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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I thought that we would hear some honorable members who are supporting the Government in their proposal in connexion with this question, and I delayed making the few remarks I wished to offer with a view to getting increased information which I think the Committee should have. So far the speeches delivered have been against the proposal of the Minister. The position originally taken up by the Government with respect to this question was the correct one. They introduced a Bill to fix the Capital site, leaving the question of the territory to be dealt with by a subsequent Bill. It was in that subsequent Bill that conditions affecting the Federal territory should have found expression. But the Government have managed this affair in such a supine and unsatisfactory way that the whole question has been complicated by conditions. First of all there was the condition that the Federal territory shall embrace 1,000 square miles of country ; then there was a further condition agreed to that it should extend from Tumut to the Murray, and, further, that it should extend from Tumut to the Murrumbidgee ; and then there was a further condition introduced, setting aside all the information which guided this House in the decision in favour of Tumut, to the effect that the site should not be at Lacmalac or Gadara, but that it should be anywhere within twenty-five miles of Tumut. All these conditions have been agreed to since the decision as to the site was arrived at, and they tend only to make the settlement of this very important question more difficult. They have already created some amount of friction between the Federal Government and the Government of New South Wales.

Sir William Lyne - Not the slightest.

Mr BROWN - The honorable gentleman in charge of the Bill may have some information which honorable members generally do not possess ; but if he will look at the reports of the debates in the State Parliament of New South Wales, he will find that members of the State Ministry have given expression to opinions with respect to this proposal that point strongly to the existence of very great friction. The Minister for Lands in New South Wales has indicated that there is no hope of the Federal Government ever getting the maximum area we are asking for in this clause, or an extension of Federal territory down to the banks of the Murray. The Minister for Trade and Customs might have talked New South Wales Ministers back to " sweet reasonableness " in the meantime ; but so far as honorable members generally are aware, the position between the two Governments is one of extreme friction, and it has been brought about by the proposal of conditions which should not have found a place in this Bill. I am as strongly in favour of an area of not less than 1,000 square miles as any other honorable member can be, but a great deal depends on its shape and the character of the land which it embraces. I should not like the Federal territory to be of those dimensions, with the larger portion of the land unsuited for any form of occupation. W7e should consider the nature of the country within the area, and whether it could be profitably used or not in carrying out this scheme. But - why I cannot say - we are needlessly creating friction, if not between the Federal Government and the State Government, certainly between the Federal Government and a very considerable section of the representatives, and probably a big section of the community of New South Wales, whom we want to hear on this very important subject at one time or another. Where was the need to create this friction? This matter should have been left to negotiation, before it was embodied in legislation. I undertake to say that if the State of New South Wales had been approached in a proper spirit, the same amount of consideration which it has already given to the Federal Government would have been extended in this particular. But this Parliament put itself in the position of practical^ approaching the State Government with a demand that so many thousand square miles of territory should be ceded, in a particular shape, which meant that it was to be ninety miles long, by twelve or fourteen miles broad, and to run right through the centre of the State. That position is, I think, not creditable to the Government, or to the Parliament. We ought to endeavour to consider the wishes of New South Wales, and if we can arrive at an understanding by a proper method of negotiation, and avoid a lot of friction which is now seething in that State, and possibly may lead to considerable difficulty in settling this question, we ought to try to do so. For some unaccountable reason the Ministry, instead of showing their sincerity in the stand which they originally took and indicated as the correct one, sat behind the members who sought to introduce these unwise, and, I believe, impossible conditions, into the measure. Take the question of the means of arriving at a settlement. If we turn to the records, we shall find that only eleven members voted for Tumut from

Start to finish, while fourteen members voted for Lyndhurst, and a similar number for Bombala.

The CHAIRMAN - Order. I must ask the honorable member not to discuss the votes of the House.

Mr BROWN - I am only making that reference for the purpose of showing that this particular site did not command the support of a majority of honorable members.

The CHAIRMAN - The question of the site has been decided by the Committee, and is not now open for discussion.

Mr BROWN - I did not intend to deal generally with that matter, but merely to show that the Tumut site did not command the support of a majority of honorable members, and that when it was selected apparently some honorable members took the opportunity of imposing a condition which it would be impossible for New South Wales to accept. My complaint is that the Government were not true to the principle which they had clearly laid down when they got behind those honorable members in order to bring about that position. The honorable member for Grampians, who was responsible for the amendment to extend the territory to the Murray, had previously urged, in strong terms, that there was a site on the Murray which had not been considered, and which, in his opinion - possibly it may be so - was superior to any of the sites which had been under review. That was position No. 1. Then, despite the fact that the Government had appointed a Commission of Experts to deal with the question nob of territory, but sites, and that, after having the advantage of Mr. Oliver's exhaustive inquiry, and investigating the district, it had selected the site which in its opinion was the better, or I may say the best site, we had the .Minister for Home Affairs, following in the wake of the honorable member for the Grampians, with a further amendment, which was presented to me originally as meaning that the question of the location of the Capital site should be eliminated, and that the clause should be made so wide as to embrace the whole of this territory. When I saw a movement of that character, and particularly when I saw the Government - who had protested that this was the wrong way to proceed - assisting to drag the territory down from Tumut to the Murray, and also getting ready another amendment to wipe out the condition that Lacmalac should be the chosen site as recomended by their own Commission, I felt very dissatisfied with the proceedings, and my suspicions as to the reasons which underlay the movement were very considerably excited. It seemed to me that when a certain number of honorable members who were desirous of getting as near to the border as possible by selecting the Albury or Bombala site, were defeated on those sites they supported the selection of the Tumut site as against the Lyndhurst site, and having secured its acceptance--

The CHAIRMAN - Order \ The honorable member is now discussing the question of the sites, which has been determined.

Mr BROWN - I am discussing the question of whether . the Committee should approve of the amendment of the Senate, and thus wipe out the condition that the territory shall extend to the Murray. When I saw that position taken up by the Government, I moved the counter amendment that the territory should extend to the Murrumbidgee - which I must admit practically makes the question of site ridiculous and impossible - because there was nothing else open for me to do. If the Government had stood by the position which they had originally taken up, and opposed the site being specified, I should have supported them, and so left the matter open for arrangement. But when I saw them helping the honorable member for Grampians to put in this condition, I thought that as a representative of New South Wales, which had some interests to be considered, I was justified in moving the amendment to extend the territory to the Murrumbidgee. Whatever purpose underlay the proposal of the honorable member for Grampians, honorable members can now see that it is a ridiculous proposal.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member made it so.

Mr BROWN - I took a proper course. It was the only opportunity I had of gaining for New South Wales some little consideration which the Minister, as one of its representatives, ought to have stood up here and tried to obtain.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member talks so much that there is no time for any one else to speak.

Mr BROWN - If the Minister believes that the Tumut site is the best - I do not think he really does - and is going to give the site a fair show to secure the final selection, he should now- proceed to remedy the mistake which he made on a previous occasion by helping to eliminate ridiculous conditions, which are not essential to the Bill. Let the Government have a free hand to negotiate for a territory, and in that way to determine what shape it shall take, and what country it shall embrace. We have been committed to a proposition without any knowledge of the territory to which it relates. We have been supplied with no information to lead us to believe either that the territory on the Murray is good, or that it is not worth having. I would strongly urge the Government to agree with the Senate's amendment, and so get these ridiculous frictioncausing conditions eliminated. It has been urged by some honorable members that it is necessary to extend the Federal territory to the Murray, in order to secure accessibility. If our Federal spirit is of such a character that it is necessary to secure some independent means of ingress and egress to the Federal territory lest the State in which it is located assumes a hostile attitude, I have very little hope for the future stability of the Commonwealth. I think that there is no danger in that direction, and that no matter whether the Federal territory is on the border or in the heart of New South Wales, free accessibility will be given. This plea of dragging down the territory to the border, in order to secure accessibility independent of New South Wales, is not at all complimentary to the Federal spirit of that State, and has no sound foundation. Butsuppose that we admit, for the sake of argument, that that is a reason why the Federal territory should extend to the Murray, may we not also suggest that the other States may be denied means of access through Victoria and New South Wales ? That condition does not exist, happily for the success of our Federal movement; and to create such bugbears is to do an injustice to the Federal spirit which has drawn us together. I hope the Government will now see the ad visableness of repairing an indefensible blunder, by eliminating from the Bill impossible conditions, negotiating with respect to the site, and after having come to terms with New South Wales, submitting a Bill to the House in proper form.

Mr. AUSTINCHAPMAN (EdenMonaro - Minister for Defence). - I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Parramatta stated this afternoon that, in the course of a speech made by me on the Bill, I said that Sydney had no right to be considered in the matter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not make that statement.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The honorable member said something to that effect. I asked him to make a disclaimer, and supplied him with the Hansard report of my remarks ; but, as he neglected to do so, I desire to quote the words myself. I am reported on page 5915 to have said -

I contend that we should cast aside all provincial feeling. We should ask ourselves, not which is the best site for the Capital from the standpoint of Sydney or Melbourne, but which is the best site in the interests of the Commonwealth. Neither Sydney not Melbourne has any divine right to all the advantages flowing from the situation of the Capital. Why should not Perth, Adelaide, and Hobart be taken into consideration ?

On a former occasion I am reported to have said -

We must keep in view the possible developments of the States, and we must consider that a site which would be convenient only for representatives of Victoria and New South Wales might be extremety inconvenient for those who represent other States. As a representative of New South Wales, I have yet to learn that the people of that State have any divine right to the control and trade of the Capital. I have yet to learn that we have any right to select a site that will divert the trade to Sydney.

The honorable member misquoted me.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not. That was the expression I used.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I stand by those reports, and I repeat that in my opinion we ought not to consider any one State or any one capital. If Federation is to mean anything, trade must flow in its natural channels. . Neither Sydney, Melbourne, nor any other city has a divine right to a diversion of trade in its own interests, while the Federal Capital should be placed in whatever situation will be best for the whole of Australia.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).-I do not think the Minister's explanation has mended matters. I did him no injustice, because I quoted the remarks which he made, and which he has just repeated. He did say that he had yet to learn that New South Wales has no divine right to the control of the Capital or of trade.

Mr Salmon - The honorable member for Parramatta said Sydney.

Sir William Lyne - Yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not, though I confess that I do not think there is very much difference between the two phrases. The Minister has stated over and over again in this chamber that those who represent Sydney do not represent New SouthWales.

Mr Austin Chapman - Neither do they

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is entitled to his opinions ; but that statement is as wild and inaccurate as most of his. If we do not represent New South Wales, I cannot find much evidence in the speeeh which he has just quoted that he represents it, and I have yet to learn that he is promoting the best interests of the State when he is prepared to give up 3,000 square miles of territory for the Federal Capital. If we, who are trying to keep to the bond as nearly as we can, do not represent New SouthWales, I should like to know if he can be said to represent it when he is prepared to give up so much of the territory of the State.

Mr Austin Chapman - The honorable member had better send a candidate into my division during the next elections to see if I do.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member, like another Sir Galahad, would chase any candidate through his division, crying all the time about the influence of Sydney.

Mr Sawers - The honorable member for Robertson and myself were kept strictly to the amendment, and I ask you, Mr. Chairman, to mete out the same treatment to others.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member for Parramatta is not in order. I have allowed him to make a personal reply to the Minister ; but he is not in order in going beyond that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I take it that the whole subject of debate is open to me.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must confine himself to the amendment of the honorable member for Macquarie.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In speaking about the area of the Federal territory I am dealing with the amendment. I am showing that the Minister is prepared to give up 3,000, and, probably, 6,000, or 10, 00 square miles of New South Wales territory, so long as he can secure the selection of a site within his own division.

The CHAIRMAN - The question of area has already been decided, and, therefore, cannot be debated.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In that case, as I have no wish to transgress the rules of the Committee, I have nothing further to say.

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