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Thursday, 3 November 1921

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I am very glad to have had the opportunity of bringing my motion before the Senate. I. desire to thank Senator Bakhap, whose motion had precedence of mine on the business-paper, for being good enough to give way to me this evening, in order that the debate on my motion might be concluded. I have accepted the amendment for a reason somewhat different from that which has commended it to Senator Vardon. Senator Vardon has accepted it because he is not in favour of my motion. I have accepted it because I do not think I could carry my motion, and it is' wise, in the circumstances, that I should accept the next best thing. I am prepared to admit that if work3 to be carried out at Canberra must undergo investigation by the Public Works Committee, it would be impossible for us to call the next session of Parliament at the Federal Capital. I shall not further refer to the Public Works Committee now, as I have a separate motion on the paper dealing with it.

The main objection raised to my motion to-night and when it was first discussed is that we have not the mo. "j now to give it effect. It is somewhat comical, when we come to consider where this objection comes from. Of all the money which will be spent at Canberra, 43 per cent, will come from the people of New South Wales, and 37 "'per cent, from the people of Victoria. I will say this to the honour of the Victorians, that during the debate on my motion not a single word has been uttered by a Victorian senator against our going to Canberra. One member of the Ministry who spoke today is a representative of Victoria, and said that he is in. f avour of going there as soon as possible. Not one word of protest against expenditure at Canberra has come from Victorian senators.

Senator Keating - That shows a very generous spirit.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, a very generous spirit, especially in view of what is being said by the Victorian press. As a matter of fact, then, not a single word against my motion on the ground of expense has been uttered by honorable senators who represent States that will have to bear 80 per cent, of the expense. Poor little South Australia is the only State whose representatives have kicked up a row, and have said that we cannot go to

Canberra because of the expense. How much of the expense will South Australia have to pay ? She may have to pay 2½ or 1¾ per cent.

Senator Vardon - Oh, make it bank interest.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - One cannot but be amused at the source of the objection to the motion on the ground of expense. Let me remind honorable senators that last year we had to meet a loss of £500,000 on the East-West railway. Western Australia and South Australia derive most benefit from that railway, yet New South Wales has to pay 43 per cent, of the annual loss upon it. The representatives of South Australia come along and say, "We cannot go to Canberra yet because of the expense." Four or five men in Adelaide have not yet had their telephones installed, and until they are supplied with telephones we cannot raise money for expenditure on the Federal Capital.

Senator Keating - It is proposed to build a Convention Hall as one of the first buildings to be erected' in . Canberra. What would the honorable senator think if the Convention considered the desirableness of amending the section of the Constitution which fixes the Federal Capital in New South Wales?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I , say that I would not approve of it, because I am. not in favour of any Constitutional Convention at present.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon T Givens - I hope the honorable senator will not digress into a discussion of the Convention.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You willadmit, sir, that it was not my fault that the matter was referred to. I want to say that 982 square miles have been handed over by New South Wales for the Federal Territory when, under the Constitution, that State need not have handed over more than 100 square miles.

Senator Keating - But they are not much good.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, they are. This area was handed over, not merely because of the necessity for a watershed, but because it was asked for for the Federal Capital. A certain amount of revenue is coming from the Territory now, and a good deal more will be derived from it in the future. I have it on the authority of Mr. Holman, who was Premier, and Mr. Cann, who was Minister of Works in New South Wales" at the time when the Federal Territorywas handed over to the Commonwealth - and I am justified in using their names,, because I have their authority to do so - that, had they known that it would be twenty years before the Seat of Government would be transferred to Canberra, they, as members of the New South Wales Government, would never have agreed to hand over that area.

Senator Russell - It was open toother persons to reply that they would not have a Federal Capital without a Court.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be but the fact remains that for twenty years we have had the land which the State Government might have developed, and,, like the dog in the manger, we have done nothing with it. I do not wish to takeup any further time. I have been lookingup the exact definition of the words"early" and "practicable." I find that. the dictionary meaning of " early " is"soon, betimes," and. ''practicable"" means "capable of being put into practice, done, or accomplished." I thereforeasume that the expression " the earliest, practicable time " means the earliest time that it is possible to be done. I have said that I am glad that the discussion has taken place, and I trust that the motion, as amended, will be carried unanimously, because it will definitely commit the Senate to the resolution that every practical effort will be made to get to Canberra at the. earliest possible time.

Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment, agreed to.

Original question, as amended, resolved, in the affirmative.

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