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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr McDONALD (Kennedy) - I should like some explanation from the Minister who is in charge of this Bill as to the exact position which we have now reached. The Senate has decided in one direction, and this House in another. Are we to secure any finality in regard to this matter? Do the Government intend to make the Bill a Government measure with a view to deciding at an early date where the Capital shall be established, and when we are likely to remove there ? Under the provision relating to dead-locks, which is contained in the Constitution, it seems to me that after the lapse of three months this Bill can again be brought forward. I should like the Ministry to make it a Government measure. It will be within the recollection of all that when the Government declined to accept the responsibility of recommending any particular site to the House, honorable members treated them very generously. They assumed the whole of the responsibility in connexion with the Bill, and proceeded to select the site which in their opinion was the best available. I desire to know now who owns this measure ?

Mr Kingston - It has no acknowledged paternity.

Mr McDONALD - Do the Government intend to proceed with it next session in the form in which it left this House, so that in the event of the Senate again refusing to pass it there may be a joint sitting of the two Houses? Should a decision be impossible under those circumstances, will the Ministry then ask for a dissolution of Parliament, with a view to bringing about some definite result? In the interests of New South Wales and of Australia, the question should be decided at the earliest possible date, and it appears to me that the adoption of the course which I have suggested is the only way in which such a result can be resolved.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).- I think that the honorable member for Kennedy has put a very pertinent question. Honorable members have a right to know what are the intentions of the Government in regard to this important matter. The Government, as we know, are much divided upon this question ; the Prime Minister being in direct opposition to some of his colleagues, as to the most suitable site at which to establish the Capital. I submit, however, that we have got beyond that stage, and that the Government has a right to respect the opinion of the House as deliberately expressed on two occasions. I think the House has decided that Tumut should be the site.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that any honorable member will deny that the two Houses are in direct conflict upon the question of site, and unless we intend to proceed further with the matter, we shall only be wasting time by once more sending this measure to another place. I should like to know whether there is anything in our rules of procedure or in the Constitution that would prevent the Government from straightway requesting another place to meet this House in conference ? The issue between the two Chambers is now clear enough, and there is no possibility of altering that issue.

Mr McDonald - No one owns the Bill.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for Trade and Customs, it is true, has charge of the Bill, but his colleagues, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence, and the Minister for Home Affairs, are in deadly conflict with him so far as the question of site is concerned. It seems to me that the vote given in another place conveys to us the clearest indication of its opinion, and that the Government ought not to consider any longer their own individual and conflicting views. They should take up the cause of this House in its constitutional relations with another Chamber. I take it that, even in a matter of this kind, there is a point at which the Government should surrender their own individual opinions. If we are to arrive at finality we shall be able to do so only by compromise. I therefore submit that the question is no longer one which the Government should treat in an independent way, but that they should rather lead the House in its negotiations with another place for a final settlement of the question. Having regard also, to the fact that the present Parliament is about to expire, the Government should no longer stand upon ceremony. They should not wait for the Senate to again return this Bill, as we know it will, but should at this stage open up negotiations with another place by a respectful address from this House asking for a Conference, so that the matter may he finally determined.

Mr. WATSON(Bland).- The suggestions which have just been put forward are worthy of the attention of the Government, because I believe that there, is in another place quite a number of honorable members who honestly desire to see this matter settled at an early date. It is true that the large majority of members of another place have taken a view different from that expressed by this House as to the most desirable site ; but that attitude is quite compatible with a wish to settle the question within a reasonably early date, and also with a possible alteration in the attitude of some honorable members with a view to that end. After the decisive vote given by this House on two occasions I think that it is more than likely that if a strong effort were made by the Government to arrive at a settlement some good result would be the outcome. This is one of thoseoccasions on which the Government should make an effort as a combined body to cause effect to be given to the wishes of the House. Members of the Government were certainly entitled to hold individual opinions as to the most desirable site to select ; but a pledge was given by the Ministry that the question should, if possible, be settled this session. That pledge was given to the country as a whole. The question is nolonger one as to the most desirable site, but whether we should have the matter settled during the present session, or whether it should be held over perhaps even beyond the life of the next Parliament. No one knows what is likely to happen when the next Parliament meets. If any delay occurs in dealing with this matter during next session, or, if it cannot be brought to a successful issue, this Government will be held responsible if they make no effort on the present occasion to secure a settlement.

Mr. AUSTINCHAPMAN (Eden- Monaro - Minister for Defence). - It is allvery well for honorable members to urge that in view of the vote given to-night on the question of the site of the Capital we should settle this matter at once ; but I should like to point out that that vote represents only forty-six out of seventy-four honorable members.

Mr Watson - The rest are all right.

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