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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - I intend to support the amendment, not because I like it, but because I am opposed to the proposition submitted by Senator Thomas. When speak ing to the motion I suggested to the honorable senator that the time in which to complete the construction of the Federal Capital should be limited to ten years, and I am amazed to find how complacent New South Wales senators are in agreeing to an amendment of this character. It is absolutely indefinite; and, if they had agreed to the suggestion I submitted, the Capital would have to be established within a fixed period, whereas under this amendment it may be thirty years. What is the " earliest practicable date " ?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should say six months.

Senator VARDON - That is because the honorable senator is an impracticable man. Money is urgently required for important public works and an extension of our present developmental policy.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even for the North-South railway?

Senator VARDON - " King Charles' head " bobs up again. At present, we are needing money for many important Commonwealth public works ; and I have been informed in regard to telephonic . connexions that, after all the money allocated to the Postal Department this financial year has been spent, there will, still be 5,000 people waiting, for telephones. That is scandalous. When important public undertakings are being retarded, " patriotic " senators from New South Wales are urging the Government to expedite the establishment of a Federal Capital which is not required. In spite of the demand for increased postal, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities, these honorable senators are endeavouring to expedite this work, and £200,000 has been placed on the Estimates this year for that purpose. Senator Duncan, in referring to South Australia, dealt with the question of the Northern Territory, and spoke as if the taking over of that Territory was a compact with South Australia; but the Commonwealth was anxious to take over the Northern Territory.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator seriously suggest that?

Senator VARDON - Of course I do.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was a member of the Government when the Northern Territory was taken over, and it was the South Australian members in the House of Representatives who strongly advocated it.

Senator VARDON - The arrangement made when the Territory was taken over was that a direct railway would be built from Oodnadatta to Port Darwin.

Senator Russell - Those who voted for the taking over of the Northern Territory did not commit a crime.

Senator VARDON - I am not suggesting that they did.

Senator Russell - I am proud of having voted for it in the national interest.

Senator VARDON - Some honorable senators have suggested that South Australia's administration of the Northern Territory was defective; but it must be remembered that the overland telegraph line was constructed by South Australia at her own expense, and that line was a distinct benefit to the whole of Australia.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And South Australia was paid for every message sent over the line.

Senator VARDON - The South Australian Government also constructed the line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - South Australia never spent a penny on the Northern Territory.

Senator VARDON - Who constructed the Darwin to Pine Creek line?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was built on money raised abroad, and the liability was taken over by the Commonwealth. It never cost South Australia a penny.

Senator VARDON - South Australia undertook to build a line from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, and also constructed the railway from Adelaide to Oodnadatta.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bakhap). - Order! The honorable senator will be in order in making a brief reference to the action of the South Australian Government in connexion with certain public works ; but he cannot enter into a lengthy discussion on that point in debating the motion before the Chair.

Senator VARDON - I was merely referring to points raised by Senator Duncan. In regard to the debt taken over by the Commonwealth, it is interesting to recall that it represents only 2d. per acre, which is not very great. I intend to support the amendment; but I would have preferred a definite date to have been fixed for the reasons stated.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because it would have been done quicker.

Senator VARDON - I do not mind if the work is completed in less than ten years provided money can be found without jeopardizing the interests of our developmental and works policy.

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