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Thursday, 19 October 1911

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister of Defence) . - The motion is one which the members of the Government will not oppose, because they have already endeavoured, wherever possible, to give effect to it. At the same time, it must be remembered that the proposition embodied in it cannot be put into practice so easily as Senator Rae seems to think. I venture to say that if any attempt were made to put it into practice in the rough and ready fashion that the honorable senator suggests, we should have a very great muddle to deal with in the Federal Capital when we came to build the CitY. Senator Rae and, I think, Senator Givens also have pointed out that we should endeavour to make the Federal Capital a model city, to avoid in it the mistakes of other cities, and in laying out the city and its surroundings to make it all that it should be. 1 ask honorable senators to consider the difficulty which that at once puts in the way of an immediate realization of this motion. So far, the Federal Capital has not been laid out. No plans of it have yet been adopted. The Government are taking- steps, in order that the city shall be all that several speakers have contended it ought to be, to invite world-wide competition in the designing of plans for the laying-out of the city.

Senator Givens - It was never contemplated that factories would be established inside the boundary of the city proper.

Senator PEARCE - The difficulty is that we do not know what is the boundary of the city proper. If we establish a factory there now, we might subsequently find that it would be within the city boundary, and possibly in one of the main streets. I could take Senator Givens to a street in one of the capital cities of Australia which is one of the finest streets in that city, with the exception of one part, in which there is a kink. That came about in this way : The surveyor sent out by the Imperial Government to survey the city, happened to plant his cottage there before he started his survey. When he completed his survey of the city, he found that his cottage was right in the middle of this street, and, instead of shifting his cottage, he shifted the street.

Senator Millen - He was a man of resource.

Senator PEARCE - No doubt he was. If we adopted Senator Givens' suggestion, we might subsequently find that we had located our harness, or our clothing, factory in a main street of the Federal Capital.

Senator Givens - As a matter of fact, the boundaries of the city are mapped out now.

Senator PEARCE - That statement is quite incorrect. It is true that what it was proposed should be the boundaries of the Capital were mapped out ; but that work is by no means arbitrary. And when the city is laid out, it is possible that the boundaries so far fixed may be changed.

Senator Walker - The honorable senator was referring to the city of Perth in the illustration he gave.

Senator PEARCE - Yes ; to St. George' s-terrace, in Perth. In pursuance of this policy, with which the Government have every sympathy, it was decided to locate the Military College at the Federal Capital, and the Defence Department at once received an intimation from the Home Affairs Department that they could not say where the college could be located, because it was not yet decided where the city was going to be. The very reason that the buildings of the present Military College are of a temporary character is that that question is not settled, and cannot be settled until the Capital is laid out. The Military College has been placed at a considerable distance from what it is thought will be the centre of the Capital, so that it may be on the environs of the city; and, but for that reason, it would have been placed much nearer to what is likely to be the site of the Capital. We have had to defer for the same reason the erection of some factories in the Federal Territory which I, personally, believe ought to be there, and would like to have seen established there. It is not right to say that the present Government are responsible for the sites chosen for the cordite and small arms factories. They were fixed by a previous Administration, possibly for the same reason as that which has actuated the present Government in the establishment of other factories. It should not be forgotten, also, that at the time the sites were chosen for the cordite and small arms factories, the site of the Federal Capital had not been decided upon.

Senator Millen - There was another factor - the supply of raw material - in the establishment of the factory at Lithgow.

Senator PEARCE - Yes; the local supply of steel, iron, and coal. We must either defer the establishment of factories, or establish them in temporary buildings, and face the expense of change and dislocation to which Senator Givens referred.

Senator Millen - Are the present factory buildings temporary buildings ?

Senator PEARCE - In some cases they are.I shall give instances presently. There is another difficulty to be considered, and that is the labour difficulty. I am sure that honorable senators on this side who believe in State enterprise wish to see it succeed. In order that it may succeed, we must have a full labour supply. In a clothing factory, for instance, the class of labour employed requires to be drawn from a big population. If we were to establish such a factory at a considerable distance from any large centre of population, we should have very great difficulty in securing the necessary labour to carry it on.

Senator Millen - What class of labour is the honorable senator referring to?

Senator PEARCE - I am referring to female labour. We have to remember that these State factories will come into direct competition with similar factories carried on by private persons in big centres of population.

Senator Rae - But not on even terms?

Senator PEARCE - Certainly, they will have to compete on even terms. We undertake in these factories to produce the articles required as economically as we could obtain them from contractors ; and, at the same time, to pay decent wages and provide good labour conditions. On present indications, we are doing that in the factories that have been established. If those who at present have the supplying of these articles, and who have recourse to an enormous labour market and the other facilities of a big centre of population, were competing with our factories, planted away in a place where there is no labour supply, we should be working at a very great disadvantage, and our opponents would immediately point to our operations as emphasizing the failure of State enterprise. It would be idle, then, to speak of the difficulty of obtaining labour, as that would not be regarded as a sufficient excuse. In pursuance of this policy, that our factories should be established in the Federal Capital, in the terms of this motion, " when practicable," we have, in the case ofthe clothing factory, erected such a building that, when we are in a position to move the factory to the Federal Capital, the building may be used as an ordnance store for military supplies for the State of Victoria ; while the machinery, being small, can be easily transported. In the case of the harness factory, we have purchased premises that have a market value, and which it will be possible to dispose of in the open market for as much, if not more, than we have given for them. The machinery of this factory is also small, and may be easily removed. As soon as the difficulties I have indicated in connexion with the Federal Capital are overcome, there is no reason why this motion should not be given effect to. I understand that it is the scheme of the Home Affairs Department to provide the power necessary to run these factories, and any other industrial works which may be started at the Federal Capital. Provision is to be made for an electric lighting and power-developing plant. This is not yet in existence, and if we established our factories in ithe Federal Territory to-day, we should have to work them with the most costly power - steam power.

Senator Vardon - Where are we to get the water-power necessary?

Senator PEARCE - It is supposed that the Cotter River will provide water for the necessary power.

Senator Vardon - I do not believe it ever will.

Senator PEARCE - That is such an old story that I suggest to Senator Vardon that he might refresh his memory on the subject by reading some of the old debates on the choice of a site for the Federal Capital.

Senator Givens - And especially the Minister's own speech on the subject of the water-power of the Cotter.

Senator PEARCE - Yes; if the honorable senator will read my speech after we had been supplied with the latest reports as to the water supply available at the present site, he will see that I proved that there would be ample for domestic purposes, and for power also.

Senator Millen - The Minister of Defence then proved that Senator Pearce was wrong.

Senator PEARCE - No; the Minister of Defence then proved that Senator Pearce had acted on insufficient information, in the first place. I have shown that the policy of the Government is to give effect to this motion as far as practicable, and as soon as practicable. There are, however, and always will be, in a huge continent like Australia, difficulties in concentrating Government establishments in any one portion of it. To think of doing so is ridiculous. There must necessarily be industrial and other establishments scattered all over the country. The question, therefore, ought to be this - that so far as we can economically put those factories and public services in the Federal Territory, it shall be done. That is the policy which we propose to carry out. I do not know that I need add anything more. We are dealing largely with a question of the future. We have to remember that while the resources of the Federal Territory are undoubtedly great, and while coal is to be found in the vicinity, nevertheless, those resources are not yet developed. The coal seams are not being worked. Even if they were, there is at present no railway to bring the coal to the Capital. Therefore a large amount of preliminary expenditure will have to be incurred before the rosy picture painted by Senator McDougall can be realized. As one who wishes to see the Capital, not only a. political, but an industrial centre, I am anxious to do all that is possible to develop its resources. That has been the policy of this Government. We believe that we are taking action in that direction in an orderly fashion; first of all by mapping out our plans, and then, when those plans .are properly prepared, by developing our resources, opening up communications, and establishing industries, lt must be remembered also that the very fact that we do develop the resources and open up communications will in itself bring a large population to the Territory, thereby giving us the labour for the industrial concerns which we are anxious to promote. For these reasons, I have to say, on behalf of the Government, that we have no objection to the motion.

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