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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I think that the method to be adopted is of great importance. What we wish to arrive at is the best method for securing a right decision. It is understood that, whatever may be the result of the ballot, we shall not be precluded by the rules of the House from retracing our steps if we discover that we have made a mistake. But we do not wish to make a mistake. The honorable member for Gippsland has suggested that there has been some underhand work in connexion with the proposal of the Government. If so, I know nothing of it. At no time have I lent myself to anything of the kind. A similar suggestion was made when the matter was last under discussion, but if there was any log-rolling at all then, it was done by those who imputed it to others. I hope that that experience will not be repeated. We have been asked by the Government to choose one of three districts, each of which contains several suggested sites. There is no consolidation of interests, so far as the western district is concerned. Three different sites within that district have been strongly advocated, and, therefore, it would be much fairer to submit each site separately for the decision of the House. That was the attitude I took up in the last Parliament when I strongly urged that honorable members should consider the claims of the respective sites, and decide which was the best. That is the decision at which we have now arrived, and I am glad that the Government have recognised the wisdom of endeavouring to secure a distinct choice. In the southern district there are half-a-dozen sites, three or four of which have received a fair amount of support. There are also two or three sites in the south-eastern district. If the Lacmalac site were to be selected, I should not vote for the southern district. I should- prefer any site in the south-eastern district, even Delegate or Coolringdon, to Lacmalac, and, therefore, the determination of the House as to the best site in any one district would very largely influence my votes in regard to the districts. I have taken the trouble to visit and inspect all the sites for myself. I have not been content to judge from the reports alone, but have made a personal inspection. I agree with the honorable member for Richmond, that we have a most important obligation to discharge, and that it is of the utmost importance that we should make a selection that will meet all the requirements of the case, that will reflect credit upon ourselves, and secure the approval of the majority of the people of the Commonwealth, not only to-day, but in time to come. Therefore, it seems to me that petty personal considerations should find no place in this discussion. We should not be swayed by the circumstances that a particular site is in the electoral division represented by a particular honorable member, or in a particular part of New South Wales. We should endeavour to select that site within the whole territory of New South Wales, outside of the 100-mile limit, that would best 'lend itself to the purposes for which it is intended. If we are pre pared to view the matter from this broad, stand-point, we need not entertain any fears with regard to the proposal submitted by the Government. The opponents: of the Government proposal have urged that it might be used improperly, with a view tosecure the adoption of a site that would defeat the selection of a particular territory. If honorable members are disposed to regard the matter from any such narrow and selfish stand-point, they will not do credit to themselves or justice to the people they represent. If honorable members honestly desire to deal with this matter straightforwardly - and if they are not so disposed they should leave the selection of the site to some other body - the Government proposal offers the most satisfactory means of arriving at a decision. The sites in one district should be dealt with entirely apart from those in others, and the merits of each should be considered impartially. Some honorable members are apparently so used to log-rolling that they suspect others of engaging in schemes similar, to those in which they have themselves taken part. There is no reason for supposing that any unholy combination has been entered into, with a view to secure the adoption of a western site. The Government proposal would not specially lend itself to the manipulation of votes, but, on the other hand, would clear the way for the selection of a territory, and would enable honorable members to see from the outset the direction in which they were being led. If the Government proposal be defeated, we shall have to select a territory embraced within a fifty-miles radius from some givencentre. Within such a radius there might be large tracts of land which would be utterly unsuitable for the purposes of the Capital site. Take the western district,, for instance, a radius of fifty miles from Lyndhurst would extend westward to Eugowra in the neighbourhood of Forbes, and would embrace territory which has never been mentioned as suitable for the purposes of a site. Thus to the westward the radius would overlap on the western plains, whilst on the eastern side it' would encroach, upon the territory included in the 100-mile limit from Sydney. We should come to some decision as to the site to be selected within that area, and we can only do that satisfactorily by means of some such proposal as that put forward by the Government. The late Government proposed, from the outset, to select a site for the Capital, and not the territory, and investigations were entered upon accordingly. To-day we are no further advanced in respect of those investigations than we were when the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was in charge of the business of the House, and invited the last Parliament to deal with this question. If we are to make the best use of the information which is at our disposal, we must deal with the matter from the standpoint of one or other of these sites. I believe that nearly all the eligible sites within these areas have already been reported upon. I claim that, upon the official information that is before us, we should proceed to select the best possible site in the interests of the Commonwealth.

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