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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr FISHER (Wide Bay) - In a technical matter of this kind I think that it is desirable that the Prime Minister should give honorable members the benefit of his opinion as to the effect of using the word " should " instead of " shall." If honorable members are not capable of explaining the difference in meaning how can they expect the people of New South Wales to attach any special significance to one word as compared with the other ? We should not lay ourselves open to a charge of trying to obscure our meaning.

Mr. DEAKIN(Ballarat- Minister for External Affairs). - The use of the word " should " in this connexion is unusual. All legislation is mandatory ; it may, of course, be conditional. But as was pointed out when this measure was previously under consideration our purpose is to indicate the attitude assumed by the Commonwealth, not only towards the object to be achieved, but also towards the Government of New South Wales, with whom we shall soon enter into negotiations as to the manner in which the Federal Capital site can be finally acquired. It was desired therefore that, apart from any construction we might be disposed to place upon our powers under section 125, we should approach the New South Wales Government not with a demand, but with an indication of our wishes. The word "should" implies something that ought to be done, and not anything sought to be enforced. In an earlier part of the clause we replaced the word "shall" with the word "should," in order that we might be able to approach the Government of New South Wales - as they must be approached before we finally determine the site of the Federal Capital - in a manner appropriate to the occasion. It was thought that we should be in a better position to open negotiations if the word employed were not peremptory, and did not indicate force or coercion ; that, in other words, it should convey a desire and not a command on the part of this House. Under these circumstances, and interfering as little as I can in this matter, I venture once more to suggest that we should in every case substitute the word of conciliation and negotiation for the word of command.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. SAWERS(New England).- The concluding paragraph of the clause reads as follows : -

Provided that the site shall be within a distance of twenty-five miles from Tumut and at an altitude of not less than fifteen hundred feet above the sea.

I move - 1

That the motion be amended by the addition of the following words - "and except as to the words and at an altitude of not less than fifteen hundred feet above the sea,' the omission of which is agreed to."

Last week the Committee agreed, after an exhaustive ballot, that the Federal Capital site should be selected in the vicinity of Tumut. Honorable members were then largely influenced by the report of the Commission of Experts. I read that report very carefully. The best site discovered by the Commissioners in the neighbourhood of

Tumut was at a place called Lacmalac, and' I was so fascinated with their description that I cast my vote in support of their recommendation. The site of which we practically approved was stated to be at an altitude of only 1,050 feet, and I now ask honorable members what is the use of stipulating that the site should be at an altitude of not less than 1,500. Is it not absurd for us to approve of the site recommended by the Commissioners ?

Sir John Forrest - We did not approve of that particular site.

Mr SAWERS - Then we must have approved of some site of which we knew nothing. We do not even know that there is a decent site to be obtained anywhere near Tumut, at an altitude of not less than 1,500 feet. I am as much in favour of an elevated site as is the Minister for Home Affairs. I should prefer a site at 2,000 feet instead of one at 1,500 feet altitude if we could secure it.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why did the honorable member vote for the Tumut site?

Mr SAWERS - Because I was quite prepared to accept a site at an elevation of 1,050 feet, if a better one could not be secured. I would rather live at that altitude than at a height of 3,000 feet above sea level I have tried both altitudes. We are all in favour of selecting a site possessing a good climate, and if we could secure a location for the Capital at an elevation of 1,500 feet, we should no doubt all support its selection. At the same time, after having practically approved of the site recommended by the Commissioners at an altitude of 1,050 feet, we should not stultify ourselves by stipulating that the Capital should be built at an elevation of not less than 1,500 feet. By allowing the Bill to remain in its present form we should practically reverse our former decision.

Mr Watson - Not at all. We have not approved of the site recommended by the Commissioners.

Mr SAWERS - Then what did we approve of ?

Mr Watson - The Commissioners themselves suggested that a further survey should be made.

Mr SAWERS - I have no objection to that ; but honorable members committed themselves to the site recommended by the Commissioners at an altitude of 1,500 feet, if no better site could be obtained in the vicinity of Tumut. We should not exclude from our consideration sites at a height of, say 1,450 feet, which would possess practically as good a climate as country having fifty feet greater altitude. Surely we can trust to the common sense of the Government and of the Parliament to select a site at the most desirable altitude, if other things are equal.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I regret that the honorable member has moved his amendment, because it will only lead to further debate. If the honorable member had been present when the measure was previously discussed, he would know that it was not the desire of honorable members to fix upon any particular site.

Mr Sawers - I approved of the site recommended by the Commissioners, which they stated was at an altitude of 1,050 feet.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - A portion of that site may be at an altitude of 1,200 feet, whilst another portion may not be higher than 900 feet. It would be impossible to secure a large site at an absolutely uniform elevation. It was clearly intended by honorable members that the Capital should be built, not necessarily upon the exact site selected by the Commissioners, but as near to it as possible.

Mr Sawers - I did not vote on that understanding.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It was not intended to arbitrarily fix the site at any particular spot. It would be absolutely impossible to do so until proper, detailed contour surveys had been made. Then only could we decide upon the elevation.

Mr Sawers - But this provision is mandatory.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No ; it is proposed that the site shall be at an altitude of not less than 1,500 feet, and I have no doubt that a location answering this requirement will be found within a very short distance of Lacmalac. The honorable member could secure a higher altitude if he chose, and still obtain the advantage of as good a water supply as is to be found at Tumut. He declared that the Commissioners - of whom there were four and not five - did not examine any other site.

Mr Sawers - I did not say that.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I understood the honorable member to say that the Commissioners had decided in favour of the Lacmalac site. But I would point out to him that in their report they refer to the country surrounding Tumut, and affirm that it is possible to secure as good a water supply as is obtainable at Lacmalac, even if a higher site be chosen. They have taken all these questions into consideration, and I have nohesitation in saying, that if a site at a greater altitude than 1,050 feet is selected, we shall still be able to obtain as good a. water supply there as is to be secured at Tumut.

Mr Sawers - The Minister means that Tumut has a divine right to the Capital site.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - We can. find a good site in that vicinity. But what I chiefly desire to point out is that the whole of these details will require to be the subject of negotiation. Nothing contained in this. Bill is mandatory, and the provision affirming that the site of the Capital should be at an altitude of not less than 1,500 feet above the sea level is merely an expression of opinion that we ought not t© choose a locality where the heat is too great.

Mr Sawers - Why not make it mandatory?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - We have expressed the opinion that it is undesirable that the site should be situated in a valley or low riverside locality, which would prove detrimental hereafter. I trust that honorable members will allow the provision relating to the question of altitude to remain in the Bill.

Mr O'Malley - Fifteen hundred feet is not half high enough.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas).- I scarcely see any reason for objecting to the amendment of the honorable member for New England. He does not seek to eliminate from the Bill the condition that a search shall be made for a suitable site within twenty-five miles of Tumut. But I would point out that the provision in the measure which fixes the altitude of the site at not less than 1,500 feet above the sea-level practically excludes from consideration the two sites which were specially reported upon byMr. Oliver and the Federal Capital Sites Commissioners.

Mr Austin Chapman - It admits that those sites are too warm.

Mr BROWN - That may be so. Nevertheless, the two Commissions which investigated this matter reported that they were the best sites available. The honorable member for New England merely desires to obtain a better site if one can be found, and consequently he wishes to remove the embargo which has been imposed.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa). - I really fail to understand any reason why this amendment or any other should be further discussed. We all know that we are simply enacting a farce from which nothing will result. As far as I am concerned I intend to agree with the proposal of the Senate, seeing that we have already disagreed with one of its other amendments. In my judgment it is unnecessary to prolong discussion.

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