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Thursday, 19 July 1906

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) .- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister who administers the Patents Act a case which well illustrates the difficulties arising from the fact that "there is only one Patents Office. A certain resident of Sydney applied for a patent, and the time for his making the deposit of £5 expired on a certain Saturday. On the previous Friday the applicant went to the General Post Office and obtained a post-office order for the amount, which he posted in time to reach Melbourne on the following day, in the . ordinary course. The Patents Office, however, closes- at 12 o'clock on Saturday, and, as the letter did not arrive before that hour, it was held that the time for lodging the deposit had expired. The consequence is that this man has lost his patent. This case shows the necessity for patents offices in Sydney, Adelaide, and other cities-

Sir William Lyne - There is an office in Svdney.

Mr CONROY - But, unfortunately, the money had to be lodged in Melbourne.

Sir William Lyne - How long ago did' this case occur?

Mr CONROY - Two or three monthsago.

Sir William Lyne - I have>- found similar cases, and I think that now deposits may be lodged with the representative of the Commissioner in Sydney.

Mr CONROY - The Minister certainly has power to make regulations to prevent 1 the repetition of what is undoubtedly an> injustice, which ought to be rectified. Regard ought to be had to the date on which this money was posted in Sydney, and the mere lodging of the money at one of the Commonwealth Departments in time to arrive in Melbourne in the ordinary course, ought to be deemed sufficient compliance with the Act.

Sir William Lyne - I think such cases have been provided for in the latest regulations, under which, as in New Zealand, the post-mark will be taken into consideration. .

Mr CONROY - I am glad to hear that statement from the Minister. I do not know whether the application in the case I have cited can be reinstated ; but that is a question for the Minister to determine. It might, of course, happen that this particular patent was of no particular value, though the contrary might be the case.

Sir William Lyne - If the honorable and learned member will send me a memorandum of the man's name and other particulars, I shall make inquiries.

Mr CONROY - I shall be glad to furnish the particulars. I should now like to ask the Minister when we are to have the itinerary settled for the proposed visit of inspection to the proposed Capital Sites, because time is steadily going on?

Mr Webster - In the meantime the Commonwealth is paying ^6,000 per annum as rent in Melbourne.

Mr CONROY - I am not complaining about the amount that has to be paid in rent, because I presume that when we establish the Federal 'Capital, the interest on the new buildings will represent more than that amount. At present we are paying only part of the interest on the expenditure on the buildings occupied. In any case, the money is supplied by exactly the same set of citizens, and, as I say, any change must involve extra expense. However, the Constitution provides that there must be a Federal Capital, and it is only right and proper that the Constitution should be put into operation. Every honorable member will agree that it would have been infinitely better had there been inserted in the Constitution a provision that, if the site were not selected within three or four years after the establishment of Federation, the Parliament should meet in Sydney. Had that been done, we should probably have heard nothing of the bush capital for many years.

Mr Bamford - At all events, not from New South Wales.

Mr CONROY - Nor from the representatives of the other States. In order to keep honorable members in touch with thought in the great centres of civilization throughout Australia, and to prevent delay in the delivery of the numerous letters that must be addressed to them, the site of the Capital should be near, if not on, the main line between Melbourne and Sydney. The Federal Capital must be easy of access. When we reach it we shall probably have from 100 to 150 officials stationed there, and it is not fair that we should take them away from all the benefits of civilization. Honorable members would not care to reside with their families in some out-of-the-way place where they could not obtain the facilities for educating their children that offer elsewhere, and we should recollect that the officers of our staffs will be equally desirous of having some adequate opportunity for the education of their children. When we arrive at a truer sense of what our legislative functions are we shall not have long sessions, and if the Capital be established away from the main lines of communication, we may have practically a deserted village during eight or ten months of the year. A hardship would thus be imposed, not on honorable members, but on the officers and others who must necessarily take up their residence in the Capital. I should be delighted to see the Ministry make an effort to determine this question. We have in this case an illustration of the fallacy of neglecting to make a big question a party matter. Honorable members are free to vote for this site or that, without regard to what will be the effect of their selection, and the position in regard to this question is an indication of what would happen in the absence of party government. In such circumstances no decision is arrived at, except under great outside pressure. ' This has not been made a party question, and consequently it still remains undetermined. I trust that there will yet arise a Ministry which will make this a party question and settle it.

Mr Ronald - Did we not select a site?

Mr CONROY - We selected a site without consulting the State that ought to have been consulted. At the time the question was raised whether many honorable members did not make the selection, not because it was the most suitable, but because it would be the least disagreeable to the bulk of the members of this Legislature.

Mr Webster - Because of their political necessities.

Mr CONROY - That may have had something to do with the decision. It certainly did not create in the minds of the bulk of the people of New South Wales the belief that it was intended as a sincere step towards the settlement of the question. That being so, there rightly, prevails in the great mother State a feeling of irritation at the dilatoriness of the Federal Parliament in dealing with this matter.

Mr Wilson - If the honorable and learned member had voted for Tooma, it would have been all right.

Mr CONROY - Surely the honorable member would not have me vote for a site which might be within the letter, but would be completely outside the spirit, of the law. That would be a breach of fa'ith which ought not to be suggested in this House.

Mr Storrer - That is a reflection upon the majority of honorable members.

Mr CONROY - The majority in this House did not vote for the selection of Tooma. The honorable member must be quite unaware of the decision of the Conference of Premiers that the Capital should be within a reasonable distance of Sydney. I believe that the limit proposed by the present leader of the Opposition was seventy-five miles, whilst that suggested by the right honorable member for Balaclava was 200 miles. As a compromise, it was decided that the Capital should be within a distance of not less than 100 miles from Sydney.

Mr Webster - Those facts have only recently " slipped out of the bag."

Mr Watkins - They were not known at the time.

Mr CONROY - That is so. I am satisfied that the general sense of fairness of this House is such that Dalgety would not have been chosen had those facts been brought before the House at the time.

Mr Webster - And thousands of pounds would have been saved.

Mr CONROY - I quite agree that probably there would not have been such a waste of time. The honorable member for North Sydney made a statement as to the understanding arrived at, but, curiously enough, it escaped the notice of the House.

Mr Webster - That was a statement in the newspapers. He himself did not know that it was authenticated.

Mr Bamford - The whole thing was childish in the extreme.

Mr CONROY - I quite agree with the honorable member as to that. I thought from the commencement that there should be no limitation as to distance, and I am quite satisfied that, had that been the case, the State that would have gained is New South Wales ; because she, being the mother State, the first Federal Parliament would of necessity have met there, and, as no pressure would have been brought to bear upon Parliament to move away from Sydney, it is extremely likely that it would have met there for half a generation to come, if not for ever. I complain that we do not seem to be any nearer a solution of this question than we have been from the beginning. There does not seem to be, on the part of the Government, that eagerness to settle it which they ought to exhibit. If they were to state that this is a moribund Parliament, and that an entirely new body of men should be elected before it would be wise to re-open the question, that would be an excuse to which a good deal of weight ought to be attached. But the Government has" not put forward that as a reason for mot pushing on with the question. I have no hesitation in saying that, with our knowledge of what took place at the Premier's Conference, if the matter were re-opened it is extremely likely that a satisfactory solution would be arrived at without any trouble. I am in some difficulty* with regard to this subject, . because two or three of the newly suggested sites happen to be in mv electorate. But merely because they are there, I am not precluded' from referring to the question. I have been particularly careful, in all the speeches I have made, not to make any statement beyond what I conceive to be the actual facts in relation to the sites that have been suggested. I suggest to the Government that arrangements should be made as soon aspossible for a visit to the sites brought under our notice by the Premier of New South Wales. The sooner the visit takes place, the greater the probability of a settlement being arrived at.

Mr. WATKINS(Newcastle) [9.4^-- I wish to refer to a matter which I have previously brought under the notice of the Minister representing the Defence Depart- ment. I refer to the necessity for providing long-service medals for the members of the Naval Brigade, such as are provided for the members of our land Forces. I have never received a satisfactory answer from the Department in respect to this matter. If there is any one Department under the Commonwealth which more than another is particularly skilful in evading an awkward question, and in giving no satisfactory reason why a request should be entertained, commend me to the Defence Department.

Mr Ewing - Was not the reply that the naval authorities in England did not grant long-service medals?

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