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Friday, 30 July 1920

Sir ROBERT BEST (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) - I rose to address a few words to the Committee on the. amendment. Many honorable members opposite seem to regard the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra as a fetish, and they have raised alb sorts of bogies by way of argument tosupport their proposal to move the Parliament to the Federal Capital. For them to suggest that this assembly is influenced by its surroundings, or by the press of Victoria, is to do themselves an injustice. They know well that they are not influenced in that way, either directly or indirectly.

Mr Riley - Does not the Age rule you ?

Sir ROBERT BEST - Quite the contrary. Some of my honorable friends hardly know when they are well off. The people of Victoria have no feeling on this question ; and, in my opinion, the people of New SouthWales do not care a snap of the fingers about it. I cannot find out who it is that wants this Federal Capital.

Mr Hill - It is the representatives of N ew South Wales,

Sir ROBERT BEST - I admit that a few of the representatives of that State wish us to move to the Federal Capital; but the people offew South Wales have not demanded the move, and to them the matter is of no moment.

Mr Mahony -Take a broad view.

Sir ROBERT BEST - That is what I am doing, and what my honorable friend is incapable of doing. The people of few South Wales realize that they are heavily burdened with taxation, and their chief concern is to be relieved of the excess. They have to contribute to the expense of government as much as, and perhaps more than, any other part of Australia. When we again reach normal conditions so far as taxation is concerned, my honorable friends will have a right to ask that the building of the Federal Capital be proceeded with. But, to prate about economy, and at the same time to waste money deliberately on a hush Capital, is the height of hypocrisy.

Mr Marr - That is what they said here before the war.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I urge my honorable friends, who profess an anxiety for economy, to look at this matter sanely.

Mr Watkins - We would like to make you travel a bit.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The matter does not concern me personally. But my electors are anxious that they shall be released from excessive taxation, and not that they shall he further burdened. That is the question that is involved at the present time. When we are in such desperate financial straits, to deliberately set to work to waste money in the way suggested would be little short of madness and criminal folly. If honorable membersbelieve that there is any feeling in any of the States, even in few South Wales, in favour of this Federal Capital project, I suggest that, at the next election a referendum be taken as to whether the Capital shall be proceeded with immediately or deferred until taxation has been reduced to normal dimensions. Everybody is ready to assist in the establishment of the Federal Capital when we can afford to do so,but there is no urgency about the project. Parliament dare not overlook the ultimate financial liability; we must consider, not merely the erection of buildings at Canberra at the present time, but also the construction of a railway from Jervis Bay to Canberra. It was realized from the very beginning that there must be a Federal port at Jervis Bay. I quite indorse that view. Without a Federal port and a railway connecting with Canberra we should travel to the Capital merely by the grace offew South Wales, and' on railways belonging to that State. Therefore, we must realize that, in voting for the construction of the Federal Capital, we are committing ourselves also to expenditure on a railway from Jervis Bay. I do not delude myself with the hope that I shall make any impression upon the members who representfew South Wales, but I say that, if they were really earnest in their desire to represent the wishes of the people, they would take a referendum upon this question. The desire of my electors to be relieved of taxation to the greatest extent possible is common to the people of all States. As soon as our financial position enables us to deal with this matter we shall have a right to take it into consideration. But to-day, when our finances are in the direst condition, and when the people have demanded that Parliament shall take every opportunity of exercising economy in every direction, we have no right to contemplate expenditure such as is proposed. It must be remembered that if money is wasted at Canberra other works more useful, and more necessary, must be neglected, and important matters which demand consideration will be sacrificed.

Mr Watkins - I have not heard the honorable member raise his voice once against all the expenditure that is taking place in Melbourne at the present time.

Sir ROBERT BEST - Melbourne is not securing any greater expenditure than it is entitled to. But if the honorable member can prove that any unreasonable or unfair expenditure has been incurred in Victoria, I shall join with him in condemning it. It has been established that the creation of even a temporary capital would involve the expenditure of millions of pounds, which the community ought not to be called upon to pay at the present time. I challenge any honorable member to refer to any Federal expenditure unfairly incurred in Victoria. Inquiry will establish the fact that, as a rule, all expenditure of the kind has been incurved on the recommendation or order of a Minister from another State. In regard to the report recently furnished to the House by the Public Works Committee, only two members' of that body are Victorian representatives, whilst three are from Western Australia. The Committee endeavoured to frame an impartial report, and their recommendation should be received in good faith. I join with other honorable members in protesting against the wasteful and flagrant expenditure at Canberra which is suggested by the supporters of the amendment.

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