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Thursday, 15 May 1924


Mr YATES (Adelaide) . - I desire to move an amendment, because the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) said that I offered no opposition to the Bill. I oppose the construction of the Capital, and object to the site, because of what I saw there. At the conclusion of my previous remarks I said that I did not believe in Parliament leaving to any one else the duty of " carrying the baby " it had brought into being.

I did not discuss the clauses of the Bill. I did not deal, with all the powers proposed to be vested in the Commission, of which we, as yet, know nothing, except that which we can gain from conjecture. We do not know whether the Commissioners will be capable of doing the job. I have no doubt that we can find men capable of doing it, just as the electors have found a man capable of acting as Minister for Works and Railways. The Minister is doing the job very well, and members on both sides of the House appear to be satisfied. The Bill is an attempt to shelve the responsibility of Parliament for the continuation of the Capital. It will remove that responsibility to the shoulders of an outside body. That is the kernel of the Bill. Whether an honorable member will be able to bring before the Commission a question relating to the rates levied on the humpy he will never occupy is beside the question. Most honorable members will live in Sydney. As Canberra develops, there will probably have to be a city council and many administrative bodies. It will be many years before we need incur the expense of appointing a Commission. It will be many years before anything more than a district council will be needed. My opposition to the Bill is expressed in the few remarks I am now making, and those I made previously. I think the Minister was talking with his tongue in his cheek. He knows full well what the crux of the position is. I am informed, and possibly it can be verified, that before he became Minister for Works and Railways, he made a speech embodying the same ideas in regard to Canberra that I have. Possibly, if he had not been a member of the Composite Government, and if he had not been engaged in an attempt to get Ministers out of their troubles, he would have been heard making a similar speech from the cross benches to-day, and, so to speak, throwing bricks at Canberra, where there is now an over supply of bricks. There is nothing at Canberra to make us proud of it in the belief that we can set up a city to the glorification of Unified Australia. Not one scintilla of what was promised, when the people were asked to adopt Federation, has been carried out. We were told that we were to have ' ' one people, one flag, one destiny, and one big city." But the "big city" is nothing but wattle and daub, bricks and rough-cast buildings. Honorable members speak with their tongues in their cheeks when they declare that they will inhabit it. They talk about the 5,000 people who will be there within the next few years. Will any honorable member say who those people will be? The majority of them will be public servants who will raise a big row about the salaries they are to be paid up there, as compared with what they are now drawing in Melbourne or Sydney. Thus additional cost will be imposed on the taxpayers. The real object of this Bill is to meet the troubles that will arise when we meet at Canberra in 1926. We are not honest to the general community when we conceal the facts. The idea of having a big city would be all right if it had arisen out of a general Federal spirit to create a capital instead of out of the petty spite of some people of Sydney, who demanded the building of the Capital in. New South Wales as the price of accepting Federation. Perhaps then we should have something worthy of the great continent we are supposed to govern. But we are not getting it now. My opposition to the Bill is based on the fact that it is merely shifting the responsibility from the Minister to a Commission, and involving us in an additional expense, the details of which I need not repeat, more than to say that the salaries to be paid to the Commissioners by no means, represent the whole of the expenditure involved iri appointing a Commission. There is no side-stepping the issue. Had I, on the second reading, occupied the whole of the time allowed to me by the Standing Orders, and dealt with the Bill, clause by clause, I could not have said more than that it was unnecessary, except to enable the Government, who have found the job too big for them, to side-step their responsibility and evade the criticism that may be levelled against them because of their inability to control the situation. I shall move an amendment to meet the case.


Mr Gabb - Does the honorable member propose to appoint another Board?


Mr YATES - The honorable member need not worry. There will be plenty of

Boards' at Canberra, there will be a Health Board, a Markets Board, and possibly a Gas Board, although, for many years to come, the only gas we shall have there will be that supplied by honorable members when they meet for the shortest sessions possible. I know that the " gas " to which I refer is not inflammable, and that it is merely hot air, but it can be classed in the category of gas. However, if the expression gives offence I shall substitute for it " outbursts of wisdom." I anticipate that my amendment will be supported, not only by those honorable members who opposed the Bill on the second reading, but also by others. I move -

That after the word " which ", sub-clause (1), the words " shall be the Minister for Works and Railways who " be inserted.

Further on, the clause provides that the Commission may be sued. I want the Minister to be sued, particularly in this House, for want of practical application to his job, and kicked from pillar to post if he has taken on a position he is not qualified to hold. The electors send us here to see that those who are commissioned by the Governor-General undertake their duties properly, and do not " fall clown " on them as promptly as the Composite Government have " fallen down" in regard to the Federal Capital. My amendment, if carried, will improve the Bill out of all knowledge and place the responsibility where it should lie. It will show to the people of Australia that the worst spot in the whole of the continent has been chosen as the site of the Federal Capital, and will enable posterity to lay the blame upon the right shoulders.







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