Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Monday, 18 December 1905

Mr SPEAKER - I would ask the Treasurer and other honorable members not to engage in conversations across the Chamber. If they do so, not only is it impossible for the right honorable member who is addressing the House to make his points, but other honorable members are prevented from hearing him.

Sir John Forrest - But I am not going to be misrepresented by the right honorable member for East Sydney.

Mr SPEAKER - Does the Treasurer take exception to my ruling?

Sir John Forrest - No, sir.

Mr REID - I hope that the right honorable gentleman paid for the revision of that speech, because I think that that work would cost more than did the actual setting up of the speech itself. To come back to a matter more important than is even the Treasurer's Budget speech, I should like to point out that the position I have taken up all through has been a very simple one. I tried hard to secure the selection of the site of which I approved, and failing that, I tried to obtain the selection of the least objectionable site. That led me to vote for Dalgety, and I say again that, unless there is a reasonable prospect of the selection of a site more in the direction of my old choice, I am going always to stand by that site.

Mr Austin Chapman - Is not the right honorable gentleman going to stand by it now ?

Mr REID -Not if I can obtain a better site. Why should I ? I do not know of any substantial reason why I should, and I certainly do not know of any sentimental one. I have fought with the honorable gentleman - just as he has fought with other people - while it suited me, and when it does not suit me, I shall fight with someone else. It suited me to support the honorable gentleman in the selection of Dalgety, in order to avoid a worse evil ; but when I have a chance of obtaining a better site - one of which I was originally in favour - I am going every time to try to assist in promoting that prospect. I have put my views very plainly. In September last. I stated very clearly why I voted for Dalgety: -

I admit that we desired another site than that of Dalgety, but we accepted that as the next commendable, and I am prepared, just as staunchly as ever, to support the choice of the Parliament. My own impression, as against that of others in New South Wales, who so much assail this selection, is that it is absolutely the best that New South Wales is ever likely to get - that any change would absolutely be for the worse.

That was the basis on which I founded my support of Dalgety. I have every reason to believe, however, that a very great change has come over the feelings of some honorable members in connexion with this subject. I have grounds for the belief that if this question be re-opened, there is a, reasonable prospect of the selection of a site more in the direction of that which I originally favoured, and one which is more likely than is Dalgety to give satisfaction to the people of New South Wales. The Minister of Home Affairs will see that my position is a perfectly fair one.

Mr Groom - I am not criticising it.

Mr REID - A man selects the site that he likes best; if he cannot get that he supports the site which he next favours. That is the course which I have followed all through. I say that, as against Tumut, Bombala, or Tooma, I am in favour of Dalgety.

Mr Higgins - Mr. Carruthers said that the right honorable gentleman informed him that the selection was final and absolute, and could not be re-opened.

Mr REID - That is an absurd remark.

Mr Higgins - Was he wrong?

Mr REID - I am not going to say whether he was wrong or right, because I am sorry to say that I do not retain a very keen recollection of my private conversations. Some people keep diaries, but I do not. All that I can say, is that my impression was that the mind of the Parliament was absolutely made up, and that in that sense I probably did tell Mr. Carruthers something on the lines suggested.

Mr Carpenter - And the right honorable member was probably correct.

Mr REID - It may be found so; but I have good, sound reason to believe that the matter may be re-opened with advantage to New South Wales.

Mr Wilks - And with advantage to the Commonwealth.

Mr REID - Of course; although I do not suppose we shall get credit for that consideration. With reference to the stipulation that the Capital should be in New South Wales, I may say that I had two good reasons for urging it, and I think that those reasons still remain good. The first was that I did not believe that the Bill would be passed in the absence of such a stipulation. That was the reason which guided the five other Premiers, meeting in conference with me, in agreeing to my suggestion.They knew that it was really a point among others upon which the movement depended. They did not agree to it out of any courtesy to me or to New South Wales ; they agreed to it because they believed that without that concession, the prospect of a Federal Union was remote. They may have been wrong ; I think that they were right. My own impression is that without that stipulation, the Federal Union would not have been consummated.

Mr Carpenter - It was a bribe.

Mr REID - No.

Mr Carpenter - It was regarded as a bribe.

Mr REID - That is a most unhappy expression to use. The five Premiers sitting in conference with me were business men assembled at a business conference, and they had to choose between Federation without New South Wales or with it. The honorable member must not say that the granting of the concession was a bribe. If language may be abused in that way, every favorable clause in a treaty must be a bribe. If the honorable member's contention be correct, every clause in a treaty which is drawn up between ambassadors at a council table must be a bribe, since one concedes something to the other.

Mr Carpenter - The right honorable member said that New South Wales would not have come in without it.

Mr Wilks - If the honorable member's contention be correct, then the granting of the special Tariff to Western Australia was a bribe.

Mr REID - Certainly. But the expression was an unhappy one; it was decidedly ill-chosen. The Premiers who attended the Conference were men of independence, and could just as easily have said to me, " No, Mr. Reid, we will not do what you wish." But they decided upon broad considerations to accede to the suggestion I made. There is something more than that to be considered. I wish to put the national reason upon which I made the stipulation - a reason which I shall justify, and which, I think, posterity will justify, as being far from a parochial or selfish consideration. I may be wrong, but in my judgment then, and it is the same now, the great bulk of the population of Australia in the future would be on the eastern rather than on the western seaboard. I hope to see all our seaboards under the Commonwealth develop grand populations ; but I do submit now, as I did then, that if one views the great elements which make for population -the elements, of manufactures and commerce - one must see that they lie more directly upon the eastern than upon the western seaboard.

Mr Carpenter - All those on the western seaboard have not yet been discovered.

Mr REID - I hope that that is so. Too many cannot be discovered. But my view is that the future centre of Australia will be somewhere in New South Wales.

Mr Wilks - It is now.

Mr REID - That is undoubtedly so; but I am speaking of the future, because in a matter of this kind the present is not of so much moment. Looking to the future development of Australia, I came to the honest view that the eastern seaboard would be the centre of the Federation in point of humanity, and that it ought to be so in point of government. That was my principal reason for insisting upon the provision in question. I also knew well, as honorable members know, that if I had not made that stipulation, the Capital would not have been in New South Wales.

Mr Webster - No one knows that.

Mr REID - It would have been a case of the representatives of four States to two against the Capital being in New South Wales. That would have been due to very legitimate conditions from the point of view of honorable members - the question of convenience - but that is not the only subject to be studied in the selection of the site of the

Capital of a great nation. I believe there are some who take a very extreme view of an expression in the minutes of the Premiers' Conference, and I propose, therefore to refer to it. I have before me a reprint by the New South Wales Government, as well as a copy of the original minutes, which was circulated by the right honorable member for Balaclava, who was Chairman of the Conference.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And it was printed in Melbourne.

Mr REID - That is so. The Conference was held here, and it was natural that the minutes of that Conference should be printed in this city. The paragraph is as follows : -

With regard to the Resolutions - " (c) The Capital of the Commonwealth " -

This is a minute which was settled by the six Premiers, after careful consideration, and was signed by each of them -

It is considered that the fixing of the site of 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 Premiershave modified the clause, so that while the Capital cannot be 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.

The construction placed upon the words, " at a reasonable distance from that city," is that there was to be not only the100-mile limit prohibition, but a prohibition in respect of a still greater distance.

Sir John Forrest - No.

Mr REID - I am sure that my right honorable friend, as a member of that Conference, would not say that that was, the intention.

Sir John Forrest - No.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral made that suggestion.

Mr REID - I have heard that it has been suggested by an eminent legal authority. But for that I should not have referredto it.

Mr Higgins - I think that the right honorable member is placing a wrong construction on what has been said. That which the right honorable member suggests, was never said.

Mr Isaacs - The right honorable member did not hear what I said.

Mr REID - No; but I make these observations only because the matter was brought under my notice with a sort of invitation that I should refer to it. I understood that it was a courteous act on the part of the Attorney-General to Jet me know of this possible construction, so that I might deal with it. This minute, however, is not a matter for legal construction. It is to be considered, not in a legal, but in an honorable spirit, by persons who are parties to the bargain. The Treasurer, who was a member of the Conference, scouts the idea that it is a legal matter. The honorable member for Parramatta, in speaking on this question on Saturday last, said -

The Premiers of all the States place uponit the interpretation that the Capital is to be within % reasonable distance of Sydney.

The Attorney-General interjected -

Properly read and understood, that is an absolutely strong argument against the honorable member's present position.

Sir William Lyne - I do not agree with the Attorney-General.

It would thus appear that the AttorneyGeneral has now two of his colleagues against him. The report continues; -

Suggest corrections