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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator DUNCAN - It will sound very much more familiar to the honorable senator before this matter' is finally settled, no doubt. To my mind it is a complete answer to the statements of my honorable friends who say that the people of New South Wales are not in earnest. They are very much in earnest in seeing that the obligations entered into by the Commonwealth are fully discharged.

Senator Keating - Can the honorable senator say that the course suggested in. that resolution is practicable?

Senator DUNCAN - So far as the assembly of the next Federal Parliament at Canberra is concerned, I do not think it is, but I believe the Conference had in view the desirability of pointing out to certain honorable senators what their attitude as representatives of the people of the Commonwealth should be. I cannot understand the view of honorable senators from Souths Australia. The Commonwealth Government entered into a certain obligation with the State of South Australia, and a very considerable portion of that obligation has been discharged. The Government took over a white elephant in the Northern Territory that was costing South Australia tens of thousands, of pounds, every year, audi which, would have practically bankrupted that! State long, before now if. it had continued to " nurse the baby." The Commonwealth,, I repeat, took it over, and. has continued to administer its affairs at; an enormous loss every year, entirely in the interest of the people' of South Australia.

Senator Keating - But why indulge in these recriminations? Why not rest your case;on yaur constitutional rights'?

Senator DUNCAN - Well, I thought I might mention one obligation which the Commonwealthhas discharged towards the. people, of South Australia in order that I might emphasize the need for the fnlfalment of a prior, and I may add, a mace important; obligation, because it is constitutional - which the other was not - entered into between the Commonwealth and the people of New South Wales. So far it has not been fulfilled. We know, of course, that- because of the intervention of the war,, it was, not possible to continue with the building of the Capital city. But the war has- been over now for several years, and we should no longer hesitate. The cost of building is tumbling. Timber has fallen, and labour costs are coming down. In addition, there are enormous stacks of well-seasoned timber at Canberra. It is also possible to turn o.ut bricks, cheaper and better than in Tasmania or South Australia, and hundreds of thousands are ready. Where, then, is the need for all this quibbling about the cost of building? The. Advisory Committee which was appointed by the Government to inquire into- the position has advised that about, three years will elapse before the Federal Parliament can meet at Canberra. I do, not believe the necessary works could be completed earlier, but I am satisfied that if the Government enter into this business in the proper spirit it will be possible for the Federal Parliament to meet at Canberra in three years' time. As I have already pointed out, the cost of building is falling, and labour costs are also coming down. All over Australia thousands of returned soldiers are looking for employment. In what better way could they be engaged than in the construction of this great national work - the building of our Federal Capital? There need be no difficulty so far as labour is concerned.

Senator Keating - The Government missed the " bus " when our returned soldiers came home.

Senator DUNCAN - Of course- they did. The Government have since then trained thousands of returned soldiers, who are- now finding it difficult to secure employment in the, ordinary avenues of the building trade. They could have been, trained, and put to work on the Federal Capital scheme. Indeed, I think it is' not too late even now to do something in that direction.

SenatorKeating. - They builtup a fine sentiment abroad,- and after they came back they could have built up a fine Australian' sentiment at home.

Senator DUNCAN - Quite so. I thank the honorable senator for his suggestion. It is one that ought to appeal to every soldier senator in this chamber

Something has been said about the circular letter sent to honorable senators by the Hon. William Webster, an exPostmasterGeneral, known to fame for his poetry, and altogether a very estimable gentleman. But, unfortunately, Mr. Webster thinks if things are not done in just the way he wants them to be done they cannot be right. He had certain ideas concerning the building of the Federal Capital, and, as a member of the Cabinet, he attempted to have them carried out. Some were adopted, while others were not. Where the work was not done quite in accordance with his own ddeas, in his opinion it has not been done properly at all. But he is not alone in such egotism. I know other honorable gentlemen who, if they cannot get things all their own way, are firmlyconvinced that everything is not right. . It must be remembered, however, that Mr. Webster had nothing to say against the immediate construction of the Federal Capital. The most 'that he has said in his circular letter is that certain things have not been done properly, according to his point of view. But Mr. Webster is not a trained critic. He is not a builder. Neither is he an architect nor a constructional expert. Therefore he has no technical knowledge.

Senator Russell -He was a builder by trade.

Senator DUNCAN - That must have been a long time ago, I think. I do not know that he has any particular claim to" prominence as a builder of a capital city, and as against his inexperienced opinion, due, no doubt, to lack of knowledge, we may place the opinion 'of the gentlemen constituting the Advisory Committee that has been intrusted with the work of . building the city. All of them are trained in their several professions.

Senator Foster - Mr, Webster denies that so far as Colonel Owen is concerned.

Senator DUNCAN - Colonel Owenis only associated with theCommittee 'as a departmental officer, 'and for the purpose of co-ordinating the work of the Government Departments with the building schemes authorized by the Committee, the principal member of which is a man who has had very wide experience in other parts of the world. He has had ample opportunities in America to study just the class of work that is to be carried out at Canberra. He is a man with a very full knowledge of all details in connexion with -city building, and, with, his colleagues on the Committee, he is satisfied that the work already done at Canberra has been well done. The sewerage is ready, there is a magnificent water supply now available, the electrical and brickmaking plants are ready, and the roads havebeen constructed. In fact, everything is clear for the actual construction of the city itself, and New South Wales is now asking - I think I know the opinion of my State - that . the work . shall be proceeded wilh definitely. Do honorable senators think that we who represent New South Wales would concern ourselves in this matter to such an extent, and fight as we havebeen 'fighting of late, if we were not fully convinced that the people in New 'Soufi Wales were behind the -movement? We believethat at the next election they will he behind the party that is sincere in this matter, even if that party 'be the Labour party. It has been suggested that the Capital -city will never be built until a Labour 'Govemment gets into office. Sometimes I am almost afraidthere may be something in that suggestion. At all events, 'the people of my 'State are determined that thisconstitutionalobligation shallbecarried -out, and Ibelieve that they are prepared to do what they can to put in office, and continue to support, a 'Government that will do it. 'This is one of the biggest things, so far as our State is concerned, ihat we have 'had to face.

Senator Wilson - I thought the people of . New South Wales put Australia first.

SenatorDUNCAN. - And so, they do. They believe that this is a national undertaking, and that', as part of the constitutional contract, it should be completed. I believe that the people of South Australia., top, put Australia ifirst, and "thai;, as true Australians, they will indorse our attitude in the matter. I believe that the amendment, which I have ithe honour "to second, and which has been moved by Senator Foster at the request of the Go: vernment, will meet the wishes of the people of New South Wales, as it provides that the . Senate is of the opinion that the Government should take effective steps - not half-hearted ones - to insure ' the meeting of the Federal Parliament at Canberra at the earliest practicable date. If this is observed in the spirit as well as in the letter, there is no doubt that the Federal Capital will be established at Canberra within a very few years. In view of the attitude of the Government, and the support given to that attitude by Senator Foster, who has hitherto been a bitter opponent of the Federal Capital, I look forward with every confidence to taking part in a grand opening ceremony at the first meeting of the Parliament there before my time of office as a senator has expired.

Senator Wilson - Then the honorable senator is of the opinion that he will not be re-elected ?

Senator DUNCAN - No ; I have another four years to serve before I have to face the electors. I trust the honorable senator will be successful in being returned, and that I shall have the pleasure of being associated with him in the palatial hall to be erected at Canberra.

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