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Friday, 30 July 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) . - After this controversial debate, I hope that we shall get the Supply Bill through. My concern is to get the money with which to pay the Federal public servants, and, incidentally, ourselves. It is about time we came to a decision on the matter of the transference of the Seat of Government to Canberra. Of course, there is absolutely no feeling about it, nobody cares very much about it : but somehow or other, accidentally, and incidentally, I suppose, we have this spectacle: Nearly all the representatives of New South Wales are in favour of the Federal Capital being begun immediately, while nearly all the representatives of Victoria are against it, and, of course, honorable members representing both States look at the question from a national point of view. However, that is how the matter stands to-day, and how it has stood for twenty years past, and I am afraid that is how it will continue to stand.

Mr Fleming - What we object to is that it has remained too long in that' position.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The point I wish to make is that it is not quite fair to enter into a highly controversial question of this kind when a Supply Bill is before the Committee, the very essence of which is that it should not contain any controversial subjects. Everything has been excluded from this Bill that could lead to party feeling or controversy of this kind. Of course, it goes without saying that there should be ventilation of grievances before granting Supply; but may I suggest that the present is not an appropriate time for testing this matter by a vote of honorable members. Other occasions will be available when such a step may be taken. For instance, next Thursday is Grievance Day.

Mr Riley - That will be of no advantage to us because the matter could be " talked out."

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - It would depend absolutely on the honorable member whether the matter was "talked out" or not.

Mr Riley - There might be enough Victorians to " talk it out " all night.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The matter could not be ' ' talked out ' ' unless the House permitted it. That, I suggest, would be the proper way in which to submit the question to the arbitrament of the House. However, the Government, through the mouth of their Prime Minster (Mr. Hughes) made certain pledges on this subject at the recent election, and those pledges they will endeavour to carry out. When the 'Budget is presented I hope it will contain an earnest of the Government's intention in regard to Canberra; but I remind honorable members that the House is the tribunal which must ultimately decide the matter. Much as some members of the Government may feel with regard to the question, it is one which is not to be decided absolutely by Ministers without reference to the House.

Mr Riley - What is the Government's policy in this regard?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The Government policy is to proceed with the development of the Federal Capital ian the terms of the constitutional agreement entered into twenty years ago. In pursuance of that agreement, and m consequence of the votes and deliberations of this House, large sums of money have already been spent at Canberra. I -do not wish to discuss the merits of the question - the time for that has gone by; but I ask the honorable member for South Sydney, now that he has ventilated the question, and honorable members have had a field day over it, to let it go for the present, with the undertaking on the part of the Government that within the next few weeks the House will be asked to give a decision upon it. I have already told honorable members that I hope to introduce the Budget within the month of August, and I shall do my best to carry out that promise.

Mr Riley - Will you promise to place money on the Estimates which will enable the work to proceed at Canberra ?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I have already told the honorable member that the policy of the Government is to proceed with the development of the Federal Capital, and there I hope the matter will be allowed to rest.

Mr Ryan - The right honorable gentleman also said that an earnest of that policy would be found in the Estimates.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I hope that it will be found there, and with that understanding I trust that the honorable member will withdraw the amendment. We can gain nothing by pressing it to a division, except that perhaps some honorable members might have to vote against it who, in o'ther circumstances, wouldprobably vote for it.

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