Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 12 October 1921

Senator BENNY (South Australia) , - I would like to explain my position because, when the Estimates were before the Senate last year, I voted against the expenditure of £150,000 at Canberra. I did so, not because I had any desire to tear up a solemn obligation and a solemn compact entered into with New South Wales, but because I honestly and conscientiously believed that the time was not opportune. I differ to some extent from my colleague, Senator Wilson, and I may be taking my political life in my hands when I say that although I do not support Senator Thomas, although I do not believe in being rushed, into the building of this Capital, I support the Government in their wise, prudent, and cautious way of spending money by degrees on the Capital. After I had given my vote, I went to Canberra, andI am sorry to notice that many honorable senators have not taken the trouble to see it for themselves. I do not think Senator Wilson has been there.

Senator Wilson - You are quite wrong I have been there, and am not anxious to go there again.

Senator BENNY - You were therefor ten minutes when the Prince of Wales was there. I stayed there for a week, and found that £1,700,000 had been spent there. I found that all the spade work had been done, and that all. the statements that the newspaper press of Victoria and other countries have been circulating about the Cotter River being a trickle are lies. I found the Cotter a wide stream, containing the purest water in Australia. The Government has built a reservoir 50 feet deep, and extending for13/4 miles. I found that there was enough water at Canberra to reticulate not only the Capital, but, probably, the city of Melbourne. I found all these things actually in being, and I said, "Are we going to let the crows roost on this, apart altogether from our solemn obligation to NewSouth Wales?" found that a powerhouse and sewers had been constructed. I saw magnificent roads, far better than most of the- roads that we have in South Australia. I found a water supply, while practically nothing had to be done but to make the streets in the Capital, and to let public enterpriser select sites for business premises. I am sure that I am safe in: predicting that the result will be so good that the capital will pay for itself within a period of fifty years, which is a very short time in the history of a great nation. I was one of the senators who asked Mr. Hughes to construct the North-South railway. Mr. 'Hughes very generously and justly promised to go on with the work, at once. In fulfilment of his pledge he sent a party to inspect the track right from Oodnadatta to the Northern Territory, Can we expect the New South Wales members of this Senate to vote for the North-South railway if members for South Australia tear up the contract in regard to the Federal Capital? The members for New South Wales will bear me out when I say that I have never approached one of them for a vote.

Senator Wilson - Would the honorable senator say that they have not approached him?

Senator BENNY - I neither went to them, nor they to me. I have such an intense admiration for the character, the ability, and, I might almost say, the nobility, of members of this Senate, that I believe that there is not one of them who would make an unholy bargain for any purpose whatever, much less for the construction of the Federal Capital or theNorth-South railway. I am sorry that I cannot vote for the motion in its entirety, but I support the Government in its suggestion to spend the amount stated on the Estimates for Canberra - I cannot recall what the amount is at the moment - because the construction of the capital is a high and solemn duty that we owe not only to the people of New South Wales, but to the people of Australia.

Senator Wilson - The honorable senator is going . to supportthe Government, although he does not know the amount which the Government -propose to expend.

Senator BENNY - I know . that the amount proposed is . moderate. Iunderstand that it is £200,000. I intend to support the Government in the matter because I regard that as a duty I owe not only to the people of New South Wales but- to the- . people of Australia generally, whocome within my purview as a legislator for the whole continent. I am not here to . ponder to suggestions which decline to recognise the force of that grand old maxim, " Honesty is thebest policy."

If, as Senator Wilson has predicted, I go down because the people of South Australia will be so opposed to my attitude in regard to Canberra, I shall do so feeling that I have gone down as an honest man, and, I hope, as a good Australian.

Suggest corrections