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Wednesday, 21 October 1903

Mr WILKS (Dalley) - The honorable member for Parramatta has covered a good deal of the ground which I had intended to traverse. He has referred to the eloquence of the Prime Minister, and to the rounded periods in which the honorable gentleman indulged. But the people of New South Wales will not be satisfied with his assurance that in the dim and distant future the question of the Federal Capital site will be settled. That is a nice sort of Christmas box to offer them.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member knows that his statement is not correct, and he is merely making it for party purposes.

Mr WILKS - My answer to the Minister for Trade and Customs is that he did not fight, as he might have fought, for the settlement of the Capital site question.

Sir William Lyne - I fought as hard as anybody could, and the honorable member knows it.

Mr WILKS - The honorable gentleman fought up to a certain point ; but he ought to have fought as did the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston,' who recently severed his connexion with the Ministry rather than have his will in a certain matter thwarted.

Sir William Lyne - A lot of good his action did to himself and his cause.

Mr WILKS - When representatives of New South Wales use practical language in dealing with this question, we are told that we are parochialists. But if any honorable member fights in the interests of Victoria, he is immediately regarded as a heavenborn statesman. The Victorians know very well that, for the time being, they have jostled New South Wales out of the possession of the Federal Capital. But the electors of that State will take care that the language of the Prime Minister does not deceive them. They want the Capital site selected. So far, the only result of our efforts to settle this question has been that two towns have been flying flags. At the present time they are flying them at half-mast. I believe that in the near future flags will be flying at Lyndhurst. My answer to the remarks of the Minister for Home Affairs is that there is no necessity to make this question a party one. The Ministry, however, should make it a Government question. The Prime Minister has declared that he was largely influenced by the report of Mr. Oliver. Yet the Commissioners who were appointed by the present Government reported against Bombala, which was the site recommended by that officer. I realize that it is sheer waste of time to discuss this question at any length at the present stage of the session. The representatives of New South Wales who countenance the abandonment of the measure - and that is the effect of the Government proposal to postpone its consideration until Tuesday next - will be subjected to a very rude awakening. The people of that State do not care what site is selected. Their grievance is that the constitutional compact has not been observed, and that this Parliament has neglected to select a site. From the utterances of the Prime Minister, it seems as if he is relying upon a precept of the Baconian philosophy - " Time, the great innovator."' He imagines that time will kill the desire for a settlement of the Capital site. He will find that the very reverse is the case. The people of New South Wales will be more determined than ever to see thateffect is given to the letter as well as to the spirit of the Constitution. In spite of all the promises of the ex-Prime Minister, we now find, at the close of the first Commonwealth Parliament, that we have to return to New South Wales with the sorry Christmas box which the Government now offer us. Simultaneously, Victoria is endeavouring to delay the establishment of the Federal Capital, upon the ground of the expense which would be involved in giving effect to the constitutional compact.

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