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Wednesday, 20 July 1904


Mr BATCHELOR (Boothby) (Minister of Home Affairs) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

It may be well to recall to the minds of honorable members' the steps which have been taken in this Parliament up to the present time to provide for the choosing of a site for the Federal Capital. It will be remembered that at the end of the first session of the First Parliament, the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, moved in this House the adoption of a series of resolutions, which were also introduced in the Senate, with a view to providing for a joint sitting of the two- Houses, so that their members might vote together in the choice of the Capital site. The resolutions were agreed to in this Chamber, but rejected in the Senate, so that the arrangement for which they provided, and which presented some distinct advantages, in being likely to secure an early settlement of the question, could not be carried out. The next step taken in connexion with the matter was the introduction by the honorable member for Hume of a Bill very much on the lines of the measure now before us. In one of the clauses of that Bill a blank was left, which was to be filled by the name of the site chosen, and that blank was filled in Committee of this House by the insertion of the word " Tumut. " The Senate, however, when it received the Bill, struck out the word " Tumut," and substituted for it the word " Bombala." Those proceedings occurred very late 'last session, and towards the close of the life of the last Parliament, so that no further action was taken in connexion with the matter. I do not know that the delay which was caused has created any particular disadvantage. Indeed, I think that it has resulted in manifest advantage, though I do not agree that that admission is necessarily an argument for further delay. The reason why I say that the delay which has occurred has not been an altogether unmixed evil is that previous to our consideration of the matter a large number of sites were ready for submission, and the effect of parliamentary action has been to reduce that number to two or three, so that public attention is now concentrated, not on some nine sites scattered all over New South Wales, but upon two or three only. These sites have been compared one with another, and criticisms have been directed to their particular advantages and disadvantages. Moreover, a great deal of additional information has been obtained in regard to them since last session closed. Most valuable reports upon the sites in the Southern Monaro district have been received from Mr. Surveyor Scrivener, and equally valuable reports on the sites in the Tumut district from Mr. Surveyor Chesterman ; while I have to-day laid upon the table a report from the- latter gentleman in regard to the latest proposed site, that near the township of Tooma, on the Upper Murray. This report has not yet been printed, but it \vill be printed and made available for honorable members at trie earliest moment possible.


Mr Crouch - Is there a site in the Hume constituency which has not been reported upon?


Mr BATCHELOR - Any number of suitable sites in that district have not been reported upon. The constituency is one which does not suffer from a paucity of suitable sites, nor, as the Attorney-General reminds me, for want of a good man to represent it. These later reports are a distinct advantage, because they enter into so much more detail than did the earlier reports. By their aid we are able to come to a definite conclusion much more readily. We have had . most complete contour surveys of the two principal districts. We have also had the advantage of receiving reports prepared by the right honorable member for Swan, the ex-Minister of Home Affairs. Those documents are, in my opinion, distinctly valuable. Further, we have had a report from Colonel Owen, and Mr. Pridham's report concerning the water supply of the various ' sites. In addition to this additional information, a great many more honorable members have seen the sites than had had an opportunity of visiting them when the Bill was discussed on a former occasion. I believe that honorable members all round are in consequence better equipped for coming to a wise decision than they were when the Bill was previously before the Chamber. I should not have troubled the House with any general remarks upon the question - confining myself directly to the Bill itself - had it not been that the honorable member for Corangamite has given notice of an amendment on the motion that the Bill be read a second time. His object is to bring about an amendment of the Constitution by altering what has always been considered to be a compact with the State of New South Wales. Even if that object were not attained the carrying of the amendment would cause considerable delay. Though the honorable member may be serious in moving his amendment, I do not think that he will receive very much support, either in this House or outside. My own view is that there are very many reasons why the question should bie settled as early as possible. I do not argue that it is a matter of extreme urgency, but certainly there are very many reasons for a setlement without unnecessary delay. In the first place, the Crown lands around the suggested sites- at all events around those which have been,, regarded as having some chance of selectionhave been expressly reserved by the New South Wales Government from occupation. Those lands cannot be leased or sold. The consequence is that a considerable area of New South Wales territory is, for the. time being, without value. Failing an early settlement, we should withdraw the request made by the Federal Government to the New South Wales Government, and allow them to sell or lease these Crown lands. We have no right to dilly-dally with this matter, and at the same time keep New South Wales lands - closed from settlement. Another reason, and a much stronger one to my mind, why we should bring the matter to a definite issue, is that the needs of the Commonwealth Departments for accommodation are growing. We require a habitation. We need to have some place where we can build the necessary offices for the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth.


Mr Cameron - We cannot be much more comfortable than we are now.


Mr BATCHELOR - The honorable member for Wilmot is one of those who believe in a man having a bit of land that he can call his own. I admit that we are most comfortable in our Melbourne quarters, and I appreciate to the very fullest the generosity of the Victorian treatment of the Federal Parliament in the matter of accommodation. The hospitality of Victoria has certainly been more generous than I expected. We ought to remember that we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to this State. Our work would have been exceedingly difficult if we had not had such arrangements made for us. But we cannot indefinitely trespass on the hospitality of Victoria. This magnificent pile of buildings cannot be occupied by us for all time.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I do not think Victoria will grumble.


Mr BATCHELOR - I question very much whether Victoria would not grumble. I believe that these Parliament Buildings cost about £800,000, and I do not know that Victoria is prepared to allow us to have the perpetual use of property of that value rent free. At any rate. I am quite sure that we have no right to ask for any such thing. We have no right to continue in indefinite occupation of these premises without paying rent for them.


Mr Cameron - We shall be frozen out if we go to Bombala.


Mr BATCHELOR - I do not wish to discuss the relative merits of the suggested sites. There will be many opportunities for doing so later on. I fully acknowledge that we have been splendidly treated by Victoria. But, at the same time, there are some inconveniences attached to the present arrangement. We have no opportunity of providing for the increased accommodation which is becoming necessary owing to the growing demands of the Federal Public Service. Our Departments will continue to grow, however much some sworn economists may deplore the fact. It is- their nature to grow. As the Commonwealth Administration branches out into other fields, as we commence to do all the work which we are empowered to do under the Constitution, and possibly secure extended powers, the necessity for increased accommodation will become more and more urgent. During the past few months considerable difficulty has been found in providing the absolutely necessary accommodation for Commonwealth administrative purposes. Having to lease private . buildings which were not erected for the purposes of public 'offices, but for much smaller operations, we are not able to concentrate the Departments sufficiently. The lack of concentration means that the supervision cannot be so good as it otherwise would be. We also labour under the disadvantage of being able to offer only short terms for leasing the premises that are available. That means that we are paying more than we otherwise should pay. These are some of the considerations which I urge upon honorable members to show the absolute necessity of the Commonwealth having some habitation - some place where we can build the necessary accommodation - as early as possible. The accommodation which we provide should not be larger than is required, and it should be so planned thai the Commonwealth can remain in permanent occupation. Another reason which I urge as being important, though I do not think that it is of the greatest importance, is the anxiety, not to say restiveness, exhibited in New South Wales amongst politicians and the press with regard to the settlement of this question.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It extends beyond the politicians and the press.


Mr BATCHELOR - I have no doubt that that is the case, but it is expressed through politicians and the press. I have not any doubt that there are in New South Wales a very large number of people who entertain the same feeling. Indeed' I think that the people of that State generally have good grounds for asking that the Federal Capital question shall be settled. But the fear that has been expressed that there is any sort of combination or any general desire on the part of any of the States to do New South Wales out of the Capital, or to baulk her in the carrying out of the agreement that was entered into, is entirely groundless. There is no such desire anywhere or amongst any section of the people. So far as I can gather the facts, the objections that have been raised to proceeding with the* selection, of the Federal Capital at once, arise from the fear that the undertaking will be costly, and from the feeling that some cheaper method might be adopted than the one that has been proposed. A good many people think that it would be better to locate the Capital in one of the principal cities - either Melbourne or Sydney. However, the people of New South Wales may fairly ask that the question shall not be postponed, but that it shall be settled at the earliest possible moment ; and the allaying of any possible source of friction which might arise if the present delay were continued, is a good reason for coming to a definite conclusion. Mr. Waddell, the Premier of New South Wales, recently made a request that the selection, of the site should be postponed until the new Parliament was elected in that State. His idea was that the New South Wales Parliament should select a site, and, I presume, offer it to the Commonwealth Government. Of course, the Government should be very pleased - and this Parliament, I take it, would also be pleased - to have an expression of opinion from the New South Wales Parliament as to which site, in their 'opinion, is the best. We should be pleased to have an expression of opinion on the subject from an)' State Parliament. But we cannot get away from the fact that the duty of selecting the site rests upon this Parliament. It rests upon the only body which is representative of the whole of .the States of the Commonwealth. This Parliament is the only body which can properly carry out this duty- We must recollect that this is entirely a Commonwealth proposal. It is not a question affecting only the interests of New South Wales. It is not a question primarily for New South Wales, except in so far as that State has to grant the land. It is a matter in which every State of the Commonwealth is just as much concerned as is the State of New South Wales. This Parliament being the only Parliament which is representative of all the States of the Commonwealth, it is the only body that is properly qualified to select the site. Besides, there is the fact that we are directly charged by the Constitution with the duty of selecting the Capital site.


Mr Cameron - If we do choose the land, it remains with the New South Wales Parliament to say whether or not it shall be given.


Mr BATCHELOR - We can discuss that point later on. I do not for one moment anticipate that if this Parliament selects a site, the New South Wales Parliament will raise the question of our right to do so, or of their right to have a voice in the matter. My own opinion is that New South Wales will cheerfully acquiesce in the decision of this Parliament. There is another objection to the proposal of the honorable member for Corangamite ; and it indicates the chief reason for having the matter settled at the earliest possible moment. The honorable member's amendment suggests - ..... that with a view to securing greater ^freedom of choice in the future, steps should be taken to alter the Constitution by striking" out the words " and be distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney," in the 125th section of the Constitution, and to add the words " or Sydney " after " Melbourne " in the same section.

I understand from that amendment that the honorable member's desire is to enable the Parliament of the Commonwealth to meet in either Melbourne or Sydney.


Mr Wilson - No.


Mr BATCHELOR - In Sydney, particularly. I understand the honorable member's desire is that the 100-miles limit shall be removed, so that, if desired, the Seat of the Federal Government shall be in Sydney.


Mr Mauger - Would that not be more expensive than to create a capital?


Mr BATCHELOR - I think it would be a great deal more expensive; but I shall deal with that matter presently. In my opinion the effect of the establishment of the Seat of Government in Sydney or in any other of the States capitals would be to thwart the whole object for which a Federal Capital is created. The Seat of Government is, in my opinion, specially intended to be altogether free from any State or local influences. We must not forget that this is a Federation of States, and that, in some respects, each State has interests separate from the interests of the other States. There are State interests which frequently conflict ; there are antagonistic circumstances which cause a good deal of friction. The Commonwealth Parliament is charged with the duty of giving the fullest and freest consideration to all those conflicting interests when they arise in connexion with any legislation which may be before us. It is a great deal better, therefore, when we are considering such questions, that the Commonwealth Parliament should be away from any existing capital, because there we find focussed, as it were, whatever special State interests there may be. We are largely the creatures of environment.


Mr Reid - The Minister would probably be a free-trader in New South Wales.


Mr BATCHELOR - I might have been a free-trader had I resided in New South Wales. I have heard a great many very sound protectionists say that had they resided in England they would have been free-traders.


Mr Mauger - -That only means that they would have been free-traders if they had never left England.


Mr BATCHELOR - I have heard of New South Wales free-traders who, on coming across the border into Victoria, became pronounced protectionists; and this only shows the influence of environment. If the Commonwealth Parliament were permanently situated, say, in Melbourne, the majority of honorable members would have to live in the city, and would obtain all their information of the world's doings through the Victorian newspapers.


Mr Mauger - They might do worse.


Mr BATCHELOR - I quite agree that honorable members might do a great deal worse; but that does not alter the fact that all the world's information, including that affecting the affairs of the States which they represent, would be conveyed to them mainly through Victorian and Melbourne channels. And, further, all the information of the doings of the Federal Parliament would be transmitted to the world through the various Melbourne press agencies. Victorian industrial and commercial interests would be ever before us; and though I do not say we should get a bias in favour of that State - I shall not put it that way - the other States would be placed at a distinct disadvantage. Victorian interests of every kind would be continually insisted upon in the morning newspapers, and our association with the business men of Melbourne might result in their affairs being continually before us. Take the question of the Murray waters, for instance, on which there is considerable difference of opinion in the various States. I am prepared to say, and I think honorable members will agree with me. that if this Parliament were sitting in Adelaide when that matter was under discussion in the form of a Bill, we should obtain a very different class of information from that which would be supplied if the business were being conducted in Melbourne. It seems to me, therefore, that the real object of creating a Federal Seat of Government, and of providing this limit of roo miles, was that the Federal Parliament should be in an atmosphere detached from any peculiarly local interests. Precisely the same argument would apply if the Parliament were meeting in the capital of any State. What we want is to get a clear Commonwealth view of the questions which come before us ; and I do not think that such a view can be so well obtained if we meet in any one of the big cities, where, as I pointed out, the whole of the special interests of the State would be focussed or presented in the most marked degree. If we ask ourselves what possible objection there can be to this provision of a limit of I 00 miles - what possible objection there can be to what has been called a "bush capital" - we are at once told of the expense which must result, and of the possible inconvenience to honorable members. But as members of a Federal Parliament we must all admit and bear the inconvenience of residing away from a State capital. So far as I am concerned. I . should find it much more convenient and pleasant in many ways if we were to continue to meet -in Melbourne ; and the same circumstances, of course, affect other honorable members. But the convenience of honorable members is hardly the whole .reason for the creation of a Seat of Government. While that consideration ought to have some effect, it is a long way from being the' whole question. As to the question of expense, 1 am certainly of opinion that what has been called a "bush capital" would not cost nearly so much as would the erection of the necessary buildings in Melbourne or Sydney.


Mr Mauger - Why not determine not to build except out of ordinary revenue, and thus disperse all alarm ?


Mr BATCHELOR - All alarm might be dispersed, but all alarmists would not be suppressed. I do not believe for one moment that the Government would be justified in borrowing money for the purpose, of erecting buildings for a Federal Capital, and no suggestion .of the kind emanates either from the Government, or the party behind it.


Mr Mauger - If we stick to that determination, we shall not go very far wrong.


Mr Mcwilliams - I hope the Government will not borrow money 'for any purDose.


Mr BATCHELOR - I hope not. B.ut pursuing the comparison of the cost of establishing a Federal Capital in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, or any of the States capitals, with the cost of establishing a Capital as proposed by the Constitution, the two principal factors are the land values and the style of architecture. So far as land values are concerned, it is obvious that they must 'be very much less in what is called a "bush capital" - and . for want of a better term, we may just as well, perhaps, adopt that one. The cost of building in Sydney or in Melbourne would, of course, be enormously greater than in the country.


Mr Mcwilliams - Unless the New South Wales Parliament gave us the Centennial Park.


Mr BATCHELOR - If the New South Wales Parliament gave us the Centennial Park the cost of the land would not be so great to us; but the land values would be infinitely y greater than in the case of a " bush capital."


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be £3,000 per acre as against 30s. per acre.


Mr BATCHELOR - The style of architecture enters very largely into the cost, but I suppose that the only buildings really necessary are. those for the accommodation of Parliament, and for the accommodation of the officers.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And some tents.


Mr BATCHELOR - I think we may leave honorable members to provide tents for themselves; I have reason to believe that some members, at . any rate, are prepared to put up their own tents if necessary. Honorable members will agree with me that the only buildings necessary are those for the Houses of Parliament, and for the Departments of the Commonwealth Public Service.


Mr Ronald - What about the GovernorGeneral ?


Mr BATCHELOR - And probably it might be necessary to erect a residence for the Governor-General; but beyond those I do not know of any buildings which are necessary. We have had extravagant estimates, showing that something like £1,250,000 would be necessary for the provision of a variety of buildings, including a national art gallery, official residences for the Prime Minister and other members of the Government. These and other fancy estimates, which run into many hundreds of thousands of pounds, are only so much waste of good ink Nobody has ever seriously thought that such buildings were necessary or would be provided.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - These are " weak inventions of the enemy."


Sir John Forrest - What does the Government propose to spend?


Mr BATCHELOR - I will tell the right honorable member what buildings I consider necessary for the present; and it will be for future Parliaments to decide the amounts to be expended. I should say that Sir Edmund Barton estimated that not more than £500,000 would provide for everything, except the resumption of land, for the next generation.


Sir John Forrest - The building in South Australia cost £250,000, and it is not half finished yet.


Mr BATCHELOR - Surely the right honorable member does not propose that we should build a Federal Parliament House on the scale on which that one was started. He knows that it was built on a very expensive design, that most expensive material was used, and that, in many respects, there was a most wasteful expenditure of public money. Probably he does not know that hugh blocks of faced granite - which cost 5s. or 6s. a yard to cut and polish - are buried in the ba'sement. That was simply throwing money away, and that is how the cost was piled up. The very handsome pile of buildings in which we meet cost about £800,000. I should be very sorry indeed if we erected a building in this style of architecture, handsome though it undoubtedly is. It is far beyond what is required from the ornamental point of view. We have a magnificent space in the Queen's Hall, splendid corridors, and a lot of unnecessary mosaic work in the lobbies.


Sir John Forrest - Similar buildings are to be found all over the world.


Mr BATCHELOR - I shall raise my voice against the erection of such a building every time it may be proposed, as I do not think it is necessary-


Sir John Forrest - The honorable gentleman proposes to regenerate the world.


Mr BATCHELOR - No ; but I propose to try to keep, as I think we can, well within the estimate which Sir Edmund Barton gave.


Mr Mcwilliams - Does that include the means of communication?


Mr BATCHELOR - No.


Mr Mcwilliams - It is only fair to add that to the cost.


Mr BATCHELOR - The cost of providing the means of communication must be borne in mind ; but the honorable member will see that that will not necessarily be a Federal expenditure. The estimate will include, I understand, all the expenditure necessary for laying out the city and so on. Now, far more room and far more conveniences are provided in the old barracks of a Parliament House in. Sydney than in this building. From the standpoint of comfort and convenience, I would prefer a structure of that kind to this building, magnificent as it is. I know that the views of the right honorable member for Swan in this connexion are always pretty large.


Mr Mcwilliams - When the expenditure is actually incurred, the honorable gentleman will find that the right honorable member will be nearer the total than he is, that is, taking the history of all other Federal capitals into account.


Mr BATCHELOR - The right honorable member has not given a total yet. If we had a Parliament comprised of members such as the right honorable gentleman, we might run to a ruinous expenditure; but so "long as the money has to be provided out of revenue, and not out of loan account, there will be not much fear of our out-running the constable. The buildings in which we meet would not have been erected, if their cost had had to be defrayed out of general revenue, nor would the parliamentary buildings in South Australia have been erected.


Sir John Forrest - Tin pot !


Mr Mcwilliams - The Commonwealth can run the States into' a condition of insolvency by taking revenue which ought to be returned to them.


Mr BATCHELOR - Of course the Commonwealth could do all kinds of things, but each State is a portion of the Commonwealth, and we have all to be elected by residents of the States. They will not send us in here to so spend money as to render them insolvent; they will very soon draw the line at any proceeding of that kind.


Mr Hutchison - The people have given the Commonwealth a quarter of the Customs and Excise revenue, and it is not being spent.


Mr Mcwilliams - We are expending an amount not farshort of it.


Mr BATCHELOR - The right honorable member for Swan interjected "tinpot." I am prepared to stand any amount of such criticism, because I believe that we ought to try to economize, and not to spend unwisely. It is idle, merely for the sake of trying to condemn this proposal, to suggest that there is any serious intention to spend millions of money on elaborate buildings. Nothing of that kind is proposed to be done, nor would it be permitted by the House. I am now led to the question of the area proposed in the Bill for the Federal territory. The minimum area provided in the Constitution is 100 square miles. All kinds of estimates have been made, and opinions expressed as to what area is really necessary for the purpose. Some honorable members, and other persons, have proposed to take as much as 20.000 square miles. Another proposal was to take 5,000 square miles. The Government have proposed jan area somewhat less than that which was agreed upon by the House during last session, and which we think is a happy mean between those extravagant ideas to which I referred, and the minimum area which is provided in the Constitution. It has been . said that this area is being proposed for the sake of makmaking an experiment in Socialism, or land nationalization, or something of that kind.


Mr Liddell - So it is.


Mr BATCHELOR - If the honorable member- will consult those persons who have urged that this experiment should be made, he will find that it is not specially a Labour proposal. In the last Parliament, practically every member of the House was in favour of it.


Sir John Forrest - I was not, anyway.


Mr BATCHELOR - In the last Parliament practically every honorable member - excluding, no doubt, the right honorable gentleman, for a very good reason, because every other member of the Government he was in was in favour of it - was in favour of this proposal.


Sir John Forrest - I do not think so. I do not think they said so, anvwav.


Mr BATCHELOR - Suppose we start with the right honorable gentleman's leader, Sir Edmund Barton. I should be surprised if the right honorable member for Swan agreed with any proposal of the late Government.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is very rough.


Mr BATCHELOR - It is very true.


Sir John Forrest - Coming from that source, it is not worth much.


Mr BATCHELOR - What the right honorable member was in that Government for I have been at a loss to ascertain ever since he left office. He seems to have been in disagreement with everything that his colleagues proposed, or else he must have discovered, after he had left office, that he was entirely wrong in all his previous opinions'.


Sir John Forrest - Does the honorable gentleman know that this was an open question in the Cabinet?


Mr BATCHELOR - Apparently in that Cabinet everything was left an open question.


Sir John Forrest - Does the honorable gentleman know that?


Mr BATCHELOR - How can I know it?


Sir John Forrest - It was said to be the case.


Mr BATCHELOR - The right honorable gentleman does not know anything of the kind ; he is trying to confuse the issue. The question I am discussing is not the selection of a site, which I admit to have been an open question, but the method in which the land should be afterwards dealt with.


Sir John Forrest - That was in the Bill.


Mr BATCHELOR - No.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was in the Maitland manifesto.


Mr BATCHELOR - It was. Referring to this matter on the 22nd September, 1903, the Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, is reported, at page 5281 of Hansard, to have said -

I prefer, not for every purpose, but as a business proposal for this purpose, the system of leasing, with periodical re-appraisement on fairly long leases. I do so for this reason, that as the expense of going further in the erection of the capital increases, as if may largely increase, there will be a progressive settlement which will tend to swell the revenue derivable from the land within the Federal area, and thus provide a fund not only for meeting interest, but also for the extinction of debt.

This was put, not as a wild socialistic experiment in land legislation, but purely as a business proposal.

I regard this matter as quite different from the ordinary proposal in regard to land nationalization.

The right honorable gentleman proceeded in a similar strain for half a column. He said : -

If I had had to consider the question of the disposal of land at a time when scarcely any part of Australia had been alienated, I might have been inclined to look with favour upon a general system of leasing, but I am afraid that in our ordinary methods and transactions we have gone beyond the point at which that appears to be a business possibility. That consideration, however, does not apply to a limited area such as that within which it is proposed to place the Commonwealth Capital, and which is to constitute a small territory governed by the Commonwealth. The considerations that apply in this case are entirely different.


Sir John Forrest - He did not mention any number of acres, did he ?


Mr BATCHELOR - What has the number of acres to do with the question? The right honorable gentleman said that the object of this proposal was to have an experiment in land nationalization.


Sir John Forrest - When did I say' that? I said nothing of the sort.


Mr BATCHELOR - The right honorable gentleman just cheered a remark to that effect.


Sir John Forrest - I do not think so. .


Mr BATCHELOR - Well, I misunderstood the right honorable gentleman if he did not


Sir John Forrest - I made no observation of that kind.


Mr BATCHELOR - At any rate, the right honorable gentleman denies that the leader of. the Government, of which he was so distinguished a member, was committed to this very form of what is called land nationalization.


Sir John Forrest - I never was committed to it.


Mr BATCHELOR - The right honorable gentleman most carefully refrained from getting up in the House and-


Sir John Forrest - Do not mind what the Prime Minister said at Maitland ; let us hear what he said in the House.


Mr BATCHELOR - I have just been reading what Sir Edmund Barton said in the House. The right honorable gentleman does not seem to have grasped that fact yet. He spoke after the Prime Minister, and I do not see that in any part of his speech he denounced his leader.


Sir John Forrest - What for?


Mr BATCHELOR - For putting forward this experiment in land nationalization.


Sir John Forrest - I never said that I was opposed to leasing.


Mr BATCHELOR - Then what is the right honorable gentleman's objection? I propose to quote just one more sentence from the remarks of Sir Edmund Barton -

Taking these matters into consideration, I think that as a mere business proposal, a system of leases with periodical re-appraisement will be about the best manner in which we can set about the meeting of any expense which we may incur in connexion with this project.


Sir John Forrest - The honorable gentleman has made a great fuss about nothing.


Mr BATCHELOR - Then we had a speech by another authority, who, I understand, has lately taken an opportunity to denounce the project for an area of 900 square miles as a proposal for experiments in socialistic land legislation. While Sir William McMillan was acting temporarily as leader of the Opposition, he said, as reported on page 5283 of Hansard -

I think that the Government should adopt the leasing principle in dealing with all the lands within Federal territory. .All private lands within the Federal area should certainly be resumed in order that the leasing system may be carried out in its entirety. There is a salient difference between leasing land in a compact territory like the Federal area, and applying the leasing principle to agricultural areas, or to remote localities. In remote places, such as Papua, it is necessary to offer persons inducements to settle, but the asset which a man would hold in the shape of a leasehold in a narrow, confined territory, such as the Federal Capital area, would always be a good negotiable security, and it would be comparatively easy to find purchasers for any rights held by the lessee.

I shall not trouble honorable members with any further quotations. I have shown that the former leader of the House, and the leader of the Opposition, agreed that none of the land included within the Federal territory should be sold. Therefore, they committed themselves to what is now described as a new suggestion on the part of the Labour Party, .which, in making it, is said to be imbued with fanciful socialistic ideas.


Sir John Forrest - How do the Government propose to raise the money necessary to purchase 640,000 acres? If the money is not borrowed, where will it come from ?


Mr BATCHELOR - If the right honorable gentleman will only wait, I shall show him that the enormous amount of money which he seems to think will be needed for the purchase of the resumed land will not be required. A comparatively small sum will suffice for all .purposes, and the Commonwealth will easily be able to command it.


Sir John Forrest - A large sum will be required for the purchase of 640,000 acres


Mr BATCHELOR - The provision in the Bill that the Federal territory shall embrace an area of 900 square miles cannot be regarded as constituting a proposal to establish another State. An area 30 miles square would not be equal in size to many sheep runs over which I have travelled. I know of many individual pastoral holdings in South Australia which exceed in area 1,000 square miles. Some pastoralists hold 3,000 or 4,006 square miles.


Mr Wilson - Would the Minister like to live upon any of such holdings?


Mr BATCHELOR - The honorable member may not know that the Wilgena run, within which the Tarcoola gold-field is situated, and through which the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie would pass, embraces 3,000 square miles. I have been on that run, and I know (hat, although the rainfall is light, it is a very good place to live upon. I do not mention Wilgena as a very large holding, because I have known of a block embracing 70,000 square miles, for which an annual rental of only 30s. was paid. That country was, of course, situated away back in the interior, and, I need hardly say, was never occupied. , Speaking, however, of occupied country, we know very well that a sheep station of 1,000 square miles is not regarded as a very large holding.


Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - There are plenty of such runs in Queensland.


Mr BATCHELOR - There is a public park for recreation purposes in Ottawa, the capital of the Dominion of Canada, which embraces an area of 1,700 square miles. Further, within a short distance of Sydney, there are recreation reserves with an aggregate area of over 300 square miles. In view of these facts, the proposed area of 900 square miles should not be regarded as a very large one for the Federal territory. It seems to me that it is idle to suggest that an attempt is being made to rob New South Wales of a large slice of her territory. The Commonwealth is entitled to take such measures as will secure to it the benefit of the unearned increment resulting from the expenditure of Commonwealth funds.


Mr Crouch - What does the Minister propose in view of the statement of the Premier of New South Wales that he will not grant the Commonwealth more than 100 square miles?


Mr BATCHELOR - The Premier of New South Wales is not the State.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He represents the sentiment of New South Wales upon that particular point.


Mr Austin Chapman - He does nothing of the kind.


Mr BATCHELOR - I do not wish to interpose between the representatives of New South Wales, between whom such a marked difference of opinion appears to exist, but I venture to say that the State of New South Wales will not act the part of the dog-in-the-manger in this matter. Notwithstanding the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta, I believe that that State will treat the Commonwealth in the same way that she has treated it hitherto, and will not for one moment attempt to bind it down to the minimum area provided for in the Constitution.


Mr Liddell - Perhaps not; but she must get fair play


Mr BATCHELOR - Of course. I do not propose that we should approach New South Wales with a pistol in our hands, and demand that she shall deliver up to us 900 square miles. What we require to do, however, is to express our opinion as to the area which should be embraced within the Federal territory. We have a perfect right to do so, and that is one of the objects of the Bill. We are also entitled to claim that any increase in the value of land which may result from

Commonwealth expenditure shall be retained by us, and that the area of the Federal territory shall be sufficiently large to insure that result. The question as to whether New South Wales is compelled to grant us, free of cost, more than 100 square miles of territory, depends upon the construction placed upon the Constitution. It is not necessary to discuss that question, and I do not propose to do so. I am quite prepared to believe that New South Wales will, when the question of the site is settled, be prepared to meet the Commonwealth Government in a reasonable manner, and that no great difficulty will arise in connexion with the negotiations.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - New South Wales will, without doubt, deal fairly with the Commonwealth, but' will' not hand over such a large area as 900 square miles.


Mr Liddell - TheCommonwealth are proposing to take the pick of the country.


Mr BATCHELOR - Do all the sites proposed embrace the pick of the country ?


Mr Liddell - Yes.


Mr Mcwilliams - I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth will not select bad country.


Mr BATCHELOR - I hope so, too. It is natural to suppose that, other things being equal, the best land in any country would be developed first.


Mr Mcwilliams - That depends on the locality. to a large extent.


Mr BATCHELOR - I admit that a great deal depends on accessibility, but it is not to be supposed that there are many unoccupied blocks of land in New South Wailes, embracing 900 square miles of land like that to be found about the Hunter River vallev. or in the Richmond district.


Mr Mcwilliams - We are told that all the sites embrace splendid land.


Mr BATCHELOR - I wish to give honorable members the benefit of some figures which have been compiled by Mr. Coghlan. Mr. Carruthers, the leader of the Opposition in New South Wales, in com- menting upon some remarks made by the Prime Minister, stated that the population of that portion of Southern Monaro included within the 900 square miles which it was proposed should constitute the Federal territory contained a population of 40,000 persons, and he also made some very extravagant estimates as to the value of the land, and the great loss that would be sustained by New South Wales if it were . appropriated by the Commonwealth. We asked Mr. Coghlan to compile a state ment showing the value of land within a radius' of 17 miles of Batlow, Bombala, Dalgety, Lyndhurst, Tumberumba, and Tumut respectively. A 17 -miles radius, with these towns as a centre, would, in each case embrace an area of 900 square miles. Mr. Coghlan was asked to include whatever towns would come within the radius, and not to exclude any important towns near the border - as probably will be done when the Federal boundaries; are actually delimited. Mr. Coghlan shows that, in connexion with the Batlow site, the population, including that of Tumut and some other towns within a 17-miles radius, is 7,425 ; that the unimproved value of the land is £230,000, and the value of the land with . improvements, £529,300. The Bombala site1 embraces a population of 3,894 persons, and the unimproved value of the land is £362,200, and the value of the land with improvements, £691,600. At Dalgety, the population within a 17 -mile radius is 3,568, the unimproved value of the land is £352,000 - about £10,000 less than at Bombala - : and the value of the land with improvements, £460,200. At Lyndhurst, the population, including that of Blayney, which, as honorable members know, is a considerable town, is 9,626, the unimproved value of the land 'is £449,000, and the value of the land with improvements, £814,000.


Sir John Forrest - He has placed a verv low value upon the unimproved land.


Mr BATCHELOR - These are the official figures used for the land-taxation, purposes.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The return refers to only the alienated lands and does not embrace the Crown lands.


Mr BATCHELOR - I do not know whether that is the case.


Mr Mcwilliams - The best of the land would naturally be alienated.


Mr BATCHELOR - Tumberumba is taken as a centre in order to obtain a radius of 17 miles upon the New South Wales side of the Murray. The population within that area is 2,213, the unimproved value of the land is £185,124, and the value of the land with the improvements, £377,000.


Sir John Forrest - That is only about 7s. per acre.


Mr BATCHELOR - Yes. I am inclined to think that these figures cover the unalienated land, as well as that which has been sold. Otherwise, there must be a very large area of rough country included within the . radius I have mentioned. It must not be supposed that all the land is suitable for agricultural purposes. The unimproved value of the land included within the Bombala site is given as £362,200.


Sir John Forrest - That is only about 12s. per acre.


Mr BATCHELOR - Included within that area would be a large proportion of hilly country.


Sir John Forrest - Land is sold at Bombala at the rate of £4 per acre.


Mr Webster - Only the best of it.


Mr BATCHELOR - Of course, these are official figures, and I am sure that honorable members do not suggest that they are not absolutely reliable.


Mr Mcwilliams - We are only expressing our surprise at the low value which has been placed upon the land.


Mr BATCHELOR - It must be remembered that there is a good deal of very rough country included in some of these areas - land which is not fit for occupation under present conditions. Almost all the land within the Batlow site, except that just at Batlow itself, is rather inferior grazing country, and is therefore not worth very much per acre.


Sir John Forrest - What about the Lyndhurst land ? "Mr. BATCHELOR.- The land in the Lyndhurst site is valued at about £449,000.


Sir John Forrest - That is about 15s. per acre.


Mr BATCHELOR - It is rather more than that.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What about the Tooma land?


Mr BATCHELOR - Tooma is included in the Tumberumba site. If a radius of seventeen miles from Tooma had been taken, some of the Victorian country would have been included, and therefore the radius has been drawn from Tumberumba and just touches the Murray. The value of the land and improvements within the Tumberumba site is estimated at £377,124. The population of the Tumut site, which includes part of Gundagai, is 10,356, and the unimproved value of the land £497.000 ; but, reckoning in improvements, the total value is estimated at £948,100. Only part of Gundagai is within the Tumut site, and most of the population in the district is in and around the township of Tumut itself, so that the value of the improvements in that part of the district is very great. When the New South Wales Parliament has passed an

Act granting us the land, and we have passed an Act accepting it, that land will become ours, except so far as any Crown land outside the limit provided for in the Constitution is concerned, about which there is a doubt. The question, however, is not one which it is necessary for me to discuss now; it is a legal question which depends on the interpretation of one or two words in the Constitution.


Mr Conroy - I do not think that such land would pass to the Federal Government'


Mr BATCHELOR - At any rate, it would be idle for us to discuss the matter now. The Government wish to insure that the very best method shall be adopted in connexion with the choosing of a site. We must agree to a mode of selection which will give absolutely fair results. I think that perhaps it will be well to discuss the sites in districts rather than separately. Thus, we might discuss the sites in the Monaro district, the sites in the Western district, and the sites in the Southern district.


Mr Austin Chapman - How many districts would the Minister suggest?


Mr BATCHELOR - That is a matter for t'he House to determine; but I think that the proposed sites might be grouped in three districts.


Mr Austin Chapman - Does the Minister propose to group thirteen sites in the Southern district?


Mr BATCHELOR - There are not thirteen sites.


Mr Austin Chapman - There are eleven sites dealt with in the reports which have been placed before us, and the Government are now making provision for a visit bv honorable members to two more.


Mr BATCHELOR - I am not aware that we are making provision for a visit to two more sites. Does the honorable member refer to the proposal that honorable members shall visit Tooma?


Mr Austin Chapman - I understand that a visit to Tooma and. a visit to Welaregang are in contemplation.


Mr BATCHELOR - I understand that those two places are not far from each other, and can be considered as one site. However, the matter may be verv fully discussed when we come to deal with the sites individually. I propose to ask the House to pass a series of resolutions similar to those carried last session, providing for the choosing of a site by the process of an exhaustive ballot. On the whole, I think that that is the best method to adopt; but the Government are not going to stand or fall by any particular method. Our only desire is to obtain the best method, and it is for the House to say which is the best. The honorable and learned member for Corinella placed in my hand last night a scheme for the 'choosing of a site by preferential voting. A good deal may be said in favour of that scheme, but I should like to hear its author make out a case for it before accepting it. A number of copies of his proposal have been printed, so that honorable members may the better understand it.







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