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Saturday, 16 December 1905


Mr FRAZER - And the position which has been arrived at in the State of New South' Wales.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The only contrast that I wanted to make was in relation to the action of this Parliament on the two questions.


Mr FRAZER - I think it desirable to say that the people of Western Australia believe that they were promised by the leaders of the Federal movement that in the event of Western Australia coming into the union, certain action would be taken in regard to a matter which they had very much at heart, namely, the construction of the transcontinental railway.


Sir William Lyne - Hear, hear; that is quite true.


Mr FRAZER - I believe that that promise was given. I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, influenced some votes in Western Australia. But the complaint that the Western Australian people have at the present moment is that no serious attempt has been made by the Legislature to carry out the bond which they believe was entered into.In regard to New South Wales the position is entirely different. In that case, the Federal Parliament has shown itself desirous of carrying out the bond. It has passed a statute selecting the site for the

Federal Capital. It has done all that it was possible to do to settle the question.. But the Premier of New South Wales has resolutely and determinedly said that the question shall not be settled in accordance with the wishes of this Parliament. Imagine the State of Western Australia saying that it would refuse to accept a statute authorizing the -construction of the transcontinental railway ! Imagine Western Australia quibbling over such a question! There can be no possible contrast between the two positions.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would not Western Australia decline to accept a railway if we did not authorize one particular route?


Mr FRAZER - I should like my honorable friend to induce this Parliament to sanction the construction of the railway by either of the proposed routes. I am very much inclined to think that the majority of the people of Western Australia would most enthusiastically welcome the opportunity of getting direct and uninterrupted communicationwith the Eastern States in that manner. But in New South Wales every possible objection has been raised by the Premier and his Government against the right of this Parliament to select the capital.


Mr Fuller - No.


Mr FRAZER - What are the facts? An attempt has been made, in my opinion, to read into section 125 of theConstitution, the right of New South Wales to decide upon the site.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This Bill recognises that.


Mr FRAZER - I do not admit that that right is given' by the Constitution. I do not admit that it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to give that right. Nor do I believe that it would beheld by a competenttribunal, interpreting the Constitution that New South Wales possesses that right.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have read what one of the Judges of the High Court said.


Mr FRAZER - The honorable member ought not, in my view, to have quoted the opinion of a Judge, with the object of putting him in the position of having to give a certain decision in his judicial capacity.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He was not a. Judge when he used the words which I quoted.


Mr FRAZER - That may not have been the honorable member's intention, but' such an interpretation might be placed upon what he has done. I regretted that in New South Wales the other day an attack was made upon the integrity of that tribunal, the constitution of which I hold to be the best act of the Commonwealth Parliament up to the present time ; and I deprecate any action that might possibly be supposed to influence that tribunal, in the event of a deci-' sion having to be given by it upon this important question. I listened with considerable interest to the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs in moving the second reading of the Bill. What is the position? It appears to me that there has been an absolute reversal of form in New South Wales. The State Premier for the time being, Sir John See, definitely offered to this Commonwealth the choice of three sites. At a subsequent date he made another offer - that, in the event of either of those sites not being accepted, his Government would be prepared to give consideration to a request for other sites. In another communication, Sir John See absolutely declined, in the name of the people of New South Wales, to select a site. That action cast upon this Parliament the responsibility of taking a certain action. Parliament selected a site. But another Premier has come into office in New South Wales, and an attempt has been made by him to refuse to this Parliament the right to select a site. I can see no possible justification for Parliament altering its previous decision. As a justification for the reversal of form of the New South Wales authorities, a document has been put forward to-day in relation to the conference of States Premiers. This document has been printed by the Parliament of New South Wales.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No.


Mr FRAZER - The paper is marked "Ordered by the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales to be printed on the 7th December, 1905."


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so; but it was first printed in 1899.


Mr Watson - It was not prepared by the authority of the New South Wales Parliament, but by the Premiers. Conference.


Mr FRAZER - I am justified in saying that this document was prepared by the authority of the New South Wales Parliament.


Mr Watson - That is not correct.


Mr FRAZER - Was it printed by order of the New South Wales Parliament?


Mr Watson - Yes.


Mr FRAZER - What is the difference?


Mr Watson - There is all the difference in the world.


Mr FRAZER - I am going to show that it has been substantially . altered.


Mr Watson - If that be so, that is another matter.


Mr FRAZER - Altered in what way? Not in its language, but by the placing of certain words in italics, so that they may bear to the unsuspecting public a meaning that is not really in them.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No.


Mr Chapman - That is so.


Mr Fuller - Let the honorable member give us his reading of the words.


Mr FRAZER - I have given the matter some consideration, and I agree with the opinion that has been expressed by the Attorney-General to-day. What was the position in relation to this document? The people of New South Wales at first gave a hostile decision in regard to the acceptance of the Commonwealth Bill.


Mr Fisher - The honorable member is quite right ; there were no italics in the original document.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No one said there were.


Mr FRAZER - But when I said that the document had been altered, and that it was prepared in its present form by the authority of the Parliament of New South Wales, ' honorable members opposite said that I was wrong.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member said that it was different in the wording.


Mr FRAZER - There has been a substantial alteration made for a particular purpose.


Mr SPEAKER - Order. I remind the House that if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie chooses to say that a substantial alteration was made in the document to which he refers, he has a right to say so; and if other honorable members choose to say that there has been no substantial alteration, they are at liberty to explain their point of view in subsequent speeches. But these continual interjections interrupt the thread of the honorable member's speech. I must ask that they may cease.


Mr FRAZER - I was about to refer to circumstances precedent to this document being brought into existence. I understand that the State of New South Wales objected in the first instance to the Commonwealth Bill. They particularly objected to the section dealing with the Federal Capital.


Mr Lee - I do not think there was anything about the Federal Capital in the original Bill.


Mr FRAZER - The Bill merely provided that the Capital should be somewhere in Australia as might be determined by the Federal Parliament.


Mr Lee - I think not.


Mr FRAZER - The honorable member is apparently prepared to dispute anything I may say, although he is without accurate knowledge of the facts. I have investigated this question, and I know that the first proposal was that the Capital should be within Australia, and that the next proposal was that it should be within the State of New South Wales. There was still some objection, and then came the third proposal of the Premiers' Conference. This was the view of the Premiers -

It is considered that the fixing of the site of the Capital is a question which might well be left to the Parliament to decide ; but in view of the strong expression of opinion in relation to this matter in New South Wales, the Premiers have modified the clause, so that while the Capital cannot he fixed at Sydney or in its neighbourhood, provision is made in the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales at a reasonable distance from that city.

That was the opinion of the Premiers when they were in a mood to make concessions.


Mr Lee - -Because New South Wales would not otherwise have joined the Federation.


Mr FRAZER - That is a question which the honorable member is not competent to decide. If the Premiers interpreted the clause as meaning that the Federal Capital should be as near the 100-miles limit as possible, why did they not suggest that it should be within a reasonable distance "of" that city, instead of deliberately providing that it should be a reasonable distance " from " that city. The words used by the Premiers show that they thoroughly understood that the Federal Capital was not to be unreasonably close to Sydney.


Mr Fuller - That view is met by the fixing of the limit of 100 miles.


Mr FRAZER - But a limit of 100 miles was not sufficient in the opinion of the Premiers, as shown by the words " at a reasonable distance from that city." And when the context of the resolution is taken into account, no other interpretation is possible, although the fact that the words I have just quoted are placed in italics, is calculated to convey another and a false impression to the cursory observer. Of course, we cannot say what was in the minds of the Premiers at that time, though we know that the present leader of the Opposition never raised any particular objection to the proposal. Indeed, the question was never raised until some honorable members, who are opposed to the selection of the Dalgety site, began to look around for some justification for an attempt to obtain a reversal of the decision of Parliament.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The opinions of the honorable members referred to are all recorded in Hansard.


Mr FRAZER - Was the view to which I am referring, ever seriously advanced in the House?


Mr Fuller - The honorable member for North Sydney advanced the view very strongly.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As Hansard will show.


Mr FRAZER - I accept the assurance of the honorable member. But was the same importance attached to the matter six months ago as appears to be the case now ?


Mr Austin Chapman - The leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, said he would do everything in his power to prevent the decision of the House being altered.


Mr FRAZER - Did not the leader of the Opposition vote for the Dalgety site?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course, as against Tooma.


Mr FRAZER - Probably Tooma may be selected if the decision as to Dalgety is reversed. It is pretty well known thata number of honorable members are desirous to substitute Lake George for Dalgety. I have supported Dalgety all through the negotiations, and I see no reason to alter my attitude. What has occurred to justify us in humiliating ourselves so far as to reverse a decision deliberately arrived at after mature consideration ?


Mr King O'Malley - The New South Wales Jeff. Davis has scared us !


Mr FRAZER - Then there could be no weaker justification.


Mr Fuller - It would be humiliating if that were the cause.


Mr FRAZER - We shall no doubt have the pleasure of hearing the honorable member for Illawarra on the question. The honorable member for Parramatta has advanced no substantial reason why we should reverse our decision. We are placed in the position of having to say definitely and decisively whether we shall depart from our previous determination simply because some State Premier is dissatisfied with the conditions. My own opinion is that the Premier of New South Wales will be satisfied with' nothing short of our giving that State the right to select the site.


Mr Johnson - New South Wales has never sought the right of selection except in regard to the territory.


Mr FRAZER - New South Wales has distinctly refused to allow the Commonwealth Parliament to select the site we particularly desire; and what does that indicate, except that New South Wales is not prepared to accept the decision of the Commonwealth Parliament? And it may reasonably be supposed that the alternative is that the New South Wales Parliament desires to make the selection. The opinions held by the Opposition on this question are not the opinions held some little time ago by their leader, the -right honorable member for East Sydney. I am prepared to admit that gentleman's capacity for finding justification for the reversal of a vote or any other change of front, but in a matter of this kind he may be expected to adhere to his opinions, for, at any rate, a few months. The right honorable member for East Sydney, speaking on the 15th December, 1904, on this question, said that "if the provisions of the Constitution were carried out loyally" on both sides - the Federal Capital will be established in New South Wales at no distant date, but, just as it is possible for the Federal Parliament in its treatment of the subject to so act that there will be no Capital in New South Wales within a reasonable time, it is possible for the Government and Parliament of New South Wales to so act that there will be no Federal Capital in New South Wales within a reasonable time, unless we have an inherent right to select the capital by our own will. That is a question of serious importance, which I hope will never have to be considered.

I can heartily indorse that sentiment. I hope it will never be obligatory on the Commonwealth to take a site from New South Wales.

I hope that those who have this matter at heart will rest satisfied that the Government will loyally regard the decision of this Parliament, unless it is rescinded, and, so far as I am concerned, any attempt to rescind it will meet with my strongest opposition.

That is a definite statement from the leader of the party, who, at the present time, are engaged in an attempt to reverse the decision of this Parliament.


Mr Austin Chapman - Did any one of the colleagues of the right honorable member for East Sydney, who was then Prime Minister, repudiate his views?


Mr FRAZER - Not one.


Mr Conroy - As the leader of the Government, the right honorable member for East Sydney could not attempt to rescind the decision of Parliament.


Mr FRAZER - Do the opinions and policy of an honorable member alter when he leaves the Government for the Opposition benches? I admit that sometimes the prospect of gaining a few ' votes may affect the views of individuals, but scarcely so in regard to a matter which affects the welfare of the entire population of the continent, and which should be dealt with entirely free from an \ party considerations.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is not very free in that respect !


Mr FRAZER - I hope I shall never be found leaving my party, but, as a matter of fact, my leader in regard to this particular question is on the other side, and, in my opinion, is " off the track."


Mr Austin Chapman - Did not the right honorable member for East Sydney, on that occasion, speak for the whole of the Commonwealth ?


Mr FRAZER - He certainly spoke as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. We have now to decide whether or not the rights of this Parliament are to be handed over to the Premier of a State. The power and the right to select the site of the capital, which is to be the home of the Federal Parliament for all time, rests with us, as the responsible representatives of the people, and I am prepared to stand by our previous deliberate decision.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Conroy) adjourned.







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