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Friday, 30 July 1920

Mr BOWDEN (Nepean) .-There are two ways of avoiding the payment of debts, and we have had illustrations of both this afternoon. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) told us quite frankly that he advocates a policy of repudiation, so far as the debt to New South Wales, as specified in the Consti tution, is concerned. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) gave an indication of the other way of avoiding payment, namely, the constant postponement without a distinct repudiation of the debt, the suggestion that it is inconvenient to pay at the present time, but if the bill is renewed for another three months the debtor may be in a better position to meet his obligation. I honestly and sincerely believe that it will be better in the interests of the Commonwealth and of Federal legislation that this Parliament should not meet in any of the great centres of population. We hear slighting remarks about people being influenced by associations. But there is, and always must be, a very great indirect influence through the associations of people in big centres. That influence is felt in this House, consciously or unconsciously.

Mr Jowett - Would not the same objection apply to small centres?

Mr BOWDEN - No. In a big centre we have no chance of creating a Federal atmosphere in place of the State atmosphere which preponderates in a big State capital. The honorable member for Kooyong, said that he did not know what influence was behind the agitation for the removal of this Parliament to Canberra. But he told us over and over again that his electors do not desire that this expenditure shall be incurred, and therefore he is opposed to it. The best answer to the honorable member's argument is the feeling reflected by the representatives of New South Wales. As a general rule, honorable members do not support projects which are not favoured by their constituents. We would not be in this House if we were out of harmony with the views ' of the majority of our constituents. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said that, so far as he knows, the Federal Capital is not regarded as an important question in any part of New .South Wales. The fact is that every candidate in New South Wales had to face on the public, platform the agitation for the removal of the Federal Parliament to Canberra.

Mr Jowett - That is because there is a Federal Capital League in New South Wales.

Mr BOWDEN - Not necessarily. I do not think I addressed one meeting at which I was not questioned regarding my attitude towards the Federal Capital.

Mr Jowett - Because the League instigatedthe electors to ask the question.

Mr BOWDEN - If Victorian members have no better argument than insinuations of that character, they have a very weak case. No talking can evade the fact that a contract to establish the Federal Capital in New South Wales was deliberately inserted in the Constitution. I do not care whether or not people call it a bad bargain, or whether they say that New South Wales acted unfederally in insisting upon that condition; but the fact remains that a definite compact was made. The original enabling Bill was not carried in New South Wales by the requisite majority, and the section in regard to the Federal Capital was insertedas an inducement to New South Wales to join in the Federation. If New South Wales had stood out, Queensland would not have joined, and there would have been no Federation. It is certain that the required majority in favour of the enabling Bill would not have been obtained in New South Wales if the Federal Capital compact had not been inserted in the Constitution. I fought to secure the adoption of the original enabling Bill, and I know the opposition that we had to meet. When the ' second enabling Bill was placed before the people, I was one of those who went before the electors and said, "You have now obtained from the other States what you asked for; give us your support."

Mr Considine - Why did you play such a confidence trick on the electors?

Mr BOWDEN - I played no confidence trick on the electors, although the very people to whom I put that argument now say that they have been misled, and that Victoria never meant that the agreement should be carried out.

Mr Brennan - Do not the New South Wales people understand the principle of equity that you must come into Court with clean hands? If their object was unlawful or immoral, we are not bound to honour the compact.

Mr BOWDEN - I quite agree with the honorable member; and if he can show that this compact is either immoral or unlawful, then it need not be honoured. But the compact is neither immoral nor unlawful. .

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Nor unmoral.

Mr BOWDEN - Nor unmoral. After twenty years of delay and constantpostponement the time has come to carry out the agreement. The argument that we have no money has been used over and over again; but so far as members from Victoria are concerned there never has been a time when there was any money to spend on the Federal Capital.

Mr Riley - We can raise the money in New South Wales to build the Capital.

Mr BOWDEN - That is an argument that I have not used, but New South Wales will find the money. It is not a great amount that is required, though honorablemembershavetalkedabout millions and millions, -and it will be a gradual expenditure. If this Parliament would do the sane and proper thing, and sell the freehold of the land in the Federal Territory, we would obtain all the money we require. The difficulty arises simply because Parliament in its wisdom decided that there should be only leaseholds; and at the present time no man can take up a leasehold for building, because there are no regulations. There are men in Sydney who would undertake to build an accommodation house at Canberra if they could get the land, but they can get land neither on a ninety-nine-year lease nor on freehold. A great deal has been made of the "burden of taxation," and it has been said that this taxation the people of New South Wales do not desire. I remind honorable members that, of any expenditure on the Capital, New South Wales willbear quite one-half, as it bears one-half of all other expenditure.

Mr Tudor - No, it does not.

Mr BOWDEN - New South Wales produces one-half of the revenue of the Commonwealth.

Mr Tudor - The revenue returns are misleading. Sydney happens to be a terminal port, and much revenue that should be credited to Queensland is credited to New South Wales.

Mr BOWDEN - At any rate, New South Wales would practically pay onehalf of the cost. I think I have said enough to show that the request made by myself and others is not an unreasonable one, namely, that Parliament should honour the Federal obligation. The Parliament has been asked to honour other promises made at the inception of Federation. It was asked by Western Australia to honour a verbal promise made by Mr. Deakin and others to build the transcontinental railway, and the promise was honoured, although it was. not part of the Constitution. Other States have also been treated very fairly.

Mr Gabb - What about South Australia?

Mr BOWDEN - South Australia understood that the north-south railway would not be built immediately.

Mr Gabb - But we expect it before the year 2000!

Mr BOWDEN - And so does New South Wales expect to have the Federal Capital; and I submit that all these promises should be honoured in the order in which they we're made.

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