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Saturday, 16 December 1905


Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister of Home Affairs) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a secondtime.

By this Bill the House is asked to take a step in furtherance of the Seat of Government Act, which was assented to on the 15th August, 1904. It is hardly necessary for me to dwell upon the importance of settling the momentous question of the Seat of Government. It has caused a great deal of grave concern to the House. Of course, it has evoked a certain amount of warm criticism ; but to-day I ask the House to pass this Bill, in furtherance of its previous decision - that is, to determine more definitely that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be in the neighbourhood of Dalgety. It is desirable, I think, to take a retrospect, in order to exactly appreciate the position in which we find ourselves. I ask honorable members "to cast their minds back to the time when it was first contemplated that the Commonwealth should proceed to the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government. The earliest step was taken on the 14th November, 1899, when the Government of New South Wales appointed the late Mr. Alexander Oliver as a Commissioner to inquire into certain sites. He conducted an inquiry, and on the 26th October, 1900, the sites he recommended were - (1) Orange (or Canobolas), (2) Yass, (3) Bombala-Eden (Southern Monaro). The next important matter to which I invite attention is a letter which was sent on the 13th April, 1901, by the then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Sir Edmund Barton), and in which he says -

I have the honour, on behalf of the Government, to inquire whether the Government of the State of New South Wales is prepared to offer to the Commonwealth, under the provisions of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, any sites for the Federal district or territory within which the Capital of the Commonwealth is to be situated. I have to intimate that the Federal Government desire to consider offers of tracts of larger area than the minimum prescribed in the 125th section of the Constitution Act, and would suggest that in the meantime the Government of New South Wales may, in the public interests of the whole Commonwealth, take steps to secure unalienated lands within any areas offered from losing the character of " Crown lands " within the section, until a decision in the matter is arrived at.

To that letter, Sir John See, who was then Premier of New South Wales, replied on the 24th April, 1901, in these terms -

In acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 13th inst., with regard to the site for the Federal Capital of the Commonwealth, I have the honour to submit to your Government the choice of the three sites mentioned in the report of the Royal Commission which was appointed to collect evidence with reference to the suitability of the sites for the purpose.

A copy of that report is now forwarded herewith, and from the appendices attached thereto all particulars as to area, position, water supply, &c, can be obtained.

I desire also to state that if any other site in New South Wales be considered by your Government to be more suitable for the purposes of the Federal Capital than those recommended in the report, I shall be glad to receive any further representations from you, and will endeavour, as far as possible, to meet your views.

I further desire to inform you that, pending the decision of the Parliament of the Commonwealth in this matter, steps have been taken to prevent the alienation of Crown lands within any of the three sites recommended by the Commissioner.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the Minister name the three sites?


Mr GROOM - The three sites were Bombala, Yass, and Orange. Towards the end of 1901, the Premier of New South Wales used certain expressions, to which I desire to refer, in order to show the attitude which its Government then took up on this question. At page 4454 of the New South Wales Hansard for 1901, Sir John See is reported to have said -

I refuse to take the responsibility of making a recommendation to the Commonwealth Govern- ment (as to the selection of the site). After having received the fullest information from this Government, and after having been informed that those other sites have been recommended by the Commissioner, it is the duty of the Federal Government to undertake the selection of the site which they consider most suitable for the location of the Federal Capital.

Again, Sir John See said -

The idea of the Federal Government expecting this Government or this Parliament to invidiously pick out for them a site for the Federal Capital is contrary to the fitness of things.


Mr Johnson - A site for the Federal Capital, not a territory!


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A Premier who has since received his reward !


Mr GROOM - If my honorable friend will permit me to state my case, his criticism can follow more aptly. Sir John See went on to say-

It is no part of the duty of this Government to make a recommendation of any particular locality, What we are called upon to do is provided by section 125. Then there is the further provision of sectionIII.

Then on page 4458 he remarked -

I am not going to recommend any site. I am going to ask the Federal Government to take its own responsibility, and if they make a selection of any particular site, I am going to ask Parliament to confirm that selection. This is my clear position. Undoubtedly, under the provisions of the Constitution Act they (the Federal Parliament) have the right to make the selection. If the State Government stand in the way of that selection being confirmed we shall have the Capital in Melbourne probably for all time, or at any rate during the time that this House might squabble as to whether the site which the Federal Parliament selected was or was not the right one.


Mr Carpenter - Did the Parliament of New South Wales ever object to that statement?


Mr GROOM - It was criticised. Sir John See was speaking then as Premier, and he took the responsibility of submitting, the sites to the Commonwealth.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe that at the time Mr. Carruthers made a very vigorous protest.

Mr.Austin Chapman - At that time, Mr. Carruthers was in favour of Monaro.


Mr GROOM - After the Premier of New South Wales had offered those sites to the Federal Government, and had offered further to consider any representations which might be made in respect to any other site, on the 29th August. 1901, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth addressed to that gentleman a letter in which he asked whether the Federal Government might expect any further sites to be submitted for consideration, and suggested that certain sites should be reserved in the neighbourhood of Albury, Tamworth, Armidale, and Tumut. In March, 1902, a party of senators visited the sites, and in May of that year, a party of members of the House of Representatives visited them. On the 25th September, 1902, a resolution was passed by each House of the Federal Parliament, to the effect thata Committee of experts be appointed to examine and report upon the sites in the following localities: - Albury, Armidale, Bombala, Lake George, Orange (including Bathurst), Lyndhurst, and Tumut. A Royal Commission was appointed on the 14th of January, 1903. On the 26th of July, 1903, their report was presented to this Parliament. On the 4th of August, 1903, a further supplementary report of the Commission was submitted, dealing with Dalgety. On the 22nd of September, 1903, the Government submitted a proposal for holdinga joint sitting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, for the purpose of selecting a site. The Senate would not agree to that proposal. On the 8th of October of the same year this House considered the matter, and decided that Tumut should be the site. The Senate amended the Bill, and inserted Bombala. After further surveys, made by the New South Wales officers, Mr. Scriviner and Mr. Chesterman, with respect to the country surrounding Bombala and Tumut, the matter was again submitted to this Parliament


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What was the date of the choice of Tumut by this House ?


Mr GROOM - The 8th of October, 1903. The matter again came before this House, and on the 15th August, 1904, the Seat of Government Act, as it at present stands on our statute-book, was passed, and Dalgety determined on as the Seat of Government. Now, the point which I desire to make is this - that the New South Wales Government offered sites to this Parliament; that this Parliament absolutely proceeded all through in conformity with the terms of the Constitution; that with the consent of the State of New South Wales we considered every site that that State had submitted to us ; that we further considered other sites which it was suggested should be considered; and that finally this Parliament accepted one of the sites originally submitted to us by the Government representing the people of New South Wales.


Mr Johnson - Submitted by the Premier.


Mr GROOM - The Premier represented the people of the State of New South Wares for the time being. The Parliament of New South Wales sat continuously, knowing that we were dealing with this matter.; knowing that we were looking into these sites ; knowing that we were examining the reports submitted to us ; knowing that we were consid'ering the Seat of Government Bills of 1903 and 1904. It is rather interesting, in this regard, to read the speech delivered by Mr. Carruthers, the present Premier of New South Wales, in the Legislative Assembly of that State last week. I will ask honorable members to pay particular attention to this statement -

None of the sites which were offered were selected. We offered Bombala; and I go this faT and say that if the Federal Government had accepted Bombala this State would have been out of court, because, practically, in offering Bombala our position was compromised. Luckily, or unluckily, the Federal Parliament did not accept Bombala, but proceeded, without asking our consent or concurrence, to select Dalgety, a site which had never been considered in this State. In fact, a large majority of honorable members did not know where Dalgety was. One honorable member, who was actually born close to Buckley's Crossing, said, when the vote was taken, that if they had gone for Buckley's Crossing he would ha-ve voted for it.

Mr. Bennett.The honorable member voted for Dalgety being referred to the Federal Parliament.

Mr. CARRUTHERS.I voted to submit Dalgety as one of the four sites, and I did so because I believed that if I could assist in directing the current of federation into a- peaceful channel I should be serving the best interests of this country, even at some little sacrifice.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is what everybody in this House has been saying also.


Mr GROOM - I hope that all honor. able members in this House will approach the question in the same spirit, and will give effect to the ' decision of Parliament in that spirit. The next point is this : Is Dalgety outside the scope of the original submission made by the New South Wales Government? I am going to read an extract from Mr. Oliver's report, which was submitted to us by Sir John See, dealing with the Bombala area referred to by Mr. Carruthers. The site, under the name of Buckley's Crossing, was inspected by Mr. Oliver, the New South Wales commissioner, who says, on page' 21 of his report" : -

No public inquiry was held at Buckley's Crossing, but, although in regard to water re sources, position, character of country, and3 climate, that site had much to recommend it, yet it lacked those special features which the neighbouring site of Southern Monaro possessed, and' suggested a modified incorporation with that, neighbour rather than independent competition. Such incorporation, it will be seen, has been suggested. (See plan and description of boundariesof Southern Monaro Extension Site, marked S ifr Appendix.)

That is the suggestion, that Dalgety be in-.' corporated as part of Bombala. The Federal Parliament has accepted part of the territory recommended to us. Of course, this Parliament has not said absolutely where in theDalgety site the Parliament House and theother h federal buildings are to be. We have determined that the Seat of Government: shall be within seventeen miles of Dalgety, which locality is included in the extended territory suggested. What I am asking; this House to do to-day is to fix the territory of the Seat of Government ; and I say absolutely that if we do that, we shall beaccepting Mr. Oliver's suggestion, and weshall have done what the New South WalesPremier, .in effect, in the first instance invited us to do.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer is that the See Government is merely a remnant now.


Mr GROOM - All that I know is that that offer of Bombala, submitted to us as asite in the year 1901, was still standing asa site submitted to this Parliament whenthe choice was made by this Parliament inthe year 1904. At the time our Seat of Government Act, was passed the selectionwe made was within the suggested territory of Bombala.


Mr Johnson - The honorable gentleman" has just stated that Dalgety was not known to a great many members of the New SouthWales Parliament.


Mr GROOM - Mr. Oliver,whose report was submitted to the Federal Government, did not say that it was not known. I would further point this out - that if it is a question of distance from Sydney, and' the great trouble of railway communication, Dalgety is only thirty miles from Cooma, whereas Bombala is about sixty miles distant. Dalgety is absolutely nearer to Sydney than the Bombala site itself, and isonly about thirty miles from Bombala. The point which I make is, that upto the year 1904, when the Seat of Government Act was passed, this Parliament had gone into the matter with the greatest care. We showed to the-

State of New South Wales that deference which was her due. The decision arrived -at by this Parliament was not arrived at hastily. The matter was considered from -all stand-points, and, although I did not at the time vote for the selection made, I must say, in fairness to the House, that \t is impossible for any one to say that we were too precipitate in our action when we determined that Dalgety should be the Seat of Government under the terms of the Constitution Act. That being so, we should, I maintain, respect that decision. We have had no justification, up to the present time, for departing, in the administration of the Act. from the express will of Parliament, nor can we while that expression stands upon the statute-book. Now, what steps have been taken since the Act came into operation in connexion with this smatter? Honorable members will recollect that the Act was passed during the regime of the Watson Administration. After it came into force, a change of "Government took place. The Reid-McLean Administration came into power ; and on the 13th September, 1904, the first action was taken .to open up negotiations. It is only clue to my predecessor in office to say that so far as I can see from the correspondence, he seems to have loyally obeyed and carried .out the intention of this Parliament in the administration -of the Act. On the 13th September, Mr. Reid, the then Prime Minister, wrote to the Premier of New South Wales, forwarding three copies of the Seat of Government Act. and tHree sets of Mr Scrivener's report, and he said in his letter -

I desire to add that this Government is anxious to enter into negotiations with your Government on this important subject at as early a date as (possible. "Mr. Carruthers replied to that letter on the 10th October, 1904, informing the Com.monwealth Government that he was about ito consult" the New South Wales Parliament, and that he wished to obtain its views before entering into any negotiations on the matter.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is not this a sort of post mortem ? It will lead to a big debate and a lot of feeling.


Mr GROOM - It is leading up to a point which the honorable member will appreciate.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It seems as if it were intended to arouse feeling.


Mr GROOM - On no account. I hope that honorable members will be able to approach this matter without any feeling at all. I am not putting any feeling intoit. On the 12th October, the Prime Minister, Mr. Reid, submitted considerations to the Premier of New South Wales, relating to the Dalgety territory. On the 22nd December, 1.904, the New South Wales Parliament passed the following resolutions, which, of course, are material to the discussion : -

1.   That this State will not grant an area of not less than goo square miles with access to the sea in any part of this State, as Federal territory, for the purposes of section 125 of the " Commonwealth Constitution."

2.   That the true intent of the said section as understood by this State, was that the limitation of "not less than 100 square miles" denoted an area as closely approximate thereto as the ordinary needs of a seat of Government might require.

3.   That in order to assist in a constitutional determination of the seat of Government of the Commonwealth, the Government of this State is authorized to formally offer to grant to the Federal Government an area of between 100 square miles and 200 square miles at or near the three following sites: - Tumut, Lyndhurst, and Yass.

4.   That if reservations be required outside the Federal territory for catchment for water supply, this State is prepared to make any just and equitable provision for the same.

5.   ' That the matter of expenditure on railway communication to the seat of Government must be clearly arranged for in negotiations with the Commonwealth Government, inasmuch as this State will not be justified in any large undertaking of an unproductive character in meeting existing lines or constructing .a new one.

The Parliament of New South Wales, by adopting those resolutions, rejected the Dalgety site, which had been chosen by thisParliament.


Mr Higgins - There had been no withdrawal previously of the Bombala site?


Mr GROOM - Not that I am aware of ; my predecessor in office can confirm me in that respect.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister admits that the Dalgety site was never placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Parliament prior to the Bill.


Mr GROOM - No. I said that Dalgety was included in the Bombala territory, according tothe recommendation in the extract from Mr. Oliver's report, which I have read.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr. Oliver's report was not a submission of a site; Sir John See submitted the Bombala site.


Mr GROOM - Sir JohnSee submitted to the Commonwealth Government of the day the sites mentioned in Mr. Oliver's report, and forwarded copies of the report itself, and in that report Dalgety was suggested as part of the territory referred to as Bombala.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If so, the Commonwealth has actually chosen its Capital; where is the necessity for this Bill?


Mr GROOM - To define the territory. The resolutions to which I have referred were carried by the New South Wales Parliament, and the Dalgety site was rejected. Negotiations continued between the State and the Commonwealth, and memoranda were prepared by the Premier of New South Wales and by the then Minister of Home Affairs, with reference to the various sites. However, no definite conclusion was arrived at. Then, as we know, a change in the Commonwealth' Government took place, and then commenced negotiations, for which the present Commonwealth Government are responsible. These negotiations opened on the 10th July, when Mr. Carruthers wrote to the Prime Minister in the following terms: -

It has occurred to me that possibly the change which has recently taken place in the personnel of the Government of the Commonwealth, may mean a change of policy, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, on the question of the selection of the Seat of Government, and I, therefore, take an early opportunity of inquiring whether you indorse the views of your immediate predecessors in office, as put forward in recent correspondence on their part with the Government of this State, and, if not, in what respects there is a variance?

There is another paragraph to which I invite the particular attention of honorable members : -

I shall be glad if you can see your way to agree to the questions which now appear to be at issue between our respective Governments over the Constitution and the Seat of Government temporarily, or to be selected, being submitted to the High Court (and if necessary to the Privy Council) so as to secure the highest judicial interpretation and decision upon so important a question. Should you assent to such a course, perhaps you will be good enough to intimate whether you are prepared to discuss the question of a case to be stated and admissions and claims to be mutually made.

In view of the past history of the question now under reference and its great importance, I feel sure that you will pardon me for approaching you so soon after assuming the responsibilities of office, and I sincerely trust that you may be able to accept my proposal to submit the matter for decision by the High Court.

The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth replied on the 20th July, stating that he indorsed the views of his predecessors in office, and that, with reference to the negotiations to have the question placed before the High Court, he would be glad if the Premier of New South Wales would kindly favourhim, at his early convenience, with a statement of the questions referred to, and the manner in which he would suggest they, should! be submitted to the Court, in order that they might receive the prompt consideration of the Government. In reply, Mr. Carruthers wrote asking whether he correctly apprehended the attitude of the Federal Government in assuming -

1.   That you insist on the territory for the Seat of Government being, as defined in the Seat of Government Act 1904, namely : - " . . . The Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be within 17 miles of Dalgety, in the State of New South Wales," and that this is now a mandatory provision of the Federal Law [vide letter of 28th June last from the Minister of Home Affairs), and " The territory to be granted to, or acquired by, the Commonwealth, within which the Seat of Government shall be, should contain an area not less than goo square miles, and have access to the sea."

And that, whilst this is a suggestion only, your Government adopts it; but owing to the refusal of New South Wales to agree -

2.   That you will not accept any of the three sites offered to the Commonwealth on the terms of the resolution of the New South Wales Parliament, communicated to your predecessor on the 22nd December, 1904; and

3.   That you claim the right to the Federal Parliament to fix the said territory in a mandatory way, notwithstanding the" refusal of the Parliament of this State to grant such territory.

Then follow a series of questions, which are rather important, because they show the legal questions which it was intended at that time should be submitted to the High Court. The first two questions are: -

1.   Is section 2 of the Seat of Government Act 1904 in any way binding on the State of New South Wales?

2.   Can the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth be determined before territory has been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth ?

3.   If territory has not been granted to the Commonwealth by the State, can such territory be acquired by the Commonwealth without the consent of the State of New South Wales?

4.   Inasmuch as New South Wales has offered three sites, excluding Dalgety, which are declined by the Federal Government on behalf of Parliament, has the Parliament of the Commonwealth any power to acquire any other site, and, if so, is the concurrence of the State in any way necessary ?

Honorable members will see the meaning underlying that question. I do not wish' to go through' the whole list of questions, but there are others. For instance -

Is the territory within a radius of 17 miles of Dalgety " reasonably near " to the 100-mile limit from Sydney?


Mr Higgins - Where did the phrase ' reasonably near ' ' come from ?


Mr GROOM - I do not know, but the phrase is here in quotation marks.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The words are in the resolution of the Premiers.


Mr GROOM - I shall refer to two more questions : -

Can the Seat of Government be elsewhere than in the State of New South Wales, pending the granting or acquisition of the Federal territory ?

Is the location in Melbourne of agencies of the Executive Government, despite the objection of the State of New South Wales, constitutional?

There is a whole series of questions, some of which could not obviously turn on the Seat of Government Act, but refer to general matters to be submitted to the High Court. On the 9th August th"e Commonwealth Government replied : -

Section 2 of the Seat of Government Act expresses the determination of Parliament that, the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be within 17 miles of Dalgety, in the State of New South Wales, and is, as stated by the late Minister of Home Affairs in his letter of 28th June last, mandatory. As regards the area of the territory to be granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth within which the Seat of Government shall be, and the access to the sea, Parliament expressed a clear opinion on these matters, but did not attempt to frame it in a mandatory form. Any modifications of these desired by the State of New South Wales should receive the serious consideration of the Government of the Commonwealth. In continuance of the negotiations which have been entered into between our predecessors and the Premier of the State of New South Wales, these expressions of opinion of Parliament are again submitted by the Government, with a view, if possible, of inducing the State of New South Wales to join in giving effect to them.

Then it was stated that it was not open to the Commonwealth Government to select the site, Parliament having already determined that matter. In regard to questions of law, it was pointed! out : - -

It would appear that the High Court will not entertain any questions of law which are framed merely to obtain the opinion of the Court. The writ issued must be in such a form as to disclose a cause of action by one party to the suit against the other.

Then the Commonwealth Government offered that, if the Government of New South Wales would institute an action, it would be open to the parties to raise any issues relative to such action. The communication proceeded : -

If the Government of New South Wales will institute an action properly framed, it will then be open to the parties to raise any question relevant to such an action for the decision of the High Court. These may then be put in the form of a special case, in the settling of which we shall be prepared to offer every facility.

On the 21st August, 1905, Mr. Carruthers suggested that the Commonwealth should raise the question by driving in a peg, and the matter was then referred to the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, with the result that a Bill was drafted in order to raise the> issue. That Bill was sent to the Premier of New South Wales, and a» difference of opinion arose. The Premier of New South Wales raised1 objections tothe Bill; and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, in reply, pointed out, in a letter of 27 th September -

But, although it (the Seat of Government Act) is, in our opinion, a perfectly lawful enactment, its provisions were never intended to be, and, consequently, are not sufficiently definite in marking out the exact territory, to justify an assertion of ownership as to any specific plot of land.

However, the Commonwealth Government were quite prepared to meet the New South Wales Government in every way, and render all the assistance it could, with a view to having the questions at issue decided by the High Court. The Premier of New S'outh Wales and the Prime Minister arranged for an interview between Mr. Wade, the Attorney-General of the .State, and the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. That was the position, of affairs in October.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Instead of settling the question, the Attorneys-General found out that it could not be settled.


Mr Deakin - They agreed very closely.


Mr GROOM - The Attorneys-General conferred in Melbourne, and Mr. Wade reported to his Government. Subsequently, the Commonwealth Attorney-General sent a letter to the Attorney-General of New South Wales, setting forth the results of the Conference. I shall quote only one or two paragraphs from the two documents, in order to show that the action the Commonwealth' Government are taking to-day is in harmony with what was suggested at the

Conference. Mr. Wade, in his report to the Premier of New South Wales, on the 18th October, 1905, gives clearly his views as follows : -

As a result of the discussion with the Federal Attorney-General, two points became clear : -

First, that it would be useless for this State to enter upon an action for trespass, or to challenge the right of the Commonwealth to drive in a survey peg, if that step were to be first sanctioned by Act of Parliament ; and, secondly, that the Commonwealth had no authority to drive in a survey peg or exercise any act of ownership by virtue of the Seat of Government Act ; in other words, confirmation was given to the repeated contention of this State that the Seat of Government Act was not a determination of the Seat of Government within the meaning of the Constitution.

As to the actual effect of this Statute, Mr. Isaacs and myself were not entirely in agreement. On the one hand, it was argued that it is a quasi or partial determination of the Seat of Government, in so far as the Federal Parliament has declared that no area outside that within a radius of 17 miles of Dalgety will be considered by the Federal Parliament in negotiating for a seat of Government, and to that extent it is binding, both upon the Federal Parliament and the State of New South Wales. On the other hand, it is contended that this Statute is a mere registration of the opinion of the Federal Parliament, and that it is no more binding upon this State than a joint resolution of the two Houses. This resolution may be revoked, and the Seat of Government subsequently determined within territory quite outside the Dalgety area.

This is the point I wish honorable members to particularly bear in mind : -

Whichever view is correct is really immaterial at the present time, because both Governments seem now to agree that the next step is to define some area by metes and bounds; next to open negotiations for the grant or acquisition of that territory ; and, finally, when such territory becomes the property of the Commonwealth in terms of the Constitution, it will be necessary for Parliament by formal Act to determine the Seat of Government within that area.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General proposed to introduce in the Bill authorizing a survey a clause to reserve all the rights of New South Wales in case of any legislation being required. In paragraph 9 of his letter written to the New South Wales Attorney-General, on the 20th October, 1905, the Commonwealth Attorney-General said -

By the addition of such a clause, it seems tome the present claims of New South Wales are preserved in their integrity, and whenthe Federal Parliament has considered the survey reports, and definitely decided on the area and when, in pursuance of that determination, the Commonwealth Government request your 'State to grant the necessary land, the clear and definite issue of whether the grant must precede the determination or not can be distinctly raised.

The Attorney-General proposed clearly what should be the procedure as regarded the Federal Parliament.


Mr Johnson - I do not think that Mr. Wade concurred in that view.


Mr GROOM - I have read Mr. Wade'sopinion, and as to whether heconcurred or not,, honorable members themselves may judge. Although the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales had agreed that the Attorneys-General of the Commonwealth and State should confer to try to raise the issues and settle the matter between them, to the letter written by theFederal AttorneyGeneral to the Attorney-General of New South Wales, no reply was received. The Premier of New South Wales then took the matter into his own hands again. Of course, I do not for a moment say that he did not do so with the full concurrence of his Attorney-General, but the correspondence between the AttorneysGeneral was continued no further. The Premier of New South Wales took up the matter again, and practically objected to our going on with any legislative proposals whatever. We were not in a position to take any steps which might properly raise the issues. We knew that, it was useless to drive in a peg, as that would determine nothitng. We proposed to pass an Act of Parliament which would authorize a survey of the Federal territory, and to call upon the New South Wales Government to grant that territory. Upon that an action for a declaration of right might have been made, and all the issues could be definitely settled. In this connexion I should like to read the concluding words of Mr. Wade's opinion -

If there has been a change of opinion by the Federal Executive as to the meaning of the Act this State cannot be blamed ; but if the present view has always been maintained, the furtherance of the question has always been within the power of the Federal Executive, and the obligation has rested upon them to advance the question to such a point that the legality of the action could be tested by the Government of this State.

That is what we weredoing all through the negotiations up to this stage.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that what this Bill does?


Mr GROOM - It enables that to be done, as I shall show presently, because under this the New South Wales Government could bring an action for a declaration of right if they sodesired.

Mr. Carrutherssent a letter dated 1st November, 1905, after the proposal that the two Attorneys-General should settle the issues, from which I quote the following paragraph: -

I cannot now assent on behalf of this State to any further Federal legislation to create a different situation in the face of the fact that the (negotiations between it and the Commonwealth had not reached the stage when they should be superseded by statutory enactment, setting aside the will or wish of one or other of the governing bodies that- stand in the position of negotiators.

We were prepared to submit legislation to enable the issues to be brought before the High Court, but the Premier of New South Wales would consent to no legislation upon the matter. He desired to go back and re-open the whole of the negotiations, practically saying that in the negotiations on the part of the Commonwealth we were not to consider our selection of Dalgety as binding upon New South Walesor ourselves in any way. The Prime Minister wrote that the letter of the 3rd November, 1905, in reply, breaking off the correspondence, and indicating at that date the action that was likely to be taken. He said -

You have, however, passed by the suggestions we made, and declined to agree to the solution which, in deference to yourself, we offered. You nave preferred to repeat former arguments, and, above all, practically to claim the right of your State to control the constitutional action of the Parliament of Australia in determining a question which is essentially one requiring to be regarded not in the interest of one State only, but from the -stand-point of the whole Commonwealth. The claim cannot be admitted, but in closing this correspondence permit me to say that in the interests of New South Wales itself, as well as of every other State, this Government will invite Parliament to definitely determine the precise territory for the Federal capital.

We are doing that now. After that letter was written, Mr. Carruthers wrote again, enteringa protest against the negotiations being broken off, and the matter was finally summed up in a letter written by the Prime Minister on the15th November, 1905. He pointed out that the selection was only made after full inquiries, and then continued as follows : -

The representatives of your State, thoroughly well informed upon all the local circumstances to which you allude, place them, with many other contentions, before 'the Parliament in the amplest manner.

After hearing them fully, and after being urgently pressed by them to make its choice, Parliament declared its preference to the Dalgety district. Unfortunately, your Legislature, when subsequently passing, resolutions professedly preliminary to fresh negotiations with the Commonwealth, deliberately excluded that very district from consideration.

When those resolutions were forwarded to the late Minister of Home Affairs, he attempted to negotiate with you in respect of the area of the territory and its access to the sea, matters which were left undetermined in the Act of 1904; but no progress was made. In the correspondence with me you first proposed a reference to the High Court, next asked for some. act on the part of this Government which might be made a ground for action before that Court, and finally suggested a meeting of Attorneys-General to settle the terms of a Bill for that purpose. We found at last that our agreement to these proposals led to nothing. Indeed, when after the Conference of our Law Officers, we offered a fair and practical proposal, you ignored it and all that had passed between us.

Your one real contention, simply stated, is that the Act of 1904 must be repealed and a new site substituted.


Mr Higgins - Did Mr. Wade and Mr. Isaacs differ?


Mr GROOM - They held different viewsas to the construction of the Statute, but as regards the steps to be taken in the future, they were practically in agreement.


Mr Higgins - There was no disagreement between them as to the mode to be adopted to settle the matter?


Mr GROOM - They both seem to indicate that the next steps to be taken should be those which we are taking to-day. After referring to the withdrawal of the reservation of the Dalgety lands, the Prime Minister continued -

Having thus refused to negotiate in regard to the site fixed in our Act, or to allow our Parliament to keep to its own choice, you once more " demur" to any exercise of its legislative powers which would make that choice effective. "You in effect claim the right to control the constitutional actions of the Parliament, and conclude with threats of reprisals. In this regard, I have only to remind you that a Federal Government can neither entertain such a claim nor bow to such threats.

Reference was again made of the intention of the Government to proceed with this legislation, and that the State of New South Wales could then arise any constitutional claims before the High Court. There is only one other matter to which I need refer in the correspondence. During the progress of the negotiations, Dalgety was practically withdrawn, and a telegram was ultimately sent, on the 27th October, 1905, in which Mr. Carruthers makes the statement -

This State will not grant Dalgety site.

That is the attitude that was taken up.


Mr Fisher - Has the Minister quoted the exact words used by Mr. Carruthers?


Mr GROOM - Perhaps it is better thatI should read the actual words of the telegram. While the negotiations were going on with respect to the settlement of the issues on the 17th October, 1905, Mr. Carruthers sent the following letter: -

I have the honour to inform you that it has been decided to cancel the notification inserted in the New South Wales Government Gazette of 23rd July, 1904, reserving from sale and lease other than annual lease certain Crown fends in the vicinity of Dalgety, with a view of protecting them, pending the final selection of the Federal Capital Site, and that steps to that end are being taken accordingly.

The Prime Minister protested, and the notification was extended for a month, as will be seen from- this telegram sent by Mr. Carruthers on the 27 th October, 1905:-

Your wire of the 23th, respecting reserved Crown lands, Dalgety : I cannot consent to long delay, as this State will not grant Dalgety site, but will delay for one month.

I have no wish to take up time unduly, but I am desirous of putting the matter clearly before honorable members' I have shown, in the first place, that these sites were originally offered to us by the New South Wales Government j that the Government of that State approached us with the view that 'we, as the Federal Parliament, had a right to determine the site, and that all they had to do was to send the sites to us. After most complete investigation of all the sites, we fixed upon Dalgety for the Seat of Government. After the site for the Seat of Government; had been selected, our predecessors and ourselves honestly tried to open negotiations with the Government of New South Wales respecting the acquisition of the site, regarding the Statute as mandatory upon ourselves. When the issues were raised regarding the interpretation of the Constitution and the legal rights of New South Wales, we took up the attitude that we did not desire to do anything which would prevent' the State of New South Wales having the legal issues properly raised before the High Court; but, at. the same time, we, as the guardians of the rights of the Federal Parliament under the Constitution, had to take such a stand as would preserve those rights intact. ' That was a duty intrusted to the Government of the Commonwealth, no matter who might be in power. We approached the matter in a friendly spirit, with no desire to indulge in suggestions of compulsion or threats. We negotiated in an open, frank way. expressing our readiness to raise all the legal issues which could be raised. When we attempted to do so we were blocked in our endeavours, and it is because we were not able to come to any agreement as to how the issues were to be raised that the duty devolved upon us, as the Government of the Commonwealth, to take steps to give effect to the expressed will of the Federal Parliament. That is what honorable members are being asked to do to-day


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What steps?


Mr GROOM - I propose to go through the provisions of the Bill if the honorable member will permit me. I have already indicated that both in the opinion of the Attorney-General, and in the speech of the Prime Minister, it was announced that the next step the Federal Parliament would be asked to take would be to introduce a Bill to determine the territory in metes and bounds. It was at first thought that the procedure should be to introduce a Bill to enable a survey to be made in order that the technical boundaries might be discovered, and that when thev had been ascertained, we could fix the territory within them as the territory for the Seat of Go>vernment. We found that we could go a step further. We got Mr. Scrivener from New South Wales to make a report. We asked him whether, from any information in his possession, he could give us such a technical description' of the territory we required, as would obviate the necessity for an expensive survey, before we brought a Bill before the House. He has presented a report which I have had circulated amongst honorable members, and in it he defines, by metes and bounds, the territory of the Seat of Government, as honorable members will find it defined in this Bill. The Bill purposes to be a Bill for an Act - to determine more definitely the Seat of the Government of the Commonwealth in the neighbourhood of Dalgety.

It is proposed that the territory described in the schedule, the area of which is 900 square miles, and the description of which is shown in the report circulated-


Mr Johnson - Has the Minister any hope of getting 900 square miles?


Mr GROOM - I sincerely hope that we shall get that area. I believe that if the matter were only properly appreciated by the people of New South Wales, they would have very little hesitation in granting the area desired- In view of the area covered by the greatest cities in the world, it is not Large.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How very unappreciative the States are of what we do for them.


Mr GROOM - Our motives are the best, and when the people of New South Wales understand what we have sought to accomplish, they will be with us. They do not realize yet quite what we are doing in this matter, and how fairly we are dealing with them. The decision arrived at was come to ' only after careful consideration of all the questions involved, and with no other desire than to do justice both to the State of New South Wales and to the Commonwealth.


Mr Thomas - Does the Minister think that the Premier of the State would have moved these resolutions if the right honorable member for East Sydney had been Prime Minister?


Mr GROOM - I think so, judging, by the tone of the correspondence. The Bill provides for the determination' as the territory of the Commonwealth of the area described in the schedule, and it will be the duty of the Administration to endeavour to acquire that area. The Minister will be empowered, to obtain from the State a grant of it, and upon its acceptance it will become Federal territory, and be under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Parliament. It is also provided that additional territory may be acquired if, in the opinion of the Parliament, it is necessary for the purpose of obtaining an adequate water supply. Mr. District Surveyor Scrivener, who has investigated the matter, recommends that it would be desirable to acquire an area of 1,550 square miles, in order to preserve an absolutely pure water supply for the Seat of Government. We are not now asking Parliament to sanction the acquirement of a larger area than that originally provided for, but we ask it to sanction negotiations with the State of New South Wales for the acquirement of the larger area if that be thought necessary. The other provisions of the Bill are merely formal. The laws of the State are to continue to have effect within the territory until they are altered, and all the estates and interests held by the State in it will, on its transfer to the Commonwealth, be held bv the Commonwealth. All land, even that held in fee-simple, is, under English law, held from the Crown, and this provision merely substitutes the Commonwealth for the State as representing the Crown.

The acquisition of the land which has been alienated to private holders can be brought about at a later date under clause 6. This Bill was framed before the New South Wales Parliament passed its resolutions last week, and is in harmony with the views stated by the Government in their correspondence with the Government of New South Wales. Parliament is asked to adhere to its decision as' to the site of the territory, and to enable us to acquire it, though, of course, it is open to it to reconsider the matter in the light of the resolutions passed by the New South Wales Parliament. Still, I ask honorable members to recollect that we came to our decision after due deliberation, and I hope that we shall abide by it. We are not being asked to review the decision of a former Parliament, but to confirm our own decision. The Bill leaves it open to the State of New South Wales to raise any issues it desires to raise on a grant being asked for. It can raise them by an action for a declaration of rights. We do not ask Parliament to take from that State any constitutional right which she now possesses ; I ask honorable members not to approach the consideration of this measure in any spirit of antagonism, but to consider it fairly, in the interests of both New South Wales and the Commonwealth.


Mr Johnson - We are being asked to flout the opinion of the people of New South Wales.


Mr GROOM - That is not so, though it might be objected that the Parliament of that State has not extended much consideration to us. We are deciding a verv momentous question in fixing for all time the Seat of the Commonwealth Government ; but, having settled that question, we shall have got rid of one of the greatest difficulties now besetting the Federation. Therefore, I a»k that the measure may receive no carping criticism, and may be regarded from the point of view of the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. I do not think" the merits and demerits of the other sites which were proposed or suggested should now be discussed. Parliament has, on the advice of the best experts obtainable, determined on a certain site, and, though some of us individually have favoured other sites, we should now stand by that determination. I hope that when the matter is finally settled there will be built in the Federal territory a Federal Capital which will be an ornament to the Commonwealth and the source of inspiration of the true Federal feeling to Australia.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).Although the Minister has told us that he has tried to honestly deal with the position of both New South Wales and the Commonwealth, he is evidently affected by his official environment, and has put only the Commonwealth side of the question, notwithstanding that he originally believed in the selection of a site other than that chosen by the Parliament. I do not take exception to his speech, but I hope that it will be remembered that the representatives of New South. Wales have also the right to put the State view of the question.


Mr McLean - Are they not representatives of the Commonwealth first and of the States afterwards?







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