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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator READY (Tasmania) . - To-night we are called upon to decide a very important question indeed, and one which will have very far-reaching results to the whole of Australia. I have refrained from speaking till this late period of the debate because I was anxious to hear the opinions expressed by the leaders upon both sides of the Chamber. This is a question upon which onecannot afford to be dogmatic. 1 have listened attentively to its discussion with an entirely open mind.

It appears to me that we are now confronted with the aftermath of the Federal Capital question, which was decided in this Chamber two years ago. On that occasion, we did not, in my opinion, choose the best site in the interests of Australia.

Senator Givenshas proposed that, upon the unsuitable site which was then selected, we should establish Commonwealth Woollen Mills. As a representative of Tasmania, I naturally concur in the views expressed by Senator Long in regard to the desirableness of establishing these mills in that State. I believe that we have there sites which fulfil every possible requirement. But whether the motion be carried or not, the Minister of Defence has given us to understand that we cannot hope for Commonwealth Woollen Mills to be started in Tasmania. However, I believe that the time is not far distant when the Government of that State will erect woollen mills there. The Labour party in the Tasmanian Parliament, which I am convinced will come into power before very long, has upon its platform a proposal to establish State Woollen Mills. When effect is given to that proposal, I believe that Tasmania will be able to turn out a product equal to any in the southern hemisphere.

The Government ask us to consider this question from the stand-point of whether Commonwealth. Woollen Mills are likely to prove a commercial success in the Federal Territory. On the other hand, Senator Givens invites us to regard it from the stand-point of which site will be in the best interests of the people of Australia. I quite recognise that, from the point of view of its probable commercial success, the Government have the better of the argument. The expert who selected the site is in a position to offer an opinion which we are not competent to criticise. But we have decided to establish a bush Capital, and. in my opinion, it would be utterly ridiculous for us to spend public money in laying out a great city if we neglect our opportunities to attract to that city a large number of inhabitants. We know that the establishment of woollen mills in the Federal Territory would attract to it a big population.

As one who has had some experience of woollen goods, I do not think the difficulties to be encountered in the Federal Territory are so great as to forbid the possibility of Commonwealth Woollen Mills there being made a success. I admit that the difficulties would be far greater than at Gee- long, but the advantages to be derived from the adoption of that course would more than compensate for those added difficulties. Consequently I shall vote for the amendment of Senator Givens. Although the representatives of Tasmania will be divided upon this question, I believe that each one of them will be able to satisfactorily explain to the electors the motives which actuated him in this matter. I agree with Senator Long that Tasmania offers splendid facilities, which have not yet been availed of, for the production of woollen goods.

I shall record my vote, not from a party stand-point, but from an honest belief that to-night we are called upon either to affirm or reject a principle which will have an important effect upon the future Capital of Australia.

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