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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro) (Postmaster-General) . - I quite agree with the remark that has just been made by the honorable member for Gippsland, that the question seems to have narrowed itself down to one of Commonwealth versus State. It appears that we have to decide whether one State is to dominate the Commonwealth, or whether as representatives of the different States of the Union, we are prepared to carry out the duties imposed upon us under the Constitution. I think that the honorable member for Gippsland put the position fairly when he said that, if we submitted to the domination of any one State, we should openly confess our inability to discharge the duties intrusted to us. I regret that the stage of the session we have reached precludes the possibility of dealing with this question at that length which its importance warrants, and of giving it that attention which it undoubtedly deserves. I should have liked, had time permitted, to discuss the relative merits of the different sites, especially as some of those who have preceded me have deemed it wise to make comparisons. There is a well-worn saying that when you have no case you should abuse the other side. Evidently that is the course which the Opposition have determined to pursue. Why is it necessary for honorable members to invariably fall back upon the device of denouncing the Monaro district? Why do they make such exaggerated assertions in regard to it ? If they sought to compare the climate, soil, water supply, and accessibility of Dalgety with those of other sites - if they entered upon a comparison of the main essentials to a great Capital - we should be able to disprove their statements by well-ascertained facts. But they content themselves by saying that the winds which sweep across the Monaro district are keener than those experienced anywhere else in New South Wales, and are prepared to make other statements of the same kind that cannot be reduced to the basis of solid fact. These are the tactics which they pursue. The Opposition to-day are in a very curious position. For some time past they have been lobbying, and resorting to all the methods known to old parliamentarians to induce the supporters of the other sites to combine in creating a blank in this Bill, their object being to defeat the selection of Dalgety. . But what do we find? Although the Opposition have gleefully told us during the last week that they have a majority - in fact, some of them have the supreme audacity to say that they have a majority to-day - against the selection of Dalgety, we know that they are not prepared to test the position by proceeding to a division, notwithstanding that every honorable member is either present or accounted for in the pair list.

Mr Wilks - We are not afraid.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable member knows that the most extraordinary tactics have been resorted to by the Opposition. We have had the leader and deputy leader of the Opposition, the late Postmaster-General, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, frantically whipping with aview to secure the rejection of Dalgety. We have also had the leader of the Labour Party making appeals to his supporters on personal grounds to vote with him ; he has appealed to those who have no strong predilections in this regard to give a vote for the Lake George district. These are the representatives of New South Wales who for the last two or three years have been pretending that they wish this question to be settled, and yet when the opportunity offers itself they are afraid to avail themselves of it. Does not this savour of hypocrisy? What has been the result of the almost superhuman efforts of the leader of the Labour Party, and his supporters on the Opposition benches? I defy any honorable member to say that they have succeeded in inducing one member to change his view.

Although they have pleaded on personal and party grounds for the rejection of Dalgety, the position remains unchanged.

Mr McLean - I think that the honorable member also did a little in the same direction.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - In this battle, I am almost alone, fighting with my back to the wall, facing a very formidable contingent, and surely I am not to be expected to fight with my fists, so to speak, when others are armed with tomahawks ! It is a difficult task for me, unaided, to meet the tactics of the honorable members to whom I have referred. But, after all, it would seem that there was no ground for my anxiety, since no change has been wrought in the views of honorable members. I believe that the honorable members to whom I have referred have been ably assisted by my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, but, notwithstanding his extraordinary threat that he would not speak to certain honorable members if they did not vote with him, not one vote has been shaken. No one accuses the leader of the Labour Party of being influenced byany improper motive, but I find that in one respect he is only second to the Minister of Trade and Customs, who has never been able to make up his mind as to the most suitable site to select. My honorable colleague has voted for every site except that in the Monaro district, and the leader of the Labour Party has also voted for four different sites, and now proposes to drag in a fifth. It has been suggested that I standby the establishment of the Capital in the Monaro district simply because it forms part of my electorate. I repudiate that suggestion. I stand by it because I honestly believe it to be the best site, and those who make the suggestion should not lose sight of the fact that Lake George, under the new boundaries, will probably be included in EdenMonairo; if not, it will form pant of the new electorate, the representation of which will be contestedby the leader of the Labour Party and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. No doubt the. people of that district will be saying, " Conroy has been representing us for years, and little has been done. Look at what Watson is doing." I do not wish to impute motives, but if the honorable member for Bland were influenced by such a consideration, his position could be easily understood. The honorable member made an elaborate statement this morning as to the accessibility of Lake George. It is worthy of mention, however, that Dalgety is nearer Sydney than Tumut is.

Mr Johnson - It may not be so accessible.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - It may not be at present, as Tumut has railway communication; but with a railway from Cooma, about twenty-five miles, easily constructed, it will rival Tumut, in fact, beat it on the score of accessibility ; besides, there is the magnificent port of Twofold Bav,. which will he brought into touch with the Capital at Dalgety, by railway, and then it will be easily first as far as accessibility is concerned. Another point is that the climatic conditions of Dalgety are more favorable than are those of other suggested sites. When I attempt to put that fact before honorable members, I am met, in some cases, by the suggestion, that the winds which blow over the snow there are colder than those on the other side of the mountain; that the water on the other side is purer, and so forth. Any statement which cannot be met by registered ascertained facts is thought good enough to use against the Monaro site. It is. absurd for the Opposition to contend that the rich Monaro country is poor soil ; and I ask if it be true that the soil of Southern Monaro is inferior to that of other sites, how is it that the Commissioner's estimate that the cost of resuming land there will be much greater than it would be in the case of other sites, especially whenmany of the other sites are highly improved, while Monaro is almost virgin country, and valued at its prairie value? It is all very well for the leader of the Labour Party to urge that Jervis Bay would be a far more suitableport than is Twofold Bay, but the difficulties in the way of Teaching Jervis Bay fromany southern site are twice as great as are those in the way of connecting Dalgety with Eden.

Mr Johnson - Nonsense.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The point is that I am familiar with the district, whilst the honorable member for Lang has never been there.

Mr Johnson - I have.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - By way of interjection I have inquired from every speaker what site he favours. The only honorable member who hassaid what site he will vote for is the leader of the

Labour Party. Honorable members oppo site have not the courage of their opinions. The deputy leader of the Opposition would not say what site he favours, and apparently the leader of the Opposition is now in favour of Lake George, and, if he cannot secure the selection of that site, will come round again to Dalgety. At any rate, he will not have anything to do with Tooma, while the honorable member for Gwydir spoke enthusiastically of that site. The Minister of Trade and Customs is going for Lake George.

Sir William Lyne - Who says so?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Well, what site is the Minister going for? There are all these sites, and every member is accounted for - some of them in a very mysterious way; because there has been some splendid whipping done.

Mr Conroy - The honorable member has done some splendid whipping.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I have not threatened that I would never speak to a member again, as the Minister of Trade and Customs has done, and received the reply, I cannot help it. I must stand by Monaro. " When he arrived here yesterday, and found that there were forty-one members of this House who could not be moved from their support of Monaro, his previous light and airy demeanour was changed very suddenly. I know what is going to happen. I am not foolish enough to think that we shall come to a division on this question, because honorable members who are opposed to Dalgety are afraid to do so. knowing that the numbers are against them. Consequently the Bill will have to go over until next session, though, if I could have my way, honorable members would have to spend their Christmas here, or come back directly after Christmas, in order to settle the matter. New South Wales has been weeping and wailing for a long time because there has been no settlement, and has had a great deal to say about the selfishness of Victorians, who desire to keep the capital in Melbourne ; but now I am the only representative of that State who wishes to press the question to a division.

Mr Mauger - The honorable member thinks that the numbers are with him.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I know that they are. The leader of the Opposition, when in office last year, told us that l.e would oppose, by every means in his \power, the rescinding of the vote arrived at by Parliament. This is what he said in answer to a question asked by me, which the honorable member for Parramatta advised him not to answer -

That is a question of serious importance, which I hope will never have to be considered. 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.

Mr Johnson - He spoke then as Prime Minister.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Yes ; and as Prime Minister he should be looked upon as a man whose word may be taken, but if he goes back on what he stated then, he cannot be absolutely relied on again. In his memorandum to the Premier of New South Wales, he stated that the decision of this Parliament was final and conclusive; but now he is entering into an intrigue for opening up the matter again, although, like other representatives of New South Wales, he has been protesting that he wants the matter settled, and has been crying out against the wicked Victorians. It seems to me that the policy of the Opposition in this matter is one of win, tie, or wrangle. The Capital must be located where they wish to see it located, or not chosen at all. Time will not permit me to go into the history of this matter, and show how it has been dealt with by conferences, conventions, and meetings of Premiers. The leader of the Opposition is responsible for the I00-mile limitation which exists in the Constitution, and we, in Monaro, owe him our thanks for it, because, without that limitation, Sydney would have been chosen. " A reasonable distance from Svdney "is a very different thing from " within a reasonable distance of Sydney." The New South Wales Government appointed an able man, in the person of the late Mr. Oliver, to exhaustively inquire into and .report upon the sites suitable for a Federal Capital, and. he placed the Monaro site first. Then a Commission of experts, was appointed, and honorable members visited' the various sites, with the result that this House selected Bombala, and the Senate, Tumut. It is beyond doubt that the Dalgety site was included in the Bombala site, and the plans now on the table show it included within an area marked round by a red line. If it was not intended to offer Dalgety as a site, why did the State Government reserve the land there, which the Premier has since petulantly determined to throw open for settlement again? No doubt, honorable members who are opposed to Dalgety will say that it is the fault of the Government that there has been further delay in this matter; but if they do say so, they will brand themselves as political hypocrites. The Senate is determined to stand by its selection, and nothing will be gained by delay. I do not intend now to deal with the special report on Dalgety, or the method in which that site was -chosen. In my opinion, the Parliament having determined that the Seat of the Federal Government shall be at Dalgety, cannot go back upon its determination. If it could do so once, it could do so as often as it pleased, no matter what expense may be incurred. Under section 125 of the Constitution Act we have determined the Seat of Government. We have filled the blank in the Constitution, and I contend that before we can alter that we should have to amend the Constitution. Of course, I speak only as a layman ; but my opinion is backed up by that of some of the most eminent constitutional lawyers in the country, and, if an attempt were made to go back on the present determination, the point will certainly be tested in the High Court. The Premier of New South Wales, when in Opposition, supported the Monaro site, and wished the Parliament of New South Wales to accept it, but they refused, and passed resolutions offering us certain sites, of which Dalgety was not one. The dispute now has come to be, not about the relative merits of available sites, but one between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales. Are the representatives of the other States going to submit to that? New South Wales is fully represented in this Parliament, and expression was given to the views of her people before the Dalgety site was chosen. In the first instance, five out of the six senators representing the State had a good deal to say in favour of the Dalgety site, though I do not propose to quote their remarks. It will be better done by the friends of Monaro in the Senate. The Premier of the State, instead of continuing to support the Monaro site, is opposing it merely in order that he may be on the side of the big battalions. How and when were the resolutions which were recently passed by the State Government concerning the treatment of the State by the Federal Government carried through? First of all, the resolutions were submitted to the House of Assembly at the fag end' of the session. After a few honorablemembers had spoken in favour of them, and one or two honorable members against them,, the Premier, for some reason or other, applied the "gag," shut up the leader of the Opposition, and would not allow anything to be said on the other side. As aconsequence, a number of honorable members trooped out of the Chamber, and not half of the total number voted for the resolution.. Mr. Carruthers has the big battalions behind him, and if he considers that he has achieved any victory he is welcometo all the satisfaction that may be derived from the thought. Now I wish to say a word or two as to the circumstances under which the resolutions were submitted to the Legislative Council of New South Wales. At 9.30 o'clock in the evening, the Hon. Dr. Nash asked the leader of the Government in that Chamber whether it was proposed to proceed with any other business, and he was told that only another Bill had tobe considered. After Dr. Nash had left, the resolution to which I have referred was submitted, and was supported mainly by strong anti-Federalists, such as the Hon. Dr. Maclaurin. A number of members had gone away, under the impression that there was practically no more business to be done, and the Government apparently warned only their own supporters to be present. Therefore, the resolution was carried without division. Now, let us inquire as. to the reasons for this treatment on the part of Mr. Carruthers. One can easily understand that he is in earnest, if he believes that thosehonorable members of this Parliament whosupport the Dalgety site are, as he hasdescribed them, escaped lunatics. If that be his opinion, he must have very strong objections to our legislating upon, any subject. Mr. Carruthers also mentioned something about Federal public servants having gold buttons, and States public servantssilver buttons. He remarked further, " The cup of iniquity is full to overflowing " - whatever he may mean by that. In effect, he says: "You must give us the Capita* where we want it, or we shall, secede from. the Commonwealth." The honorable member for Dalley recently told us that unlessNew South Wales was allowed to do as she pleased with regard to the Federal Capital - unless we obeyed the instruction of theState Parliament - the representatives of that State in this House would walk out of the Chamber in a body. We are told that the Dalgety site will not* be granted under any circumstances, and that New South Wales has not yet begun to fight. Mr. Carruthers intends to submit some questions to the electors by means of the referendum. Some of us will have a word or two to say with regard to the answers to be given to those questions. I suggest that we might also be allowed to have a voice in the framing of the questions. We might ask the people what Mr. Carruthers has done to carry out his promises with regard to reform. He has accused us of hustling the State Governor out of his quarters in Sydney, and we might ask the people whether they require a State Governor, or a huge State Parliament, such as they now have. These are among the questions that I would recommend Mr. Carruthers to submit to the people. Mr. Carruthers has accused this Parliament of extravagance, and has attempted to show that it was not fit to select a site for the Capital. In every case, however, his charges of extravagance have recoiled upon himself. Whatever his object may be, he is endeavouring to drag a red herring across the trail, and his satellites here have evidently made up their minds to talk out the Bill. They find that they cannot coerce this House into doing what is required by the Premier of New South Wales. I ask those honorable members who are prepared to do Mr. Carruthers' bidding - who stand to attention when he lifts his finger, listen to what he says with great respect, and then hasten to carry out his instructions - whether they are prepared to indorse his statements with regard to the High Court? Some time ago, Mr. Carruthers asked us to refer a case to the High Court. He sent his AttorneyGeneral over here, and after the matter had been gone into between him and my honorable colleague the Attorney-General, with a view to paving the way for submitting a case to the High Court, the negotiations fell through, owing to the indisposition of the New South Wales Government' to pursue them to a conclusion. Now Mr. Carruthers says that the High Court is not to be trusted. He maintains that our Justices are not honorable men. He makes a statement which I am sure that even his unblushing followers in this House are not prepared to indorse.

Mr Watson - Why are they unblushing - are they not capable of blushing?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable member is now one of them. I hope that, .as a supporter of Mr. Carruthers', he will play a more noble . part than he has done as a leader on this occasion. It is beneath his dignity as a great party leader to beg of his supporters to back him up in the choice of another site. Notwithstanding his great influence, and the respect 'and liking which his supporters have for him, they were not moved by his representations. AH his efforts resulted in miserable failure. It is not very pleasant to have to say these things, but this is the time at which it is necessary to speak plainly. We respect the honorable member for his high qualities, but his best friends must recognise that he has made a great blunder. Success will excuse many things, but when a man descends to tactics such as those pursued by the honorable member, and fails miserably, nothing is to be said in his favour. I am sure, however, that notwithstanding the mistakes he has made, he is not prepared to indorse the statements of Mr. Carruthers with regard to the High Court. At this stage, it is necessary for us to ask whether New South Wales really wants to have the Capital Site fixed.

Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Mr. Carruthers says " no."

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Exactly ; and nearly all the representatives of New South Wales in this House say the same. They are in no hurry. But I would warn them that the gun may be loaded. If it be possible - I maintain that it is not, because we have already determined the matter - to create a blank in the present Act, honorable members who are seeking to secure the selection of Lake George will find themselves left in the lurch. Already many honorable members who are absent, and who have been urged to vote against the measure, have stated specifically by wire that they are in favour of knocking out Dalgety, but that they are not prepared to fill up the blank at present. They want delay, and they are not prepared to make any definite selection. I assure honorable members that if Dalgety is knocked out, the Tooma site will find strong support.

Mr Skene - It is the best site in Australia.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable member had not a word to say when that site was being condemned by his leader last night. I admit that he has a perfect right to his opinion, but it does not become him to make such an interjection when he was not prepared to defend the site from the attack of the right honorable member for East Sydney. Would the honorable member tell us what site he is ready to vote for?

Mr Skene - There is a time for all things.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable member is like the Minister of Trade and Customs. He is prepared to see the decision of the matter delayed. Now Mr. Carruthers threatens us with secession. I suppose we shall have Western Australia coming along, and threatening to secede, unless we authorize the construction of the transcontinental railway.

Mr Mahon - That would be a good solid reason, too.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Then South Australia will threaten to secede, unless, we take over the Northern Territory, and relieve that State of its responsibility regarding it. I do not know that Victoria has any special grievance at present; but if we are to be threatened with secession from all points, we shall not know where we are. Many of the States have grievances just as strong as those of New South Wales, and yet they have not addressed to the members of this Parliament insulting observations similar to those used by Mr. Carruthers. This measure is being opposed by the members of the old Freetrade Party in New South Wales. They were once free-traders, but have now hauled down their flag, never to raise it again. They are backed up by a few malcontents like the Minister of Trade and Customs, and the leader of the Labour Party, who are. unable to make up their minds as to the proper site to select. We have had five years of Federation, and the Minister of Trade and Customs and the honorable member for Bland cannot tell us that they have yet made up their minds.

Sir William Lyne - I have made up my mind to oppose Dalgety.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I am very pleased that the Minister's special pleading in favour of Tooma has had no effect. The honorable member for Bland states that there is no special motive prompting his support of Lake George. Does the honorable member belong to the type of man who. if he favoured any particular site, would never be prepared to vote for it? He has recorded three or four votes in supportof other sites, but never once has he voted for Lake George. I do not object to his want of stability in this matter, because I am hopeful that in, time he will again come round to my point of view, and vote for Dalgety. Those who are supporting Dalgety have not been bulldozed by the Sydney press. The Sydney press is the real lion in the path. Some years ago, the Sydney Daily Telegraph was in favour of the Monaro site, and published an article in which it placed Monaro first upon the list. It is well known also that one of the principal owners of the Sydney Morning Herald has publicly expressed his appreciation of the Monaro tableland. Now, however, they are doing their best to inflame the public against that site. I am not here to condemn any of the sites. I am prepared to stand by the decision given by this Parliament after careful consideration of the reports of the experts. I would ask why the Minister of Trade and Customs is not willing to adopt a similar course? The opposition to Dalgety consists of the supporters of five sites. Yet they constitute a minority against the advocates of one site. If it be possible to strike out from the Seat of Government Act the word "Dalgety," it will be found that a. majority of honorable members are in favour of the. selection of Tooma. It will then be too late for the opponents of Dalgetyto turn round and say that they did not anticipate any such result. Even the leader of the Opposition has informed us that, though he is opposed to Dalgety, he is still more opposed to the Tooma site. I think that the honorable member for Bland went out of his way to abuse Dalgety, but that seems to be all that the opponents of that site can do. I congratulate him and those who have fought so hard against the selection of this Parliament upon the Tesults which have attended their efforts. They may be successful in delaying a settlement of the matter for a little time, but I am satisfied that the number of the supporters of Dalgety will grow. Seeing that a majority of both Houses have chosen that site, I say that the tactics adopted by some honorable members-

Mr Watson - Does the PostmasterGeneral confess to being deficient in tactics ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - From what I have seen of the honorable member recently., there is no need of the services of a black-tracker when he is engaged in any political movement. I regret that he has vacated the pedestal which he usually occupies. Success would have excused him, but failure never excuses anything. I understand that the representatives of New South Wales intend to talk out or count out this Bill. They are afraid to allow it to go to a division. However, I am confident that the Dalgety site will continue to command a majority. If it cannot, it had no right to be selected. I object to submit to the dictation of the Premier of New South Wales. I protest against members of this Parliament being referred to as " escaped lunatics-,"1 and also to, threats, that New South Wales will secede from the Union. It is a reflection upon the Commonwealth Legislature that it should allow the people of New South Wales - even during the period covered by the recess - to remain in ignorance of the true facts,, and, possibly, to entertain the impression that we are submitting to dictation. I only wish that a referendum could be taken i:.i that State at the present time. I should like to frame one of the questions which ought to be put to the electors. I have no doubt what the result would be. I have not attempted to dictate to any honorable member as. to how he should vote upon this Bill. My exertions have been confined to undoing the wrongs that have been done by certain honorable members. It is a deplorable fact that, despite all the hypocritical pretence which has been exhibited by the representatives of New South W ales, they alone are responsible for the delay which has occurred in the settlement of ,!this question. I have every hope that they will defeat themselves, and that the Seat of Government will eventually be located at Dalgety. Notwithstanding all the tactics which have been resorted to with a view to defeating its final selection, I am satisfied that it will continue to be the choice of this Parliament.

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