3rd Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– When speakiing on the third reading of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill last night, I made a statement which I find on examination is not absolutely correct. 1 stated that one section of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the possibilities’ of the iron industry - and which included Messrs. W. M. Hughes’, S. W. Cooke, J. W. Kirwan, G. W. Fuller, J. C. Watson, and Joseph Cook - had expressed an opinion favorable to the nationalization policy. What I should have said was that they signed a report condemning a bonus being granted to the industry, but did not commit themselvesto the nationalization policy, and that later on, when a Bill was introduced in another place, Messrs. Hughes and Watson did vote in favour of that principle. I felt that in justice to Messrs. S. W. Cooke, J. W. Kirwan, G. W. Fuller, and Joseph Cook, I ought to make this explanation.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, if the inquiries made by an official, whom I take to be the Prime Minister’s secretary, as to whether honorable senators will attend, is the only intimation which they will receive outside of the statements in the press of His Excellency the Governor-General’s desire with respect to next Monday’s amusement at the Melbourne Cricket Club’s Ground?
– No formal invitations are being issued,’ but His Excellency the Govertior-General will be very glad to meet, at luncheon on Monday next, at the cricket match to be played at the Melbourne Cricket Club’s Ground, any honorable senators who can make it convenient to attend. Of course, the only intimation has been made through the Prime Minister.
– Members of Parliament are to be whistled up.
– I desire to ask. the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether his attention has been called to the following cablegram in this morning’s newspaper headed “Military Aeroplanes. Sir Henry Hiram Maxim’s opinion. Revolution in Warfare,” and dated London, 3rd December -
In a lecture delivered before the Society of Arts last evening, Sir Hiram Maxim, the famous inventor, who has devoted much attention to the problem of artificial flight, expressed a striking opinion with regard to aeroplanes as a military adjunct.
Sir Hiram Maxim asserted thataeroplanes would soon be a very important military weapon, enabling troops to bombard towns from a great distance, and creating a revolution in warfare equal to that resulting from the invention of gun-powder.
I wish to know whether the Minister will endeavour to obtain for the use of honorable senators the fullest report available of the lecture.
– I shallendeavour to obtain copies of the lecture, which I have no doubt will be very valuable. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that the attitude of the Department towards inventions has received considerable attention from myself, because I recognise the value of keeping it up-to-date. Apparently in the past the practice has been for inventors to interview the Minister, and put forward ‘ a case, and he has decided whether he would give any assistance to them or not. It seems to me that the matter depends rather upon the technical value of the invention. I am taking steps to establish in each State a small board consisting of three men possessing technical knowledge of mechanical science and theoretical ability, and a representative of the Military Forces, whose duty it will be to recommend to the Minister what, in their opinion, should be done, to test the value of any invention submitted, and, if it is of any value, to assist the inventor to bring it to fruition. The plan is not yet completed.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether, in view of the fact that the Oldage Pensions Act is to come into operation, at the beginning of next year, he will be prepared to make before the recess a statement as to the views and intentions of the
Ministry on the matter of both finance and administration ?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Defence, without notice, whether he has seen the following short article in this morning’s newspaper?
A cable message has been received by the “Tung Wah Times” from the “ Sheung Po,” at Hong Kong, stating that the British Government has interposed with regard to the Chinese boycott on Japanese trade and shipping. It is stated that the British authorities have expressed the opinion that the boycott movement has been carried on long enough, and that it should be relaxed. Several of the Chinese merchants in Hong Kong who have taken a prominent part in the boycott’ and who feel disposed to continue the crusade in vindication of the national honour have been ordered to quit the country. The editor of the “ Sheung Po,” the cablegram adds, has also received marching orders. This paper, it may be said, is the organ of the boycott party in Hong Kong.
There is a good deal of indignation among the Chinese in Hong Kong and other places at the action of the British Government, who, it is claimed, have gone further than they were justified in doing.
I desire to know if the Minister will ascertain, if possible before the next day of sitting, whether the British authorities have taken the course stated in the cablegram received by the Chinese newspaper in Sydney?
– What could we do, anyhow ?
– I want to know, and other persons in the Commonwealth I feel sure desire to know, whether a boycott which has been applied by the Chinese to vindicate their national honour is to be stopped by the British authorities in Hong Kong?
– What have we to do with it?
– What have we to do with it? Leave it alone, will you?
– Order. I would point out that in putting a question the honorable senator is not entitled to enter into any argument, and that if honorable senators on the Opposition side invite an expression of opinion from him, it is hard for him to keep within the rule. I ask the honorable senator to put his question in as brief terms as possible.
– I do not know that the matter referred to comes within the jurisdiction of. the Commonwealth Government, and viewing it in that light I do not propose to take any steps.
– A sensible reply.
– Very sensible ! We have a lot to do with the matter.
asked the Vice-Pre sident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator are : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council; upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is: - 1 and 2. - It is the present intention of the Government to issue a proclamation bringing the Quarantine Act into operation on 1st July, 1909.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 3rd December, vide page 2586) :
Clause 2 -
The Seat of Government Act 1904 is hereby repealed.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 - ft is hereby determined that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be in the district of Yass-Canberra, in the State of New South Wales.
Amendment (by Senator Croft) proposed -
That the words “ Yass-Canberra “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “Tooma-Dalgety”
– Seeing that Parliament has changed its mind so often as to where the Capital should be situated, it seems to me that there is no objection to another change. If lengthened consideration and discussion bring wiser counsels, I see no reason why we should not benefit from the fuller experience derived since this matter was last before us. Senator Turley whispers to me that another reason for a change of opinion is that there has been a change of Government. I remember Senator Millen throwing a very apt jeer at the ex- Vice-President of the Executive Council, Senator Best, in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. He suggested as a reason for the change of front on that subject that there were microbes on the Government bench. The reason given by Senator Millen at that time is one that still appears to hold good, and the microbes on the Government bench evidently do not confine their attention to any one set of Ministers. The two present Ministers, who were formerly as strongly in favour of Dalgety as any of us, have now been affected by the microbes, and have become enthusiastic supporters of Yass-Canberra.
– But the honorable senator will agree with me that in spite of those awful examples no one seems frightened by the microbes.
– I notice that the honorable senator himself turns longing eyes towards the place where the microbes are, and regards with pleasurable anticipation the time when he will be brought into contact with them. That can be the only reason for the sudden change of opinion. There is such a thing as Cabinet solidarity, and certain members of the Cabinet having been in favour of this site, and a Cabinet decision having been come to, that may be some excuse for the attitude adopted by the Government at the present time. But I remind honorable senators that that was not the attitude adopted by the members of the previous Government. They were free to take sides in this matter, and there was a wide difference of opinion upon it between Mr. Chapman and Sir William Lyne. I fail to see why in a great national matter of this kind Ministers should be asked to sink their individual opinions. I am as strongly convinced as ever that YassCanberra is not the best site, and I am satisfied that a majority of the members of the Federal Parliament hold the same view. But there has been such a lot of log-rolling and back-scratching going on in connexion with this matter by interested parties in New South Wales, that some honorable senators have been induced to give way and support the Yass-Canberra site.
– That is only the honorable senator’s assertion. There is nothing to back it up.
– I make the assertion and give it to the country for what it is worth.
– And the country will take it for what it is worth.
– I wish to know if Senator Givens is in order in charging honorable senators from New South Wales with log-rolling in this matter.
– I did not understand the honorable senator to charge honorable senators from New South Wales in that way.
– I should like to point out in reply to Senator McColl’s interjection, that ‘ something must have changed his opinion. It was changed with remarkable suddenness on the floor of this Chamber, and he absolutely ran away from the site he had himself nominated, , because he got too much support for it. The country will judge the honorable senator for that.
– What happened to the supporters of Dalgety ?
– They remained faithful to Dalgety all the time.
– They deliberately sold Dalgety.
– Senator Gray will be much more likely to assist in the passing of this Bill about which he is so anxious, if he will restrain his ardour.
– And the honorable senator should restrain his slanders.
– I do not think Senator McColl is in order in accusing me of slandering any one, but it should be remembered that if any one is slandered by what I have said, it is because I have stated facts ?
– The fact that the Dalgety supporters ran away from Dalgety.
– They transferred their votes to Tumut in order that Dalgety might remain in the Act of Parliament as the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. I have said that a majority of the members of this Parliament are in favour of a site other than the YassCanterra site, but in order to do a good turn to other honorable senators, some have allowed their better judgment to be overridden. I say this because that consideration was suggested to me as a reason for altering my vote. We have had many opportunities to reconsider our position in connection with the settlement of this question. Such opportunities have been clamoured for by honorable senators opposite, and they cannot object if I ask that we should now be given a further opportunity. I should like to ask the honorable senators who have been induced to chance their opinions in connection with this big national matter-
– Who are they? Let the honorable senator name them.
– I have not named Senator W. Russell. I have heard him express only one opinion on this subject, and he should not be so ready to put the cap on unless he is satisfied that it will fit. Some honorable senators have certainly changed their opinions, and amongst them the two representatives of the Government in the Senate, owing, I suppose, to the ex igencies of Cabinet necessity. This is far too serious a matter to be passed over in a light and airy fashion. Honorable senators should not vote against their convictions upon so important a matter merely for the sake of standing well with other members of the Senate. We are called upon to choose a Capital site for the Commonwealth, not for to-day or to-morrow, but for all time. I do not propose to repeat the recently reiterated arguments with respect to the respective merits of Dalgety, Yass-Canberra, and Tumut. They were all referred to on a recent occasion.
– Yes, ad nauseam.
– I am satisfied that Senator St. Ledger’s arguments were repeated ad nauseam, and I am willing to accept his view of the effect which they had upon the Senate. I am still a strong supporter of the Dalgety site or a site in its vicinity.
– And yet the honorable senator voted for Tumut.
– Tumut may be said to be in the vicinity of Dalgety if Yass is in the vicinity of Canberra. One factor is of supreme importance in the settlement of this question, and that is a perennial, unlimited supply of the very best water, and in this respect there is no comparison between Yass-Canberra and Tooma-Dalgety. At either Tooma or Dalgety we could obtain an unlimited water supply for ordinary purposes, and also for irrigation and conversion into power for carrying out Commonwealth enterprises, such as lighting the Capital city, running trams, and carrying on an ammunition and small arms factory. These are considerations of very great importance. Yet, what do we find in reference to the Yass-Canberra district ? . We are assured that it possesses a fair water supply, and that we have no occasion to fear a water famine, because, in the final resort, we could fall back upon the New South Wales Government reservoir at Barren Jack. I maintain that for its water supply the permanent Seat of Government should be absolutely independent of any State.
– So it will be. Has the honorable senator read Mr. de Burgh’s report ?
– I have; and I have also had to endure a large amount of special pleading in connexion with this matter. It cannot be denied that, if the
Federal Capital be established at YassCanberra, and if it be threatened with a water famine, it will be compelled to fall back upon the Barren Jack reservoir. Now, the main source of that supply, as we all know, is the Murrumbidgee, a very long river which flows through settled districts, and has townships located upon its banks. Any water supply, if drawn from such a source, must be everlastingly polluted by the settlement along its banks. In the event of a scarcity of water, the Federal Capital will thus be left dependent upon a polluted supply. In addition, the New South Wales Government will have entered into contracts to supply numerous landowners and settlers below the Barren Jack reservoir with water for irrigation purposes, and we all know that, during a period of drought, the latter will require that water more urgently than they do at any other period. The residents of the Federal Capital, too, will need water most at such times. The New South Wales Government will, therefore, be called upon to choose between the needs of their own citizens, with whom they have entered into the contracts for the supply of water, and those of residents within the Federal Territory. Under such circumstances, it is inconceivable that the latter will receive more consideration at the hands of the New South Wales Government than will the former. Why should this great Commonwealth be obliged to go cap-in-hand to the New South Wales Government in time of need to plead for a drink of water? I hope that very serious attention will be given to the amendment submitted by Senator Croft, that the good sense of the Committee will approve it, and that we shall return to our former intention and establish the permanent Seat of Government in a place which will meet the demands of the people of the Commonwealth, irrespective of whether it accords with the ideas of the residents of Sydney.
– I am very sorry that the Government cannot accept the amendment. T do not propose, like Senator Givens, to search the waste-paper basket of Old Mother Hubbard for stale gags regarding microbes and other baneful organisms with which no doubt he is much more intimately acquainted than is any member of the Ministry. Like him, I still believe that Dalgety is the best site available for the estab lishment of the Federal Capital. But returning to the waste-paper basket, which’ has been so diligently searched by Senator Givens, and with so little result, I wish tosay that although a majority of the Ministry favour the selection of Dalgety, itsmembers are unanimously of opinion that it is their duty to pay more respect to the expressed wish of Parliament than to their own individual desires. Senator Findley is another gentleman who delights to rummage in the waste-paper basket. There is scarcely a question asked by .him* which is not prompted by a cutting from a Victoriannewspaper. Seeing that Senator Givens has referred to the dissension which possibly existed in the ranks of the late Ministry, I should like to remind him that the present Government believe in the old adage - “ Whatever brawls disturb the street, there should be peace at home.” We should like some of the supporters of the present Administration to paste that motto in their hats, and to think of it occasionally. The Government are unanimously of opinion that the wish of Parliament in the matter of the selection of the Federal’ Capital site should be respected. In reply to those honorable senators who are so fond’ of diving their hands into the waste-paper basket for scraps, I wish to point out that if I desired plum pudding, but could only obtain jam tart, I should be extremely foolish to refuse to accept the latter because I could not get the former. That homely illustration exactly represents the present position.
– In the present instance there is no need to accept either.
– There is a desire on the part of a majority of members of this Parliament to accept one site, and if that majority prefer an inferior site, it is the duty of any Government which may be in power to see that they get what they want. Probably it will suit their digestion better. Parliament having selected Yass-Canberra as the area within which the Federal Capital shall be located, the Government are merely attempting to give effect to its decision.
– I support the amendment,, believing that in doing so I am adopting; at least one of the courses suggested by the Minister. For a considerable time I havehad pasted in my hat, metaphorically speaking, the idea that this Bill is practically a pollution of our political thought- and political action, of former days. Senator McGregor is very anxious that we, as representatives of labour, should remember that a Labour Government is in power, and also take up the old theme that “ whatever brawls disturb the street there should be peace at home.” But when the leaders of that or any other party forget the principles which they have championed, it makes a follower wonder whether it is not time he began to strike a direct course for himself.
– He sees that the will of this Parliament has been expressed, and he is anxious to give effect to it.
– When I am finished the honorable senator can rise and tell again all these old yarns.
– Can the honorable senator answer the statement that it is an obligation on the Ministry to give effect to the will of Parliament?
– I think thai no man, after he has well considered his political views, is under obligation in any circumstances to change them with the passing breeze. I do not think that a man, because he has passed from the position of a mere humble member of the Senate, is justified by that fact in upsetting politically his own apple cart.
– There must be compromise.
– The honorable senator does not compromise much 011 some of the principles which he advocates. Every honorable senator I suppose remembers the very powerful speech made by the Minister of Defence regarding the YassCanberra site. On that occasion he was very forcible in his denunciation of” the idea of abandoning .the site upon which Parliament had already determined. It is not many days since he made that speech, and we have not forgotten the fact that in describing the position of YassCanberra - wherever it may be, and nobody knows yet - he reminded us of the fact that the river from which the Federal Capital would have to .draw its water supply - the Mumimbidgee - is simply a chain of stinking water holes, the water trickling sometimes into places where it can scarcely be seen, and at other times into places where it is possible for a man to wash his feet. That statement was made by the Minister of Defence against the proposed abandonment of Dalgety, a known district, in favour of Yass-Canberra, a phantom which no one knows anything about. Even the Government in supporting this Bill have no clearer conception of where the Capital site is to be than we have. We are simply asked to accept a Bill which may mean anything or nothing. Even the representatives of New South Wales have no idea where the Capital site is to be. They have not even an idea of where they want it to be placed. We are asked to support a Bill which practically has no end in view other than the insertion in an Act of Parliament of the words “ Yass-Canberra “ in place of “ Dalgety.” Beyond that we are absolutely helpless and hopeless. We know nothing of where the Capital site is to be.
– It is a pitiable story which the honorable senator is telling.
– The honorable senator knows that the story is correct.
– Indeed I do not.
– Well, can the honorable senator tell us where the Capital site will be?
– Senator W. Russell will tell the honorable senator.
- Senator W. Russell has no more idea than has my honorable friend ; he has no idea where “ Yass-Canberra “ is, nor has any person in New South Wales, because that expression may mean a very large tract of country stretching for miles to the east, west, north, and south.
– It is splendid country.
– Some of it may be splendid, but a good deal of it may be very bad. The probability’ is that the Capital site may embrace the region which was described recently by the Minister of Defence, and in which we. should have to depend upon stinking water holes for a water supply, and to erect our public buildings on a swamp. I am quoting, as nearly as I can remember, his statement.
– It is near enough for the purpose.
– At YassCanberra, according to the Minister of Defence, we shall draw our water supply from stinking rivulets, and establish the city on a sort of dried up swamp. That is the prospect we have before us as to the home of the Parliament of the Australian people. I sincerely hope that the amendment will receive the support to which it is entitled, and that the Bill will be sent back to another place for its further consideration.
.- I rise to support the amendment. When Senator Henderson was speaking Senator Millen interjected that the Government of thu day ought to respect the will of Parliament as expressed by resolution or vote, meaning, of course, that, although the members of the Government here were opposed when private senators to the site mentioned in this Bill, they are in duty bound to go back on the opinions which they formerly held, withdraw what they previously said, and support this Bill.
– They practically say that, although they belong to the honorable senator’s party, this is not a party question.
– If, in respect of this Bill, that is the course which Ministers are expected to follow, it ought to be remembered that both Houses of this Parliament decided by vote in favour of Dalgety.
– And the Government of the day tried to give effect to that decision.
– Not this Parliament, but another one.
– Why was not the will of the Parliament which did decide in favour of Dalgety respected?
– Because there was no Cabinet solidarity. If there had been, this question would have been settled.
– But according to Senator Findley the opinion of Parliament ought not to be respected.
– Cabinet solidarity is a funny thing. I always thought that a decision was arrived at by majority rule, that if a majority favoured a certain course or policy, it carried the day, and the minority had to be loyal to the decision. But in this case, it would appear, according to Senator McGregor, that although the majority is opposed to Yass-Canberra, the minority exercised such influence that it induced some members of the majority to sink their individual opinions and support Yass-Canberra.
– Ignoring the decision of Parliament.
– What was the de- ^cision of the Senate ? The selection of ‘ Yass-Canberra was carried by a fluke.
– Dalgety did not receive a vote.
– The selection of Yass-Canberra was carried by a fluke, combined with the fact that one honorable senate, backslided.
– And eighteen men on the honorable senator’s side backslided and1 left Dalgety alone.
– No, they did not backslide. Politics is a game of war.
– It is a game of trickswith some persons.
– We were extremely anxious to get as many votes as possible for a particular site. We were hopeful that with an equality of votes the question would pass in the negative and that the selection of Dalgety would stand.
– You were playing all you knew.
– Yes, we were playing for Dalgety.
– For Tumut.
– That is merely a liii expression, and is not meant. The honorable senator knows that we did not mean Tumut.
– The record speaks for itself.
– We who supported the site suggested by Senator McColl thought that he would be true to the principles which he had advocated in respect of his first choice of a site.
– Would you have given him Tumut?
– We really did think that he would be true to the viewswhich he had expressed.
– Although you were not true to the views which you had expressed ?-
– In view of the fact that he nominated that site we thought that he would be consistent.
– He fought and beat you with your own weapons.
– We supported Tumut because we believed that the voting would be equal, and that the question would pass in the negative. In that case Dalgety would have remained the choice of the Senate.
– And Senator McColl fought and beat his opponents with their own weapons.
– We were playinga fair and honest game. Senator McColl professed to be anxious to see Tumut selected. But when he discovered the largenumber of supporters for the place nomi- nated by him, he ran away from his choice, yielding to the influences brought to bear upon him.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– How can it be untrue ?
– It is untrue to say that influence was exercised. Not a man spoke to me.
– If no influence was exercised on Senator McColl, he ran away from the site of his choice and turned a complete somersault without any reason.
– I said that I would give Tumut my first vote, and YassCanberra my second j that is what I did.
– There is a big chance yet of having the Capital city built at Dalgety. I cannot seriously believe that the present Government or any Government, in view of the close vote recorded in favour of Yass-Canberra and against Dalgety, will commit the people of Australia to the site named in the Bill.
– What majority does the honorable senator as a democrat want?
– I want to have a fair majority ; not the mere tossing of a coin. I have explained now why we voted’ as we did.
– The honorable senator has not justified it.
– Very cunning, was it not?
– We shall see what the future will bring forth with regard to the votes of some honorable senators. Senator Henderson has referred to the water supply of Yass-Canberra. Those who have unbiased minds admit that it is the least suitable of all the sites in that respect. It has not a water supply worth v of the name. The stream which is dignified as “the Cotter River” is not a river at all. It is a mere creek. The water running in it is nothing but a polluted trickle. On the other hand, the Snowy River at Dalgety is a pellucid, never-failing stream.
– The honorable senator cannot produce any authority for his first statement.
– I could produce authorities sufficient to occupy me for the rest of the day.
– If the honorable senator can find an authority to show that the Cotter is a polluted stream, I will give him my vote for Dalgety.
– It is only in the rainy season that there is any water in the Cotter at all, and then the bed of the creek is not much more than a wet place. We also had strong statements from Senator Pearce to the effect that owing to bad foundations it would hardly be possible to erect at Yass-Canberra buildings of any magnitude that would be of a lasting character without going to’ enormous expense and resorting to means and methods not usually employed in buildings. In view of all these facts I earnestly hope that the Government will not be too strenuous in advocating the site named in the Bill. I know that they are in an embarrassing position ; but I cannot stretch my imagination so much as to believe that Senator McGregor, who has been a warm and constant champion of Dalgety, will, during the course of this debate, forget his first love and champion to any extent a site of which he does not approve.
– The honorable senator has left his first love many a time.
– Generally she left him.
– Loyalty to the Government binds Senator McGregor to the site named in the Bill ; but it does not bind him to make statements in which he does not believe. He is well aware that the (choice made by Parliament this session has not given satisfaction to the people of Australia, and particularly to Victorians. Dalgety has been known ever since Australia has been occupied.
– And avoided.
– Crops and fruits have been successfully grown there.
– Some of the crops were blown out by the roots.
– I am reminded again of the joke which the coachdriver at Dalgety had at Senator W. Russell’s expense. It was a windy day when the honorable senator went there, and when his hat was nearly blown off, the coachdriver said, “ Oh this is nothing ; if you had been here a week ago, you would have found the wind so strong that it blew over the coach and horses.” That statement of the driver so prejudiced Senator W. Russell’s mind that he wiped Dalgety off his slate.
– There is not a word of truth in the story.
– The honorable senator told us in his second reading speech that he did not see a rabbit or a sheep at Dalgety.
– I saw some sheep that had died for want of food.
– Had they been “ blown out by the roots,” like the crops? I hope that Senator Croft’s amendment will receive the support that it deserves, and that the Senate will once more affirm its approval of Dalgety.
– Before the curtain falls upon this last act of a national blunder - I might almost say a national crime - I wish to record my emphatic protest against the selection of Yass-Canberra foa- the future Capital of the Commonwealth. I cannot let the occasion pass without recording my disapproval, and even amazement, at the way in which the subject has been dealt with. Any person who studies the facts, cannot but come to the conclusion that in the selection of Yass-Canberra, the members of this Parliament have changed their minds without any good reason. In choosing Dalgety in the first instance, Parliament undoubtedly came to the wisest conclusion. I admit that I have not been to Dalgety, but I have been through many of the inland districts of Australia, and have come tol the conclusion that it would be a national folly to place the Capital on a waterless and treeless plain like Yass-Canberra.
– Treeless as compared with Dalgety. It is obvious the honorable senator has not been there.
– We have photographs which prove that the Yass-Canberra site is unquestionably inferior to the Dalgety site. I recognise that I am at present pursuing a forlorn hope, and that those who are defending the interests of the large population that will find a home in the future Federal Capital, are now being led like lambs to the slaughter. But I cannot permit the opportunity to pass without expressing my amazement at the way in which public men have permitted themselves, in dealing with this question, to be influenced, not by the merits of the various sites suggested, but by the blandishments of a political faction. If we go back seven years in the history of New South Wales, we shall find that the site which above all others was, according to the then Premier of the State, favoured by the people whom he represented, wasthe Dalgety site.
– No. Dalgety wasnever mentioned seven years ago, though Southern Monaro was.
– That is a merequibble. The late Sir John See, when Premier of New South Wales, was asked for his opinion in an official way by Sir Edmund Barton, as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and in reply he suggested’ three sites, which included the territory embracing Dalgety.
– No. Southern Monaro is one site, Bombala another, and Dalgety a third.
– -That is such splitting of straws that I am not disposed to take any notice of it.
– Does the honorable senator know the distance from Dalgety toBombala ?
– I know that bothare in the Southern Monaro district, and I suppose I could cover the distance on a bicycle in a couple of hours.
– -The honorable senator could not, with all his braggadocio.
– Let me say herethat I quite understand the attitude adopted by the present Government. It is natural that they should feel under someobligation to give effect to the expressed will of Parliament. In the circumstances, I have no fault to find with them ; but that is not to say that honorable senators whoare not members of the Government should have their mouths closed. I have heresome photographs which have been published with the authority of the Sydney Bulletin. That newspaper has as muchregard for its reputation as have somemembers of the Senate. Amongst these photographs is one representing the Cotter River, at its junction with the Murrumbidgee, and this is the part of the Cotter River which we are invited to believe is to be the source of the water supply of the future Capital city. It represents nothing more than a small rivulet, such as is found trickling down a mountain side in the Old Country. In this photograph the pebbles in the centre of the creek show above the surface of the water. The photographwas taken on the 24th of January, 1908, at a time when it will be admitted thedrought was not nearly so severe as it hasoften been in the Commonwealth. It may be assumed, therefore, that the photograph gives a fair representation of the average volume of water flowing in the Cotter River, and, if that be so, and we are to rely upon the Cotter River for the water supply of the future Capital city, any honorable senator who votes for the selection of the Yass-Canberra site commits himself to an act of national folly, which I find it difficult to describe.
– Does the honorable senator always rely upon the authority of the Bulletin?
– Possibly, on some matters, the Bulletin should not be taken seriously or literally, but it will not be denied that the people of Australia owe a debt of gratitude to the Bulletin for what it has done in the past.
– I have said nothing to the contrary.
– It appeared to me that the honorable senator impugned the authority of the Bulletin. When this question was considered in the Senate before, we had very meagre information to guide us as to the merits of the YassCanberra site. All that information was supplied by New South Wales departmental officers. I have no desire to impugn their honour, but it has not been uncommon in the experience of some of the States to find departmental officers giving a colouring to their reports to suit their Ministerial masters. 1 respect the integrity of public servants, but at times the Ministerial head of the Department treats his subordinates in such a way as to lead them to believe that if they submit reports which are not to his I ‘king, they will incur his displeasure. The only reports we get to guide us as to the merits of the Yass-Canberra site are reports of New South Wales departmental officers, and in the absence of reports from independent sources, I feel that the information supplied is very meagre. The reports which have been submitted are also misleading and inconsistent, as I think I can prove in a per few words. For instance, Mr. Wade, who is an engineer in the New South Wales service, states in one of these reports -
Taking the catchment area of the Cotter River. T am satisfied that :t would supply all the requirements of the Federal Capital City up to a quarter of a million of inhabitants.
That is an authoritative statement by a responsible officer, but if we turn to the report submitted by Mr. de Burgh, we find that he goes one better. Referring to the area above a dam to be placed on the Cotter River to supply a head for gravitation, he says -
The catchment area above the dam site is no square miles, and the average daily flow of the river amounts to 59,000,000 gallons, or twelve times the ‘5,000,000 gallons required for the city supply.
On the authority of Mr. Wade, we are told that the catchment area would afford a supply for 250,000 people, and we find Mr. de Burgh declaring that one portion of the catchment area or the Cotter River would supply 600,000 people. We can make allowance for a reasonable margin of difference in such calculations, hut we should not expect such a difference as that shown in official reports submitted for our guidance. Speaking still of the Cotter River, Mr. de Burgh says -
The total area of the catchment up to its junction with the Mumimbidgee is 165 square miles.
In the same report, this officer states that the total catchment area above the dam is ito square miles. His second proposal is for a dam on the Cotter River at its junction with the Murrumbidgee, and he says that the catchment area above that dam is 160 square miles. So that, according to the same authority, we have two catchment areas on this river aggregating 270 square miles, and, in the same report, he tells us that the total catchment area is 165 square miles. On the same page of the same report a discrepancy of 105 square miles is disclosed in estimates of the total catchment area of the Cotter River. In a report submitted for our guidance, we certainly have a right to expect greater accuracy than these figures supply. I shall vote for the amendment, believing that bv placing the Federal Capital on the Yass-Canberra dry plain, to be supplied by the trickling stream of the Cotter Creek, we should be committing nothing short of a national blunder. I am astonished that honorable senators should be influenced to vote for such a site in preference to the beautiful site at Dalgety, with the advantage of the Snowy River. I believe that in time to come, when the records are looked up, those who have done so will be remembered with execration by the future residents of the Federal Capital. Even though the amendment should not be carried, we shall, by voting for it, record a last protest against this act of irreparable folly.
– I do not think that it is of any use to continue to discuss- this question, but, with Senator Lynch, -I wish to enter one more protest against the perpetration of a wrong. I confess I do not quite understand the almost indecent haste which the Government have displayed to give effect to a proposal in which they do not believe.
– .We believe in the settlement of the question.
– If the YassCanberra site had been adopted by a substantial majority of the Senate, there might have been some reasonable excuse for giving effect to the vote.
– We carried a motion last night by one vote. Does the honorable senator not think that it ought to be effective ?
– It is true that the motion to which the honorable senator refers was carried by a majority of one. The selection of the Yass-Canberra area was the result of the change of front on the part of Senator McColl. That honorable senator did not believe in the attitude which he adopted upon the second occasion, because he actually proposed the establishment of the Federal Capital at Tumut. Only one other honorable senator preferred that site - I refer to Senator Fraser.
– From whom did’ Tumut obtain its votes - from the advocates of Tumut or from those of Dalgety ?
– Senator McColl rather -resented the suggestion that influence was brought to bear upon him to induce him to change his vote upon this question. But undoubtedly some influence must have been exercised’, although I do not for a moment suggest that it was a wrong influence. But, in passing, I may mention the explanation that was offered in this connexion by a correspondent in communicating with a friend of mine. He declared that the change of attitude on the part of Senators McColl and Fraser was possibly due to the fact that owing to the abundant supply of water available at Dalgety the whole country was clothed in a mantle of green upon the occasion of their visit to that site, whereas on account of the scarcity of water at YassCanberra the whole landscape there was pervaded by a sickly yellow. The fact remains that the Senate has not decided in favour of Yass-Canberra by a majority of its members. A number of those who supported its selection have repeatedly stated that Dalgety is the only site which possesses an abundant water supply. Some influence must have been brought to bear upon them to induce them to change their views. It has been suggested that Senator Millen keeps such a firm hand upon his team that he insists upon every member of it answering to the whip. One important factor in connexion with the substitution of YassCanberra for Dalgety has hitherto escaped notice - I refer to the question of the cost of constructing the Federal Capital. In the Yass-Canberra area all the lands of any value have already been alienated, so that if the Capital be established there the Commonwealth will be called upon to pay fictitious values for the areas which it may resume - areas which have been purchased by land speculators. The whole agitation in favour of substituting Yass-Canberra for Dalgety has emanated from land speculators. When we passed the Seat of Government Act of 1904 we made it impossible for speculators to make any profits out of the enhanced values which might be given to lands in the district of Southern Monaro by reason of the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government there. But, apparently, a number of speculators ha.ve purchased all the good land available in the Yass-Canberra district, and are content to wait for a rise in values - a rise which will come out of the pockets of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.
– That statement is toochildish for consideration. The honorable senator is merely fishing. He does not know that there has been a single acre in the Yass-Canberra area sold within the past year.
– Of course, Senator Millen has had considerable experience in land speculation. I say that during .the past six or nine months prominent men who at one time advocated the claims of Dalgety have been buttonholing members of this Parliament and bringing all sorts of influence to bear upon them for the purpose of inducing them to change their votes upon this question.
– Is the honorable senator referring to Mr. Watson?
– Mr. Watson is one of those who have had a great deal to do with the reversal of the decision of this Parliament. But for his influence, I do not think that the change would have been made. He possesses such persuasive powers that he was able to induce many members of this Parliament to change their minds.
– I do not think that he ever voted for Dalgety.
– At one time Mr. Watson was the Prime Minister, and during the period that he remained in office about the only legislation which his Government succeeded in getting passed was the Seat of Government Act 1904, which fixed the Federal Capital at Dalgety. To-day another Labour Ministry is in power, and I fear that about the only legislation which it will be able to carry through will be an Act providing for the repeal of the measure which was passed at the instance of the first Labour Government. Immediately that has been done they will be confronted with a combination which will “ bump “ them out of office.
– Then let them get into recess speedily.
– It is most unfortunate that, notwithstanding that a majority in the Ministry do not believe that the Yass-Canberra area, should be selected for the Federal Capital site, it feels impelled to ask Parliament to pass this Bill. However, it is idle to occupy time by further discussing the matter. The numbers are up. My only hope is that when the surveyors enter the YassCanberra district its disadvantages will be so apparent that they will be obliged to report that a suitable site for the permanent Seat of Government cannot be found within it. Personally, I believe that this Parliament will yet have an opportunity of retracing its steps upon this matter, and re-affirming the selection of Dalgety.
– We have been told that the numbers are up, and that, assisted by delays and changes of Government, it has been possible to secure the support of a majority of the members of this Parliament for the site which is most acceptable to Sydney interests. I would remind honorable senators that Yass was one of the first sites inspected by a Commonwealth parliamentary party. But what was the result of that inspection? Honorable senators reported that it was a dreadful place in which to contemplate the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government. There was practically no suitable water supply, and it had nothing to recommend it to those who desired to choose the best site available in New South Wales subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution. Had Yass been the site submitted for our approval when this question again came up for consideration the other day, it would have been ignominiously rejected. The opponents of Dalgety, however, were too cute to permit of that being done. Consequently they proposed the selection of the Yass-Canberra area, which includes, 1 understand, about five sites. We have not a great deal of information in reference to the Yass site, and we have absolutely none regarding any other site in this area except that of Canberra. I hold in my hand the report of a trip to that district which was specially undertaken by Sir John Forrest, at the request of the then Premier of New South Wales. The Government of that State was dissatisfied with the selection of Dalgety, and accordingly it invited Sir John Forrest to inspect the Canberra site, which it claimed was a superior one. and one the choice of which would be more acceptable to the people of New South Wales. In his report, Sir John Forrest says -
In accordance with a promise I made to the Premier of New South Wales to inspect Canberra and express an opinion upon it as to its suitability as a site for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth, I visited this locality on Tuesday, the 4th June. The weather was fine and bracing, and I had a good opportunity for inspection.
I do not know whether honorable senators on the other side, who are usually in the same political boat as Sir John Forrest, and have expressed the opinion that he is competent to advise on a matter of this sort, take any particular notice of the report which he submitted to this Parliament, and, I suppose, to the Premier of New South Wales. He deals with one or two matters which, I think, are of supreme importance. It is very seldom that I have spoken on this subject. 1 made a speech when it was before the Senate in 1904. Since then I have not said a word, but have simply watched events. I have seen honorable senators change their votes on various occasions, although they may not have changed their opinion, which is a different matter.
– Seventeen senators did that the other day.
– There were no seventeen senators who changed their opinions regarding this matter.
– They advocated Dalgety, but not one of them voted for it.
– The honorable senator knows that it was with the object of preventing an alteration from taking place that I, and a number of honorable senators, voted for Tumut. We believed that if Tumut were carried, the question would come up for consideration again, even though what we expected - that it would pass in the negative - did not happen.
– They talked in one way and voted in another.
– I do not talk in one way and vote in another. I leave that sort of business to the honorable senator, as I do not wish to trespass upon his monopoly or domain. Every one who voted for Tumut on that occasion did so with the object of securing the best site, and that was Dalgety. The question of water supply is,I take it, one of the first considerations in selecting the site for a city. There is no one who, for a moment, believes that the information which has been furnished regarding the Cotter, the Gudgenby, and the Murrumbidgee, to be alto- g ether reliable. This morning Senator Lynch quoted the opinion of some Government officers who, when they were sent back to examine the same country, supplied a report which did not tally with their previous report to the Government. It is not on such evidence that we should be called upon to pass an opinion. To my mind, it suggests that independent, reliable officers should be sent to procure whatever information is required - men who, if they express an opinion to-day, and are sent to-morrow to review their work, will report in pretty much the same terms, although, of course, they might correct a slight mistake which had been made; but. as Senator Lynch has pointed out, it should not be a mistake of 100 miles in the catchment area when they were dealing with a creek or river as the source of a water supplv for a town. I do not think that any one believes for a moment that we should be able to getanything like the same supply of water at Canberra as at Dalgety.In the first place, we have the one and only ever-flowing river in Australia benenth the snow line from which water could be supplied to Dalgety. I do not know of any permanent river beneath the snow line except the Snowy. We know that the Cotter Creek was dry in 1906. We also know thatwhatever water may be draining into the upper parts of the Murrumbidgee is of a character which, in many cases, according to reports in the press and from old residents, would not be fit for human consumption. If that is so - and I do not think that the statements have been contradicted - the question of water supply is an important factor when we are considering whether the Federal Capital should be established on any site in the huge area mentioned in this Bill. Sir John Forrest reported regarding the Canberra country under exactly the same headings as he did on the Dalgety country, namely -
Sir John Forrest began his report on Canberra with this statement -
I propose to deal with Canberra on the same basis and in the same manner; as, by the application of these factors to both Dalgety and Canberra, a just estimate of their comparative merits may be arrived at.
He dealt, first, with the distance from Sydney, which is not of particular moment, as it is only a. matter of railway communication. Whether a place is 20 or 30 or 40 miles farther fromSydney does not seem to me to warrant much consideration. The next factor with which Sir John Forrest dealt was “ good climate, summer and winter.” We have heard a lot of talk about the difference in climate. It has been urged that men elected in different parts of Australia, if they had to go to a place like Dalgetv, would not be able to take part in the government of the countrv, because their health would not stand the climate.
I have seen too many changes of residence take place in Australia to be influenced by such talk. I have known persons who had lived in the tropics for a number of years to come and live in Melbourne. I do not think that its climate is any better than that of Dalgety. Dalgety is just as healthy as Melbourne, and, in my opinion, its climate is more suitable to persons who have been living in hot parts for a long time, because it is not subject to the continual changes which take place in Melbourne day after day. Sometimes we are told by an honorable senator of the number of years which he spent in North Queensland. As soon as he could afford to leave he went to the southernmost part of the Commonwealth - farther south by some hundreds of miles than Dalgety - but his health did not suffer on that account. He went to that southern place, not because he had to go there for any public purpose, but because he believed that its climate was better than that which he had experienced for many years. That is not the only case I can cite. I know a number of persons in Melbourne who, after living for many years in the northern parts of Australia,, and making money there, did not think it any hardship to go to Melbourne or Sydney. They believed that they were proceeding to a place with a better climate, or one nearer to that in which they had been born and brought up. It seems to me that too much is made of the question of climate. I was warned that, after having resided in Queensland for thirty years, I should not be able to stand the climate of Melbourne, and that, probably, I should be always shivering here and subject to colds. But I have been able to stand the climate well. It has not affected me any more than those who have come from Western Australia or Tasmania. From a health point of view, the representatives of Queensland will compare favorably with honorable senators from any other portion of Australia. It is nothing but pure buncombe to say that the establishment of the Capital at Dalgety would limit the choice of the electors in selecting the best men to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth. It is only put forward as an excuse by those who will make this statement to the public: “We did not vote for Dalgety because it was subject to blizzards. We did not think that it would be in the best interests of Australia to establish its Capital there in a very cold place.” Senator Gray is the only senator who has expressed his unwillingness to go to Dalgety. But he has changed his opinion so often about matters on which he had spoken very definitely that I do not think that Ke would find any insuperable objection to change his opinion on this matter if Dalgety were selected. An important factor with which Sir John Forrest deals in his report is - “ Great water power for electric light and power and other applications of electricity.” I do not think for a moment that any one will contend that in Australia there is any source of water supply which approaches in any way the Snowy River for the purpose of providing power and light. There is no other water supply in Australia, except in the shape of falls, to equal that of Dalgety. The power obtained from the Snowy would be sufficient to light a city like Sydney, give facilities for heating and cooking in houses, and supply the power necessary for traction. I doubt whether there is a city in the world that would compare with Sydney if it possessed the advantage of the Dalgety water supply in addition to its other attractions. This enormous power is to-day going to waste. There is no suggestion that the Cotter Creek or the Murrumbidgee would give the same power; and the public interest requires these things to be taken into consideration.
– Water on the brain is a distressing complaint.
– The thought flashes through my mind that the honorable senator is an awful example of his own dictum. He is fond of telling us that he does not consume much else than water. 1 believe that if the electors, of Australia thoroughly understood this question, they would be’ profoundly disappointed at the choice of Yass-Canberra. It may be said that the electors do not take the question seriously. In all probability, many of them do not - not because they would not favour the selection of the best site, but because they have not access to the information which we, as their trustees, possess. It has been suggested that at Yass-Canberra we should still have access to the enormous water power of the Snowy River. But that suggestion is mere humbug. The Snowy would not be anywhere near our territory. Dalgety would be 87 miles away from any place within the Canberra area. It is true that we could go to the Government of New South Wales and say, “It is necessary for us to have this water power, and we will buy it from you, just as if you were a private individual.” But whenever it is known that a Government intends to undertake a piece of work, we always find speculators stepping in, buying up property at a cheap rate, and selling to the Government at their own price. Why should the Federal Capital be dependent upon the Government of New South Wales, or upon private land-holders, for facilities that are absolutely essential? To go outside the Federal area to obtain the water power that is requisite would be to play into the hands of private speculators, and to place the Commonwealth Government at a great disadvantage. The Federal Government should always be prepared to do what it thinks best in the interests of the people of Australia, and if ever an alteration of the Constitution is necessary to enable it to do so, the extra power should be obtained from the people in that way. I pass over several factors discussed in Sir John Forrest’s report. He mentions, for instance, the factor of water frontage for recreation, sport, and beauty. That advantage is certainly not to be obtained at Yass-Canberra. I. saw the Molonga River on one occasion. It is nothing but a very small stream, and certainly possesses no beauty. As to the factor of a site for public buildings, Sir John Forrest says -
Commanding site for public buildings, &c. The country is undulating. The site itself is, 1 think, rather too hilly, and is not, therefore, naturally very well suited for laying out a great city. I visited a few commanding sites suitable for public buildings. There was no contour survey pf the locality, and, therefore, it was not easy to judge as to how many suitable rising plateaux were available. The higher land immediately to the southward would probably injure the view of the city when approaching from the north-eastward, while, in approaching from the southward the city would not be visible till it was actually reached.
– Would the honorable senator like to quote Sir John Forrest’s opinion on the Labour Party?
– Why should I? I am quoting Sir John Forrest on this question because he is by profession a civil engineer, and therefore speaks with some authority. I would certainly rather take Sir John Forrest’s opinion on the question than Senator W. Russell’s. Apart from Sir John Forrest’s political opinions, his ability must be recognised, and his professional experience enables him to give us valuable advice upon matters of this description. In just the same way, I should say that Senator W. Russell would be able to give valuable advice on wheat-growing in South Australia. Sir John Forrest was asked to supply ‘an opinion on this question to the Federal Government, and did so.
– After a very hurried trip.
- Sir John Forrest saw a great deal more of the district than most members of the. Federal Parliament did. He did not go with a large crowd and with a definite programme to carry through. He went as a free agent, with a determination to see things for himself, and if anything arrested his attention he was able to pull up and make an examination.’ He could interview the people of the district, and had better facilities for obtaining information, travelling in that way, than had honorable senators who went around with a large party, and carried out a set programme. When I went out from Queanbeyan, and drove down into this hole, which is called Canberra Plain, I was astounded. I could not believe that the New South Wales Government could have been serious in offering this small plain five miles by seven miles in extent as a site for the Federal Capital. I was talking not long ago to a couple of men who were born and reared on the site, but who subsequently travelled hundreds of miles away from it, and made a comfortable living in another part of the Commonwealth, and who, therefore, had no interest to serve, and I never heard it condemned more emphatically by any one than it was by those men. There is no rising ground in the vicinity, if we except Mount Ainslie, and if higher land were required on which to build, it would be necessary to follow the spurs of this small range, and the city would be scattered over miles. of country. Honorable senators will readily understand that that would involve very considerable expenditure in connexion with water supply, drainage, and the arrangement of the city. I might inform the Committee that the city of Rockhampton, in Central Queensland, is built on a dead level, and when, some three or four years ago, I was walking through its streets with the Mayor, on a morning after rain, the water lay in all sorts of places and under houses that were built on stumps. I remarked that it was necessary that some drainage scheme should be carried out, and the Mayor informed me that it was estimated that it would cost £x, 000,000 to carry out a drainage scheme at Rockhampton. If the Federal Capital city is built upon a plain, we must expect to have to incur very considerable expense if it is to be effectively drained. In such a situation, the building of an up-to-date model city would involve the expenditure of an enormous sum of public money. We should recognise that it would not be right foi us to take such action as would compel the people of the Commonwealth to expend millions of money in the establishment of the Federal city, when, if a suitable site were selected, it might be established for one-third or onefourth of the money. We know very well that if a private syndicate were selecting a site for the establishment of a city, they would not choose one which would involve three or four times the expenditure that would be required in the case of a site possessing greater natural advantages. We must, in this matter, keep the interests of the public in view, and remember that we are the trustees of the public. Dealing with the natural resources surrounding and adjacent to the Canberra site, Sir John Forrest in his report says -
Canberra is, I think, very similar to Dalgety tinder this heading. The land is fertile, consisting of well grassed open plain country suited to agricultural and pastoral settlement, and on which timber grows well.
One site would appear to be about as good as the other from the point of view ot natural resources and fertility for the production of food supplies. When we realize, as some of us do, that the true opinion of Parliament is not being given effect to in the selection of the Yass-Canberra site, and that considerations apart altogether from its natural qualifications have been taken into account, I hold that we are entitled to make every effort to prevent a mistake being made in dealing with a matter which is to be settled not for to-day, or to-morrow, but for all time. I may be told that capitals are changed, and it is true that in older countries, capitals at one time located in the centre of agricultural settlement have subsequently been transferred to centres of industrial development. But we know that industrial development will go on in various parts of the Commonwealth, and that in 11 probability the Federal Capital first established will remain for all time unless, for serious reasons, the people insist upon an alteration in the Constitution to enable Parliament to deal with the question in another way. We are therefore justified in demanding that, apart from, the interests of the great capital -of New South Wales, this question should be settled solely in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. In this connexion, we must have regard to the accessibility of the Capital site by rail and water. A man travelling from Northern Queensland to a place like Yass would not travel all the way by rail, even if he could. Travelling by water is cheaper than travelling by rail, and is preferred bv many , people, and he would probably take the boat to Sydney, and go on from there to Yaw by rail. If we were considering only the convenience of members of the Federal Parliament, and of people of means who would visit the Federal Capital for pleasure. I could understand the argument of the . honorable senators opposite. But large public interests will be centred in the Federal Capital, and it should be cheaply and easily accessible to citizens of every part of the Commonwealth who may have to visit it in connexion with business of a public character. I shall not further delay the Committee. But if we are to select a Capital site with a view to serving the best interests of the Commonwealth, we can best do so by omitting the words “ YassCanberra “ in clause 3 of this Bill.
– In moving my amendment, I had the same desire as actuated me in submitting an amendment in connexion with the proposal for a ballot to determine the question of the Capital site. At that time, I desired the adoption of a. more effective method than that proposed for registering the opinion of honorable senators, but parties were so divided that it was impossible to do anything else but vote for either Yass-Canberra or Dalgety. From personal inspection, I was opposed to Yass-Canberra, and was somewhat more favorable to the selection of Dalgety, but four years ago, I made my choice in favour of Tooma. I moved an amendment in that direction, which I did not put to the vote. After hearing Senator Pearce, the present Minister of Defence, on the merits of Dalgety, and the clever and eloquent way in which he expressed his opposition to the selection of ¥ ass-Canberra, I joined with those who desired the selection of Dalgety, or, at all events, were anxious to prevent the useless and unwarranted expenditure of public money which would be involved in the selection of the Yass-Canberra site. I have been induced to speak now chiefly bv the remarks which have fallen from the
Vice-President of the Executive Council. Before he occupied his present position, he was, in common with his honorable colleague, a keen supporter of Dalgety. I admit that it is right that Ministers should take charge of Bills submitted to Parliament, butI did not expect the VicePresident of the Executive Council to, become a keen supporter and voter in favour of YassCanberra. The honorable senator has excused himself on the ground that whilst he still holds the same opinion as to the respective merits of the two sites, he feels that the Government should be guided by the opinion of the majority of the members of this Parliament. I trust that such considerations will stop short at the selection of the Federal Capital site, because if upon other matters the Government respected the opinions that are entertained by a majority of this Parliament, I should hope for their early decease. I am quite unable to support the selection of Yass-Canberra after having heard the Minister of Defence describe the utter impossibility of erecting any sort of building upon the plains of that area. I believe that that site embraces a tract of country only 7 miles by 5 miles in extent. I recollect that on the drive from Queanbeyan the parliamentary party of which I was a member, crossed it in twenty-two minutes. That fact in itself indicates that a sufficient area is not available. The Minister of Defence also pointed out that the church which is erected upon the flat at Canberra has had to be bolted together in order to prevent it from falling to pieces, that being due to the rotten foundation upon which the building has been erected. Senator Pearce also staled that the depth of alluvial there is about twenty feet. In reply, some honorable senators declared that it was not proposed to erect the Federal Capital upon the plains of Canberra, but that a site would be selected some distance away. I maintain that the moment we depart from the Yass-Canberra site, we require to be supplied with much additional data to enable us to come to a wise decision upon this matter.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was about to refer to the description which has been given of the Cotter River by the advocates of the Canberra site. When that stream is desig nated by the title of “ river,” I an* irresistibly reminded of a certain watercourse in Western Australia. Upon one occasion when I was travelling through the Murchison district, I was warned to follow a certain direction after crossing the river. When I arrived at my destination, I inquired the whereabouts of the river which I had been enjoined to cross. In reply, I was asked, “ Did you not see a couple of gum trees as you came along?” and when I replied in the affirmative, I was assured that they represented the river. Seeing that the soil at Canberra is of an alluvial formation, what can we hope for in the matter of conserving an adequate supply of water there? If we attempt to impound the water it will percolate through the soil and disappear. In the Moree district the New South Wales Government, has expended about£32,000 in an effort to dam up the Big River. But after impounding a season’s water, it was discovered that the beds of the creeks were of an alluvial formation. That being the case, I am justified in affirming that there is no prospect of our being able to conserve water either by means of a dam or a reservoir at Canberra. That the climatic conditions which obtain in that area are not of the best is evidenced by the following telegram which I have extracted from the Sydney *Daily Telegraph of 3rd December of the present year : -
A severe dust storm blew over here this afternoon, followed by heavy rains.
What would be the result of such a visitation at Canberra? All the dust would find its way into the Cotter River, and the rainfall would be” just about sufficient to enable the small boys of the locality to make mud pies.
– When I was arguing in favour of this amendment earlier in the day, I pointed out the change which has taken place in the attitude of the members of the Government in the Senate, upon this question. In reply to my criticism, the Vice-President of the Executive Council contended that the action of himself and . his colleague was quite justifiable, and was not at all to be wondered at, seeing that they merely sought to give effect to the expressed will of Parliament. That was the only reason advanced by him for the change of front to which I . have referred. Now, whilst that reason should be afforded due weight, I submit that too much weight ought not to be attached to it. We have to recollect the circumstances under which the decision of this Chamber was arrived at. I need hardly recall the fact that upon the first ballot there was an equality of votes cast in respect of two sites, so that it cannot be
Argued that Yass-Canberra obtained a majority. In view of that circumstance, why the Government should wish to rush this Bill through before the close of the session I cannot understand.
– The honorable senator would require to know the secret history of this matter before he could understand it.
– There are several other questions upon which Parliament has expressed a much more emphatic opinion, but strange to say, neither the present Government nor the late Government attempted to give effect to that opinion. Not long ago I had the honour of asking the Vice-President of the Executive Council in the Deakin Administration whether it was intended to give effect to a motion which was unanimously agreed to by this Senate a few years ago- not a few days ago - and to that question I received a most evasive reply.
– The Senate is. not the Parliament.
– I am as aware of that as is the Vice-President of the Executive Council. But I would remind him that the Senate has equal powers with another place, and that upon the question of the Federal Capital site a majority vote in favour of Canberra was recorded only in one House. In view of these circumstances, I fail to recognise the necessity for the Government tumbling over themselves in their effort to give effect to what they are pleased to call “ the expressed will of Parliament.” Very properly they say that owing to the general desire to close the session at as early a date as possible there is very little time in which to do more than pass the Estimates. There is time to do little or nothing but to pass the Estimates, and allow the Government to get into close touch with the Departments, and arrange a cohesive policy for next session. But why should they make an exception of this case, as though the whole well-being of the Commonwealth depended upon it? There are dozens of persons in” Parliament, and countless thousands outside, who think that instead of fostering its interests in this matter, the Government are tumbling over themselves in an effort to sacrifice them. I should like the Minister to consider these facts, and show similar alacrity in carrying out the will of Parliament in other matters. I think that the Government ought to be aware that they could not be considered guilty of the unpardonable sin if they failed to rush this matter through with the violent haste which seems to have taken possession of them.
– I had not intended to take part in this discussion, because I had come to the conclusion that for some reason or other the matter was practically settled. I believe that, rightly or wrongly, the numbers are up. But some of the remarks made by Senator Givens appear to me to be so apposite, and so pregnant with meaning, that I think it is highly desirable that honorable senators who very recently pronounced themselves as being very favorable to Tumut, and opposed to Yass-Canberra, should give a full exposition of the reasons for their sudden somersault. Very recently, Yass-Canberra appeared to them to be a place most unsuitable for a Capital site. One honorable senator at least made a very strong speech in opposition to its selection, and pictured in glaring colours its barrenness and general unsuitability for the purpose. It is extremely desirable that those honorable senators should tell the Senate and the country why they have so suddenly changed their opinions. T have my own views on the matter. I believe that pressure has been brought to bear upon the Government both by Labour senators and by the Opposition senators from New South Wales. 1 may be right, or I may be wrong, but reading between the lines that is the conviction which has been forced upon me. This is a question which must be handled with truly patriotic motives, and placed outside the region of petty local intrigue. Instead of that we find that intrigue is rampant in Parliament, and that strings are being pulled from Sydney all the time. Four years ago Parliament decided upon a site, but the Government of New South Wales - most unfederally - placed every possible obstacle in the way of the Commonwealth getting possession of that site. To mv mind, that in itself constitutes a most excellent reason why every honorable senator who has any semblance of self-respect left should vote against any proposal to repeal the Act of 1904.
– I rise to order. Senator Stewart is canvassing and calling in question a vote which the Committee arrived at earlier in the sitting, and which, so far as the present stage of proceedings is concerned, repealed an existing Act, and I submit that he is not in order in discussing adversely that vote.
– I maintain that if the Seat of Government Act has not yet been repealed there is nothing in the point of order raised by Senator Neild.
– The point” of order raised by Senator Neild seems to me to be altogether beside the question. He contends that Senator Stewart is out of order because he is dealing with a matter which was definitely decided this) morning on clause 2 of the Bill, which says -
The Seat of Government Act 1904 is hereby repealed.
The clause which is now before the Committee reads as follows -
It is hereby determined that the Seat of Government for the Commonwealth shall be in the district of Yass-Canberra, in the State of New South Wales.
Senator Croft has moved that the words “ Yass-Canberra “ be omitted from the clause, with a view to the insertion of the words “ Tooma-Dalgety.” I hold that Senator Stewart is . in order in discussing the eligibility of Yass-Canberra as a site, with the object of inducing honorable senators to vote for its omission. It does not follow, because clause 2 has been passed, that the matter cannot come up for consideration in another way. The fact that it has been decided to repeal a certain Act does not prevent a majority of the Committee from carrying out the proposal of Senator Croft. I do not see anything in the point of order, except that when it . was raised Senator Neild was not acquainted with the business before the Committee.
– I understand that the point of order raised by Senator Neild is that Senator Stewart is out of order in commenting adversely on a vote of the Senate Standing order 401 says -
No senator shall reflect on any vote of the Senate except for the purpose of moving that it be rescinded.
So far as Senator Stewart was reflecting on any vote of the Senate he was out “of order.
– I have been thrown slightly off my course by the interruption of Senator Neild. I still think that this matter is being pressed on with rather undue haste. The reason given by the Government for proceeding is that Parliament has expressed the opinion that YassCanberra should be substituted for Dalgety. In the Senate the voting on that question was equal, while in the other House Yass-Canberra commanded a majority of, I think, only six votes. If a decision has been arrived at, it has been come to under such circumstances as I think would warrant Parliament in looking very doubtfully, at any rate at the present time, upon a proposal to substitute Yass-Canberra for the choice of a previous Parliament. What do we know about the Yass-Canberra site ? Have we any definite information with regard to it? All we know about it is that it is a God-forgotten portion of New South Wales, for which its Government has evidently very little use, and which, therefore, it proposes to foist upon the Commonwealth. It occupies. the position of a kind of poor relation to that State, which, no. doubt, it is very willing to hand over to the tender mercies of the Commonwealth Government. I ask honorable senators who support this Bill to tell us something of _the glories of this so-called territory. Wilt Senator Walker, for instance, tell us where the Federal Capital is to be, what are the principal advantages of the site he recommends, and so on? I ask. Senator Millen, who apparently represents the opinion of the New South’ Wales Government on this question, where the Capital site is to be, and where the Houses of Parliament are to be erected? Senator Henderson. - He will not takeon that job.
– We have available information about Dalgety, and know exactly what we shall be doing if we adopt that site. But we shall undoubtedly be buying a pig in a poke if we adopt Yass-Canberra.
– Did the honorablesenator see what Mr. Mahon said about Yass-Canberra the other day? He lived, there for a time.
– We know that gentlemen of Mr. Mahon’s nationality are generally gifted with a fervid imagination, and see things that do not exist. I will not accuse Senator Walker of anything of that kind, because his imaginative powers are not so fully developed. I do not place very much value upon Mr. Mahon’s evidence. No mention was made of Yass-
Canberra amongst the sites originally offered by the New South Wales Government. It is a recent discovery, apparently. Some local Columbus has been exploring hitherto unknown regions of New South Wales, and has discovered this spot, which nobody in the State seems to care to occupy. The idea is to hand it over to the Federal Government, so that we may spend money in beautifying it, developing it, and making it fit for people to live in. Of course, New South Wales will benefit from the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth Parliament. But was it the intention of the people of Australia, when they agreed to the Constitution to accept in some outlying portion of New South Wales, a waste region as a site for the Federal Capital ? I think not. When the people of Australia honoured New South Wales by agreeing that the Capital should be situated within her boundaries, it was expected that that State would treat us, not as an enemy, but as a friend. When a friend goes to your house, if you possess a cushioned chair, and an empty gin case, you offer the visitor the cushioned chair, and take your seat upon the gin case yourself. That is hospitality. If you did anything else you would be guilty of conduct at once vulgar and inhospitable. But that is exactly what New South Wales is doing. She has an area of country for which she can find no use. Her people will not settle upon it. They will have nothing to do with it. They know it too well. It has been lying useless ever since Captain Cook first touched at Botany Bay, over 100 years ago. The people of New South Wales have had an opportunity of settling upon this site. They have refused to do so. Why ? Simply because it is not worth settling upon. There is no land there available for agriculture, or any other useful purpose.
– The land at Dalgety is not fit for cultivation.
– We know everything about Dalgety. Its merits were so well known to the members of a previous Parliament - who were. I submit, at least equal in capacity and judgment to the members of the present Parliament - that they chose it deliberately as a site for the Commonwealth Seat of Government. They had good evidence in support of their choice. The late Mr. Oliver, who was deputed by the New South Wales Government to examine and report upon the various sites, placed this region in the very front rank. It was offered to the Commonwealth by the State. We heard nothing about Yass-Canberra then. It had not even been discovered. If we choose it some other Federal Parliament will be called upon to rescind its selection, just as we are now asked to repeal the previousone. We knew what we were doing when we ‘selected Dalgety. We know what weare doing when we refuse to accept YassCanberra. If Senator W. Russell thinksthat Yass-Canberra is a suitable place on which to locate the Federal Capital, why did he not tell us about its glories when he was addressing the Senate on a previous occasion ? He told us nothing about it. He knows nothing about it. Some unseen influence has been- brought to bear on him as on other honorable senators.
– That is incorrect.
– Some hypnotist has found its way into the brain pans of a number of honorable senators, and, lo and behold, they see in this Godforgotten region something magnificent, glorious, and fruitful - a promised land - a garden of Eden. But these qualities exist only in their imagination. They are under the influence of the .hypnotist. They are mesmerized. The thing has no substance in it. It is a dream of their imagination, and they are trying to materialize it. It will be a misfortune for the Commonwealth if they succeed. Australia will have to pay the piper. It will have to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds - probably millions - in reclaiming the wilderness, and making it habitable. I have no objection to other people going out and spending money in the desert to try and reclaim it; but while we have any quantity of good country available for settlement, why should we accept a site of this kind? Apparently, the supporters of Yass-Canberra are not very much concerned about water supply.
– The honorable senator forgets that there are camels available in Western Australia for carrying water to the site.
– We can get camels at some other period of our existence. For the present, I am afraid that another animal, the name of which I will not mention, is much more prominent in relation to the question.
– The Yass.
– If the honorable senator sees long ears flapping in the wind he will apply the term that suits the position. It is undoubted that at Dalgety we have the finest water supply known on this continent. No one disputes that. Even the enemies of the site admit so much. But what about Yass-Canberra? There is a trickle of water there ; at some seasons not even that. Did not Senator Pearce* paint a most painful picture of an arid desert, bleached with the bones of animals that had died of thirst? Some parts of Yass-Canberra would not feed a grasshopper, and how can it be expected to feed members of Parliament, who are possessed of robust appetites? Probably the supporters of the site intend to lead the simple life, and it may be that Providence has conspired to send some of them there for their sins. We read in Holy Writ, that the prophets of old used to go out to the desert to mortify the flesh. We have a number of prophets here who wish to go out to the desert to expiate the sins they have been committing in Melbourne. On this occasion, I am not one of the prophets. I do not wish to exile myself in any wilderness. If I have to move from Melbourne, I wish to go to the civilization of Monaro - to that beautiful region with the snow-clad heights of Kosciusko continually in view; with the Snowy River pouring down its millions, and tens of millions and billions of gallons of water every day ; to that bright, crisp, atmosphere, which would he almost like wine in the veins of a man, infusing vigour into him, and making him a new creature in the enjoyment of a new heaven and a new earth. The supporters of Yass-Canberra, however, want to banish us to the God-forsaken place which they favour. The water question is the most important of all. Senator W. Russell considers that the chief requisite in a Capital site is that it should be capable of growing potatoes, carrots, and turnips. Potatoes are very fine food, and carrots and turnips are good for cows. But they can grow very good oats at Monaro; and we all know that in the country from which Senator W. Russell comes the people are very largely fed upon oats, which produce intellectual qualities of a very, high order. Oats I submit, would be a much more suitable food for the Commonwealth legislators than even potatoes. Potatoes are very good in their place, but oatmeal is very much superior; and that is one of the reasons why I support Dalgety. I have an agricultural turn of mind as well as Senator W. Russell, and I support Dalgety because good oats can, be grown there. The finest sheep in New South Wales are bred on the heights of Monaro, and what better could any one .desire who is charged with the serious duty of making laws for this country than the combination of good oatmeal, good fresh water, and good mutton? I was on one occasion at Lake George. I was brought up in a carriage and four to what I was told was the shore of a lake. I could not see any water, but, borrowing a telescope from a friend, I saw about two yards of water twenty miles away. I asked a gentleman who was present, and who has since taken a prominent part in inducing the Federal Parliament to alter its views on this question, why he called this place a lake. He appealed to a native of the district to say whether the area wa saw in front of us was not covered with water twenty years ago, and the reply was that about that time it was covered with water for about three weeks, but it had never been in that condition since. Why it should be dignified by the name “lake” I am at a loss to understand.
– Is it not a fact that when the honorable senator was in that locality the last thing he asked for was water ?
– It is true that the last thing I asked for was water, and I could not get any. In all seriousness I ask honorable senators, why this somersault, this desertion of a site which every one admits is in the last degree suitable for the establishment of a Federal Capital ? I believe that Sydney influence is at the root of the matter. A stupid and insane jealousy on the part of the residents of Sydney is responsible for all the trouble. There is a port at Twofold Bay and if the Capital were established on the mountains behind it, the merchants of Sydney appear to think that a large proportion of the trade that now goes to Port Jackson would be diverted to the port of Eden. That must be prevented, and will be, if they can manage it.
– The position will be worse if Jervis Bay is the port of the Federal Capital. It would serve a greater area of country.
– If the people of Sydney discover that, there will be no hope for Jervis Bay. It would not matter if it were the New Jerusalem, if it threatened to deprive Sydney of a portion of its trade, down it would go. If Senator Guthrie’s information is correct we may take it for granted that this is not the last “occasion on which the Federal Capital site question will be before the Senate. This is a national question, concerning not only the present residents of Australia, but the people who will be living here for all time, and in dealing with it we should rise above all localism. We should select the best site to be found in New South Wales. Unfortunately, the Capital must be established in that State. i wish it were otherwise. We could find a hundred better sites in Queensland than any that have so far been suggested in New South Wales. I think that a good case has been made out for delay. I am exceedingly anxious to get out of Melbourne, which in winter is too cold and in summer too hot, and our surroundings here are not as comfortable as could be desired by men of our luxurious habits. But before we leave Melbourne we ought to know where we are going. What crime have we committed that we should be exiled to the unknown regions of YassCanberra; to this Ultima Thule, which no one can describe, and which no one has explored? Yass-Canberra stands in relation to Australia to-day as Australia stood in relation to Europe a hundred years ago. And it was then the Terra Incognita, the Unknown Land. Yass-Canberra is in exactly the same position to-day.
– What about the honorable senator’s minute description of Lake George. Was that all imaginary?
– Lake George was known before and condemned.
– Yes, every man who visited it sneered at the very idea that it should be suggested, as a suitable site for the Federal Capital. If there had been any water at Lake George when I visited it I believe that those who were with me would have ducked the honorable gentleman who had dragged us there to so little purpose. I do not wish to prolong the agony. The jury is packed, evidently. The verdict has all but been delivered, and I am satisfied that it will be contrary to the weight of evidence. Bur even in our extremity we have this consolation, that probably this is not the last opportunity that will be given us to deal with this very important matter.
Question - That the words “ YassCanberra ‘ ‘ proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
The territory to be granted to or acquired’ by the Commonwealth for the Seat of Government shall contain an area not less than nine hundred square miles, and have access to the sea.
– As the Committee have just decided to fix the Seat of Government in the YassCanberra district, it is only right that we should insist upon proper provision being made for the requirements of the Commonwealth should the Federal Capital ultimately be established there. When this question was previously under consideration, 1 pointed out that my opposition to Yass-Canberra would be greatly minimized if I could be assured that the Commonwealth would receive generous treatment from New South Wales in the matter of the area of the Federal Territory, and in providing it with access to the sea. and port accommodation. Upon that occasion Senator Millen said, “ Let us decide this matter now. When the Bill is under consideration we can insert the conditions that he suggests, and
I will assist the honorable senator to do it.” I now claim from the leader of the Opposition, and from those for whom he speaks, a fulfilment of that promise. The clause under consideration fixes the area of the Federal Territory at 900 square miles. That, I think, represents what this Parliament regards as a reasonable area, though personally I am in favour of a larger area. But there are other conditions upon which Parliament previously declared it would insist, and which Senator Millen promised to assist us to embody in this Bill. I move -
That all the words after “and,” line 4, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the follOw:ng words, “ shall include in addition, a strip of land five chains in width from the Seat of Government to the sea at Jervis Bay for the purpose of railway communication,’ and an area of five square miles fronting the foreshore of the said bay.”
The clause, if amended in that form, will just about give expression to the view entertained by Parliament as to what would be a reasonable way in which to meet the claims of the Commonwealth. The concluding words of the clause, “ and have access to the sea,” are exceedingly vague.
– They were good enough in the case of Dalgety.
– They were not.
– The honorable senator will never get that.
– Personally, I am in favour of a larger area than 900 square miles. I think that about 5,000 square miles would be a reasonable thing.
– I have never stated that I would accept an amendment which was designed to kill the Bill.
– How can the acceptance of my amendment kill the Bill, unless the honorable senator imagines that the Government of New South Wales will not treat us fairly in this matter?
– The honorable senator has all along stated that his object is to kill the Bill.
– If the leader of the Opposition can find a loophole by which he can escape from the fulfilment of the promise which he made upon the floor of this chamber, he is welcome to it.
– I will not help the honorable senator to kill the Bill.
– The adoption, of my proposal can only result in the destruc tion of the Bill if the New South Wales Government are not prepared to treat the Commonwealth reasonably. As I have already pointed out, the’ words, “and have access to the sea,” are very vague. They may mean nothing at all. They may mean only that we shall have access to the sea by balloons. Further, we have no guarantee that the strip of land from the Seat of Government to the sea will be Federal Territory. Surely we ought to insist that the land upon which the railway to the sea is constructed shall be Federal Territory. Senator Gray has said that we shall “ never get that.”
– I did not. I do not know what we shall get.
– What does my amendment mean? It means that the strip of land required for railway communication between the Seat of Government and the sea shall be granted to us upon similar conditions to those upon which the Crown lands within the Federal Territory shall be surrendered. That, I think, is a reasonable demand. We want the strip of land upon which the railway will be constructed from the Federal Capital to the sea to be the property of the Commonwealth.
– What area would it embrace ?
– A strip of land 5 chains wide would mean 40 chains to the mile, and as the distance from the proposed Seat of Government to Jervis Bay is 93 miles, the adoption of my proposal would mean the grant to the Commonwealth of 3,720 acres, which is not by any means an excessive area.
– it is too small for the purpose of granting access to the sea.
– I have endeavoured to be reasonable, so as to avoid giving honorable senators any cause for cavil. A width of 5 chains is a reasonable one to insist upon in connexion with the strip of land upon which the railway to the sea would be constructed. The land comprised between the fences upon either side of our Australian railways is usually about 3 chains wide, though sometimes, owing to curves which have to be negotiated, and to the fact that stations have to be provided at intervals, a slightly greater width is necessary.
– Would it not also be reasonable to insist that New South Wales should build the railway?
– I very much prefer that the Commonwealth itself should construct it. We have to recollect that the railway would very considerably enhance the value of the lands belonging to the New South Wales Government, which He between the site of the proposed’ Federal Capital and Jervis Bay. My amendment also demands that the Commonwealth shall be granted an area of five square miles fronting the foreshore of Jervis Bay. That appears to me to be an eminently fair proposition when we recollect that upon the shores of that bay - if the Capital be located there - we shall have to construct Government depots and works, and that in future we shall require to establish Government docks and naval stores. Judging by all that I have read of Jervis Bay, an ample area of foreshore is available. The five square miles for which I ask would be equivalent to a frontage of two and a half miles by a depth of two miles. If the New South Wales Government really desire to give the Commonwealth the facilities which it requires, they will be reasonable-
– Then let us be reasonable with them.
– Does not my amendment voice a reasonable request?
– It is a one-sided amendment. Suppose that the honorable senator got all that he desired, how would the State authorities be able to reach Dalgety ?
– The adoption of my proposal would not interfere with their access to Dalgety at all, because the route to that place is via Cooma. The honorable senator’s remark merely tends to confirm the contention of Senator Stewart that the Yass-Canberra area is an unknown land. The route to Dalgety is not within 100 miles of the route which would be traversed by a railway from Canberra to Jervis Bay. Evidently the honorable senator knows nothing whatever about the geography of his own State. There is no one, I think, who will say for a moment that I have not voiced a reasonable request. I have the fullest expectation that the Government will trot out the argument here, as they did elsewhere, that it would be better to leave the matter as it is, so that the way may be left open for negotiation with the Government of New South Wales. I wish to combat that argument before it is advanced here. Why should we leave the matter open for negotiation at all ? When it is a matter of fixing the area of the Capital site, it is for Parliament to attach conditions, and the State Government can either agree to them, or disagree with them. If they do the latter, under the Constitution we can take further action. But ought we to leave the Bill vague and to go cap in hand to the State Government, which is getting all the advantage, and which insisted on the insertion of this provision in the Constitution for its own benefit? I do not want to abrogate the dignity of this Parliament,, drag its rights in the dust, and humiliate it in that way merely in order that the Government of the day may have the pleasure of conducting negotiations, cap in hand, with the State Government. Through its representatives, the State has expressed, both publicly and privately, its desire to treat us even generously in this matter. In this amendment I am not asking for generous treatment, but merely for what is fair and reasonable. It is the duty of this Parliament to definitelv indicate its requirements in the Bill. ‘
– I do not think that it is necessary to advance the argument which was used in another place, and with which Senator Givens is apparently familiar, recognising, as he must, that the Commonwealth Government will have to negotiate with the State Government. I do not need to do that to show the absolute foolishness of the proposal. If the honorable senator knew anything about the construction of railways, he would be well aware that, as regards a railway from the Federal Capital to Jervis Bay, there would be greater distances on that line than on probably any other line in respect of which five chains of land would not be required. A chain and a half, or even a chain, would be quite sufficient to carry a double line of rails. Does the honorable senator want, for a distance of from 90 or 100 miles, to waste four chains of the land of the Commonwealth? I wish to show the absurdity of determining any matter of that kind in the Bill, which, he, in common with every other honorable senator, has acknowledged will, if passed, give power to the Commonwealth to negotiate with the New South Wales Government.
– Why pass a Bill at all when we already have the power?
– If the negotiations should not meet with the entire approval of the Federal Parliament, it will know what to do. I am sure that, on the other side, there are honorable senators who would assist both Senator Givens and myself in opposing any proposal if everything were not done in the interests of the Commonwealth. In the negotiations which ought to take place with respect to access to the sea, very probably other things than railway communication will have to be taken into consideration. Should wu not, for instance, have to consider the necessity of road communication to the sea? There might be places where it would be necessary for the road to diverge, not one chain or five chains, but for two or three miles from the railway, and there might be other places where, for miles and miles, road and railway could run practically parallel. Would it not be better, if we had the power, to see that all these necessities were provided for? If so, we should not lay down an arbitrary condition. This is flat country, in which a railway or a road could be constructed parallel with, or in close proximity to, each other. Consequently, we should be careful, and not tie ourselves up, as Senator Givens’ amendment would do. Again, there might be other places where it would be necessary to establish railway townships, such as exist in almost every part of Australia in which railways are run. On a piece of land five chains wide, could we construct a railway township such as would be necessary to carry on the functions of a railway service? I hope that, bv this time, Senator Givens sees the absurdity of the position in which he would put the Commonwealth Government if his proposal were adopted. Assuming that everything has been completed to the satisfaction of the Commonwealth right tip to access to Jervis Bay, then what does the honorable senator want us to do? He wants to confine us in our negotiations to an area of five square miles on the foreshore of that bay. What sort of block is it to be? Is it to be a strip extending five miles along the coast, or a block of five square miles? If the honorable senator were the clever politician I would credit him with being, he would use the phrase, “ An area not less than five square miles,” because it might be necessary to negotiate with New South Wales for an area of 50 square miles in proximity or adjacent to Jervis Bay, for the purpose of carrying out all the functions of the Commonwealth in connexion with its territory and railway. If the amendment were carried, we should have a very little strip, five chains wide, from the Capital site to Jervis Bay, and at Jervis Bay a block of five square miles, when probably we should want an area of a different shape altogether, perhaps a chain wide in some places and five miles wide in others. It might be necessary to have at Jervis Bay 50 square miles either granted to or resumed by the Commonwealth, in a position which would be suitable for the carrying out of Commonwealth functions. These are all matters which ought to be considered. I suppose that Senator Givens thought that there were no arguments against his amendment except those advanced in another place; that there was no one in the Senate who knew anything about a question of this sort, and__ that, therefore, arguments would have to be borrowed from elsewhere. We do not deal with questions here in that way. We can always give an independent judgment. I think that every one must acknowledge that the arguments I have advanced against the amendment are of such a conclusive character that giving them their full weight no one would entertain it for a moment.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has flattered himself that his arguments are of such a conclusive character that nobody can dispute them. But it remains for people, both here and outside, to form an independent judgment in that regard. So far as I could see, the only weight in his arguments was in that word - which he reiterated - “ negotiations,” which, like the blessed word Mesopotamia, is apparently very comforting to his soul. Now, what does the word mean? We know that it has been said that the Government, particularly the AttorneyGeneral, has been in negotiation already with the New South Wales Government in respect to this matter.
– We do not know that, but the newspapers say so.
– It has been openly stated that negotiations are taking place, and I have reason to believe that the statement is correct.
– Does the honorable senator believe everything which the newspapers say ?
– Quite apart from the statement in the press, I have reason to believe that negotiations are proceeding. If the matter is going to be settled by negotiation, there is no reason for passing the Fi fi.
– It cannot be settled by negotiation. .
– That is why I want these points included in the Bill. If the whole thing can be settled by negotiation, there is no reason why we should be rushing a Bill through the Senate at the tail end of the session. All. important legislation has had to give way to this measure, whereas, if Senator McGregor’s contention were correct, there would be no necessity for passing it. The whole matter of site, of area of territory, of access to the sea, and everything else, could be arranged bynegotiation, and the result submitted to Parliament for approval. But the honorable senator knows, as well as I do, that that is not the proper course to adopt, and that, therefore, his Government decided to proceed by Bill. I want to have included in the Bill provisions which I, and a great many others, consider necessary. Suppose that the matter were dealt with by negotiation, what would be the result? The Act would contain a provision for taking over as Federal territory 900 square miles of country, but no provision with regard to the area necessary for a railway^ or the area necessary for our purposes at the sea-board. While the State Government might give us the right to build a railway, and to use a certain portion of the land at the sea-board, those lands would not be Federal territory in the same sense as would the Seat of Government. Consequently, they would be outside our control, and we should be con.tinuallly under the thumb of the State Government in regard to railway communication.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Commonwealth Parliament would ratify any such proposals?
– If the Committee refuse to put in this reasonable provision now, I should think that Parliament would be equally unreasonable by-and-by. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is unreasonable, because my proposal does not suit some members of the Government who want to loom large in the public eye in connexion with that blessed word “ negotiations.” They want to give themselves an added importance. But it is the business of this Parliament to fix the terms. The Vice-President of the Executive Council was merely beating the air when he tried to make out that there would be no difficulty in fixing the area necessary for the railway. He tried to make honorable senators believe that my proposal meant two parallel straight lines.
– I never spoke about straight lines. The honorable senator’s proposal is a strip of land 5 chains wide.
– The Minister did say that there might be two parallel straight lines.
– He never accused Senator Givens of wanting “ straight “ lines.
– Did not Senator McGregor point out that it might be necessary to deviate half a chain or two or three miles from a straight line?
– I said parallel lines.
– The amendment pre-supposes that the members of the Government would act as sensible people, and not take such an idiotic course as to map out the route of the railway without examination or survey. They would appoint a surveyor to go over the route, and get out a working plan. Senator McGregor also made a great mistake about the land we should have lying idle owing to unnecessary width. The total area contained in a. strip of land 93 miles long would be 3,700 acres.
– The distance is only 60 miles altogether.
– There are only 40 acres to the mile, and the country is so rough that it would be exceedingly difficult to build a railway. Consequently, the land is not of much value. Senator McGregor said that the area, proposed by me would be too wide. In another breath, he said it would be too narrow. In very rough country, such as this appears to be, it is necessary to have a wide area for the sharp curves. You could not put a sharp curve on a. chain and a half. Land of that width is generally recognised as far too narrow for railway purposes.
– The honorable senator should study Euclid for five minutes.
-The honorable senator does not know anything about
Euclid, or he would not have made the statements he has done.
– Cannot the fences be curved as well as the railway ?
– If cuttings had to be made it is possible that some land would be wanted for the dump and for “ballast, pits. Senator McGregor also pointed out that it would be necessary to have land for railway townships. I am prepared to leave the townships along the route in New South Wales territory.
– The honorable senator is too liberal.
- Senator McGregor is far more liberal than I am, only he wants to indulge in a little bit of special pleading. He is like most converted sinners, a bigoted saint. No saint is so bigoted as your converted sinner, and, since the Vice-President of the Executive Council has been converted from being a supporter of Dalgety to a Yass-Canberraite, he has become the most bigoted of us all. As to the area at the port, five square miles would be quite sufficient for our purposes. We shall want on the foreshore enough land for ‘dockyards, Government stores, naval stores, and things of that kind. Five square miles is a very large territory for such purposes. Of course, there would be no difficulty about the shape of the block. The Commonwealth Government would have power to send its surveyors and shape the block according to requirements. I have suggested what I think would be a reasonable shape, that is, a frontage of two and a half miles and a depth of two miles. The whole proposal is so reasonable that, were it not for some motive which we cannot fathom, I am sure that it would be accepted straight away. If the Government were to accept it, the Opposition would vote for it. The interest of the Commonwealth, on this occasion, is not being sacrificed by the Opposition, who, I believe, would redeem their promises ; but they have been coerced bv the Government, who are deliberately throwing this particular provision into the melting-pot.
– The Government do not want to tie their hands too much.
– Then why put in the provision as to 900 square miles? Why not leave the Government to negotiate for 100 miles or 1,000 miles, as they please?
– The provision is not less than 900 square miles. There is no limit.
– The honorable senator says in one breath that I make the limit too high, and in the next breath that I make it too low.
– I did not say that.
– The trouble is that the honorable senator wants to make the conditions too rigid.
– I do not make them too rigid. The land between the two points is of such little value that it would not matter if we took half-a-mile. The route goes down precipitous sides of hills and crosses a big gorge.
– That is a reason for leaving the matter open.
– As a, Labour man, I might be prepared to trust the present Government in the negotiations, but I do not know that those honorable senators who have been continually “ barracking “ for the State Government in this matter will not at some time be in power, and have to conduct the negotiations.
– We need not accept the terms if we do not approve of them.
– Now is the time to put in the Bill what we require. Why put off the right thing until to-morrow? The question is within our disposal, and we ought to insist on doing the right thing. But instead of having the assistance of the Government in providing- for reasonable access to Jervis Bay, it appears that we shall have to whistle for it.
– - I can hardly understand the objection of the Government to Senator Givens’ reasonable amendment. If the objection of Senator McGregor is that he wants to put in the words “ not less than,” I am certain that Senator Givens would accept an amendment to that effect. Then the negotiations could proceed on that basis. We passed an Act some years ago which would have enabled the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of the State to negotiate. There have been reams of correspondence in connexion with the matter. What has been the result? Nothing. The whole scheme has been turned into the melting-pot. Why? Because the Commonwealth Government did not say exactly what they wanted. We ask now for a reasonable basis of negotiations. But we are assured that if the New South Wales Government do not agree to what the Federal Government desire, Parliament will be appealed to, and we shall be told, “ Oh, the negotiations have not turned out as we anticipated that they would.” Then the intriguing that we have seen going on during the last two or three years in connexion with this question will commence over again, and members of Parliament will be induced, for political reasons and reasons of personal friendship to swing round, and take any terms which may be offered by New South Wales. I maintain that that is a wrong position. If it had not been for delay, changes of Government, continual negotiations, and the exercise of influence, occult or otherwise, upon members of the Federal Parliament, the question would_ be in a very different position to-day. lt seems to me that the amendment is an eminently reasonable one. I have no doubt that Senator Givens would be prepared to modify it by the use of the words “ not less than,” if in that form it would be acceptable to the Government. We should then have something definite on which the negotiations might be started.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till half-past 2 p.m. on Tuesday next.
– I ask the’ leave of the Senate to give notice of a motion for the introduction of a Bill for an Act to amend the’ Post and Telegraph Act of 1901. This is a small Bill, to regulate the use of a machine for stamping letters.
– Is the Senate willing that the Minister should have leave to give the notice of motion? There being no objection, the notice may be given.
– Then I give notice of motton for leave to introduce the Bill to which I have referred.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if I am correct i’i assuming that the first business to be taken on Tuesday will be the resumption of the consideration in Committee of the Seat of Government Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 December 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19081204_senate_3_48/>.