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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr SPENCE (Darling) - I desire to say a few words in reply to those who claim that the proposal now put forward by the Government is a reversal of the decision arrived at last night. I was one of those who voted last night for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Gwydir, and in the course of a speech which I made I urged that the radius should be enlarged. ' At the same time I pointed out that unless the House were given an opportunity to vote on every site separately a number of honorable members might be forced by combinations to vote for sites of which they did not really approve. In the last' Parliament I urged that we should have an opportunity to secure a direct 'vote of the House on the different sites, and that one site should be pitted against another. If my first preference were rejected, there are other certain sites for which I should vote, No. 2 and No. 3, but if I were called upon to vote on a district, it might happen that in the final vote I should have to support a site of which I did not approve. It seems to me that the. best course to pursue is to take a ballot in the way now proposed by the Government. I certainly understood- last night that the radius was to be increased, and although the proposal was much larger than I suggested, I did not quarrel with the proposition made by the honorable member for Gwydir. He had adopted the suggestion which had been thrown out, and I voted with him. I did not understand that it carried the inference that we -were not to have an opportunity to vote on the individual sites. If we have a full choice of a site in each locality, district will be pitted against district in the final vote. It seems to me that under the method proposed by the Government, every honorable member would have an opportunity to vote according to his sense of the relative value of each site.

Mr Poynton - If there were thirteen honorable members in favour of one site in a district, and fourteen in favour of another, might there not be a difficulty ?

Mr SPENCE - When a combination of those in favour of two sites in the one district takes place, the other sites are unfairly handicapped. If we voted on the districts, we might finally reject the whole of the proposed sites. That is a contingency which I wish to avoid, and it seems to me that the Government ' proposal offers an excellent means to narrow down the districts. There is a very large area in each district, and we should see that there is sufficient to enable us to erect the Capital on the most suitable site. It is much better that we should clear the ground one step at a time.

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