1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator GLASSEY presented a petition from the Hope of Normanton Lodge No. 17, I.O.G.T., Queensland, praying the Sonate to prohibit the introduction, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
Senator STEWART presented a similar petition from twelve electors of Queensland.
– I desire to ask the
Minister for Defence, without notice, whether he is in a position to make a statement with regard to the appointment of the Justices who will constitute the High Court ?
-I must ask the honorable Senator to give notice of the question.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence, without notice, if he is aware that the officers in the mail branch of the Post and Telegraph Service of Queensland have not received that portion of their earnings known as mail money, overtime, and Sunday pay since 30th June lost, and, if so, will he take such steps as will enable the officers to draw all moneys due to them, and to get prompt payment of their full earnings regularly in future ?
– My honorable colleague, tho Postmaster-General, informs me that he has this and similar matters under consideration, and that he is preparing a precis for submission to the Cabinet, with a view of inquiring into tho grievances, and if they are shown to be well founded, endeavouring to remedy them.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Overtime paid to ten sorters to the 30th June without authority was deducted from monthly salaries, but subsequently repaid when authority to pay for the overtime was obtained.
Royal Assent reported.
Senator DRAKE laid on the table the following papers : -
Public Service Act : repeal of regulation 220, and substitution of new one.
Military Forces : regulations re clothing and corps contingent allowance, military clothing, kc
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Is there any truth in the following paragraph, which appeared in the Ar(/u->i of 11th September : - “Ministers ure in communication with Mr. Chamberlain upon the matter, with a view to avoiding the necessity of holding a conference. If in the end they had to agree to meet delegates from the other Governments interested in the Pacific route, it is understood that they would insist upon the conference being held in Melbourne ?”
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
It is true that a communication was sent to Mr. Chamberlain, to which ho has replied. It is not. a fact that any place of meeting has been suggested in the event of a conference being held.
Referring to the reply given to Senator Neild, on the 22nd July last : - Has any decision been come to in relation to Long Service Military annuities ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Yos ; the annuities conferred under regulations prior to transfer will continue to be paid in accordance with the conditions of those regulations.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I would remind honorable senators that under the new Standing Orders, the first reading of this Bill can be debated, and that the discussion need not be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. Of course the question of the second reading can be debated, but the discussion must be relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill.
– I do not desire to have a debate on the Bill at the present time.
– -I thought it was my duty to call the attention of honorable senators to the provisions of the Standing Orders.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Ordered (on motion by Senator Drake) -
That the first reading of the Bill stand an order of the day for to-morrow. 10 t 2
– I rise to move the motion standing in my name-
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence, before he begins his speech, whether he does not think it advisable that we should consider this motion in Committee.
– It is irregular for an honorable senator to ask a question now. The Minister is entitled to address the Senate.
– I think it would be as well to take the discussion in the Senate.
– The honorable senator is entitled to proceed.
– I propose to proceed with my speech.
– We shall have to move an amendment.
– In any case it is desirable that I shall open the discussion in the Senate j and if afterwards it should be considered advisable to go into Committee, that will be a question for the Senate to determine.
– No. If a debate is initiated in the Senate it cannot be finished in Committee.
– Would it not be competent, sir, for a senator to move an amendment that the Senate should go into Committee to consider the motion in detail %
– No. ‘
– That course has been taken.
– Yes ; but I pointed out that it was irregular and objectionable to have one half of the debate on a question in the Senate and the other half in Committee.
– But that would apply to a Bill.
– No. The debate on the second reading of a Bill takes place in the Senate, and its details are discussed in the Committee. This motion was given notice of for discussion in the Senate, and if the Minister for Defence makes his speech in the Senate it will not be in accordance with the Standing Orders for the Senate to then go into Committee upon it. If any honorable senator wished to have the motion considered in Committee he ought to have given notice of an amendment. The Minister for Defence is in possession of the Chair, and entitled to proceed.
– Would it not lie in order, after the motion has been moved, for an honorable senator to propose that it should be considered in detail in Committee?
– In that case the Senate is powerless to interfere with the decision arrived at by one honorable senator. A Minister may say - “ I propose to debate this question in the Senate. If the rest of the senators are anxious to have the discussion in Committee, I sholl not consent to that course.” I submit that it is irregular for any senator to bring forward his business in such a manner us to stifle the method of discussion which is frequently adopted when a complicated question has to be considered. While it is perfectly true that the debate on the main principles of a Bill is taken in the Senate, still in Committee each clause is open to the fullest discussion. I submit, sir, that it would be in order to allow honorable senators an opportunity of discussing each one of the nine proposed resolutions embodied in this motion. It might be that the Senate would be in favour of the first, second, and third of the proposed resolutions, but opposed to the fourth and fifth.
– It could be split up in the Senate.
– If one honorable senator should move the omission or the amendment of the second of the proposed resolutions, and another senator wished to amend the third, fifth, and sixth, we should get into an interminable entanglement. While I recognise, sir, that your desire is to preserve the good order of debate, at the same time I submit that it is no part of your duty to ‘take a course of action unless it is strictly supported by Standing Orders, which might have a tendency to stifle full discussion. We recognise that it is your duty to protect the rights of every senator, and to see that no senator is allowed to suffer an injustice. I suggest, sir, that it would be much more convenient to permit of an amendment to this motion being moved, so that all the sections might be considered in detail in Committee.
– I wish to support the remarks of Senator Gould. It appears to me that the first portion of the motion contains the principle of the whole matter, md that if that principle were discussed and decided in Committee we could then proceed to deal with the details. In that way we should be doing our work in a proper manner. I do not see how we can consider the motion in the Senate without getting into a great tangle, and I think it probable that we should not achieve the result which we all seek.
– Before thediscussion is continued, and without giving a definite ruling, I wish to say a few words. All I have said is that it is not competent for one half of the discussion to take place in the Senate and the other half in Committee. Probably honorablesenators have forgotten that, under the new Standing Orders, fifty or 100 amendments can be moved to a series of proposed resolutions such as are embodied in this motion, and that a senator can speak to each amendment. In these circumstances I cannot see very much difference between a discussion in Committee and a discussion in the Senate. Senator Dobson has given notice of his intention to move an amendment to the motion. If it is negatived any senator can move an amendment to the motion after the initial word “that.” Every proposition in the motion can be discussed: an amendment can be moved to every proposition ; and every senator can speak to each amendment. What has been suggested has been done on a previous occasion, but I pointed out at the time that it was irregular and improper, and not in order. There were peculiar circumstances in that case.
– The Minister must move the motion before an amendment can be moved.
– Yes ; I do not see how we can have one half of the discussion in the Senate and the other half in Committee.
.- I submit a suggestion which I think will meet the convenience of the Minister, and will also suit Senator Higgs and those who desire to go into Committee. The Minister desires to make a speech in the Senate. Suppose that the honorable and learned senator, instead of submitting this motion, moves the Senate into Committee to consider itHe could then make his- speech in the Senate in support of going into Committee to consider the motion. That would enable him to traverse the whole ground. Thus the course would be clear for those who desire the motion to be considered in Committee.
– I may be able to shorten this discussion by saying that I have no objection whatever to the whole matter being debated in Committee. I think that it would be decidedly better for me to speak first. My reason for hesitating was that it appears that when we go into Committee, if we strictly comply with the Standing Orders, we shall be tied down to speaking to the first of the proposed resolutions. But it may make very little difference in this case, because the first contains the whole principle. Probably honorable senators could make what could be called second-reading speeches upon that proposed resolution. In some cases it might be decidedly inconvenient to go into Committee, and be prevented from speaking on the whole question. However, I do not think that difficulty will arise in the present, case. I move -
That the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole for the purpose of considering the following proposed resolutions : -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee :
– Now that the motion is to be considered in Committee the proposed resolutions will be put seriatim, and I shall allow what may be called second-reading speeches to be made on the first of them. The first having been carried, of course honorable senators will be confined to the subject-matter of the question before the Committee.
– I move -
That, with a view of facilitating the performance of the obligations imposed On Parliament by section 125 of the Constitution, it is expedient that a Conference take place between the two Houses of the Parliament to consider the selection of a seat of government of the Commonwealth.
In submitting the first of these proposed resolutions to the Senate I point out that we are now taking another step, and a very important step, towards the completion of the Federation which was inaugurated in January, 1901. The importance of the subject will, I think, be apparent to all honorable senators. Various matters that have engaged the attention of the Senate up to the present in connexion with Federation have been in the direction of assisting to complete the work that was commenced when the Commonwealth was formally established in January, 1901. It is proposed by means of this motion to take the important step of deciding upon where the seat of the Federal Government shall in future be located. In this matter we really have no precedent that can serve us as a safe guide. We have the instances of two Federations - the Federation of the United States, and the. Federation of Canada; but in each of those instances the history of the choice of the capital site will serve, I think’, rather more as a warning than as an example. Especially is that so in the case of the United States, where, as honorable senators are aware, the matter was in issue for a very great number of years ; where rather more than twenty sites were offered to the United States Government ; and where other considerations than those of suitability had weight in determining the adoption of one site or another. Those who have read the biography of Alexander Hamilton, or the book The Conqueror, which is founded upon his life, will be aware that eventually the fixing of the capital was decided as a sort of make-bait in connexion with the discussion of financial proposals which had been introduced by Mr. Alexander Hamilton. In order ‘to obtain the support of the great democratic leader, Jefferson in connexion with his financial proposals, he agreed to help him in connexion with the location of the Federal Capital. I think we must all desire very earnestly that nothing of that sort should arise in the history of this young Commonwealth. In deciding the matter of the Federal Capital, we have always to bear in mind the form of Government under which we are existing. We have to recollect that it is a Federation of six States, politically equal. It follows, I think necessarily, that it is exceedingly desirable - almost essential, I might say - that the capital of the Federation should not be in the capital of any one of the States. That was seen clearly by the framers of the Constitution, and by leading public men interested in Federation, who were looking ahead, from a period many years anterior to the framing of the Constitution. It was seen that it was necessary that the capital of the Federation should not be in the capital of any one of the States, but that it should be in territory which should belong to the Commonwealth, and be neutral so far as all the States were concerned. Again, the Constitution, as it was finally adopted by the Melbourne Convention on the 16th March, 1898, contained a provision with regard to the capital site. It was clause 124, and it read as follows : -
The seat of government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory vested in the Commonwealth. Until such determination, the Parliament shall be summoned to meet at such places within the Commonwealth as a majority of the Governors of the States, or, in the event of an equal division of opinion amongst the Governors, as the Governor-General shall direct.
It will be remembered tha.t the Constitution containing that provision was submitted to the people. In the State of New South Wales, the law provided that a certain minimum affirmative vote should be necessary. The Constitution was rejected by the people of that State. Subsequently, in January of 1899, the Premiers of the various colonies met in conference, and amongst other things they reconsidered that particular clause. I will not refer tothe details of the discussion which took place in connexion with the framing, of the original clause of the Constitution, because probably most honorable senators have seen it. The representatives of the various States moved that the capital should be in their particular territories, bub in each case.those proposals were set aside. All attempts of the kind were defeated. Atthe subsequent meeting of Premiers, in January, 1899, the matter was reconsidered, and, in place of the clause which I have quoted, the following section was inserted. Honorable senators will notice as I read it the change that was made from the clause of the Constitution that had not found favour with the people of New South Wales. The new section, No. 125, reads as follows : -
The seat of government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament and shall be within territory which shall havebeen granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and, if New South Wales be an original State, shall be in that State, and be distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney.
Such territory shall contain an area of not less than .100 square miles, and such portion thereof as shall consist of Crown lands shall be granted to the Commonwealth without any payment therefor.
The Parliament shall sit at Melbourne until it meet at the seat of Government.
That was the form in which the Constitution was submitted to the people of the various States at dates from June, 1S99, toSeptember, 1899, and in that form the Constitution was accepted by the people of thewhole of the States of Australia. That is the point from which I think we have tostart in dealing with this important matter of selecting the site of the Federal capital. The Government have been charged with delay in not having brought the subject to the present stage earlier. We have also been charged with undue haste - with endeavouring to rush the matter. I apprehend that we may take those conflicting charges as evidence that we have steered the proper safe course, and have proceeded in this business with all expedition.
– With expeditious caution.
– With expeditious caution - I thank the honorable senator foithat phrase. I think that if we had hastened more than we have done we should have been in danger of not giving sufficient time to insure an absolutely wise choice. What is necessary is to give all the time that should be given, and to see that all the means that could be employed are employed to insure that Parliament, before giving a decision upon this most momentous question, shall have before it all the evidence that it is possible to obtain without causing unnecessary delay. It will be remembered that the last referendum was taken on the 2nd September, 1899, and in Novemberof that year Mr. Alexander Oliver, the President of the Land Court of New South Wales, was appointed for the purposeof inquiring and reporting upon the suitability of sites. That gentleman proceeded to report upon the various sites that had been pointed out, and recommended within what has been called the favoured area/ - that is to say, the whole of New South Wales, excluding the 100-miles radius from Sydney. His report was laid upon the table of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales on the 30th October, 1900. I may mention also that’ that report was circulated amongst all the members of the Federal Parliament as soon as it was ready. In June, 1901, steps were taken with a view of enabling members of this Parliament, who desired to visit the suggested sites, an opportunity of seeing them. In January, 1902, a number of the members of the Senate went on a long tour through New South Wales, visiting most of the sites that had been reported upon by Mr. Oliver. At the same time a correspondence was proceeding between the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales with regard to the action that should be taken by the Government of that State in con n ex ion with the territory which migh t eventually be chosen for the purpose. This correspondence, which, is somewhat voluminous,
And which has been printed and circulated amongst honorable members, started on the 13th April, 1901, when the Premier of New South Wales was asked whether the Government of that State was -
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.
It was intimated that the Federal Government desired -
To consider offers of tracts of larger area than the minimum prescribed.
And it was also suggested that the Governanent of New South Wales should reserve
Crown lands within the areas offered. In reply to that letter the Premier of New South Wales stated that steps had been taken to reserve all Crown lands within three of the areas referred to, and asking whether there were any other sites, with regard to which the Prime Minister would desire that similar action should be taken. The course of the correspondence shows that other places were indicated as sites that might probably be chosen, and the Government of New South Wales took similar action with regard to those sites, in reserving lands within reasonable distance of the areas. The next thing done by the Government, in addition to carrying on that correspondence, was the appointment of a Commission of Experts. They were appointed at the end of 1902. The commission consisted of Mr. John Kirkpatrick, Mr. A. W. Howitt, Mr. Henry C. Stanley, and Mr. Graham Stewart. They were requested to report on certain sites that had been named by the Federal Parliament. Parliament first of all, by resolution, indicated particular sites, including nearly all those which had been reported on by Mr. Oliver, and asked the Commission of Experts to examine into them. Eight sites were named. The commission were empowered to take evidence, and to report upon the sites with regard to the following particulars. I quote this to show how very searching was the inquiry that was committed to these gentlemen.
– Is not the honorable and learned senator going to refer to Mr. Oliver’s report?
– I have already referred to it.
– Is that all the honorable and learned senator is going to say about it?
– Does the honorable and learned senator expect me to read the whole of Mr. Oliver’s report ? I have read for my own information all those parts of it which appeared to me. to have anything to do with this inquiry. But honorable senators have had copies of the report and of the other reports to which I am going to refer. We have had since the presentation of Mr. Oliver’s report the report of the Commission of Experts who were required to report upon the proposed sites in regard to the following particulars : - 1. Accessibility; 2. Means of communication ; 3. Climate ; 4. Topography; 5. Watersupply; 6. Drainage ;
– Broad enough surely.
– Broad enough surely. Those gentlemen took a considerable time in making their inquiries. They called evidence with regard to the questions enumerated, and the report itself dated 16th July, 1903, has been . placed in the hands of honorable senators. There, again, is more evidence which has been collected and laid before Parliament with a view of enabling us to arrive at a wise decision. Honorable senators have received what is called a short review by Mr. Oliver of the report of the Commission of Experts, a review which was laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly of New South wales on the 20th August, 1903. There is another report by the Commission of Experts, dated 4th August, 1903, on an additional site submitted to them subsequently to the presentation of the report on the eight sites to which I have referred. It will be seen that the Government have been in correspondence with tho Government of New South Wales in regard to the probable action of the latter in connexion with any site which may find favour with the Commonwealth Parliament, and along with Mr. Oliver’s report on a number of sites, we have the report of the Commission of Experts. Then we have the advantage - I presume it is an advantage - of the information that honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives have been able to glean by a visit to the localities. In addition, honorable senators have had supplied to them a great deal of information with regard to nearly every site. That information has been compiled - no doubt with great care - and circulated at the expense of persons who may be interested in particular sites. Of course, that evidence may be considered as rather tainted with partiality, seeing that it has been distributed for the purpose of inducing favourable consideration to be given to particular sites ; but, still, it is information which, I dare say, honorable senators will not be inclined to altogether despise. It is very desirable that there should be no undue delay in deciding the question. We must all, I think, agree that vested interests ought not to be allowed to rise in connexion with any particular site, and thus prevent Parliament from having an absolutely free hand.
– Vested interests are the most deadly influence with which weshall have to contend.
– lt was with the object of preventing the creation of vested interests that the Government communicated with the Government of New South Wales, asking the latter to reserve lands within any reasonable distance of areas which might possibly be selected. In spite of those efforts, however, we cannot fail to see the possibility of speculations in land within as certain distance of particular sites.
– I think speculation! has commenced already.
– That may be so ; and the further speculation is allowed to proceed, the greater will be the difficulty of choosing; the site, and the greater the probability of the selected site not being the most suitable. All the arguments which have been advanced, as to the undesirability of choosing a. site now, have been used before in connexion with other Federations. In the United States, when it was proposed to fix the capital on a portion of Maryland, near the Potomac River, the site was .described as a howling malarial wilderness.
– Those words have quite a familiar sound.
– Nearly every place mentioned as a possible site for the capital, of the Commonwealth has been described in similar terms of opprobrium. We may befairly well assured, however, that after the exhaustive inquiries which have been made by Mr. Oliver, by the Commission of Experts, and by honorable senators, and members of the House of Representatives, there is not the slightest possibility of any more suitable sites having escaped notice. By a process of selection, the number of sites has been gradually reduced, and we may be quite satisfied* that the place which will be chosen will’ be one of the sites examined and reported on. Therefore I cannot see that any possible gain will result from further delay. I do not think it is necessary for me to raisethe question of the necessary expenditure in connexion with the ultimate settlement on asite in the territory to be granted by the Government of New South Wales, and accepted by the Commonwealth. That question clearly does, not arise now. Whether the expenditure be great or little, the necessity for fixing the site remains j and all the arguments which appear to have any weight tend to show the desirability of the question being determined with as little delay as possible.
– That is admitted ; but what we want to know is the reason for the proposed method of selection.
– That is exactly what I am coming to. If we are all .agreed’ that there should be no delay, and that there has been a thorough examination of the areas in which the site of the Federal capital must be - that we have before us all the ‘evidence that can be obtained up to the present - the question is, how the choice of Parliament is to be made. The Constitution provides that the seat of the Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by Parliament. How are we to get a determination from the Parliament, consisting of the two Houses ? The motion proposes, in the first place, that there shall be a Conference between the two Houses. That is to say, before a Bill is brought in to indicate the choice of a particular site by Parliament, the members of both Houses shall meet, in Conference in order that they may gain any information required, and thus supplement the evidence already obtained in the ways I have indicated.
– Does the Minister for Defence think that the report of the Com.mission of Experts is incomplete ?
– Everything is incomplete - there is nothing perfect in this world. We might’ go on for a hundred years discussing different sites for a capital, and at the end of that time somebody would jump up and ask for some more information. Mr. Oliver seems to have gone very fully into the matter in his report, and the Commission of Experts went even more fully into details with regard to the particular sites referred to them. Considering the time available since January, 1901, the evidence obtained is reasonably complete - not absolutely complete, but reasonably full. If members of Parliament agree to a Conference, they will be able to obtain any more information that maybe de- sired ; and inasmuch as, in order to effect any*thing the two Houses must ultimately come to be of one mind, it is much better that there should be an opportunity first of all -in a joint sitting to’ hear all that can be urged by members of either House in favour of particular sites.
– Why cannot the information be got from Hansard ?
- Hansard is not published before, but after, the proceedings.
– Besides, we cannot quote Hansard of the same session.
– I am speaking of the probable proceedings at the joint Conference. Each member who is interested in any particular site favoured by his constituency, will have an opportunity of presenting his case in full. If any further evidence is needed it can be obtained, and members of both Houses will have the great advantage of considering the question fully before they pledge themselves in regard to any particular site. Honorable senators will see from the series of motions that, after the Conference, the proposals for the adoption of a site will have to take the form of a measure to be introduced by the Government and carried through both Houses.
– Would the Senate commie itself at the Conference?
– Certainly not. How can the Senate commit itself 1 Members of the Senate and the House of Representatives will sit to hear all the evidence that can be produced with regard to any site, and express a collective opinion. Honorable senators who attach importance to the evidence laid before them by Mr Oliver and by the Commission of Experts, will probably attach some weight to the opinion expressed by the members of both Houses collectively. I know that I should do so myself. I should not accept that expression of opinion as in any way binding on me, or on any other member of the Senate, but I should certainly have some respect for it as the collective opinion of the members of both Houses.
– There will be a moral obligation.
– The two Houses will be in a much better position to come to an agreement by discussing the matter fully and freely beforehand, than they would occupy if the Conference were held after each House had been debating the matter separately, and after, perhaps,’ members had committed themselves to very strong expressions of opinion in favour of some particular site.
– Both Houses would have committed themselves.
– I mean thateach House may have committed itself to a particular site, and, knowing human nature, we can see the probability that at the Conference there would perhaps be a tendency to unduly press the claims of the particular sites favoured. On the part of those who desire that we should in the interests of Australia at large come to a decision, there cannot be the slightest doubt that it is better for us to discuss this matter with our fellow members before we are in any way pledged, and when we have an open mind. I trust, therefore, that the proposal which I submit, will be assented to. If we adopt the method proposed I see no difficulty in the way of our being able to agree on the site this session. I do not propose at this stage - nor indeed at all, because I do not think it desirable - to discuss this question in connexion with any legal difficulties which may arise. We know that, in regard to a portion of section 125 of the Constitution, it has been pointed out that there are certain expressions which may perhaps raise Constitutional questions ; but I do not think that we need discuss these now. We know at the present time, from the correspondence which has taken place between the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales, that fortunately the latter are most friendly disposed in this matter. We have every reason to believe that not only will no difficulties be thrown in the way by the Government of New South Wales, but that, as soon as the Commonwealth Parliament indicates its choice, the State Government will do all they possibly can to carry out the purpose of the Constitution. I regard this as a particularly propitious time to settle the question, seeing that the Government of New South Wales are fully in accord with the Government of the Commonwealth. Delays are proverbially dangerous, and delay in this matter may involve us in difficulties similar to those met with in the United States and in Canada.
– -The Canadian Government were involved in no difficulty, because Queen “Victoria chose .the site at Ottawa.
– No doubt Queen Victoria chose the Canadian capital, but there was great difficulty when Upper Canada and Lower Canada were first united in 1840/ The Federal Parliament sat in Kingston for a short time, but were not satisfied ; subsequently Parliament sat, first in one place and then another, but that arrangement was equally unsatisfactory, and the difficulty was not got over until the Federation of 1 867, when the expedient was adopted of asking the Queen to choose the site. However, there are no difficulties in our way at the present time of carrying out the provisions of the Constitution, and I trust that honorable senators, after duly considering the matter, will agree to the motion, and leave the way free for the Conference proposed bv the Government.
– It seems to me that the speech of the Minister for Defence hasnot touched, or, at any rate, has touched only very lightly on the main issue. Under the Constitution we have to choose a. site, which must be in New South Wales,, and, in my opinion, it does not now concern us very much by what methods the people of Australia arrived at that conclusion. In my opinion we need not at the present moment concern ourselves, to any very great extent at all events, with the reports of the experts. What we have to consider now is whetherthe method by which we are asked to arrive at a conclusion as to what should be the site of the Federal capital, is or isnot a good method. The Constitution provides for a bi-cameral Legislature. There are to be two Houses of Legislature, and. these two Houses are to sit separately, except in the case provided for in section 57. In that section it is enacted that, undercertain peculiar circumstances, when there isa crisis - when both Houses have been dissolved - the methods prescribed by that section shall be adopted, and the two Houses shall sit together. Does not that section by implication enact that the two Houses are not to sit together under other circumstances? If, on this question of the Federal capital, we are to have a Conference consisting of the twoHouses sitting together, why should we not have similar conferences on other questions - on every matter which arises ? I know that this method of procedure will get theGovernment out, of a difficulty. I am always anxious to help the Government, and would verv gladly get them out ‘of a. difficulty if I could come to the conclusion that this procedure would commence and end with the choice of a site for the Federal Capital. But, having once initiated a practice of this nature, we must look ahead. I think that honorable senators should look ahead, and consider that, whenever such. a Conference took place, we should be outnumbered by the members of the House of Representatives. In standing order 330 it is laid down that at a conference the Senate shall be represented by as many members as the House of Representatives. That seems to me a principle which the Senate should uphold. I am very much afraid that the practice which it is desired to initiate would have a tendency to grow. Senator Dobson has given notice of an amendment in which he asks honorable1 senators to affirm -
That this Senate is not prepared to surrender its rights and privileges, and is unable to concur in the proposal to hold a joint Conference of the two Houses, on the ground that at such Conference the Senate would be deprived of some of the powers vested in it by the Constitution.
I do not think that the Senate is asked to surrender its rights and priveliges or its power, because I understand that the object of the conference is to elicit an opinion from the individual members of both Houses, that when that opinion has been elicited neither House is to be bound by it, that the members are simply to be asked to sit together and to tell the Government what they think is the best site.
– But if we are not morally bound, what is the use of going into the Conference1?
– That is the point. If we are not morally bound, if the two Houses should after the Conference go its own sweet way and hold it3 individual opinion, I cannot see much good in the Conference. And if we are to be bound by the’ decision, I object to the Conference, because we should be sitting in an assembly in which we should have only one-half of the voting power of the other House, whereas, by the Constitution Act, the Parliament consists of two co-ordinate Houses, which should each sit in its own chamber and come to its own conclusion. At the same time, I do not think we are justified in putting on record that at such a Conference the Senate would be depriving itself of some of its powers. I look upon the Conference as a somewhat futile proceeding. It is a method of arriving at a certain conclusion which is not to bind anybody. Therefore, I do not think we are being deprived of our powers. If the procedure were to begin and end with the choice of the Federal capital, -very much harm would not be done. What
I am afraid of is that, although it might begin there, it would not end there ; that, concerning some other Bills or subject-matters, it would be argued that it would be convenient for the Houses to sit together, and relieve the Government of the responsibility which they ought to take in introducing measures. .
– It would never be done without the consent of both Houses.
– I would remind the honorable senator that once a precedent is established it always furnishes a strong argument for the continuance of a practice. The Senate may arrive at the conclusion, after due deliberation, that it ought to sit with the other House and determine matters, and, of course, the honorable senator is correct.
– This would not be a determination.
– It would not be a determination, but some honorable senators would feel that they were under a moral obligation to vote for the site which was agreed on. I should not consider myself bound by the decision. As a matter of fact, the motions say that the Conference is only to. give an instruction for the preparation of. the necessary measure. If that is so, why should we have a Conference? I would make the suggestion . to the Ministry, that each House should sit in its own Legislative Chamber, in its own legislative capacity, have an exhaustive ballot, and select the site which it thinks the most preferable. If the Houses came to the same conclusion, the matter would be settled and the Bill could be introduced.
– If they did not.?
– If they did not come to the same conclusion, why should not the Government introduce a Bill containing both the selected sites, and let the two Houses settle the matter in a proper constitutional manner. According to our practice and our Standing Orders, the proper time for a Conference is after it has been proved that the Houses cannot agree, and the other House has similar Standing Orders. I hope that the Committee will not agree to the new practice which the Government seek to initiate, not because, in this instance, very much harm would arise, but because it might lead to most undesirable results in the future.
– It may save time if, after the useful remarks of Senator Baker, I at once move the amendment of which I have given notice, as it goes to the root1 of this matter. I move -
That nil the words after the word “ That,” line 1 , be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “this Senate is not prepared to surrender its rights and privileges, and is unable to concur in the proposal to hold a joint Conference of the two Houses, on the ground that at such Conference the Senate would be deprived of some of the powers vested in it by the Constitution.”
I gave, notice of this amendment, because I conceived that it was sought to bind the Senate to the decision at which the the Conference might arrive. Although Senator Baker and the Minister for Defence have said that we should not be committed to the decision, I take the same view as some honorable senators on my right - that in honour we should be bound to vote for the Bill when it came up, whether the site selected were Tumut or Bombala. I should not consider that I would be doing my duty if, at the conference, I voted for Tumut, and a week later, in the Senate, voted for Bombala. It will be very unwise to depart from the usual parliamentary practice. When a Bill is introduced in the other House we get the benefit of the exhaustive discussion in that House, the benefit of the criticisms of, and the letters in, the press. Our attention is focussed on the Bill. We have plenty of time in which to make up our minds. We hear arguments which, perhaps, we were at first opposed to. After a reasonable time the Bill comes before the Senate and another exhaustive discussion takes place. I shall illustrate my remarks by a reference to the Defence Bill. Two years ago it was initiated in the other House, and a most lengthy discussion took place on the second reading. Its provisions were criticised within as well as without the House, and the Bill was dropped. During the recess we had more reports, more suggestions, more criticisms. In the present session the Bill was introduced in the other House ; it was submitted to exhaustive discussion and criticism, and finally it was forwarded to the Senate, where it has yet to receive the finishing touches. That method of procedure gives time for thought. It puts the Senate in its proper position as the chamber of review - as the second thought of the Commonwealth. It gives time for the formation of opinions.
There is no undue haste, nor can it be said that there is unnecessary delay. If we agree to this motion we shall abandon that procedure, which, I think, is very advantageous, especially where there is room for one or more opinions on the question at issue. My first point is that the Parliament is required by the Constitution to select the site. In this case we must take the ordinary acceptation of the term “Parliament.” The Constitution does not give us the right to decide this matter at a Conference. It says that it shall be decided in the ordinary way, and that is, that the Government shall take their proper responsibility and bring in a Bill toestablish the seat of government. I am reminded of what takes place when a Speaker or a President has to be chosen. The members of the House meet informally, and certain names are submitted and balloted for. Although the result of the ballot is not binding legally, still it is regarded as binding in honour. Suppose that at a Conference a site were chosen by a majority of votes, I take it that we should be practically bound co vote for that site when the Bill came up. I object to a Conference, because it is asking the Senate to give up its voting power. We have a voting power as regards States which is all important. I take it that no honorable senator was sent here to surrender that power. I often think that honorable senators grossly exaggerate the power of the Senate as an Upper Chamber. Except in one respect I can see little difference between the Senate and an ordinary Upper Chamber.
– The honorable and learned senator has a lot to learn.
– The great difference is that the smaller States have equal representation with the larger States in the Senate, and it is that right of equal representation which, I understand, they are asked to give up. With the House of Representatives comprised of seventy-five members and a Senate comprised of thirty-six members, we might have the seat of government selected by a majority of ten, and we might not have a majority of the Senate in favour of that site. For instance, we might have a majority of ten in favour of Tumut, and we might have a majority of the Senate in favour of, say, Bombala. If that is likely to be the result of an exhaustive ballot, I ask honorable senators how we can consent to a Conference in which we should be outvoted ?
– If this is only an ordinary Legislative Council, it does not matter what we do.
– The Senate is not an ordinary .Legislative Council.
– The honorable and learned senator said it was just now.
– I said it was except in one important particular. My honorable friend seems to wish to make the Senate an ordinary Legislative Council by surrendering that very power which makes all the difference between the Senate and an ordinary Upper Chamber. I ask again - What is the good of a Conference if we are not to be bound by its decision? It would be useful to the Government, but it would be far better for the Government to accept their proper responsibility, for the members of the other House to fix upon a site and send up a Bill, and for the Senate, after a lengthy discussion, to perform its functions in a constitutional manner. I am afraid that my honorable friends opposite will say that I desire, by this amendment, to delay the settlement of the question. I earnestly and honestly desire to delay ‘settlement, because, in spite of what I have heard to-day, I believe it would be to the interests of the Commonwealth to do so. I gave notice of an amendment, in which I pleaded for delay, but I do not propose to proceed with that amendment. If a majority of the Senate should be in favour of an immediate selection of a site, I shall go with them at once. I should not agree with their view, but I should not stand here and fight or stonewall. If a majority of honorable senators say that, in the interests of the Commonwealth, this important matter is now ripe for discussion and decision, bearing in mind that that decision will be irrevocable, I shall bow to their will. The present amendment has nothing to do with my desire, in the interests of the public, to delay the selection of the site or the construction of the capital. My only wish is to put the Senate in its proper position and the Government in their proper position, and to secure that full consideration of this question which its importance deserves. Look at the amount “of discussion which was aroused by the Judiciary Bill. In regard to a matter where the decision will -be irrevocable, where more time instead of less time for its consideration is required, the Senate is asked to adopt a course which will give less time to honorable senators for its consideration and less time to the public for the expression of their opinions. Is it right that this most momentous matter, as Senator Drake says, of choosing a capital should be dealt with in far less time than any simple Bill which has yet been introduced ?
– How less time, seeing, that a simple Bill will follow ?
– My honorable friend will try to argue that a thing can be and cannot be at the same moment. I am arguing that this question will be decided at the Conference, and that the Bill will be passed through the Senate as a matter of form. I understand that the Government advise the Parliament to adopt this method of selecting a site. If the Conference is to mean merely a preliminary and unofficial talk let us understand it. But I do not believe that these draft resolutions can be read in that way. ‘ It is proposed that at this Conference the name of the site which absolutely receives the majority of votes shall be reported to the Senate ; and that it is expedient that a Bill be introduced after such report has been made to the Senate to determine the site so reported. Can any one misunderstand that language ? It is to be an instruction both to the Senate and to the Government. I cannot understand how honorable senators can argue that we shall not be bound - that we shall be at liberty to take the Bill that is introduced and negative it, or put it into the waste-paper basket. If we did so, would not the people say that we had been making fools of ourselves and playing with parliamentary business, by going into a Conference of this kind and making a selection, and then saying that we would not be bound by what was done ? Is it to be supposed that,, after the Conference had come to a decision, we should strike out the name agreed to aud add a name of our own ? Then, again, I should like to ask, what is the. meaning of an exhaustive ballot? I think that the motions before the Senate, if they are agreed to - and I hope they will not be - ought to provide that there must be a majority of the members of both Houses of the Federal Parliament at the Conference in favour of a particular site. Do we want to come away from the Conference bound in honour - bound morally - though not bound legally ; the other place having agreed, say, to Tumut by a majority of ten or eleven, whereas a majority of the Senate may be in favour of Bombala or Albury? Is that the way in which we are going to do our business? If we desire not to surrender our privileges by settling this matter more promptly than anything has ever been settled before by this Parliament, we are bound to add to the motion the further proposal that the selection of the seat of the Government must obtain a majority of the members of both Houses of the Legislature. Otherwise, we shall be doing a very wrong and foolish thing. Then I should like my honorable and learned friend, the Minister for Defence, to point out whether there is to be a secret ballot or not - whether the public are to be kept from knowing what takes place or not ? It appears to me that it should not be a secret ballot. Everything should be done openly and in public. The more criticism we have the better. The more the public have an opportunity of expressing their opinions, and criticising and giving us the benefit of their knowledge concerning the proposed sites, the better. Then, again, is the capital site to have a port, or is it not ?
– That is another subject altogether.
– I will reserve that point ; but on behalf of Tasmania I do not feel myself to be at liberty to vote for this motion. I should feel myself to be a traitor to those who sent me here, and to the Constitution, if I concurred in the motion and gave up my voting power as a senator by agreeing to join in any general Conference with another place for the purpose of selecting the site of the capital of the Commonwealth.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - I think that Senator Baker has rightly put the question - that what we should now discuss is the proposed method of selecting the Federal capital ; and I propose to confine my few remarks entirely to that question. Senator Baker and Senator Dobson both seemed to say that if we agree to the holding of the proposed Conference we shall be giving up our rights as a Senate. I take it that that depends upon whether the Conference will result in a legislative act. Will it lead to a legislative act within the meaning of the Constitution t The Constitution only says that the Parliament shall do certain things, and that the two Houses shall sit in separate Chambers in order to do these things - that is, in order to act in a legislative manner. But the proposed Conference would not pass any legislative act. It would not bind the other House to any course of action, nor would it bind the Senate, nor would it bind the Government.
– Then what good is it?
– I propose to show what is the good of ‘ the Conference, but I am speaking now as to the bogey which has been raised that we are giving up the rights of the Senate by passing this motion. I am one of those who believe in conserving those rights. I am not one of those who, like Senator Dobson, is ready to look upon the Senate as a House of review. The idea of the honorable and learned senator getting up to protect the rights of the Senate, and then, saying that he looks upon the Senate merely as a House of review !
– I did not say that.
– The honorable and learned senator said that one of our functions is to be a House of review. But I contend that the Senate is a House in which we can and should initiate legislation.
– Every one knows that.
– The honorable and learned senator is prepared to place the Senate in the same position as a Legislative Council, and yet he accuses those who support this motion with being ready to give away the rights of the Senate. Whenever a question affecting the rights of the Senate does arise I am sure that those who are now supporting the Government will be ready to assert those rights and to see that they are conserved. Let me ask - What have the States to lose by this Conference 1 Is there any fear that the smaller States will suffer at the hands of the larger States because the Senate meets the House of Representatives in Conference 1 If it is a question of State rights, those honorable senators who say so, should be able to indicate some way in which they think the smaller States will suffer as the result of the Conference. As a representative of Western Australia I look at the question in this light. The site for the Federal Capital has to be chosen by both Houses of the Legislature. Before it can be chosen, the two Houses must be in agreement. What is the best way to bring about an agreement? That is the practical question with which we are faced. Will the best way be to introduce a Bill into the Senate or into the House of Representatives containing the name of the proposed site ? The result of that would be that the name that commended itself to one House might not commend itself to the other. “We should then have the two Houses choosing two different sites. That would not tend to bring about an agreement. What possibility will there be of an agreement when both Houses have committed themselves to certain sites ? We know that there is always a certain feeling between the two Houses of the Legislature, that one of them may have to give way to the other upon some important question. We know the feeling that arose in connexion with the Tariff. The other House then felt that it had to give way to the Senate. On a- subsequent occasion, the Senate had to give way to the House of Representatives. There has always been an attempt on the part of one House to score, off the other.
– The Senate did not give way ; the Senate considered that the dispute in question was not large enough to raise the issue involved.
– This is a question which does not affect the smaller States as opposed to the larger ones. It is not a question which should afford a battle ground for a conflict between the two Houses. It is purely an Australian national question. It should be settled in such a way as not to permit one House to score off the other, but in accordance with the interests of the people of Australia. Senator Baker said that inferentially the Constitution provides that the two Houses shall not sit together except on certain contingencies happening. But that is so far as legislative action is concerned. The proposal is not that the two Houses should sit together to legislate. When such a proposal is made it will be time to urge that the Constitution does not give us the power to do so.
– The honorable senator knows that the decision of the Conference will bind the Senate.
– The leader of the Government, who is responsible for the motion now before us, has told us that the Government do not look upon the result of the Conference as one that will be binding upon this or upon the other House. What better assurance can we have than that 1 The Government do not expect the agreement to bind a single honorable senator.
The motion retains power for the Senate when it comes to deal with a legislative act to put in the Bill the name of any place it prefers. It is said that if the Conference is not binding it is of no use. I contend that it is better to have a Conference before a Bill is introduced. A Bill can then be introduced in the light of what is determined by the Conference.
– How does the honorable senator know that both Houses would not agree about a site if a Bill were introduced 1
– I hope they would agree. In my opinion, only one site is “in it,” and I hope that others will agree with my opinion. But whatever difference of opinion there may be as to the proposed sites, I entirely disagree with the view that the votes of the senators at the Conference would be swamped by the votes of the members of the House of Representatives. There will be a division of opinion amongst the members of the House of Representatives, just as there will be a difference of opinion amongst honorable senators. Those who think that the votes of the senators will be swamped overlook the fact that the same division of opinion as exists ‘ here exists there also. The proceedings of the Conference will be useful in paving the way to an agreement between the two Houses. It is because I wish to see this question settled, and recognise the urgency of carrying out the compact that was made between the people of New South Wales and the rest of the Commonwealth, that I desire to see the site fixed as early as possible. I can quite understand Senator Dobson’s objection to the proposed Conference. He has made no secret, at least, since he left Bombala, of his desire to postpone the settlement of the question until some indefinite time in the distant future. I can quite understand him seeing in these proposals a means of bringing the question to a climax.
– Had not the honorable senator better discuss the motion on its merits
– I am doing so; but I cannot forget that the honorable and learned senator has already tried to commit the Commonwealth to delay in connexion with this subject. I trust that those who are disposed to support the honorable and learned senator’s amendment will recollect that by so doing they will be assisting one who has not hesitated to show his hostility to the settlement of the question and his desire to postpone it indefinitely.
– And his desire to undo what the Constitution provides.
– That is not discussing the merits of this motion.
– It cannot be contended that the results of the Conference will have any legislative effect. Therefore, except for purposes of delay, the amendment is unnecessary. After the Conference has met and has come to a decision, a Rill will have to be framed and introduced. The result of the Conference will not bind this Senate one way or the other. If that result does not commend itself to the Senate I am sure that we shall exercise our power of negativing what is proposed rather than stultify ourselves. But I feel that I can attend the Conference and vote there for the site which I favour, and even then, if the result does not meet with my approval, vote against the Bill when it is brought before the Senate. Or I can vote to amend the Bill with a view of inserting the name which I think should be agreed to. The advantage of the Conference is that we shall be able to have a free discussion. “We shall meet the House of Representatives on common ground, and discuss the various proposals which are made. We shall not give away a shred of our legislative power or our control over the legislative action of this Parliament. The idea that we shall be swamped by the other House is altogether ridiculous, because the members of the other House are not combined to support any one sice, but are just as much divided as we are ourselves.
– A small majority in the Senate may turn the tables in the House of Representatives. .
– I believe that that will be the case. It has to be borne in mind that the interests of the two larger States are diametrically opposed to each other in regard to this question.
– And they may combine and vote down the representatives of the other States.
– They cannot do so, because their interests are so diametrically opposed. What suits New South Wales does not suit Victoria, and there is no possibility of an agreement between them. Senator Dobson asks what is the use of the Conference 1 I might say that one use of it is to give the honorable and learned senator a chance of voting On both sides of. a question - a chance of voting for one” site in the Conference, and for another on the floor of the Senate. But it would be kinder to say that it gives him an opportunity of influencing, so far as he is able by his vote and his voice, the members of the House of Representatives, and of affecting in that manner the decision that is arrived at. There is no possibility of doing that so long as we confine our attention to the proceedings of the Senate. More than that, if Senator Dobson is unable to carry out what he believes to be right in the Conference, he still has reserved to him the power by his vote and his voice in this Chamber - if he has a majority of the senators behind him - to prevent the resolution of the Conference being carried out. For these reasons, after giving consideration to the question from all points of view, I am prepared to support the proposal of the Government, believing the method proposed to be the best way of arriving at a settlement of the question.
– I agree with the opinions of the honorable senator who has just sat down. I suppose that all of us in common fairness have come to the conclusion that we should at the earliest possible moment fix the site of the Federal capital. It is only fair to New South Wales, who is keeping ‘ considerable areas of land out of the market. It is only fair also to ourselves, seeing that the Constitution distinctly states that the Federal capital shall be in New South Wales, and not within 100 miles of Sydney. The choice of a Federal capital site has always proved difficult, as was shown in the case of the United States, though not so prominently in the case of Canada. In the Dominion, the Parliament felt that they would hot be able to agree, and, there-‘ fore, the- matter was left to Queen Victoria, who made a most excellent choice of Ottawa. I am not in the secrets of the Cabinet, but I suppose we all know that the Government individually are very much divided as to which is the best site. At any rate, we can readily imagine that to be the case, and there is unmistakably a division of opinion amongst the members of both Houses. If the Government were to introduce a Bill proposing one particular site, its discussion would, no doubt, give rise to party feeling. We know that the duty of the Opposition
Is to oppose, and it Ls hard to imagine that party feeling would be quiescent.
– Why ? ‘
– Party feeling could not be helped under the circumstances, for, as Senator Dobson said a few moments ago, human nature will assert itself. It is exceedingly undesirable that, on an important question of this kind, party, politics should have any influence ; and I do not see any better plan than that of a Conference between the two Houses. By a fair and exhaustive ballot we could, at all events, fix on a site, which could be inserted in a Bill, but which neither House would be bound to support.
– That is what Sir Edmund Barton said about the Naval Agreement.
– I know nothing of the Naval Agreement, except what I have seen in print. Our object should be to keep party politics out of this question of the capital site, and I consider the procedure proposed by the Government the very best under the circumstances. If the proposal be carried out, the name of a particular site will be inserted in the Bill, not by the Government, but by the two Houses at a joint sitting. If, however, I voted for a particular site at a Conference, and I knew that my colleagues in the Senate were, by a fair majority, in favour of another site, I , should not consider myself bound in the Senate to support the site for which I votedat the Conference. Senator Dobson’s whole argument, which rests on the assumption that we, as a Senate, would be bound to agree to the site chosen at the Conference, -falls to the ground. The honorable and learned senator said that we want a great deal more discussion than we have had on this question. But have we not had all the information which it is possible to obtain in regard to the several sites ? We have had Mr. Oliver’s report, and the report of the Commission of Experts.
– Absolutely contradicting each other.
– We have also Mr. Oliver’s second report, severely criticising the report of the Commission of Experts. A great many members of both Houses have visited the sites, and there is enough literature on the subject to enable an honorable senator to stonewall for a week without much trouble. Members of both Houses must have come to some sort of conclusion, after reading all the reports; and I do not see that any further discussion is needed than that which will take place at. the proposed Conference. I anticipate that the proceedings of the Conference will be public - that it will be open to the newspaper reporters - and under these circumstances we shall unmistakably have the fullest and freest discussion. There will be quite as much discussion as we had on the Defence Bill, which Senator Dobson has cited as one of the measures which received great consideration in this Chamber. Senator Dobson contends that Parliament ought to decide the question. But the Conference will consist of the two Houses, and therefore will be Parliament in a larger sense of the word.
– The Conference will not be Parliament.
– And after the Conference, each House will consider the Bill separately.
– And then, I suppose, honorable senators may alter their minds ?
– And then honorable senators may alter their minds.
– That shows the Government proposal to be a farce.
– Would it not be unreasonable if honorable senators could not alter their minds ? The proposal of the Government is, in my opinion, the best which could be made to enable us to arrive at a decision. I do not think it would be wise to allow the determination of the Conference to be final - that it would be wise for the Senate to give up its right to an equal, voice with the other House. No matter how much more numerous the other House may be, the Senate has a voice equal with that of .the House of Representatives in this matter of the Federal capital site. The Conference is merely intended to take preliminary steps for the introduction of a Bill in which one site will be mentioned, and then the fullest opportunity will be given to both Houses to change the site if it should be thought fit. I have already said that if the Government were to introduce a Bill proposing one particular site, the Opposition would probably oppose it for party purposes, and the whole scheme would thus come to grief. The method proposed by the Government may not be perfect, but it is the best under the circumstances. Senator Dobson also urged that by adopting the motion the
Senate would be giving up its voting power ; but that argument I have already answered. I contend that there is no evidence of undue haste. The Minister for Defence pointed out that the Government have been charged, on the one hand, with delay, and, on the other, with undue haste ; and, under the circumstances, I agree with the honorable gentleman in his conclusion that the Government must have hit the happy medium. Whatever the Committee may do in regard to the motion before us, the amendment ought not to be passed. I do not say that the amendment is untrue, but it is inaccurate when it says that the Senate “ is not prepared to surrender its rights and privileges.” No rights and privileges of this Chamber will be surrendered by agreeing to a Conference of the two Houses. The Bill proposing the capital site will have to come before us in the usual course, and there will then be the right to vote in the same way as on any other measure.
– Why did the honorable senator not advocate a Conference on the Defence Bill ?
– A Conference was never suggested. I cannot agree with Senator Dobson that the mode proposed by the Government will deprive the Senate of any of the powers vested in it by the Constitution. The right remains for us to pass a Bill through all its stages in the ordinary course, and all that the Conference can do is to make the choice of one particular site to be inserted in the Bill. It will be a great deal better to negative the motion than to take what I may call the absurd course of passing the amendment. Possibly some one may be able to suggest a better mode than that proposed by the Govern^ ment, but our endeavour should be to lift the question out of party politics, so that each member of either House may vote according to his conscience.
– I do not take the view that this Senate is merely a Legislative Council. I have always been of an exactly opposite opinion. I disagree with both the motion and the amendment, but I distinctly disagree with the motion. I do not like to make reference to the Constitution, because Senator Playford will, no doubt, observe “ King Charles’ head.” Seeing, however, that the “head” is the Constitution, we may as well keep it until we are deprived of it in some way or other. I understand that the proposal before us is simply intended as a way of getting Ministers outof a difficulty.” No one has spoken to me about that matter, but, reading between the lines, that is the conclusion at which I arrive. The Government ask us to pass a motion affirming that -
It is expedient that a Conference take place between the two Houses of the Parliament to consider the selection of a seat of government of the Commonwealth.
How can Senator Playford say that persons who vote for that motion will not be bound by the decision arrived at - that they afterwards will have a free mind ? The very condition of the Conference is that it is expedient that a Bill be introduced todetermine the site of the capital, as reported.
– Is that not a moral obligation 1
– Here is a legislative act, for emphasizing which I am obliged to Senator Dawson -
That it is expedient that a Bill be introduced after such report has been made to the Senate, to determine, as the seat of government of the Commonwealth, the site so reported to the Senate.
How could I, after assisting at a Conference to the creation of which I was a party, afterwards come back to this Chamber and say, “The Conference was only a: friendly chat ; I am now going to do just as I like “1 I hope I take a little higher view than that indicated by the minor considerations of the proposal before us. My view is that it is absolutely wrong tohold this Conference. We have a written inflexible Constitution which we have to; observe, and according to that Constitution there are two Houses of Parliament, each House, within its limits, coextensivein authority. We have means of adjusting disputes. We have the possibility of Conferences ; if a first Conference is inefficient, there is power to suspend our Standing Orders and allow a second. We may allow as many Conferences as we like, and ultimately send representatives to a Conference with instructions to agree to. what we think is the best modus vivendi. Our powers are absolutely unlimited, but they must be exercised constitutionally - they must be within the area of the Constitution which the people have created. Whereis the warrant for the proposal that the two-, Houses shall sit together ? The fixing of a capital site is one of our duties under theConstitution - a legislative duty imposed on
Parliament. “Where is the authority to depart from that duty ? It is a distinct departure from the authority of the Constitution to propose that the two Houses shall sit together, with a self-imposed obligation to pass resolutions, in relation to which, supposing each House be unanimous, the House of Representatives will outnumber the Senate by two to one.
– That is an assumption.
– It is an assumption which we must make in order to reach the reduetio ad absurdum of the proposal before us. The Conference is an absolute abrogation of the Constitution, and it means a promise to legislatively carry out in each House the resolution arrived at.
– It might be made the procedure in regard to every Bill.
– I agree with the honorable senator. In the present instance a Conference may be comparatively unimportant, but I regard it as the “ thin end of the wedge.” It may, though I do not say it will, create a precedent to be used at other times by persons less scrupulous than we are. The precedent might be used to undermine the Constitution and bring about a condition of affairs which neither the framers of the Constitution, nor the people who affirmed it most distinctly ever contemplated. I hope the Committee will not pass the resolution.
– There is a strong and earnest desire on the part of the people of New South Wales to have this question settled at the earliest possible moment. That also is my desire.
– We are all agreed as to that.
– The honorable senator, if rumour be correct, is one who may possibly take up an attitude which will have a tendency to cause still further delay.
– No, no.
-Col. GOULD. - I recognise the difficulty that has been pointed out by the President, and also by Senator Downer, in respect to the course of action now proposed. I recognise that the Ministry have suggested an unusual course of action, but I do not agree with honorable senators when they assume that it is in direct opposition to, or in contravention of the powers vested in us under the Constitution. The proposed resolutions themselves very carefully guard us in that respect. It is shown by them that it will be necessary for a Bill to be introduced, and that it is upon that Bill the action of the Legislature will be determined.
– In the meantime we prejudice every case.
.- Not at all. I admit that this is an extraordinary and exceptional case. I ask honorable senators why members of both Houses should not meet together for the purpose of discussing a matter of common concern in the hope of arriving at a conclusion which will enable us to legislate upon it with the least possible delay.
– There is a very great difference between having a general discussion, and having a discussion and then taking a vote which will be binding upon us afterwards.
– Whether the Government are to blame for the delay that has taken place or not, there is no question that there is a strong feeling out of doors that the Government have been highly accountable for that delay. We are driven now to the very end of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth before we are given an opportunity to deal with this question effectively. As an honorable senator repre-, senting New South Wales, and one who is anxious that the agreement upon which we entered into Federation shall be acted upon, I desire to see it carried out within a reasonable time, and I am, therefore, prepared to go to the extent of concurring , in what might be regarded as an extraordinary course of procedure to settle the question. I recognise, as Senator Playford has said, that the proposal is one which will relieve the Government of considerable difficulty.
– That is the trouble.
.- I believe that at the preseut time the members of the Ministry are not of one mind as to where the Federal capital should be located, and this proposal is made to enable them to overcome the difficulty.
– I do not think it is the business of the Government to decide it.
l- GOULD. - A Government having a true sense of its own responsibility would have accepted the position, and would have submitted a Bill for the selection of the site which they considered most suitable in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Then the honorable and learned senator should vote against the motion.
– The Government does not accept that position, but proposes the adoption of a course which enables them to go to members of Parliament and say - “Tell us which line of action we should adopt,” so that they may be enabled to overcome the difficulty amongst Ministers, and any difficulty which might occur in either Chamber. While I hold that opinion as strongly as any honorable senator can hold it, and while I say that the Government are culpable in not having assumed the responsibility of submitting for approval the site which, in their opinion, would be most suitable, I am not prepared to delay the settlement of the question for an indefinite period.
– Why assume the delay ?
– Because it is preached in the Melbourne newspapers.
-Col. GOULD.- Not only is delay preached in the Melbourne newspapers, but it is directly ‘preached by the honorable and learned senator who has proposed the amendment. If we were to take the ordinary course of procedure in dealing with a matter of this kind very considerable delay would be involved. We will assume, for the sake of argument, that the Government did what they should have done earlier in the session, and introduced a Bill recommending isome particular site to be selected by the Parliament for the Federal capital. Assume, also, that honorable members in another place determined upon one site, whilst honorable senators determined upon another, would that not involve a considerable delay ? We are told that we might have a Conference in such a case, but we might have conference after conference without getting a single “3tep further in the settlement of the question. Honorable members in another place might say - “ We have selected A, and you have selected B, but we are not prepared to accept B.” On the other hand, honorable senators might say that they were not prepared to accept A. What is to be done, then ? Are we to say that, as we cannot agree to either A or B, we shall select C, which both partiesrecognise would not be so suitable as either A or B ? Yet that is the only way in which a difficulty arising out of a Conference could be decided. I remind honorable members that conferences of that kind would occupy considerable time. I may be told in reply that the Constitution provides a means for the settlement of the question. It is true that the Constitution provides for the settlement of a difference between the two Houses, but at what expense of time, and at what expense of money, to the whole Commonwealth 1
– The free-trade party may be coming into power.
– I do not care whether the free-trade or the protectionist party is in power for the purpose of dealing with this question. Section 57 of the Constitution provides -
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which theHouse of Representatives will not agree, and if, after an interval of three months, the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law, with or without, liny amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments co which the House of Representatives will not agree.
The Governor-General may dissolve both Houses of Parliament and send them to the country, in order to determine the question, but this would be at enormous expense and would involve a delay of not less than twelvemonths.
– What was that provision passed for ?
.- Of course it was passed in order to get over dead-locks between the two Houses.
– To insure caution, was it not?
– To insure caution ! I can understand that honorable senators who are anxious for delay will regard this as a very valuable provision in the Constitution.
– Why say that t The honorable and learned senator has no reason for saying that.
– The honorable and learned senator must know that many of usare not anxious for delay.
– The honorable and learned senator has no justification for saying that.
.- Section 57 of the Constitution was passed in order to deal with a matter in connexion with which the two Houses could not come to any conclusion, and which they considered o£ sufficient importance to justify extraordinary steps being taken to arrive at a settlement. So far as the Federal capital site is concerned, it cannot be said that it is not a matter that Parliament must determine in some way or another. It is not a matter which can be put on one side and allowed to rest, as might be the case with many . a Bill, until popular opinion changed upon the subject. If we take, for instance, such a question as was dealt with by the other House recently in the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, we shall find that that is a matter which Parliament can afford to allow to stand over until public opinion is crystallized in one direction or another, but this question of the selection of a Federal capital site is in an entirely different position. It is a question which under the Constitution must be settled. Whether we shall pass a compulsory Arbitration and Conciliation Bill is not a question which under the Constitution must be settled. lt may be left unsettled for all time without the Constitution being in any way violated. But if we say that the choice of the Federal capital site is a matter which may be left to all time -we shall directly contravene the Constitution, and it will be not only a breach of the Constitution but a gross breach of faith with the people of New South Wales, because it is a notorious fact that it was one of the conditions upon which they accepted Federation that the Federal capital should be in that State.
– But . there is no specified time.
– I am aware of that, but the Constitution says that we must have a Federal Capital and that it must be in New South Wales ; and that our Parliament shall sit in Melbourne only until the capital is selected. That does not mean that we are at liberty to delay the settlement of the question for an indefinite period. It means that we shall settle it with all reasonable haste and expedition.
– We are all agreed about that.
– But honorable senators all favour methods which make for delay.
.- Everything advocated here makes for delay. If we were to adopt the constitutional course provided in section 57, by means of which deadlocks may be surmounted, it would involve a delay of a period of three months between the passing of two Bills, then a dissolution of both Houses of Parliament, and an election throughout the Commonwealth.
– What have we done in the direction of delay? We never heard of the matter before.
– It is a new discovery.
.- I do nob think it is a new discovery. I am pointing out my objection to this particular course. And I remind honorable senators that if even then both Houses cannot agree we must adopt the very course which Senator Drake asks us to take to-day.
– Zeal. - We should try the constitutional method first.
– I am not prepared to wait twelve months to try it. I think we have waited long enough already. Section 57 of the Constitution provides that if after the re-election the Houses do not agree upon the Bill the Governor-General may convene a joint sitting of members, of both Houses. Then the members present at the joint sitting deliberate and vote together upon the proposed law ; and, although the Senate only numbers thirty-six members and the other Chamber seventy-five, the Senate will have no greater voting power proportionately than it will under the present proposal.
– But here we have an equal voting power with the other House.
.- At the present time we have ; but when it comes to a direct conflict between the two Houses, which may possibly happen if the course suggested be adopted, the twc Houses may have to sit together, and if the House of Representatives chooses to use its weight of members it can overpower the Senate, and force it into a position which that House may desire it to take.
– Will the Conference here proposed do away with that possibility ?
.- This Conference may not do away with it, but it will have a strong tendency to do so. Therefore the Ministry say - shirking the duty which properly devolves upon them and leaving the matter to be settled late in the session - “ Let both Houses come together and see if by arguments at a Conference they cannot arrive at some conclusion which will be acceptable to both.”
– And that conclusion may not be upheld.
.- Of course the matter will have to be dealt with afterwards, but I am disposed to say with Senator Downer that I should be strongly inclined to be guided by the decision of the Conference, even though it favoured the selection of a site which I did not consider altogether the best one. We have all some preconceived idea in favour of a particular site, and when we hear the views of other honorable senators expressed we may find that they will throw additional light upon the subject.
– Has the honorable and learned senator in all his parliamentary experience ever known a vote to be affected in that way?
.- Votes are sometimes altered in that way. When a man joins a conference with no very strong views, he may, after listening to arguments, come to a conclusion which will help to swell the majority. I say that the course now proposed is, under the circumstances, the only course open if we are determined that the question shall be settled during the present session of Parliament.
– There is no guarantee that this will settle it.
– I am aware of that, but this is the only course which in my opinion affords a possibility of settling it. We know very well that there cannot be very much work done by the present Parliament in any case. The term of office of, certain honorable senators will expire at the end of the current year, and a fresh election must take place, probably in December. We know that honorable senators must be given an opportunity of visiting their constituents, and while this is going on the other House cannot sit and do business. We know perfectly well that a general election will be upon us in all probability in the month of December, and I say that it is most important that we should be in a position to tell the people that we have settled upon the place which is to be the future capital of Australia. We can only put ourselves in such a position by adopting the proposal of the Government. We are told that this proposal contravenes the Constitution. I admit that it is not the course laid down in the Constitution, but the Constitution is not intended to deter us from dealing with matters in any way other than that directly provided for therein, so long as we do not contravene its provisions. We have certain powers under the Constitution, and we can only legislate in the manner provided ; but surely it will not be contended that we are not to have an opportunity of meeting together and discovering whether it is not possible to arrive at some common conclusion which will hasten legislation upon what is certainly not a party question. With all due respect to Senator Playford, I do not regard this as a matter in connexion with which the Opposition would . believe it to be their duty to oppose any proposal made by the Government. If the Government proposed the selection of a site which would be considered suitable by the Opposition they would receive the most hearty support at their hands. Honorable senators are, no doubt, aware that a deputation representing the Opposition recently waited upon the Prime Minister, and the members of that deputation pledged themselves to do all they could to assist the Government to select a site at the earliest possible moment. After they have done that, is it fair to assume that they would oppose, merely for the sake of opposition, any particular proposal made by the Government. I hope honorable senators will recognise that the course proposed by the Government is the only course open to us for the settlement of this question at the present time.
– Is that the result of the honorable senator’s parliamentary experience?
.- One result of my parliamentary experience is that it is sometimes necessary to adopt extraordinary measures if a proper decision upon a question is to be arrived at.
– I should like to hear some justification, for it.
.- The justification I put forward is that under our Constitution we are bound to select a site for the future capital of the Commonwealth.
– This session?
– We are bound to deal with the question within a reasonable time, and we have no right to postpone action in the matter indefinitely. If we desire to do that, the Constitution provides a proper course to take. We know perfectly well that we could not secure an amendment of the
Constitution of the character suggested. I say that the time has now arrived when we should select the site of the Federal capital, and we should not allow the question to stand over in an indefinite way, as some honorable senators desire. Senator Playford has clearly pointed- out that we shall not be depriving the Senate of any of its . powers by meeting honorable members in another place in Conference in the way proposed. So far as I could gather, Senator Dobson in his speech in no way showed that we should be deprived of any of our powers by agreeing to the proposals submitted by the Government. Certainly there is a possibility that, notwithstanding the Conference, we may not be able to settle the question except by the mode prescribed by the Constitution itself, but still I say we should in the first instance- try any means which may assist us to deal with the question speedily, and show the people of the Commonwealth that Parliament has not regarded the compact contained in the Constitution as a mere farce. We know that under the Constitution the question of Customs duties had to be dealt with within a limited period of two years.
– No Conference was suggested at that time.
– It was felt that it should be the very first business dealt with by the Federal Parliament, and a time was fixed in order that there should be. no unnecessary delay in dealing with that matter.
– It is better that there should be a delay of twelve months than that a bad site should be selected.
.- Why should the honorable senator assume that a bad site may be selected?
– Certainly, if we are going to rush it in this way.
.- When the matter has not been decided in three years, I do not think that can be regarded as rushing.
– How long is it since Mr. Oliver’s report was sent in? It is not three weeks.
.- How long is it since Mr. Oliver’s first report was circulated? I admit that his last report was submitted only recently, but it is merely a criticism of the recommendations of other I people. Has the honorable senator not had time to read it?
– How long will it bebefore it is adopted ?
.- If the honorable senator chooses to take that line, I would ask him when he thinks many matters contemplated by the Constitution should bedealt with ? I would ask him why he did not leave the appointment of the High Court to the next Parliament.
– Because it wasnecessary.
– I should haveliked the Minister to have dealt with the whole of the proposed resolutions when he spoke.
– We shall come to theothers in time. I said everything which, bore on the first of the proposed resolutions.
– Another proposal which was made in the course of theaddress was that each’ House should have the opportunity of sitting by itself in Conference and determining upon a site, and that if their choice did not fall upon the samesite the two alternative sites should be submitted in a Bill. Of course it is only another easy method of relieving the Government of the responsibility which they should assume. If it is desirable for each House to sit by itself inConference how much more desirable is it to afford an opportunity to the members of the Senate to hear the arguments which might be adduced by the members of the other House, and vice versâ.
– They will read them, in Hansard.
.- How much better would it be for the members of both. Houses to take part in a general discussion in. a Conference, and to answer any arguments which might be used, more especially when the question must be dealt with finally by Bill in the ordinary way ? Suppose that a member were to vote in the Conference foiplace A, and the Bill were to refer to place B, he would be at liberty to advocate the substitution of the former. The only disadvantage that I recognise in this procedureis that many will consider themselves bound by the decision of the Conference. If anyhonorable senators hold that view they will not be able to complain of the site which may be selected ultimately. I earnestly ask honorable senatorsnot to look upon this extraordinary course of procedure as one which is likely to be drawn into a precedent. So f ar as I can judge, there will never be any circumstances arising which would justify its adoption again. Let honorable senators show the people of the Commonwealth that they are now prepared to deal with this question. We have had report after report on the subject, and every opportunity of inspecting the different sites.
– The people are not clamoring for the selection of the site.
– The honorable senator forgets that there are some persons who desire to see questions settled quickly. Even if there were no demand for the immediate settlement of this question, every member of this Parliament is pledged to carry out this constitutional mandate as early as practicable. Why should honorable senators urge a course of action which could only tend to cause further delay and disappointment?
– There is no real urgency in this matter. There is nothing to be gained by hastening the selection of a site.
-Col. GOULD. - Is there anything to be gained by having the capital anywhere except in Melbourne ?
– No ; I think it is likely to lead to great loss.
– The Parliament of the Commonwealth, instead of being accommodated in its own Houses, is dependent on the great generosity of the Victorian Government, which placed these premises at our disposal.
– The Parliament can have the premises as long as it likes.
– We are willing to go to Sydney, and occupy the State Parliament House.
-The people of Sydney say - “We entered the Commonwealth on certain conditions, and we do not ask for any change.”
– What does Sir John See say ?
– I do not care what he says. There are many persons who would like Sydney to be the Federal capital, but that is irrelevant to the question before the Committee. I hope that honorable senators will not by their votes help to cause that undue delay which is likely to take place unless this motion is adopted.
– It is very pleasing indeed to hear at last a voice from New South Wales. The modesty and retirement of honorable senators from that State this afternoon is as surprising as it is commendable. Their natural inclination is to be turbulent and aggressive, but this afternoon another side of their character has been shown. I listened very carefully to Senator Gould, ‘ and I gathered from his remarks that he was expressing the views of New South Wales on this proposition. The burden of his song was that the rejection of this motion would mean unnecessary delay in the selection of a site. With the reasons which he gave I absolutely agree, but with the conclusion at which he arrived I entirely disagree. I contend that by the acceptance of this motion we should assist the Government to delay the selection of a site. Suppose that the Houses met in Conference, the discussion would be as wide as the discussion on a Bill in the other House.
– It would last until Christmas.
– It would all depend upon the wind of the representatives of New South Wales and the leather ‘ lungs of the representatives of Victoria. The representatives of other States would have to sit and suffer. That would be the first result. A Bill would then have to be introduced to carry out its decision. In each House it would be quite competent for a member to move that another site should be adopted, and if defeated to go through the list of sites. Every hour spent in the Conference would be so much time lost. With the limited time at our disposal,’ and with one half of the senators preparing to appeal to their constituents, every hour is very precious, and no waste of time should be encouraged. A Conference could result in no gain. The Government should have accepted their full responsibility in this matter. The proposal for a Conference is a shirking of Ministerial responsibility. It is idle for the Minister for Defence and for Senator Playford - who, I suppose, will shortly be leading the Senate - to say that” a Conference is necessary, in order that the Government may elicit the opinion of the members of each House. This question has been under the consideration of the Government ever since the Parliament was opened. They asked ex-Commissioner Oliver, at great expense, to go over the sites and to furnish a report. After making an exhaustive inquiry, he sent in a full report. The Government, after due deliberation and certainly undue delay, came to the conclusion’ that it was not full enough to justify them in bringing down a Bill. Then they appointed a commission of professional men competent. to report on the various features necessary in a district to justify its selection. The Government not only obtained this diversity of talent, but they chose men representative of the States. These experts went to the various sites and made a report, which was submitted to the Parliament. Apparently the Government have accepted the report. In my opinion they should have accepted their full responsibility and brought down a Bill in accordance with that report. I know that Sir William Lyne said he had made arrangements for a “ fair go” between Tumut and Albury. I do not know whether he meant a fight to a finish, or a twentyround contest ; and I am not sure whether it is the Mayor of Albury that Sir William Lyne is going to have this “ go” with. The Government should have exhibited their full responsibility upon that report. It is really the second of the reports they called for. The first report was that submitted by a man who was supposed to be highly qualified, namely, Mr. Oliver, of New South Wales. But it was not satisfactory to the Government. In order to obtain a more satisfactory report, they appointed a Commission of Experts, qualified in every respect, to find out in which particular district the favorable circumstances were so concentrated as to justify the selection of that place as the Federal Capital. That was the excuse made all along by the Prime Minister for .the delay in fixing the capital site, and bringing on a discussion something like that in which we are now engaged. The Government have had that expert’s report. But they now propose to shirk their responsibility. I am not prepared to allow them to do so. I would not permit them to shirk their Ministerial duty in such a shuffling manner as that. I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators to this aspect of the question, due to the gross shirking of Ministerial responsibility. The Government accepted the report of the experts whom they appointed, but they have not . founded a Bill upon that report. But what did they do with the electoral divisions - taking that matter by way of contrast 1 The Government appointed Commissioners. In all those cases where the reports of the Commissioners were acceptable to the Government, they brought in a Bill founded on them. They accepted
Ministerial responsibility. In all those cases where the reports were not favorable to theGovernment, they still accepted Ministerial responsibility by bringing down a proposal to disagree with what the Commissioners recommended. In both instances the Government observed Ministerial responsibility. But in this case they shirk it in the most shameful manner. I am very much surprised that a constitutional authority and a. man with a large parliamentary experience like Senator Gould should encourage the Government to shirk its duty and its responsibility.
– I do not think the honorable senator found me doing that the other day.
– What the honorable and learned’ -senator did “the other day “ is not involved in this matter.
– I have stated what I think of the action of the Government.
– The honorable and learned senator has delivered a speech which is a very severe indictment of the Government for not accepting their Ministerial responsibility, and bringing in a Bill founded upon the report which they apparently accepted. But he has done what many wobbling politicians often do. They give strong reasons for disagreeing with the proposals of a Government, but they finish up with a “ but.” They say, “but on this occasion, I will support them, notwithstanding their sins.” I say that the honorable and learned senator attached that “ but “ to his speech this afternoon. There has been no more severe indictment of the attitude of the Government than that delivered by Senator Gould ; but he finished lip by saying, “ But on this particular occasion I am willing to forgive all their sins of omission and commission, and vote for the motion they have proposed.”
– I do not forgive them ; I did not say I forgave them.
– The honorable and learned senator intends to give them absolution at any rate. The only reason given by Senator Gould for voting for the motion is that its rejection would mean delay. I say that it is entirely the other way about. The most expeditious, as well as the most honest and straightforward way in which to proceed is to insist that the Government shall take their full responsibility.
– How can we ?
– By refusing to go into the Conference ; by saying - “ We will have no hand or part in it.” That would absolutely compel the Government to do one of two things - either to accept their full Ministerial responsibility, and to bring in a Bill founded upon the Commissioner’s report, or to reject that report and drop the whole matter. Then they would have their full responsibility for their actions upon their shoulders. It came as a surprise to me to hear the responsible mouthpiece of the New South Wales senators talking about delay in the selection of the capital site. Certainly the Government cannot escape blame in not confining the Commission to a hard and fast date when they should submit their report. But the New South Wales representatives are very much to blame for the delay, owing to the fact that in consequence of the greediness of the New South Wales representatives, both in the Senate a,nd the House of Representatives, there were eight or nine sites to be reported upon. As a matter of fact, if they had had their own way, there would not have been a district in New South Wales that would not have been reported upon at this moment. The tolerance of the representatives of the other States, and particularly of Victoria - which is vitally interested - was really wonderful, in allowing these eight sites to be reported upon. The Commission should have reported only about three sites. So far as the larger number is concerned, the representatives of New South Wales are to blame, as -well as the Government.
– The honorable senator means that Parliament should have had three sites thrust upon it, even though it did not approve of them.
– Queensland wanted Armidale - that is the trouble.
– Personally I have no particular affection for Armidale. The Queenslanders have no particular affection for any of the suggested sites ; but they certainly have an absolute unutterable disgust for Melbourne. So far as I am personally concerned, though I have my own opinion about a particular site, if it is not selected , and if, in the wisdom of the Federal Parliament, the seventh circle of Dante’s Inferno were chosen, I should prefer it to Melbourne.
– That is strong.
– It is strong, and it comes from my heart.
– Where is that place 1
– It is the place where the honorable senator will be shaking hands with Senator Gould in the sweet byandby. To my mind, the difference between the Conference now proposed and the Conference provided for by the Constitution is this - that by holding a Conference now, there will be a grave possibility of undue delay, waste of time and waste of effort. Every one of the suggested sites may be put into the Bill, either by the Senate or by the House of Representatives after the Conference is over. The suggested trouble about the House of Representatives selecting one site, the. Senate selecting another, and the Bill alternating between the two Houses, and leading to a Conference, would be brought about in any case, even if we did not have a Conference in the first instance. If the members of the House of Representatives have set their minds on a particular district, and the Senate has set its mind upon another, whether a Conference is held previous to the Bill being introduced or not, it is evident that there must be a second Conference to determine the question in the constitutional way. The whole trouble must occur over again. Thus there will be waste of time. The essential difference between, a Conference held in the ordinary constitutional way, and the proposed Conference is that, if there is a difference of opinion between the two Houses upon a Bill, it is narrowed down to one point, and there is no waste of time in going into a Conference. But in having a Conference in the first instance, we have to alternate between eight opposed sites. We do not get clear of any of those sites until a Bill has been passed in the other House and sent down to the Senate. The number will then be narrowed down to two. At the present stage I have no intention of delaying the proceedings, but I wish to say a word upon the aspect of the question that has been touched upon this afternoon. I do think that by agreeing to this motion the Senate will be surrendering its rights to the more numerous House. If we go into the Conference, we voluntarily surrender the rights we have as a Senate. We shall lose our distinct identity if we go into this Conference. One honorable sena-. tor has said that we shall not surrender our rights because we shall still be able to exercise those rights after the Conference is over - that if we do not agree with what is done in Conference, we may exercise our rights as senators. But if there is nothing binding legally or morally in what is done at the joint sitting, what in the name of common sense is the use of the Conference? Surely the Conference must carry with it some obligation one way or the other. Are we simply to have an Indian Bow-wow, out of which nothing will come? If there is to be no obligation one way or the other, the Conference will be useless, and if it is to be binding, it is too dangerous a proposal for me to support. I hope that honorable senators will show their wisdom by rejecting the proposal. I strongly advise Senator Dobson to withdraw his amendment, which will simply have the effect of complicating the issue. I hope that the Senate will refuse absolutely to have anything to do with the Conference at the present stage, and thus force the Government to take the responsibility of dropping the whole business or of accepting the report of the duly qualified experts appointed for the special work.
– I assure the representatives of New South Wales that I now have, and always had, every intention of carrying out the Constitution in its relation to the creation of a Federal capital. I also have an earnest desire that this matter should be settled as speedily as possible, and all honorable senators from other States with whom I have conversed, are prepared to do all they can in a reasonable way to carry out the obligation imposed by the Constitution. But I have a very serious objection to a Conference of the kind proposed, where over 100 representatives of the different States may discuss the merits of eight different proposed capital sites. We may imagine how long such a discussion would last, with every representative eager to advance his own opinions on the question ; and it is because of the delay which I fear may result, that I oppose the Government proposal. Senator Gould said that by means of a Conference the members of another place would hear the views of honorable senators, and viae versd ; but from our parliamentary experience we know that such an idea is nonsense. When a discussion of that description had lasted for a couple of days, those who remained would be speaking to about a third of the members of both Honses, and the absent ones who were interested would take their information from Hansard. Why should we go into this, if not unconstitutional, at any rate unnecessary Conference 1 Why should we force members of this Senate who have declared members of another place to be practically unfit to associate with, to meet those members in Conference t Why should members of the Senate be compelled to sit with members of another, place of whom it has been said that they do not pay their debts, and in many ways have violated their moral obligations?
– Senators will not be compelled to sit in the Conference.
– If honorable senators may remain away from the Conference, the object contemplated by Senator Gould will not be attained, and any vote will be given in the dark. I feel that the Government are in a difficulty. Some members of the Cabinet probably have strong inclinations for some particular site, and may not be able to agree with other members of the Government. But what is there to prevent the Government introducing a Bill including more than one site ?
– Or a Bill which mentions no site?
– That might be done, and the blank filled up by tha decision of Parliament. If there were two sites mentioned in the Bill, say Lyndhurst and Albury, the House of Representatives might knock out one and adopt the other, or omit both and insert a third name.
– The Ministry might be “ knocked “ out.
– The Ministry will take no responsibility. Honorable senators have declared that this is not a party question, and that they are prepared to accept the decision of Parliament. When the Bill reached the Senate we might be satisfied with the choice which had been made, but if we were not satisfied then we could insert the name of another site. As Senator Dawson has already pointed out, the question would then be confined to two sites instead of eight, and the ordinary constitutional method of arriving at a conclusion might be adopted.
– A dissolution ?
– No; the honorable senator knows that a great deal has to occur before the stage of a dissolution is arrived at. The Government might lay aside the Bill, as they have laid aside other measures, and there would be no responsibility attaching to them beyond the responsibility of causing undue delay. When we arrived at the position in which only two sites remained, the ordinary Conference between the two Houses might take place, and when one site had been selected, the whole question would be settled. But the Government propose a Conference which will occupy three months, if every parliamentary representative does justice to the position. I am sure that it would take the twenty-six New South Wales representatives in another place arid the six senators thirty-two days in which to express their views ; and we should then be very near Christmas. I hope that instead of wasting time over the proposed Conference, the Government will see the advisableness of introducing a Bill at once, and thus finally decide in a constitutional manner the question of the capital site.
– The matter ought tobe left until next session.
– My desire is to see the question settled this session.
– There is not time.
– There is not time to have the Conference.
– Certainly not.
– The only chance of settling the question is to have a Bill introduced immediately. I agree with the opinion expressed by Senator Fraser, but I am not actuated by the same motives as is the honorable senator.
– The honorable senator does not know my motives.
– Yes, I do. Senator Fraser is affected by the Melbourne Age and Kyabram, and consequently he does not want the Commonwealth Parliament to leave Melbourne for the next fifty years. Melbourne is much more convenient to Senator Fraser and other members of the Federal Parliament than would be any place in New South Wales. There are a number of Victorian representatives - I was going to say who are honest enough, but I should not like to imply that in this case Senator Fraser is not as honest as anybody else - who are as willing as the representatives of any of the other States to carry out the provisions of the Constitution in regard to the establishment of the Federal capital. I give those members every credit for the position they take up ; but, sooner than that an unsuitable choice should be made, I would rather the selection of a site were delayed for years. We must remember that the choice is to be for all time, and we should not allow future generations to blame the, first Parliament for making an unsuitable selection. I hope that Senator Dobson will withdraw his . amendment, and content himself with voting against the Government proposal. If we reject the motion the Government will be compelled to adopt some other means of accomplishing their object. I dare say the Government believe that the method they propose is the easiest and shortest, but the arguments advanced in the Senate to-day show that that is a mistaken view. My hope is that a Bill will be introduced and a decision arrived at before the end of this session.
– The Government before they proposed this extraordinary procedure should have given the House some grounds for their action. The same line of policy might be adopted with regard to every Bill. Why was the Defence Bill or the High Court Bill not treated in the same way ?
– There is more than one issue in the present instance.
– There is only one issue, and that is the good of the country. It rests with the advocates of the proposal to show undoubted reasons for its adoption, and not merely to make statements which they cannot prove. Senator Gould has told us that ordinary haste should be used in carrying this motion. But what are three years in the history of a nation ? Has any great question of the kind ever been settled in a few days? What was the procedure adopted in New Zealand 1 Was the capital there settled in one session ? Was the locality of the capital of the United States settled in one session ? If honorable senators representing New South Wales are so extremely anxious to have this question settled, why do they not, in the name of common-sense, first arrive at some agreement among themselves ?
– The honorable senator will not give us an opportunity. .
– In season and out of season different suggestions are made to us, and what is the result ? We have had Commissioners making a definite proposal, and persons moving the Government of New South Wales have brought forward Mr. Oliver again to veto the proposal of the Commissioners. In these circumstances, what conclusion can we, as outsiders, arrive at? As has been said here fifty times, I would sooner that Sydney should be selected as the capital than that we should be driven into the wilds of the wilderness.
– We are not going to discuss that now.
– I am mentioning only my own views, and, as a matter of common-sense, and with a view to the convenience of a large number of the members of Parliament that is the course that I think should be adopted, until the Government have exhausted the constitutional means at their disposal for settling this question by attempting to pass a Bill in the ordinary way. I shall not support the proposal made, because it seems to me to be a cowardly way of getting out of a difficulty. If the Government had the courage of their opinions they would come forward and advise what we should do, and they would not leave this an open question upon which members of the Parliament may express any opinion they please. In my opinion, theGovernmenthavealtogetherfailed in their obligations to the country in submitting this question in the way proposed. I have no desire to unduly prolong the discussion, but I say that the proposal of the Government is not one which is likely to secure an early decision of the matter. I shall support the amendment.
– I cannot for the life of me see why the Government should have gone out of their way to wrench the Constitution in dealing with this question. The Constitution merely says that the seat of government shall be determined by the Parliament; not by a Conference of Parliament, but by Parliament in the usual way.
– And the Parliament aneans the two Houses.
– The Parliament means the two Houses. It does not mean that we should be rushed into a Conference before Parliament is asked to deal with a subject like this in the ordinary parliamentary way.
– Does the honorable senator think it means that the shire councils of Victoria should settle it ?
– I can quite realize the reason for the great haste of representatives of New South Wales in dealing with this subject. I am not against New South Wales having the capital, and personally I would rather that Sydney should be selected as the capital than that it should, be in some remote place in the country. It would be more convenient for all concerned if Sydney were selected. I desire to say that the course which the Government has proposed is not strictly constitutional.
– Neither is the proposal to have the capital in Sydney, according to the Constitution.
– It would be if, by taking the constitutional course of altering the Constitution, we made it so.
– I have heard of people who talked about repudiation in the days gone by.
– Members of the Labour Party talk more of repudiation than any other persons I know. I hope the Government proposal will not be carried. If a majority of honorable senators are prepared to vote for it they will place themselves in a false position. It is not a constitutional course, and I protest against it. However, it is just what the Government might have been expected to do; whenever they have anything to do they generally do it in the wrong way. I could name fifty courses which the Government have taken during the last two and a half years, and in the majority they have adopted the wrong course. This is a wrong course. I protest against it, and I shall vote against the motion.
– With respect to the contention set up by the last two preceding speakers, that the Government is going out of its way in the method now proposed for the determination of the capital site, I should like to point out that the proposed resolutions, though they provide for a Conference do not empower it to determine the seat of government of the Commonwealth. The whole argument of Senator Fraser is that the Constitution provides that Parliament shall determine the seat of government, and Parliament, the honorable senator contends, is not a Conference of the two Houses, but the two Houses sitting and legislating, as they ordinarily do, in connexion with ordinary Bills. If the honorable senator will look at the first of the proposed resolutions, he will find that it says that it is desirable that there should be a Conference to consider the selection of the seat of the government of the Commonwealth. At the Conference the selection will merely be considered. That will be the first step in the proceedings. The machinery the Government provided in these draft resolutions is of a character designed to meet an extraordinary occasion. Members of both Houses have had afforded to them by the Government an opportunity of inspecting various competing sites. Most members of both Houses, having gone through that inspection, would like to have some voice in selecting from the competing sites the” one which each thinks most fitted to be the seat of government. If we were to follow the course suggested by Senators Zeal and ‘ Eraser, many honorable senators and honorable members of the other House would be denied any opportunity whatever of suggesting a particular site.
– Why ?
– For the simple reason that it would necessitate, on their part, the moving of an amendment proposing that the particular site selected by the Government should be omitted from the Bill with a view to substituting some site which the mover of the amendment thought a better one.
– What difficulty would there be about that 1
Senater KEATING. - The difficulty attendant upon that would be that if all members of the Parliament wished to exercise their right in that respect, it would take months and months to get the Bill through.
– Will there not be the same difficulty under this proposal, even if this motion be passed?
– There cannot be the same difficulty if a Conference is held, because there will be an opportunity given to honorable senator’s to focus in one particular centre their views with regard to all the competing sites, and it will be competent for the Government to determine, from what may be done at the Conference, which site is most likely to meet with the most general approval in both Houses of the Parliament. They will then, under another of the proposed resolutions, be able to introduce a Bill containing the name of that particular site which finds most approval, and will be able to submit it to both Houses of Parliament with a certain measure of confidence.
– Then any honorable member in either House who desired todo so, might move that a different site should be selected, and we should have the wholediscussion over again.
– It will be quite competent at that stage for any member in either House to move that the particular site referred to in the Bill be struck out, with the view to insert one which he considers more suitable. But there will be this to be considered by any member in either House having such a desire. He will know that aConference has been held, that this procedure has been gone through, and that as a result of it there is a general feeling amongst the great body of members- of both Houses that the particular site named in the Bill is the one most suitable for selection. In these circumstances, he will be deterred from submitting his amendment to a much greater extent than he would beif the Government, without any preliminary proceedings, took the responsibility of submitting a particular site for approval and then left the matter to be decided by the Parliament.
– That was not our experience with the Defence Bill.
– How can thehonorable senator compare the two things ?” Here we have one issue to be ultimately determined, and that issue is to be raised by selecting one place, from a number of places which are to be submitted to Parliament, as theseat of government of the Commonwealth. How can the honorable senator compare that with the Defence Bill, in which we dealt with a variety of different matters 1 If we had a Conference with regard to the Defence Bill, and had an exhaustive ballot with regard to every one of its clauses, it would be something totally different to what is now proposed. Here wehave only one issue to decide.
– There areeight sites suggested.
– What I mean is that when the Bill comes before Parliament there will be but one issue, that such and such a place be the seat of government of the Commonwealth or not. Before arriving atthat issue we have to consider some eight different places and to decide which shall be selected. At present there are eight differentsites, any one of which may be selected to be the site at issue in the proposed Bill..
That is a totally different set of circumsta’nces from that which would present itself to any Government about to submit a measure like the Defence Bill. This is a course of procedure proposed for an extraordinary occasion. We shall not have to select a seat of government in succeeding sessions of the Federal Parliament, if we go through this procedure now. This is a machinery procedure to enable the Government, before preparing a Bill for submission to Parliament, to in some measure gauge the opinions entertained by members of both Houses of the Parliament, after having been supplied with complete reports on the competing sites, and after having been afforded an opportunity of making a personal investigation of the localities and surrounding conditions. Having gauged the opinion of members of both “Houses who have had these advantages, the Government can save considerable time by then submitting a Bill containing the name of the site which seems to be most favoured by members of both Houses. I take it that this is not any attempt on the part of the Government to shuffle out of their responsibility in any way.
– That is the whole object of it.
– It is nothing of the kind. The object is that the matter may be dealt with expeditiously and, at the same time, with the utmost fairness to every member of both Houses. This is the only way in which that could be provided for, because every honorable senator and every honorable member in another place will have an equal voice in determining the policy of the Government in regard to this question. It is not any attempt on the part of the Government to shuffle out of responsibility, but a proposal by which we shall all be enabled to participate in an equal degree in determining the policy of the Government, and the Government will be able to submit a Bill with some prospect of having the matter decided.
– Is not that shuffling out of their responsibility?
– Certainly not. It is giving every member of both Houses an equal opportunity in the selection of the sites.
– It is swamping the Senate ; what else is it?
– Certainly not. Senator Fraser assumes that we shall go to the Conference with the whole force of the members of the other House in opposition to the members of the Senate.
– There will be twentysix members from New South Wales to start with.
– Does the honorable senator think that the whole twenty-six members from New South Wales will be ranged in force against the Senate.
– We shall have twentythree members representing Victoria against them.
– Senator Fraser is assuming that, when we enter the Conference, we shall have the whole of the members of . the House of Representatives standing in array against the members of the Senate. We have no reason for assuming that any such thing will take - place. We require to have one issue, and it has to be prepared. We have from eight particular sets of circumstances to draw the issue, and every member of Parliament is equally equipped with knowledge to decide which place should be selected.
– How long is the Conference likely to sit - a month ?
– It will sit for a reasonable time, if the members of both Houses act reasonably ; but I distinctly repudiate the suggestion that there is any attempt by the Government to shuffle out of or to shirk its responsibility. This is the most convenient and easiest way in which to deal with this important question. At the same time it affords to every member of each House the fullest opportunity to exercise his judgment, and none can complain that he had no opportunity of influencing the selection of the site.
– I do not quite agree with the conclusion of Senator Keating. The whole of his argument seemed to be based on the assumption that in deciding this question the Senate should recognise that each senator has exactly the same value as a voter as has a member of the other House. I cannot see that at all. Whatever the outcome of this debate may be, I shall discuss the Bill when it comes up without any prejudice, or, rather, without being bound by the decision of the Conference.
– How can we be free ?
– The great difficulty which confronts the Senate - judging from the utterances of the last speaker - is that there will be an obligation on us to ratify the decision of the Conference.
– No ; I say that the Senate will have an equal influence with the other House in guiding the determination of the Government.
– Obviously there will bc an implied obligation on the part of the Senate to respect the decision of the Conference. I cannot conceive that there is an honorable senator who does not face that position with a considerable amount of misgiving. I am concerned also with the Constitution, and nothing that I can do will be done with the intention of defeating the provision of section 125. I am in favour of selecting a site for the Federal capital. I am not necessarily in favour of expending a lot of money either now or in the immediate future ; but I am distinctly in favour of selecting a site at the earliest opportunity. I suppose that we ought to ask ourselves the question, if it is true, as the Government state in their motion, that; -
In order to facilitate the performance of that obligation in the Constitution it is expedient that a Conference should take place.
It may be expedient, if the Senate has full confidence in itself. If we are strong enough to say, “ If we do not like the selection, which will be borne in upon us by the overwhelming number of the other House,’ we shall oppose the passing of the Bill,” I see no harm in having a Conference. I admit that not much good could come out of a Conference ; but it is just conceivable that the selected site might meet with the approval of a large majority of the Senate. If that should fortunately happen, most certainly the question would be solved.
– What reason has the honorable and learned senator to suppose that we should not agree with any selection which the other House might embody in a Bill ? There is just the same possibility.
– It depends on the individual strength of honorable senators. If they are prepared to say that they will not surrender any of their constitutional power, and will exercise their undoubted right of rejecting the Bill when it comes up, if the selected site does not please them - if we are sure of our position, and quite self-reliant, we can enter into a Conference, for this reason, that we might be able to arrive at a speedy solution of the question. There is a great deal about this proposal of which I do not approve, but I do not like to see the Government attacked! unjustly. I do not think it. is cowardly on>. their part to suggest a Conference. We cannot draw a parallel between an ordinary Bill and a practical suggestion by the Government for speedily arriving at the solution of a difficult question. They have never suggested yet such unconstitutional means for settling an ordinary difficulty in legislation. Any one might very fairly excuse Ministers for saying : “ In our opinion, this is an expedient way of getting over a difficulty.”
– Does the honorable and learned senator think it is. constitutional?
– I do not think that the test of constitutionality ought to be applied to this question.
– It is ignoring the proper course of parliamentary procedure.
– The honorable senator will admit that this very extraordinary position is not likely to recur. Why should the Government be blamed if they seek to discharge a most peculiar duty in a peculiar way ? What I am most afraid of is the weight of the moral obligation implied. If I thought that there was. any risk of the selection, made in a Conference of 111 members of Parliament, being imposed upon the’ Senate, I- should! vote against the motion, because we cannot, and ought not to, get away from the fact that in this matter the vote of a. senator is equal to two votes of a member of the other House.
– When the Bill come* before us.
– Precisely ; but if we are going to create a moral obligation! by agreeing to a Conference, and to lose the double value of our vote, we shall be putting om selves in a dangerous, position. I feel some alarm about holding a Conference, because I recognise that the only method of settling the question is an exhaustive ballot. The Government have not suggested, as they might have done, that finality should be arrived at by the majority of the member* of both Houses sitting together but votingseparately. It is very significant that nosuch method is proposed. It would be a speedy way of arriving at the opinion of a majority of the Senate and of a majority of; the other House. Nor do I find any provision for giving an absent member of either-
House the opportunity to record his vote. As a machinery detail that is bad. In the case of an ordinary Bill, facilities are offered to members of Parliament to pair, but in this case an absent member of either House would have no opportunity of recording his vote. It is quite possible that a good many members would be absent.
– Is not that objection met by the fourth of the proposed resolutions, authorizing the President and the Speaker to draw up regulations 1
– No, for this reason - that the cardinal feature of the proposed resolutions is that the question shall be settled by an exhaustive ballot. I can- not conceive it possible that the enlightened genius of the Speaker and the President combined could devise any arrangement by which an absent member could record his vote.
– The more the proposition is inquired into, the more involved it is seen to be.
– The more I look into this proposition, the less I like it.
– It creates a new legislative power - the President ‘and the Speaker.
– Yes. I have very considerable doubt whether it is my duty to vote for the motion. I should like to see this question settled this week, but I do not like the method proposed for its> settlement. The motion will have to be brought into a form which will meet with my approval before I can see my way to vote for it.
Senator Sir JOHN DOWNER (South Australia). - The more I have listened to the discussion, the more convinced have I become of the correctness of my original view. We have here a very involved method of determining what the Constitution provides shall be settled in a proper way. We have two Houses of Parliament with their functions and duties, and yet we are asked to intervene between the ordinary duties which the Houses ought to discharge, a tribunal composed of those Houses sitting unofficially, but voting as one. If the Government had been anxious to ascertain the opinion of members of Parliament individually and unofficially, why did they not call an informal meeting of the members of each House, as is done in the case of the election of a presiding 10 u officer 1 When a President or a Speaker has to be chosen what course is adopted 1 The members of the House are called together, they unofficially agree to a nomination, and there is no debate in the House. If the Government had any settled view as to where the Federal capital should be located, or, if they had none, why did they not send a private note to every member of Parliament saying that a meeting of the members of both Houses would be held to talk over this subject, which nobody can pretend is a party one ? We could talk the matter over and see if we could arrive at a conclusion. If we could, the majority would, no doubt, consider themselves bound, and the minority would consider themselves at liberty to de: fend the opinions they had expressed. But here I cannot avoid saying that’ we are trying to do a legislative act. We are calling a body together to act authoritatively. Otherwise the body should not be called together at all. If the Conference is only to result in a preliminary proceeding it’ is absurd ; if it is to be an end to our proceedings in reference to the matter, it is illegal. Where is the saving of time 1 What possibility is there- by any degree of condensation of opinion of arriving at a settlement this session by the means proposed t I desire to stand strongly by the Constitution. The capital is to be fixed in New South Wales. I agree with that. The difficulty has been hitherto that the representatives of New South Wales cannot agree amongthemselves.
– We have not had the chance.
– That is. the difficulty, is it not ? If it is proposed to place the capital in one place, one man says he will resign and will not sit in the House ; and if another place is mentioned another man says he will resign. As we have agreed tothe cardinal principle that the capital is to be in New South Wales, surely we are not unreasonable if we say to the New South Wales representatives - “Kindly tell us where you want it to be ; then we shall have some basis to agree upon, and can see whether what you suggest is agreeable to ourselves.” But there seems to be just as many capital sites suggested as there are members. Therefore it would appear that the whole business is to be thrown into chaos, and we are to be asked unconstitutionally to agree to a Parliamentary Conference, which we have no right to do. I think that the procedure proposed is, first of all, illegal, and secondly, will lead to an immense waste of time. It will be much better for us to negative the motion.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).The speech that most impressed my mind amongst those that were delivered to-day was that of Senator Dawson. His indictment of the Government for failing to accept their due measure of responsibility was a strong and logical one. But, while I go so far with him, I should like to ask those who adopt his view of the position whether, seeing that the Government have left this matter to the eleventh hour of the present session, the course proposed is not the better one to adopt? The only alternative is to bring in a Bill. After the Bill is brought in, unless it can be assured that an absolute majority is in favour of a particular place, every place that is proposed will be negatived in turn. A blank will be created, and there will not be an opportunity to fill it. That will be the result of the course suggested at some stage or other. If we wish to avoid that result an exhaustive ballot must be taken. That argument disposes of the contention that we can proceed in the ordinary course by a simple Bill. We shall have to adopt an exhaustive ballot at some stage or other. We therefore have to consider whether the proposal of the Government for having an exhaustive ballot at a meeting of the members of the two Houses has anything to commend it or not. I think there is no time for us to take anything but the most expeditious course open to us, and therefore the proposal before the Senate is one that ought to be adopted. While I admit that the result of the Conference cannot bind any honorable senator, I think, nevertheless, that it will influence a great number. The effect of it will be to weed out all the weaker sites which have a lesser number of supporters, who would then be in a position to vote for the sites that command a greater amount of support. Suppose that I am favorable to a site which has very few friends. The result of the proceedings of the joint Conference would enable me, and those who think as I do, to ascertain what chance the particular site favoured by us might have. On discovering that its chances were slight, I could refrain from asking the Senate to consider that particular site, and the supporters of it could either give their support to the selection of the joint Conference or to the proposal of some other group of members. It must be assumed that we shall be influenced by practical considerations, without in any way considering ourselves under a moral obligation to support the site approved of by the Conference. There is another reason why I ask honorable members to agree to the procedure proposed by the Government. In stating this reason I desire to pick my words as carefully as I can. In New South Wales to-day there is a very nasty flavour in the mouths of the people in consequence of the systematic efforts to delay the selection of the capital site. The people of New South Wales are not blind to the fact that the principal public journals of the State of Victoria have publicly preached the doctrine that the Constitution does not bind us to fix the capital in New South Wales. We have the shire councils of Victoria heading a crusade for breaking that provision of the Constitution. I am not going to say that underlying this movement there is a distinct desire for repudiation. But these things, coupled with the persistent efforts of Senator Dobson and others to delay matters, and ‘even to amend the Constitution itself, have created in New South Wales a suspicion that there is a movement on foot to depart from that provision of the Constitution which secures the capital for that State.
– Those people in Victoria have no more effect than a fly on an elephant.
-Well, after the Kyabram movement New South Wales has more respect for the shire councils of Victoria than she otherwise would have had.
– Victoria is not jealous of New South Wales in any respect.
– I am not saying that she is, but I do say that there is a general public feeling in New South Wales in the direction I have stated.
– The people there have been crying out for the last two years, and unnecessarily.
– Our people have not sung out a day too soon. When we were asked to accept the Constitution there was not one of the prominent public men in Victoria who took the position that they take to-day. The provision regarding the capital was then referred to as a bargain that was to be loyally adhered to. . But now we are told by the Age newspaper that it is a bargain that does not bind. The uneasiness in my own State justifies me in asking those who wish to see Federation working smoothly to agreeto the proposal of the Government, so as to allay that feeling. Presuming that this motion is to be carried, there are one or two amendments which I intend to propose upon the subsequent motions, and I will indicate the purport of them. I intend to propose that there shall be a series of ballots in order to make a selection of the various sites in particular districts. There are, for instance, three sites in the western division. I. propose that first of- all a ballot shall be taken to determine which of those sites shall survive. Similarly with the south-western district a ballot should be taken to determine which of the sites there is preferred. I intend to move an amendment in that direction in order that every particular site shall -receive fair consideration. If some such plan is not adopted, the supporters of the sites in a particular district, being divided amongst themselves, will be out-voted on every occasion , whereas if a determination is arrived at as to which of the western sites is most preferred each site would have a fair chance. My amendment will be made upon the fourth of the proposed resolutions. There are also one or two other amendments of a minor character which I intend to move in order to make clear what is meant by an exhaustive ballot. I intend to support the motion.
– During the debate this afternoon I have heard a good deal of adverse criticism in regard to the time that has been wasted by the Government. My opinion is that the Government are very little to blame so far as time is, concerned. It was hardly reasonable to expect them to introduce a proposal for settling this matter much sooner than they have done. Indeed, in listening to , the debate it appears that no matter what the Government had proposed to do they would have failed to please some honorable senators. Some have blamed them for hurrying too much and some for delay. Seeing that we are practically near the end of the session, I think . that the proposal of j the Government is the only reasonable j one that could have been made. Senator McGregor has asked how long the Conference is going to take. In my opinion, if a Bill were introduced either into the Senate or the House of Representatives, a great deal more time would be taken than by having a Conference. Therefore, it seems to me that the proposal is in the direction of economizing time.
– A Bill will have to be introduced afterwards.
– But we shall be more clear with regard to the Bill when it is introduced if we have a Conference first. The question of the site will be to a large extent settled by the joint sitting of the two Houses. This preliminary work will have to be undergone in both Houses if the proposal comes before us in the shape of a Bill. I therefore think that the method suggested by the Government is eminently fair, and one which can be carried into effect in the minimum time. Parliament is justly en titled to choose the capital site. This matter was referred to by every candidate during the Federal elections, and the opinion was then expressed that the question should be settled at the earliest possible moment. It cannot be said that there has been any undue haste, seeing that only at the end of three years are we talking about selecting a site. After the question of the site has been settled, a considerable time must elapse before the erection of the necessary buildings, and shall only be carrying out the promise made during the Federal elections if we place ourselves in such a position that we can go to the country with the knowledge that something has been done in this matter. If I adopted a selfish attitude I should oppose the proposal for a Federal capital at the present time, seeing that in the State which I represent there are more pressing public works required.
– What are they ?
– There are so many that I need not refer to them ; but one is the transcontinental railway. But a selfish attitude is not creditable to a Federal member. We have heard a great deal about the parochial spirit, and it is on questions of this character that that spirit is made manifest; but I claim to be free from any parochial influences when I express my intention to adopt the proposal of the Government.
– May I ask, Mr. Chairman, whether it is your intention to put the motions separately, and, when they have been carried or amended as the case may be, to put them in globo ? While some of us might vote foi1 the motions if amended in one particular part, we might be compelled to vote against them if they remained exactly as they are. In other words, the motions must be read not only separately, but as % whole after they have been passed as drafted or amended.
– While the Chairman should put each motion separately, it would, I think, hardly be following our ordinary procedure - and indeed it would be unnecessary - to put the whole of them afterwards as one motion. I suggest that the proper course is for the Chairman to report the resolutions to the Senate, and for them to be adopted or rejected as reported.
– -I have already indicated my intention. First of all, I allow a second-reading debate on the first motion. It is my intention to put each motion separately, and then report the. resolutions as passed to the Senate. I shall not put the motions as a whole; it will be for the Senate to decide whether the resolutions as reported be rejected.
– What will be the effect if any of the amendments we may carry are not in accord with the amendments passed by another place 1
– This is not the time to contemplate that position. I shall simply report the resolutions of the Committee to the Senate.
– I desire to make a few remarks in the nature of a personal explanation. I shall vote for the first motion, because, subsequently in dealing with the third, I propose to move an amendment to the effect that in this Conference of both Houses, while sitting together the Houses shall vote separately. I have no objection to the Conference, but I have a decided objection to it unless the Houses are to vote separately. If the Houses are to vote separately, I give the proposal my entire approval.
– I have not much to say upon this question. When I first heard of the idea of a joint sitting of the two Houses, the proposal appeared to me to have a great deal to commend it, bat since the Government have treated une Senate in a scornful manner, and have paid no attention whatever to its resolutions, I am very much inclined to object to any proposal of this kind.
– Did the honorable senator expect to be sent for to form a Ministry ?
– I expected that when the Senate passed a resolution expressing its disapproval of the action of the Government in a certain direction, they would have hesitated to continue in that course.’ The Government have continued to pursue the course to which we objected. I think the great danger of going into a Conference of the kind proposed is that we shall, to a great extent, sink our identity as a Senate. The only object of inviting the Senate to take part in a joint sitting with the other Chamber, and to take part in an exhaustive ballot, is to destroy the power of the Senate. The Government know very well that about fifteen members of the Senate can select the Federal capital site. Every one who has paid any attention to the divisions which have taken place here on various Bills and motions, will admit that. Once we enter this Conference, if it is to be a Conference on the lines of the motion submitted, we shall be overpowered by the seventy-five members of the other House. I happen to be allied on this question with certain honorable senators who, for reasons of their own, are opposing the selection of the Federal capital site. . I have n» sympathy with Victorian representatives who desire either to postpone the selection of the Federal capital for all time, or to secure the selection of Melbourne as the seat of government.
– Then the honorable senator should not help them.
– The honorable senator should not impute motives.
– I have no desire to impute motives ; but Senator Zeal will admit that it is contended that the Federal capital site should not be selected, because it would involve very great expense, and that the Federal Parliament should con.tinue to sit in Melbourne.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– I am not speaking of the honorable senator, but of a section of the Victorian people who are against the selection of a Federal capital site. Certainly if the Federal Parliament decided to select a site to-morrow in order to get out of Melbourne as soon as possible, the Melbourne people would have only themselves to blame, or would have to blame the morning press of Melbourne, that has treated the Commonwealth Parliament in the shabbiest manner. Indeed they have made the position of a member of this Parliament most objectionable in many respects, and have almost taken away the last shred of honour attaching to the position of a member of this Parliament. We could not be blamed if we desired to get out of Melbourne to-morrow. I am very anxious that we should carry out our compact with New South Wales, and that we should select a site as soon as possible. I think it should be sufficiently extensive in area, and managed on such lines that we should be able, from the revenue derived from the Federal territory, to meet all the expense incurred in the construction of Federal public buildings and the carrying out of Other public works. It is because I believe that the majority of other honorable senators are in favour of the view that we shall keep Federal territory for Federal purposes that I am afraid to go into this Conference. What do we find 1 We find that the New South Wales members, generally speaking, are bound to try to make some kind of selection at once, be it good, bad, or indifferent. There is an outcry in New South Wales that there is some attempt to break the compact.
– There is a recognition of the attempt.
– The honorable senator will agree that there has been no attempt on the part of representatives from Queensland, Western Australia, or South Australia to break the contract.
– That is perfectly correct.
– There is a feeling in New South Wales that the Federal Parliament does not desire to act up to its responsibilities and obligations in this matter. I say that the New South Wales representatives must vote for a site, good, bad, or indifferent, at once, and if we go into the Conference, they will vote on those lines. I must say that I have been very much disappointed with the report of the Royal Commission. In. our anxiety to get the site settled, we passed resolutions appointing a Royal Commission without paying sufficient attention to details, and the Commissioners have gone about their work and .investigated, not a Federal territory, but merely 4,000 acres which those gentlemen think will be suitable for a Federal city. That was not our view in their appointment. The Constitution provides that we are to have not less than 100 square miles of territory. The Commissioners in their report show that in their opinion 4,000 acres in various parts of New South Wales have a certain preference for choice, and Tumut and Albury are placed near the top of their list. We ought to know from the Commissioners what is to be the cost of the 100 square miles mentioned in the Federal Constitution, and what might be the cost of the larger area which many members of the Federal Parliament think should be contained in the Federal territory. We shall get no light upon that subject from the Commissioner’s report. If honorable senators will look at the proposed resolutions, they will find that the procedure has been based upon the selection made by the Royal Commission. Mr. Oliver’s reports are not referred to. Though Mr. Oliver’s reports may recommend themselves to some of us, the exhaustive ballot proposed is to take place only on the sites selected by the Royal Commission.
– Mr. Oliver has reported on all of those sites.
– That is so; but he has also reported upon other sites, and if the proposed resolutions are carried in their present form, we shall be required to give a decision only with respect to sites selected by the Royal Commission.
– It was Parliament that imposed that limit.
– But the honorable and learned senator will acknowledge that when the motions for the appointment of the Commission were placed before us, we voted on the understanding that the Commissioners were to report on the Federal territory, and he will see that they have interpreted their instructions to mean that they should report merely upon the land which to them appeared suitable for a Federal city. Thus we find in the case of one site, which I visited last week, that they have selected 4,000 acres of land which are very valuable indeed, and worth no less than £20 per acre for agricultural purposes. I think we have not sufficient information to justify us in entering upon a Conference of this kind.
– Could not the Conference obtain that information and supply the deficiency 1
– I do not think so. What will happen if we go into the Conference! I imagine that the. President or the Speaker will leave the chair, and the Chairman of Committees of the Senate or of the House of Representatives will preside. Undoubtedly we shall have to consider the question in Committee, and once we start to discuss these matters in Committee, there will be no time for calling experts, unless Mr. Oliver and the members of the Commission are to be called to the Bar of the Conference.
– I think . they ought to be.
– I should not object to that.
– I believe the information which the honorable senator desires will be easily obtainable.
– I should not object to the members of the Royal Commission appearing at the Bar of the Conference and explaining why they have placed Albury so high amongst the places suggested, when Albury, in the minds of most members of the Federal Parliament, was considered absolutely impossible. It might be of advantage, also, to have Mr. Oliver handy, that he might be questioned regarding certain matters. Senator Drake will admit that the Royal Commission have given us no idea whatever as to what would be the probable cost of the 100 square miles of Federal territory.
– I think that information could be easily obtained.
– The New South Wales Government is bound to give the land free of cost.
– Only Crown lands within a certain area.
– Honorable senators will see that the Royal Commission have reported, generally speaking, with respect to 4,000 acres in each case, whilst we require a report as to the probable cost of 64,000 acres. The Crown lands in most of the sites suggested are of very little value. If, for instance, we take the Crown lands in the district of Tumut, they are composed mainly of hills which are almost barren. The greater portion of the land is, unfortunately, in the hands of private owners, and the Commonwealth- will have to acquire those lands. That brings me to another consideration, that is, that the Government before asking us to select a site should have brought’ forward a Bill providing for the basis upon which we shall acquire the Federal territory. Honorable members, know that the moment the site is selected, land in the district will go up in value. Certain exchanges will take place, and we shall probably find that we shall be asked to pay some pounds per acre more for the land than we should be required to pay if such a. Bill as I suggest were passed before the. selection were made.
– The longer the selection is delayed the worse it will be in that respect.
– That may be so, but so long as people do not know where the site of the future capital is to be they are not likely to buy up land in a dozen different places. If honorable senators will go to Tumut at the present time they will find that land there has gone up in value to the extent of some pounds per acre, because the Royal Commission has reported that it should be the site, of the Federal Capital. If we pass these proposed resolutions, I trust that it will be in such a form that they will contain an instruction to the Government, before selecting a capital site, to pass a. Bill through both Houses deciding the basis upon which we shall acquire the lands, and the methods by which we shall control them when we have acquired them.
– I think that would not be right.
– I think we ought to dothat. Everything will depend upon what our ideas are regarding the management of the Federal territory.
– Why not set one site against the other, and other things being equal select the cheapest?
– We desire that the best site possible shall be selected for the Federal capital. I assume that our desire is to construct the Federal capital on the most artistic lines so that it shall be an attraction to the people and an example to other cities. For that purpose a large sum of money will be required. We shall have to get a revenue from some source. It cannot be obtained from the general taxpayer who, especially in the back blocks, has sufficient, to do to earn his living and pay his ordinary taxes. We should acquire a Federal territory at a reasonable price, and that object would be achieved if the suggested Bill were passed. The land could be leased in residential sites and agricultural areas, and the Commonwealth would obtain the unearned increment, as it is entitled to do, and so be in a position to pay the interest on the capital cost of the public buildings. If the view is taken that we ought to construct the capital out of public funds, and to get no revenue from the Federal territory to meet the interest on the outlay, it .will matter very little what site may be chosen. I now come to the method of procedure. It has been said that if we took part in an exhaustive ballot at the Conference we should be perfectly free to reject the Bill, which would have to be introduced to give effect to its decision. And it has been suggested as a reason why we should agree to a Conference, that we might disagree with the other House and that then there would be considerable bitterness. Suppose that we took part in an exhaustive ballot and disagreed with the Bill, would not the members of the other House have the right to say that we had broken faith with them ? Or, if they did not say so, would not the public have the right to say that we had committed a breach of faith 1 If it should be decided to hold a Conference,
And to have an exhaustive ballot, I shall abide by the result whatever it may be. I shall not enter the Conference on the understanding that “it is heads I win and tails you lose.”
– If the honorable senator pledges himself he cannot pledge others.
– Certainly not. If honorable senators should agree to the proposal of the Government in its present form, although they might not consider themselves bound by the decision of the Conference, I venture to think that the public would say to the senators, “ You went into the exhaustive ballot, you were- beaten, and you should take your beating like men.” W e should dismiss from our minds the idea that we shall be free to do as we please after the Conference is held, unless it is so stated in this motion.
– Although the Minister for Defence, in introducing the motion, told us that we shall not be bound ?
– Yes. Before the Prime Minister went to England he said, “ I am not going to bind the Parliament on any important matter.” In England he signed the Naval Agreement, and on his return he said to the members of the .other House f If you reject the agreement it will be taken as a vote of censure, and the Government will resign.”
– There is no analogy.
– There is an analogy. “Did not Senator Cameron say, “I am against the ratification of the Naval Agreement ; but it has been signed by the Prime Minister, and I must vote for its acceptance “ ? I submit that unless it is stated to the contrary in the motion, we shall be bound by the decision of the Conference. I do not agree with Senator Downer, that a Conference would be valueless; It would be -valuable in this respect, . that we should hear all the arguments, and would not be put to the trouble of reading Hansard to learn what the members of the other House thought. The Government should have brought in a Bill to provide that an exhaustive ballot, or some other form of ballot, should be taken on the sites, and that if’ any member had desired to add a site to the list he could have mov.ed in that direction. It is to be regretted that that method was not adopted. With regard to the exhaustive ballot, I can conceive that it might be quite possible that a site which would be well up in the running under another system, might be left out, and so not get a chance of being considered. Certain combinations are taking place, I understand, in another place, with regard to certain sites. Under the proposal of the Government a member of either Chamber would have no chance to indicate his second preference. It would be better, I think, to apply the proportional system. If nine sites were submitted for the consideration of the Conference, the members could then indicate their preferences. Otherwise it might happen that a, site which would be number two in the first ballot might be left out of consideration.
– We should have to invite Miss Spence to come over and turn the handle of the machine.
– I do not think so. I propose, if the first motion is carried, to move an amendment in that direction. I think that in consenting to a Conference, we shall to some extent surrender our rights and privileges. I do not believe that we should have received this invitation if the members of another place, and the Government, had not thought that they would have us in the hollow of their hands. At the present time we stand on velvet. Taking the average division in the Senate, fifteen senators could undoubtedly select a site. I thinkthat fifteen members of the Senate have made up their minds that a territory of over 100 square miles should be selected, in order that a revenue might be obtained to defray the cost of constructing the public buildings. In my opinion it would be a great mistake for the Senate to surrender itself to the factions in another place. It must be admitted by everybody that there are factions in another place, and in order to carry out their plans it was necessary to induce the Senate to take part with them in an exhaustive ballot. I hope that the motion will be rejected. I am afraid that if it were carried we should not be able to arrange for a seperate ballot to be taken by each House.
– I think we shall.
– If we could arrange for a separate ballot to be taken I see very little to find fault with. “We should.be maintaining our rights, and if it were found necessary to disagree with the other House we should not be placed in an invidious light before the public.
– I presume that the object of Senator Drake in submitting this motion was to facilitate the selection of a site. Each House has been occupied all day in discussing the proposal, and we have not got much nearer to the kernel of the question. I think it has been very clearly shown that unless we agree to be bound by the decision of the Conference very little good can result and no time will be saved. If the Government had been anxious to push forward the settlement of this question they ought to have been able to take some definite step in this direction long ago. Suppose that the position of the Government is that they have had such a large amount of work to do during the session that they have not had much time to attend to this question. If they feel that,- in order to meet the growing demands of New South Wales, the first Parliament ought to select a site, and so comply with the command of the Constitution, then it seems to me that, if they were afraid to introduce a Bill, they might have asked the Houses to sit together, and each House to take an exhaustive ballot.
– Could it not be done by each House just as well in its own chamber 1
SenatorCHARLESTON.- Suppose that the other House should select A, and the Senate should select B, how much nearer, should we be to a settlement of the question 1 What I am afraid of is that we are being dragooned into selecting a site in the last week or two of the life of this Parliament, and that in our great anxiety to do something we may be forced into the position of selecting a site which will not reflect credit on this Parliament in years to come. The selection of a site is a very important question j and it cannot be laid to the charge of the members of the Senate, nor, I think, to the charge of the member’s of the other House, that they have attempted to delay its settlement. All we have been anxious to ascertain has been which site will best meet the requirements of the Commonwealth, not only in the immediate future, but in 200 years to come. We have not to look after our own immediate surroundings and comfort, but to cast our prophetic eye around and see what site can be chosen that will meet the requirements of this great Commonwealth in the future. The feeling, so far as I can gather, in the minds of the members of the other House is that this motion will really bind all who are taking part in it to abide by the decision of the Conference. When I first read it I thought that was the object of it. I thought the intention was to facilitate the performance of the obligation imposed upon this Parliament. But I am convinced that instead of facilitating we may delay the selection of the site to an enormous extent. In fact, by adopting this procedure we may make it impossible to do anything this session. If I were anxious to delay the matter indefinitely, I should be more inclined than I am to agree to this proposal. But I think the Government ought to have taken upon themselves the responsibility of proposing a site. They ought to have taken an exhaustive ballot of the other House, and, upon the strength of that, ought to have introduced a Bill and sent it up to us. The number of sites would then have been narrowed down to two. If we differed from the other House there would be only two sitesintherunning, and as practical men anxious to arrive at a conclusion we could have met the other House in Conference in the ordinary way, and could have arrived at a decision. But the mode proposed will lead to an interminable discussion, and will, I feel sure, fail to accomplish the object in view. Each site will be discussed in the Conference at length, and will then have to be discussed again in connexion with the Bill. Every New South Wales representative who has a proposed site in his electorate will be bound to make speeches over and over again, and to fight for his site to the best of his ability. In the interests of an immediate selection of a site I shall vote against the motion, and if it is .rejected I trust that the Government will adopt a better method of getting out of the present difficult position.
– I regret very much that a question of so much importance as the fixing of a site for our capital should have been delayed till this late hour in the life of the present Parliament. The Parliament is in its dying hours, so to speak ; and here we are asked by the Ministry to take up and deal with one of the most important questions that has come before us during the present session. The Government are very much to blame for the sad lack of light and leading they have displayed in dealing with the question. Commission after Commission has been appointed to investigate and report, and yet I venture to say we have not one real and effective document to which we may refer for information as to the Federal Capital.
– ‘That is the usual way with Governments.
– Unfortunately it is the usual way with every Government. I consider this question to be of so much importance that I am quite willing to wait for more information before dealing with it. Personally I do not feel qualified to say which is the best site for the capital. Of course I cannot speak for other honorable senators. Probably they have made up their minds. If I am forced to vote I know pretty well how my vote will go. But even then I should not like to say that I should be voting for the best site.
– The honorable senator is not infallible.
– I am not infallible unfortunately. I am unlike the honorable senator. If he is not infallible he approaches as near to it as it is possible for any human being to do. In fixing a capital site we are doing something which cannot be undone. If we make a mistake it will be perpetuated. It will be felt in future generations much more strongly than now. If we pass a law which turns out to be a bad one we can amend or repeal it ; but once the capital site is fixed it is fixed for all time. That being the case, it is absolutely incumbent upon us not to come to any decision until we have the very fullest and most exhaustive information before us. What do we require in the way of a capital site 1 The Government have not given us any-light. They have dealt with the question in a most slip-shod fashion. They have not made the slightest attempt to form public opinion upon it. We do not know what the ideas of the Government are. They have been so busy I suppose in providing for certain appointments that they have had no time, or have made no attempt, seriously to study the very important question of the capital site. I blame the. New South Wales members, or rather the people of New South Wales, for the urgency which has been imported into the discussion. There appears to be a sort of feeling in the minds of the people of that State that by some curious manipulation of events Melbourne is going to filch the capital from New South Wales. I can assure them that so far as I have been able to gather, there is not the slightest possibility’ of that ever happening. We who are in favour of delay are not in favour of the capital remaining in Melbourne. That is not our reason at all.
– It is the reason given by the honorable senator’s allies.
– We are not responsible for our allies. Even the best of. men occasionally get into bad company. I find ‘ my -honorable friend very often in the company of the free-traders. I should be very glad to see him out of that company, but I recognise that he is quite sincere in being there, and that if he is in bad company, it is not his fault, but his misfortune. . I have no sympathy with Kyabram or with Maffra,’ or with any of the people who desire to keep the capital of the Commonwealth in Melbourne. But I do desire to secure that when we fix the capital site, it will be a site, not only of which we who live now may be proud, but of which the people who come after us may also be proud. I see a very great danger, if we rush into the settlement of the question in this manner, of coming to an altogether inadequate decision. As I have already said, I blame the people of New South Wales for that. There appears to be a kind of hysteria in their minds on this subject. They desire to rush through the selection of the capital city. There is not the slightest danger that Victoria will filch it away from them. Therefore my own opinion is that we ought to approach the question patiently, deliberately, and in such a frame of mind as will conduce to the very best results. With regard to the proposed Conference, I may say at once that I have listened very patiently to the arguments which have been advanced in favour of it, but T have not heard a single one sufficiently strong to persuade me that we should be right in agreeing to the motion. If we enter into this Conference what do we do ? We not only surrender our rights, as some honorable senators put it, but we do something which is very much worse. We shirk our responsibilities. I do not believe in shirking responsibilities. This Senate has powers altogether distinct and separate from those possessed by the House of Representatives. We have been told that this is not a matter in which State rights intervene. Well, I do not know that State rights can be said to enter into this question. But it is, I submit, a question on which the smaller States ought to be particularly careful. We find two big States engaged in a tugofwar in regard to the capital city. We find New South Wales on the one hand and Victoria on the other, each one exerting its powers to the very utmost to get a particular place chosen. That being the case, I think it behoves those of us who come from the more distant portions of the continent to be keenly alive to the interests of the people who do not live in either of these two States. The very fact that we are not personally interested or concerned places us in a much superior position to deal with the question. By entering into this Conference we practically merge ourselves in the House of Representatives. It is absolutely ridiculous to think of thirty-six men conferring with seventy-five men. Qf course, we shall be told that the members in the other House are divided. But we also are divided ; and in any case, as I have already pointed out, we have a duty to perform with regard to the choosing of the Federal capital site. I know that a large number of honorable senators are in favour of choosing a comparatively large area of country in which an experiment in land nationalization may be tried. But the probability is that, if we enter into this Conference, we may find ourselves tied down to a site, where such anr experiment is impossible. Several’ honorable senators, more especially Senator Pearce, have claimed that by entering intothe Conference we bind ourselves to nothing. That is a most extraordinary position. Why does the Government invite a. a Conference? The motion tells us distinctly that with a view to facilitating; the performance of obligations imposed on Parliament, it is expedient that a Conference shall take place.
– Finish the sentence.
– That it is expedient a Conference shall take place between the two Houses of Parliament to considerthe selection of a seat of government for the Commonwealth. Then there is the process of the exhaustive ballot. I have often heard of people trying to hoodwink’ other people,, but it is extraordinary to find honorablesenators attempting to hoodwink themselves- - to draw blinds, so to speak, over their own eyes. The Government invite us to a Conference for the express purpose of choosing a site.
– For considering the selection of a site.
– The Government invite us to enter into an exhaustive ballot and to report the result of the choiceto the Senate, a Bill to be subsequentlyintroduced containing the name of the site chosen. Does any honorable senator imaginefor a moment that, after going through all the formula, he can, with any kind of decency, oppose the choice qf a majority of members of the Conference ? If honorablesenators reserve to themselves that right, of what earthly use is the Conference? If honorable senators, like Senator Pearce, enter the Conference with the mental reservation that if the result is not to their mind,, they will do exactly what they would have done if there had been no Conference, it isidle to talk of the Government proposal.
– It is not a mental, buta stated reservation.
– I do not care which it is. If I favoured a Conference,. I should say - “ By all means let us have it, and I shall take my chance of the result.”” I should not take part in an exhaustive ballot, and then in the Senate vote againstthe decision of a majority of the Conference. A procedure of that character would, to say the least of it, not be very creditable.
– It would not be very democratic.
– It would be neither democratic nor creditable to the (members of the Commonwealth Parliament. I really cannot imagine how honorable senators can reconcile themselves to such a position. If they enter the Conference, they do so with a stated reservation ; and, in these circumstances, would it not be better to allow the choice of a Federal site to take the natural course of ordinary legislation ? Let a Bill be introduced in either this or the other House, naming a particular site, or having a blank in which a name may be inserted. Let this measure be passed through one House and carried to the other, and after that has been done, a Conference may under our Standing Orders be summoned at any time, and, if possible, an agreement arrived at. For a number of reasons, that appears to be the better form of procedure. I cannot speak for other honorable senators, but what I want is more information on the question.
– That is what we propose to get.
– We can get more information very much better in the ordinary fashion than is possible by having a joint sitting. What will be the result if we have a, Conference of all the members of both Houses? Probably 100 members from both Chambers will attend, and it is equally probable that ninety per cent, will desire to speak. If each man is allowed an hour, how long will the Conference last ?
– All night.
– How many nights ? The discussion, it appears to me, would be interminable.
– I do not suppose that nine per cent, would desire to speak.
– We all know that members of the Parliament are extremely anxious to place on record their opinions on an important question of this character. Representatives of Victoria and New South Wales in particular will wish to speak at length, iind will speak from their respective points of view almost unanimously ; and even if a single other member did not open his mouth, there would be sixty-two speakers. Unless this session is to be extended until the very last possible hour, the question of the capital site cannot be dealt with, or if it is, it will not be dealt with in a . fashion to reflect credit on the
Parliament of the Commonwealth. If a Bill were first submitted in the House of Representatives, honorable senators would have the privilege of reading the speeches of members of that House, and the advantage of the information which, I have no doubt, they would be able to give. But if the two Houses sit in Conference, there will be a perfect Babel. While a member is speaking talking will go on all the time, and, with representatives passing in an out, the whole proceeding will be a mere farce without any of those elements of deliberation and order which ought to characterize the discussion of such an important question. I cannot see any occasion for what I must call the indecent haste in choosing a capital site. There seems to be some power behind’ the Government, pushing them forward against their will. New South Wales , has apparently lashed itself into a condition of hysteria. Senator after senator claims that New South Wales is being defrauded of its rights, and asserts that if it had been known that this treatment would be meted out, that State would never have entered the Commonwealth. That is not saying very much for the Federal spirit, so far as New South Wales is concerned. It was very mean on the part of that State to make a condition in regard to the Federal capital. It would have been’ more creditable to the leading statesmen or politicians of New South Wales if there had been no such condition placed in the bond. When stipulations of that character are made, one is apt to question the sincerity of the motives which lie behind. The statement which was made here this eveningthat if New South Wales had known that delays would have taken place in choosing the capital site, she never would have entered Federation, refleets very little credit on that State. But I am charitable enough to believe that. honorable senators who express that opinion do not represent the feeling of the people of New South Wales, but merely echo the opinions of the Sydney press, and a few Sydney tuft-hunters, about whom we need not particularly care. The reason I am so anxious that the choice of the capital site should be delayed lies in my desire that the very best possible selection should be made.
– That could be said in ten years’ time,
– The honorable senator is in a desperate hurry.
– The Melbourne Age talks about fifty years.
– One would imagine, to hear Senator Pulsford, that Australia is going to bound up like a rocket and come down like a stick or a stone, and that, therefore, there is an absolute necessity for choosing the capital site immediately. I contend that there is really no hurry. I have no desire to remain in Melbourne ; neither have I any desire to get out of Melbourne. We are probably just as comfortable here as we should -be any where else on the continent. As to the malign influences about which honorable senators complain so much, I have not felt them. Neither the social, financial,’ nor the press influences of Melbourne, have, so far as I am able to discover, had the slightest effect on any utterance I have made, or any vote I have given in this Chamber. Seeing that we are in the death grip, in the mortal agony, and that, as an honorable member in another place put it recently, “We want tobe in our electorates ; the other bloke is there already.” We ought really to put off the settlement of this question until the next Parliament. I may. not be here, but if I am not probably some person very much better qualified to give a decision on the matter will be here in my place. At all events I do not feel that any very special responsibility lies upon my shoulders with regard to the fixing of the capital site except the responsibility of choosing a site which will be suitable not only to th R times in which “we live, but to times hundreds, and perhaps thousands of years to come. That being the case, I again submit that there is every reason why we ought not to enter into Conference with the other Chamber. We ought neither to surrender our rights with re’gard to the fixing of the capital site, nor to shirk any duty thrust upon us. For the reasons I have given I am opposed both to going into Conference with the other Chamber and to the settling of the question this session. I think we ought to wait for more light. The Government should submit a programme upon this question, if they have any programme. They should afford some leading, not only to members of Parliament, but to the people of the Commonwealth, upon this very important subject. We all look- to the Government for guidance. We do not get it sometimes, but we expect it. On this particular subject we have not got it. The Government have deliberately shirked all their obligations, so far as this matter is concerned. I, for one, do not feel inclined to assist them in taking that course. I intend to vote against the proposal to go into a Conference, and I hope honorable senators will not be so silly as to be drawn into this net which has been so obviously spread before them by the Government in another place.
– I must compliment Senator Stewart upon his admirable speech. The honorable senator has made the speech I intended to make, but has made it very much better than I could have done. I can scarcely accept the honorable senator’s excuse that he has not been influenced in some way by the Melbourne press, which seems to be uppermost in the minds of some honorable senators. As I sat here listening to what the honorable senator had to say, I thought he was certainly under the influence of the Melbourne press when he spoke so much in favour of delay. The honorable senator made an excellent speech in support of delay, and I am entirely in favour of that. This has been a very interesting discussion. The question of the selection of the Federal capital site is one which seems to set honorable senators by the ears. Even in the case of the staidest and quietest members of the Senate, one has only to whisper something about the question of the Federal capital, and they become raging volcanoes. I could scarcely contain myself when some honorable senators opposite made references to the wicked underhand practices supposed to have been adopted in tho State of Victoria with the object of filching the Federal capital- from New South Wales. Upon more than one occasion I have tried to assuage the feelings of honorable senators who have spoken in that way. If they will take my declaration, repeated again to-night, let me say that I have no intention personally or as a representative of the State of Victoria to take away from New South Wales any right to which she is entitled under the Constitution. I do not think such a thought exists in the mind of any man or woman in this State. But we have to look at this matter from every point of -view. If I could be persuaded that the selection of the capital site would not entail an enormous expenditure upon the Commonwealth I should be prepared to give a vote at once in favour of a site. I have, however, to look a little ahead and to consider some of the dangers referred to by Senator Stewart and other honorable senators. I have, to consider what this motion will ultimately lead me to, and I must, therefore, be cautious in dealing with it. Senator Stewart has made out an excellent case in support of his contention that it would be better to delay the selection of the Federal capital site until we have mora information, for the benefit not only of the Federal Parliament, but of the people of Australia. “We should allow them to express their opinio n upon the matter within the next eight Or ten weeks. The question is very much involved. Even in the Senate we have had several proposals with regard to it, and before we complete the consideration of these proposed resolutions there will be shown a very great divergence of opinion. Mention has been made of the delay which has taken place in the consideration of this question. For my part, I am glad that it cannot be said there are any specific instructions in the Constitution as to the time when it is incumbent on Parliament to select the Federal capital site. We are unfettered- in that respect, and I say that the delay which has taken place has been beneficial. It was never anticipated or thought that we should pass all the measures referred to in the Constitution, or select the Federal capital in the first Federal Parliament. I join with Senator Stewart and other honorable senators in saying that it is wrong for the Government in the closing hours of the session, and when a dissolution of Parliament is immediately ahead, to submit this motion, and I shall do my best to defeat it. Reference has been made to the contradictory character of the information placed at our disposal. The experts who have reported with the object of giving us light upon the question, have submitted divergent views. Even since their reports have been submitted to us, and since some of us have visited the sites suggested, changes have taken place. Different sites even in the localities first proposed, are now favoured. There is a great difference of opinion even’ amongst the representatives of New South Wales on the subject. I agree that if we are to have any leading in regard to this matter, and it is desired to come to a unanimous conclusion, honorable senators, and representatives in another place coming from New South Wales, should amongst themselves arrive at a conclusion with regard to the best site. If that were done, it would help us very materially in selecting the site of the capital. I do not propose to speak at length upon this motion, because it has been well discussed by. preceding speakers. My great objection to the proposal is that the method which the Government seek to adopt is foreign to the Constitution. I indorse every word which has been said by those who have preceded me in . contending that this proposal is meant to enable Ministers to shirk their responsibilities. There is the further important consideration that we have no right to give up to another place any power which theConstitutiongivestheSenate. It seems to me that the secret was let out this afternoon by Senator Playford, who told us distinctly that the reason why this procedure was proposed by the Government was that there was a division of opinion in the Cabinet upon the question. It was thought that by adopting this course the Ministry would be given some indication as to the views of honorable members in both Houses on the question.
– The honorable senator should not have let that out.
– He should not have let it out, but we know that the honorable senator has been very solicitous about the Government for some weeks past. I agree with the contention that the Government must and shall take their responsibility in connexion with this question. With the evidence before them they should come down to Parliament with a proposal, and, if that proposal were not acceptable, it would remain for Parliament to make the best selection possible in the interests of the people. In the circumstances, believing the course proposed by the Government’ to be wrong, I intend to vote against the motion.
– There has been a very considerable amount of beating the air in the discussion which has taken place this afternoon and evening, because, as I understand it, there is no proposal on the part of the Government, in the motion submitted, that this Senate shall abrogate any of its functions or relinquish any of its powers.
– Then why take the unusual course proposed ?
– Because the circumstances are unusual. If my honorable friend will restrain his enthusiasm for a moment, he will perhaps find that there is very much in agreement between us. I understand that the idea submitted to the Chamber for its consideration is practically for a meeting that in any circumstances must be largely informal. A decision arrived at, or a motion submitted by the Conference, cannot have any force of law whatever. It cannot in any way trammel the authority of either House, and can do no more than afford a method for ascertaining the opinion of the majority of the members of the two Chambers with reference to the most suitable site.
– What is the meaning of the words “ a Bill . . to determine the site so reported “ ?
.- -I take it that no matter how we may proceed, it will be impossible for us to determine the site without a Bill, as my honorable and learned friend must know.
– It is plain English.
– Not happening to be a professional hair-splitter, I cannot follow all the mysteries which my honorable and learned friend invents for himself and others. But I do think that there has been disclosed during the debate a very strong party in favour of delay. That certainly has been the key-note of the majority of the speeches against the proposal. But the proposal appeals to me as a relinquishment by the Government of the responsibilities of office. I take advantage of the present opportunity to complain of and protest against, as I have dene on many occasions, not only here, but elsewhere, the loss of constitutional methods and of responsible government now becoming more and more, frequent and less manly. Why did not the Government, instead of submitting this proposal, introduce a Bill ? If they were not prepared . to submit one site in a Bill for the consideration of the Parliament, why did they not have the name of every one of these blessed sites printed in italic letters - which would represent a blank in the parliamentary sense - or leave a blank to be filled by the Houses? Instead of taking one of these courses, however, they have taken a course which, while it relieves them from all responsibility, reminds one of the agistment advertisement - “ Every care taken but no responsibility.” It leaves to the members of the Houses all the risk, all the trouble, and all the difficulty concerning a selection, which. I thought was one of the duties . and functions of a responsible Administration. But we have come to a period in the session when it is not possible to do more than raise one’s voice in protest against this condition of things. Apparently it is left for us now either to accept this proposal or to relinquish all hope of a site being selected during the present Parliament. I cannot help remembering that when the Parliament first met I took the responsibility of, submitting a motion - it was the first one submitted by a private member - in favour of appointing a joint committee - taking one representative of a State from each House - to winnow out the plethora of sites, and to bring them down to a reasonable number. Had that course been taken, instead of considering eight or nine sites, we should have been considering at the outside three or four.
– Let us have a Conference to pick out three sites.
.- That is exactly what I am in favour of, but my honorable and learned friend wishes to do something else. He does not make any scruple about acknowledging his desire to delay the settlement of this question, not only for the term of the present Parliament, but for the next ten years. If a site is not selected during the present Parliament, we know very well that it will not be selected during the next Parliament, and that is the object sought by many of those who have spoken and intend to vote against the motion. It is well known that in Victoria not one candidate will dare to do anything else than promise that he will give no vote for the selection of a site during the coming Parliament. Not one candidate will be returned in Victoria who will dare to give a pledge to vote for the fulfilment of the provision of the Constitution.
– That is rather a bold statement to make.
.- If there is such a man he will have my sincere respect. I shall be very sorry if I find that I have done any one the smallest injustice. Let me put the idea in another form. I do not think that any man will have a chance of being elected in any part of Victoria unless he pledges himself to vote against the selection of a site. I judge this by the newspapers, the members of Parliament, the shire councillors, poultry farmers, and dog-show men who are congregated together at the public expense to “barrack” against the fulfilment of the condition of the Constitution, under which alone the great State of New South Wales consented to enter the Federation which was howled for by the people of Victoria.
– Victoria has behaved more generously than New South Wales, I think.
– I shall be very pleased to be assured that such is the case. How New South Wales has stood in the way of the fulfilment towards Victoria of every condition of the Constitution I have yet to learn. But I have not yet to learn that Victoria has done anything else as a State than in every possible way - through her press, her public men, her municipal and o.ther institutions - to “ barrack “ in season and out of season in opposition to the fulfilment of a solemn obligation of the Constitution.
– That is not correct.
– If it is not correct, as we are in Committee my honorable and learned friend can contradict me by a statement of facts, and not by bald contradictions which prove . nothing except that he is forgetful or lacking knowledge.
– New South Wales was selfish enough to refuse to enter into an honorable compact without getting a benefit. That is not much to her credit.
– Order ! I cannot allow these recriminations to take place.
– I can quite understand that my remarks have aroused a little feeling. We find ourselves in the position of having either to vote for the proposal of the Government or to give up all hope of a settlement of this important question. I understand that the proposition of the Government is merely to have what may be called a friendly Conference. I think I may say, in passing, that they have given an official air to the proposed meeting by reason of the unnecessary number of conditions submitted, when a simple proposition for a joint meeting to diseuss the matter was all that was necessary and all that could be effected.
– But that is not what is proposed.
.- Although a number of phrases are used and a number of propositions are submitted, still the result must be the same. It can only be a friendly Conference : it may be formal, but it cannot be official.
– Then the motion hoodwinks us.
– I do not think that my honorable and learned friend is so exceedingly immature in the ways of the world or of politics as to be so easily hoodwinked as his observation suggests. Any result which might be arrived at by the Conference could only be made effective through the medium of an Act of Parliament.
– If we agreed to the motion, how could we refuse to pass the Bill?
– It gives leave to bring in a Bill “ to determine the site so reported to the Senate.”
-Col. NEILD.- I take it that the honorable senators who so enthusiastically interrupt me must be aware that it is by no means an uncommon thing for a Bill to be founded on the resolutions of a Committee. That is practically all that is proposed by the Government. We are asked to go not into a Committee, but into a Conference, and on the resolutions of the Conference a Bill will be founded. It is well known thatBills relating to trade, money, and religion have tobe initiated in a Committee. What is the advantage of the Committee stage, except to admit of free exchange of opinion ? And what is the proposition of the Government but practically a Committee stage ? There is nothing unusual about the proposal, except that there is not the same amount of formality and effectiveness in a Conference as in a Committee of either House. All we can do, if we consent to go into a Conference, is practically to ascertain the names of, I suppose, two or three sites, and when a Bill comes before each House, we shall, I conclude, winnow out the one that will eventually be the home of the Commonwealth, which, I believe, it is the desire of every honorable senator to promote and justify the existence of, by the care and honorable attention which will be given to the performance of this duty.
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - I do not think I need trouble the Chairman to put the amendment which I have proposed. It has been fully discussed and has served its. turn. It has accentuated the position which we wanted to discuss, and now I ask leave to withdraw it, so as to allow the Committee to pass or negative the motion. But I desire to say that I have heard no single argument which, in the slightest degree, alters my opinion or alters the course which I think the Committee ought to take. Senator Neild see3 perfectly well the weak spot in the whole business, though he tries in an ingenious way, for which I give him every credit, to get round it. But he does not get round it. He argues that the Government have simply asked the two Houses to meet un- officially and informally. But that is what they have not done. They have surrounded these motions with all theformality and ceremonial they could, in order to give them a constitutional effect. Nothing could be more plain than that if the Conference . is held, and the site is selected, the Bill brought in will be held to have emanated from the Conference. If words mean anything, I take it that we shall be guilty of a breach of faith if we go back upon what the ‘Conference does. The whole object of the motions is to bind us and keep us bound. I think that the Minister for Defence has set us a very bad example. He has submitted this motion with all .the earnestness of which he is capable, and yet he tells us that we shall be committed to nothing if we attend the Conference. Other honorable senators have adopted that language, and have tried to shelter themselves behind the Minister’s statement that we shall be committed to nothing’. I think that the Minister has no right to come here and propose motions of this kind, and then tell us that we are not bound or committed to anything. I cannot agree with any of those arguments. With regard to the onslaught which Senator Neild has made upon Victoria, let me give him one or twoarguments to show why I differ from him. I have always said that the public men of this State have behaved more generously in regard to this question than have the public men of the great mother State of New South Wales. I was a member ©f the Convention, and was not absent from it for five minutes during the whole of its sittings. There was a very marked distinction between the fairness and generosity of the Victorian representatives as regards this question, and the attitude of the representat]ives of the motherState. Every time some of those representatives arose, they could not sit down without demanding and asserting the right of the mother State to have the capital within her territories. But in spite of that, the first draft of the Bill, as submitted to the electors, did not contain a provision giving that right to New South Wales. The Bill left the matter to the Parliament to decide. Afterwards, at a Conference of the Premiers, the right of the mother State was asserted, and the Premier of Victoria, speaking on behalf of the whole of this State, gave in and conceded what the Convention would not do. That was certainly behaving in a generous way, sinking all localism and provincialism and self-interest, and seeking only for the good of the community. Victoria then gave to the mother State a right which perhaps she* could not have obtained otherwise. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that if it had not been that that right of the mother State was asserted so aggressively in the Convention, the capital would have been located in Sydney at the instance of the Convention. Nothing will alter my opinion in that respect. ‘ I have spoken with twenty or forty of the leading men of this State, and with one exception every one of them said that they would prefer to have the seat of government in Sydney rather than have a capital built in the back blocks. I believe that those men are sincere and honorable in that opinion. I regret to find that my honorable friend Senator Neild, and two or three others, think that the people of Victoria - the shire councillors or any other bodies - have a desire to deprive New South. Wales of any of her constitutional rights. I do not believe there is any such desire. I do not think that any public men in this State have said such a thing. I quite agree that it would be a gross breach of faith if we did anything of the kind. But it was natural that, after hearing so many different opinions about altering the Constitution,- and about the capital being in Melbourne and Sydney alternately, some people in the country should have taken the’ action they did, without having the slightest notion that they were committing a breach of faith. The mere fact, that the Premier of New South Wales said that –he .would prefer to see the capital in Melbourne or in Sydney rather than in the back’ blocks justified some of the. people of Victoria in the opinion they expressed.. I do not mean to say that my honorable friend the Premier of New South Wales was guilty of any offence in saying that he would prefer to see the capital in Melbourne or Sydney, but he felt so strongly that the circumstances of Australia were not similar to the circumstances of the
United States and of Canada, that he was forced to the conclusion that it would be far better to have the capital in one of the existing cities instead of trying to attract population to another great city. I think that the attitude of the public men of Victoria all along in regard to this question has been very generous, patriotic, and unselfish. Before I sit down, I should like to say that in my opening remarks T objected to the motion on two grounds. First, I urged that the exhaustive ballot should be conducted by open voting. I understand that there is an amendment to be moved to that effect. I also said that there should be an amendment providing chat the site must be selected, no by a majority of all the members sitting “.together as’ one House, but by a majority of each House, and that no site ought to be selected unless a majority both of the House of Representatives and of the Senate agreed to it. ‘I understand that Senator Clemons has prepared an amendment which will meet both of those objections, which were patent on the face of the Minister’s motion. Therefore, if the first motion is carried, I shall have much pleasure in joining with Senator Clemons, and in supporting amendments to make the subsequent motions as perfect as possible. One more word and I have done. I listened with very great pleasure indeed to the speech of my honorable friend Senator Stewart. Nearly every word of that speech was pregnant with common-sense and statesman-like forethought. Suppose, as I think is not only possible, but probable, that the House of Representatives prefers a city in the hush. It will then have to be determined whether the site is to be inland, when in time of revolution or of riot the territory of the Commonwealth might be surrounded possibly by people who were discontented ; or whether the capital is to have a port of its own. It is quite possible that the Senate may be in favour of a place with a port, namely, Bombala. A question may arise as between a place with a port and an inland site. Upon that question we want more light and more guidance than we have at present. This is essentially one of the questions with regard to which I claim that we should proceed in the ordinary way in which we proceed with Bills, giving proper time for discussion at every stage. As to the idea of a general Conference, I may remark that at the Convention we had hours and hours of discussion about it. When is the Senate compelled under the Constitution to submit to a general Conference and be out-voted? If a Bill or, a resolution is sent to us by another place and is rejected, three months have to elapse, and, in another session of Parliament altogether, the same Bill or resolution has to be submitted again. If it is again rejected by the Senate, the Governor-General can dissolve both Houses. Then the people have to decide, and a Conference follows. If that method were adopted in regard to this question, it would be the people who would have to decide as between Tumut without a port and Bombala with a port. But we are departing from that principle. Honorable senators who are supporting this motion want to do away with every shred of procedure that was inserted in the Constitution to protect the rights of the Senate. We are asked to reduce our voting power with regard to an important matter, which, when decided, will be absolutely irrevocable: lt is said that we who oppose the motion are in favour of delay. I repudiate the word “ delay “ in the sense in which my honorable friend Senator Neild uses it. I want to save honorable senators from undue haste, but not to have any delay in the sense in which that word is used. I. want to have delay in the sense in which every Bill is delayed in order that it may be discussed in its proper stages. We have not yet passed the machinery Bills which are necessary for the proper working of the Federal Departments. The Defence Bill is still before us. It has been before us for two years, and we have gained by the delay. We have had more criticism in the meantime, and have obtained more information. What is the state of this Federal capita question ? We had laid upon the table about three weeks ago a report from Mr. Oliver, who is the most capable man of the five Commissioners who have investigated the question. That is what I meant by my interjection during Senator Drake’s speech this afternoon, when I asked whether he was going to deal at greater length with Mr. Oliver’s report. It is a most admirable report. He has corrected the report of the Federal Commission, and has suggested, - what? I should hardly like to put it into words. But the two reports absolutely contradict one another, one saying that Tumut is first in regard to climate and Bombala sixth or seventh, although there is only a difference of 6 or 7 degrees between the mean temperatures of the two places. I should have liked to have the Commissioners at the Bar of the Senate, in order that I might ask them questions ; and I should ask them a great many. I do not believe that either Parliament or the people have yet all the information necessary to enable a wise choice to be made. In the last resort, it is the people who will have to settle between Bombala and Tumut, or Bombala and Albury. The people are being robbed of their rights by the Government proposal, and I am not at all certain that what we are asked to do is constitutional. ‘If the Constitution says that Parliament is to decide the question - and I put this view in all seriousness - and on a decision by what, according to the Government, is an official Conference, but what, according to Senator Neild, is an informal chat, we pass a Bill, the Senate being in a small minority, I do not know that the Court could upset the measure. But the Court would never approve of the steps we are asked to take in order to get a Bill placed on the statute-book. I ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– - As Senator Dobson has withdrawn his amendment, it is not necessary for me to say anything on that subject, though he has told us that he thinks his proposal has done its work. I do not think that the honorable and learned senator has convinced any one that, by the action proposed by the Government, the rights and privileges of the Senate will be in any way infringed. If the honorable and learned senator still believes that that would be the effect, he ought to persist with his amendment.
– I am going to try to negative the motion, which will amount to the same thing.
– I cannot see how the rights and privileges of the Senate can possibly be infringed by the action of the Government ; nor can I see how in any way the proposal can be drawn into a precedent. The question to be decided is absolutely unusual and novel, and one not likely to arise twice in the lifetime of a nation. We provide expressly in the motion that the Standing Orders shall be suspended for this particular purpose. It is exceedingly satisfactory to find that Senator Dobson, and those who follow him in arguing in favour of delay, are going to vote against the motion.
– And on their own showing they would vote against any other proposal.
– Clearly what they desire is delay. I want to refer particularly to an argument which apparently has had weight with some honorable senators, namely, that by the course proposed the Senate will be in some way prejudiced in its subsequent action. The Government have been accused of shirking their responsibility by not bringing in a Bill with the name of one site included. But that argument cuts exactly the other way. If the Government had undertaken to determine the question which the Constitution says must be determined by Parliament, what would have been said when the Bill was brought down 1 It would have been said that the insertion of the name in the Bill placed Government supporters in the position of having to vote for the site proposed, or to vote against the Government.
– Not at all.
– That is what has. been said in connexion with other measures. That is what was said in connexion with the Naval Agreement - that members of Parliament did not have their hands freeif the Government in the first place declared in a certain direction. Instead of taking that course, the Government proposea Conference, with a view of deciding which name shall be placed in the Bill, and when that Bill is brought down the hands of every honorable member in both Houses will be absolutely free. The Bill may be rejected in either House, or either House may strike out the name and insert Another.
– That is not the meaning of the motion.
– The Government proposal keeps party entirely out of a matter which should be looked at entirely from a national stand-point. If the Government brought down a Bill in favour of a certain site, party considerations would at once enter, whereas, if thep reposal now before us be carried out, every member of each House will be able to deal with the Bill on its merits, without any suggestion that he is influenced by party considerations. Every honorable memberwill be free to look at the matter not from a party stand-point, but simply from the=- national stand-point of what is best for the people of Australia.
– This is a question on which honorable senators may candidly and freely admit that they have an open mind. At least I am free to admit that at the commencement of this discussion my mind was open ; and, after listening carefully to all the arguments, I just as cheerfully admit that the question raised is one that has given me more trouble than any which has been before the Senate. 1 am not Amongst those who believe that there should be delay for any unreasonable time, nor am I amongst those who listen to . the cries of some sections of the press that the settlement of the matter should be deferred. But I am amongst those who are anxious to ascertain which is tbebestsiteand which isthebest mode of procedure. Quiteapart from the question of which is the bestsite, there is the question of whether we as a Senate are right in Accepting the proposal of the Government ; And that is the question in regard to which I have had so much difficulty in making up my mind. After listening to the arguments on both sides, I may say that the views of thoso who hold that the Senate would to a certain extent yield up some of its rights and privileges, weigh most with me. In my opinion this is a piece of legislation which should have been introduced in the ordinary way of a Bill. I do not blame the Government for unreasonable delay, and I think such a charge is absurd, because, on the other hand, they are accused of rushing this matter with undue haste. At the same time 1 do not think that the Government have gone the best way about the business. The correct method for the Government would have been to submit to the other Chamber a proposed capital site ; and then the Bill would have been sent on to the . Senate in the ordinary course. I admit that, like several other honorable senators, I am making a sort of “yes-no” speech. I also admit that it might be possible to settle the question more expeditiously by means of this Conference than by insisting on the right of the Senate to have the legislation introduced in the ordinary way. But several senators have openly stated that they are willing to take part in this Conference but decline to be bound by any resolution which may there be arrived at. If I were to vote in favour of the Conference I. should feel myself in honour bound, when the Bill came before us in the usual course, to express by my vote the same opinion I had. formed in the Conference.
– And why not ?
– Some honorable senators have said that even if they voted for a particular site in the Conference they would reverse that vote if they found that a majority of the Senate were of a contrary opinion, and that it was necessary to do so in order to uphold the rights of the Senate. Then there is ‘another question to be considered. I understand that Senator Clemons has intimated his intention to submit an amendment to the effect that the two Houses shall sit in Conference but shall vote as separate orders. I do not know that I am. altogether enamoured of that proposal. If any good could result from the adoption of such an amendment we might just as well vote in out separate Houses. After listening very carefully to - what has been said, I have come to the conclusion to vote against the motion.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Bill returnedfrom the House of Repre sentatives, with amendments.
Senate adjourned at 9.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 September 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030922_senate_1_17/>.