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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thoroughly indorse the remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney. His address was an extremely reasonable and an eminently honest one. It seems to me that there has been an effort to make it appear that the people of New South Wales are contending for something to which they are not entitled. That accusation cannot be rightly made against them or their representatives any more than the reverse could truthfully be said of the people of Melbourne and their representatives. All we desire is the reasonable fulfilment of the compact contained in the Constitution. To my mind, the amendments made in the clause largely interfere with the contitutional rights of New South Wales. I agree with the honorable member for Bland that if we could acquire 1,000 squaremiles for the Commonwealth territory in a suitable situation it would be wise and right for us to do so, but it is eminently wrong and opposed to the Constitution to insert in the Bill a provision demanding the surrender of that area by New South Wales. The argument of the honorable and learned member forWerriwa, unfortunately, does not apply at the present time, because the question of the area of the Federal territory is not before us ; but the other provisions in the clause are still more absurd. As has been pointed out, if we determine that the Federal territory shall extend from the Murrumbidgee to the Murray River, taking in Tumut, and shall contain 1,000 square miles, we practically define its boundaries, though hardly a man in the Chamber knows anything of the value of a square mile of it. In coming to this determination we are acting in the dark. At the present time, of course, we have nothing to do with the provision in regard to the area of the territory. I do not desire that it shall be thought that I am of opinion that the Federal territory should not contain 1,000 square miles, or that New South Wales would not give up so large an area. My point is that the Constitution prevents the Federal Parliament from altering the boundaries of any State without the consent of that State, and that therefore we cannot enact a measure, the effect of which would be to do that. In the same way we should be doing wrong in determining that the Federal territory shall be bounded by the Murrumbidgee and the Murray.

Mr Isaacs - The Commonwealth cannot alter the boundaries of a State without the consent of that State.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so, and therefore we have no right to place on the statute-book an enactment, the effect of which, if it were not invalid, would be to do that. To take a piece out of the middle of it would be to alter the boundaries of the State, because it would' then have not only an outside boundary but an inside boundary as well. From what I know of the people and the legislators of New South Wales, I feel certain that they will meet us in a reasonable and liberal spirit, and give us as much land as we require for our purpose; but we are manifestly wrong in demanding territory of the State . when we have no constitutional power to do so. The amendment to which we are asked to disagree is consequential upon the previous amendment. The Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers, while they might form the boundaries of the Tumut site, could not form the boundaries of the Bombalasite. But I think that we were wrong in the first instance in making the amendment, and, therefore, I shall support the attempt to get rid of it. I regard the amendment as unjustifiable and ridiculous. I agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that before we lay down any such conditions as those inserted in the Rill we should know more of the country we are asked to take. I should like to see a large area chosen, but the Federal territory ought not to consist of a long narrow strip, on each side of which would be State lands whose owners would gain the unearned increment created by the expenditure of the Commonwealth. A compact square territory would better suit our purposes. I think we shall do wisely in reversing our previous decision, and striking out all these provisions. I know that the measure will come to nothing, and that we shall have to go into the whole question again. To my mind there are sites which have not received justice from any one, not even the Commissioners. I allude particularly to, the Queanbeyan site, which, to my mind, is one of the best.

The CHAIRMAN - I ask the honorable member not to discuss the proposed sites.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall not do so until another opportunity is afforded. I regret that the action of the two Chambers will prevent the settlement of the question this session.

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