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Tuesday, 23 September 1902

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should not have risen but for the statement of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, who claims that his opinion is shared by a large number of legislators. I hold that he is entirely upon the wrong track. The adoption of the course which he advocates, instead of expediting a settlement of this question, would retard it indefinitely. The only reason for urging its speedy determination is a sense of loyalty to the Constitution. The adoption of the suggestion that a referendum should be taken with the object of amending the Constitution would be quite as disloyal to that instrument of government as would any shelving of the question by indefinitely postponing its settlement. I hold that the Government propose to adopt an eminently proper course. No better method of securing its determination could be devised. But I blame them that the necessary action has not yet been taken. If the Minister for Home Affairs had asked Parliament some months ago to narrow down the eligible sites to about five, with a view to obtaining expert opinion upon them, and that opinion had been received, it would not have been more than a week before the House would have been in a position to come to a decision upon this matter. I do not agree with the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, nor with certain press organs, that the construction of the federal capital will involve an outlay of untold millions sterling. If I entertained that view I should be in no hurry to see the site selected, but by nursing the territory upon which the capital will be located, as well as the surrounding country, I hold that for a small initial expenditure wo can establish a model city. We should not be deterred from settling this matter by financial reasons. I trust that the Minister for Home' Affairs will submit a motion in the direction I have indicated at the earliest possible moment. Let us confine our attention to five sites, and secure expert evidence upon their eligibility. Undoubtedly in New South Wales and in the other States the feeling is growing that the Government are shelving this matter, and the only way to remove that impression is by proceeding upon the lines I have suggested. I trust that the cry for an amendment of the Constitution will not be raised before we have given that instrument of government a fair trial. I am satisfied that, with the exception of the financial provisions which will expire in a few years, experience will reveal that it will meet all our requirements. The very highest spirit which we can develop amongst the people of the Commonwealth is that of loyalty, to the Constitution.

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