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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - I really cannot understand how the Government intend to fit in another amendment of this character with the determination which" was arrived at last evening. Upon that occasion, the question which we were called upon to decide was whether the ballot-paper should take a certain form. We have already dealt with that matter., and now we are asked to make a condition precedent to what we have already decided to do. The proposal states that prior to the taking of a ballot for a district, certain things shall be done. This House has determined that before a site shall be selected the ballotpaper issued shall contain the words " Southern district, comprising an area within a radius of fifty miles from Batlow," and also similar words in respect of the other districts. Now, however, we are asked to undo our previous decision, and to adopt something which is practically in antagonism to it. This question, I understand, is warmly debated by honorable members advocating different sites. Personally, I am not interested in any of the sites. I have no object other than that of selecting the very best site available, irrespective of where it may be located, and, consequently, I claim that I am in a position to come to an impartial decision. Such a decision, however, cannot be arrived at by the House under the amendment of the Government. There is a danger lurking under it, to which keen attention should be paid. In the western district, for example, there is practically only one elegible site. We are all aware of that. When the vote is taken, it is only reasonable to assume that there will be a solid vote cast in favour of Lyndhurst. There are two or three other sites, it is true, which may find some supporters. Similarly, there is a possibility that some honorable members will support the Bombala site, and others the Coolringdon site, but a great majority will probably vote for Dalgety. The votes will thus be split, whilst the others will be solid all the time. The same thing will happen in the case of the Tumut sites. Some honorable members will support Tumut, and others the Tooma site. The aim of the amendment is practically to give those who advocate the claims of one site or another a power which will not assist us to arrive at a just decision. In speaking upon this Bill last evening, the right honorable member for East Sydney Said, " This is a case of four against 'one." We have simply to turn round that expression - to convert " Yes ' ' into "No ' ' - and we shall find that it is a case of one against four. As is generally the case, we can understand what the right honorable member intends if we reverse what he says. I claim that this amendment does not provide for a fair method of selection. The House will not be acting fairly to itself, or to those who desire to come to a just conclusion upon this matter, if it allows the vote of last night to be reversed by any decision which may be arrived at to-night. I do not see how -it is possible to insert something in this resolution which will practically nullify the vote which was taken last evening; and I shall certainly oppose any method of selection which, in my opinion, has for its object the undermining of the equal rights of the several sites.

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