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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr SAWERS (New England) - I very much deplore the displays of provincialism which are sometimes witnessed in this Chamber. To my mind it shows a very unfederal spirit when representatives of one State hurl scornful expressions at representatives of another State ; and we have too much talk from the Opposition benches about Victorian members. For my part, I know no State members in this House. I was under the impression when we entered into Federation that this House did not in any special way represent State interests, but simply represented the people for the benefit of all Australia. I have always been of opinion that there should never have been any compact in regard to the Federal Capital. The honorable member for Parramatta said that the New South Wales people gave up their vaunted policy of free-trade for the sake of this miserable compact; and I regard that expression of opinion as an insult to New South Wales. It is absurd to suppose that New South Wales would in this way sell her birthright for- a mess of pottage ; and I firmly believe what has been said by the honorable member for North Sydney, namely, that the Federal Capital will bring little or no special advantage to that State. The Federal territory is not likely to contain a vast population, and the slight advantage which would accrue to a few residents of Sydney by the importation of goods required for the Capital is surely not worth the giving up of a fiscal policy. New South Wales voted for Federation because she believed in Federation, and would have voted for it without that compact, which most New South Welshmen deplore. If the leader of the Opposition had not insisted on laying down-

The CHAIRMAN - I bust ask the honorable member to comply with the rules of debate.

Mr SAWERS - I was trying to reply to the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta, who travelled over a very wide ground. When some very inoffensive member is speaking he seems to be corrected ; J and the honorable member for Parramatta | took a much greater range than I am taking.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable member for New England in order in reflecting on the conduct of the Chairman t

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member for New England is in error. On two or three occasions, when the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking, I asked that honorable member to confine himself to the question before the Committee. I have done the same with every honorable member who has spoken, and I am sure the honorable member for New England, with, his long parliamentary experience, will assist the Chairman.

Mr SAWERS - I shall be very happy to do so. I notice, however, that the honorable member for Parramatta, when called to order, goes on with his speech and manages to say what he desires. I repeat that I deplore the provincial spirit which is so rampant, not only amongst certain members of the House, but also in the press of a certain city. In regard to the particular amendment before us, I am thoroughly in accord with the selection of Tumut, and also in accord with the expression of opinion by this Chamber that the Federal territory should consist of something like 1,000 square miles. We have not said in the Bill that the territory must be 1,000 square miles, but have merely expressed the opinion that we should like to acquire that area.

The CHAIRMAN - I must remind the honorable member that that question is not open for discussion, the Committee having already arrived at a decision. The only question is as to the elimination of certain words respecting the Rivers Murray and Mumimbidgee.

Mr SAWERS - I am merely saying, in passing, that I am thoroughly in accord with the opinion that we ought to have a fairly-sized Federal territory, and I think I am in order in associating the proposal for an area of 1,000 square miles with the amendment before us. I desire to make a personal explanation. I intend to reverse a vote which I gave some days ago. The day after we had taken the ballot as to the Federal sites, I entered the House just as honorable members were about to divide on an amendment moved

J by the honorable member . for Gramjpians, providing that the 1,000 square miles should extend to the River Murray. I had not heard the arguments, but it occurred to me that there would be no harm, so long as the amendment amounted to no more than an expression of opinion. I did not understand the amendment to provide that the territory must extend to the Murray, but I find that the word " shall " is used in the Bill. I can be no party to demanding from the New South Wales Government that the Federal territory shall extend to the River | Murray. I was in some doubt as to what j I should do on that occasion, but I voted \ with the Prime Minister, and thought it only proper to do so. When a subsequent amendment was moved by the honorable member for Canobolas that the territory should also extend to the Murrumbidgee, that was carried without discussion, and I had no time to investigate the matter. I very much regret having given those votes, because I think that the question should be left open to permit of negotiation between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government. We ought to confine ourselves to endeavouring by negotiation to obtain 1,000 square miles, or as large an area as is possible. It is absurd for us to declare that the Federal territory shall extend from the Murrumbidgee to the Murray. That would probably be a strip of country eighty miles long by twelve miles wide. No Government of New South Wales would ever accept such a proposition, because such a strip of territory would be like a stone wall blocking along that line of eighty miles the intercourse between citizens of that State who are only twelve miles apart. Though 1 had some sympathy with the honorable member for Grampians in the suggestion which I was under the impression he made, I have since found that the provision, as he submitted it, is mandatory. It is an absurd proposition as it stands now, and is creating jealousy and discord between the Commonwealth and New South Wales. \ hope the Commonwealth will acquire an area far in excess of the minimum of 100 square miles laid down in the Constitution ; but if we do not secure 1,000 square miles, I shall be satisfied with something less. I felt that I had placed myself in a difficulty in voting as I did last week ; but the amendment was sprung upon honorable members, and we had no time to give it full consideration. Having given it consideration since, I think it was imprudent to pass such an amendment, and I therefore intend to vote with the honorable member for Macquarie.

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