8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took, the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Purchase of Sawmills and Timber Areas- Allegations Against Officials. - Construction of Howes in South Australia.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister, whether he is aware that in the official correspondence between the . Minister for Repatriation and the War Service Homes Commissioner on the one hand, and a Mr. J. T. Caldwell, with reference to certain timber leases in the Islands of Vanikario and Tevai, in the Solomon Group, and further, in connexion with the initial arrangements made with Lahey
Bros., of Queensland, and the War Service Homes Department, for the purchase of considerable quantities of timber, very serious allegations are made which reflect gravely on the officials of the Department. Will the Government appoint a Royal Commission, clothed with full powers to call any witnesses who may be required, to inquire fully into all or any of the transactions of the War Service Homes Department, so as to thus clear the Department of the suspicion with which it is unfortunately surrounded at the present time?
– The honorable member will recognise that no Government could act upon mere vague statements, such as he has made. If the honorable member has any definite allegations and will bring them to the notice of the Government, I promise him that they will have the fullest consideration. We will go to any length, if necessary, to clear up the matter, but there must be first of all some definite statement. I know of no allegations such as the honorable member has mentioned, but if he has them, and they have any substantiality - if responsible individuals make them - then, of course, in our own interests, they must be fully considered.
– Will the Honorary Minister (Mr. Rodgers) lay on the table of the House a copy of the report by Captain Earle, of the Repatriation Department, concerning the ‘construction of soldiers’ homes in . South Australia.
-Yes. I shall be pleased to have the report made available.
– I desire to bring be fore the. Minister for Trade and Customs the following quotation from a letter written by a returned soldier in the grocery business who has trouble in obtaining a supply of sugar. He states: -
My position is: I have opened a grocery shop, afterhaving been away on active service for five years. Prior to that I was in the business for some years. … I approached Mr. Smith at the company’s office, and asked ifI could not be put on the same basis as my fellow-grocers. He agreed I was justified in my claim, but sorry they (the company) could not add the name on their lists.
He concludes by stating : “ What we Diggers want is only a fair deal.” Will the Minister use his power to try to secure a fair distribution of sugar, especially in the case of a man carrying on business as a grocer who has rendered five years’ service to his country.
– The only trouble is that he has gone to the wrong individual. Diggers can always get sugar.
– He approached the source from which most of our supplies come.
– If the honorable member will give me the correspondence, I shall see that the matter is inquired into and, if it is possible to obtain any sugar, this man will certainly get it.
Consignments of Food and Clothing
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if it is a fact that consignments of food and clothing may not be sent directly to the needy and suffering people in the countries of the Central Powers in Europe. If so, will not the Government consider the propriety of allowing gifts of food and clothing to be sent, more particularly to the suffering women and children, especially in view of the fact that the Lord Mayor of Melbourne and others are organizing a fund in this State - and probably a similar fund is being organized in other States - for the relief of such persons? Will the Government also have regard to. the circumstances that money Bent to these people is of no avail, whereas gifts of foodstuffs and. clothing are of great importance?
– At the present time, all consignments of food and clothing which go through any organization are permitted to pass. There is no restriction onsuch exports. The export’ of food and “clothing sent, as the result of a public fund raised for the purpose, is quite freely permitted. Individual consignments are also permitted, provided that they go through some recognised organization. The great difficulty in the way of allowing individual consignments to be sent out is in discriminating between what is and what is not trade. As long as they go through any recognised organization - and - there . are quite a number of such consignments at the present time - or are the proceeds of any public fund, they are permitted to be sent.
Complaints FROM South Africa.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the South African Government have any trade representative in Australia. If not, in view of the definite statement that has been made regarding the poor quality of Australian B flour shipped to South Africa, will the right honorable gentleman invite the South African Government, or appoint some one, to inquire whether the Commonwealth Government or the Wheat Board, had anything whatever to do with the export of alleged inferior flour.
– I noticed the paragraph to which, no doubt, the honorable member refers. So far as I am aware, the South African Government has no direct representative here. I spoke recently, quite properly in severe terms, of those who sent from Australia goods that were not true to sample and, what is more, were not of first quality: But I think I can say publicly - and I hope the press will take note of the statement - that the South Africans have nothing to complain of in regard to this deal. They bought from sample, and the goods supplied were true to sample. As to the suggestion made in the paragraph that Government officials had been corrupt - that they had been “bought” - I know nothing whatever of the circumstances. I am not even aware whether there are any State Government representatives who would have anything to do with the matter. I make bold to assert, however, that it is quite untrue to say that any Commonwealth officials were corrupt in this matter. Happily, we have been very fortunate in this respect. Our representatives have incurred, perhaps, a considerable amount of criticism at the hands of firms who wished to send out goods which were not precisely what they ought to have been, and which have been’ held up by our officers. I am now informed by my colleague that no certificates were issued, and therefore no Government officials whatever are or could be implicated in any way.
– I do not know whether the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories has been called to the horrible statement appearing in to-day’s issue of the Age in regard to the conditions prevailing in the native hospital at Port Moresby, Papua. May I explain that it is reported that Judge Murray, the Administrator, states that in April last, and also later on, he saw a medical officer there who was under the impression that he had a divine mission. That is one of the clearest symptoms of lunacy. Speaking on behalf of the unfortunate patients in that hospital, who are alleged to have suffered a shortage of food and blankets, I ask the Minister whether he will bring the matter before the Cabinet with a view to despatching to Papua some of the excellent medical officers attached to the Defence Department.
– I have the matter under consideration, and if I think it necessary to refer it to the Cabinet I shall do so.
Sale of German Goods
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Government contemplate appointing one particular firm as sole Sydney agent for selling, purchasing, and handling goods and products of firms expropriated in New Guinea. If so, will the Government, in justice to other Sydney firms, consider the advisability of distributing the agency work?
– This is a question which ought to have been placed on the notice-paper. The Government will be compelled to consider the handling of goods that are taken from German plantations, but the question of who shall deal with them has certainly not been considered. If the honorable member will put the question on the Notice Paper for Thursday or Friday next, we shall have had an opportunity in the meanwhile to consider the matter. At any rate, I am now unable to say anything further, because I do not know.
– Has the Prime Minister yet had an opportunity to initiate those inquiries in regard to the late Captain Howell, that he promised to make- a week or two ago?
– I have made some further inquiries, but I have not received any further information. As soon as I do so I shall not fail to lay it before honorable members. ‘I received a letter from the parents, I think, of Captain Howell, supplying me with some information, on which I was able, from what the honorable member himself had said, to frame an inquiry. The honorable member will understand that it is not very easy to find the person to whom such inquiry should be addressed, but the Government are doing their best.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General what stage has been reached in the proceedings initiated by the Government against Messrs. Hughes and Company, and the- Wool Combing and Spinning Company. Is it the intention of the Government to go on with the case ?
– Although I am AttorneyGeneral, I am afraid I am not au fait with the details of ‘the office, but the Government must go on with the case. There is a cross action, and if the Government dropped its side of the case, it would still have to defend the action taken against . the Commonwealth. This litigation was initiated, I believe, during my sojourn in Prance and England, and I am not exactly sure of the stage at which it now stands. The ‘honorable member will understand - though I hope he will never understand so well as I do - the delays of the law. He knows, however, that it takes a long time for the law to get going, and in this particular case those concerned are just about to begin to get ready to think about making a start.
– Is it a fact, as reported, that a number of ex-service men in Great Britain, who, for some reason or another, have not been considered worthy of repatriation, are presenting themselves at the Australian offices there, in a state of absolute indigence and starvation. If so, has the Prime Minister got into communication with the authorities in London, with a view to seeing that those men, whatever their conduct may have been, are not allowed to starve on the other side of the world? Even if they were convicted of crimes, we would be bound to feed them in prison.
– I think that, yesterday this question was answered pretty fully. I am entirely unfamiliar with the matter, with which my honorable colleague (Mr. Rodgers) is dealing and, I am quite sure, effectively dealing. The Department in England is now attempting to cover all cases. The honorable member (Mr. Brennan) puts a very difficult question when he asks what we propose to do in the case of a man with a criminal record - I do not mean a military criminal record, but an ordinary criminal record - who has refused every opportunity offered, though, goodness knows, they have been numerous enough, to present himself for repatriation, and now declares himself as stranded and starving. I do not know, exactly, what we can do, but I quite appreciate the spirit of the honorable member’s inquiry. We will not . permit the good name of Australia to be -dragged in the mire, even by such men, and will see that they do not starve.
– I desire to make a personal explanation with regard to a statement I made in this House the other day regarding the manipulation of war gratuity bonds. I referred to the case of a returned soldier who purchased a musical instrument, which I described as a “ Vocalion,” and subsequently sold it at a greatly reduced price, thus suffering a loss. While repeating and re-affirming that such abuses exist - though they are now to some extent being remedied - I have received information to the effect that I should not have used the term “ Vocalion.” That is an instrument manufactured and retailed under the control of one particular firm, and in mentioning it, I think I did them some injustice. I am satisfied that the instrument which was bought by the soldier was a gramophone, of which there are various kinds. It is due to the firm in question to say that the word I used was not a correct technical description of the instrument sold.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As no statement has been made regarding the disposal of 1919-20 wheat overseas since the 3rd May, 1920, when it was stated in the press that on the 15th March, 1920, approximately 8,000,000 bushels had been sold overseas at an average price of8s.. 7d. per bushel, will be inform the House -
What was the approximate quantity of 1919-20 wheat available for sale overseas?
What quantity has since been sold?
What is now the average return f.o.b. for overseas sales?
What are the prospects of selling the balance before the new season?
What is the present London . parity?
Will any further advances be made to growers before the new season?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 to 4. I would invite the honorable member’s attention to a statement (furnished by Senator Russell), which appears in this morning’s press, showing . the re-sales on account of the 1919-20 Wheat Pool. The Australian Wheat Board is not prepared to make any further statement at present. Publication of the quantity of the Board’s unsold stock is obviously inadvisable in the interests of wheatgrowers.
- (By leave.)- I shall endeavour to keep the House au fait with the coal position from time to . time. Honorable members will have noted in this morning’s press that Mr. Hibble, the Commissioner under the Industrial Peace Act, has made his first and interim award in regard to wages. Mr. Hibble has now notified the Government that the owners are claiming an increase in the price of coal to cover the increased wages he has awarded to the men. The Government are taking up the attitude that it must be shown to their satisfaction that the increased (price claimed by the owners is justified by the increased wages paid to the men. But the moment that Mr. Hibble makes an award that increased wages are to be paid to the men there is clearly a responsibility on the Government to see that the owners do not lose, and whatever action is necessary to that end we must take. Ample opportunity, of course, will be given to the House to express its opinion on any . proposal that is made in the way of an increase in the price of coal. A little while ago, the position in Tegard to coal shortage in Victoria was acute. It is now a little improved, but leaves much to ‘be desired. Owing to the shortage of tonnage on the coast, and the scarcity of coal in Melbourne, it was recently decided that certain vessels of the Commonwealth Government line should load coal from Newcastle, and so relieve the position. Three vessels arrived in Melbourne with coal; hut, after the wharf labourers had been working for a day on one of the ships, they demanded extra payment on the ground that, as the vessel had tween decks in two of her holds, they could not earn a fair day’s wage under the usual working conditions, and- refused to further discharge the vessel unless they were paid extra money. In order to avoid unnecessary delay to the steamer, and get the coal discharged in time to relieve the industries and . public services, for which it was needed, it was decided, in the special circumstances referred to, to concede the payment. The ordinary rate for discharging colliers is ls. 3½d. per ton for day work, and time and a half for night work; ibut, as the Commonwealth vessels all have’ ‘tween decks, lumpers working this class of ships would be entitled to the rate for ‘tweendeck ships, namely, ls. 4½d. per ton, and an extra man in each gang. The rates demanded by members of the Wharf Labourers’ Union for discharging the Commonwealth ships were, however, time and a quarter for day work and double time for night work. In view of the fact that wharf lumpers were evidently attempting to penalize the Commonwealth. vessels simply because they were not regular colliers, . and were, moreover, taking advantage of the fact that these vessels were relieving the serious situation in this regard, it is not intended to load any more Commonwealth ships with coal for Melbourne.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 23rd September, vide page 4946) :
Upon which Mr. Jackson had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following items he left out: - “ Federal Capital Territory - Initial settlement, £00,000; preparatory works, £60,000; railways, completion of construction line, Federal Capital, £250.”
.- Before resuming my remarks upon the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. jackson), I desire to withdraw and apologize to the House for some remarks I made last evening during a heated passage,, and which I think were uncalled for. I express, also, my gratitude to the Treasurer (Sip Joseph Cook), who was leading the House last night, for having given me an opportunity of continuing my remarks to-day, and the Committee an opportunity of discussing fully and adequately the very important question which is now before Parliament and the people. I make no apology for continuing this debate, because I am convinced that, although I may be told that the numbers are up, and that the debate will not influence a single vote, this Parliament is designed by the Constitution, and desired by the people to bo the place for full and open discussion of all matters of public weal. There is only one question before the Committee, and that is, whether three items of expenditure on the Federal Capital site, totalling £150,000, shall be included in this Bill. This is not the time to discuss the relative merits of Canberra or’ any other site. The only matter we have to consider is the raising and spending of certain sums of money. I am quite prepared to admit freely that in the compact made between the various States and the people of Australia, it was agreed that the Federal Capital should he in New South Wales, but not less than 100 miles from Sydney. Later, this Parliament decided that the site should be at Canberra. I do not attempt to reflect upon any of those arrangements or decisions. Every honorable member will admit that these are national agreements which must be fulfilled. But the question we have to consider to-day is whether, in the present financial condition of Australia, we should spend £150,000 for certain services connected with the establishment of the Federal Capital. I am afraid that the people of Australia - to what extent their opinion is reflected by honorable members I know not - do not realize the very serious financial position which the country now occupies. There is a belief that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, that we are all right, and can continue spending money as unconcernedly as we have done in the past. But it is my conviction that those who hold that view are living in a fool’s paradise. They do not realize the financial dangers with which we are faced. Only on Wednesday, last the Treasurer, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), informed the House that in spite of the amount that has been raised by taxation and loans, the Commonwealth has floating liabilities, which must be met within a comparatively short time, with other payments to make in the near future, amounting, according to my calculations, to not less than £110,000,000.
– For what?
– We still owe to the Imperial Government a sum of £47,500,000, which is practically payable on demand. There are outstanding Treasury bills amounting to £9,000,000. The approximate amount still to be raised to finance soldier settlement is £33,000,000. It is estimated also, and I think honorable members will admit that the estimate is reasonable, that a further suan of about £25,000,000 will be required in connexion with advances for War Service Homes. There is a general belief that we are enjoying such a state of unbounded prosperity that all such sums as these, and also the £150,000 which the Government propose to spend at Canberra, oan be raised without the slightest difficulty. There is, however, one aspect which the public have not yet begun to realize, namely, that to a very large extent the overflowing Treasury, and the overflowing purses ‘of a- considerable number of people, are due to the fact that our primary products and, indeed, all products, are now selling at inflated values. So far from the production of Australia increasing, there is evidence that it is actually diminishing. We are only deceived regarding this apparent prosperity by the great inflation of values. The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, referred to the increase of 89 per cent, in the value of exports, to which a very large measure of our present prosperity is -due. He continued -
Unfortunately, statistics of values alone do not furnish a true record of trade movements. In themselves they are to-day utterly misleading. A very careful analysis would be needed to ascertain how much of these values is due to actual bulk increase, how much to a change in the character of .the goods, and how much to higher prices.
Almost simultaneously with the delivery of that speech a statement was published by Mr. C. H. Wickens, of the Commonwealth Statistician’s Department, that since 1913 production in Australia has decreased, despite the fact that in the case of manufacturers, the amount of horse-power expended has increased. He gave details as to the decrease in the number of stock, and the output of the dairying industry, and the reduction in the production of gold from 2,207,433 ounces in 1913 to 1,273,188 ounces in 191S, and of black coal from 12,414,822 tons to 10,883,146 tons, and of copper from 52,566 tons to 41,402 tons, during the same period.
– In what newspaper was that information published?
– That is a report of the evidence given by Mr. Wickens before Mr. Justice Higgins on the 20th September, and published in the Melbourne Herald of that day. I believe the same information was published in the morning press. It may be thought that this enormous decrease in the quantities of our primary products since the beginning of the war has been made up for by increases in” manufactures. Those who look merely to figures concerning gross values may fina something to justify their views, but Mr. Wickens makes the following statement upon that phase of the matter: -
Adjusted to the 1913 basis by means of wholesale price-indexes the value of manufactures in 1913 was £65,153,2S6, as against £44,753,512 in 1918. The total value in 1918, however, was £79,571,745, as against £65,153,2S6.
The actual total value was considerably higher, but the difference is entirely due to increase in prices. As regards the number of hands employed in factories, Mr. Wickens said : -
In 1913 there were 15,536 factories in Australia, and, in 19il8, 1,5,421. The average number of hands employed was 337,101, as against 328,049.
– It is fair to remark that 300,000 of our young men were out of the country at that time.
– Quite so, but the latest figures available do not show that we have gained to any considerable extent, particularly, sp far as many primary products are concerned.
– We heard something yesterday about wheat which does not confirm that view.
– I heard a most interesting statement, but it did not clash with anything I have just said. At present, we are expecting an unusually good harvest.
– The area under wheat has decreased.
– In view of Australia’s financial position, and remembering our practically stationary production, and not forgetting also the prospect of our having to raise, at very short notice, a sum reasonably estimated at £110,000,000, the great test which we must apply to all ‘the proposed items of expenditure is, “Are they absolutelynecessary “ ?
Whatever may be said in favour of ultimately carrying on the work at Canberra in order to make a home for theFederal Parliament and Administration, there is no necessity to spend money there at present. I recall an illuminating statement delivered by Mr. Watt, in this chamber, on 16th October last year. After going into a most careful examination, Mr. Watt summarized the “total initial cost of’ establishing the Federal Capital - with all public buildings to be of a temporary character - at £3,250,000. In view of that statement I urge honorable members to consistently search and. examine this proposed outlay of £150,000,, and to apply as a test the question whether or not the project is absolutely necessary ito-day.
.- If the people of Australia were provided with another opportunity to consider the creation of a Federal Capital they would be opposed to expenditure upon it. It is absurd to proceed to build a costly city at Canberra in order to house politicians and public servants only. For many years huge expenditure from revenue would be entailed, and I do not think the Australian people to-day would approve of the project if given an opportunity to indicate their views. With our small population we should wait for many years before indulging in the construction of a capital city. Circumstances have considerably altered since the people originally expressed their views; and, for that reason, it is the duty of the Government to consult the people again. Much has been heard about the Convention to be held early next year. In connexion with that, there should be afforded an excellent opportunity for the people to express their opinions about proceeding with Canberra. Until the population has very materially increased I hold that the Government will not be justified in going on with the building of the« Capital. For many months there has been an organized effort, on the part of those in this Parliament, who advocate the completion of the Federal Capital, to have a sum put on the Estimates in order that work shall proceed. Unfortunately, those who are opposed to the proposition have not similarly organized in order to prevent the placing of an item upon the Estimates. However, I intend to register my vote against the proposal.
– My sole reason for opposing this proposed expenditure is a financial one. There is not an honorable member who can challenge the statement that Australia is in a seriously embarrassed financial position just now. With much difficulty we have just raised a loan of £25,000,000. There was anxiety concerning whether we would succeed in that effort, and we are aware that it is not the last loan to be raised. Possibly, it is the last this year, but, certainly, it is not the last to be. raised in order to meet the legitimate financial obligations of Australia. And, at a time when the people are demanding economy, it is unwarranted that we should commit ourselves to this item of £150,000. I am ready and anxious to honour all obligations, and this, in respect of the Federal Capital, among others. When we reflect upon our financial situation - as revealed in the Budget - we must be impressed with the good reasons for hastening slowly so far as expenditure upon Canberra is concerned. We have to provide additional taxation to the extent of nearly £4,000,000, and I want to know how this Parliament oan justify the imposition of additional taxation to that extent at a time when we are committing ourselves to the piece of wasteful and extravagant expenditure involved in this item of £150,000? I have many relatives in New South Wales, and certainly a large business connexion with Sydney, so that I have had the opportunity of meeting many representative men from that city, and some few weeks ago I expressed the opinion that there was no demand whatever on the part of the people of New South Wales for the creation of this Capital at the present time. I went on to argue that all that the people of New South Wales are concerned about just now, and the people in all the other States, is that there should be a reduction of taxation, and that every legitimate opportunity should be taken to bring it about; and I gave the assurance that, so soon as we could reduce our taxation to anything like a normal character, I would gladly join with others to honour the obligation to create a Capital at Canberra. But when I made the statement that New South Wales was quite apathetic on this subject I little expected to have confirmation so rapidly from one of the highest authorities in New South Wales, Mr. Justice Heydon. He is a gentleman for whom I have the highest personal regard, as every one must who knows him or knows of him. Therefore, when I find that he has committed himself to certain malicious falsehoods in a circular, I can account for it in only two ways.
– Is the honorable member in order in imputing to a Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales maliciously false statements?
– I did nothing of the kind. I said I had the highest personal respect for this gentleman, and, knowing that he would not wilfully commit himself to any mistatement or falsehood - I repeat that - when I find his name attached to what are obviously misstatements, I can only account .for it in two ways - either that some one has been playfully indulging in what is colloquially known as “ pulling his leg,” or that some one has been maliciously misinforming him.
– That is a reflection on the Judge, I should say.
– It is no reflection on the Judge. I would be the last to make any reflection upon one for whom I have the highest regard. By pure accident, a circular, dated the 13th September, and’ signed by Mr. Justice Heydon, has come into my hands. It is addressed to a certain gentleman who happens to be a friend of mine, and reads as follows: -
Sir, - Will you permit me to urge upon you the necessity of common action to secure the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. The efforts of the league-
He is speaking on behalf of the Federal Capital League.
– Is this a private letter?
– No; it is a letter that came to my hands, and is certainly not marked private. But am I to understand that it would be quite legitimate to circulate falsehoods by means of private letters? Perhaps my friend is a little disturbed at hearing it read.
– No. I am disturbed at this attack on a gentleman of the standing of Mr. Justice Heydon.
– The circular proceeds - formed for that purpose have been successful in again giving life to the question, and have brought about the laying of the foundation stone of the Capital and a promise by the Federal Ministry of a substantial sum towards proceeding with the necessary work.
– Is that a malicious statement?
– No; I am coming to that part. My point is that, as the people of New South Wales, as I have said, are quite apathetic on this subject, a league has had to be formed for the purpose of beating up any interest whatever in it, and a pathetic appeal is made by Mr. Justice Heydon for £1,000 for a propaganda fund. Subscriptions are invited from all and sundry, and the object is to secure the sum of £1,000 for the .purpose of propaganda in order to galvanize the people of New South Wales into taking some interest in this question. That is to say, a subject which is so burning with some of my friends here actually requires the special formation of a league for the purpose of issuing propaganda broadcast to stimulate some little interest in it among the people of New South Wales. The .people of the Commonwealth, if they could be consulted in this matter, would say that no more inopportune time could be chosen for indulging in a wasteful piece of expenditure such as is now proposed. The circular proceeds -
This has alarmed Melbourne-
This is news to me, for apart from an occasional article in the press, I have never heard a soul in Melbourne approach the subject otherwise than from the standpoint of “ We cannot afford it.” In New South Wales we hear the same protest against extravagance at the present time and demands for economy. At any rate, it is pure imagination, and not true, to say, “ This has alarmed Melbourne.” But this is where the malicious misstatement comes in. The circular proceeds -
A counter society with ample funds hps been formed to defeat the placing of a sum oi money on the Estimates, and to hang the question up indefinitely.
That statement is deliberately and maliciously false. There is not the slightest justification for it, and I defy any honorable member or any person outside this House to prove that any such society has been formed in Melbourne, with ample funds, as stated.
– The day after that circular was issued a meeting was held in this House.
– The honorable member is referring to a meeting of honorable members, representing all the
States, to protest against this piece of extravagant folly; but that is not a society of Melbourne conspirators formed to defeat this item. But what about the conspiracy of the Canberrites? In any case, if the honorable member is merely referring to a meeting of some of my honorable friends, which was convened for the purpose of protecting the fair financial name of Australia at the present time, and avoiding a gross piece of extravagance, it is quite another matter, and illustrates clearly the misrepresentation of which I am complaining; but I want to know where these “ ample funds” can be found. However, this method of employing malicious misstatements is the .process by which certain gentlemen hope to inflame the provincial animosity of the people of New South Wales, and stimulate interest in a subject in which the people have practically no concern. As I have said, their sole interest is to secure a reduction, in the ‘burden of taxation, and not wasteful expenditure of vast sums of money in the establishment of a bush Capital at *he present time. Then thi3 circular proceeds to say, referring to Melbourne -
What she contemplates is a gross and cynical breach of the spirit of Federation.
That statement is not correct, and is, indeed, another gross misrepresentation. The real objection to the establishment of the Capital at Canberra, at the present time, is that no money is legitimately available for the purpose. I say, moreover, that, when we hardly know where to turn for revenue, and are deliberately imposing taxation, a proposal to indulge in such wasteful extravagance is utterly unwarranted. What is the scheme? The idea, apparently, is to erect a few shanties or shelter sheds at Canberra. Nothing could lend itself to greater waste of money than a proposal for the temporary erection of buildings.
– There is nothing temporary suggested.
–A11 I can say is that a ‘Committee which has reported on the subject, said that even to supply temporary buildings would cost £3,250,000.
– And that was three years ago.
– Yes; and now that the cost of material and labour has increased by 100 per cent, since then, we are asked to indulge in this wasteful expenditure. It would be a gross mistake to erect a few temporary shanties or shelter sheds to represent nominally the Capital of Australia. If we are to have a capital, let us build one worthy of Australia on broad and proper lines. It would, no doubt, involve many millions of money; but we would enter upon it with our eyes open. That would be legitimate expenditure. We have the right to know from the Government what they contemplate doing with this £150,000; whether it is part of a scheme to supply temporary buildings, or part of a ‘broader scheme which has for its object the building of a permanent capital worthy of the Commonwealth. We have the right, also, to learn from the Government when the Commission which is to advise on this matter is to be appointed.
– Advise on what?
– The Prime Minister promised to appoint a Committee, or Commission of experts to investigate and furnish us with estimates in regard to the cost of building a capital at Canberra. The appointment of such a Commission should necessarily precede the carrying out of the actual work of construction. When is this Commission to be appointed? Is it to precede the expenditure of this money? If not, it adds weight to the argument that what is now proposed on the Estimates will be a deliberately wasteful piece of expenditure. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) and others can afford to smile at any opposition to this item, because they have the numbers. I have been in the same happy position at times. I have also been in the reverse position, as at present, of putting up the best fight I can. In this regard I have a bitter complaint against the Government. When a deputation waited on him recently, the Prime Minister said that this would not be a party question, and that everyone would ‘be free to vote as he liked, but we learn now that he has refused to permit the members of his Government to vote as they like.
– Who told you that?
– Whose Estimates are they?
– The Prime Minister has told certain honorable members, who can speak for themselves, that the members of the Ministry must stand up to the Estimates, and he refuses to permit them to exercise a free vote on this matter.
– That is quite true.
– Quite true. The. honorable member and other honorable members told me that the Prime Minister had said so.- If he did not mean that all the members of the Government were to be free to vote as they pleased on this question, then we thank him for nothing, since members of the Ministerial party are all free to vote as we like. The proposed’ vote of £150,000 for works at the Federal Capital is not to be passed as the deliberate determination of the Parliament. The Government was menaced by the Canberra members, and the Prime Minister, in turn, coerced his colleagues, who are opposed to this vote, in the way to which I have referred. They are not free to act as they please in this matter. I know, of course, of the corporate responsibility of the Government- to Parliament, but in the course of a lengthy experience I have known various matters to be treated as open questions, on which members of the Government of the day were permitted to vote as they pleased.
– But surely not on a question involving the honour of Parliament.
– The honour of Parliament is not involved.
– Did the honorable member ever know of a Government every member of which could vote as he pleased with regard to its own Estimates?
– I am referring to the statement made by the Prime Minister that this was to be an open question. It is dissociated from the other items on the Estimates by reason of the promise referred to. The item was placed on the Estimates only on the understanding that it was to be openly voted upon by Parliament, and that Parliament, and not the Government, should take the responsibility for the vote given. ‘That is the arrangement under which it was placed on the Estimates. We now find that, instead of the Committee being free to come to whatever decision it thinks fit, the Government is exercising its own powers, and is strongly behind the movement to secure the passing of the item.
– We can carry it quite easily, without that support.
– Then my friend, and those who join with him in supporting this proposal, are in a very happy position. We have a right to complain, however, of what I regard as a breach of the understanding arrived at. The passing of the proposed vote will not represent a clear and unfettered expression on the part of the Parliament. It will be the result of the coercion of members of the Government, in order to secure a majority.
Several members interjecting,
– I again appeal to honorable members to restrain themselves, and to allow the debate to be conducted in an orderly way.
– By voting for the item, we shall be committed not only to an expenditure on the erection of shelter sheds and temporary buildings, but to the construction of a railway to link up the Capital with Jervis Bay. Before Parliament can meet at Canberra a vast expenditure will be necessary, in the construction of a railway from the Capital to Jervis Bay. If the Capital is to be effective, it must have a port. That was the view considered by the experts who investigated the whole question. Thus we shall be committing ourselves not only to the wasteful expenditure involved in erecting temporary ‘buildings for the housing of the Parliament, but to the construction of this railway line.
– When this matter was last discussed, the honorable member spoke of . Canberra as “ The Bush Capital.”
– It is a wind swept bush capital.
– Has the honorable member been there lately ?
– I have never been there, but I have been told all about it. We are not at present considering the merits of Canberra.
I ask honorable members to consider this question solely from the financial point of view. I ask them to realize that it would be most unwise to enter upon this enterprise at the present time, since we should have to pay double the pre-war rates for labour and material, and at the same time would deliberately enter into competition with those who are seeking to build, homes for themselves. The lack of housing accommodation in all our big cities is a very serious problem. There is a great shortage of nouses, and a most serious scarcity of building materials. Why, then, should wo enter into competition with those who are anxious to build homes for themselves? We certainly shall not get full value for our money, and I would put it to the Committee that, instead of sanctioning wasteful expenditure of this character, we should direct our efforts to a reduction of the burdens of taxation. As soon as we return to conditions approximating to normality, I, and others who think with me, will gladly vote for the building of a capital worthy of Australia.
.- I enter this debate with some diffidence. When the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and I entered the Victorian Legislative Assembly some thirtyone years ago, the electorate of Delatite was represented by Mr. James Howlin Graves, a much-respected man, who from the Ministerial corner in this very chamber, declared one day that, given the support of such a mighty, newspaper as the Age, he, old man although he was, would be willing to fight any electorate in the State. Having listened to the speeches made by representatives of Victoria in opposition to this proposed vote, the Committee will be inclined to think that that newspaper still exercises very great powers in Victoria. I am convinced that if it published to-morrow a leading article setting out that it was the duty of this Parliament to carry out the pledge that the Federal Capital should be established in New South Wales, the attitude taken up by a number of Victorian members would be very different from what it is to-day. I am going to support the proposed vote. First of all, because a solemn pledge was made on behalf of the Commonwealth that the Capital would be established in New South Wales. I regret that the site selected is not what I should have liked it to be. In connexion with the choosing of a site, the Age published some trenchant articles re garding the treachery of certain Victorian members who departed from their promises, and helped to secure the selection of Canberra. Canberra, however, was the ultimate decision of the majority of the Parliament of that day, and that is sufficient for me. In the second place, I understand that nearly £250,000 has been wasted on the Federal Capital. If that is so, it has been due to incompetence.
I desire to. give credit to the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) for the action he took to prevent the selection of a composite design for the Federal Capital. But for the right honorable gentleman the capital city would have been an. abomination, built on lines laid down in a composite plan, prepared by a man who had never won a prize in any great town-planning, or even township-planning, competition, Colonel Miller - God knows where he got his Colonelcy - and Colonel Owen - whoever heard of anything that he did - with others, were contemptible and mean enough to steal the brains of the men who submitted plans in the competition for ibo best design for the Capital. They took a little from this plan and a little from that, and had not the honesty to give credit to the architects of the world whom they had robbed. The following petition was presented to the present Treasurer, who was then Prime Minister of the Com.monwealth -
Sir, - !We the undersigned architects and engineers in Australia respectfully and urgently petition you to appoint a Royal Commission of professional experts to inquire into and report upon the general administration relative to the building of Canberra, and to review the present built-up design to which so much expert objection has been taken, notably by Colonel W. L. Vernon, V.D., F.R.I. V.A., in the June issue of “Building Magazine.”
You are well aware of the uncompromising attitude adopted by the ex-Minister for Home Affairs towards the professional counsel offered him at various stages of the competition, and we recognise in the fortunate turn of the political wheel, an opportunity for yet saving Australia’s capital city from the grave constructional disaster that threatens it.
The power that you would have gladly exercised in opposition, you now have the opportunity of putting into effect as Prime Minister, and we can assure you that the exercise of that power is most necessary in this phase of national affairs.
That document bears the signature of 170 of the greatest architects, engineering and otherwise, in Australia. I have to thank the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) for giving Mr. Griffin his chance in connexion with the designs of the Federal capital; but what chance had that gentleman against the band of conspirators inthe Department? Not a dog’s chance. Mr. Blacket, who was appointed a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the expenditure at Canberra, said in his report - .
The causes that . I have mentioned are, I think, mainly responsible for the waste in construction at Canberra. But, in my opinion, tens of thousands of pounds would have been saved if, from the outset, there had been proper consideration for the comfort of workmen. The men who had been employed at Canberra, in almost every instance, had made large savings out of their wages, because there is neither need nor opportunity for much expenditure. If comfortable cottages had been available, efficient workmen would have been anxious to go there and stay there, and no need would have arisen for the engagement of 167 men from Melbourne, and the return of 117 of their number with fares paid, because of inefficiency.
Mr. Blacket also says
Upon all the evidence, and particularly upon that which has been stated or referred to in the report, I find that the reasons why Mr. Griffin, between 18th October, 1913, and 15th November, 1915, performed no substantial part of his duties under’ his contract with the Commonwealth are as stated in four of the five charges advanced in his behalf, viz.. charges 1, 2, 3, and 5, and are as under: -
That is the gang of which I spoke a little while ago -
The promise or pledge to build the capital city in New South Wales ought to be kept. Had we gone there long ago, the expense involved in the renting and purchase of public offices in Melbourne, Sydney, and the other capital cities would have been saved. It is now proposed to make the old Turn Verein, in Victoria-parade, Melbourne, into a printing office for printing the Commonwealth notes, and for that purpose the Government purchased it for ?8,000, although an offer was made of ?10,000 previously for the property as it stands. All such public offices as this ought to be built at Canberra. We owe a great deal to the Parliament and people of Victoria for granting the Commonwealth Government the use of this Parliament House; and yet we have not had the grace to spend ?200 or ?300 in making a decent garden, just outside, of what is one of the biggest blots on the beauty of the city. As to the cost of temporary buildings at Canberra, I may say that, by the Works Department of the State I have been informed that the fittings of the State Parliament House, the interior of which is almost a replica of these Chambers we now occupy, cost ?30,000; and these, no doubt . could he purchased for a much smaller sum and utilized at Canberra. As. a matter of fact, the temporary State Parliament House in the Exhibition building is infinitely more comfortable and convenient than this building. I think that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) is wrong in his ideas regarding temporary buildings. There is not an architect of standing ‘but would advocate permanent buildings at Canberra, even if only the Town Hall of the city were built and utilized for legislative purposes for the time being. Personally, I do not desire to see temporary buildings erected, and, as I said before, much money would have been saved had we got to Canberra long ago. No doubt, the change would mean much to the Melbourne press, but if the Seat of Government were removed to Canberra, those who conduct the daily journals could have special telegraphic arrangements, just as has been the case with the newspapers of Sydney and other places for the the last twenty years. Such an expenditure could not matter to the newspaper proprietors of Melbourne, in view of the large profits they have made in the past, and are said to be making now. If we did as the Swiss Government do, we would be more worthy of the people who send us here as representatives, and be the better able to do our duty to. the country.
– I propose to refer very briefly to one or two of the arguments used by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who spoke of the need there would be, if we went to Canberra, for the construction of the railway to Jervis Bay.
– Do not forget to say that the honorable member for Kooyong has never been to Canberra.
– Most of the Melbourne authorities on Canberra have never been to the Federal Territory. The first time I visited the place the party I was with had the benefit of the company of two representatives of Melbourne dailies. They were filled up with the stuff that is printed in the Melbourne newspapers relating to the site for the Capital. All the way from Queanbeyan to Canberra we heard nothing but the joke that there was not enough water to put in a whisky in the arid district that had been selected by Parliament. But when one of the reporters saw the Murrumbidgee River he did not know what to say; he could not imagine the consumption of sufficient whisky to need all the water he saw. When we were attempting to cross the Murrumbidgee, one of our most respected senators had to be rescued from drowning - and this, on an area where it was said there was not enough water to supply the needs of the whisky drinkers. However, there was worse ahead for the gentleman who represented the Age, which has so much influence in Victoria - and nowhere else. He met a chum from the Sydney University, and the two, being interested in nature studies, wandered away from the rest of the party. When the time came for re-union, the representative of the Age - or it might have been the representative of the Argus - was not to be seen, and much delay was caused. When he did rejoin the party he said that the roar of the Cotter River had rendered them unable to locate the main party, and so they had wandered off the track. I mention this incident just to illustrate the kind of piffle which is served up by co-called great daily newspapers with a view to influence public opinion against any project which they do not wish to see carried out. In no case hitherto has press misrepresentation been grosser, or carried to such extremes, as in connexion with the Federal Capital. The reason is that, at present, these newspapers are at the very heart of the Aus tralian Government, which gives them an advantage worth thousands of pounds a year. If this Parliament met at an Australian centre, instead of at a Victorian centre, the Melbourne papers would be placed on the same level as the papers of other capital cities; and as their selfinterest is apparent, their arguments may be set aside.
As to the remarks of the honorable member for Kooyong, I can only say that the construction of a railway from the main line to a seaport, so far from being a reason for voting against the construction of the Capital, is one of the strongest recommendations of the project. Such a railway will give the prospect of another city and port, and thus tend to that decentralization which we all desire. Federation was achieved .because it was arranged that the capital city should be in New South Wales. I have before me a report of the debate in the Victorian Parliament on the proposal to accept the amendments made by the Premiers’ Conference in the original Constitution Bill, and it was then recognised in Victoria, as elsewhere, that this concession must be made if New South Wales were to be a party to the Federation. The honorable member for Kooyong says that the honour of the Commonwealth Parliament is not involved; but the question is whether this Parliament - speaking for the whole of Australia - is going to honour the bond solemnly made and ratified by the people in order that New South Wales might join the union. It is not possible to restore the position that existed then. If this Parliament intends to tear up that bond-
– There is no suggestion of that.
– Not only is there such a suggestion, but the twenty years’ delay in carrying out the compact amounts to a dishonouring of it. I appeal from the present representatives of Victoria, who, one after the other, yesterday and this morning, with one exception, rose to speak in opposition to the honouring of this bond, to the representatives of that State at the time the bond was made. I appeal from honorable members of to-day, with their narrow views, to gentlemen whose word was their bond, and whose names carried such weight throughout the Commonwealth that it was said in the New South Wales Parliament that, as Mr. Deakin and Sir
George Turner had declared that the compact would be kept, we could accept the word of those honorable men just as if it were committed to writing. When objection was taken in the New South Wales Parliament that there was no guarantee that the Commonwealth Parliament would not be kept in Melbourne for all time, Sir George Reid replied, in effect, “ The bond to build the Federal Capital in New South Wales has been entered into by men of honour representing the people of Victoria and the other States. We have the pledge of Mr. Deakin, Sir George Turner, and others that it is not their intention to secure for Victoria by this means the right of controlling the Government of Australia, but that the bond will be kept within a reasonable time.”
– The bond was inserted in the Second Federal Enabling Bill by the Premiers of the various States, and not by the Convention.
– That is so. I shall quote to the Committee the remarks made by Mr. Alfred Deakin on the Australasian Federation Enabling Act Amending Bill in the Victorian Legislative Assembly on the 29th June, ^1899. Mr. Trenwith had said, that he could congratulate the Premier on having secured an arrangement by which the Capital would remain in Melbourne for all time. In the course of his speech, Mr. Deakin said -
With regard to the remarks of the honorable member for Footscray, who I am sorry to observe is not on his place, I will not say they were carefully devised for a malicious purpose, but they will certainly have the effect of furnishing fuel to the flame of suspicion, already fierce in certain quarters, in reference to the Capital. I desire, therefore, to offer a few words in regard to it. In the first place, I agree with the Premier that the reasonable proposition in this matter would have been simply to exclude the Capital cities, and any place in their immediate vicinities. It is a desirable thing, from a national point of view, that the Federal Capital of Australia shall be independent of the control ‘of the people of any one Capital of any one Province - that it shall be stationed on its own ‘territory, and entirely free from local influence, so as to give the best guarantee of its impartiality.
If the Federal Capital were stationed in or near one of the great cities, there would be a difficulty in persuading the rest of the Continent that proposals which added buildings and gave employment in the Capital were not designed for the benefit of that Colony rather than of the Commonwealth. Therefore, I should always oppose the establishment and maintenance of .the Federal Capital in any great city, including the city and Capital of Melbourne. Yes, much as I owe to Melbourne, my native city, where I have spent my life, and to which I owe all possible loyalty and obligation, I shall vote, as an elector of the Federal Parliament, against any proposal to retain the Federal Legislature here more than its due time. I do not think it will be attempted to be so detained. Our people are .too proud to rely upon mere adventitious advantages, and are confident that their metropolis can fulfil its destiny in face of any fair competition. . . . But, since a special district has been set apart for the Federal Capital, I may say that, so far as I have any knowledge of the feeling of the electors of Melbourne, and of the feelings of the members of this House, as well as of the Victorian representatives at the late Convention, there will be no attempt to keep the Capital in Melbourne one single day longer than is necessary. I believe this Colony would feel that such conduct constituted a breach of faith. The people of Victoria would be ashamed to cherish such a prospect, and would resent any such statement as an aspersion on their honour. Be that as it may be, there stands in the Bill a provision that the Capital shall be within New South Wales, and I take it that the Parliament will be removed thither as soon as a site can be selected, and that will be before any lengthy period has elapsed. As the honorable member for Footscray says, the .Federal Government will not have sufficient money to build a palatial edifice of this kind, and I trust that half-a-century or a century will be allowed to pass before it lavishes ite funds an the erection of a permanent Parliament House such as this. We may rely upon it that a spirit of economy will prevail, and that the Federal Government will take, a lesson from the example of the Queensland House of Parliament in Brisbane, and construct a far more convenient and far more suitable building than this for one-tenth of its cost. The Federal Capital, I hope, will be created at an early date, on the most suitable site, not situated as to be under provincial or metropolitan influences, but sufficiently in the interior to give a guarantee to the great bulk of the people of Australia that their interests will be considered apart from the overshadowing influences of any town, class, or caste. I believe that the Federal Capital can be founded in temporary fashion within three or four years of the establishment of the Commonwealth, and I hope to see it during that period able to accommodate the Federal Parliament and its Executive.
I remind the House that it was upon that statement by Mr. Deakin, and similar declarations by the members of the Victorian Ministry, that the people of New South Wales decided to enter the Federation. The promise was made in order to secure an affirmative vote from the people of New South Wales, and it was the condition upon -which New South Wales became a partner in the Commonwealth.
– The people of New South Wales had voted in favour of Federation before the promise was made.
– But the majority was not sufficient to secure the acceptance of the Federal scheme. My statement is true that New South Wales would not have entered the Federation had not certain concessions been made. Mr. Deakin continued -
I venture to think that the mirthful manner in which the statements of the honorable member were received by honorable members, contrasted with the hearty acceptance with which my own statement on this question has just been received, go conclusively to show, beyond the possibility of mistake, that the members of this Assembly are not of opinion that there will be any attempted breach of faith in regard to the Federal Capital. On the contrary, it is -agreed on all sides that the Federal Parliament will remain in Melbourne no longer than is absolutely necessary. I must apologize to the House for having had to take up longer time than I expected owing to the very frequent interjections of various honorable members, and because of the difficulty of pinning the opponents of the measure to their own contentions.
I do not desire to add anything to those statements. They express my views in better language than I can command. I believe that, while we remain in the Capital of any State - and I am equally opposed to the transfer of the Seat of Government to Sydney - this Parliament will not have a home, and the people of Australia will have no common centre to which they can look for inspiration, and in which the spirit of Australian patriotism can be developed.
.- I do not intend to give a silent vote upon this question. I resent the imputation upon one’s honour that is involved in the statement by the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) and some other speakers, that a vote against the items which are the subject of the amendment involves a repudiation of the obligation that we are under to New South Wales to remove (ultimately to the Capital site at Canberra.
– The word “ ultimately “ was not used in Mr. Deakin’s address.
– We are not bound by Mr. Deakin’s address. The compact with New South Wales was that the Capital site should be in that State, but not within 100 miles of Sydney.
– The compact was made not only with New South Wales, but with the other States. Queensland is equally interested in it.
– Quite so; but a vote against the items of expenditure contained in the schedule does not involve a repudiation of the pledge that was given. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has told us that it is sufficient for him that a solemn pledge to remove the Capital to New South Wales was given. It is a remarkable thing that he has kept silent for the last eleven years, since the Canberra site was chosen in 1909, although he knew of the existence of that solemn pledge, and although it was his duty as an honorable man to do what he could to have the Federal Capital removed to Canberra.
– That is the statement of a paid advocate who does not hesitate to lie.
– It is true, as an honorable member interjects, that for four- years preparatory work was being done at Canberra.
– The honorable member’s statement about me was absolutely untrue.
– I admit the pledge that was given to New South Wales, and the solemn obligation we are under to fulfil it.
– I have contradicted your statement, and you have not been’ manly enough to answer me. You are an infernal liar. Will that fetch you?
– Order! ‘ I call upon the honorable member for Melbourne to withdraw that statement.
– I apologize for the rudeness, but I will talk to the honorable member for Fawkner outside.
– The honorable member must withdraw the remark he made.
– I withdraw it.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the adjournment I was endeavouring to make my first point, namely, that a vote given against this item would not involve on the part of those who so voted any violation of any pledge given to New South Wales in respect of the Capital site. I now leave that. The way in which I view the matter is this: . Since the pledge was given circumstances have completely changed. The situation is entirely altered, necessitating and justifying a postponement of the fulfilment of the pledge originally given. Let us consider what has been done by this Parliament in fulfilment of the original pledge. It took Parliament about nine years to fix on a Capital site.
– The final selection was made in 1908.
– Evidently after a great deal of difficulty, the present site was decided upon. Then the Parliament began to lay the foundations of the Capital and do a certain amount of preparatory work; and I understand that since then there has been spent on the Capital site something in the neighbourhood of £2,000,000. In 1914 the disastrous war occurred, and it and its consequences have overshadowed everything else ever since. In company with several other honorable members, I visited the Federal Capital site about two years ago, so that I am not open to the charge of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) that those who speak from the Victorian point of view have never seen the site. I noted the shameful - the criminal - waste of money that had gone on there; and I mingled my tears with! those of the honorable member for Illawarra as we gazed upon the lamentable spectacle.
– Does the honorable member suggest that it could make his companion weep?
– The war has saddled us with an almost intolerable, burden of debt. It is constantly insisted on, and stressed in this House, when any question of stranding money arises. Our debt is such that every honest man and every honest Government must be determined that not one penny shall be unnecessarily spent until this debt has been discharged. There are various pressing claims which are not properly recognised in this community, but which we would like to see adequately met; claims which are being constantly pressed - the claims of the aged, the blind, and the invalid. Whenever appeals on behalf of these interests are made we are told that Australia cannot afford more. We are told, “ Wait until times are a little better, and we will see that all these things are put right.” We have had to cut down our Defence vote very drastically; and adequate defence, after all, is the guarantee of, our national safety. Expenditure has been cut down - -we are told by our experts, on whom we must rely - to the lowest possible point consistent with national safety. Now, what are we asked’ to do ? We are desired to spend £150,000. For what? There is not a single ‘honorable member who will be voting to authorize the expenditure of this sum who can say that he knows how it is to be spent.
– Speak for yourself.
– I venture that as an opinion, and I am judging, for the most part, from, the tenor of the speeches hitherto delivered on the subject. I repeat that not one member of this Committee knows how that money is to be expended. When information has been sought of the Government we have been referred to the Estimates. There, I find that £90,000 is to be spent on initial settlement. Is there an honorable member who knows what that means, or what it involves ? What is intended to be done with that £90,000 ? We are told that another £60,000 is to be expended in preparatory works. Preparatory to what? The grand total of £2,000,000, to date, has been spent in preparatory work, has gone in initial settlement. And what does it amount to? To nothing, so far. We have not been given a single word of explanation by the Government concerning what initial settlement means, and what preparatory works are to be undertaken. The last time I heard, in this House, any justification for expenditure on the Federal Capital site was when an explanation was tendered by Mr. Watt. The then Treasurer was justifying some proposed, expenditure upon the Federal Capital, and he said that money was to be expended in preserving work already done. It was pointed out that, if it were not expended, that which had been already spent would be practically lost. One can understand that argument. One can appreciate that, money having been spent, it should not be lost altogether; and we were willing that an additional amount should be disbursed to retain that which was extant. But, staggering, as we are, under our burden of accumulated debt, and determined, as we are, ‘ that, nothing shall he spent which is not absolutely necessary, we are nevertheless asked to agree to the expenditure of another £150,000 upon this precious Capital site, for “initial settlement” and “ preparatory works.”
– Then, so long as things are merely kept alive the honorable member is content?
– I am content until the time arrives when, in the estimation of honorable members, we shall be justified in incurring further expenditure in regard to that site.
– The time has arrived.
– Order! Will the honorable member please resume his seat. I have made several appeals during the debate for honorable members to cease their constant interjections. I now insist upon their doing so.
– The honorable member for Illawarra is fond of interjecting, and in a virulent style; hut, in the course of his speech, I would remind him he did not offer one word of proof concerning the necessity for the expenditure of this money. He harped on the one string, namely, that we were in honour bound to make this expenditure. He quoted the speech of the late Mr. Deakin, delivered before the consummation of Federation. That was the honorable gentleman’s one string. He harped upon it.
– I harped upon the one string which the honorable member harped upon when the Kaiser’s armies were in Belgium.
– Order! I again remind the honorable member that he is not in order.
– I am sorry; but I am being continually personally attacked.
– The honorable member knows that he has the right of redress.
– I am not attacking the honorable member personally, but I am criticising his so-called arguments.
– The honorable member for Illawarra need not be down-hearted.
– Order! If the honorable member for East Sydney refuses to obey the Chair, the Chair will have to take drastic action. On the next occasion of his transgressing I shall be compelled to name him.
– My pity goes out to the honorable member forIllawarra.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Illawarra did not offer one word of proof concerning the necessity for transferring the Federal Legislature to Canberra. The one string on which he played was that we were, and are, in honour bound to fulfil a pledge. It is a matter of common knowledge that if a man honorably incurs a debt and finds, subsequently, that circumstances have so changed as to make it impossible for him to meet that debt, no one would say that he was in honour bound to pay. And, if he were haled before a Court of Justice, what would he the procedure? His circumstances would be inquired into, and if it were satisfactorily shown that since incurring the debt his circumstances had so changed as to render it impossible for him to meet it, the Court would say, “We will not insist upon your paying, but will wait until your circumstances are such as to permit you to meet your honorable obligation.” The debtor would not be repudiating his obligation, but would be simply postponing the hour of his meeting it. That is the position of the Commonwealth to-day. Our circumstances, since we gave our pledge, have very materially changed.
– But the contract is not changed.
– I agree. The contract stands. I do not want to repudiate it. I want to postpone its fulfilment until-
– The day of judgment.
– That is a very busy day. Say the day after.
– No; but until we can be reasonably expected to fulfil it. What is the reason for all the heat engendered by this proposition? I said, a few weeks ago, upon my return from a. visit to New South Wales and Queensland, that, in conversation with all sorts and conditions of men, I had found no anxiety for the removal of the Federal Parliament to Canberra. That opinion has received striking corroboration from the letter read by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) to-day. When we find that it is such a burning question in New South Wales, this anxiety to have the contract fulfilled-
– No; but to keep you up to it.
– Very well, to keep us up to it. I do not care how the honorable member phrases it. The anxiety of the people of New South Wales is so great that it has been found necessary to form a league whose function is to try to whip the people of the State into a condition of taking interest in this question. What rendered the formation .of that league necessary was the fact that the people of New South Wales did not care a snap of the fingers whether the Seat of Government was removed to Canberra or not; and when we are told that the league was formed for the express purpose of reawakening interest in the question, all I have to say it that it shows that the people of the State are nothing like as enthusiastic as are their parliamentary champions. It has been rather interesting to compare the attitude of honorable members of the Opposition in respect of this vote of £150,000 with their attitude on the vote for defence purposes. When the Government came down and told us that their experts had been through the Defence ‘Estimates, and, after considering them carefully, had cut them down to the lowest possible point, and that every penny on the schedule submitted to us was necessary for the defence of Australia, what was the attitude of honorable members opposite in regard to a question of such vital interest to the whole Commonwealth? They said, “We want to know how that money is to be spent. You have not given us any information; and, on the score of economy, and because of the debt we have to face, we ought to cut the vote down, not by £1, but by £2,000,000.” One could understand and appreciate that attitude being assumed by honorable members who claim to be economists, and say, “We are out for economy. We believe, as every honorable member does, that everything ought to be done for the proper defence of Australia, and if it can be shown that this expenditure is necessary for that purpose, we are willing to grant Supply.” But, while honorable members opposite submit the Defence votes to most careful scrutiny, they do not ask for any information when the Government come forward with a proposal to spend £150,000 at Canberra on “ initial settlement” and “preparatory works.” They do not say, “ What are you going to do with the money?” but at once say “Certainly. We will give you every penny of it, without a word of explanation.” And the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) pertinently interjected, “Why, it is not half enough.” Of course it is not. What is the use of spending £150,000 in this direction? It is a mere drop in the bucket.
– It is the first instalment.
– A first instalment; after we have already spent about £2,000,000 !i I can imagine the Government getting into their room and discussing the question of the grant for Canberra, and saying, “ What on earth are we to do about Chapman? We cannot stave him off with promises all the time. We have been promising him something for a long time, and now we must give him something.” Some one probably suggested, “£150,000 is neither here nor there. Let us put down that amount for Canberra. It will please Chapman, and will do no harm.” But the next difficulty facing the Government was how to explain what they proposed to do with the money; and I do not know who was the bright genius in Cabinet who suggested this very ingenious way of covering the purpose for which the money was to be voted - “initial settlement; preparatory works.” This might mean anything or nothing. However, here is this item of £150,000 - a mere drop in the bucket - which cannot represent anysubstantial work, but serves to quieten these parliamentary champions of the transference of the Seat of Government. I congratulate Ministers on this astute move on their part. They have got out of a difficulty very well, and very cheaply.
– Cheap dirt!
– Hear, hear! It is unworthy of the honorable member for Fawkner.
– I do not know what the Treasurer means. I exercise my judgment, and what I have said is my honest reading of the situation, as it appears to me, so that it ill-becomes the Treasurer to call my bona fides in question, and say that something I have said is unworthy ofme. He asks me to’ submit to- or rather consent to expenditure of this kind without giving me the slightest idea as to how the money is to be spent. We have not had one word of explanation.
– I am not asking the honorable member to submit to it. I am asking him to please himself.
– And I am pleasing myself, and doing what I consider to be my duty. Wherever possible I am anxious to cut down expenditure. My view is that not one single penny we need not spend should be spent, and if I can fasten on to an item of this sort where it can be clearly demonstrated that no necessity exists for spending money, it is my duty to say so. And I maintain that if the Government, when they are challenged, do not offer any explanation, or tell us where the necessity for the expenditure of this money lies, it is a perfectly legitimate construction for me to place on their attitude to say that this is a mere sop to stave off honorable members who advocate the transference of the Seat of Government from Melbourne to Canberra.
– And I say that the honorable member’s remark is unworthy of him.
– In a nutshell, this is my attitude upon this question. A pledge was’ given to New South. Wales, and ought to be kept. But at one stage, there was admittedly reason for postponement, and I maintain that that reason still exists. Therefore, the question is whether it is necessary to ‘spend this money now, or whether justification exists for the further postponement of the fulfilment of the pledge to New South Wales. Because I am firmly convinced that this expenditure is at the moment absolutely unnecessary, I propose to vote against it.
.- The speech which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has just delivered was amazing, and I am confident that when he applies his legal mind to the _cold proofs of his remarks, he will find how inadequate the grounds have been upon which they were founded. He has made a gross insinuation against the Government and the vary improper charge that this vote is a sop thrown out to particular members. There is not the slightest foundation for such an unwarrantable assumption, and it is certainly quite contrary to the announced policy of the Government right through. Before the war certain progress was made in connexion with the building of the city at Canberra. Works were being carried on regularly. However, when the war broke out the expenditure ceased, so much so that during the year 1917-18 only £4,232 was spent there, and in the following year the expenditure was reduced, to £936, while during the last financial year it was only £3,575. The honorable member says that circumstances have changed. That is true. The war has ceased, and, therefore, there is an obligation upon the Government and Parliament to proceed to fulfil the terms of the Constitution. At any rate, the attitude of this Government, was announced last year quite clearly and emphatically in the Budget speech.
– Yes, to resume the programme, but not to initiate a new one.
-The Government . announced, in October, 1919, prior to the elections, that it was their intention to proceed with the construction of the Federal Capital at Canberra, and when we came back here among the first pronouncements by the Ministry was a statement of our intention to resume the work. Many wild statements have been made today. For instance, the honorable member for Fawkner has said that we propose to continue wild extravagance. He went to the Territory, he told us, but could not see where the money had been spent.
– I did not say that I could not see where the money had been spent. I certainly saw where it had been spent.
– The honorable member said that the money had been spent unwisely, and all I say is that he did not take a discriminating mind with him to Canberra. The total expenditure at Canberra to the 30th June, 1920, has been £1,738,639 3s. 6d. Of that amount, £740,149 has been spent on the resumption of land within the Territory, and £980,703 on the cost of the establishment of. the city. There may or may not have been some justification for the charge that the cost of certain work was excessive, but when we come to the actual expenditure, and examine it fairly and squarely, which . we have had to do administratively, we all must admit that it has been incurred on works that are essential for the carrying out of the scheme. On the power house, £111,852 has been spent. Power is the very basis of the construction of a city, if the work is to be carried on effectively and cheaply. On providing a water , supply £244,218 has been spent. It is one of the finest water supplies in the Commonwealth, and an effective scheme, and there has not been any waste or unnecessary expenditure upon it. For the sewerage of the city, £39,849 has been spent out of a total of £79,000 set aside for this purpose. On brick-works £45,418 has been spent. We cannot build the city without bricks, and the bricks turned out in the Territory are pronounced to be equal to the best bricks produced in the Commonwealth. This is the opinion of men who know what they ‘ are talking about. On the railway £57,534 has been spent. That is a very essential work. On administrative and other buildings £58,998 has been spent. On roads and bridges the expenditure has been £83,521. It must be remembered that the surveyors went into virgin country, through which they had to construct roads, which are essential to the laying out of any city. There is a large quantity of timber stored at Canberra for seasoning purposes, and this has cost £20,944. These are the items upon which the money has been spent in the Territory, and it is, therefore, idle to set up the stupid and scarecrow cry all over the country of wasteful and useless expenditure so as to bring discredit on the Capital.
– We are paying interest all the time on the money so expended.
– On a portion of it. Some of the expenditure, however, was provided out of revenue. These works having been carried out, the time now comes for the fulfilment of the compact. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best)’ this morning made a significant statement to the effect that “ I have never heard any one in Melbourne deal with this subject except from the stand -point that we cannot- afford it.” Some of the people of Melbourne refuse to discuss it from any other point of view. Their sole plea is for “ delay, and yet delay.” They say to the Government, “You must not fulfil this obligation, because we cannot afford it.” We can afford to carry out other undertakings, and the Commonwealth must always afford to honour its national obligations.
Dealing with the question of general policy involved, I would remind honorable members that the Federal Convention embodied in the Constitution the provision that the Federal Capital should be established in Federal Territory, so that the Commonwealth Parliament should have a home of its own. It was the intention of the Convention that the Seat of Government should not be in any State capital. When certain Melbourne residents say to me, “I would be quite prepared to see the Seat of Government removed to Sydney,” I point out to them that that would not be an honouring of the compact, and I invite them to work out what it would cost to resume in Sydney the areas required for the building of Government House, Parliament House, and other Federal public buildings. The capital value of a site in Sydney for Commonwealth offices alone would more than represent the cost of the Federal Territory. The Federal Capital, when established, will be, to a large extent, selfsupporting. If the Territory i3 properly managed, and the leasehold arrangements satisfactorily carried out, the revenue so obtained will go a long way towards paying a great deal, if not the whole, of the interest on the cost of our public buildings there.
I do not propose to go fully into the main issue involved, since the Parliament, by its previous legislation, has already decided it. The only plea now advanced is that we should delay the work of building the Capital because we cannot afford the expense which that work would involve. I wish it to be clearly understood that if this proposed vote be passed, the Government will proceed forthwith to carry out the intention of the Parliament.
– That is no information.
– The honorable member complained a little while ago of lack of information on this question. May I ask him whether any information we could give him would cause him to vote for this proposed expenditure?
– Yes; if the honorable gentleman could satisfy me that the expenditure is necessary to maintain the status quo.
– No matter what information we give some honorable members, the only answer we receive from them is a refusal to honour the obligation on the ground that we cannot afford to build the Capital. This proposed vote is for the initial settlement and preparatory work. I invite honorable members to consider for a moment what a big undertaking like the construction of the Federal Capital will involve. We must provide Houses of Parliament and administrative buildings, as well as residences for the artisans and their families who are to be transferred to Canberra. Then, again, the work involves the laying-out of the city, the provision of drainage, sewerage, and electric power, the formation of roads, and the general organization of the city. This work will be carried out by a large num ber of men, and regard for their health and the provision of reasonable conditions of employment for them must be the prime considerations. This vote has been carefully thought out. It will be used in laying-out the roads proper, on construction work, the drainage of camps and buildings, and water supply distribution. ‘Above all, the housing of the workmen and their families must be attended to. The proposal makes immediate provision for something like 200 families, who will have to be housed at the Capital, and . provision is also to be made for preparatory water supply distribution. Then, again, the necessary plant and materials have to be acquired. In that direction we have already taken action. The intention of the Government is that if this proposed vote be agreed to the work shall be immediately proceeded with. The Government intend to honour the obligation of the Commonwealth, with’ due regard to economy and efficiency, in the hope that we may be able to make a start with the building of a Federal City that will ultimately be the pride of the Commonwealth.
.Whatever may be the value of this debate in relation to the Federal Territory, it has certainly been instrumental in giving us cheap, and, what may prove to be, useful legal advice. Most people hold the view that a man’s obligations, whatever they may. be, must be met to the extent that his assets will allow. According to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that is not so. If there is any such requirement on the part of the law, it can be overcome. I am very pleased to have the information. It would seem, from the honorable member’s statement, that if a man contracts to pay £1,000 and does not want to pay it, he can” go before a Court, get the right sort of Judge, and obtain from him the decision that he need not pay. I shall be very pleased to obtain through the honorable member entrance to such a Court, and an appearance before such a Judge. If I can do that, I shall give him something to do. In the second place, the honorable member and those who share his views are quite confident that in “fine frenzy rolling” they may storm against the Government in the sure and certain hope that the Government will not be defeated. Let them thank God for that. This Government has to go on. No vote of theirs will threaten its stability. That being so, these honorable members may say with absolute sincerity, honesty, and safety what they wish to say in accordance with, the desires of the newspapers of the States from which they come. Why is it that we have such a division of parties on this question ? Why is it that we find parties forming on new ground ? Why is it that we have no longer, so far as this matter is concerned, a National, a Labour, or a Country Economy party ? The answer is that on this question honorable members are grouped into parties according to the States from which they come and the opinions expressed bv the newspapers published in the capitals of those States. It is on the opinions expressed in the State capitals and their newspapers that our national policy, principles, and consciences are established. The honorable member for Fawkner says that he is on solid ground in opposing this proposed vote. It is not for him to listen to the opinions of the daily newspapers. It is not for him to listen to the opinions expressed by citizens of the State of which he is a representative. Hie is animated by the noblest and loftiest spirit of patriotism and the most deadly desire to economize. He has been to Canberra, and the sights that he saw there brought tears to his eyes. His tears were probably mingled with the whisky which was provided, as on the occasion of my visit to Canberra, by a benevolent Government to give him the correct vision. He is, I understand, very anxious as to the principles at stake. Those who come from New South Wales, however, are influenced by the opinions expressed by the leading newspapers published there. In order to come to a conclusion as to the way in which honorable members will vote, one has only to ascertain from what States they come. It is not necessary to ask on what side of the House an honorable member is sitting, or to what particular party he belongs, in order to ascertain how he will vote on this question. All that we have to do is to ascertain from what State he comes and what are the opinions of the leading newspapers published in that State.
– To what influences is the honorable member subject ?
– To any influence that is pleasant. I have already informed the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) of that fact. Is not the honorable member for Fawkner the very man who, when this House was indulging in a rabid discussion on what is known as “the salary grab”-
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M.
Chanter). - Order! The honorable member may not discuss that matter.
– I must not refer to the increase in members’ allowances as “the salary grab”? Very well, sir; I was merely adopting the vernacular of the daily press of this city. I have as much reverence for the Parliamentary Allowance Act as has any member of this House, and it is not in terms of disparagement that I would refer to it. Was it not the honorable member, for Fawkner who, when that Bill was before the House, imposed upon himself a self-denying ordinance, and said that if this Parliament were meeting in any other city he would not be able to attend its sittings? Did he make that statement?
– I did.
– Did the honorable member say that if the Federal Parliament were meeting in any other city he would not be able to be a member of it, since it would interfere with his private practice? Could he permit his private practice to come between himself and his country ? If it be true that in that event he could not devote his time and attention to the affairs of his country for which he receives the remuneration he deserves, what would happen if the Seat of Government were removed to some other State? Would the country lose the honorable member’s valuable services? If that be true of the honorable member, may it not be also true that because we are meeting here the country is losing the services of men no less capable or sincere who cannot give their time to the work of Parliament here, because they practise their ‘ prof essions or carry on their business in other States?
Some one has said that there are big political humbugs just as there are humbugs in the field of religion. I have heard or read of that statement. It might have been made in some other sphere, but I take it that whoever was responsible for it spoke from experience. Those who hold that view could have no better vision than when they see themselves reflected in the mirror of human history. If looking at themselves they express that opinion, I, looking at my own image in a mirror, might say - despite my public utterances - whatever there may be in the sphere of religion, there are undoubtedly humbugs in politics. This proposal on the part of the Government is, after all, a piece of political humbug. The Government are, indeed, in a parlous position. They are driven by the necessities of the situation to fulfil what they regard as an obligation, and they are torn to pieces by two factions. One faction is composed of believers in the fulfilment of an honest compact, because they live in a particular locality in the State with which it was made; and the other is made up of those who oppose it, also because they live in a particular locality where the compact’ is not regarded as an honest obligation. What are the Government to do with such a crowd of followers, and with us on this side, who are in the same boat? What are the Government going to do with the newspapers, which are also divided on the question, according to the locality in which they are published - which turn down conceptions of national policy for the well-being of the people, and are all the time counting votes? The honorable member for -Fawkner (Mr: Maxwell) wishes to know what will be the attitude of those who last night strenuously opposed the expenditure of £2,000,000 for defence under the Works Estimates, and are now going to vote in favour of this expenditure of £150,000. The honorable member does not put that question to me, for he knows I represent Victoria; although nobody knows where my vote will go until I give it. The honorable member wishes to know how the two attitudes can be reconciled; but we can reconcile ourselves to any position ; it all depends on circumstances and environment, of which we are the creatures. I can justify the position I took up last night, and on the same principles that appeal to the honorable member to-day but were dead to him last night - on the ground of the consequent heavy taxation, which appeared to him as nothing last night, but which now appears a tremendous burden, though the amount involved is only £150,000, and not £2,000,000. These remarks apply also to the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best). Did anybody ever see such easy swallowing of a camel, or such tremendous straining at a gnat? But, of course, everything depends on the attitude of the daily press in the particular State from which an honorable member comes. I last night objected to the expenditure of £2,000,000, not merely because of the great burden imposed on the country, but on the ground that it was a sheer waste of public money, which there was nothing in the immediate future to justify. Something has been said about workmen’s cottages; but workmen’s cottages appeal more to me than does a dock-yard or an arsenal. A workman’s cottage is at least a home, but what kind of a home will a dock-yard or an arsenal furnish? Railways are a public ultility, and open up the country; and I feel more inclined, on national grounds, to vote for a railway than I do to vote for an instrument of destruction. If, in the interest of the country, I am called on to vote £5,000 for a railway or £5,000 for a war-ship, my vote will go for the railway. The completion of a railway is useful work, and septic tanks and sewers are conducive to the health of the community; whatever the value of the argument may be, these -are public, utilities. Honorable members wish to know how I am going to vote. In view of the support of the press, or the press denunciation which might be avoided, I might as vigorously oppose this expenditure as I did the Defence expenditure last night. There are honorable members who are no longer politicians, whose utterances and votes are formulated for them, not by the necessities or by the pros and cons of the situation, but according to purely local circumstances. If the Government is wise, and wishes to please everybody, they will see that this £150,000 is voted. That will please those who desire the expenditure; and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) will be able to show, that he has “perished in the attempt” to secure the creation of the Capital; it will also please honorable members from Victoria when they find that the Government really do nothing when the money has been voted. The Government could just as easily have put £2,000,000 on the Estimates, for when it is passed, they need not spend it, but may go on to build a surplus out of it. That would be masterly finance, for it would secure the approval of all, although we had been given an assurance that the Government was going to spend this money. Honorable members have heard what I have to say, and will know afterwards how I propose to vote.
.- When I heard that the Government really intended to spend money on the Federal Capital, I realized the truth of the old saying that “ Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” I warn the Government that this is the second measure, since I entered Parliament, which arouses strong resentment outside. I think I can say there is not a member of the Country party more sympathetic than myself to the Government, or more inclined to give them fair and generous support in carrying out their policy; but when they propose expenditure of this sort, they seem to me to resemble that honest but unromantic animal which, when thrown into the water, finds that, in its efforts to swim, it only succeeds in cutting its own throat. Amongst the proposed works at the Federal Capital is the erection of theatres; and when I mentioned that fact at my election meetings I could judge, by the ironical laughter, what the Queensland people thought of the idea. “We have heard of a certain historical personage, well but unfavorably known, who is said to have fiddled while Rome was burning; and it would appear that the Government are going to watch musical comedies in a theatre at Canberra while Australia goes bankrupt. I heard some wild speeches last night; and while I do not agree that, in order to defend ourselves, we ought to throw away our arms, yet I observed and agreed with those honorable members who, in ‘dealing with the Defence Estimates, drew attention to the serious debt hanging over Australia I am prepared to do what I do not think many members of the National party are prepared to do, namely, give my support” to the Government in any proposal for a fair and reasonable wealth tax, in order to reduce that crushing burden. But to spend money in the way proposed on the Federal Capital under present circumstances is the greatest piece of folly of which I ever heard. An owner of a property may for very sound reasons desire to remove his house and homestead to another part of his land, but he will wait until he is clear of his mortgage and can afford the money. Australia, however, has made no preparations for clearing off her mortgages before moving her house, but ip getting even more heavily into debt. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) says that he would rather vote for a railway than for a war-ship; but I am afraid if we do not vote for the war-ship, we shall only build the railway for somebody else’s use. However, I hope the House, by a big majority, will refuse to sanction the proposed expenditure, and that we shall hear no more of this sort of nonsense.
.- I have no desire to see the compact made with New South Wales broken, but I protest against the proposed expenditure at this present time. I see no breach of compact in postponing this work still further, now that twenty years have lapsed since Federation was inaugurated. It would be simply frittering away money to spend it in the proposed small annual grant. I have no objection to the building of the Federal Capital; but, before it is undertaken, a proper scheme should be outlined, and we should have a reasonable prospect of completing it. If this Territory were handed over to a commissioner, or body of trustees, there might be some chance of success; if such a body had power to pledge the area and. raise sufficient money, and went to work in a proper way, the Seat of Government might in a few years be at , Canberra. But the mere expenditure of £150,000 this year, and a similar amount in ‘ the next year, will not ever get us to Canberra. The time has come, and nobody should know it better than the Treasurer, when no money should be expended for other . than necessary work. This is not the time for looking about to see what projects can be started; rather should the Government be endeavouring to discover what expenditure >they can do without. For all the good that the expenditure of £150,000 will do to benefit New South: Wales, or advance the fulfilment of the compact to establish the Federal Capital in that State, we might as well not vote the money at all. The country is faced with the responsibility of finding so much money that I hope the Treasurer will realize the necessity, if not in regard to this item, at any rate when other items on the Estimates are reached, to reduce expenditure so that no obligations shall be incurred that are not absolutely necessary. The only items I shall support in connexion with the Federal Capital are those which the Government declare are necessary for the maintenance of works already carried out. The amount of £150,000 will not do much more than that. The initiation of new works and buildings at such an inopportune time will mean absolute waste of money, and will not contribute one iota towards honoring the compact that was made with New South Wales before the Federation was established.
.- I intend to support the amendment, and I desire to state, briefly, my reasons. I stand for honouring the compact with New South “Wales. It was included in the terms upon which the States federated, and I will not sanction any delay with the mere object of avoiding our constitutional obligation. But, having regard to the financial position of the country, and the great burden of debt and taxation under which we are labouring, due, no doubt, to the obligations contracted in connexion with the war, I feel that we should not at this period enter upon the proposed expenditure. The time is inopportune for the proposals that are before the Committee, and for that reason only I shall vote for the amendment.
.- Until this afternoon I was not aware that the Federal Capital was a matter of such interest to members. The lively interchanges we have heard have been a veritable oasis in the chain of recent dull debates to which our duties have condemned us. For once in my life I feel a great deal of compunction about the vote I propose to give. I find myself in the unenviable position of having the appearance, for once, of supporting the Government. I have been examining my conscience for the purpose of determining whether, in any circumstances, I would be justified in pursuing so unusual and dangerous a course. I have been influenced very largely by the sordid parochialism of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) to vote against the proposals of the Government, and the fact that for even a brief minute in division I may be brought into close juxtaposition towards that reactionary ex -Laborite makes me doubt whether my judgment on this question is sound. The only comfort that comes to me in the invidious position in which I am placed is that I am opposed, as I hope I always shall be, to the Melbourne newspapers on this question. Whilst they are against the Government, an’d the Government are against them, there must be some em barrassment in the situation, although it is not without its compensations. It is said that we should keep the pledge that was embedded in the foundation work of the Constitution to establish the Federal Capital on New South Wales soil and at a sufficiently respectful distanc’e from the sacred person, so to speak, of Sydney. I do not recognise this claim about honouring a pledge, if by it is meant that this Parliament is bound by any legislative Act, or, for that matter, by any constitutional limitations of twenty years ago, provided this Parliament, or the people, as the case may be, decide upon a new policy. This Parliament never binds future generations; neither did the founders of the Commonwealth. The pledge in regard to the Capital remains what it was - an expression of the opinion of the people at that time - and let us be thankful that our constitutional obligations, as well as our parliamentary obligations, may be discharged by registering at any time the altered views of the people. So that the claim in regard to the honouring of a pledge does not appeal to me. At the same time, the pledge does and will remain until in a deliberate way this House, or the people on their being consulted, alter it. Up to the present time they have not done so. We have done neither one thing nor the other. We have not proceeded with the building of the Federal Capital in any wholehearted spirit, nor have the people of this generation revoked what the people of a past generation did. I do not say that the foundation of the Federal Capital is a gravely urgent work by any means, but as Ave are to have something in the nature of a test vote upon the question, I take this opportunity of saying that the main reason why I support the project to-day is that I recognise in the Federal Territory a great and truly Australian area. In fact, it is the one Australian area, in the true sense of the term, that we have. It is not without precedent in the history of the world, but for the first time in our history we have an opportunity of founding a city on territory which will remain the property of the whole people, instead of becoming the property of the land monopolist and speculator. Knowing something about the increase in land values that rapidly follows the advance of civilization, I have abundant confidence that the Federal Territory will shortly become, with the transference of the Federal Government, not a burden, but an asset, and a . productive blessing to the people. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has directed our attention to the obligations which we owe to the old and infirm in respect of pensions, and, generally, to the tremendous financial burdens which rest upon the country. I recognise those obligations, and it is for that reason that I oppose . some proposals for the creation of additional debts. But I am bound to remind the honorable member that he has the doubtful political honour of belonging to a party which has been very slow in supporting honorable members on this side in their endeavour to do a greater measure of justice to the old-age pensioners and others. In the Federal Territory we have an area of no less than 583,660 acres, equivalent to about 900. square miles. At least, it is country of fair average quality, and as it has the advantage of one of the deepest ports on the Australian coast at no great distance, I have very little doubt that it will develop into an asset worth all that is calculated to be spent upon it. And’ there is something in the claim that the National Parliament should legislate from its own home, from a* national house. I am not one of those who are greatly influenced by the allegation that we are too press-ridden in the city of Melbourne. We of the Labour party do not succumb to press influence; we have lived and prospered, not because, but in spite, of the press, and it is unlikely that we should run away to Canberra on account of the vituperative attacks that are constantly made on Parliament by the Melbourne newspapers. But whilst we are not influenced by these considerations, we do acknowledge that there is some claim to have the government of a continent proceed from a national Capital owned and controlled by the people of Australia. I am indebted to Mr. Frank Cornwall, a publicist of Melbourne, who has taken great interest in political questions, particularly land settlement, for a lengthy circular, illuminating in a very interesting way the advantages which have accrued from the establishment of municipalities and cities controlled by the people for the people, and where the unearned increment on the land has flowed into the popular coffers instead of into the pockets of private speculators. In that circular, amongst other things, he says -
It is not only ultimately that the Capital may be considered an economic factor in Australia, for, from the moment of its establishment 200miles from the nearest industrial centre, it will open up for profitable production a tributary area of 200 miles diameter, with the deepest of all the ports on the continent, and attracting thousands of agricultural settlers tending to loosen a little . the stranglehold of the metropolitan capitals which are centralizing all advantages and forming an artificial development at . the expense of the country districts, which latter cannot and will not receive their fair share of legislative interest and assistance so long as the propinquity of the great city operates to fill the whole perspective of the people’s legislative and executive representatives.
Giving illustrations of enterprises municipally and State owned andcontrolled, he furnishes this interesting illustration -
The town of Gary, Indiana, without townplanning advantages, and with its one basic industry in the newly-established plant of the United States Steel Corporation, showed a fivefold increase in land value in. ten years, from £1,250,000 to £6,750,000, with an expenditure of only a little over £1,000,000 all told in administrative expenses, improvements, and in taxes, to create this £5,500,000 dividend.
I realize that the Government desire to bring the matter to an issue.
– And as the honorable’ member and I are loyal supporters of the Government, we will now proceed to help them.
– And since I have committed myself to lend uncheerful support to the Treasurer in the matter of this proposed expenditure, I will now allow the Committee to proceed to a division, although I could say a great deal more to salve the conscience of the right honorable gentleman upon this policy of his - open, as it is, to such a dreadful amount of press criticism, which he feels, but which we do not feel at all.
.- I desire to enter my protest against the proposed expenditure of £150,000 upon the bush capital. The general disbursement of funds by the Government is increasing amazingly. Much has been said regarding the compacts entered into with the various States, but I hold that the compact with New South Wales has been kept, because we have already spent the greater part of £2,000,000 on Canberra. All we now ask of the Government is that they shall postpone any further outlay until Australia shall have placed her house in order. . We have just emerged from an ordeal which, until the war was precipitated, had been undreamed of, and we have been compelled to enter into more sacred compacts than that with the people of New South Wales concerning the Federal Capital. While it is not desired that we should dishonour any pledge given, we do plead that the fulfilment of this pledge should be put off until a more convenient day. We ask the Government to say that no further money shall be spent upon Canberra at the present stage. So far as the compact with New South Wales is concerned, it was deliberately decided that Parliament would sit in Melbourne until such time as the Parliament decided otherwise. The people of the Commonwealth are not at all anxious - irrespective ‘of the arguments advanced from New South Wales - to be laden with further and unnecessary burdens. I am sorry that time is limited in the debating of such an important matter,, but I shall content myself by registering an emphatic protest against the expenditure of the proposed sum upon the bush capital. It is, in my view, a deliberate waste.
Question - That the items proposed to be left out stand part of . the schedule (Mr. Jackson’s amendment) - put. The Com-, mittee divided.
Ayes . . . . . . 27
Noes . . . . . . 14
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I do not desire to keep the House more than a few minutes; but I feel that it is my duty to call attention to an inaccuracy Which has cropped up during the debate in Committee.
– The honorable member will not be in order in referring at this stage to anything which has transpired in Committee.
– It has been said by honorable members that the State of New South Wales would not have agreed to enter the Federation had it not been for the fact that the Capital was to be situated in New South Wales territory. The point I wish to emphasize is that, on the two referendums at which the question of the site of the Capital was raised, it was an open matter on the first occasion; but there were 16,513 more “Noes” on the second occasion, when it was no longer an open question, and it had been agreed that the Capital should be situated in New South Wales.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Without detaining the House, I wish to ask whether any decision has been arrived at with regard to the marking of Australian soldiers’ graves in Australia.
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member on Tuesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200924_reps_8_93/>.