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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was very much amused this afternoon to hear the views expressed by certain representatives of New South Wales, particularly the honorable member for Bland and the Minister for Defence. They both took advantage of the opportunity to gird again, as they have done so often before, at Sydney and Sydney interests. They were careful to tell us that Sydney is not New South Wales. That is a very hackneyed expression, but it is absurd to keep on reiterating it, because it means nothing at all. Those honorable members who are always using it live on the confines of another State than New South Wales. These honorable members have lived upon the cry - " Country versus city."

Sir William Lyne - The electorate of the honorable member for Bland is not on the border of New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No ; but it is on the border of the electorate which embraces the Tumut site. I believe that the River Mumimbidgee is the dividing line between the electorate of the honorable member for Bland and that represented by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and, of course, when the honorable member for Bland opens his mouth, he speaks for New South Wales. Those honorable members who are constantly girding at Sydney are particularly interested in one or other of the proposed sites. That cannot be said of any of the Sydney representatives. They are hundreds of miles away from any of the sites.

Mr McCay - But they are nearer to some than to others.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am a very long way from any of them.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member's district is not very far from the Lyndhurst site.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not more than about seventy miles.

Sir William Lyne - The distance is only about thirty miles.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - At all events, an electorate other than that in which the Lyndhurst site is situated intervenes. Of course I am interested in the Lyndhurst site, and should like to see it chosen, because I think that no other has the same potentialities of greatness or the same claims upon other grounds. I am not here, however, to advocate any particular site, now that the time for that has passed ; but to defend the State of New South Wales against the constant aspersions of honorable members who ought upon all occasions to stand up for her.

Mr Kingston - Is New South Wales divided against herself!

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Unhappily she is; and the anomaly is that whilst New South Wales is entitled to have the capital within her borders, Victoria is in the happy position of being able to dictate exactly where the Federal Capital shall be situated.

Mr Isaacs - Does the honorable member wish that Victoria should have no voice in the matter 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly not. I do not complain of the unity of the Victorians. I speak rather in commendation of their attitude. Victoria presents an object lesson to New South Wales. If the representatives of New South Wales were as solid upon the capital question as are the representatives of Victoria, a satisfactory decision would be arrived at within a very short time.

Mr Isaacs - Unfortunately we are not solid.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Victorian representatives are solid upon one point, namely, that the Federal Capital shall be situated as close as possible to their own border.

Mr Skene - Albury is closer than Tumut.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No doubt ; but the representatives of Victoria thought that Albury had no chance, and therefore voted for Tumut. If they had considered that Albury was in the running, they would have voted en bloc for it. But as matters stand, they have given their unanimous support to Tumut under conditions which would make it practically a border site.

Mr McCay - Does not the honorable member know that upon the ballot the representatives of New South Wales were snore solid for Lyndhurst than were the Victorians in regard to any other site ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be ; but that does not affect the point that the Victorian representatives have stood together in their efforts to locate the Federal "Capital upon the border.

Mr McCay - The representatives of New South Wales were just as solid in the opposite direction.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Naturally, and for a good constitutional reason. Honorable members who quarrel with the representatives of New South Wales for desiring to have the capital situated away from the border, should direct their resentment against their representative at the Premiers' Conference, who granted a supposedly solid concession to New South Wales. Many of the arguments used to-day would have been more appropriate if they had been employed when the location of the Capital was being discussed at the Premiers' Conference. The -question for our consideration now is that of honouring the bond which was made with New South Wales. Honorable members have shown a strange want of appreciation of the terms of the compact, and a strange want of sympathy with the spirit of it. The honorable member for Bland said that lie did not believe that the question of the Capital site made any difference in the result of the referendum in New South Wales. The facts, however, are all against him, and the absurdity of his statement is shown by the difference in voting at the referenda. At the Premiers' Conference no substantial amendment was made in the Commonwealth Bill beyond the fixing of the Capital site in New South Wales, and there fore it may fairly be inferred that that con sion to New South Wales caused a considerable' access to the ranks of the supporters of the measure.

Mr Kingston - An important amendment was made with regard to the majority required at a joint sitting of the two Houses.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I had forgotten that that important amendment was inserted; but I venture to say that unless the concession with regard to the Capital had been made, the Constitution would not have been accepted. I assert positively that if a provision had been inserted in the Bill that the Capital should be situated on the border of New South 'Wales and Victoria, the measure would have met with overwhelming defeat.

Mr Spence - Not with the then Premier of New South Wales supporting it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be very complimentary to the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney, who . was then Premier of New South Wales ; and rightly so. But I contend that notwithstanding his great influence the Constitution would have been rejected but for the concession regarding the Capital site. Honorable members, in seeking to defeat the aspirations of representatives of New South Wales are acting contrary to the spirit of the compact entered into at the Premiers' Conference.

Mr McCay - Does the honorable member suggest that a large number of additional votes were gained for the Bill at the second referendum?


Mr McCay - The figures do not bear out that statement. At the first referendum 72,000 votes were cast for the Bill, and 68,000 against it. At the second referendum the figures were 106,000 as against 84,000, showing a great increase on both sides.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say deliberately that the concession of the Capital made all the difference in the voting. I do not agree with the honorable member for North Sydney that the Capital question was a purely sentimental matter. The concession was intended to be a very substantial one, and was regarded as some set-off against the heavy extra taxation to which the people would have to submit.

Mr Sawers - The State Government do not derive enough revenue even now.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is there any sense in an interjection of that kind ? The honorable member knows why the State Government have not enough money to spend. They never will have enough money whilst the party with which the honorable member is associated holds the reins of power, All that, however, is beside the question. The people of New South Wales knew very well that they would have to submit to very heavy extra taxation, and that they would in all probability have to surrender their old established free-trade policy, and it was as a substantial set-off against these sacrifices that the people of New South Wales accepted the Capital.

Mr Sawers - Then they bartered freetrade for a miserable Capital.


Mr Isaacs - I am afraid we are travelling a long way from the amendment.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think so. I think that the amendment cuts across the spirit of the provision in the Constitution regarding the Capital site, and that therefore it should be eliminated. Would honorable members regard it as a substantial concession to New South Wales if the Capital site were selected just within the borders of that State 1 W7here would the concession be in such a case ? The site at Tumut would not be so near to Sydney as to Melbourne, and if the people of Victoria could reach the Capital site by merely crossing the River Murray, the location of the Capital within the territory of New South Wales would no longer be a concession to the mother State. That was not the concession that New South Wales thought she was securing when she agreed to the Constitution as finally drafted at the Premiers' Conference. If the stipulations now made in the Bill had been embodied in the Constitution in the same way as the 100-mile limit, the result of the referendum would have been much less favorable. My point is that the provision which it is sought to retain in the Bill is foreign to the compact and entirely opposed to the spirit of it. The representatives of Victoria urge that they should have an independent rightofway to the Capital without being required to pass through New South Wales territory. That point should, however, have been raised at the Premiers' Conference. The compact with New South Wales will not be kept if the Capital is less accessible to her own people than to the people of otherStates.

Mr Isaacs - How could the Federal Capital within New South Wales be less accessible to the people of that Statethan to residents in other States. The honorable member is speaking as if Sydney constituted New South Wales?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I may tell the honorable and learned member that if accessibility had been the principal consideration, Sydney would have been more accessible than any other spot that could be selected as a site for the Federal Capital. The port of Sydney would have been open to all. The representatives of Victoria, however, insisted that Sydney should be excluded from the selection, and that theFederal Capital should be not less than 100 miles from Sydney. In dealing with this question we should consider, not the bare terms of the Constitution, but what is implied in the bond ; and I venture to suggest very respectfully that when the Premiers agreed to the 100-mile limit they agreed also to allow New South Walesto have the < Capital site as near as possible to Sydney beyond that limit. The 100-mile limit was the only bar which they placed upon the possession of the Federal Capital. Therefore, they would be most honouring the bond by establishing the Capital as near as possible to that limit. That is the stand-point from which we ought to consider this matter, and not from that of whether the Capital would be accessible to this or that State. Of course, the more accessible we can make it to the other States consistently with honouring the spirit of the bond the better, but we have no right to consider the question of. accessibility by deliberately closing our eyes to the spirit of the bond. We ought to eliminate from this Bill the boundaries which have been placed in it at the instance of honorable members whose only desire seems to be to establish the Capital as near Victoria as possible, and incidentally as near to their own electorates as possible.

Mr Watson - That is not fair.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say that it is quite as fair as was the statement of the honorable member for Bland. He is not in

a.   position to speak for New South "Wales.

Mr Watson - I do not pretend to do so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yet he chastised other honorable members for daring to have an opinion upon this matter. It does not lie in his mouth to question their right to speak for New South Wales.

Mr Watson - Surely I can do so just as much as can the honorable member ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No more and no less, but the honorable member has pretended to do more.

Mr Watson - No.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has declared that Sydney is not New South Wales.

Mr Watson - Exactly.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is strange that these sentiments should come from one whose sole political cry has been that of the city versus the country.

Mr Watson - That is not correct.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member knows that it is correct. Did he ever hear the Minister for Defence make a speech--

Mr Watson - Does the honorable member apply that statement to me ? If so, it is absolutely incorrect, and he cannot quote a statement of mine upon which he can base his accusation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was speaking of the Minister for Defence. Only the day before the Capital site was selected by this House, the honorable gentleman argued as though New South Wales were alien to him. He wished to know what divine right that State had to the Federal Capital.

Mr Austin Chapman - I did not say anything of the sort. I asked what divine right Sydney had to the trade. That is what Hansard reports me as having said.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for Defence said nothing of the kind. He has always been full of the cry of city versus country. He has lived upon it all his political life. Regarding the honorable member for Bland, I merely wish to say that his electorate adjoins the Tumut area.

Mr Watson - Dc not forget that it also adjoins Lyndhurst, for which the honorable member voted.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it is a long way from Lyndhurst. The centre of influence in the honorable member's electorate is nearer to Tumut.

Mr Watson - That is an unworthy insinuation, because my electorate is nearer to Lyndhurst than it is to Tumut.

Mr Mauger - Is it not delightful to hear the representatives of New South Wales fighting amongst themselves?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course we are fighting amongst ourselves. That is the unfortunate feature about the matter. There are representatives of New South Wales in this House who no more represent the dominant opinion of that State than does the honorable member. They represent certain border electorates, which are more largely dominated by Melbourne than by Sydney. It is from these honorable members that such broad Federal sentiments are continually emanating. There is, for example, the Minister for Defence, who wishes to extend the Commonwealth territory to Victoria by way of Bombala, and the honorable member for Bland, who desires to extend it to the Murray.

Mr McCay - Could the honorable member expect the Minister for Defence to vote for Lyndhurst ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly not. At the same time, I object to the way in which these honorable members lecture others who represent districts which are hundreds of miles removed from any suggested site, and who are, therefore, more capable of registering an impartial vote upon this question than they are.

Mr McCay - Does not that argument evidence the impartiality of Victorian representatives, inasmuch as they represent districts which are hundreds of miles removed from any site ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think so. If the amendment which was proposed by the honorable member for Gippsland the other day had been carried, he would have had the Capital close to his own bark door. Yet he submitted that proposal in a fine Federal spirit, and with a due regard for the interests of the other States of the union. It was merely a coincidence that its adoption would have established the Federal Capital close to his own back door.

Mr Sawers - Which site is near the honorable member's back door ?

Mr Watson - Lyndhurst.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But I do not rise in this House as does the honorable member for Bland, and profess to take the only national view of this matter.

Sir William Lyne - Would not these remarks be better if delivered upon the hustings ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no man in the Commonwealth who will make better use of the hustings than will the Minister for Trade and Customs. When the time comes he can be depended upon to shed crocodile tears with any man in this House. There is a feeling of intense irritation in New South Wales. It is useless to attempt to blink at it, because it is widespread, and any honorable member representing that State who endeavours to make .it appear that no such feeling exists, misrepresents public opinion in New South Wales at the present moment. The people of that State are irritated because they do not think that they are being fairly treated in the matter of the choice of the Federal Capital : and I should like to know what is to be gained by the insertion of all these irritating provisions in the Bill. Has there been any desire manifested so far on the part of the people of New South Wales to treat the Commonwealth unfairly ? Has there been any expressed desire on the part of that State to adopt a cheeseparing policy with regard to the cession of land ? I submit that the Government of New South Wales have from the first treated the Commonwealth Government with the greatest consideration and fairness. The friends of the Federal Government are now in office in New South Wales. Time and again they have shown their complete sympathy with this Government, and I am, therefore, at a loss to understand why we should endeavour to place within the four corners of an Act of Parliament all these irritating provisions. A strong feeling is manifesting itself throughout the length and breadth of New South Wales in regard to this the latest proposal of the Commonwealth Parliament. Since this Parliament is supreme - since the Federal Government have power under the Constitution to take what land they like - there is no need to adopt any course which may appear to be irritating. Let us treat New South Wales fairly in this matter, negotiate with her openly, and without binding ourselves beforehand, and, in my opinion, she will treat the Commonwealth fairly and generously, and give us every reasonable concession. The situation, however, is quite different when the Commonwealth seeks to negotiate with the Government of New

South Wales with an Act of Parliament in its hands. It is very like placing a pistol at the head of the State Government while we are negotiating with them. That is the position of the matter which I would submit as strongly as possible to honorable members. During this debate we haveheard the most astounding assertions madeby honorable members representing Victoria. One of them went so far as to say the other night that the Commonwealth could not trust New South Wales with regard to the question of a right of way tothe Federal Capital. He asserted that the State Government might impose all kinds of irritating and harassing restrictions on our trade - that they might apply the State laws, in such a way as to prevent Victorian produce from being introduced into theCapital. Why are assertions of this kind constantly made ! As I have remarked before, this Parliament is supreme^, and can always protect its commerce. It can acquire as much land as it wants for the mere asking and paying for it. Why, therefore, is this Parliament so anxious, beforeentering into negotiations with the New South Wales Government, to tie its handsin such a way as to cause irritation to the mother State? Either the compact embodied in the Constitution meant that there was to be a substantial concession toNew South Wales or it did not, and I venture to assert that, had it not been considered that a substantial concession was to be given to the mother State, she would nob now be a member of the Federation, and the Commonwealth would not be an accomplished fact.

Mr Winter Cooke - What does the honorable member mean by a substantial, concession ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I mean that when the compact was made it was intended thatNew South Wales should have the Capital., with all its commercial as well as itssentimental advantages.

Mr Winter Cooke - Mere sentiment.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I decline toregard the question of the Capital site as being merely a matter of sentiment.

Mr McCay - Does the honorable member mean to say that the bargain was; that the Capital should be near Sydney ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The implication conveyed by the bond was that it should be as reasonably near the 100-mile limit as the selection of a suitable site would allow.

Mr Skene - Was not the bargain that the Federal Capital should not be near a big city?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That it should not be within 100 miles of a big city. The representatives of the other States placed in the bond a condition removing the Capital from what they regarded as the sphere of Sydney's influence. I take it that it was understood that they did not care how near the Capital was to Sydney, provided that it was not within the 100- inile radius.

Mr McCay - The honorable member's contention is that if he said he would not touch a man with a 40-ft. pole, he would mean that he intended to touch him with a 41-ft. pole.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I confess that I do not follow that kindof analogy.

Mr Winter Cooke - Then the honorable member considers that Albury should not have been one of the proposed sites?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the honorable member has already heard me declare in the House that I should regard the selection of Albury or any such site as an -outrageous violation of the spirit of the bond. I say, therefore, that honorable members ought to look the bargain squarely in the face. If they do so, I am sure that they will not tell me that its spirit "is being kept when an endeavour is being made to establish a Capital as near as possible to the boundary line of New South Wales. Here we have two favoured sites, one of them extending to and including the port of Twofold Bay.

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

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not intend to do so. I am referring to them only as an illustration of the spirit which is animating the Committee in dealing with this question. The reason given for the selection of Bombala is that we should have a port close to the Capital, so that it may be totally beyond the influence and control of New South Wales. We have a right to look at this matter in a broad and open spirit rather than in a spirit such as, I am sorry to say, has been indicated by the proceedings of the Committee so far as we have gone. The meaning intended to be conveyed by the insertion of the provision as to the 100-mile limit in the Constitution was that Sydney was to be given all the advantages that could be obtained from a Capital situate outside that limit. On that condition, and on that understanding alone, was the Constitution Bill carried in New South Wales. It is useless, therefore, for honorable members to accuse the representatives of New South Wales of provincialism when they endeavour to stand up for the terms of the bond. It is our duty as representatives of New South Wales to do so, and I submit that we do no injustice to any other State when we ask that the broad spirit of the bond, rather than its mere technique, shall be kept. I believe that the Government will obtain better terms from New South Wales by treating her in an open and fair way. I have no reason to suppose that New South Wales will not deal fairly with the Commonwealth. The friends of the present Commonwealth Government are in other in that State, and have shown every desire to treat them fairly. The Commonwealth has never been subjected to criticism on the part of the New South Wales Government such as that which it has received at the hands of the Governments of the remaining States. It has had the most open-handed and fair-minded treatment from the New South Wales Government and Parliament ever since this question began to take shape. Honorable members are aware that in New South Wales a strong body of opinion is shaping itself against the present State Government because it is considered that they have been guilty of a dereliction of duty in connexion with this question. That is an indication of the fair and generous treatment which the Commonwealth has received at the hands of the State Government and Parliament. Why, therefore, should there be this desire to escape from some impending evil which is supposed to be hanging over the Commonwealth, and coming possibly from New South Wales? The Committee would do well by omitting the irritating and gratuitous limitations which are fixed in the Bill. I believe that if we do so we shall obtain better terms, and that a better bargain altogether will be made. I therefore hope that the Committee will be wise and vote for the amendment of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Macquarie.

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