Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 19 October 1911


Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I am in hearty accord with the motion, and with the sentiments expressed by the mover and the seconder of it. At the same time, I have never believed in doing things by halves. If the Senate is going to carry the motion, the other branch of the Legislature should be asked to give its concurrence, and then there will be no doubt as to what the feeling of the Parliament is, and any Ministry worthy of the name will endeavour to give effect to that feeling.I move -

That the following words be added : - " 2. That the foregoing resolution be conveyed by message to the House of Representatives for its concurrence."

I do not wish to repeat the figures, or the facts, or the arguments which have been used in support of the motion. But I think that a word or two may with advantage be added to what has been said. I was one of those who opposed the selection of Yass-Canberra as a site for the Federal Capital. But I have always been a very strong advocate for the Capital being established, as the press facetiously terms it, "in the bush." We know that within less than a century the State Capitals were situated within the bush, and that the presence and the needs of the population have created wealthy cities where once was bush. In like manner, the presence and the needs of the Commonwealth, peculiarly as a Commonwealth, are capable of raising up a very fine city on whatever site may be chosen. While I still regret that a better site was not chosen, yet the fact that finality has been reached in the only way known to parliamentary government - by the deliberate will of the majority - is a reason why that decision should be acted upon in the only practicable way. There are some who say that it would be of no use to shift the Parliament to the Federal Capital until we have there something like a substantial settlement; while others seem to think that it would not be wise to encourage settlement until Parliament goes there. One is waiting on the other, as it were. Of course, it may be argued that, as designs have not been obtained for laying out a city on those uptodate lines which we all desire to see adopted, that is a good reason for deferring the erection of buildings which may afterwards have to be altered or removed. But I do not think it is a good reason. I think that, before the ornamental part of the city is laid out, it is advisable to erect such buildings as may afterwards be suitable for other purposes, for instance, to accommodate any factories that may be necessary for the effective working of the Commonwealth. It appears to me that one special reason why no time should be lost in giving effect to this motion is not that adduced by its mover - that we shall be building up vested interests in other centres and incurring all the inconvenience and expense which arise from this scattered policy - but that we shall lose the value of land, much of which will have to be purchased. I have seen the official return of how much land will have to be resumed from private owners. The cost of that resumed land will be a perpetual charge on the Commonwealth. Therefore, in its own interest, the Commonwealth should utilize the land. I contend that - apart from the greater safety of an inland city from invasion - one of the main advantages of choosing a site away from an existing city or town for the purpose of a Federal Capital is that, by that means, instead of paying enormous prices for the sites necessary for Parliament House, public buildings, and other requirements, we shall have the ground at its natural or prairie value; and whatever value afterwards accrues will be the property of the nation. It will be infinitely cheaper to obtain the sites for factories and other works at next to nothing, than to buy sites near old-established settlements. At the same time, we shall be utilizing land which otherwise will lie idle, and for which the Commonwealth will pay in one shape or other. It appears to me that a very large proportion of the ,£139,000 already expended on the purchase of Federal sites, and the erection of buildings thereon, may be accounted for by the very high land values which attach to properties situated near large cities. There is absolutely no reason why, in a place so readily accessible as Yass-Canberra, we should not at once proceed to erect Federal factories, some of which have been established, and some of which are projected for the near future. The trend of modern parliamentary action is for the State to more and more undertake those duties, and the supply of those services which at one time were left entirely to private enterprise. As that tendency is likely to grow, even though our opponents should take our places, it will be necessary to have very large and extensive works in the Federal Territory. That is one good reason why we should have chosen a place where, by means of water power, we could have generated electrical energy. But, as that matter has been settled, it is obviously advisable that we should commence to build on the site which has been chosen. I do not imagine that the dangers so humorously foreshadowed by Senator Givens are likely to arise; but we must agree with him that they are remote possibilities.


Senator Gardiner - And we cannot shut our eyes to . the hatred of New South Wales.


Senator RAE - We cannot shut our eyes to the jealousy and distrust which exist between many of the States and the Commonwealth, or the absurd and parochial spirit in which many persons speak as though the Commonwealth were a foreign Power, to which the States were in some way asked to be tributary. But I do not think that any jealousy by the Mother State, as it likes to be termed, which is felt by the others, should blind its Government to the fact that, in more than one session of Parliament, they deliberately set about choosing a site which they knew must be situated within their territory, and that, therefore, no half-hearted effort should be made to prevent that decision from being realized. Surely no body, or Parliament, would be so deceitful as to take part in choosing a site, and express the hope that at no distant date they would be housed there, and then try to deliberately put every obstacle in the way of carrying out one of the main objects of establishing a Capital. I take it that the" main reason why a Federation requires a territory specially dedicated to itself, and placed under its own sovereignty, is not merely to avoid the jealousies of the States one with another, but to have a home of its own, and to there concentrate the National Departments. That the number of the services, and the importance of the various Departments under Federal control will grow year by year, is self evident. We are only now at the beginning of Federal control. We have only the nucleus of those Federal establishments which must necessarily grow and grow at a tremendous rate, both in number and importance. If that is so, surely it is only right and proper to begin to establish those necessary works and Departments where their ultimate location must be. The land, which will acquire value as the population increases, will, in time, return a revenue sufficient to defray the cost of the Capital. I believe that the Federal Capital will cost Australia nothing, and that, in die long run, all the millions we talk about spending upon it will be amply repaid. The only way in which we can attract population to the Federal city is, as Senator Givens has said, to find profitable employment for people there.


Senator Barker - And to have confidence in the place ourselves.


Senator RAE - I resent that interjection. I say that this Parliament has unmistakably decided on the site of the Federal Capital. I was opposed to that site, but Parliament having made the decision, no one should now question the advisability of concentrating the Federal Departments in the Federal Territory on the ground that some better site might have been chosen. If they do not believe that, it is open to honorable senators to try to bring about a reversal of the decision which has been arrived at.


Senator Millen - For the same reason, some who thought that a better Constitution might have been framed ought, I suppose, to go to work to tear up the one we have.


Senator RAE - That is a very farfetched and weak analogy. I should not be in order in making more than a passing reference to it. I may be allowed to say that if the troglodyte party which Senator Millen champions believes that the Constitution is, to use Senator McColl's word, " sacrosanct," and should never be amended, they are hopelessly behind the age, and even more so than I believed. I say it is the obvious duty of the Government in carrying out the wishes of Parliament to utilize the site which has been chosen, or to take steps to reverse the decision of Parliament. Senator Barker has no right to attempt to defer the building of the Federal Capital on the ground that he does not approve of the site selected for it.


Senator Barker - I say that we shall show our confidence in the site by building there.


Senator RAE - It is our duty to build there, or take steps to have the decision of Parliament reversed. No middle course is honorably open to us. I do not .care for Micawber politicians, and no one has any right to defer action in this matter in the hope that something may turn up. I think that the motion must commend itself to the sense of honesty and fair play, even of those who, like myself, disapprove of the choice of the present site of the Federal Capital. It is good sense and sound business to at once proceed to build up the best capital city that can be built on the selected site. Thousands of people who are now living in the slums of Sydney and Melbourne would certainly be very much better off than they are at present if they were established in the healthier climate of the Federal Territory in well-managed and clean State factories.


Senator St Ledger - Ask those who have to work in our post-offices something about that.


Senator RAE - I am aware that, owing to the policy of the predecessors of the present Government, the Post and Telegraph Department was allowed to get into somewhat of a muddle; but it is our duty to pull it out of that muddle. That does not in any way detract from the absolute accuracy of my statement that State-run factories, in the matter of wages and general conditions of employes, are infinitely better than the average of those run by private enterprise.


Senator Pearce - The complaint is now made that we are attracting all the best operatives from private enterprises to our factories.


Senator RAE - I believe that I saw it stated in the press that our factories were attracting the best workmen from private factories. I shall be told that this is because the State employe's are getting better wages, but I venture to say that if honorable senators opposite get into power, they will not dare to reduce those wages, and there is not one of them who could prove, on any economic ground, that a single man or woman employed in the Commonwealth factories is getting a farthing more than his or her work deserves. Those persons who everlastingly, put themselves against any rise in wages, and try to make out that the State is coddling and pampering its employes at the expense of the general community, are the natural Conservative heirs of those who a few years ago, in England, opposed factory legislation. There are two sets of people m this Chamber.


Senator St Ledger - One has all the virtues, and the other all the vices.


Senator RAE - I deny that I have ever claimed for the party on this side a monopoly of all the virtues. What I say is that, while the individuals who compose the different parties in this House may not differ widely in regard to virtues or vices, we, as a party, are on right lines, and honorable senators opposite are on wrong lines.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is getting away from the question.


Senator RAE - I was led away by the unseemly interjections of our opponents. I believe that the motion must commend itself to every fair-minded member of the Senate, that it will be carried here, and that it ought to be carried in both Houses of the Federal Parliament.







Suggest corrections