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Tuesday, 23 September 1902

Mr PAGE (Maranoa) - If there is one quality more than another which' I admire in a politician, it is that of consistency. My honorable colleague, the honorable member for Kennedy was complaining just prior to the recent adjournment of the House, of the amount of expense which an election would occasion to the 'Commonwealth. Now, he turns round coolly, and wants to put the State from which he comes to an expenditure of millions of money. It is idle for any honorable member to say that we should choose a site and build a federal city merely for the sake of 1,000 or 2,000 people. I have been over twenty years in the bush, and I am satisfied with Melbourne. Melbourne will remain the place of meeting of the Federal Parliament as long as my vote can assist to that end. The honorable member for Canobolas cares nothing about the expenditure of millions when such an expenditure is likely to benefit his own electorate, but when the motion by the honorable member for South Australia (Mr. Poynton) was before the House, he joined with the honorable member for Kennedy in pointing to the waste of money which would be involved in holding the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives on different dates. Where is his consistency? I, for one, cannot see it. If . the question were of such importance as honorable members from New South Wales would lead us to believe, one might reasonably expect that they would be here in full force when it was being debated. How many honorable members from New South Wales are present tonight? Not half-a-dozen. Yet this is a question of great moment to New South Wales, involving the expenditure of millions. Honorable members from that State are quite satisfied as long as they can get their speeches into Hansard and make the people of New South Wales believe that they are kicking up a fuss about the federal capital.

Mr McDonald - They -are in a majority in the House at the present time.

Mr PAGE - That is all very well. I am viewing this matter in the same way as the honorable member for Canobolas and the honorable member for Kennedy regarded the question of the .cost of the federal elections. Each State will have to bear its proportion of the cost of building the federal capital.

Mr McDonald - The honorable member said Queensland would have to pay millions.

Mr PAGE - I do not think so. At all events, before the question is settled, it may cost Queensland millions. I am not going to see the State which I represent robbed for the advantage of another. I am quite happy and contented here. We could not be better off than we are now, even if we were meeting in a federal city. We have everything that one could desire. Of course the Melbourne climate does not suit me, but if the Federal Parliament meet only in the summer months, I shall be very well satisfied to remain here. I do not imagine that we shall be here for another session of the length of the present one. I hope such a long session will never again be experienced. Of course Mr. Philp is going to jerk all the Queensland members out, so that the question does not affect us very much ; but, so far as I am concerned, the seat of government is all right where it is. When we have plenty of money - when all the States are on the upgrade, and have a few millions to spare, it will be time enough for us to begin operations. We are very good lodgers, and the people know when they have good lodgers. The only reason why I say we should remain where we are is that the forming of a new capital may involve an expenditure of millions. Everyone knows the position of Queensland. . It is suffering from over-legislation, from drought, and from too much " tick " : in fact it is chronically insolvent at the present time.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - The Courier says that it was never in a sounder financial position than it is to-day.

Mr PAGE - I am sorry to say that during my travels in Queensland a month ago I saw some stations, as well as many selections, which had been abandoned. If that indicates solvency I am sorry for it.

Mr McDonald - That condition of affairs applies only to a portion of Queensland.

Mr PAGE - The whole of Queensland is suffering from a drought the like of which it has never experienced before, and which I hope she will never see again. Ninetenths of the pastoralists in the western parts, or practically half of Queensland, cannot pay 203. in the £1.

An Honorable Member. - But Queensland can pay 20s. in the £1.

Mr PAGE - Queensland will pay 20s. in £1 as soon as she gets a foot or two of rain.

Mr McDonald - She is the richest State in the group.

Mr PAGE - That is all right, as long as the Government have the money. But they expect a deficit of something like £500,000 this year, and they have been suffering deficits for some years past.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - But Queensland has been increasing her expenditure.

Mr PAGE - That does not alter the position. Whatever it may be attributed to, the drought is really the sole cause of the trouble in Queensland. There are thousands of tons of fodder being sent in train loads to the western portions of that State every month. The stock are being depleted, and in a few months there will be no stock left in western Queensland. In the face of this, honorable members ask me to vote for the removal of the federal capital, and to take more money out of the pockets of people who are already overtaxed and overburdened.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We" do not ask that they should be taxed another penny.

Mr PAGE - The honorable member does ask that, because to shift the federal capital from Melbourne to any place in New South Wales at the present time means the expenditure of money, and that money must come out of the pockets of the .taxpayers. If New South Wales will shoulder the whole of the burden, I shall give my vote to shift next week.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the honorable member vote to allow the people of New South Wales to shoulder the burden 1

Mr PAGE - No ; I shall not. I do not desire to shirk any responsibility for my State, but I am prepared to vote against putting any fresh burdens upon the people of that State at the present time.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).- I should like to say to the honorable member that nobody wants Queensland to pay a penny in connexion with this matter, and if the establishment of the federal capital is gone about in a business-like way, there need never be a penny taken out of the pockets of- the taxpayers in connexion with it, except for most temporary purposes. The honorable member knows very well that we do not propose to part with the lands of the federal capital to begin with. If he knows anything about the growth of a big city, he ought to' know that the increase of land values alone will speedily overtake the entire expense of establishing the capital, wherever it may be. I regret to hear that, according .to the honorable member, Queensland is in such a terrible condition. He told us something very different about that State a month or two ago. He said he could assure this Parliament that Queensland did not want its sympathy, because she was in an admirable position. Now, he tells us that Queensland is bordering upon bankruptcy, and he does not know what will happen if the seasons do not quickly change. I sympathize with the honorable member and the State he represents to the fullest, extent, but I have been rather surprised to hear him talking .in the way he has done to-night. If there has been in this Chamber an enthusiastic advocate for the removal of the federal capital to New South Wales, it has been the honorable member for Maranoa. I am not sure that he has not been the most enthusiastic member in the House upon this -question. Time and again we have heard him declare that he would be glad to get out of Melbourne, and get into New South Wales. All at once we find the honorable member contented to settle down in Melbourne. This is evidently one of his moods and tenses. I do not know exactly how the moon is just now, but I do know that the honorable member is assuming some very strange attitudes upon this particular question. I tell him again that the removal of the capital to New South Wales, and the establishment of a modern, up-to-date federal capital need not, under proper business management, 30St the State of Queensland, or any other State of the group, a single penny of additional expenditure. Now, with regard to the Government, the Acting Prime Minister has made one of his soporific speeches, in which he has completely satisfied honorable members on my own side, and there is therefore not much use in my saying more. That speech has apparently done a lot of good. Every one on this side has said that he has been pleased to hear it. But I again say, as I said before, regarding the honorable gentleman's speeches, that I regret that honorable members on my side should be so easily pleased with them. I almost feel myself guilty while I hear him speak. The honorable gentleman has the faculty of making this world appear the very best of all possible worlds to live in, this Parliament the very best of all possible Parliaments to be in, and of suggesting altogether that our surroundings and environments leave, nothing to be desired. In fact we are in a perfect elysium, according to the honorable gentleman, under the regime of the present Government.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member spoke of my speeches, but I have only answered questions. I find, on reference to. Hansard, that I have never spoken upon the question of the federal capital site. I have merely answered questions.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Many of the answers to the questions have been made at great length, and they are speeches in themselves. The same may be said of the Minister for Home Affairs, who was answering a question to-night foi* a solid three-quarters of an hour. If the reading of voluminous papers is merely answering questions, I shall be glad to withdraw my former expression, and substitute for it the statement that the honorable gentlemen has often previously answered questions upon the federal capital site, and has more than once unmistakably stated his opinion on the subject.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member cannot find it in Hansard.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman has made statements which have lulled honorable members on this side into a condition of satisfied contentment. The moment they are made, just as has happened to-night, honorable members all say that they are pleased with this and the other statement.

Mr Thomson - Does the honorable member desire a speech to the opposite effect ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not desire a speech to the opposite effect, but I want what we have not had yet, and that is a straight out declaration of what the Government are going to do.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Surely the honorable member has had that times without number?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I really did not know of it. I should be delighted to hear one straight-out utterance on this question from Ministers. The Minister for Home Affairs to-night told us that he had come to the conclusion to submit this motion to the House, but he did not know at the beginning of the sitting that he ought to do it.

Sir William Lyne - I brought it here with the intention of doing it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman took courage as the evening wore on, and he now states that he will submit the motion to the House to-morrow, but only on the question as to the sites. He is not going to tell us who the experts are to be. He is going first to get into recess when there can be no criticism upon their appointment.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Is not that a question of administration ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say that it is no more a question of administration than the proposal the honorable gentleman is going to submit to the House to-morrow.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member should talk sense.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman has a monopoly of that I presume. One would judge so from the number of interviews he gives to the Sydney newspapers on this question.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member should not write so many letters.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman should not set me such a terrible example. I tell him one thing that I do not do in the letters which I write. I do not reflect upon my own colleagues, ashe is constantly doing in his interviews.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member is not right in saying that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nearly every week he goes over, the honorable member leads the people of New South Wales to believe that he has got a death struggle on with his colleagues in connexion with this matter.

Sir William Lyne - I wonder how the moon is now?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman does not like what I am saying, but I promise him that I shall prick his little humbug in the future a little mere than I have done. He shall not go over to humbug the people of New South Wales, and make them believe that he is doing what he is not doing. The Acting Prime Minister has told us nothing that gets us any "forrarder." If I could believe that this question is going to be dealt with in this Parliament, I should not be so strenuous as I am in this matter. But I see the time drifting by. Two out of the three years have nearly gone, and I ask honorable members what is there to indicate that this question is going to be finally settled during the next session of this Parliament ?

Mr Poynton - There have been two trips to the sites already.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And what is the result? We get the announcement that five sites have been selected. The moment the honorable gentleman made his statement in the House, the honorable member for Perth asked, "Is Dal getty inincluded in Bombala?" "Yes," said the Acting Prime Minister, " and I should say all the sites in that district." That is the way the Government select five sites. Then the Minister for Home Affairs goes over to Sydney and says that I conveniently forget that Orange includes Bathurst and Lyndhurst, and that Lake George includes Queanbeyan and Yass.

Sir William Lyne - In the honorable member's imagination. The moon is getting into the full now !

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This makes nine sites which the Government include in their selection.

Mr Poynton - Which district will the experts come from ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know. The Minister seems desperately anxious to get into recess before appointing the experts. In addition to the nine sites, the Acting Prime Minister says we are to have all the sites in the Bombala district.

Mr Deakin - I said nothing of the sort. When the honorable member asked whether Dalgetty was included I said I did not know, but that there are certain sites in certain districts which would be included.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned gentleman said that all the sites in the Bombala district would be included.

Mr Deakin - How far are they apart? Tor all I know, they may be only half-a-mile apart. I have not been there.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable and learned gentleman is going to include all the Bombala sites in his selection and the Minister for Home Affairs is going to include all the southern and western sites, I do not know what suggested sites are going to be left out. What humbug it is to say to the people of Australia, " We have -selected five sites," when the Government immediately proceed to enumerate ten or a dozen ! Let them tell us what they mean, and stick to it. The Minister for Home Affairs shifts his ground nearly every week. If he had adopted a line of policy and adhered to it, I should not have said a word in criticism.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member would not be able to keep quiet.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have kept quiet hitherto, but I am not going to keep quiet in the future regarding the honorable gentleman's attitude- on this question. I promise him a little more criticism than he has had from me hitherto in regard to the selection -of capital sites.

Sir William Lyne - That will not hurt me.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that the honorable gentleman is a very superior individual. He cares for nothing and nobody, but that will not deter me from doing my duty, whether he likes it or not. He has a very fine way of indicating when he does not like criticism.

Sir William Lyne - I like it very much.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let the honorable gentleman take the House into his confidence, and let us have the experts appointed before Parliament goes into recess. Let us have a say, not only as to the sites that are to be enumerated for the report of the experts, but also as to the people who are to report upon them, and as to the information that will be required.

Sir William Lyne - Would the honorable member like a ballot with regard to all the applications'? I can' give him the names of 2,000.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is news. We have not heard that before. The information keeps filtering out. By-and-by we shall know exactly what the state of the case is. All we know at present is that nothing has been done, and that is the gravamen of the remarks that I am now making. Honorable members have a right to complain of the tardiness of the Government over the selection of the sites, and the statements of Ministers on the subject are entirely inconsistent with the very slow progress made. 1 do not intend to say any more. Even honorable members on my own side say that they are pleased with what has been done. I am as ready to be pleased us most people, but I do not see anything to be pleased about in the nice speeches of the Acting Prime Minister, which are full of honeyed, words intended to lead people from the point of view which they otherwise would take.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member is always displeased.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am always pleased when the honorable and learned gentleman is speaking. Whenever I hear him reply to me, it makes me wish that I had never said a word, because he immediately proceeds to show that there is absolutely nothing in the complaint made, and one feels like apologizing for what one has said. That is manifestly the case now. An honorable member on my own side has said to-night of the Acting Prime Minister's speech - " That speech will do a lot of good." This matter is, however, one that seriously concerns the people of New South Wales. There is no question upon which they feel more sensitive and more distrustful and doubtful.

SirWilliam Lyne. - And what the honorable member is doing, tends to emphasize that feeling.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Itis shocking for the Minister to assert that the Government have done all that is possible, when, as a matter of fact, they have done nothing. He tells the people of Sydney that he has been trying to fight this question in the House, and that we have been trying to block it. I hope that the honorable gentleman will stop his bluff. He is a very slim gentleman, but it is about time he stopped bluffing the people of New South Wales, and set to work in downright earnest to settle the question of the capital site.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 2, 3, 4, and schedule agreed to. Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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