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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) - I refrained from taking part in the general debate on this Bill when it was before the House some time ago, because of my desire that we should come to some determination in regard to the site of the Capital before the close of the present Parliament. But, having foregone my right on that occasion, only to find that the question still remains unsettled, and that, judging by the speeches made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro and others, there is apparently a desire not to allow it to be dealt with finally during the present session. I feel it my duty to protest against the absence of good faith shown by those who wish to defer the selection of the site. That desire is due evidently to the belief that at the next elections a majority will be returned to this House pledged to do nothing in the matter. It is hinted at very significantly that certain members of the Parliament supported the selection of Bombala in another place for the reason that they did not think that that site would be accepted, and because they believed that they were in that way adopting an easy method to stave off the determination of the question.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must not discuss the several sites. He will have an opportunity to do so at a later stage.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I have no desire to discuss the merits of Bombala. I could possibly say as much in favour of that site as has been said by many other honorable members ; but I more strongly favour the selection of what I consider to be the best site in Australia. I refer to Lyndhurst.

Mr Sawers - Which is at the honorable member's back door.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I voted for the selection of that site conscientiously believing that it was the best site that could be obtained.

The CHAIRMAN - Will the honorable member permit me to remind him that the question before the Committee is whether we should agree to the Senate's amendment, eliminating certain words from the clause. That is the only question before the Committee.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The words to which you have referred, Mr. Chairman, contain some reference to the question of locality, and believing that Lyndhurst had a very strong bearing upon that question, I was referring to it in reply to the interjection made by the honorable member for New England, who asserted that that site was at my back door. It is not at my back door. It is the natural centre of New South Wales, and is, and will be the centre of settlement in the Commonwealth. If in making a selection we had had regard to accessibility, climate, and altitude, Lyndhurst would not have been overlooked. It is themost central site of the Commonwealth, and the most suitable place at which to establish the Capital.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member must see that he is transgressing the rules of debate. The debate must be confined to the question immediately before the Chair. I have already informed the honorable member that he will have an opportunity in the House to refer to the several sites.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I shall avail myself of that opportunity. When the original draft of the Constitution was before the people of Australia theelectors of -New South Wales voted very strongly in opposition to it, because they were not in favour of certain provisions. It was enacted by the Parliament of New South Wales that there should be a statutory number of votes recorded in favour of the Bill before it was accepted by that State. That statutory number was not obtained, for certain reasons which I shall not enumerate. But I shall state one of them. There may appear to be very littlein it to the bulk of those people who favoured the first draft of the Constitution, but the majority of the people of New South Wales who opposed it because amongst other provisions the Federal citywas not to be in New South Wales.

Mr Salmon - The Constitution did not say that.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The Constitution Bill did not say that, but it enacted that the Capital city might be in any part of Australia. As New South Wales was the oldest State, and would be the most influential part of the Commonwealth, financially and numerically, the people of that State said that theFederal city ought to be established within her territory.

Mr Salmon - What authority has the honorable [member for making that statement '

The CHAIRMAN - Honorable members must-cease from making these interjections, and I ask the honorable member for Robertson to confine himself to the question before the Committee.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - It would be very firm if you, sir, insisted on my not answering such a pertinent question as that just put to me. The honorable member for Laanecoorie questions the financial and numerical strength of New South Wales. Is he unaware that there would have been no union if it had not been for the financial strength of New South Wales 1

The CHAIRMAN - I am sure that the honorable member desires to assist the ' Chair. I have twice told him that he will not be deprived of his opportunity of dealing with the whole question in the House, but he is deprived of it now. The only -question that can be debated now is as to our agreement or otherwise with the Senate in eliminating certain words.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I regret very much that I am not at liberty to answer questions which have been put to me. I have been told by old parliamentarians that in order to understand the rules of Parliament thoroughly one must break them all. I thought I might take- the risk of breaking one or two of them, because what I had to say might have a good effect upon the electors of Victoria. However, as I know you recognise that I am not in the habit of violating the rules of the House, and as I desire to be always respectful to you, I will proceed a little further with my remarks. I wish to refer to the unwarrantable remarks made against the people of New South Wales by certain honorable members who preceded me. Some time ago when this question was being discussed all over Australia, there was a general feeling in Victoria that the Capital should be located at Ballarat--

Mr Knox - A very good place, too.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - The honorable member for Kooyong says that Ballarat is a very good place. There are many superior places in New South Wales - the senior State of the Union.

The CHAIRMAN - I must ask the honorable member not to take notice of interjections. There is no reason why he should reply to them.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I am aware that it is most disorderly to interject. I -was about to remark that Ballarat is an excellent place. Recently I took the opportunity of visiting that locality. It would have been a very suitable, place indeed for the Federal Capital if New South Wales and Queensland were not in the Union, but not otherwise. Probably the reason why the people of Australia, apart from those in New South Wales, had a leaning towards Ballarat was, because it was much nearer to the capitals of some of the States-

The CHAIRMAN - I hope that the honorable member will not force me to take stronger measures. I have no desire to do so, but I must again remind him that he is going outside the rules of debate.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I do not know how far I can go. It is, however, impossible for me to allow the people of New South Wales to be deceived without exposing the deception. I should like to point out one of the reasons for New South Wales being in favour of the Capital city being established nearer to Sydney than to Melbourne.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member will not be in order in doing that.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - New South Wales wished to have the Capital because she is the oldest State of the union. The States of South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania had an opportunity of forming a federation amongst themselves, but they did not avail themselves of it. Why 1 Because financially they could not enter into it.

Mr Salmon - What rubbish.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - New South Wales knew that her entry into the union was essential to its success.

The CHAIRMAN - I do sincerely trust that the honorable member will obey the Chair. I have already told him that he will not be deprived of his opportunity of dealing with the whole question hi the House, but he is deprived pf the opportunity in Committee.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Can I not speak of the locality 1 Victorian members have been allowed to transgress to the extent of insulting the people of my State ; moreover, the Government are finessing to prevent; a decision of the Capital site question.

The CHAIRMAN - The question is that the Committee disagree with the Senate's amendment No. 2 ; upon which an amendment has been proposed by the honorable member for Macquarie. The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question whether the Committee agrees or otherwise with the Senate in eliminating the words in question.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I think that the words objected to by the honorable member for Macquarie should be struck out. The words embody a limit to the selection of the Capital site. When the Conference of Premiers was held several years ago, before the Constitution was accepted, it was determined that a provision should be inserted in the Constitution that the Federal Capital should be within New South Wales, but not within 100 miles of Sydney. Shall I be in order in referring to the constitutional aspect of the question 1

The CHAIRMAN - No ; I have already told the honorable member that he will not be in order. I trust that I shall not have to resort to stronger measures. The question for consideration at this juncture is that which I have already explained.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I have listened to the debate during the evening, and it would appear that I am unable to make any remarks upon the lines that have been pursued by honorable members who have preceded me. This Parliament is said to be the fairest Parliament in Australia, where any man may be heard in favour of any cause. I wish to reply to remarks which I do not consider to be fair to the State of New South Wales, and I thought I should be in order in doing so, despite your ruling to the contrary. The question of locality is introduced in the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie, and I contend that I might be permitted to make some remarks on that point.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member will be in order in dealing with the question of the locality between the Rivers Murray and Mumimbidgee. I would point out that every honorable member who has addressed himself to the question practically confined himself to that question, and did not digress. Other honorable members have obeyed the Chair when their attention has been called- to the matter.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I feel it to be my duty to submit to your ruling, and to see that other honorable members who make speeches upon this question do not transgress. I shall reserve my further remarks for a future opportunity, when I shall be able to go fully into the question, and to reply at length to the speeches and interjections which have been made by the Victorian representatives.

Mr. CRUICKSHANK(Gwydir).- I do not want to follow in the footsteps of theunruly member for Robertson, and I shall endeavour to keep within the lines laid down by the Chairman. But I do not desire to let the opportunity pass without saying a word or two. It appears to me that we are somewhat mixed. We are all very anxious that the Federal Capital question shall be settled this session. But honorable members have been dealing with other questions than that of the settlement of the site. They have been trying to lay down conditions, and to draw conclusions, as to what was the original intention as to the area of land to be handed over under the Constitution. It is difficult to deal with the amendments which have been made,, because we have to approach them in a circuitous way. I wish particularly to refer to the territory that it is proposed to take between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee. I may describe it as a shapeless, piece of land. It appears to me that we shall place ourselves in a much more satisfactory position if we decide to go back to the original proposal as . nearly as possible. I am quite sure that if the Minister in charge of the Bill wishes to keep in the good graces of those people in the little valley where I saw 'him the other day, he will accept a curtailment of the extended boundaries of the proposed Federal territory, and endeavour to return the Bill to the Senate in as nearly as possible its original form. I am afraid I should be a. little out of order if I said a word about Lyndhurst.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member would.

Mr CRUICKSHANK - I believe it is very good agricultural land around Lyndhurst, and I suppose I may refer to it by way of comparison. I was at Tumut the other day, and there I saw some good agricultural land, though I am informed it is not nearly so good as that around Lyndhurst. The great trouble appears to arise as to the question of urgency. On the one hand, we wish to have the question settled this session, and on the other hand, we desire to make the best choice of a Federal Capital which is to last for all time. Many of the New South Wales members might be willing to extend the territory right across- the border, but J they are divided amongst themselves as to I the wisdom of coming to a conclusion which , in the other Chamber may have the effect of shelving the question until the next Parliament meets. I have been at a loss to decide whether it is wise to give a vote which may have that effect, and thus leave . the Bill for the consideration of the electors, or whether it is our duty to force the | measure through in a shape in which it ; will be accepted by the Senate, and become j law? I am afraid that the only way in which we can help the Minister in charge of the Bill is to accept an amendment in favour of Bombala.

The CHAIRMAN - That question has already been decided.

Mr CRUICKSHANK - That is unfortunate for the supporters of Bombala, seeing that we must confine our attention to Tumut.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member is in order in discussing either Tumut or Bombala. The only question is as to agreeing or otherwise with the Senate in eliminating certain words.

Mr CRUICKSHANK - -The curtailment of the area was in my mind, and I think I shall be safe in voting for the amendment, which will bring the area as nearly as possible to that contemplated by the Constitution.

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