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Wednesday, 12 October 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) . - After listening to the mover of the motion, and to the speech of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Milieu), I do not know that it would make a great deal of difference whether I voted for or against the motion, but, if it is to stand as printed, 1 would certainly be sorry to give a silent vote. I, congratulate the mover on the thorough, concise, and clear manner in which he dealt with the subject. The Minister, although he will vote against the motion in its present form, has supported it. I recognise that Australia is committed to the Federal Capital. Wisely or unwisely - I am inclined to think unwisely - it has been included as part of the Federal compact that there should be a Federal Capital in New South Wales not nearer than 100 miles to Sydney. That being so, that compact will have to be honoured at the proper time. I have had the opportunity of viewing the site chosen, and, after thoroughly inspecting and studying the plans as presented by the engineer there, I am convinced that no better site could have been found for the purpose. If we are going to, have a Capital City, I think the site at Canberra is all that can be desired. I was very pleased with the layout of the City. It will certainly be a model city when completed. I am not nearly so optimistic as Senator Gardiner regarding the wonderful developments that are likely to take place there, and the enormous capital that he said would be created by the establishment of the City. I do not look with any hope to the Federal Capital ever being more than a model city. I cannot imagine that there will be a large settlement there. I cannot imagine that there will be industries to provide employment for people settling there. A Seat of Government will always carry with it numbers of the leisured classes. There is a certain prestige associated with a Seat of Government. There will be the officers necessary to carry on the governmental duties. There will also be the trades people necessary to attend to the wants of the community. I cannot imagine that land values are ever going to be £500 per foot, or even £10 a foot. They will not be that price in our time, anyhow, whatever may occur when the population of Australia is fifty, sixty, seventy, or even one hundred millions. If the motion is insisted upon as printed, I shall certainly oppose it, because now, of all times, whatever remissness has occurred in the past, whatever faults have been committed by previous Governments in not establishing the Capital before the war, is the most inopportune time for launching upon a large expenditure for the purpose. I ask honorable senators whether we have the money to spend ? The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Milieu) seemed rather to ridicule the statement of Senator Wilson that money was wanted for developmental works. Have we plenty of money for all those undertakings that are essential to the welfare of Australia Have we plenty of money for the defence of Australia. It will be no use having a Capital City if we lose Australia. Would Australia be one iota safer by the establishment of a Federal Capital? Have we plenty of money for the conservation of water, which is so essential to the prosperity of Australia?

Have we plenty of money for the hundred and one different enterprises which will build up the prosperity of Australia, make the people happier, and increase the population? If we have plenty, then let us build the Federal Capital. I have nothing to say about the jealousies - real or imaginary - of the people of New South Wales and Victoria; but I say that the people of Australia will not be one jot better off by the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. There may be 'a few people, of course, who would be associated with the Capital, and would be a little better off financially, but Australia would be no sounder than it is to-day. No better legislation would be passed at Canberra than would be passed in this chamber.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Query !

Senator EARLE - There is no query at all.

Senator Payne - They say the air is very rejuvenating.

Senator EARLE - The air is very bracing. In Victoria there are many samples of weather, and if you do not like one kind you can have another. I ridicule the idea that members of this Chamber can be influenced, browbeaten, inveigled, or coerced into some -action that they would not be guilty of if they were in the isolated position of the Federal Capital. The suggestion is ridiculous" I remember, in 1917, when thousands of people were on the steps of Parliament House, howling and declaring that they would do this, that, and the other to members if they could not get what they wanted. Did it have the slightest influence on any member of this Chamber or of the other Legislature? Surely not. If any member were influenced, he would be unfitted for the trust that his electors have reposed in him. As far as legislation is concerned, it will not be altered by the fact that it is enacted in the isolated position at Canberra. While I want to assure the Senate that no influence can change my adherence to the contract, which I realize has got to be carried out, I am strongly opposed to any endeavour to force the Government to incur extraordinary expenditure at the present time. The agitation to break the contract, which has been referred to by the Minister, has no sympathy from me.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - . What is the difference between breaking it and not fulfilling it?

Senator EARLE - The honorable senator knows perfectly well that to break the contract would mean that the Federal Capital would never be erected. To delay its erection while the cost of material is 100 per cent, over the normal cost is another question altogether. I said some twelve months ago that, although there was then a certain amount of unemployment in Australia, I could foresee a day when unemployment would be more keenly felt, and when the Government would be very glad that they had one, two, or three millions of money to expend in finding work for the people. The carrying out of this work at Canberra is a consideration that might influence members to some degree, but I want to say that I am not going to vote for this motion as it stands. If a motion is proposed, setting forth that this Parliament has no sympathy with any agitation for breaking the compact entered into and embodied in the Constitution, I shall be in sympathy with it, and I will vote for it; but I will not vote for a motion calling on- the Government to expend money in the erection of a Capital which can be done without for a considerable time, when money is so badlyrequired for other purposes.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Which side is the honorable senator on?

Senator EARLE - The honorable senator is so uncertain of the position he occupies that I cannot say whether I am with him or against him. If he stands to his present motion, I am against him. If he will alter the motion' by striking out " the present . session " and inserting " 1930;" or if he will agree to insert some reasonably distant date, I will support it.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Suppose I make it 1950.

Senator EARLE - I am afraid that the- honorable senator would be too old at that time to care whether the resolution was given effect to or not. I think I have made my position clear to honorable senators, if not to Senator Thomas. I support carrying out the compact when the- time is opportune, but I am of opinion, that the present time is not opportune.

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