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Thursday, 22 August 1912


Senator RAE (New South Wales) . - I spoke in a somewhat similar strain on this matter yesterday, and while not wishing to go over the ground traversed by Senator Givens I may say that, although a representative of New South Wales, I cannot be charged with parochialism in this matter. I had to bear a good deal of abuse, and some criticism, from my own colleagues for being the only representative of New South Wales in the Senate who voted against the selection of YassCanberra as the site for the Federal Capital. In? similar circumstances I would do the same again, although I was threatened that I should be burnt in effigy if my vote caused the selection of the present site to be rejected. Whilst voting against the selection of this site I stated that once the matter was finally settled I should be no party to further obstruction, and would vote for any sum in reason that might be asked for to make a practical beginning with the establishment of the Capital. The statements made by Senators Millen and Givens are obvious. It is clear that very slow progress indeed is intended if £110,000 is to cover the whole of the expenditure during the current financial year on the various works referred to.


Senator Sayers - And it may not all be spent.


Senator RAE - That is so. The idea that we cannot construct 7 miles of railway straight away is absurd.


Senator Pearce - No one said we could not.


Senator RAE - The leisurely way in which things are going on justifies the criticism. I read some time ago that, in India, a railway for military purposes Was constructed at the rate of a mite per day, because there was some urgency for it. The only imaginable reason why we could not construct 7 miles of railway in twelve months would be that it was impossible to obtain the steel rails required. If it is possible to obtain the necessary rails there can be no difficulty in constructing 7 miles of railway in a few months. If this is to be the rate at which railway construction by the Commonwealth Government is to be carried on the Lord only knows how long we shall be in constructing the transcontinental railway. With reference to the provision for a water supply I may say that the moment the selection of this site was decided upon it was known that a water supply would be required. From the memorandum read by the Minister it appears that a 90-ft. dam is to be constructed to provide a sufficient supply of water for twelve months. I should be sorry to think that that is the way in which the work is to be carried out. A water supply, sufficient for the needs of the city, which may be expected to grow up on the Federal Capital site within the next few years, should be provided for at once. What apparently is to be provided for would be sufficient for only a handful of people.


Senator Pearce - No; for a city of 250,000 people.


Senator RAE - Then I must have misunderstood the statement read by the Minister. I should still like to point out that if such a work is really to be hurried on it will absorb very much more of this vote of ,£110,000 than will be available if the railway and the other works referred to are to be gone on with. The whole of this vote of .£110,000 will be more than absorbed by three or four of these items, and, consequently, there can only be a very small expenditure intended upon each during the current financial year. The Minister's argument, that we must first complete certain preliminary works, is sound, but there is still undue delay in the completion of that preliminary work, and an insufficient expenditure is being provided for.


Senator Givens - We could dawdle over the preliminary work for ten years.


Senator RAE - Of course we could. We might spend £1,000 on one work, and £[1,000 on another, and the trees which have been planted might be forest trees before we have begun with the serious construction of the Capital. . Perhaps some of our Victorian friends feel at home in this building, but there are many good reasons why honorable senators from other States should be housed in their own home free from the domination of the city newspapers of either Sydney or Melbourne, especially when by residing in the Federal Capital we should be enhancing the value of the land for which the Commonwealth has to pay, and which must remain idle until it is utilized. If there were art earnest intention to get on with the preliminary work, so as to enable us to lay the foundations of the permanent work of the Capital, there would be a larger amount of money provided for upon these Estimates for expenditure during the current financial year. T can imagine that the capacity of employing hands and in spending money might, in* certain circumstances, be limited. It might not be possible to have more than a certain, number of men employed in the construction of a dam, but when we have so many works which might be carried out at the same time, there is ample scope for the expenditure during the year of a very much larger vote than that which appears in the schedule to this Bill. If there is to besomething like reasonable celerity in giving effect, not merely to the letter, but to the spirit of the Constitution in this matter, a very much larger sum than is set down here should be provided for in these EstimatesSenator SAYERS (Queensland) [4.5].-- I thoroughly indorse what has been said by Senator Givens. I know of a localauthority representing a population of only 25,000 people that erected a concrete dam, 24 feet at the base and about 130 yards long, inside of four months. Here we have the Commonwealth Government, aftertwo years, submitting a vote on account for a dam, and the money we are votingmight not be expended within the next twelve months. Each of these works may be carried out separately. I have been toQueanbeyan, and I am sure that the Government could get an estimate from the Works Department or from people outside on which they could call for tenders for the railway to the Federal Capital, and have it constructed inside of nine months. We are told by the Minister that this wort will be done if it can be done. The statement is laughable. The Department have all the money they need in hand, but they prefer to dawdle along. Two years ago we hear'd a lot about the water supply which was to be provided for the Federal Capital.. I travelled from Sydney with Colonel Owen, the Director-General of Works, and I understood from the conversation I had with him that the water supply would be all fixed up within six months. Now we are told that the Government are going to begin the work. Do they mean to establish the Federal Capital, or do they not? To say that no more than about £100,000 can be spent in the Federal Territory to provide for a water supply, a railway, and the other works mentioned within twelve months is to make us a laughing-stock for people outside. We might spend twice that sum to advantage. We have purchased the land, and the money with which we purchased it is lying idle, without interest, whilst we are paying large sums for the rents of Federal offices in Melbourne.


Senator Blakey - Nothing of the kind. We are getting a return of ,£4,800 per annum. ».


Senator SAYERS - I say that we are carrying on the Federal Territory at a loss every year. Judging by these Estimates the Government do not intend to proceed with the construction of the Federal Capital in a business-like manner. I do not think that any member of this Parliament, with the exception perhaps of some Victorian members, objected to the amount which was placed on the Estimates last year for expenditure on the Capital, but we find that even that amount was not expended, and a portion of it is put down to be re-voted this year. If I represented the State of New South Wales I should want to know whether the Government intend to deal with this business in a workmanlike manner or not. I noticed the other day that the Victorian State Government are considering whether they should not ask us to pay interest on the cost of this building. I would not blame them if. they charged us si Per cent., because we are not taking proper steps to erect our own parliamentary building.


Senator Keating - They are following the example of New-. South Wales.


Senator SAYERS - Yes, and justly so, too. If the Commonwealth had to pay rentfor a residence there, !' do not 'see why they should not do so here. In my opinion, they should have come down with an energetic programme of public works for the Federal Capital. At the rate at which we have proceeded during the last three years, fifty years will elapse before we are settled there ; and none of us will be alive then. Apparently the Government will not carry out these works, and very likely their successors may say, " We will shift the Capital to another site," and all the expenditure there will have been wasted.







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