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Tuesday, 26 July 1904

Mr REID (East Sydney) - I do not intend to take advantage of my objection, except in a very limited way, but upon this schedule I wish at once to make a strong appeal to Ministers, and I should have been precluded from so doing, had I not raised that objection. The Ministry cannot too soon consider what seems, to me the radical unfairness of the course which is now proposed. In saying that I entirely acquit Ministers of any desire to do anything wrong. It is merely a matter of opinion, that is all. I do not impute to Ministers any wish to do other than the fairest possible thing. At the same time I appeal to them to go back to the method which was fully considered when we dealt with a similar Bill in the last Parliament. On that occasion the sites were considered upon their merits separately. But when we look at these resolutions, what do we find? Take the first one, for example. It says -

Ballot-papers shall be distributed to honorable members, containing the names of the sites mentioned in 'the schedule hereto.

In the schedule we find the expression " the southern district." That is not a site for the Capital. It may extend for hundreds, nay, even thousands of miles. " The southern district" does not by expression define any area. It is a vague expression to which there is no geographical meaning whatever.

Mr Batchelor - As a matter of fact, it has a very distinct geographical meaning.

Mr REID - I am familiar with all the Acts in connexion with New South Wales, and with all the names of districts there. In that State, the "southern district" is a term which is used, in connexion with Courts and roads. It embraces an enormous area/ " The southeastern district " is another well-known term in New South Wales, and it also comprises an enormous area. The same remark is applicable to " the western district." How can wo describe the' " districts " of the State as " sites " for the Capital ? We are getting absolutely off the track upon which we have been from the beginning. . We commenced dealing with -this matter by making reference to particular localities, so much so that we have had the rival claims of Bombala and Dalgety under our consideration. These two places are absolutely distinct. They have always been treated as distinct, but we now find them in some mysterious union under the heading of "the south-eastern district."

Mr Fowler - Do we not select a Federal territory rather than a Capital site?

Mr REID - I am merely pointing out that up to the present time Dalgety and Bombala have not been regarded as twin sites, to be voted upon together, because they have elicited the strongest antagonism as between their respective advocates. At the present moment there is the sharpest antagonism between these two places.

Mr Batchelor - They are situated in the same district.

Mr REID - Surely the Minister must know that there are a large number of honorable members who are in favour of Dalgety and opposed to Bombala? The effect of grouping the districts in this way would be that a combination would practically take place against one site. In the southern district -we have Tumut and Tooma, which are farther apart than are Dalgety or Bombala.

Sir William Lyne - Not very much. The distance between Tooma and the town of Tumut is about forty or forty-five miles.

Mr Austin Chapman - It is nearer sixty miles.

Mr REID - The honorable member for Hume has been to these places, and has safely returned, and we are all glad to see him.

Sir William Lyne - I do not think that the right honorable member is.

Mr REID - I shall not take the exact figures given by the honorable member, but taking his statement- -

Sir William Lyne - So far as I can judge, the distance between Tumut and Tooma is between forty and forty -five miles.

Mr REID - I will take the figures of the honorable member who is an authority on this question. The distance between Dalgety and Bombala is not more than that which separates Tumut and Tooma.

Mr Skene - About forty miles.

Sir William Lyne - There is not much difference.

Mr REID - I refer to the distance between Tooma and Tumut, only to show that, although they are in the same district, they are absolutely different sites. There are many other towns in the same district. I know that the Ministry and their supporters are anxious to do what is fair. This is too serious a matter-

Mr Batchelor - Hear, hear. We do not desire that any place shall be unfairly knocked out..

Mr REID - I am sure that none of us desire that a nasty taste shall be left in the mouths of the people in reference to this matter. We do not wish to raise even a suspicion that there has been a secret grouping in order to shut out some particular site.

Mr Page - Why not deal with each site individually ?

Mr REID - That is what I suggest. The matter was very carefully thought out by the late Government, and that system was adopted when the question was dealt with by us last session. I should not take exception to this proposal if I did not see not a technical, but a practical objection to it. Honorable members in favour of Dal gety and Bombala would combine to vote against Lyndhurst, the western district site, although a number of those who would vote for Bombala would prefer as an alternative to vote for Lyndhurst rather than Dalgety.

Mr Austin Chapman - The western sites have already been reduced by ballot to one - Lyndhurst.

Mr REID - I am not complaining of the fact that there is only one site in Che western district, but I wish to point out to the Ministry that in my opinion there are members in favour of Bombala who, if that site were rejected, would prefer Lyndhurst to Dalgety. Then there are others in favour of Dalgety who, if that site were rejected, would rather vote for Lyndhurst than Bombala. The effect of grouping Dalgety and Bombala together would be such that the supporters of those two sites would be forced to vote together against the selection of Lyndhurst. If the issue to be determined were the district, rather than the site, to be selected, the respective supporters of these two sites in the one district would naturally be banded together as against the third site. If there were two sites in the Lyndhurst district which had considerable support, the proposed system might balance; but as there is only one site in the western district, the respective supporters of Tumut and Tooma as well as the supporters of Bombala and of Dalgety could unite against Lyndhurst.

Mr Batchelor - Practically the same result would follow the adoption of any method.

Mr REID - Certainly not. Those who favoured voting Dalgety No.1 and Lyndhurst No. 2, or Bombala No.1, Lyndhurst No. 2, Dalgety No. 3, and so forth, would not be forced to vote against Lyndhurst if the sites, instead of districts, were voted upon. I have not a word to say against the perfect fairness, as a system, of the proposal made by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, but I see in it openings for abuse.

Mr McCay - The right honorable member cannot point to one that would make it less satisfactory than the Government proposal.

Mr REID - I am afraid that that can be done.

Mr McCay - I challenge the right honorable member to point to one.

Mr REID - Two honorable members have already worked out the system. and have shown me what would be the result of its adoption, but I prefer that they should explain their own figures.

Mr Austin Chapman - They will seek to show that it would not suit some sites.

Mr McCay - To me it is not a matter of sites.

Mr REID - Without waiting for these honorable members to explain the calculations which they have made, I think I may point out that since the site to be rubbed out will be that which has the largest number of points opposite its name, there is great scope for the advocates of two sites who fear a third to put No. 3 opposite that site- Although on a fair issue it might be placed second on both tickets, the supporters of site No. 1 and site No. 2, each fearing not the other, but site No. 3, might put No. 3 opposite the last-named site. In that case-

Mr McCay - Even if they did so, they would not make the system which I support any worse than the Government proposal.

Mr REID - My honorable and learned friend will see that I am not advocating the Government proposal.

Mr Batchelor - Yes.

Mr REID - I am not advocating the schedule, but-

Mr McCay - I am speaking, not of the schedule, but of the systems of voting-

Mr REID - I am quite open to. receive any argument to the contrary, but. from the consideration I have given to the question I prefer the method adopted by the late Government when the House dealt with the matter last session. I think that it is absolutely fair. I admit that one could not suggest any system of preference under which there might not be some degree of unfairness in the result.

Mr McCay - But the scheme proposed by rae could not be worse than the Government system, or that followed last session.

Mr REID - I am prepared to be convinced that that is so; but at present, I prefer the system adopted by the late Government.

Mr McCay - That is to say, the right honorable member deliberately adopts that which would be only the worst possible result of my proposal.

Mr REID - I. do not think so. My impression is that as the scheme adopted by the late Government worked out, it approximated more closely to a fair way of ascertaining the will of the House. I admit, as Mr. Speaker has said, that it would be more convenient for us to refrain from dealing at any great length with the schedule. I am merely taking this early opportunity to express very strongly my great objection to the systems which have been proposed, and my desire that we should revert to the method followed by the late Government.

Mr Austin Chapman - The right honorable member will lose his opportunity if he does not take advantage of it now.

Mr REID - That is so, as we are in the House; but I do not wish to carry on, so to speak, two discussions.

Mr Austin Chapman - That is what Mr. Speaker said he wished to avoid.

Mr REID - I wished to speak to the motion, as well as on the schedule.- After all, it may be the simplest plan to deal with them together. I am quite prepared to hear arguments on this question, but at present I think I can see pretty clearly that this endeavour to lump rival capital sites into one district, would operate most unfairly against a district containing only one site. The forces of those who favour the other sites would be marshalled against those who voted for the district in which there was only one, with the result that that one site might have really a larger number of 'first votes, although not an absolute majority of the House, and yet be thrown . out at the first ballot.

Mr Batchelor - If the sites were widely separated, I think that the right honorable member's contention would be accurate.

Mr REID - My honorable friend must retain sufficient recollection of the methods which have hitherto been adopted to enable him to follow me, when I say that there is no possible consistency in grouping Dalgety and Bombala into one district. We have been dealing with them as rival and absolutely distinct sites, one competing with the. other.

Mr Batchelor - I do not agree with the right honorable member in that respect.

Mr REID - I am surprised to hear the honorable gentleman say so. I have heard Dalgety placed in one category and Bombala in another.

Mr Webster - Not latterly.

Mr REID - I can speak only of my recollection of what has been done for some years past.

Mr Webster - Latterly Bombala and Dalgety have always been spoken of as one site - as Dalgety.

Mr REID - That shows that Bombala has wiped out Dalgety. That result has been secured not by harmony, but by destruction.

Mr Webster - It is the result of conviction.

Mr REID - That is to say, that Dalgety and Bombala being distinct, honorable members have arrived at a decision as between them; but my objection is that the supporters of those two sites, as against the district in which there is only one, would unite against Lyndhurst, although the advocates of Bombala and of Dalgety respectively would prefer the western district as an alternative. To my mind this is not a fair start. There is no doubt that New South Wales attaches very much greater importance to the selection of the Lyndhurst site than she does to the selection of any of the sites in the south. That being the case, I strongly urge that New South Wales shall have, at any rate, a fair chance, and that all the other sites which she least desires- to see selected shall not be lumped together to crush out that which she does favour.

Mr- Page.- Give them all a square go.

Mr REID - There are difficulties associated with every system, but it seems to me that that would be the fairest system - that we should take the individual sites, as we have been doing from the first, and deal with them in that way.

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