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Thursday, 25 September 1902

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I quite agree with the principle laid down by the honorable and learned member for Indi as to the character of the discussion which should take place upon this motion. We should not consider the special merits of any particular site for final selection, but hold in view the general claims of the sites upon which it is proposed to ask the committee of experts to report. That being so I do not propose to enter into a discussion of the special qualifications of sites suggested, but to consider the arguments which have been brought forward in. connexion with the appointment of the committee. Reference has been made to the report compiled at the instance of the State Government of New South Wales by Mr. Oliver. That is a very valuable and most unbiased report, and it states the position, not from the parochial .or State stand-point, but from the general Commonwealth standpoint as far as the very able gentleman who was the commissioner was competent to state it. When that report comes to be reviewed by the Expert Board I think that the conclusions arrived at by Mr. Oliver will be very generally accepted. But, on the other hand there is a need for the appointment of a board of the description proposed. At the time Mr. Oliver made his investigations he had to break, as it were, virgin soil. Then again, since that time, there have been considerable changes that, no doubt, would modify Mr. Oliver's conclusions if he were to consider the claims of the respective sites from the present day's stand-point. Take, for instance, the case of

Tumut. In his original report Mr. Oliver did not consider that Tumut was so situated as far as accessibility was concerned as to warrant hiin in making any recommendation with respect to it. But subsequently the State Government approved of a railway extension to that town, and the result of this increased accessibility led Mr. Oliver very carefully to modify his report. So, at least, I am informed; and it is largely in consequence of subsequent recommendations not contained in the original report submitted to the Government, and in view of this greater accessibility, that the Minister for Home Affairs was led to include Tumut amongst the places which he proposes to submit to the Board of Experts. The same remark may possibly apply to other sites. I am glad to know that the Minister now proposes to -include Armidale. Mr. Oliver in his report did not consider that Armidale was one of the places, the claims of which should be0 seriously entertained. Since then he has been asked to make a supplementary report, which has not yet been made available to the members of this House. I understand from the remarks of the Minister this afternoon, that even he has not been placed in possession of that report. But judging from local newspapers' statements, it appears that Mr. Oliver's supplementary report is very much more favorable to the Armidale site than was his original report. A similar consideration applies with respect to the Canobolas or Orange site, which also engaged the very careful - consideration, of Mr. Oliver, no doubt largely from the fact that he regarded it as one of those sites which were amongst the three that he finally recommended in his report. That being so, he gave that site more minute attention and consideration than probably he was disposed to devote to other places, such as Tumut and Armidale. But since the compilation of his report the State Government have had further inquiries made by experts. I know that for a considerable time a very competent engineer from the Public Works department, Mr. Wade, and others under him, have been investigating the water supply. That was one of the points on which Mr., Oliver considered that Canobolas did not stand as favorably as might be wished by those who considered that that site had special claims. Whilst I have not seen the report of those other expert officers of the State

Government, I am led to suppose that in view of its contents Mr. Oliver has very considerably modified the opinions he held when he compiled his original report. Then, again, 1 know that very exhaustive investigations have been made by a very competent geologist in New South Wales, the Rev. Milne Curran, asa result of which he has formulated a very valuable report upon the building material of the district, and so forth. I understand that that report has not come under the notice of Mr. Oliver, but there is no doubt that these further investigations will be made available to the Commonwealth expert committee. This, to my mind, all points to the fact that, despite the very exhaustive inquiries made by Mr. Oliver, there is still room for further investigations and fresh information, which the board of experts will be able to elicit. Therefore, I am favorable to the appointment of this Board, and, even though it does mean some delay, which ought not to be unreasonable in extent, the question is of such magnitude to the Commonwealth of Australia, not only of to-day, but for all time, that no effort should be spared to get the fullest amount of information possible, so as to place members . of this Parliament, I hope, but this House, at any rate, in such a position that aftertimes will justify the wisdom of their selection. I am glad to know that the Minister proposes to so widen the scope of this inquiry by the board of experts as to embrace Armidale. I also understand that he how proposes to embrace in the consideration of the Orange site the other suggested sites of Lyndhurst and Bathurst. I am not going to urge any objections to the enlargement of the inquiry. I am aware that both those sites have had ample consideration from Mr. Oliver, and that, after weighing the respective claims of the three, he decided that, all things considered, Orange had the superior claims, and hence recommended that site. I have no doubt that there is something very substantial in, the reasons which led Mr. Oliver to make this special recommendation on behalf of what is known as the Orange or Canobolas site. There can be no doubt that Mr. Oliver looked at the question from the stand-point of the area indicated in the Constitution as the minimum area. I agree with those in this Chamber and outside, who hold that when the site is selected it is wise to secure a decently sized area, because as the requirements of the federal capital grow, if the area is too small it will be impossible to remedy the defect. It is much wiser to err a little on the side of taking in perhaps a considerable slice of land rather than to take in an area that will prove too limited for the requirements of the federal capital. That being so, I think that the Lyndhurst site, and possibly the Bathurst site, ought to be included amongst the sites which are to be considered in the western district. I think that the site of Yass should receive more consideration than has appeared to be the case from the resolution submitted by the Minister. I was not quite clear whether the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, who represents the district, got a promise from the Minister that Yass should receive special consideration, but the fact that Mr. Oliver was induced to make special mention of this site - to include it amongst the three that he specially recommended - is sufficient to warrant Yass receiving more than passing consideration. I trust that in the investigation that is to be made by the Board of Experts they will have power to consider the special claims of the Yass site.As to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kennedy for the exclusion of Albury-

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member is going to withdraw it.

Mr BROWN - I am glad of that, because I could not support an amendment of that character. There issomethingmore to be considered than the mere question of accessibility. There is the question of whether a site, together with its surrounding districts, can support a population, and I hold that Albury has special claims in that respect. For that reason I do not favour its elimination from the motion. I do not think that anything more need be said. It is not a question affecting the merits of particular sites, but rather one of whether a committee of experts should be appointed, and, if so, what sites should be submitted to them. I am in agreement with the Minister as to the appointment of the committee. I do not share the view held by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that there should be further delay, in order to enable an amendment of the Constitution to be submitted to the people. If there is to be any alteration, the request for it, at least, should come not only from the people of New South Wales, but from the people of the

Commonwealth as a whole. The House should be reasonably satisfied that there is a demand for an amendment of the Constitution strong enough to warrant it in anticipating that as a result of calling into play the requirements of the Constitution in regard to its amendment, an amendment would be made. I am not in sympathy with the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, as there has been no such request from the electors of any of the States. I shall support the Minister, but L hope he will see his way to include Yass in the list of sites to be inspected. I trust that he will be able toannounce to the House before the close of the session- the personnel of the committee which he proposes to appoint.

Mr. MCDONALD(Kennedy).- I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.

Amendment (by Mr. Sawers) again proposed' -

That the word "Armidale" be inserted after the word "Albury."

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