw in the Act. Clause 8 contains the following most dangerous and farreaching provision : -
After section one hundred and seventeen of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - 117A. - (1) Where owing to any error or omission in the Patents Office, any application for a patent, or any proceeding in relation thereto, has lapsed, or any act or step in relation thereto, required to be done or taken within a certain time, has not been done or taken, the Commissioner may -
revive the application or proceeding ;
extend the time for doing the act or taking the step ; and
permit the act to be done or the step to be taken.
I am not exaggerating when I say that this is simply an attempt to subvert the whole of the patent laws. If honorable members are prepared to accept the Minister’s statement that these provisions are necessary in consequence of a flaw in the Act, honorable members are much more unsophisticated than I take them to be.
– I do not profess to be able to understand the full bearing of the whole of these proposals, but I do know of two specific cases in which applicants for patents have been placed in a most unfortunate position through no fault of their own, but owing to a difference of opinion as to the interpretation of the law. During the time that the Act was being passed through this Chamber, the question was raised as to whether we should not allow applications to be lodged before the commencement of the Act - the time at which it would be convenient, after the organization of the office, to have full effect given to the Act. In consequence of that, section 29 was inserted. That section provides -
Applications for patents may be lodged at the Patents Office immediately after the Commissioner is appointed, notwithstanding that this Act has not then commenced, and all applications so lodged shall have priority as prescribed, and the lodging of an application under this section shall have the like effect as the lodging of an application after the commencement of this Act ; but any patent granted pursuant to the application shall be dated as of the day of the commencement of this Act.
If honorable members will refer to section 67 of the principal Act they will see that a period of sixteen months after the lodging of the application is allowed during which period applicants may proceed with the payment of fees and apply for the sealing of their patents.
– I should not object to a specific case being dealt with.
– In the case to which I refer the applications were lodged under section 29 before the Act came into operation. They then allowed about fourteen months from the commencement of the Act to elapse before they asked for the sealing of their patents; in other words, they construed section 67 as allowing them the full period of sixteen months after the commencement of the Act, notwithstanding that they had lodged their applications before its commencement. The Commissioner came to the conclusion that the sixteen months’ period dated from the receipt of the application, and upon that ground he ruled that these persons were too late with their application for sealing. I understand that a number of members of the legal profession hold that the applicants were well within the time allowed them, so long as the sixteen months from the commencement of the Act had not elapsed. As a layman, the section does appear to me to bear that construction. As I understand, what is proposed in this Bill is to allow applicants whose claims may not have been confirmed within the specified time from the lodging of the original applications an opportunity to be placed in possession of their patent rights. In one particular case an application was made, and the patent was being operated, but the applicant had not the money in the earlier period to apply for the sealing of the patent, and to pay the required fees. Later on, however - within the sixteen months’ period provided under section 67 - he was in possession of the requisite means, and applied for the sealing of his patent. He was then met with the decision of the Commissioner that his application was too late.
– Would the honorable member alter the Act to meet a case like that?
Mr. WATSON.I would. Where the Act, upon a reasonable construction, makes it appear that a man is entitled to sixteen months from the commencement of the Act in which to seal his patent, andno person has been prejudiced, I think that we ought to extend to him the privilege of patent protection.
– If the Act misled him, that is an entirely different matter.
– I quite admit that we ought not to open the door to all sorts of legal complications without due inquiry. But I hold that the applications under section 29 cannot, in the very nature of things, be very numerous.
– This Bill would apply to every application.
– But it is only in a. very few cases under section 29 of the principal Act that applicants have failed to seal their patents within sixteen months of the lodging of the first application.
– I do not think that there are half-a-dozen cases.
– Then why not include them in a schedule to this Bill ?
– The suggestion of the honorable and learned member is worthy of consideration. I know of two such cases which occurred in Sydney. One of them relatedto a very valuable patent indeed. The application was made under section 291 of the original Act, and the applicant waited until fourteen months after the commencement of the statute before attempting to seal his patent. At that time, the sixteen months dating from the period of his original application had expired, and he thus incurred the risk of losing a very valuable patent owing to the loose drafting of the law. The principle which impresses me in connexion with clause 8 is that it is very hard to make the applicant responsible for an error o the Department.
– Why not allow applicants to say that it is their error?
– I think that we ought to consider whether we cannot protect an applicant against an admitted error by the Department.
– I rise for the purpose of suggesting that the Minister should agree to postpone the further consideration of this Bill until’ Monday next. By this time, every honorable member must be aware that the measure is not a formal one, as was indicated by the Minister, but is one of considerable importance. For instance, in clause 5, it is proposed to multiply the forms of patents. That provision sets out that the form of a patent is not to be so material a point as it has been heretofore. I should think that the forms of patents are the very essence of them, and the matter should receive the most careful consideration before any departure is made from the present law in that connexion. Then clause 6 proposes to effect an alteration in the manner in which patents relate to mortgages. I can easily see that the Bill is of sufficient importance to warrant careful consideration, before it is finally deal with. Having regard to the fact that it was only placed in our hands after the Minister had moved its second reading-
– It was circulated before.
– The Minister is referring to the distribution of the Bill. May I remind him that the majority of honorable members do not see their papers until after they have entered the Chamber. He must recollect that we are obliged to meet here every morning, and to continue sitting until it is time to go home to bed. Seeing that there can be no immediate necessity for rushing the Bill through, I ask the Minister to consent to defer its further consideration until Monday.
– I think it would be a reasonable thing if, after the second reading of the measure has been carried, the Minister agreed to postpone its further consideration. When the honorable and learned member for Parkes caught Mr. Speaker’s eye, I was about to take the same point that he has taken. Although I do not think that there is any occasion for a display of heat between honorable members, there is no doubt that he is right in saying that the Bill is not a formal one. It may bear very grievously upon applicants for patents. If there are two rival applicants for a similar patent it is possible to grievously injure the man who has been holding back to see if his opponent has sacrificed his rights owing to his neglect to take action within the prescribed time. I can see by the instances which have been cited by the honorable member for Bland that there are cases which require to be met. A very natural mistake has been made-
– It was made in the initial stages of the consideration of the original Bill.
– The provision that an applicant may lodge an application before the Act came into operation is a peculiar one, and some misunderstanding has very naturally resulted. I am quite sure that no honorable member would care to see an applicant injured by placing a wrong construction upon the Act. As the honorable and learned member forParkes has pointed out, it is possible, in remedying our mistake, to give the sections of the principal Act a wider scope than is desirable. This Bill would practically allow the Commissioner to say which of two rival applicants he would favour. The title to a patent is a matter which ought not to be interfered with without the gravest consideration. Then, if it is proper to revive early applications for patents, we ought to make similar provision in respect to future applications. Why should we extend the period prescribed by the law as to applications within sixteen months after the passing of the Act, and not subsequently? I do not quite understand either the need for clause 2 or clause 8, but I have no doubt that they have been well thought out, and that the Minister will give us the reasons underlying them, besides showing us how they fit one into the other. I would suggest to him that after the second reading of the Bill hasbeen carried, he should allow honorable members an opportunity of studying its details. In the interval the AttorneyGeneral and the law officers of the Crown might easily consider whether or not these clauses do not go a little too far.
– I am sure that we are very much indebted to the legal members of the House for drawing attention to the far-reaching effects of this Bill. The more one considers its provisions, the more far-reaching its possibilities appear. It is manifest, from the speech made by the honorable member for Bland, that it has been introduced to meet specific cases in which applicants for patents have been unwittingly made sufferers, and I think that it should be confined to the rectification of errors that have actually crept in. My suggestion is that on the Bill being read a second time, the Minister should agree to its further consideration being postponed until Monday; that he should then bring down a list of the cases of injustice which it is proposed to remedy by this measure, and that if honorable members consider that they are deserving of special consideration, they should be made a schedule to the Bill, which would then apply simply to them. As one who has had practical experience in connexion with patents of some magnitude, I feel that the Bill is a most important one, and that the House is under an obligation to the honorable and learned member for Parkes, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and others, who have pointed out its true significance. If passed, it would not only neutralize certain legislation relating to patents, but would strike at the very root of the value of many existing patents in respect of which large sums have been expended. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to accept this suggestion.
– I trust that the Minister will agree to the further consideration of the Bill being postponed after the second reading has been taken. I thoroughly agree with the objections that have been raised to it. The instances cited by the honorable member for Bland afford another illustration of the old saving that “ hard cases make bad laws.”
– We can provide for those cases without amending the principal Act in any other particular.
– If we accepted the Bill, as framed, in order to deal with the hard cases referred to, we should make an extremely bad law, and instead of having perhaps half-a-dozen cases to deal with, we might have a hundred.
– That could not be so, since the Bill is confined to applications under section 29, and only a few remain to be dealt with.
– Every case in which application had been made under section 29 would be re-opened. The Bill goes further than is necessary, and that being so, I think we should have time to consider it. It is certainly not the formal measure which the introductory remarks made by the Minister would lead one to believe.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I thank honorable members for having agreed that the Bill should be carried into Committee without delay. When I introduced it, I did not imagine that there would be any lengthy discussion upon it. There are a few cases, similar to those which have been mentioned, that press very heavily upon the persons interested. My object in introducing the Bill was to rectify these anomalies, which have arisen through no fault of the parties concerned.
– How many are there?
– The Commissioner tells me that there are very few. I think there are about half-a-dozen, but I cannot say definitely.
– The rectification of the half-dozen anomalies might interfere very seriously with vested interests.
– The honorable and learned member will recognise that clause 2 is simply to correct anomalies that have arisen in connexion with applications made under section 29 within six months after the commencement of the principal Act. It does not give the Commissioner power to deal with applications made after that date.
– But might it not interfere with cases in which patent rights for similar inventions have already been granted ?
– I believe that there are no cases in which patent rights for similar inventions have already been granted ; but I am informed that if there were this provision would not affect them.
– I am very doubtful about that.
– I am simply putting before the House the information that hasbeen supplied to me by the legal authorities. I took care to put the question to one of the law officers, and I have been informed thatif between the occurrence of the mistake and the present stage some one else had secured apatent right in re- spect of the inventions to which any of these cases relate, that right could not be taken from him.
– But people have negotiated on the supposition that the previous applications were informal, so that if we revived such applications we might destroy the rights of others.
– I do not think that that can occur. I know of one case where a man allowed more than the sixteen months referred to by the honorable member for Bland to elapse before securing the sealing of his patent. This was due to illness ; and although he presented the necessary fee a few days after the time had expired, the Commissioner was not able to accept it. The invention is a very important one, and although the man interviewed me on the subject I could do nothing for him.
– The innocence of the mistake would not prevent it from seriously affecting another property.
– I quite admit that. But if in the meantime another person had come in and secured a right in respect of the invention, this man, through no fault of his own, would have lost it for ever. The Commissioner told me that in this respect there could be no clashing under the clause, and it was, perhaps, because of that information that I replied in somewhat heated terms to the honorable and learned member for Parkes.
– And perhaps I was also a. little heated.
– In view of the information that had been furnished me, I thought that the honorable and learned member was giving the House a misleading view of the position. I was particularly careful to inquire what would be the exact position if two persons attempted to come in. But in the case to which I have just referred, a patent has not been granted to a second applicant, so that if this Bill be passed the hardship which the man has suffered will be removed.
– But we have to consider whether, in order to rectify halfadozen cases, it is necessary to pass a Bill which will apply generally.
– I have referred to these matters in order to show honorable members that in introducing the Bill, I thought that the provisions of clause 2 were so clear and specific that no harm could arise under it. Objection has been taken to clause 4, which provides that patent rights shall be personal property. That, to my mind, is simply a formal provision. Certain words that would give a clear right to mortgage are missing from the original Act, and this clause is simply designed to remedy that flaw.
– That is all right, but clauses 2 and 8 are certainly not formal.
– I fail to see that clause 2 could have any injurious effect.
– It might have.
– I was informed that clause 8 was designed to deal with cases of the class that I have described.
– As the House is willing to agree to the second reading, these matters might well be dealt with in Committee.
– Quite so. But in view of the observations of the honorable and learned member, I thought it well to make some reply. Several honorable members have taken exception to clause 5, but according to the papers that have been placed before me, and the information with which I have been supplied by the (Commissioner and the Crown Law Officers, a similar provision is to be found in the English Act, and indeed, in most, if not all, Patent Acts. The claims coming before Che Commissioner are so varied that it is impossible to have a set of forms that are suitable to the circumstances of every case.
– But I should think that the form of a patent was a most important matter.
– The Commissioner tells me that the provisions of clause 5, as I have said, are to be found in other Acts . Clause 6 provides for the insertion of certain words in regard to securing the written consent of a mortgagor, which have been omitted from the principal Act.
– Why were not these matters dealt with when the original Bill was under consideration? Patent laws are by no means new.
– It is only reasonable to expect that practical experience in the administration of a Federal Act embracing the legislation of the States, and that of other countries, may lead to thediscovery of certain defects, and that is the reason why they are dealt with in this way. Clause 8 was explained to me by the Commissioner to be intended to deal with cases where, owing to two post towns bearing the same name, a man’s valuable property had gone to the wrong town, and, through its non-receipt, he had lost his right. There is power taken in the clause to preserve to a man in such a position his right ; but whether it goes too far or not I do not know. However, if there is going to be a long discussion about the matter, I shall ask the House to go into Committee to-day fro forma, and see whether, by Monday, we cannot come to a solution of the difficulty, and so relieve those persons who are now oppressed; in consequence of the absence of some such legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until Monday at half-past 10 o’clock a.m.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
By this Bill the House is asked to take a step in furtherance of the Seat of Government Act, which was assented to on the 15th August, 1904. It is hardly necessary for me to dwell upon the importance of settling the momentous question of the Seat of Government. It has caused a great deal of grave concern to the House. Of course, it has evoked a certain amount of warm criticism ; but to-day I ask the House to pass this Bill, in furtherance of its previous decision - that is, to determine more definitely that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be in the neighbourhood of Dalgety. It is desirable, I think, to take a retrospect, in order to exactly appreciate the position in which we find ourselves. I ask honorable members “to cast their minds back to the time when it was first contemplated that the Commonwealth should proceed to the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government. The earliest step was taken on the 14th November, 1899, when the Government of New South Wales appointed the late Mr. Alexander Oliver as a Commissioner to inquire into certain sites. He conducted an inquiry, and on the 26th October, 1900, the sites he recommended were - (1) Orange (or Canobolas), (2) Yass, (3) Bombala-Eden (Southern Monaro). The next important matter to which I invite attention is a letter which was sent on the 13th April, 1901, by the then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Sir Edmund Barton), and in which he says -
I have the honour, on behalf of the Government, to inquire whether the Government of the State of New South Wales is prepared to offer to the Commonwealth, under the provisions of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, any sites for the Federal district or territory within which the Capital of the Commonwealth is to be situated. I have to intimate that the Federal Government desire to consider offers of tracts of larger area than the minimum prescribed in the 125th section of the Constitution Act, and would suggest that in the meantime the Government of New South Wales may, in the public interests of the whole Commonwealth, take steps to secure unalienated lands within any areas offered from losing the character of “ Crown lands “ within the section, until a decision in the matter is arrived at.
To that letter, Sir John See, who was then Premier of New South Wales, replied on the 24th April, 1901, in these terms -
In acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 13th inst., with regard to the site for the Federal Capital of the Commonwealth, I have the honour to submit to your Government the choice of the three sites mentioned in the report of the Royal Commission which was appointed to collect evidence with reference to the suitability of the sites for the purpose.
A copy of that report is now forwarded herewith, and from the appendices attached thereto all particulars as to area, position, water supply, &c, can be obtained.
I desire also to state that if any other site in New South Wales be considered by your Government to be more suitable for the purposes of the Federal Capital than those recommended in the report, I shall be glad to receive any further representations from you, and will endeavour, as far as possible, to meet your views.
I further desire to inform you that, pending the decision of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in this matter, steps have been taken to prevent the alienation of Crown lands within any of the three sites recommended by the Commissioner.
– Will the Minister name the three sites?
– The three sites were Bombala, Yass, and Orange. Towards the end of 1901, the Premier of New South Wales used certain expressions, to which I desire to refer, in order to show the attitude which its Government then took up on this question. At page 4454 of the New South Wales Hansard for 1901, Sir John See is reported to have said -
I refuse to take the responsibility of making a recommendation to the Commonwealth Govern- ment (as to the selection of the site). After having received the fullest information from this Government, and after having been informed that those other sites have been recommended by the Commissioner, it is the duty of the Federal Government to undertake the selection of the site which they consider most suitable for the location of the Federal Capital.
Again, Sir John See said -
The idea of the Federal Government expecting this Government or this Parliament to invidiously pick out for them a site for the Federal Capital is contrary to the fitness of things.
– A site for the Federal Capital, not a territory!
– A Premier who has since received his reward !
– If my honorable friend will permit me to state my case, his criticism can follow more aptly. Sir John See went on to say-
It is no part of the duty of this Government to make a recommendation of any particular locality, What we are called upon to do is provided by section 125. Then there is the further provision of sectionIII.
Then on page 4458 he remarked -
I am not going to recommend any site. I am going to ask the Federal Government to take its own responsibility, and if they make a selection of any particular site, I am going to ask Parliament to confirm that selection. This is my clear position. Undoubtedly, under the provisions of the Constitution Act they (the Federal Parliament) have the right to make the selection. If the State Government stand in the way of that selection being confirmed we shall have the Capital in Melbourne probably for all time, or at any rate during the time that this House might squabble as to whether the site which the Federal Parliament selected was or was not the right one.
– Did the Parliament of New South Wales ever object to that statement?
– It was criticised. Sir John See was speaking then as Premier, and he took the responsibility of submitting, the sites to the Commonwealth.
– I believe that at the time Mr. Carruthers made a very vigorous protest.
Mr.Austin Chapman - At that time, Mr. Carruthers was in favour of Monaro.
– After the Premier of New South Wales had offered those sites to the Federal Government, and had offered further to consider any representations which might be made in respect to any other site, on the 29th August. 1901, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth addressed to that gentleman a letter in which he asked whether the Federal Government might expect any further sites to be submitted for consideration, and suggested that certain sites should be reserved in the neighbourhood of Albury, Tamworth, Armidale, and Tumut. In March, 1902, a party of senators visited the sites, and in May of that year, a party of members of the House of Representatives visited them. On the 25th September, 1902, a resolution was passed by each House of the Federal Parliament, to the effect thata Committee of experts be appointed to examine and report upon the sites in the following localities: - Albury, Armidale, Bombala, Lake George, Orange (including Bathurst), Lyndhurst, and Tumut. A Royal Commission was appointed on the 14th of January, 1903. On the 26th of July, 1903, their report was presented to this Parliament. On the 4th of August, 1903, a further supplementary report of the Commission was submitted, dealing with Dalgety. On the 22nd of September, 1903, the Government submitted a proposal for holdinga joint sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, for the purpose of selecting a site. The Senate would not agree to that proposal. On the 8th of October of the same year this House considered the matter, and decided that Tumut should be the site. The Senate amended the Bill, and inserted Bombala. After further surveys, made by the New South Wales officers, Mr. Scriviner and Mr. Chesterman, with respect to the country surrounding Bombala and Tumut, the matter was again submitted to this Parliament
– What was the date of the choice of Tumut by this House ?
– The 8th of October, 1903. The matter again came before this House, and on the 15th August, 1904, the Seat of Government Act, as it at present stands on our statute-book, was passed, and Dalgety determined on as the Seat of Government. Now, the point which I desire to make is this - that the New South Wales Government offered sites to this Parliament; that this Parliament absolutely proceeded all through in conformity with the terms of the Constitution; that with the consent of the State of New South Wales we considered every site that that State had submitted to us ; that we further considered other sites which it was suggested should be considered; and that finally this Parliament accepted one of the sites originally submitted to us by the Government representing the people of New South Wales.
– Submitted by the Premier.
– The Premier represented the people of the State of New South Wares for the time being. The Parliament of New South Wales sat continuously, knowing that we were dealing with this matter.; knowing that we were looking into these sites ; knowing that we were examining the reports submitted to us ; knowing that we were consid’ering the Seat of Government Bills of 1903 and 1904. It is rather interesting, in this regard, to read the speech delivered by Mr. Carruthers, the present Premier of New South Wales, in the Legislative Assembly of that State last week. I will ask honorable members to pay particular attention to this statement -
None of the sites which were offered were selected. We offered Bombala; and I go this faT and say that if the Federal Government had accepted Bombala this State would have been out of court, because, practically, in offering Bombala our position was compromised. Luckily, or unluckily, the Federal Parliament did not accept Bombala, but proceeded, without asking our consent or concurrence, to select Dalgety, a site which had never been considered in this State. In fact, a large majority of honorable members did not know where Dalgety was. One honorable member, who was actually born close to Buckley’s Crossing, said, when the vote was taken, that if they had gone for Buckley’s Crossing he would ha-ve voted for it.
Mr. Bennett. The honorable member voted for Dalgety being referred to the Federal Parliament.
Mr. CARRUTHERS. I voted to submit Dalgety as one of the four sites, and I did so because I believed that if I could assist in directing the current of federation into a- peaceful channel I should be serving the best interests of this country, even at some little sacrifice.
– That is what everybody in this House has been saying also.
– I hope that all honor. able members in this House will approach the question in the same spirit, and will give effect to the ‘ decision of Parliament in that spirit. The next point is this : Is Dalgety outside the scope of the original submission made by the New South Wales Government? I am going to read an extract from Mr. Oliver’s report, which was submitted to us by Sir John See, dealing with the Bombala area referred to by Mr. Carruthers. The site, under the name of Buckley’s Crossing, was inspected by Mr. Oliver, the New South Wales commissioner, who says, on page’ 21 of his report” : -
No public inquiry was held at Buckley’s Crossing, but, although in regard to water re sources, position, character of country, and3 climate, that site had much to recommend it, yet it lacked those special features which the neighbouring site of Southern Monaro possessed, and’ suggested a modified incorporation with that, neighbour rather than independent competition. Such incorporation, it will be seen, has been suggested. (See plan and description of boundariesof Southern Monaro Extension Site, marked S ifr Appendix.)
That is the suggestion, that Dalgety be in-.’ corporated as part of Bombala. The Federal Parliament has accepted part of the territory recommended to us. Of course, this Parliament has not said absolutely where in theDalgety site the Parliament House and theother h federal buildings are to be. We have determined that the Seat of Government: shall be within seventeen miles of Dalgety, which locality is included in the extended territory suggested. What I am asking; this House to do to-day is to fix the territory of the Seat of Government ; and I say absolutely that if we do that, we shall beaccepting Mr. Oliver’s suggestion, and weshall have done what the New South WalesPremier, .in effect, in the first instance invited us to do.
– The answer is that the See Government is merely a remnant now.
– All that I know is that that offer of Bombala, submitted to us as asite in the year 1901, was still standing asa site submitted to this Parliament whenthe choice was made by this Parliament inthe year 1904. At the time our Seat of Government Act, was passed the selectionwe made was within the suggested territory of Bombala.
– The honorable gentleman” has just stated that Dalgety was not known to a great many members of the New SouthWales Parliament.
- Mr. Oliver, whose report was submitted to the Federal Government, did not say that it was not known. I would further point this out - that if it is a question of distance from Sydney, and’ the great trouble of railway communication, Dalgety is only thirty miles from Cooma, whereas Bombala is about sixty miles distant. Dalgety is absolutely nearer to Sydney than the Bombala site itself, and isonly about thirty miles from Bombala. The point which I make is, that upto the year 1904, when the Seat of Government Act was passed, this Parliament had gone into the matter with the greatest care. We showed to the-
State of New South Wales that deference which was her due. The decision arrived -at by this Parliament was not arrived at hastily. The matter was considered from -all stand-points, and, although I did not at the time vote for the selection made, I must say, in fairness to the House, that <no one can say that the determination was not the result of careful and deliberate selection. After the fullest investigation of all the sites ; after giving; the greatest care and consideration to all the views which were put before this House by the honorable members for New South Wales - who have naturally taken a very proper interest in this matter - in the light of every information we ourselves could obtain by personal visits ; and by our own inquiries, t is impossible for any one to say that we were too precipitate in our action when we determined that Dalgety should be the Seat of Government under the terms of the Constitution Act. That being so, we should, I maintain, respect that decision. We have had no justification, up to the present time, for departing, in the administration of the Act. from the express will of Parliament, nor can we while that expression stands upon the statute-book. Now, what steps have been taken since the Act came into operation in connexion with this smatter? Honorable members will recollect that the Act was passed during the regime of the Watson Administration. After it came into force, a change of “Government took place. The Reid-McLean Administration came into power ; and on the 13th September, 1904, the first action was taken .to open up negotiations. It is only clue to my predecessor in office to say that so far as I can see from the correspondence, he seems to have loyally obeyed and carried .out the intention of this Parliament in the administration -of the Act. On the 13th September, Mr. Reid, the then Prime Minister, wrote to the Premier of New South Wales, forwarding three copies of the Seat of Government Act. and tHree sets of Mr Scrivener’s report, and he said in his letter -
I desire to add that this Government is anxious to enter into negotiations with your Government on this important subject at as early a date as (possible. “Mr. Carruthers replied to that letter on the 10th October, 1904, informing the Com.monwealth Government that he was about ito consult” the New South Wales Parliament, and that he wished to obtain its views before entering into any negotiations on the matter.
– Is not this a sort of post mortem ? It will lead to a big debate and a lot of feeling.
– It is leading up to a point which the honorable member will appreciate.
– It seems as if it were intended to arouse feeling.
– On no account. I hope that honorable members will be able to approach this matter without any feeling at all. I am not putting any feeling intoit. On the 12th October, the Prime Minister, Mr. Reid, submitted considerations to the Premier of New South Wales, relating to the Dalgety territory. On the 22nd December, 1.904, the New South Wales Parliament passed the following resolutions, which, of course, are material to the discussion : -
The Parliament of New South Wales, by adopting those resolutions, rejected the Dalgety site, which had been chosen by thisParliament.
– There had been no withdrawal previously of the Bombala site?
– Not that I am aware of ; my predecessor in office can confirm me in that respect.
– The Minister admits that the Dalgety site was never placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Parliament prior to the Bill.
– No. I said that Dalgety was included in the Bombala territory, according tothe recommendation in the extract from Mr. Oliver’s report, which I have read.
– Mr. Oliver’s report was not a submission of a site; Sir John See submitted the Bombala site.
- Sir John See submitted to the Commonwealth Government of the day the sites mentioned in Mr. Oliver’s report, and forwarded copies of the report itself, and in that report Dalgety was suggested as part of the territory referred to as Bombala.
– If so, the Commonwealth has actually chosen its Capital; where is the necessity for this Bill?
– To define the territory. The resolutions to which I have referred were carried by the New South Wales Parliament, and the Dalgety site was rejected. Negotiations continued between the State and the Commonwealth, and memoranda were prepared by the Premier of New South Wales and by the then Minister of Home Affairs, with reference to the various sites. However, no definite conclusion was arrived at. Then, as we know, a change in the Commonwealth’ Government took place, and then commenced negotiations, for which the present Commonwealth Government are responsible. These negotiations opened on the 10th July, when Mr. Carruthers wrote to the Prime Minister in the following terms: -
It has occurred to me that possibly the change which has recently taken place in the personnel of the Government of the Commonwealth, may mean a change of policy, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, on the question of the selection of the Seat of Government, and I, therefore, take an early opportunity of inquiring whether you indorse the views of your immediate predecessors in office, as put forward in recent correspondence on their part with the Government of this State, and, if not, in what respects there is a variance?
There is another paragraph to which I invite the particular attention of honorable members : -
I shall be glad if you can see your way to agree to the questions which now appear to be at issue between our respective Governments over the Constitution and the Seat of Government temporarily, or to be selected, being submitted to the High Court (and if necessary to the Privy Council) so as to secure the highest judicial interpretation and decision upon so important a question. Should you assent to such a course, perhaps you will be good enough to intimate whether you are prepared to discuss the question of a case to be stated and admissions and claims to be mutually made.
In view of the past history of the question now under reference and its great importance, I feel sure that you will pardon me for approaching you so soon after assuming the responsibilities of office, and I sincerely trust that you may be able to accept my proposal to submit the matter for decision by the High Court.
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth replied on the 20th July, stating that he indorsed the views of his predecessors in office, and that, with reference to the negotiations to have the question placed before the High Court, he would be glad if the Premier of New South Wales would kindly favourhim, at his early convenience, with a statement of the questions referred to, and the manner in which he would suggest they, should! be submitted to the Court, in order that they might receive the prompt consideration of the Government. In reply, Mr. Carruthers wrote asking whether he correctly apprehended the attitude of the Federal Government in assuming -
And that, whilst this is a suggestion only, your Government adopts it; but owing to the refusal of New South Wales to agree -
Then follow a series of questions, which are rather important, because they show the legal questions which it was intended at that time should be submitted to the High Court. The first two questions are: -
Honorable members will see the meaning underlying that question. I do not wish’ to go through’ the whole list of questions, but there are others. For instance -
Is the territory within a radius of 17 miles of Dalgety “ reasonably near “ to the 100-mile limit from Sydney?
– Where did the phrase ‘ reasonably near ‘ ‘ come from ?
– I do not know, but the phrase is here in quotation marks.
– The words are in the resolution of the Premiers.
– I shall refer to two more questions : -
Can the Seat of Government be elsewhere than in the State of New South Wales, pending the granting or acquisition of the Federal territory ?
Is the location in Melbourne of agencies of the Executive Government, despite the objection of the State of New South Wales, constitutional?
There is a whole series of questions, some of which could not obviously turn on the Seat of Government Act, but refer to general matters to be submitted to the High Court. On the 9th August th”e Commonwealth Government replied : -
Section 2 of the Seat of Government Act expresses the determination of Parliament that, the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be within 17 miles of Dalgety, in the State of New South Wales, and is, as stated by the late Minister of Home Affairs in his letter of 28th June last, mandatory. As regards the area of the territory to be granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth within which the Seat of Government shall be, and the access to the sea, Parliament expressed a clear opinion on these matters, but did not attempt to frame it in a mandatory form. Any modifications of these desired by the State of New South Wales should receive the serious consideration of the Government of the Commonwealth. In continuance of the negotiations which have been entered into between our predecessors and the Premier of the State of New South Wales, these expressions of opinion of Parliament are again submitted by the Government, with a view, if possible, of inducing the State of New South Wales to join in giving effect to them.
Then it was stated that it was not open to the Commonwealth Government to select the site, Parliament having already determined that matter. In regard to questions of law, it was pointed! out : - -
It would appear that the High Court will not entertain any questions of law which are framed merely to obtain the opinion of the Court. The writ issued must be in such a form as to disclose a cause of action by one party to the suit against the other.
Then the Commonwealth Government offered that, if the Government of New South Wales would institute an action, it would be open to the parties to raise any issues relative to such action. The communication proceeded : -
If the Government of New South Wales will institute an action properly framed, it will then be open to the parties to raise any question relevant to such an action for the decision of the High Court. These may then be put in the form of a special case, in the settling of which we shall be prepared to offer every facility.
On the 21st August, 1905, Mr. Carruthers suggested that the Commonwealth should raise the question by driving in a peg, and the matter was then referred to the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, with the result that a Bill was drafted in order to raise the> issue. That Bill was sent to the Premier of New South Wales, and a» difference of opinion arose. The Premier of New South Wales raised1 objections tothe Bill; and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, in reply, pointed out, in a letter of 27 th September -
But, although it (the Seat of Government Act) is, in our opinion, a perfectly lawful enactment, its provisions were never intended to be, and, consequently, are not sufficiently definite in marking out the exact territory, to justify an assertion of ownership as to any specific plot of land.
However, the Commonwealth Government were quite prepared to meet the New South Wales Government in every way, and render all the assistance it could, with a view to having the questions at issue decided by the High Court. The Premier of New S’outh Wales and the Prime Minister arranged for an interview between Mr. Wade, the Attorney-General of the .State, and the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. That was the position, of affairs in October.
– Instead of settling the question, the Attorneys-General found out that it could not be settled.
– They agreed very closely.
– The Attorneys-General conferred in Melbourne, and Mr. Wade reported to his Government. Subsequently, the Commonwealth Attorney-General sent a letter to the Attorney-General of New South Wales, setting forth the results of the Conference. I shall quote only one or two paragraphs from the two documents, in order to show that the action the Commonwealth’ Government are taking to-day is in harmony with what was suggested at the
Conference. Mr. Wade, in his report to the Premier of New South Wales, on the 18th October, 1905, gives clearly his views as follows : -
As a result of the discussion with the Federal Attorney-General, two points became clear : -
First, that it would be useless for this State to enter upon an action for trespass, or to challenge the right of the Commonwealth to drive in a survey peg, if that step were to be first sanctioned by Act of Parliament ; and, secondly, that the Commonwealth had no authority to drive in a survey peg or exercise any act of ownership by virtue of the Seat of Government Act ; in other words, confirmation was given to the repeated contention of this State that the Seat of Government Act was not a determination of the Seat of Government within the meaning of the Constitution.
As to the actual effect of this Statute, Mr. Isaacs and myself were not entirely in agreement. On the one hand, it was argued that it is a quasi or partial determination of the Seat of Government, in so far as the Federal Parliament has declared that no area outside that within a radius of 17 miles of Dalgety will be considered by the Federal Parliament in negotiating for a seat of Government, and to that extent it is binding, both upon the Federal Parliament and the State of New South Wales. On the other hand, it is contended that this Statute is a mere registration of the opinion of the Federal Parliament, and that it is no more binding upon this State than a joint resolution of the two Houses. This resolution may be revoked, and the Seat of Government subsequently determined within territory quite outside the Dalgety area.
This is the point I wish honorable members to particularly bear in mind : -
Whichever view is correct is really immaterial at the present time, because both Governments seem now to agree that the next step is to define some area by metes and bounds; next to open negotiations for the grant or acquisition of that territory ; and, finally, when such territory becomes the property of the Commonwealth in terms of the Constitution, it will be necessary for Parliament by formal Act to determine the Seat of Government within that area.
The Commonwealth Attorney-General proposed to introduce in the Bill authorizing a survey a clause to reserve all the rights of New South Wales in case of any legislation being required. In paragraph 9 of his letter written to the New South Wales Attorney-General, on the 20th October, 1905, the Commonwealth Attorney-General said -
By the addition of such a clause, it seems tome the present claims of New South Wales are preserved in their integrity, and whenthe Federal Parliament has considered the survey reports, and definitely decided on the area and when, in pursuance of that determination, the Commonwealth Government request your ‘State to grant the necessary land, the clear and definite issue of whether the grant must precede the determination or not can be distinctly raised.
The Attorney-General proposed clearly what should be the procedure as regarded the Federal Parliament.
– I do not think that Mr. Wade concurred in that view.
– I have read Mr. Wade’sopinion, and as to whether heconcurred or not,, honorable members themselves may judge. Although the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales had agreed that the Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth and State should confer to try to raise the issues and settle the matter between them, to the letter written by theFederal AttorneyGeneral to the Attorney-General of New South Wales, no reply was received. The Premier of New South Wales then took the matter into his own hands again. Of course, I do not for a moment say that he did not do so with the full concurrence of his Attorney-General, but the correspondence between the AttorneysGeneral was continued no further. The Premier of New South Wales took up the matter again, and practically objected to our going on with any legislative proposals whatever. We were not in a position to take any steps which might properly raise the issues. We knew that, it was useless to drive in a peg, as that would determine nothitng. We proposed to pass an Act of Parliament which would authorize a survey of the Federal territory, and to call upon the New South Wales Government to grant that territory. Upon that an action for a declaration of right might have been made, and all the issues could be definitely settled. In this connexion I should like to read the concluding words of Mr. Wade’s opinion -
If there has been a change of opinion by the Federal Executive as to the meaning of the Act this State cannot be blamed ; but if the present view has always been maintained, the furtherance of the question has always been within the power of the Federal Executive, and the obligation has rested upon them to advance the question to such a point that the legality of the action could be tested by the Government of this State.
That is what we weredoing all through the negotiations up to this stage.
– Is that what this Bill does?
– It enables that to be done, as I shall show presently, because under this the New South Wales Government could bring an action for a declaration of right if they sodesired.
Mr. Carruthers sent a letter dated 1st November, 1905, after the proposal that the two Attorneys-General should settle the issues, from which I quote the following paragraph: -
I cannot now assent on behalf of this State to any further Federal legislation to create a different situation in the face of the fact that the (negotiations between it and the Commonwealth had not reached the stage when they should be superseded by statutory enactment, setting aside the will or wish of one or other of the governing bodies that- stand in the position of negotiators.
We were prepared to submit legislation to enable the issues to be brought before the High Court, but the Premier of New South Wales would consent to no legislation upon the matter. He desired to go back and re-open the whole of the negotiations, practically saying that in the negotiations on the part of the Commonwealth we were not to consider our selection of Dalgety as binding upon New South Walesor ourselves in any way. The Prime Minister wrote that the letter of the 3rd November, 1905, in reply, breaking off the correspondence, and indicating at that date the action that was likely to be taken. He said -
You have, however, passed by the suggestions we made, and declined to agree to the solution which, in deference to yourself, we offered. You nave preferred to repeat former arguments, and, above all, practically to claim the right of your State to control the constitutional action of the Parliament of Australia in determining a question which is essentially one requiring to be regarded not in the interest of one State only, but from the -stand-point of the whole Commonwealth. The claim cannot be admitted, but in closing this correspondence permit me to say that in the interests of New South Wales itself, as well as of every other State, this Government will invite Parliament to definitely determine the precise territory for the Federal capital.
We are doing that now. After that letter was written, Mr. Carruthers wrote again, enteringa protest against the negotiations being broken off, and the matter was finally summed up in a letter written by the Prime Minister on the15th November, 1905. He pointed out that the selection was only made after full inquiries, and then continued as follows : -
The representatives of your State, thoroughly well informed upon all the local circumstances to which you allude, place them, with many other contentions, before ‘the Parliament in the amplest manner.
After hearing them fully, and after being urgently pressed by them to make its choice, Parliament declared its preference to the Dalgety district. Unfortunately, your Legislature, when subsequently passing, resolutions professedly preliminary to fresh negotiations with the Commonwealth, deliberately excluded that very district from consideration.
When those resolutions were forwarded to the late Minister of Home Affairs, he attempted to negotiate with you in respect of the area of the territory and its access to the sea, matters which were left undetermined in the Act of 1904; but no progress was made. In the correspondence with me you first proposed a reference to the High Court, next asked for some. act on the part of this Government which might be made a ground for action before that Court, and finally suggested a meeting of Attorneys-General to settle the terms of a Bill for that purpose. We found at last that our agreement to these proposals led to nothing. Indeed, when after the Conference of our Law Officers, we offered a fair and practical proposal, you ignored it and all that had passed between us.
Your one real contention, simply stated, is that the Act of 1904 must be repealed and a new site substituted.
– Did Mr. Wade and Mr. Isaacs differ?
– They held different viewsas to the construction of the Statute, but as regards the steps to be taken in the future, they were practically in agreement.
– There was no disagreement between them as to the mode to be adopted to settle the matter?
– They both seem to indicate that the next steps to be taken should be those which we are taking to-day. After referring to the withdrawal of the reservation of the Dalgety lands, the Prime Minister continued -
Having thus refused to negotiate in regard to the site fixed in our Act, or to allow our Parliament to keep to its own choice, you once more “ demur” to any exercise of its legislative powers which would make that choice effective. “You in effect claim the right to control the constitutional actions of the Parliament, and conclude with threats of reprisals. In this regard, I have only to remind you that a Federal Government can neither entertain such a claim nor bow to such threats.
Reference was again made of the intention of the Government to proceed with this legislation, and that the State of New South Wales could then arise any constitutional claims before the High Court. There is only one other matter to which I need refer in the correspondence. During the progress of the negotiations, Dalgety was practically withdrawn, and a telegram was ultimately sent, on the 27th October, 1905, in which Mr. Carruthers makes the statement -
This State will not grant Dalgety site.
That is the attitude that was taken up.
– Has the Minister quoted the exact words used by Mr. Carruthers?
– Perhaps it is better thatI should read the actual words of the telegram. While the negotiations were going on with respect to the settlement of the issues on the 17th October, 1905, Mr. Carruthers sent the following letter: -
I have the honour to inform you that it has been decided to cancel the notification inserted in the New South Wales Government Gazette of 23rd July, 1904, reserving from sale and lease other than annual lease certain Crown fends in the vicinity of Dalgety, with a view of protecting them, pending the final selection of the Federal Capital Site, and that steps to that end are being taken accordingly.
The Prime Minister protested, and the notification was extended for a month, as will be seen from- this telegram sent by Mr. Carruthers on the 27 th October, 1905:-
Your wire of the 23th, respecting reserved Crown lands, Dalgety : I cannot consent to long delay, as this State will not grant Dalgety site, but will delay for one month.
I have no wish to take up time unduly, but I am desirous of putting the matter clearly before honorable members’ I have shown, in the first place, that these sites were originally offered to us by the New South Wales Government j that the Government of that State approached us with the view that ‘we, as the Federal Parliament, had a right to determine the site, and that all they had to do was to send the sites to us. After most complete investigation of all the sites, we fixed upon Dalgety for the Seat of Government. After the site for the Seat of Government; had been selected, our predecessors and ourselves honestly tried to open negotiations with the Government of New South Wales respecting the acquisition of the site, regarding the Statute as mandatory upon ourselves. When the issues were raised regarding the interpretation of the Constitution and the legal rights of New South Wales, we took up the attitude that we did not desire to do anything which would prevent’ the State of New South Wales having the legal issues properly raised before the High Court; but, at. the same time, we, as the guardians of the rights of the Federal Parliament under the Constitution, had to take such a stand as would preserve those rights intact. ‘ That was a duty intrusted to the Government of the Commonwealth, no matter who might be in power. We approached the matter in a friendly spirit, with no desire to indulge in suggestions of compulsion or threats. We negotiated in an open, frank way. expressing our readiness to raise all the legal issues which could be raised. When we attempted to do so we were blocked in our endeavours, and it is because we were not able to come to any agreement as to how the issues were to be raised that the duty devolved upon us, as the Government of the Commonwealth, to take steps to give effect to the expressed will of the Federal Parliament. That is what honorable members are being asked to do to-day
– What steps?
– I propose to go through the provisions of the Bill if the honorable member will permit me. I have already indicated that both in the opinion of the Attorney-General, and in the speech of the Prime Minister, it was announced that the next step the Federal Parliament would be asked to take would be to introduce a Bill to determine the territory in metes and bounds. It was at first thought that the procedure should be to introduce a Bill to enable a survey to be made in order that the technical boundaries might be discovered, and that when thev had been ascertained, we could fix the territory within them as the territory for the Seat of Go>vernment. We found that we could go a step further. We got Mr. Scrivener from New South Wales to make a report. We asked him whether, from any information in his possession, he could give us such a technical description’ of the territory we required, as would obviate the necessity for an expensive survey, before we brought a Bill before the House. He has presented a report which I have had circulated amongst honorable members, and in it he defines, by metes and bounds, the territory of the Seat of Government, as honorable members will find it defined in this Bill. The Bill purposes to be a Bill for an Act - to determine more definitely the Seat of the Government of the Commonwealth in the neighbourhood of Dalgety.
It is proposed that the territory described in the schedule, the area of which is 900 square miles, and the description of which is shown in the report circulated-
– Has the Minister any hope of getting 900 square miles?
– I sincerely hope that we shall get that area. I believe that if the matter were only properly appreciated by the people of New South Wales, they would have very little hesitation in granting the area desired- In view of the area covered by the greatest cities in the world, it is not Large.
– How very unappreciative the States are of what we do for them.
– Our motives are the best, and when the people of New South Wales understand what we have sought to accomplish, they will be with us. They do not realize yet quite what we are doing in this matter, and how fairly we are dealing with them. The decision arrived at was come to ‘ only after careful consideration of all the questions involved, and with no other desire than to do justice both to the State of New South Wales and to the Commonwealth.
– Does the Minister think that the Premier of the State would have moved these resolutions if the right honorable member for East Sydney had been Prime Minister?
– I think so, judging, by the tone of the correspondence. The Bill provides for the determination’ as the territory of the Commonwealth of the area described in the schedule, and it will be the duty of the Administration to endeavour to acquire that area. The Minister will be empowered, to obtain from the State a grant of it, and upon its acceptance it will become Federal territory, and be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Parliament. It is also provided that additional territory may be acquired if, in the opinion of the Parliament, it is necessary for the purpose of obtaining an adequate water supply. Mr. District Surveyor Scrivener, who has investigated the matter, recommends that it would be desirable to acquire an area of 1,550 square miles, in order to preserve an absolutely pure water supply for the Seat of Government. We are not now asking Parliament to sanction the acquirement of a larger area than that originally provided for, but we ask it to sanction negotiations with the State of New South Wales for the acquirement of the larger area if that be thought necessary. The other provisions of the Bill are merely formal. The laws of the State are to continue to have effect within the territory until they are altered, and all the estates and interests held by the State in it will, on its transfer to the Commonwealth, be held bv the Commonwealth. All land, even that held in fee-simple, is, under English law, held from the Crown, and this provision merely substitutes the Commonwealth for the State as representing the Crown.
The acquisition of the land which has been alienated to private holders can be brought about at a later date under clause 6. This Bill was framed before the New South Wales Parliament passed its resolutions last week, and is in harmony with the views stated by the Government in their correspondence with the Government of New South Wales. Parliament is asked to adhere to its decision as’ to the site of the territory, and to enable us to acquire it, though, of course, it is open to it to reconsider the matter in the light of the resolutions passed by the New South Wales Parliament. Still, I ask honorable members to recollect that we came to our decision after due deliberation, and I hope that we shall abide by it. We are not being asked to review the decision of a former Parliament, but to confirm our own decision. The Bill leaves it open to the State of New South Wales to raise any issues it desires to raise on a grant being asked for. It can raise them by an action for a declaration of rights. We do not ask Parliament to take from that State any constitutional right which she now possesses ; I ask honorable members not to approach the consideration of this measure in any spirit of antagonism, but to consider it fairly, in the interests of both New South Wales and the Commonwealth.
– We are being asked to flout the opinion of the people of New South Wales.
– That is not so, though it might be objected that the Parliament of that State has not extended much consideration to us. We are deciding a verv momentous question in fixing for all time the Seat of the Commonwealth Government ; but, having settled that question, we shall have got rid of one of the greatest difficulties now besetting the Federation. Therefore, I a»k that the measure may receive no carping criticism, and may be regarded from the point of view of the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. I do not think” the merits and demerits of the other sites which were proposed or suggested should now be discussed. Parliament has, on the advice of the best experts obtainable, determined on a certain site, and, though some of us individually have favoured other sites, we should now stand by that determination. I hope that when the matter is finally settled there will be built in the Federal territory a Federal Capital which will be an ornament to the Commonwealth and the source of inspiration of the true Federal feeling to Australia.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Although the Minister has told us that he has tried to honestly deal with the position of both New South Wales and the Commonwealth, he is evidently affected by his official environment, and has put only the Commonwealth side of the question, notwithstanding that he originally believed in the selection of a site other than that chosen by the Parliament. I do not take exception to his speech, but I hope that it will be remembered that the representatives of New South. Wales have also the right to put the State view of the question.
– Are they not representatives of the Commonwealth first and of the States afterwards?
– I am a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, but I also represent the State of New South Wales, and. am bound to put the views of the people of that State before this assembly, especially since the Minister confined himself to stating the case for the Commonwealth. It would perhaps be well to set aside- the history, of this matter, which was gone into by the Minister.
– The honorable member is going to do that, because it would not suit his argument to do otherwise.
– I intend to take this course, in order to avoid any display of feeling in connexion with the matter. I should regard it as the act of an enemy to New South Wales if one were to tryto make any stronger the feeling which now exists. The matter must be considered as dispassionately, impartially, and impersonally as we can consider it. No doubt the language which has been used hitherto has created friction and contributed to delay. I regret the very strong language used by the Premier of New South Wales yesterday; but the language used in the Senate, which provoked his remarks, was equally strong and regrettable. Nothing could have been more unjust than many of the statements recently made in the Senate on this subject. So far as that is concerned, honours are at least even, so far as we are concerned, and we may very well dismiss from our minds that personal view of the case which, I fear, is colouring the consideration of this question at the present moment.
It is well known that matters might have assumed a different aspect, both in this House and in. the other Chamber, had it not been “for the feeling provoked, and for the personal considerations which have been allowed to influence honorable members. In justification for the Premier of New South Wales, I may point out that he is not the only Premier who has used strong language with regard to the Federal Parliament. Strange to say, however, his remarks alone have attracted serious attention. The Premier of Western Australia recently announced from the public platform that, unless full and fair consideration were given to the claims of the transcontinental railway, he would head a movement for the secession of that State from the Commonwealth. I think that that is an infinitely stronger statement than any uttered by Mr. Carruthers. Yet we did not hear a word about it from honorable members representing Western Australia, who have “ got their backs up” with Mr. Carruthers over the Capita] Site question. Mr. Carruthers specially begged of the New South Wales Assembly not to consider the question of secession at all. Furthermore, he declared that he would not countenance secession for a moment, but that his sole object was to make a firm and dignified protest against the action of the Commonwealth Parliament. When honorable members interjected, and suggested that he should head a secession movement, he immediately deprecated all reference to the subject. Not only! the Premier of Western Australia, _but the Premier of Queensland has, from time to time, commented very strongly upon the action of this Parliament. Therefore, it is not fair for honorable members to give undue consideration to any language which may have been used by Mr. Carruthers. We should eschew all feeling, and betake ourselves to a consideration of the merits of the case. I do not propose to make any charges or statements of a personal character. After all, personalities will not help us at all, and I deeply regret that, they should have already found entrance to this Parliament, and have coloured the :view of honorable members in considering this matter. In my judgment, we are not called upon, in our selection of the Capital Site, merely to placate Mr. Carruthers or the people of New South Wales. Our first duty is to make a selection which will honour the bond entered into with the State. It is not a question of placating any man in New South Wales. We can afford to ignore any such consideration as a triviality. It is our sacred duty to liberally interpret the bond entered into with New South Wales, and carry it out in the spirit as well as in the letter. The Min ister, ‘ in introducing these proposals, went into the history of the matter. I do not propose to follow him, but not because a reply could not be made. The history of the case discloses that the initial mistake was made when Sir John. See declined to take any responsibility in regard to the selection of the site. He certainly offered certain sites, and gave certain instructions, but when asked by this Parliament to assume the responsibility, which properly attached to him, he definitely declined to do so. Therefore, he must always stand charged with the complete abnegation of his Ministerial responsibility. We may credit him with having taken a mistaken view of his constitutional position, but it is clear that at the point to which I refer the negotiations took a ‘wrong course. Moreover, when the instructions were issued to Mr. Oliver to report upon certain sites prior to their being offered to the Commonwealth, the terms of the compact entered into at the Premiers’ Conference appear to have been completely lost sight of. They were, 9 however, recognised to the full in Sir Edmund Barton’s letters. In his first communication, Sir Edmund Barton clearly and fully recognised the constitutional position. He asked “ if the State Premier would make offers of sites within territory within which the Capital is to be situated.” Therein, I think that he took up the correct position. The question remains - “ What is the territory indicated by the Constitution within which the Capital Site may be situated?” This brings us to the kernel of the whole position, and, had a fair interpretation been placed upon the Constitution at the time to which I have referred, the reports and offers which were made would not have been made. I have not been to see Dalgety or Tooma. I have steadily declined to be made a party to an investigation of these sites, because, in my judgment, neither of them comply with the bond entered into with New South Wales. It has always seemed to me to be a waste of time to consider sites which practically outrage the compact entered into between the States Premiers. I have inspected sites which I regard as eligible for selection within the terms of the bond, but I have not investigated other sites away on the border line of the State, because of the preliminary objection I have mentioned. Now, the Bill on its face recognises that the State of New South Wales has some rights. I venture to say that, when the Parliament passed the Seat of Government Act, many honorable mem bers were not fully seized of the constitutional aspect of the question. They were certainly not fully seized of it in the light of the subsequent Conference of Premiers, and the explanations they gave. Therefore, I would ask honorable members not to consider that we have irrevocably selected a site at Dalgety. I hope that this House will always be able and willing to rectify a mistake. The Act we have already passed ought not to be regarded as unalterable. I thoroughly believe that honorable members have a sufficient sense of fairness and justice to amend the Act, if it can be shown that there are good grounds for doing so ; and I wish to address myself to the question of the original compact, in order 10 ascertain whether it has been observed by us. I have already stated that the Bill recognises that New South Wales has rights. The provisions of the Bill are conditioned all through upon a grant to be made by New South Wales. If the right to make a grant is recognised, we must also acknowledge the right of the State to have its opinion fully and freely expressed as to what grant shall be made. Further, if the State may make a grant, it mav also refuse to do so. Surely, the right to grant carries with it the right of refusal. If not, why should not the Bill be framed with a view to the acquirement of a site, with a view to empower the Minister to peg out the necessary territory. Unless New South Wales grants a site, the Bill will become an absolute dead letter. Even the acquirement of the territory is made conditional upon its being granted by New South Wales. This recognition of the right of New South Wales carries us a step further. The Bill in itself becomes a perfectly idle proposal, so far as the establishment of the Capital is concerned. The New South Wales Government have specifically declined, to make the grant of Federal territory spoken of in the Bill, and in view of that fact, is it not idle for the Government ‘ 10 introduce this measure, with a view to the settlement of this very important question? Reverting to the utterances of Mr. Carruthers on this question, now that the Western Australian members are present, I would point out that when we hear Other Premiers in Australia openlv advocating secession, we need not attach so much importance to the language of the Premier of New South’ Wales.
– Does cne man’s folly justify the folly of another ?
– No; but apparently that is the case here. We have been told that honorable members will not consent to reconsider this question, because of certain statements which have been made by Mr. Carruthers. That was the dominant note in the discussion which took place in the Senate the other day.
– I must ask the honorable member not to refer to the debates in the other House.
– Then I will say that a member of this Parliament is reported by the press to have stated that he will not reconsider this question until Mr. Carruthers has apologized. That, I contend, is a ridiculous attitude to take up. It is absurd to urge that the language 0? any one man should influence us in the slightest degree in dealing with this very important matter. Here is what the Premier of Western Australia said upon the public platform a little while ago: -
He was going to try it, all the same. If he failed, it might possibly be his duty to come before his constituents and ask them - and ask the people of Western Australia - whether, having tried all other means in their power to obtain justice, and having failed, it would be advisable to cut adrift, and run their own boat as he thought they ought to.
– There is a vast difference between the two cases. The Transcontinental Railway was absolutely denied to Western Australia, but we are ready to give New South Wales the Federal Capital. That State,however, wishes to dominate our choice.
– New South Wales asks nothing but the honouring of the bond.
– Are we not honouring it in this Bill ?
– I hope to show the honorable member that we are not.
– New South Wales wishes to put her own interpretation on the bond-
– She certainly desires to have some say in the interpretation of a compact which affects herself. The honorable and learned gentleman, in drafting this Bill, has recognised that New South Wales possesses rights - indeed, everything in the measure is conditioned by those rights. Unless she grants certain territory to the Commonwealth, the Bill becomes a dead letter.
– Not at all
-The acquirement of the Federal territory is all conditional upon it being granted by New South Wales.
– The honorable member ought to understand that this Bill does not concede that the Commonwealth cannot exercise its fullest rights.
– I do not suggest that. I am merely . speaking of the terms of the Bill, which are conditioned by a precedent grant on the part of New South Wales.
– This Bill does not recognise that New South Wales, by inaction, can prevent the completion of the choice, and the. acquisition of the territory.
– I do not say that. Of course, this Bill does not completely exhaust our powers. It is an attempt to define them, and all the powers which it contains are conditioned by this precedent grant on the part of New South Wales. That is a dear recognition that New South Wales has rights, and, therefore, that she has a right of refusal aswell as of agreement.
-Shehas no right of refusal.
– I think that she has. At any rate, she has exercised it and exercised it, apparently, to the disgust of a large number of members of this Parliament. If New South Wales has a right to make a grant of territory, surely she has an equal right to refuse to make that grant? The exercise of that right of refusal ought not to subject her to the evident feeling which has been provoked in this Parliament.
– If she has a duty to grant she has no right to refuse.
– That is not so. The question of whether she has a duty to grant must be referable to the terms of the Constitution. Everything depends upon how we read the Constitution in the last resort. The Minister of Home Affairs pointed out that the See Government made certain proposals, and submitted certain offers. The answer to his statement is that the present Parliament of New South Wales has repudiated everything which that Government did. The members of that Government have been scattered as a Government. They did not, in my judgment, represent the opinion of New South Wales upon this matter, and consequently it is idle to quote what they did. Then we have been told that Mr. Carruthers himself offered Dalgety as la site. That is to say, he sought to induce the New South Wales Parliament to include it in the list of sites which were offered. I should think that that fact evidences his bona fides in this matter, rather than condemns him. He showed that he desired to give the Commonwealth Parliament the widest possible choice of the Federal Capital. He favoured the inclusion of Dalgety, but was overruled by the New South Wales Parliament. In considering this matter, we should recollect that we are not dealing with Mr. Carruthers, except as the mouth-piece of the Parliament. The position is that the Commonwealth Parliament is dealing with the Parliament of New South Wales, and we ought to keep that fact in view.
– Will the honorable member deny that Sir John See was the mouthpiece of the New South Wales Parliament when he made certain recommendations ?
– Yes, for the simple reason that he never submitted those recommendations to Parliament. Mr. Car- ruthers has not acted upon his own responsibility in this matter. He submitted the whole proposal to the New South Wales Parliament,and Parliament instructed him in regard to it.
– I think that Sir John See submitted his proposal, but that it was not carried.
– No. Mr. Carnithers protested time and again that Sir John See did not submit the matter to the New South Wales Parliament. The Minister of Home Affairs appeared to be very anxious to quote the utterances of Mr. Carruthers for the purpose of showing that he had been in favour of the choice of Dalgety. Does the Minister not find an exact parallel in his own case? He was not in favour of the selection of Dalgety originally.
– I merely quoted the speech delivered . by Mr. Carruthers last week,, in which he said that if this Parliament had chosen Bombala, New South Wales would have been put out of Court.
– But the Minister also quoted Mr. Carruthers to show that he had offered Dalgety as a site.
– I did not make any point of that.
– There is no point in it. The Minister himself voted against Dalgety, and favoured the selection of Lyndhurst. Yet we now find him a resolute champion of the claims ‘of Dalgety. In dealing with this question, we ought to entirely set aside the personal views of honorable members, and regard it only from the stand-point of the relations of one Parliament to another. I think the Attorney-General will admit that New South Wales has a’ right to the fulfilment of the compact.
– Nobody can deprive her of that right, even ifthey wished to do so.
– Exactly. Then let us see what the bond is. In this connexion, I do not propose to confine myself to the mere terms of the Constitution. I think that we should take into consideration whatever will throw light upon the Constitution, and upon the intention of its framers. Believing that those who made the bargain are its best and most accurate interpreters, I naturally turn to the interpretation which was put upon section 125 by the Premiers of the States, immediately after their Conference had concluded.
– That interpretation, is very strongly against the position taken up by the honorable member.
– The document from which I shall quote was signedby therightt honorable member for East Sydney, therightt honorable member for Balaclava, the flight honorable member for* Adelaide, the right honorable member for Swan, Sir Edward Braddon, . and Mr. Dickson. This is the way in which they interpret section 125 -
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.
At a reasonable distance from Sydney. What is a reasonable distance?
– Not Dalgety, I suppose.
– The terms of the bond ought to be some guide. Those who entered into it said that the Capital should be not less than 100 miles from Sydney, and I hold that the clear inference is that the selection of any suitable site outside that100-mile limit, but as near to it as possible, would be in strict compliance with the terms of the bond. Some regard should be paid to the wishes of New South Wales in the selection of a site outside that prescribed area.
– It is purely a Commonwealth matter.
– It is a State as well as a Commonwealth matter. The question is whether we are going to honour the terms of that bond and depart from the spirit of it. We have the best test of the spirit of the bond in the declaration of the signatories to it that the site is to be a reasonable distance from Sydney. May I put this point to the Attorney-General ? Supposing it had been decided to place the Capital in Victoria, within a reasonable distance from Melbourne.
– Not within 100 miles.
– I find that the furthest distance by rail from Melbourne to the Adelaide border is about 286 miles. On the other hand, Dalgety is 330 miles from Sydney. Would the AttorneyGeneral regard it as being within a reasonable distance of Melbourne if the Capital was placed on that border? That is the parallel. No Victorian would regard the Capital as being fixed within a reasonable distance of Melbourne if it were put on the South Australian border, and yet, if it were, it would still be 50 miles nearer to Melbourne than Dalgety is to Sydney.
– Dalgety is 296 miles from Sydney, and 353 from Melbourne.
– If, in the circumstances I have named, the people of Victoria would not regard the establishment of the Capital on the South Australian border as being in accordance with the bond, neither should New South Wales regard its establishment at an even greater distance from Sydney as honouring the bond. It is strange how the Commonwealth Parliament interprets the language of the bond in its own favour and as against the real interests of New South Wales. The Constitution declares that the Capital shall be not less than 100 miles from Sydney, and we say, therefore, that it should be erected 300 miles from Sydney ; it declares that the Federal territory shall be an area of not less than 100 square miles, therefore we say it shall be an area of 900 square miles. In other words, we say that the territory shall be nine times as great as that for which the Constitution provides, and that the Capital shall be three times further from Sydney than is required by the Constitution. Although that may be observing the letter of the compact, in my judgment it is departing grievously from the spirit of it, the intention being that it should represent a substantial concession to New South Wales. That is the view I take of this bargain, and what it means. Those who made it should be the men to interpret it. The Premiers of all the States place upon it the interpretation that the Capital is to be within a reasonable distance of Sydney.
– Properly read and understood, that is an absolutely strong argument against the honorable member’s present position.
– I do not agree with the Attorney-General.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral suggest that the arrangement entered into does not mean that the Capital is to be within a reasonable distance from Sydney ?
– It means that the Capital is not to be unreasonably close to Sydney.
– Why does it not say so?
– It does.
– It means that it is not to be unreasonably far fromSydney.
– I have never heard any one but the Attorney-General put upon the compact the interpretation that the Capital is not to be unreasonably near to Sydney. I venture to say that this is the first time that such a construction has been placed upon it.
– It is to be not less than 100 miles from Sydney.
– Those who were signatories to the agreement say that, whilst the Capital is not to be in the neighbourhood of Sydney, itisto be at a reasonable distance from that city, and I hold that to establish it at Dalgety, Tumut, or Wellaregang would not be to comply with that interpretation.
– The 100-mile limit fixes the question of unreasonable nearness.
– That is so. The Capital would be “ unreasonably near “ Sydney if it were within the 100 miles limit.
– I undertake to prove, from the history of the negotiations, and the resolutions presented from the Parliament of New South Wales, that what I say is absolutely correct.
– The honorable and learned gentleman will have a big job.
– I know that the Attorney-General has an abundance of pluck and ability. I believe that he would tackle any legal job, but that which he now suggests would be the toughest he ever undertook.
– No; it is an easy one.
– Immediately after the bond had been entered into and explained by the Premiers ‘in the terms I have stated, the Premier of New South Wales, the right honorable member for East Sydney, went to Sydney, and here is his comment upon the agreement arrived at -
It fixes the capital now and for all time in the very heart of our territory.
Does the Minister suggest that Dalgety is in the very heart of New South Wales?
– No. I say that if the Capital were established there it would be in New South Wales within the meaning of the section.
– Read strictly, no doubt that is so; but I am speaking of the spirit of the bond, and of that which was in the minds of the men who made it. It cannot be said that the selection of Dalgety subscribes to the clear and evident intention of the Premiers who entered into this solemn bond. The right honorable member for East Sydney, on the occasion in question, went on to say -
There can be no doubt eventually some cool locality will be fixed upon as the Seat of Government, and there will also be chosen a spot in the neighbourhood of the Great Southern Railway, along which all the members will have to travel.
– That sounds like a description of Tumut.
– It sounds very like a description of Goulburn! or a site in its vicinity. In the course of the interview from, which I have just quoted, the right honorable member for East Sydney went on to say that the Capital would unquestionably be located eventually somewhere between Moss Vale and Goulburn. The idea was that it would be fixed as near as possible to Lake George - the site now being suggested.
– Who is suggesting the selection of Lake George?
– It is being suggested by some honorable members as a very suitable site.
– Is the honorable member in favour of Lake George?
– I must ask the honorable member to give notice of his question. We might submit it to his friend, the honorable member for Macquarie, just as he submits every other question of administration to his predecessor. As to the construction that was placed upon the compact when it was entered1 into, I have here a statement made by Mr-. Barton - a statement much stronger than that made by the right honorable member for East .Sydney. Speaking at a meeting in Sydney, he said -
He was perfectly satisfied that the Federal Capital would be fixed in such a place that Sydney would be its trading port.
This statement was made immediately after the Premier’s Conference, and yet we have a proposal to establish a rival trading port to Sydney.
– I think that Sir Edmund Barton had Tumut in view.
– Mr. Barton continued -
They should either not lose any of their trade if the Federal Capital were an insignificant place, or if it were a good and big and growing place, attracting money and men from all parts of Australia, then Sydney, as its port, would get the benefit of that. Now, let the gentlemen answer that, instead of vapouring as they vapoured each day.
– Would the honorable member give me a reference to that speech ?
– It was made at a meeting held in Sydney on 1st May, 1899. A speech’ was also delivered on that occasion by the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– Has the honorable member the first part of the speech made by Mr. Barton on that occasion?
– I have not.
– He did not back up what the right honorable member for East Sydney said?
– He was speaking purely of the Capital Site. I am pointing out the interpretation which those two honorable gentlemen placed upon the agreement when they were seeking to induce the people of New South Wales to enter the bond. That is the best way of getting at the meaning of what was understood at the time by the people who were most concerned in making the compact, and upon the faith of which New South Wales eventually adopted the Constitution, and became a constituent part of the Commonwealth. I shall content myself with that reference, because I do not believe in labouring the matter in so small a House, and when there is such an evident inclination to close the session and get away. ‘ But I do submit that it ought to receive very much more serious attention than it appears to be getting at the hands of this Parliament. We have had hardly a quorum, either during the delivery of the Minister’s speech, or since that time, and apparently not very much interest is taken in this great question of fixing for all time the Seat of Government for Australia. According to the terms of the agreement, Dalgety is out of the running as a site ‘ for the ultimate location of the Federal capital. Being 300 odd miles from Sydney, it is much further from there than is any point connected by railway from Melbourne. Therefore, it cannot be said to be in the heart of the State, and a substantial concession thereto.
– It has the Snowy River.
– I have no doubt about the climate and water supply of Dalgety, and I am told that Tooma is a magnificent site ; but the magnificence of the site is only a secondary consideration. If these magnificent sites are in the terms of the bond by all means let us get the best of them, but the condition should be - does the site comply with the bargain entered into originally ?
– What is the point ofthe honorable member’s remark?
– The point is-
That while the Capital cannot he fixed in Sydney-
– That is a preamble.
– No, it is a resolution signed by all the Premiers who took part in the Conference, and bears the signature of the Treasurer. Unanimously it was resolved -
That while the Capital cannot be fixed in Sydney or in its neighbourhood, provision is made in the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales, at a reasonable dstance from that city.
– But situate not less than 100 miles from Sydney.
– It’ was intended to be not nearer than 100 miles to Sydney, but still, at a reasonable distance therefrom.
– That resolution must be read in conjunction with the clause inserted in the Constitution Bill.
– Let me put thecase which I put to the Attorney - General when the right honorable gentleman was out of the Chamber. Suppose that it had been decided to fix the site in Victoria - I wish that the honorable member for Dalgety would hold his tongue-
– Order. The honorable gentleman should be referred to as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
Mr. Austin Chapman. - The honorable member was pretty good at interjecting while the Minister of Home Affairs was speaking. He must take a little dose of his own medicine.
– I have not been interjecting at all, and the honorable member has no right to say that I have been. He is certainly very excited.
– Will the honorable member for Parramatta discuss the question before the Chair?
– Certainly, sir, but the honorable member is interrupting me.
– The honorable member has challenged the Treasurer, and repeated remarks which he had previously made. I ask him to proceed with his speech, and not to draw the Minister, and then ask for protection.
– I am not trying to draw the honorable member of whom I complain, and therefore I think that that remark from the Chair was not called for, I was complaining of the interruption of the Postmaster-General, and not of the Treasurer, whom I am addressing. However, sir, if I cannot get your protection, I suppose I must proceed without it. Suppose that the Treasurer had agreed to put the capital in Victoria, as he did in New South Wales, would he have considered that it was a reasonable distance from Melbourne within that State, and as containing a substantial advantage and concession thereto, if it were placed on the South Australian border?
– The nearest best site.
– I do not know what the honorable member means by the nearest best site. Surely there can be only one best site !
– I mean the site nearest to Sydney which is eminently suitable.
– Does the honorable member say. that it would be a concession to New South Wales, and that it would be at a reasonable distance from Sydney to place the Federal Capital on the confines of the State?
– If it were put in any part of my State I should consider that it was a concession to it.
– But still the honorable member would not consider it to be within a reasonable distance of the capital of the State. It is not a question of whether it is a concession to the State, or of whether it is a beautiful site, but of whether it is a reasonable distance from the capital. That is the governing consideration.
– Surely we want an eminently good -site?
– I am not con’sidering the question whether one site is as good as another, when either is outside the spirit of the compact. If it is a matter of considering the best site, why has not the honorable member proposed to go within the 100-mile limit, and pick a perfect site?
– That could not be done.
– No, for the simple reason that all places within 100 miles of Sydney are shut out. By the same reasoning, if the site is to be within a reasonable distance of Sydney, such places as Dalgety are shut out. We have not to consider’ whether a site is a preferable one as such, but whether it is a good and adequate one, complying with the solemn agreement made with New South Wales. I do not wish to labour this matter, but I want to know what this precious Bill is going to do for us. I cannot see that it will take us one step further forward.
– It will fix the territory.
– It is not even proposed to fix the territory any further than it is now fixed.
– It will give definite metes and bounds.
– Yes, but it will not determine the matter.
– Yes, it will.
– Evidently the honorable member has not read the terms of the Bill.
– We shall get the fee simple; a deed of grant will be issued.
– The Commonwealth has not yet got a foot of land; nor can- it be got until a grant has been made. Since a grant has been preliminarily refused, what is the use of going on with this Bill?
– We can acquire it.
– The Government have an answer as to this particular site before the Bill is passed. Therefore, it is not idle to proceed with the consideration of a measure delimiting a site that is to be conditioned by a grant which has already been refused, ‘and with the approval of the Parliament of New South Wales? We are told in the title that it is -
An Acf to determine more definitely the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.
We are asked to determine more definitely the territory of Dalgety, when it has not been secured, in order that it may be determined and delimited. There is no power in the Bill to take or acquire Dalgety, except after it has been granted1. Does it contain any provision under which the Government of New South Wales could take advantage of the High Court? What would they have to agree to if the Bill were passed ? They would simply stand where they do now; they would say. “ We decline to grant Dalgety; there is no need to go to the High Court about this matter.”
– So far as I can see, this Bill will not facilitate the settlement of matters by one pin. I do not know why it is introduced.
– Perhaps New South’ Wales will not refuse to grant it.
– They have already specifically excluded it from their offer’ of sites. There is nothing in this Bill to induce the State to grant the site more than there was in the previous measure.
– They will have to wait a bit then.
– I believe that the Treasurer is right, and that the intention of the Bill is to make the State wait a bit. I can see infinite possibilities of delay, but I cannot see the possibility of a settlement which would be satisfactory, and which would continue harmonious relations between State and Commonwealth. The Treasurer has blurted out the truth again in his usual blunt fashion. ‘He says that the Government of New South Wales will have to wait a bit if they do not agree to make the grant in accordance with this Bill. That may be the intention, but I venture to say that statements of that character will not tend to improve the feeling in New South Wales. They will not take us one step more forward in the final and just consideration of this question. This Bill is, I think, a good deal weaker than is the Act. By the latter, we authorized the Government to acquire territory for a Federal Capital. This Bill does not do anything of that kind. It says -
The Minister is empowered to obtain, and the Governor-General is empowered to accept, on behalf of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Seat of Government, a grant by the State of New South Wales to the Commonwealth of the territory described in schedule A.
So that the obtaining, the acquiring, and the accepting are all conditioned by the granting of the territory and a grant has already” been refused. I characterize the Bill as being in much the same case as that precious Bill which the. Minister of Trade and Customs introduced the other day - I mean the Manufactures Encouragement Bill.
– The honorable member should not attack me because I am with him.
– I am not attacking the honorable member. I know that he is with us on this matter, and I wish that “his colleague was too.
– So do I.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK- The PostmasterGeneral would be with us too if he were as reasonable as is the honorable gentleman. but on this occasion, reason has flown to the winds with him.
– What site is the honorable gentleman for?
– I am for a site as near to the 100-mile limit as it can be got.
– Would the honorable member exclude Lake George?
– I do not so much care where it is, so long as it is within a reasonable distance of Sydney, and close to the 100-mile limit. With me, those are the conditions precedent to the selection’ of a site.
– What would the honorable member call a reasonable distance?
– I should call a “ reasonable distance “ one not within the limit of 100 miles, but as near to that limit as possible. I should call an unreasonable distance one as far away from the 100 miles limit as possible.
– Would the honorable member call Armidale within a reasonable distance ?
– It is many hundreds of miles from Sydney. A site within a reasonable distance cannot be said to be one three or four times as far away as it need be. That is not the way we usually express ourselves when we make a bargain. When we fix a limit we mean to do something as near to that limit as possible. I shall not pursue this matter further. I am afraid that the House is in no mood seriously to consider the subject today. I regret it extremely. I should have liked to see a serious attempt made during the closing hours of this session to settle the question. The way in which this question of the Federal Capital Site has been left over to be the last item in the programme of the Government ‘is one of the most regrettable features of the whole session. It does not show much indication of a desire on the part of the Government, so far as I can see, to deal with this matter, which so profoundly affects the relations of one-third of this Commonwealth to the rest of its people. I see no evidence of a genuine desire on the part of the Government to settle the matter in any way which will be at all satisfactory to the State which I have the honour to represent. I admit that every State has rights. I concede that to the full ; but I say that those States rights are all embodied in the bond. The to demand that that bond shall be carried into full and complete execution is one which is inherent in the State of New South Wales. And that, I take it, is what has been asserted by the Parliament of that State. It has made a respectful protest, repudiating any notion of secession. In as respectful a way as is open to it, it has expressed its view, as representing the State,; claiming the carrying into effect of the bond on the faith of which it entered into this Federation.
Mr.FRAZER (Kalgoorlie).- In commencing, I must congratulate the deputyleader of the Opposition on the address which he has delivered. His intention has evidently been to induce honorable members to be conciliatory in regard to the question. After the experience we have had, one can feel a certain amount of satisfaction that the honorable member has at last adopted a conciliatory spirit. I quite agree that in the consideration of a matter so important to the interests of the Commonwealth and to the State of New South Wales, we should manifest as much of a conciliatory spirit as possible. I wish to refer first to the contrast attempted to be made by the deputy leader of the Opposition between the remarks of the Premier of Western Australia-
– No ; no contrast.
– And the position which has been arrived at in the State of New South’ Wales.
– The only contrast that I wanted to make was in relation to the action of this Parliament on the two questions.
– I think it desirable to say that the people of Western Australia believe that they were promised by the leaders of the Federal movement that in the event of Western Australia coming into the union, certain action would be taken in regard to a matter which they had very much at heart, namely, the construction of the transcontinental railway.
– Hear, hear; that is quite true.
– I believe that that promise was given. I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, influenced some votes in Western Australia. But the complaint that the Western Australian people have at the present moment is that no serious attempt has been made by the Legislature to carry out the bond which they believe was entered into.In regard to New South Wales the position is entirely different. In that case, the Federal Parliament has shown itself desirous of carrying out the bond. It has passed a statute selecting the site for the
Federal Capital. It has done all that it was possible to do to settle the question.. But the Premier of New South Wales has resolutely and determinedly said that the question shall not be settled in accordance with the wishes of this Parliament. Imagine the State of Western Australia saying that it would refuse to accept a statute authorizing the -construction of the transcontinental railway ! Imagine Western Australia quibbling over such a question! There can be no possible contrast between the two positions.
– Would not Western Australia decline to accept a railway if we did not authorize one particular route?
– I should like my honorable friend to induce this Parliament to sanction the construction of the railway by either of the proposed routes. I am very much inclined to think that the majority of the people of Western Australia would most enthusiastically welcome the opportunity of getting direct and uninterrupted communicationwith the Eastern States in that manner. But in New South Wales every possible objection has been raised by the Premier and his Government against the right of this Parliament to select the capital.
– What are the facts? An attempt has been made, in my opinion, to read into section 125 of theConstitution, the right of New South Wales to decide upon the site.
– This Bill recognises that.
– I do not admit that that right is given’ by the Constitution. I do not admit that it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to give that right. Nor do I believe that it would beheld by a competenttribunal, interpreting the Constitution that New South Wales possesses that right.
– I have read what one of the Judges of the High Court said.
– The honorable member ought not, in my view, to have quoted the opinion of a Judge, with the object of putting him in the position of having to give a certain decision in his judicial capacity.
– He was not a. Judge when he used the words which I quoted.
– That may not have been the honorable member’s intention, but’ such an interpretation might be placed upon what he has done. I regretted that in New South Wales the other day an attack was made upon the integrity of that tribunal, the constitution of which I hold to be the best act of the Commonwealth Parliament up to the present time ; and I deprecate any action that might possibly be supposed to influence that tribunal, in the event of a deci-‘ sion having to be given by it upon this important question. I listened with considerable interest to the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs in moving the second reading of the Bill. What is the position? It appears to me that there has been an absolute reversal of form in New South Wales. The State Premier for the time being, Sir John See, definitely offered to this Commonwealth the choice of three sites. At a subsequent date he made another offer - that, in the event of either of those sites not being accepted, his Government would be prepared to give consideration to a request for other sites. In another communication, Sir John See absolutely declined, in the name of the people of New South Wales, to select a site. That action cast upon this Parliament the responsibility of taking a certain action. Parliament selected a site. But another Premier has come into office in New South Wales, and an attempt has been made by him to refuse to this Parliament the right to select a site. I can see no possible justification for Parliament altering its previous decision. As a justification for the reversal of form of the New South Wales authorities, a document has been put forward to-day in relation to the conference of States Premiers. This document has been printed by the Parliament of New South Wales.
– The paper is marked “Ordered by the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales to be printed on the 7th December, 1905.”
– That is so; but it was first printed in 1899.
– It was not prepared by the authority of the New South Wales Parliament, but by the Premiers. Conference.
– I am justified in saying that this document was prepared by the authority of the New South Wales Parliament.
– That is not correct.
– Was it printed by order of the New South Wales Parliament?
– What is the difference?
– There is all the difference in the world.
– I am going to show that it has been substantially . altered.
– If that be so, that is another matter.
– Altered in what way? Not in its language, but by the placing of certain words in italics, so that they may bear to the unsuspecting public a meaning that is not really in them.
– That is so.
– Let the honorable member give us his reading of the words.
– I have given the matter some consideration, and I agree with the opinion that has been expressed by the Attorney-General to-day. What was the position in relation to this document? The people of New South Wales at first gave a hostile decision in regard to the acceptance of the Commonwealth Bill.
– The honorable member is quite right ; there were no italics in the original document.
– No one said there were.
– But when I said that the document had been altered, and that it was prepared in its present form by the authority of the Parliament of New South Wales, ‘ honorable members opposite said that I was wrong.
– The honorable member said that it was different in the wording.
– There has been a substantial alteration made for a particular purpose.
– Order. I remind the House that if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie chooses to say that a substantial alteration was made in the document to which he refers, he has a right to say so; and if other honorable members choose to say that there has been no substantial alteration, they are at liberty to explain their point of view in subsequent speeches. But these continual interjections interrupt the thread of the honorable member’s speech. I must ask that they may cease.
– I was about to refer to circumstances precedent to this document being brought into existence. I understand that the State of New South Wales objected in the first instance to the Commonwealth Bill. They particularly objected to the section dealing with the Federal Capital.
– I do not think there was anything about the Federal Capital in the original Bill.
– The Bill merely provided that the Capital should be somewhere in Australia as might be determined by the Federal Parliament.
– I think not.
– The honorable member is apparently prepared to dispute anything I may say, although he is without accurate knowledge of the facts. I have investigated this question, and I know that the first proposal was that the Capital should be within Australia, and that the next proposal was that it should be within the State of New South Wales. There was still some objection, and then came the third proposal of the Premiers’ Conference. This was the view of the Premiers -
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 he 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.
That was the opinion of the Premiers when they were in a mood to make concessions.
– -Because New South Wales would not otherwise have joined the Federation.
– That is a question which the honorable member is not competent to decide. If the Premiers interpreted the clause as meaning that the Federal Capital should be as near the 100-miles limit as possible, why did they not suggest that it should be within a reasonable distance “of” that city, instead of deliberately providing that it should be a reasonable distance “ from “ that city. The words used by the Premiers show that they thoroughly understood that the Federal Capital was not to be unreasonably close to Sydney.
– That view is met by the fixing of the limit of 100 miles.
– But a limit of 100 miles was not sufficient in the opinion of the Premiers, as shown by the words “ at a reasonable distance from that city.” And when the context of the resolution is taken into account, no other interpretation is possible, although the fact that the words I have just quoted are placed in italics, is calculated to convey another and a false impression to the cursory observer. Of course, we cannot say what was in the minds of the Premiers at that time, though we know that the present leader of the Opposition never raised any particular objection to the proposal. Indeed, the question was never raised until some honorable members, who are opposed to the selection of the Dalgety site, began to look around for some justification for an attempt to obtain a reversal of the decision of Parliament.
– The opinions of the honorable members referred to are all recorded in Hansard.
– Was the view to which I am referring, ever seriously advanced in the House?
– The honorable member for North Sydney advanced the view very strongly.
– As Hansard will show.
– I accept the assurance of the honorable member. But was the same importance attached to the matter six months ago as appears to be the case now ?
– The leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, said he would do everything in his power to prevent the decision of the House being altered.
– Did not the leader of the Opposition vote for the Dalgety site?
– Of course, as against Tooma.
– Probably Tooma may be selected if the decision as to Dalgety is reversed. It is pretty well known thata number of honorable members are desirous to substitute Lake George for Dalgety. I have supported Dalgety all through the negotiations, and I see no reason to alter my attitude. What has occurred to justify us in humiliating ourselves so far as to reverse a decision deliberately arrived at after mature consideration ?
– The New South Wales Jeff. Davis has scared us !
– Then there could be no weaker justification.
– It would be humiliating if that were the cause.
– We shall no doubt have the pleasure of hearing the honorable member for Illawarra on the question. The honorable member for Parramatta has advanced no substantial reason why we should reverse our decision. We are placed in the position of having to say definitely and decisively whether we shall depart from our previous determination simply because some State Premier is dissatisfied with the conditions. My own opinion is that the Premier of New South Wales will be satisfied with’ nothing short of our giving that State the right to select the site.
– New South Wales has never sought the right of selection except in regard to the territory.
– New South Wales has distinctly refused to allow the Commonwealth Parliament to select the site we particularly desire; and what does that indicate, except that New South Wales is not prepared to accept the decision of the Commonwealth Parliament? And it may reasonably be supposed that the alternative is that the New South Wales Parliament desires to make the selection. The opinions held by the Opposition on this question are not the opinions held some little time ago by their leader, the -right honorable member for East Sydney. I am prepared to admit that gentleman’s capacity for finding justification for the reversal of a vote or any other change of front, but in a matter of this kind he may be expected to adhere to his opinions, for, at any rate, a few months. The right honorable member for East Sydney, speaking on the 15th December, 1904, on this question, said that “if the provisions of the Constitution were carried out loyally” on both sides - the Federal Capital will be established in New South Wales at no distant date, but, just as it is possible for the Federal Parliament in its treatment of the subject to so act that there will be no Capital in New South Wales within a reasonable time, it is possible for the Government and Parliament of New South Wales to so act that there will be no Federal Capital in New South Wales within a reasonable time, unless we have an inherent right to select the capital by our own will. That is a question of serious importance, which I hope will never have to be considered.
I can heartily indorse that sentiment. I hope it will never be obligatory on the Commonwealth to take a site from New South Wales.
I hope that those who have this matter at heart will rest satisfied that the Government will loyally regard the decision of this Parliament, unless it is rescinded, and, so far as I am concerned, any attempt to rescind it will meet with my strongest opposition.
That is a definite statement from the leader of the party, who, at the present time, are engaged in an attempt to reverse the decision of this Parliament.
– Did any one of the colleagues of the right honorable member for East Sydney, who was then Prime Minister, repudiate his views?
– Not one.
– As the leader of the Government, the right honorable member for East Sydney could not attempt to rescind the decision of Parliament.
– Do the opinions and policy of an honorable member alter when he leaves the Government for the Opposition benches? I admit that sometimes the prospect of gaining a few ‘ votes may affect the views of individuals, but scarcely so in regard to a matter which affects the welfare of the entire population of the continent, and which should be dealt with entirely free from an party considerations.
– The honorable member is not very free in that respect !
– I hope I shall never be found leaving my party, but, as a matter of fact, my leader in regard to this particular question is on the other side, and, in my opinion, is “ off the track.”
– Did not the right honorable member for East Sydney, on that occasion, speak for the whole of the Commonwealth ?
– He certainly spoke as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. We have now to decide whether or not the rights of this Parliament are to be handed over to the Premier of a State. The power and the right to select the site of the capital, which is to be the home of the Federal Parliament for all time, rests with us, as the responsible representatives of the people, and I am prepared to stand by our previous deliberate decision.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Conroy) adjourned.
Divisions 2 and 4 (Parliament), ,£208 ; divisions 20 and 22 (Department of Home
Affairs), £77 ; divisions 25, 27, and 27A (Treasury), £3.599 j divisions 31, 31a, 3 ib, and 32 (Department of Trade and Customs), £528; divisions 83, 92, 96, 133, 362, and 167 (Department of Defence), £565; and divisions 174, 175, 176, 178, 179, and 180 (Postmaster-General’s Department), £1,791.
– As I explained yesterday, these Supplementary Estimates represent the ordinary expenditure and the expenditure on additions, new works, and buildings, in excess of the appropriations for the years 1903-4 and 1904-5, the money for which has been obtained out of the Treasurer’s advance. The expenditure in excess for 1903-4 was ,£6,768 for ordinary departmental expenditure, and for additions, new works, and buildings, £490., making a total of £7,258. The excess for 1904-5 was £84,414 for ordinary expenditure, and for new works £52,527, or a total of £136,941.. Honorable members will understand that these votes represent what in some States are called Excess Bills, and are the. amounts expended in excess of the votes included in the Appropriation Acts for the years named. Under our system, an advance of £200,000 is given to the Treasurer, and these amounts have been expended on his authority out of that advance. In making this advance to the Treasurer, Parliament has been careful to direct that it is given to enable him to make advances to the public Departments, to meet expenditure the particulars of which will afterwards be included in a parliamentary appropriation. This is very desirable, as it compels the Treasurer to account to this House for all sums he has expended out of the advance granted to him. Expenditure from the Treasurer’s advance is perfectly legal, but it is our rule that there should be a second appropriation of the items. If Parliament so desired, that might be avoided by the adoption of other means; but still the practice in this Parliament and in the Parliaments of the States is that every item expended out of the Treasurer’s advance, or whatever the fund may be called, shall be submitted for the approval of Parliament. As I said yesterday, it is rather late in the day to ask parliamentary approval of expenditure which took place in 1903-4; but I believe this necessity has arisen through some inadvertence. Honorable members are aware that all this expenditure took place before the present Government came into office, and they are therefore not in ‘any way responsible for it. I believe that it was all jus* titled, and I shall be glad to give any information which honorable members may desire in regard to any particular item ir» these Estimates.
– I understand that the votes included in these Estimates represent moneys which have been spent some time ago.
– Yes; the year before last and last year.
– I presume there is nothing out of the ordinary in them.
– I do not know of anything.
– I have .glanced through the items cursorily, and I can find nothing that is not ordinarily included insupplementary votes. One really has to take matters largely upon trust from the Government at the fag end of the session. Measures are thrown before us without the slightest time for consideration, and there appears to be nothing left for us to do but to agree to or reject them. I take the Treasurer’s assurance that the items included in these Estimates are the ordinaryitems of expenditure usually appearing in> supplementary votes.
– So far as I know,, they are.
Proposed votes agreed to.
– Would it not be better to put these votes in the ordinary way - that is, to submit them from the Chair in Departmental divisions? It is somewhat unusual to submit Supplementary Estimates in globo. There are several items in these Estimates, concerning which I should like some information.
– I shall put the Estimates in Departments.
Divisions 1, 2, and 4 (Parliament, £991).. agreed to.
Divisions 12 and 14A- (Department of
External Affairs), £1,438.
– I would refer honorable members to the item “ Travelling expenses of honorary Ministers, £18.” So far as my memory serves me, this is a new item on the Estimates.
– It has appeared on the Estimates on more than one occasion before.
– I do not recollect having seen it before. Of course, we know that the term “ honorary “ is somewhat euphemistic. The Treasurer asserts that this is not new.
– It was on the last Estimates.
– In reply to the honorable gentleman, I may say that there has been expenditure under this heading, by the Barton Government and by the late Government. The expenditure included in this vote was by the late Government. The rule followed by all Governments, almost since the beginning of the Commonwealth, has been that salaried Ministers do not charge any expenses except for transport. Hotel bills and personal expenses of all kinds are defrayed by Ministers from their private purses. But when honorary. Ministers are requested to go to distant places on duty, it is unreasonable to expect that they should pay their own expenses. A small amount is therefore allowed to cover their actual expenses. The amount here set down is only , £18. There is very little expended under this head, but it is quite unreasonable to expect honorary Ministers to follow the same rule as that which is followed by salaried Ministers.
– I quite agree that travelling expenses incurred by honorary Ministers should be paid for by the Commonwealth.
– When the £400 was granted tothem it was understood that Ministers should pay their own expenses.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that this vote does not apply to salaried Ministers. If a Minister holding an honorary appointment, in order that better representation might be given to his State in the Cabinet, has to travel to that State on public business, it is unreasonable that he should be called upon to pay hotel bills and other travelling expenses. It should be borne in mind that the amount granted as travelling expenses to Ministersis always largely exceeded, as they are called upon to pay tips and such expenses which do not appear in hotel bills. I presume that the amount here set down covers only the mere hotel bills and such expenses, and I consider the item a reasonable one.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan- Treasurer). - I should like to explain the item, “ Expenses of Premiers’ Conference, Hobart, . £543,” which has been brought under my notice. It might be thought that this is a large sum for expenses, but when the vote is analyzed, honorable members will find that it includes£358 for printing,£77 for travelling and hotel expenses of officers who attended on Ministers, and other petty expenses ;£ioo for gratuities to State and Commonwealth officers for special services, and£8 for steamer and cab fares.
– Ministers paid their own expenses.
-They paid their own expenses in this, as in every other case. Though at first sight, the amount may appear to be rather large, honorable members will see, when the vote is analyzed, that it is very reasonable.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I think that the amount set down for the expenses of this picnic at Hobart is so large that the items should have been set out in detail.
– The Minister has just given the details.
– Nothing of the kind. The printing should not have amounted to more than£30 or £40.
– The printing cost £358.
-It should not have cost so much.
– That covered daily work, as well as the report, and the proceedings were reported very much as our proceedings are reported for Hansard.
– It has been understood that the shorthand work was done without charge.
– The understanding was that the shorthand work was to be done by the secretaries of the various Premiers. I have a distinct recollection of having read a statement to that effect.
– I have already said that the printing cost , £358.
– I do not see how it could have come to that sum, when the Conference lasted only about a week.
– The honorable gentleman does not know what he is talking about. It lasted nearly three weeks.
– It is doubtful whether three weeks were fully occupied in the business of the Conference.
– All the time was occupied in the business of the Conference.
– It does not seem to me that more than a week’s talk was represented by the report I saw.
– That was only a condensed report.
– And it was a very defective one.
– I wish to know whether the item “Advertising resources of the Commonwealth, , £267,” relates to that curious litterateur, Mr. John Plummer, who was appointed to write letters to the English newspapers, and whose communications were generally consigned to the waste-paper basket. Is the arrangement with that gentleman at an end?
– I think that it terminates at the end of the year.
– I hope that this Government will avoid making any engagements of this kind. It seems that several months’ notice was required to terminate the arrangement with Mr. Plummer, which wasmade by the Reid Government. , I do not know what position Mr. Plummer occupied in Sydney, but I believe that he was of some considerable service to some honorable members of the Opposition. I have heard and read a good deal about Mr. Plummer, and it seems extraordinary that an arrangement should have been entered into with him, which could not be terminated without giving several months’ notice. I have read some of his letters, which were as heavy as lead, and were not written even in an attractive journalistic style. I think we ought to have some information with regard to this matter.
– I am sorry to say I do not know anything about it.
– The remarks of the honorable member show how critics are made. If you are going to criticise anything effectively you require, first of all, to know nothing about it. The honorable member was not aware of the period over which the Hobart Conference extended, and he did not know anything as to the amount of printing that was done in connexion with it. But he had no hesitation in stating that the work could not have cost more than £30 or £40.
– I referred to such as I saw.
– The account for printing, whether it be high or low, was rendered by the Government of Tasmania. A small amount of work may have been done in Victoria, but the main part of the printing was carried out in Tasmania. Proofs had to be furnished day by day as the Conference proceeded, and subsequently a condensed report was issued, and copies were distributed in considerable numbers to all the States concerned.
– It was a very poor report.
– I am inclined to agree with the honorable member, that it was not very well condensed; but it must be remembered that the work was done by the secretaries, because we could not very well permit pressmen to be present.
– Could not the services of the Hansard staffhave been availed of?
– No; they were not available. The Tasmanian Government have only a small unofficial Hansard staff, and its members were engaged on some other work. The secretaries were made use of, and whilst they are excellent officers, they are not as good shorthand writers as are men who are always engaged in reporting work. They had frequently to work until 1 o’clock, or 2 o’clock in the morning, and were paid for the extra demands made upon their services. If the proceedings of the Conference can be regarded as a picnic, Ministers at least paid their own expenses in connexion with it. The appointment of Mr. Plummer was made in view of the opinions that had been expressed in Parliament from time to time that it was desirable that some one should communicate to the British press matters of interest relating to Commonwealth affairs. Some one from one of the States had to be appointed, and, so far as I know, no influence was brought to bear in favour of Mr. Plummer. His appointment was due to the fact that he had been a considerable contributor to the British press. The honorable member for Coolgardie wishes to insinuate that because he was a New South Wales man -
– Not at all.
– That because he might at some time or other have written articles favorable to one party, a
Cabinet composed of representatives of different parties deliberately appointed him.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- The honorable member has been at great pains to show my want of knowledge. He said that the services of the Hansard staff were not available. Now, as a matter of cold fact, the services of that staff were offered, and were deliberately refused by the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for East Sydney, on the ground that no report of the proceedings was required.
– I thought the honorable member was referring to the Tasmanian Hansard.
– Certainly not; there is no State Hansard staff. I would ask the honorable member whether the services of the Commonwealth Hansard staff were not offered to the Government,,, and refused, on the ground that no record would be required ?
– I do not know of it.
– That is most extraordinary. The honorable member accuses me of want of knowledge and yet he has to acknowledge his own ignorance of what occurred during his own occupancy of office. I merely wish to show that the honorable member is not quite so immaculate as he expects others to be.
– I wish to know something with regard to the item “ Cost of locating Wakatipu rock in Bass Straits, £283”? This is the first time, so far as I am aware, that such an item has appeared on either the Commonwealth Estimates, or those of any of the States. The British Admiralty used to perform such work, and I wish to know whether we are now expected to defray the cost of marine survey work, because we are subsidizing the Australian Squadron?
– The British Admiralty do not undertake to make our marine surveys for us.
– They have never previously charged us for them.
– Oh,yes, the Western Australian Government has paid the British authorities many thousands of pounds for performing such work.
– If the money has been paid, will the Treasurer undertake to see that it is deducted from next year’s Naval Subsidy ?
– No, certainly not.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 15, 17, and 17A (AttorneyGeneral’s Department). £135, agreed to.
Divisions 18 and 21 to 24 (Department of Home Affairs), , £17,545, agreed to.
Divisions 25, 27, and 28 (Department of the Treasury), , £10.082.
– There is one matter that I desire to bring under the notice of the Government. Recently I was present in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, when the resolution in regard to the Federal Capital site was submitted by Mr. Carruthers. Upon that occasion, I heard a great deal of criticism directed against this Parliament, and in the course of conversation with members of the Legislature of that State I learned that one of their grievances is that a large quantity of printing which has hitherto been done in Sydney has been removed to Melbourne. They allege for example that the printing of the Postal Guide, and of the telephone exchange books, as well as a considerable amount of printing in connexion with military and others matters has been taken away from the Sydney Government Printing Office, and is now being carried out in Melbourne. I should like to know whether there is any justification for these statements, and, if so, what are the reasons underlying the action of the Government.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan- Treasurer). - I regret that I cannot give the honorable member the information which he desires, but if he will be good enough to put a question upon the business-paper, I shall be very glad to supply it.
– I understand that the
Typographical Association of New South Wales has made certain representations to the Government in regard to this matter.
– I have not seen them, but I promise the honorable member that I will look into the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I should like the presence of the Minister of Trade and” Customs, because there are one or two matters to which I desire to direct his attention
– He has left to catch his train.
– Then, I think that the consideration of the Supplementary Estimates relating to his Department should be postponed.
– The money has been spent.
– I think that this is a most slipshod way of doing business. I protest against the high-handed manner in which the Treasurer is dealing with requests by honorable members for information. I object to the way in which the honorable and learned member for Corio’s request for information has been treated.
– It is all right. The right honorable member for East Sydney authorized the expenditure of this money.
– I wish to direct attention to the constant appearance in our Estimates of items relating to law costs incurred by the Customs Department. At an early stage in the history of this Parliament the Department found itself troubled by a number of useless officers, and, instead of getting rid of them in accordance with the law, the Minister of the day, in an autocratic manner, dismissed them. Naturally they enforced their rights, and the Department was mulcted in heavy damages. Some lack) of supervision is evidenced in the Department by the way in which law costs are continually being piled up. More care should be exercised in this connexion, or the head of the Department should be given a strong hint that it is undesirable that any action should be taken which would land the Department in legal expenses.
– Upon page 11 of these Estimates, provision is made for the payment of three gratuities. The items read : “ Gratuity to widow of N. E. Knight, supervisor, , £400;” “Gratuity to widow of G. Cox, head “storeman, £6 10s. 5d. ; “ and “ Gratuity to widow of J. Cox, assistant storeman, £6 6s. , 7d.”I should like to know the reason for the very great disparity between these amounts.
– I would point out to the honorable member that before gratuities are sanctioned by the Government, the States interested are always consulted. In the matter of the gratuity to the widow of Mr. N. E. Knight, the Government of Western Australia was consulted, and I believe that that State paid nearly the wholeof the amount. Consequently the Commonwealth funds are not charged with it. I do not know the facts connected with the other two gratuities, which total about £13.
– How did Mr. Knight die?
– It was a sad case. Apparently in his usual good health, and in the prime of life, he dropped dead upon a railway station, and left a widow and large family unprovided for.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– In this Department, I notice the following item : “ Compensation for injuries on duty, £220.” I know nothing of the circumstances of this case, but would ask the Committee to consider the proposal of the Government respecting a volunteer officer, Mr. Fallon, who was shot a few months ago at a rifle range in Sydney. He left a widow in needy circumstances, and the Government propose to grant a gratuity of about £180.
– That amount was voted under the Appropriation Act of last year.
– Quite so; but I think that it can properly be discussed at this stage. I think that the gratuity is a ridiculously small one to grant to the widow and family of a man who lost his life while fitting himself to defend his country. As the Minister representing the Minister of Defence in this House is not present, I hope that the Treasurer will convey to him what I am sure is the unanimous opinion of the Committee, that substantial compensation shall be paid to the bereaved wife.
– I will make a note of the matter.
– I trust that reasonable compensation will be agreed to.
– In connexion with the item relating to the Commandant of the New South Wales Military Forces, I would point out that a few months ago General Gordon made a speech, from which the inference might have been drawn that other defence schemes were not very satisfactory, but that he had one which would save the Commonwealth. It certainly conveyed the inference that neither MajorGeneral Hutton nor the Military Board, nor even the honorable and learned member for Corinella, knew very much about defence matters, but that General Gordon was thoroughly conversant with’ them. For about a fortnight after this the people were breathlessly awaiting a statement as to his scheme; but, although the Minister of Defence has been questioned in regard to it, the scheme is not yet forthcoming. Are we to understand that General Gordon is reserving it either for the use of some other country, or in connexion with Mr. Carruthers’ secessionist movement in New’ South Wales? He is the Commandant, of that State. It is not long since the State Commandant of Victoria said that he looked not to the Commonwealth, but to the State, Government as his employers. Will the Minister promise that General Gordon’s scheme will be produced ?
– I shall inquire about it.
– I desire also to make some observations in regard to the question of false information supplied to this House by officials of the Defence Department. Any one who has had any experience of that Department knows how it attempts to resort to bluffing tactics. The less information it can supply, in answer to questions, to this House the better its officials are pleased. For example, seven out of about ten answers made in reply to a question which I put in regard to the consecration of banners were absolutely false. Some time ago I pointed out that men at Drysdale were working on ah obsolete gun. which would be of no service in time of war, and I was informed that there were four guns at Queenscliff which had been thrown out of use by General Hutton, inasmuch as the Government would not supply him with sufficient cordite. I ‘wrote a letter, which is on record, in reply to which it was stated that there were no guns that were not supplied with full ammunition. That letter ig also on record. But, at a meeting held in Geelong, the officer commanding the Garrison Artillery there stated that there were four guns at Queenscliff, which, for the reason I have stated, could not be used. I then put a question to the Minister in regard to the matter, and in my absence yesterday he read a report in which it was stated that there were four guns at Queenscliff for which a sufficient supply of cordite was not forthcoming, and that, therefore, they had been reserved. That reply, given at a time when the Department apparently was taken off its guard, is in striking contrast with the previous statement, and I think that we shall have to endeavour during the recess to have this, matter dealt with.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 184 to 190 (PostmasterGeneral’s Department), £32,432.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - It appears that in the matter of gratuities, each State is allowed to carry out . its own special view, and that whilst owing to the liberality of the Government of Western Australia, several gratuities have been granted in that State, none are conceded in the others. A couple of years ago, the present Minister of Home Affairs brought under notice a case in which an officer of the Postal Department was killed by the fall of a pole, and pointed out that a proportion of the wages due to him at the time of his death was actually retained by the Department to pay his funeral expenses. In view of such an incident, it seems to me that it is time that the Government determined to lay down a general principle for the Commonwealth.
– During the bookkeeping period we must carry out the practice of the States.
– The money retained in respect of funeral expenses has been repaid.
– But surely it was the refinement of cruelty to refuse compensation to the man’s mother.. Whenever a proposal to do justice to some unfortunate individual in the Public Service is brought forward, the bookkeeping section is invariably hurled at us. I do not think that the bookkeeping section of the Constitution places any obstacle in the way of the Government devising a scheme by which all cases, regardless of the State in which they occur, will be treated alike. I find in this proposed vote an item of £200 to the widow of a Western Australian officer who, as a matter of -fact, did not die in the discharge of his duty. On the other hand, the public servant in Queensland to whom I have referred sacrificed his life in the execution of his duty, and nothing was done for his family. I know of another extreme case which occurred in Victoria. A sorter in the General Post Office, who had served in that capacity for about thirty years, and was a very conscientious man, broke down in health, and was retired on a pension of £75 per annum. About nine months after his retirement he died, and instead of the Government granting his widow compensation, computed on the leave to which he would have been entitled at the end of his period of service, they actually cut her down to the few pounds which were due to her husband at the time of his death. The difference was only a matter of £25 or £30. It was an act such as might be expected from a mean private employer. Apparently every advantage is taken of an opportunity to cut down the claims of poor people. When this matter was brought under the notice of the Department, the answer was that, because Mr. Bent would not agree to an arrangement, it could not give the widow an increased amount. I am expected to go down on my hands and knees to Mr. Bent, and ask him to grant this little concession, when the Department belongs to the Commonwealth, and is entirely under the control of Parliament. This is a most extraordinary state of affairs, and it is about time that the Government found out a guiding principle, and followed it in all such cases.
– This is not the first occasion upon which the honorable member for Coolgardie has rendered good service by drawing attention to this case. The principle, if it can be called a principle, is that if the State Government has agreed to pay a gratuity, the Commonwealth Government offer no resistance.
– Because they pay the money.
– I know that they do; but it is high time that the Commonwealth adopted a scheme to meet such cases.
– So we shall, within a few months.
– In one State no compensation is paid, and even the funeral expenses are deducted, whilst in another State a substantial gratuity is granted. I trust that the Government will look into the matter, and devise a scheme which will meet with the approval of the House.
– Would it not be well for the Government to create a sinking fund for the purpose of keeping all these people insured, so that, whenever anything happened to them, their relatives would be paid a few pounds.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Refunds of revenue, . £2.475, agreed to.
Proposed votes (New Works and Buildings, 1903-4), £490; (Additions, New Works and Buildings,&c., 1904-5), £52,527, agreed to.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended to allow the necessary Bills to pass through all their stages without delay.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Supply, adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Deakin do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages.
Motion (by Mr. Isaacs) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Will the Attorney-General inform the House what business is to be taken on Monday? Are we to proceed with the further consideration of the Seat of Government Bill ? I should like to urge upon the honorable gentleman the importance of proceeding with that measure as soon as possible, in view of the intended early departure from Melbourne of many honorable members who are anxiously concerned about the measure. Many of us are desirous of proceeding with it, in order that a decision may be arrived at. It appears to me that there is no other business on the notice-paper that is nearly as important, and as to which it is so necessary that the full sense of the House should be taken. I hope that an announcement will be made that the discussion on the measure will be allowed to proceed at the earliest possible moment. Measures like the Copyright Bill ought not to be pushed on in front of it. It is not treating the question fairly. I therefore ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Government will not strain a point in order that we may be better able to dispose of the Bill to which I have referred.
– I spoke to the PrimeMinister before he was compelled to leave the House, about the business to be taken on Monday. He then informed me that he proposed to take the Copyright Bill as the first business on Monday morning, with a view to having an interval in the debate on the Seat of Government question, in order that honorable members might take advantage of the opportunity to think over the speeches delivered to-day.
– They will bear thinking over for a very long time.
– There is certainly room for some thought to be devoted to them. The Prime Minister informed me that after the Copyright Bill had been under consideration, the House would proceed with the debate on the Seat of Government Bill.
– I strongly urge upon the Government that the Seat of Government Bill should be proceeded with as early as possible, in order that we may arrive at a decision on the proposal submitted to us. It is unfortunate that the matter has had to stand over till this late stage of the session. I know, as a matter of fact, that several honorable members left Melbourne this afternoon
– That is their own fault.
– They do not expect to be back again during the remainder of the session, unless they are summoned in connexion with very important business. It is not giving fair treatment to this very important question if it is not dealt with in a full House. As the honorable member for Bland says, it is the fault of honorable members if they are away ; still many honorable members had made arrangements in anticipation that the session would have closed by this time. The longer the consideration of the Bill is delayed, the fewer honorable members will be present to attend to it, and the less time there will be.
– What is the objection to postponing the Bill till next session?
– At all events, it ought not to be kept dangling before the House in this way. I trust that we shall either enter upon the consideration of the subject seriously, or that it will be postponed till next session
– I think that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat has furnished very good reasons why the further consideration of the Seat of Government Bill should be postponed until next session. I wish also to enter my emphatic protest against the manner in which business is being conducted in this House. It seems to me that the sittings and adjournments are being arranged so as to suit the convenience of some Government supporters and a few members of the Opposition without any regard whatever to the convenience of the great bulk of members of the House. Their interests and arrangements are absolutely ignored. Fair play, not only to members, but to the attendants, the officers, and everybody who is obliged to attend meetings of the House, justifies some protest against the length of the sittings this week. We have been sitting here since Monday, on an average of fourteen hours per day. We have had Estimates brought under consideration this afternoon without the responsible Ministers being in their places to answer questions.
– It is a legislative debauch !
– And the honorable member is the principal person responsible for it. Why was not the Minister representing the Minister of Defence present when the Estimates concerning the Department in which he is concerned were under consideration ?
– In what way am I responsible ?
– By deliberately wasting time over trifling matters earlier in the session.
– I can see that the honorable member needs a sea voyage.
– I trust my emaciation is not equal to that of the honorable member. If this state of things is continued much longer it will be easier to find a quorum of members in the Melbourne Hospital than in this Chamber. Instead of sitting fourteen hours a day, why not resume the business of Parliament a month after Christmas? Where is the need for ending the session before Christmas? Why should we resort to the old Victorian practice of meeting in May and sitting throughout the winter months, when it would be much more convenient to meet at the end of February and continue our business until it was finished. It is about time that the present absurd practice was discontinued. It may suit certain parties, but I am satisfied that it is inconvenient to the bulk of honorable members. Weare sent to our electorates during the extreme summer and detained in Melbourne during the extreme winter. Why should this arbitrary line be drawn? It is a scandalous thing that this Parliament should have kept its members, its officers, and all who have to do with its proeeedings fourteen hours a day on six days a week. The Opposition must understand that I am not blaming the Government entirely for what has occurred. The chief responsibility rests with the Opposition. I believe that, notwithstanding their statements, they are even now attempting to dodge the settlement of the Federal Capital question as far as possible.
– They know it, too.
– Is it fair, I ask, at this late period of the session, that we should be asked, with fagged minds and bodies, to settle matters of importance like the Capital Site - a matter which will affect generations of Australians for all time? Is it fair that we should be asked to make an important change in the law, such as is involved in the Patents Bill and the Copyright Bill under such circumstances? I think it is nothing short of indecency for any Government to throw Bills so full of disputatious matter before the House at such a time. If honorable members desire that Parliament should prorogue before Christmas, let it be prorogued; but there are honorable members, including myself, who are determined that the business before us shall be fairly considered. The Copyright Bill, the Patents Bill, and the Seat of Government Bill, are measures which, under other circumstances, would occupy the attention of the House for at least five or six weeks, and they ought not to be rushed through in a day or a day and a half.
– I desire to indorse the remarks of honorable members in regard to the desirability of continuing the consideration of the Seat of Government Bill, without the intervention of other business. I further desire to add my protest to that of other honorable members against the indecent haste with which legislation is being dealt with - haste which amounts to nothing less than a scandal to the country. This afternoon, in the course of a few minutes, we have voted immense sums of money, without having had time to look intothe items of expenditure, and without being able to obtain information, owing to the absence of Ministers in the charge of certain Departments. Reference has been made by the honorable and learned member for Corio to the false character of some of the answers to questions put by honorable members and to attempts on the part of officers of Departments to bluff Ministers in this connexion in reference to Departmental matters. An instance of this was brought under my notice only this week. It will be remembered that I asked some questions in reference to alleged sweating in the New South Wales Post Office, and’ also in, regard to hours of labour and leave. Certain answers were given which, I have been informed, were absolutely contrary to fact at the time the questions were asked. For instance, I am credibly informed that, after the question in relation to leave had appeared on the business-paper, certain officers were granted leave, and then the answer given made it appear that there was no ground of complaint.
– That might have happened’ in the usual course.
– If my information be correct, it shows there has been a deliberate attempt to mislead the House. It is customary at Christmas time to employ temporary hands in the Sydney Post Office, in order to cope with the extra work; but I am informed that this year little telegraph messengers from suburban offices, who receive 10s. a week, are called in ; and, although I am credibly informed that some of them are scarcely big enough to reach the stamping tables, they are required to drag heavy baskets, and., generally, to do the work of men. All this is done in order to save the few paltry pounds which would be involved by the engagement of the usual temporary assistance. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral has no sympathy with that kind of thing, and I hope that he will do his best to prevent it becoming a practice, and to stop it if the practice has already been initiated.
Mr,. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).I urge the Government to finish theconsideration of the Capital Site question next week, before they deal with any other measure. I am satisfied that if they do not take that course, ambulance waggons willbe required to take some of us to the hospital.I should like to inquire whether I have an action against the
Government for sweating, seeing that I am engaged here for nineteen hours a day for a miserable return of £400 per annum.
– I desire to call the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to a matter which affects municipalities. If a new municipality arises, and the telegraph posts then in use interfere with the alignment of the streets, the cost of removing the posts has, according to the Post and Telegraph Act, to be borne entirely by the local body. If such a municipality could be consulted as to the original position of the posts, the present practice might be a fair one, and I can quite see that if the Department were called upon to pay the whole of the cost. some municipalities might cause unnecessary removals. I have in my mind Victoria Park, a rapidly rising suburb of Perth, and there the muncipality, which is struggling under the expense of establishing a new local body, feel it a great hardship that they should be put to this cost. I do not suggest that the Post and Telegraph Act should in this particular be entirely repealed; but I ask the PostmasterGeneral to endeavour to arrive at some more equitable arrangement.
– The business for Monday will be the Copyright Bill, Patents Bill, Price and Bayly Bill, and the Seat of Government Bill. This order of business is by direction of the Prime Minister. There is no reason whatever why the Patents Bill and the Price and Bayly Bill should not be easily disposed of, and thus leave only the Copyright Bill before the Capital Sites Bill. As to the observations of the honorable member for Parramatta concerning the absence of honorable members, it has been well known for a considerable time past that the Government have resolved to proceed with the determination of the Capital Site question this session. The question, as I understand it, is one, the consideration of which will take very little time, namely, how best to effectuate quickly the existing determination of Parliament. When we hear honorable members like the honorable member for Parramatta complaining that we do not proceed with that business at once, I should like to say that it was certainly with the acquiescence, and, I believe, to a large extent at the suggestion, of the Opposition that the debate was adjourned to-day until a later period.
– Certainly not. I moved the adjournment of the debate because the Treasurer desired that the Supplementary Estimates should be dealt with.
– I understand that what I have stated is perfectly correct.
– I can assure the AttorneyGeneral that my statement is accurate, and I can appeal to the Treasurer for corroboration.
– I can only say that we appreciate the importance of the question, and are determined to have the matter settled. We think also that, as some honorable members have made arrangements - and it is well known that they have done so - which will render it impossible for them to be here until Tuesday, it is only right that the final determination of the question should not be arrived at until that day. It is known that certain honorable members have made arrangements to be here on Tuesday for that purpose.
– I have heard nothing about that.
– It would therefore be unfair to rush to a determination of the question on Monday. There is no reason why we should not have the matter sufficiently forward to enable us to arrive at a conclusion this session in both Houses of the Parliament with regard to the delimitation of the Federal Capital Site. Some observations have been made as to the absence of Ministers when expenditure incurred by their Departments has been under consideration ; but I should like it to be understood that the financial measures brought forward by the Treasurer to-day related to the transactions of past Governments only. They were introduced merely in order to put on a legal basis what previous Governments had done, and they have no reference whatever to the administration of the members of the present Government. There was, therefore, no necessity for members of the present Government to be present to explain any of the votes, and if any of them required explanation, honorable members who were members of the late Administration should have been here for that purpose.
– My complaint was that the House had been sitting so long that Ministers had to go away because they were fatigued.
– I am quite sure that if there had been any business necessity for Ministers to be here to-day they would have been here ; but, as I have explained to the House, they were not concerned personally in the legalization of the transactions of the members of other Governments. With regard to the observations made by the honorable member for Fremantle, the PostmasterGeneral informs me that he will take the matter to which the honorable member referred into his personal consideration, and will see what conclusion should be arrived at.
– By way of personal explanation, I should like to point out that the Attorney-General has been quite wrong in his supposition, because I should very much have preferred to speak to-day on the Seat of Government Bill.
– The AttorneyGeneral’s references were to the honorable member for Parramatta.
– So far as I am personally concerned, I should have preferred to speak to-day, and I certainly understood that it was desired by the Treasurer that the debate should be adjourned, in order that certain financial measures should be put through. It was only on that account that I moved the adjournment’ of the debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 December 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051216_reps_2_30/>.