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Wednesday, 20 July 1904

Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) - The subject with which this Bill deals is now being brought before us for the second time, and I do not think that any good will result from an extended debate upon the motion for the second reading, or upon the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Corangamite. The object of the Bill is to determine the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth,' and the amendment would have the effect of deferring that determination, and causing us to embark upon an amendment of the Constitution. I may say at once that I am not in favour of amending the Constitution in the wayproposed. When we reach the Committee stage, we shall be called upon to assume the responsibility of locating the Federal Territory, and of choosing a site within that territory for the Seat of Government. I take it that there cannot be much difference of opinion as to the advisability of passing a measure of this kind, because it is designed to give effect to one of the specific provisions of the Constitution. At the' outset, I should like to say a word or two with regard to a somewhat personal matter. On several occasions, honorable members sitting on the Government benches have considered themselves justified in making adverse comments upon the attitude I assume in regard to the various matters which come before the House. The Minister of Horrie Affairs this evening, in replying to an interjection of mine as to the acquisition of a large area for the purposes of the Federal territory,, did so. My attitude upon that point has been consistent all through, and the fact that I take that view does not afford the slightest justification for the observation of the Minister that I disapproved of everything advocated by the late Government, of which I was a member. The honorable member added that he could not understand why I had remained a member of that Government. I think that that is somewhat strong language for a Minister to use with regard to my actions, which are not in the keeping of the present Government, or of any member of it. The statement of the Minister was as incorrect as it was rude, and as unnecessary as it was offensive. I was not very much assisted in dealing with this question by the speech delivered by the Minister. I agree with him that we have not been furnished with too much information in reference to the proposed sites, and that we are now in a better position to deal with the Bill than we were when it was before us last session. I have always considered that we should be afforded every information with regard to the suggested sites, because, unless we are fully acquainted with all the facts, we cannot properly discharge the responsibility which rests upon us. We have to select a territory, in the first place, and then to choose a site for the Seat of Government within that territory. Our position is rendered somewhat more difficult by the fact that within the . last few days two fresh sites have been brought under our notice. I believe that no less than eleven sites in the district represented by my honorable friend and late colleague, the member for Hume, have already been reported upon, and two more have been brought under our notice during the last fortnight.

Mr Tudor - That is a sufficient number of sites to be embraced within one electorate.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I quite agree with the honorable member. What I complain of, however, is that the honorable member for Hume, who has taken so much interest in this matter, should have waited so long before placing us in possession of the names of all the sites that he considers worthy of examination. It is rather late in the day for us to enter upon the inspection of further sites.

Mr Batchelor - The suggested new sites were included in the territory fixed by the last Bill.

Sir JOHN FORREST - They were included only in the territory which extended from the Murrumbidgee on the north to the Murray on the south. The sites were not named, and if we had known that there were sites other than those previously mentioned which would be likely to meet with the approval of the House, we could have had surveys made, and have placed honorable members in possession of the fullest information.

Sir William Lyne - I asked the right honorable gentleman to inspect one of the sites, and he would not go.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member was Minister of Home Affairs for two years, and did not take any steps to have the sites now suggested examined and reported upon. He did not make any request to me to inspect the sites, except by sending a telegram whilst I was at Tumberumba, suggesting that it would be well for me to pay a visit to a certain place. Our arrangements had been made, and we could not then alter them. The honorable member has not even told us which of the thirteen sites in his electorate he favours. I compliment the Home Affairs Department on the excellence of the plans and contour surveys which accompany the reports of Messrs. Scrivener and Chesterman on the sites in the Southern Monaro and Tumut districts. The information thus afforded is most valuable to those who take a real interest in the matter under consideration. I do not know why we should be asked to deal with this subject before similar information has been obtained inregard to the two other sites which a number of honorable members are about to visit, and in regard to which we have only the report laid upon the table this afternoon, which does not contain sufficient information to enable us to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Mr Tudor - Does not the honorable member think it better that the sites to which he refers should be examined now ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - If the Government think that they are sites which might be chosen, they should, undoubtedly, be inspected; but we should defer the consideration of the general question until we have full information about them. I have no objection to the carrying of the motion for the second reading of the Bill, to which I think there will be no opposition ; but we cannot deal with the measure in Committee until we have full 'information upon all the sites.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Did the late Government take the proposed new sites into consideration ?


Mr Conroy - They were not suggested to that Government.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member for Grampians mentioned them, and the honorable member for Hume recently referred to them in a telegram which he sent to the late Prime Minister, and also spoke of them to me. The Bill introduced last session provided that the site of the Federal Capital should be located in an area within twenty-five miles of the tGwnship of Tumut, at an altitude of not less than 1,500 feet above the sea-level, and the instructions issued to Mr. Chesterman restricted him to an examination of the sites within that radius.

Mr Kennedy - Those instructions were contrary to the provisions in the Bill introduced last session.

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