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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) - In the first place, this Bill seeks to delimit the area of the Federal Territory, and to render more secure, if that be possible, the selection of Dalgety as the site for the Federal Capital. Therefore, it flies in the face of the most strenuous opposition of New South Wales, first as to the excessive area of the proposed territory, and secondly as to the choice of the site. The Minister of Home Affairs, in introducing the Bill, seemed to rely upon the action of a former Premier of New South Wales, who had refused to take advantage of the- opportunity afforded to him to indicate his choice in regard to the site of the Capital. Secondly, he relied on the fact that Dalgety had been among the sites offered by New South Wales to this Parliament. He admitted that the people of that State were very strongly opposed to Dalgety, and relied on the mistakes which he asserted had been made by the Premiers of New South Wales, as sufficient reason to ignore the present agitation in that State. His advocacy of the Bill savoured strongly of partisanship, as did also that of the Attorney-General, who spoke as an Age leader, apparently because he is not able to speak as a leaderin this Chamber. The Postmaster-General endeavoured to engender a great amount of heat in regard to Dalgety, but he could not induce anything more than an artificial glow with regard to that notorious freezing chamber. He told us that only those who had a bad cause need abuse the other side, and he forthwith proceeded to violently denounce every other site than that within his own electorate. We can all admire the earnest advocacy of the Minister, but we cannot admit that Dalgety would be an acceptable site for the Federal Capital. It does not commend itself to the good judgment of two-thirds of the members in this Chamber. Under these circumstances, we should pay no regard to any mistakes that may have been committed by the State Ministers or by the people of New South Wales, to the aspiration of the Age or its creatures, or to the very natural indignation of the Postmaster-General. It1 is our duty to consider the bond, which we have to honour not only in letter, but in spirit. That bond was entered into under peculiar circumstances, which I do not propose to recapitulate. But for the arrangement embodied therein New South Wales would never have agreed to enter the Federation. Therefore, it behoves us to consider, not only the orovisions of the Constitution, but also the circumstances which led up to their adoption. Honorable members have had before them during the course of this debate the actual resolutions arrived at at the Premiers' Conference. It was the spirit of those resolutions which induced New South Wales to enter the Federation.

Mr KING O'MALLEY (DARWIN, TASMANIA) - New South Wales led the Federation.

Mr KELLY - New South Wales., as the honorable member knows, did not enter the Federation until those resolutions had been adopted.

Mr King O'malley - It was the New South Wales Premier who submitted the first motion in favour of Federation at Hobart.

Mr KELLY - I am not referring to that matter. The particular resolution to which I am alluding reads -

It is considered that the fixing of the site of the Capital is a question which might well be left for the Parliament to decide; but in view of the strong expression of opinion in relation to this matter in New South Wales, the Premiers have modified the clause so that, while the Capital cannot be fixed in Sydney or in its neighbourhood, provision is made in the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales at a reasonable distance from that city.

The Constitution substitutes for " at a reasonable distance from that city ' ' the words " not less than 100 miles from Sydney." The resolution declared that the Seat of Government should not be at Sydney or in its neighbourhood. The words of the Constitution clearly express that idea, but explain how near it may be. That is the bond to which we must give effect. What is the position at which we have arrived ? We are now told that " not less than 100 miles from Sydney " may mean 300 miles from that city. In the same way we are assured that " not less than 100 square miles " of territory may mean 900 square miles. Under such circumstances, is there not considerable reason for the very strong flame of discontent which is burning in the mother State? Some honorable members have made a very great point of the necessity for access to the sea from the Capital. We have been told that if it is located in the centre of New South Wales, that State may unduly influence the Commonwealth by refusing her people access to it. The Attorney-General originally supported the Welaregang site for that reason.

Mr Isaacs - I would support it now if Dalgety were out of the way.

Mr Webster - Will the AttorneyGeneral agree to put it out of the way?

Mr Isaacs - I will if the honorable member will agree to the substitution of Welaregang.

Mr KELLY -Will the AttorneyGeneral agree to excise the word " Dalgety " from the Seat of Government Act, and to allow honorable members to fight for the selection of whatever site they may choose ? At the present time, I would point out, the Commonwealth is absolutely dependent upon the good- will of the States to carry on all its agencies. Our Customs and postal officials would find it absolutely impossible to discharge their ordinary duties if anv State refused to permit them to do sp. Seeing that the agencies of the Commonwealth can be entirely "held up" by any State at the present time, where is the need for all the* talk in which honorable members have indulged in regard to the Federal territory ' having access to the sea? The Government have approached this matter as if they were dealing with a hostile Power. The Minister of Home Affairs has asked for a report upon the best means of securing access to the sea from Dalgety, the strip of land to be fifteen miles wide. Surely if what is required is merely legal access, the Commonwealth does not need more than a fifty-foot roadway. In conclusion, I say that it is, our duty to settle this question as quickly as possible, and to settle it in such a way as will secure for New South Wales, a proper recognition of the spirit of the band. In this connexion, honorable members should recollect that they are the trustees of the word of honour of the States' to the people of New South Wales. That fact should induce us to hesitate before we disregard the attitude taken up by one of the parties, to that compact. All the world over the word of an Englishman is accepted as the hall-mark of honour. I trust that as Britishers we shall endeavour to prevent the word of honour of the States being violated, and that we shall' give effect to the constitutional compact in a way that will be worthy of the best traditions of the race to which we belong.

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