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Tuesday, 20 October 1903

Mr KINGSTON (South Australia) - I do not know that any one who really considers the question which we are now discussing can over-estimate its importance, and I say unhesitatingly that I sincerely desire that before we separate, and this Parliament terminates, some conclusion may be come to as regards the selection of the Capital site. Though my preference is undoubtedly Bombala, I should have been content if the other branch of the Legislature had assented to the proposition which recommended itself to the good sense of this House. I have not at any time, either as the representative of a State or personally, viewed this matter with any prejudice. All I desire is to come to a right conclusion on the subject. I wish for the selection within New South Wales, and during this Parliament, of the best site available. New South Wales is undoubtedly entitled to so much No effort should be spared to give her during the existence of this Parliament the full benefit of the bargain which was made in reference to the Capital site. That bargain imposes upon us the obligationto select a Capital site within New South Wales. It may be within any part of New South Wales, either on the border , or elsewhere, so long as it is not within 100 miles of Sydney. Having participated largely in the Federal movement, and having been present at and a member of the Premiers' Conference which agreed to the compact which was subsequently indorsed by the peoples of the various States, I claim to know what really was intended. There was no intention to give any particular part of New South Wales any particular interest in this matter. It was stipulated as clearly as could be that a certain part of that State was to be excluded, but that the Federal Parliament was to have the fullest power to determine a site anywhere else within its borders.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was anything said about putting the Federal Capital on the border 1

Mr KINGSTON - We all know what was suggested at the time, and what has been continually suggested. One of the earliest gatherings in connexion with Federation was held at Albury, and the talk was of Albury being the Federal Capital. Naturally, attention has been directed to the position of Albury as half way between Sydney and Melbourne. But I think that Bombala was also mentioned at the Premiers' Conference. These matters were in our minds. The Premiers were, so to speak, bargaining on the subject. The chief item of interest was the position of the Capital. It was discussed mainly between the representatives of the two States which, in the natural order of things, were most interested, which had, as it were, the chief claims to the selection of the Capital. It was an arrangement made between Victoria and New South Wales, and indorsed by the remaining States. But nothing was said or dreamt of about excluding a border site such as Albury or Bombala.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was anything said about including such a site ?

Mr KINGSTON - The matter was left at large. All that was agreed upon was that the site should be within New South Wales, but not within 100 miles of Sydney.

Mr THOMSON - Both Tumut and Bombala are near the border.

Mr KINGSTON - Yes. I would be no party to an arrangement which " kept the word of the promise to the ear and broke it to the hope." But nothing of the sort suggested was intended. I do not believe that the leader of the Opposition would support such a suggestion for a moment. He has not hitherto mentioned it, and he is npt one to forget a point which could be made on behalf of the State over whose destinies he so long presided, and which, with his fellow members, he so adequately represents. He would, on the contrary, have spoken from the fullness of his knowledge. It is because the honorable member for Parramatta has not had an opportunity to become precisely acquainted with what happened at the Premiers' Conference that he has given expression to the suggestion that there was an intention to secure for Sydney the trade of the Federal Capital. There was no such intention. The utmost liberty was conceded on both sides. If the Federal Parliament chose a site within 105 miles of Sydney, its decision would hold good, and if it chose a border site its decision would equally hold good. The one arrangement would be as honorable and as permissible under the compact made and ratified by inclusion in the Constitution as the other. I thoroughly sympathize with the criticisms to which the honorable member for North Sydney has- subjected those who urge the plea of delay in order practically to enforce a denial of the rights of New South Wales. I shall be no party at any time to anything in the nature of cheating that State out of its undoubted rights in this matter. There is the bond. We are honorable men, and I hope that neither because of journalistic promptings or for any other reason shall we be induced to follow a line of action which will expose us to shame, as the practical repudiation of the undoubted rights of New South Wales will do. Letus select the site at the earliest moment, and make the best selection we can under the circumstances. I rely upon the promise of the Government, because when we spoke of the matter before we proceeded to the consideration of the question in detail, it was stated that they would spare no pains to bring about an agreement between the two Houses on the subject -before the session terminated. I do not like to give way to the other House. But I am a strong believer in the advantages of the Bombala site, partly' because of its port, and partly because of its climate. I have listened with amusement to the suggestion that it is too cold. Of what part of Australia can the general complaint be made that it is too cold 1 I wish that a vote could have been taken on the subject on a day like last Sunday week. The suggestion that Bombala is too cold would then have been repudiated as absurd. Australians require cold. They are generally suffering from too much heat. Let us in this world, when we have a chance, try to obtain a moderately temperate climate, and not be frightened by the suggestion that a certain climate is likely to make us shiver. I should like to get to some place which has such a climate. One can keep out of the cold by ordinary measures, but one cannot live in refrigerators to keep out the heat. At least we should try to obtain a salubrious climate with a moderate temperature. I am satisfied that in the district to which reference has been made we can get what we want, and we ought to take it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member has been describing the climate of Lyndhurst.

Mr KINGSTON - I have listened attentively to many descriptions of climates and sites, and I can say that I am absolutely unprejudiced, because I have not seen any of the places referred to. But I have read a good deal about them, and I know that Mr. Oliver, who reported in favour of Bombala, is a trusted servant of the New SouthWales Government, and his opinions should have considerable weight with those who represent that State. I am prepared to indorse his view, particularly as it accords with my original idea with regard to the locality. I know that the Government have many difficulties to contend with, and I sympathize with them. But I am half inclined to think that a time arrives, in connexion with all matters, when those who occupy the Treasury Benches should assume the responsibility of their occupation and make a choice. The Government have various considerations to study in this matter. Here we have a conflict between the two Houses. The Senate favour Bombala, and I am inclined to think that if honorable members in this House could be again polled that site would have an equal chance here.

Mr Wilks - We have already had two chances.

Mr KINGSTON - Yes, and Lyndhurst was rejected. Bombala occupied the foremost place at the first ballot, when we had an opportunity of judging of the unbiased opinions of honorable members. However, it is difficult to arrive at the true opinion of the two Houses. I do not expect to draw the Government I liked their idea of a joint sitting when they first proposed it. I liked it specially as a member of this House, although I ventured to express a doubt whether the Senate would view the proposal with equal favour. They did not do so. Would they do so now ? Is it not worth trying? I hope something will be done. I take it that the Government recognise that we ought to settle the question this session. I have said that more than once ; but I think that we cannot be too much impressed with the idea At present the matter is a small one, but it is gradually increasing in importance, and unless it is promptly dealt with it may grow into a troublesome, festering sore. I am familiar with the history of it. I remember that in the old days of the 1891 Convention, Sir George Dibbs said, amongst other things, that he did not consider that the fiscal issue was the lion in the path of Federation. As regards that lion, at any rate, we have met and conquered it. I say, with a full absence of Ministerial responsibility, that we have obtained protection, and that it has, in my opinion, come to stay. However, I do not wish to discuss that subject. Sir George Dibbs said that he was going to throw a bonibshell into the camp, and he did so by raising the issue of the Federal Capital. He moved that Sydney should be the Capital, and there was trouble at once. The members of the Convention then resolved that the question of the Capital site was a proper one to be dealt with by the Federal Parliament, and I am sorry that that conclusion was not adhered to. I venture to think that, if the matter had been left perfectly open in the way then proposed, our discussion to-day would have been by no means confined to two sites in New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We should have been considering Ballarat.

Mr Brown - New South Wales would not have been considered then.

Mr KINGSTON - I do consider New South Wales.I am sure that no one can say that at any time during my political career I have exhibited myself in the character of a parish or purely local politician. I have endeavoured to avoid anything of the kind, and I believe that I have been successful. At the same time, now that the honorable member for Parramatta has mentioned the matter, I may confess that I have always had a sneaking regard for the location of the Federal Capital in the neighborhood of Ballarat. Such a site would be ceutral, and the land would be suitable. However, that cannot be now, because an agreement has been entered into with New South Wales. Now that we find that the two Houses are opposed to each other, I put it to the Prime Minister whether the time has not arrived when the weight of the

Ministry should be thrown into one scale or the other. Shall we not remain at issue after the close of this Parliament if we are not careful. Do , we wish to be troubled with this matter at the Federal elections ? I do not. I do not know that this will be a burning question in the constituency which I aspire to represent; but I am thinking of others. I ask, " Would our difficulties be lessened by passing this troublesome question over to the next Parliament, instead of dealing with it now V I am inclined to think that the gulf between us would grow wider and wider. I do not know what form of procedure can be adopted to insure a solution of the question, unless the Government take upon themselves the responsibility of deciding which is the best site, and putting the whole weight of their influence into the advocacy of that site, and, if necessary, using their full constitutional powers to bring about an agreement upon the subject. As an advocate of Bombala, I have listened with some impatience to the criticisms directed to the number of persons who were represented by the senators who recorded their votes in favour of that site. I say that that is not the test which should be applied, in order to judge the weight of resolutions arrived at by the Senate. The idea is opposed to the constitutional principle that each State is entitled to equal representation in point of numbers, absolutely irrespective of population. It seems to me that in this matter of the decision of the Federal Capital site we should rather look to the constitution of the present Government, and to the votes recorded by Ministers. " The Minister for Trade and Customs pointed out that the number of people represented by the senators who voted for Bombala, was equivalent to only three-fourths of the number represented by those who voted for another site. If we apply the same test to the constitution of the Ministry, and to the votes recorded by Ministers, we find that the majority is three to one in favour of Bombala. The votes recorded by Ministers show that they are almost unanimously in favour of Bombala as compared with the other sites. Under these circumstances, is not their duty clear t Here is the position : The Prime Minister, the Minister for Home Affairs, the Minister for Defence, and the Postmaster-General are in favour of Bombala. Thus, even in this House, we have four Ministers in favour of that site, as against two who support other sites. Then the only two Ministers in the Senate are in favour of Bombala. Therefore, six out of eight Ministers favour that site. It seems to me be to an undesirable innovation that at all times this question should be treated as other than a Government matter. The time must come in the ordinary course of affairs when Governments must assume responsibility for the measures which they introduce and advocate, and when they must feel that the right course to adopt is to give effect to the weight of their great majority.

Mr Thomson - They referred the matter to the House.

Mr KINGSTON - That was only one way of obtaining the sense of the House on the subject. Of course, the Government might have recognised the necessity for a united policy in this matter, and have made the Bill a Government measure. They have, so far, bowed to the decision of the House, and, as a Government, have been content to subordinate the weight of six votes to two.

Mr Thomson - The right honorable member is wrong in his figures. One of the members of the Government in the Senate voted in favour of Tumut.

Mr KINGSTON - No ; I have just refreshed my memory upon the subject.

Mr Wilks - The Attorney-General voted for Tumut.

Mr KINGSTON -I am delighted to be corrected. I was misled by referring to the wrong division. However, the fact remains that five Ministers out of eight are in favour of the selection of Bombala. It seems to me that we cannot continue very much longer in this position. The Government must declare themselves. Upon, a question of this importance, in regard to which it is desirable that a conclusion should be arrived at, we should hare the advantage of the united assist-

I ance of the Ministry. I do not say, at | the present moment, that I shall support whichever site they may recommend, but I shall be much inclined to do whatever I can to assist to remove for all time from bitter debate into peaceable regions this all-important question, which every honorable member desires to see settled before we go to the country.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Resolved(on motion by Mr. Deakin) -

That the honorable and learned member for Indi, the honorable member for Bland, and the Minister for Trade and Customs, be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing with the amendments of the Senate.

The Committee presented the following report : -

As to Amendment No. 1 -

Because the House is of opinion that Tumut is the more suitable locality.

As to Amendment No. 2 -

Because the House considers it most desirable (1) that the Federal territory should have important river frontages, and (2) that the choice of the actual site should be fixed within a reasonable area and at an altitude to insure favorable conditions.

Report adopted.

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