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Thursday, 19 October 1911

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) .- I desire to second the motion, and to commend it as briefly as I can to the favour of the Senate. It appears to me that, either consciously or unconsciously, the present Government are doing all they can to further a process which, in my opinion, is likely to be disastrous to Australia, namely, the gathering together large numbers of the population in a few big centres. We have in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide, large cities, the populations of which are out of proportion to the number of people dwelling in country districts. It appears to me that, instead of doing anything which would counteract that tendency, the Government are doing everything in their power to further it. A little while ago an article appeared in a very powerful journal, which claims to be national in its policy - the Age, published in this city. That journal argued that, as Sydney has had such and such a work established by the Government, it was now Melbourne's turn to get something else. It appears to me that people who hold that view think that Melbourne and Sydney are all that count in this country. Even New South Wales and Victoria, outside the capital cities, do not appear to count. The Commonwealth does not count. Nothing counts but the big cities. I am altogether opposed to that policy. The first thing that should be considered by this or any other Ministry is the welfare of Australia, not the welfare of any particular city.

What is the position to-day in regard to the Capital site? So far from furthering the establishment in our own Territory of our own works, not a single thing has been done by this Ministry since the site was selected to establish anything in the nature of a Commonwealth work there. The Government have been put to great expense in purchasing or leasing offices and sites for the establishment of factories. Byandby, when we move into our own Territory, those factories will be scattered all over the face of the continent. They will require separate supervision and separate power to work them. We shall have nothing in our own Territory at all. I privately expressed my opinion to the Government at the time when the clothing factory was going to be established, that it ought to be placed in the Commonwealth Territory. The view put to me in answer to my argument was, that it would be impossible at present to get a sufficient number of employes to work the factory effectively in the Federal Territory. With all due respect and deference to those who hold that view, I submit that it is the purest bunkum. If profitable employment is to be found in a place there will always be employes willing to work there. How are we going to get population into the Federal Territory? How are we going to establish a decent city there, worthy of being the Capital of Australia, if we establish all our Federal industries in the metropolitan centres? We must find profitable employment for the people whom we expect to live there, and the sooner we make a beginning in that respect the better it will be. We have a small arms factory in a remote place called Lithgow. We have a cordite factory at Maribyrnong, a few miles from Melbourne, almost upon the sea shore, where it would be within easy reach of an enemy. We are going to have other factories established elsewhere. It appears that the only consideration actuating the minds of the Government is that, because there is a large population in a particular centre, factories ought to be established there.

Senator Millen - From what the honorable senator says, it would appear that every place in Australia will have a Federal factory, except the Federal Territory.

Senator GIVENS - We are tending in that direction. It is said that the buildings erected for the purposes of the clothing factory, and other factories, are merely temporary. Why go to the expense of erecting temporary buildings, and putting machinery in them, when further expense will have to be incurred hereafter to move them? I venture to say, however, that, when the time comes to shift these factories, Cain will be raised about our ears by indignant people, who will want the factories to be retained in other parts of Australia to increase the value of their own property and add to their own importance. Now the only consideration that counts with me is the interest of Australia. I am not asking for any Federal work to be established in Brisbane, or anywhere else in Queensland. I simply ask that the interests of Australia shall be looked after in this matter. A regular tug-of-war is going on as to where the Australian Naval Station shall be. A great deal is said about the claims of Sydney as the naval head-quarters of the Commonwealth. Melbourne indignantly puts forward a claim on behalf of Western Port as the finest site. We never hear a word about the claims of Jervis Bay nowadays. When the merits of the various Capital sites were under review, we were told that we had a splendid harbor at Jervis Bay. But now, it seems to have been swallowed up by the waters of the Pacific. I suppose that the very headlands have disappeared in the ocean. These things set one thinking. Why should two big cities like Sydney and Melbourne be able to exercise such an overweening influence upon the Commonwealth? There are one or two other reasons in favour of the motion which should be considered by the Senate. I am not so pessimistic as Senator McDougall is in believing that it does not matter what the Senate may do. I am perfectly certain that if the Senate puts its foot down firmly with regard to this matter, it can make the position of any Government that chooses to ignore its dictum very awkward indeed. Therefore, I do not agree with Senator McDougall in the view that it is useless for the Senate to express its opinion as it ought to do. Holding a strong opinion on the subject myself, I feel sure that, if that opinion is indorsed by the Senate, it will have a powerful influence upon the present or any other Government. I wish to emphasize one or two remarks made by Senator McDougall as to why the factories in question should be situated in the Federal Territory. Take, first, the matter of defence. We have a small arms factory and a cordite factory established about as far apart as we could possibly put them. But it is an undoubted fact, which, I think, will be vouched for by all competent military authorities, that it is highly desirable that those factories should be working side by side. At any rate, they should be as close together as possible. I believe it to be desirable that those factories, and all other military depôts, should be absolutely within the Federal Territory. It may be said that ari argument of that kind is rather far-fetched, because the factories at present are within the bounds of the Commonwealth. But they are not within bounds fully controlled by the Commonwealth Parliament, unless they are situated in Commonwealth Territory.

Senator Millen - That is to say, we do not exercise sovereign rights over them.

Senator GIVENS - Undoubtedly we do not; and that is the point that I wish to emphasize. We cannot exercise sovereign rights over those factories, unless they are within Federal Territory. When theUnited States first became a Federation, no. one dreamt that there would be internal trouble within half a century. But we all know that there occurred in that country a civil war which was one of the most disastrous and destructive that the world has ever seen. Any one who, at the time of the establishment of the United States, had predicted that such a war could occur, would have been laughed at as a pessimistic fool. Yet within about three-quarters of a century there was the most disastrous struggle in that country which the world has ever seen - a war which, I believe, entailed a greater human suffering, loss in human life, and material wealth than any other war which the world has ever seen. There is, I think, no one in Australia who does not hope that such a thing will never occur here. But everybody must recognise that while we have six States, each with occasional warringinterests, or what they consider as warring interests, and each suffering from what they may regard as a grievance, there, is always the possibility, even if there is not the probability, of internal trouble arising. In fact, it was only the other day that there was serious talk of a secession in Tasmania, with a population the size of that of an overgrown village. If internal, trouble should arise in Australia, in what sort of position would the Commonwealth be if it had not within its own boundary and control its arms factory, its cordite factory, and its ammunition factory? Suppose, for instance, that trouble arose between the Commonwealth and Victoria, and that Victoria was able at once to seize our cordite factory and shut off our supplies- of ammunition. That State would undoubtedly be able to dictate terms to the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - No, because New South Wales could commandeer the arms.

Senator GIVENS - My honorable friend must recollect that probably the arms would have been distributed before; but suppose that he is correct, and that trouble arose between the Commonwealth and New South Wales, and that the latter seized our arms factory and left us armless and defenceless, in what sort of position would we be ? Probably the Government would try to rectify that evil by having an arsenal in another State. But suppose that that State took up a like position, kicked up a row with the Commonwealth, and seized our reserve supplies, we should be in a pretty queer kettle of fish. At any rate, while these things are not probable, there is always a possibility that something of the kind may occur. I submit in all seriousness that for the proper conduct and safeguarding of its Defence Forces, the Commonwealth should undoubtedly make sure that all these factories are located within territory over which it will have sovereign rights, and in which only its own authorities can interfere. I believe also that if we have a sincere desire to make a Capital worthy of the Commonwealth we should do everything in our power to immediately set about the business, and build up a large, populous, wealthy, and prosperous city at YassCanberra, which is practically a waste place at present. I believe that the electoral returns disclose that there are only 800 voters in the 900 odd square miles of territory under the control of the Commonwealth. If we convert that waste into a smiling and happy country with a population of 150,000 within the next ten or fifteen years, we shall have accomplished something good for Australia. But if we add to the population of Melbourne, or Sydney, or Adelaide, we shall be doing injury to Australia. I do not know how many men are employed in the various factories already set up by the Commonwealth. But I venture to say that if those factories and others which are projected are located in Commonwealth Territory, and also all the employés with the people dependent upon them, and the other hundred and one persons who will be called on to administer to their wants by setting up accommodation houses, building private factories, and running stores and shops, we shall very soon have a very considerable population there. In my opinion, that is the way to gradually set about the building up of a Federal Capital. At any rate, I am entirely opposed to the policy of further centralizing the population of Australia in a few large cities. I think that the Government will be well advised if they take into consideration at the earliest possible moment the desirableness, and indeed, the necessity of establishing Commonwealth works within territory over which we shall have sovereign rights and control.

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