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Tuesday, 26 August 1902

Mr McCAY (Corinella) - In listening to this debate, I was very much surprised at the statement made by some honorable members from across the border that in New South Wales the Constitution was carried because it was understood that the GovernorGeneral was to reside there for a few months in each of a few years. Without doubting the veracity of any honorable member, that statement appears to me to be almost incredible. There was no State in the Union in which the Constitution in all its bearings was so fully discussed as it was in New South Wales, and under those circumstances I can scarcely realize that such a comparatively unimportant matter as where the Crown's representatives should reside during a few of the earlier years of the federation carried so much weight. But leaving out of consideration what was the understanding, it seems to me that this is not a question of whether Victoria or New South Wales is to hold up the body of the Governor-General for a few years as the spoils of war. The question is whether we are to establish a good or bad precedent regarding the expenditure of moneys belonging to the public, who we know are insistent that this Parliament shall exercise economy in every possible direction.

Mr Wilks - Let us have a speedy settlement of the capital site.

Mr McCAY - I have not the slightest objection to the adoption of that course. I think it was a huge mistake to insert in the Constitution the provision relating to that matter, and to bar all the other State capitals from becoming the future federal capital. The 100-miles ring around Sydney is not nearly as big as is the ring around the other capitals. I should be perfectly willing to put the names of Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide in a hat, and to draw lots as to which should be the capital. But, after all, the determination of this question, or of the temporary residence of the Governor-General, is of small importance compared with the great matters at issue in connexion with the federation. I cannot assume that the people of New South Wales would believe that that State had been wronged if Parliament declined to vote an annual sum of £2,000 for the maintenance of the vice-regal establishment in Sydney. The real question at issue is, whether in expending this money, we are setting a good example in regard to economies which must be exercised by this Parliament in all sorts of directions' for years to come, if the States are to be assisted in keeping down unnecessary expenditure. It has been said, and certainly the correspondence was laid upon the table to-day induces the belief, that we have entered into a sort of tenancy in respect of the Government-houses in Sydney and Melbourne. Granting that that is so, I cannot see why we should ask the people of the Commonwealth to continue' that tenancy any longer than is necessary. In each case the contract expires at the end of 1903, and I do not see why it should continue one moment longer. In certain despatches it is even suggested that when the Federal capital is established a third residence, should be provided for the Governor-General. Apparently we are to have one residence at the Federal capital, another at Melbourne, and a third at Sydney. When the Federal capital has been established within Commonwealth territory, I shall certainly refuse to vote for the maintenance of any vice-Regal residence, either in Melbourne or Sydney. I would not now vote for the upkeep of the Government-house in Melbourne, if Parliament were not sitting here. But where Parliament is in session, there the Governor-General must be located. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that the Governor - General should have an establishment in Melbourne. That is unavoidable in the carrying on of the Government of the country, and that is the reason why I distinguish between the two portions of this motion. I am satisfied that the possibility of having the GovernorGeneral's presence in Melbourne for a few months each year did not induce the people of Victoria to accept the Federal Constitution. They accepted it--

Mr Wilks - Because they thought it was a good bargain.

Mr McCAY - I am sure that if they entertained that impression they are very much disappointed. But the fact is that they accepted it because they believed that Victoria, like the rest of Australia, would benefit by the union, and in spite of all that has been said, I think that most of us believe that this great machine, so soon as its bearings get into proper order, will work smoothly. There was bound to be trouble at the beginning, and that trouble has been accentuated by the great drought which has overtaken Australia. I do not think that New South Wales will consider that she has been grievously wronged if Governmenthouse is not kept open for the occupation of the Governor-General during four or five months in each year. It is because I feel that the maintenance of two vice-Regal establishments constitutes an example of unnecessary expenditure in high places that I cannot support the proposal of the Government. In discussing matters of this kind, the people seize upon points here and there. They will be only too ready to say - " You have spent so many thousands of pounds in connexion with the GovernorGeneral, and yet you refuse to expend a thousand pence to assist certain people who are in very much more need of it." In spite of the moral effect which the presence of His Excellency might have upon Sydney, I think that its natural attractions are quite sufficient. I feel, bound to abide by the bargain which I consider has been made, and which must continue for three years from the date of the inauguration of the Commonwealth, much as I disapprove of it. It would be quite useless, however, to continue that arrangement until just after the beginning of a Governor-General's term of office. I hold that the Government should not have made such an arrangement until it had ascertained the wishes of Parliament in this matter. Occasionally, however, the Government have assumed too much and have discovered that their ideas concerning the wishes of this House have been very much at fault.

I I feel bound to express my disapproval of the motion, and in the performance of what 1 conceive to be my duty, but in no spirit «»£ hostility to mv friends across the border, to vote against it.

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