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Wednesday, 12 October 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I support the motion so ably moved by Senator Thomas. The Senate cannot forget its responsibilities to the people of Australia in connexion with this matter, and although Senator Wilson referred to the transfer of Parliament to Canberra as being untimely and uncalled for, I may inform him that it is manyyears overdue. This question should have been settled more than ten years ago. Honorable senators should not misinform others as to the true feeling regarding the duty . of the Federal Parliament to keep the promise entered into at the inception of Federation. It is not only a politicians' question in New . South Wales, because from one end of the State to the other there is a continual and emphatic demand for immediate action, and until the transfer is madethis Parliament stands condemned in the eyes of the people, because it has practically repudiated its con tract. The senior partner - New South Wales - which pays one-half of the taxation of the Commonwealth, was promised over twenty years ago that a transfer would be made, and up to the present that arrangement has not been honoured. For the first ten years there was reasonable ground for delay, because Parliament had not set its house in order or organized its work. There were many difficulties with which to contend, but for the last ten years not. only have the main difficulties beenovercome, but large initial expenditure at the Capital site has left it in such a position that theGovernment could be called upon to meet there within three months.

Senator Senior - During seven of the last ten years we have been engaged in war or the af termath of war.

Senator GARDINER - I realize that. Let us look at the matter from a financial point of view. If the Capital were established next month, there would be such a demand for land and increases in land values that it would be the best investment that the Government had entered into. Values would not increase by 10 per cent., but by 100 per cent., and as the land is the property of the Commonwealth, the whole question of finance would adjust itself from the day this Parliament was big enough - will I say true enough - to keep its promise to the people of New South Wales. I recall that there was once a close division taken in this Chamber concerning whether a railway should be built from South Australia to Western Australia. It was my personal view that the railway should have been constructed from Queensland through the centre of Australia to the West; but, because Western Australia had come into the Federation on the strength of a promise that the transcontinental line would be built direct, I voted in support of the project. I regarded the promise as a sacred one; and, as a representative of a State which had agreed tohonour the pact, I had no option but to vote as I did. This matter of the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra cannot be put aside as a simple question of personal convenience or otherwise. What does the Constitution provide ? What did the whole of the States vote upon, and what did the whole of the people of

Australia ratify ? Was not" this Commonwealth Legislature called into being with the specific contract for the establishment of a Federal Capital, in Federal territory, within New South Wales, set forth in the bond ?

Senator Russell - And was not that Constitution supported by the Melbourne Age?

Senator GARDINER - And urged by that paper for acceptance by the people. I know that but for the war the Capital would have been established at Canberra ere now. It cannot be said to-day that there is a shortage of money any more than it can be said at any time and at all times, that money is hard to find. If a loan were floated with provision for repayment out of the increased value of land in the Federal Territory its repayment would be assured.

Senator Duncan - A loan for the purpose of establishing the Capital could be financed in New South Wales to-morrow without difficulty.

Senator GARDINER - I am assured of that. It may be said that, as a New South Wales representative, I am bound to support the project; but if I were a Western Australian or Victorian senator I would consider myself still in honour bound to do so. Senator Thomas stressed the point that had the Capital been built at Canberra years ago the job would have been carried out far more cheaply than to-day. Every day of delay adds to the cost. Will not this same difficulty of finance always confront the Government of the day? Will there. ever come a time when cash will be more plentiful?

Senator Wilson - Does not the honorable senator remember when money was only half as dear as it is to-day?

Senator GARDINER - I do; but I do not look forward to its becoming much cheaper than at present for many years. Most of the costly work at Canberra has already been undertaken and completed. I refer to the water supply, to the electricity plant, to the preparation of the roads and sewerage, to the making of bricks for buildings and homes, to the supply of timber, and other things. Much money has been laid out upon those works, which are ready and waiting, and in respect of which there can be no return until the Capital shall have been established. The value of the city site will increase, perhaps, one hundredfold in five years. Its population will become assured when the Federal Government has been established there. I hope to live to see land which the Government originally purchased at £5 an acre become worth £500 per foot.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - An example in support of that may be found at Junee, where a selection offered a few years ago brought £1 an acre. What is that land selling for to-day?

Senator GARDINER - The Minister has provided a valuable' illustration-. The Capital city will be built as a model, and it will ever remain the property of the people of the Commonwealth. It will more than repay the interest on its cost within twelve months of its establishment. In a few years thereafter it will give such an ample return that the only regret which any one will be able to utter will be that the transfer had not been accomplished long before. I am satisfied that the Federal Capital will be established a,t> Canberra within a very brief period. I would almost wish to see the present Government lose its opportunity to establish it. If a» Labour Government were returned to power it would be a matter of only some twenty-four hours before orders were issued for the meeting of the first Parliament under the new regime at Canberra. Even if the Labour Government were returned on a minority and knew that its first meeting of Parliament would be its last, that meeting would be held at Canberra; and I am positive that there would never again be another meeting of the Federal Legislature outside of Canberra. Almost all the work that has been done so far has been put in hand by Labour Administrations. Visitors to Canberra to-day may see in the visitors' book a statement penned by an honorable member of another place, who is now a Nationalist. I refer to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who stated that he was satisfied that the Capital would never be established at Canberra unless by a Labour Government. I advise the present Government to move quickly if it wishes to deprive a Labour Government of the honour.

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