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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr REID (East Sydney) - I should like to point out, im a very few words - because the matter has been thoroughly discussed - the reason why I. think the hon;orable member for. Gippsland should recognise the anxiety which animates us in regard to this matter. Upon the. face of it, the view advocated by the other- side appears to be thoroughly sensible and fair.. I t is- said that we- should choose a district and then devote ourselves to; the determination of the best site for the Capital in that district. On the surface, that seems a perfectly logical and sound position to take up ; but I wish to point out how, on the facts, it would work out with absolute unfairness. If honorable members who are in favour of a particular district were also equally favorable to all the sites in that district, we ought to be able to obtain a straight decision. But, as a matter of fact, that is not so. Take the district represented so- faithfully by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. He knows very well that there are honorable members who would vote for Bombala, but who would not vote for Dalgety.

Mr Austin Chapman - Will the right honorable member name one?

Mr REID - I do not wish to mention any names.

Mr Austin Chapman - Why should the right honorable member make such an assertion if he cannot prove it?

Mr REID - I do not desire to bandy the names of members about the Chamber.

Mr Austin Chapman - I do not know of any honorable member who takes up the position suggested by the right honorable member, and yet I am fairly familiar with the views of the House.

Mr REID - My honorable friend ought to know; but I still think that his information, judging by that at my disposal, is not exhaustive. Take my own case. I am in favour of Lyndhurst, to begin with, but if that site be rejected, I shall probably be found voting, with my honorable friend, for Dalgety. I hope that there is nothing alarming in that statement.

Mr Austin Chapman - Why say " probably " ?

Mr REID - My hope is that the matter will be put with sufficient fairness to enable me to do so. At present, however, I do not see how it will be possible to come to a straight vote on this question. That is my objection. There are honorable members who have a first preference for a particular site in one of these districts, but who are strongly against other sites in it. If the site which they favour were rejected they would vote for a site in another district.

Mr Austin Chapman - Why, I would ask-

Mr REID - I hope that the honorable member will allow me to place my views before the House. If it were a question of district versus district there would be no difficulty. I can quite understand the statement of the honorable member that he is at a loss to know why so much trouble should be made over this question; but, as a matter of fact, the interest of honorable members is not confined to one district. If, for instance, we ask even the most erratic honorable member on the other side to state his order of preference, we find that it goes from one extreme to another. His first choice may be Tumut, or this new cemetery which has been discovered, Tooma. His first choice may be Dalgety, and his second choice Lyndhurst, but his third choice may be Tumut or Tooma, so' that his order of preference ranges over the three districts in a most irregular way. That is the complication which arises. The fact is that if, for example, any of the advocates of Bombala were prepared to give a second vote for Lyndhurst, they would be compelled, if we voted on districts, to commence by wiping out their second choice altogether, in order to give Bombala a chance. When they came to vote for Bombala they might be beaten, and would then wish, of course, to exercise their second votes in "favour of Lyndhurst. But that site would have gone; it would have been wiped out.

Mr Austin Chapman - So it ought to be.

Mr REID - I do not address my arguments on this question to the representatives of these districts. If we had to choose, on this occasion, between heaven itself and Tooma I know where the honorable member for Hume would have his picnic. It would take place not in heaven but in Tooma. I do not wish to waste my time' upon the log-rolling representatives of sitehunting localities. I shall not waste my time on the honorable member for EdenMonaro. On all other subjects those two honorable members are as straight as a cork-screw; but on this particular question they must allow me to appeal to other honorable members.

Mr Austin Chapman - The right honorable member is an excellent judge of a political cork-screw.

Mr REID - I suppose I am. I am happy to say, however, that it is not because I have had many 'corks to draw. That has been going on at Tooma.

Mr Batchelor - What is the suggestion?

Mr REID - Only ginger ale. Our complaint is that we shall not get a fair chance unless the proposal of the

Government be adopted. I suppose that my honorable friends of the Labour Party will give the Government credit for perfect straightforwardness in what they have done. I am not one of the two or three honorable members whom the Government are anxious to conciliate in the present crisis. If the Government wished to act in that way their attention would not be directed to me. They would devote their attention to other honorable members in this House, so that their straightforwardness in accepting the fair view emanating from their direct opponent in the House - from the man from whom they expect the least - ought not to be a reason for suggesting some unworthy motive on their part, lt is surprising that this rope of steel, which is branded "cork," has become such a rope of sand. I admit that I do not make use of that figure of speech in any wrong sense, because this is a matter entirely outside party politics. I should be very sorry indeed if any one were to apply any party pressure in this matter. I wish honorable members to understand that my anxiety ' is not to influence them as to the selection of a particular site. I do not wish to interfere with their freedom of choice; but I desire that Lyndhurst shall be given a fair start. Honorable members may wipe it out if they please, but let it have a start from scratch. It ought not to be wiped out before the others get a start; but that would inevitably be the effect of the procedure which some honorable members advocate. I would infinitely rather have had the proposal of the honorable member for Corinella. I saw that there was risk of great abuse under his scheme, but, at any rate, it provided machinery for the fair expression of the opinions of honorable members in the order of their preference.

Mr Groom - The scheme of the honorable and learned member for Corinella applied to the system of voting for districts.

Mr Skene - It could have been applied to any other system.

Mr Batchelor - But it was not proposed to be so applied.

Mr REID - That is so. At the time, the proposal I am now discussing was not before the House ; but it would have been infinitely fairer when we came to deal with particular sites. My great objection to the original proposal of the Government from the first was the manifestly ridiculous use of the word " site," as applying to an area within a radius of fifty miles. How can one speak of the site for a Capital, and" then refer to an area within a radius of fifty miles?

Mr Webster - We have said "within a radius."

Mr REID - We might as well have said within New South Wales, or within a radius of 100 miles. To agree to such an area is to select, not the site for a Capital, but the territory within which the Capital site shall be chosen. No honorable member will deny that if we proceed with the method of choosing an area within a radius of fifty miles, there must be a further decision of the House at some later time to determine the precise locality of the future Capital of the Commonwealth. No one would say that the Government should be allowed to choose a site within a radius of fifty miles of some specified place. That shows that my complaint was a just one, and that, instead, of making progress towards the selection of a site, we are getting further away from our object than we were two years ago. When the late Government brought in their Bill, they put before us the names of certain localities which were thought eligible as Capital sites, and the Bill provided that the Seat of Government should be "at or near " Bathurst, Albury, Orange, Lyndhurst, Bombala, Dalgety, Lake George, or Tumut. Those places were mentioned, not as areas, of Federal territory, but as sites for the Federal Capital. The Constitution itself prescribes that the Parliament shall first determine the site of the Seat of Government, and then ask for a territory which will include that site. Our first step is to choose a site, and our second is to ask for a territory. We do not definitely determine the Seat of Government until the territory asked for is granted to or acquired by us; but our first duty is to choose a site for the seat' of Government. That is the line which was followed last time. The Government then in power asked the House to choose a place "at or near" which the Seat of Government should be. If the two Houses had on that occasion chosen the same site, the Government would have negotiated with the Government of New South Wales for the acquirement of a territory which would include it. Now, however, we are in a worse position than we were in then. The Senate has done what I am objecting to. I do not suppose that the members of that Chamber have acted under influence, but it is a singular thing that they have chosen Bombala as the site of the Seat of Government, and have then fixed upon an area within a radius of fifty miles of that place.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must not refer to what another branch of this Parliament has done.

Mr REID - I ask, would it not be a singular thing for us to name a place as the site of the Seat of Government, and then say that the Capital shall be within fiftymiles of that place?

Mr Austin Chapman - That is what the Senate has done.

Mr REID - It is irregular to refer to the action of the Senate, and therefore, to preserve Parliamentary decorum, I am putting a supposititious case. We know that there are two rival Capital sites within fifty miles of Bombala. That suits the honorable member for Eden-Monaro beautifully, because they are the only two sites in his electorate. If there were more sites in that electorate, he would like an area wide enough to include them all to be chosen. If we agreed to the decision of the Senate, he would get all he wants. But there are honorable members who, while they would vote for Dalgety, would, if that site were not chosen, vote for some other site which is not in the south-eastern district, while there are other honorable members who would vote first for Bombala, and, if it were not selected, would vote next for another site outside the south-eastern district. Under the original proposal of the Government both those who wish to see Bombala chosen, and those who wish to see Dalgety chosen, would be compelled to vote for the south-eastern district.

Mr Austin Chapman - The right honorable and learned member wishes to divide and conquer.

Mr REID - Such manceuvres are familiar enough to the honorable member who is interrupting me. but I am not addressing him exclusively. The point I wish to make is that those who are in favour of districts in which there are two sites are able to bring a force of two to one against the district in which there is only one site.

Mr Webster - Then the right honorable member admits that there is only one site in the western district?

Mr REID - There is only one site in that district which is now before us. I am speaking to practical business men. There may be a hundred sites in the district if we go into the matter very closely, but we are dealing with it as men who know what the voting was on the last occasion, when Lyndhurst stood at the top of the list for five ballots, and Bathurst and Orange lasted for one ballot only. There is only one site in the Lyndhurst district which is being practically considered now. That has been the effect of the last ballot. I think, however, that if a site is chosen in each district first, and that then the districts are dealt with on their merits, all will have a fair start. Under the present arrangement the supporters of four other sites will have a common interest in exterminating Lyndhurst, to prevent a second vote from being cast for that site after the first ballot has been taken. How much better is the plan of the Government ! Under that plan no district will be wiped out on the preliminary ballot. In each district is a site which, in the judgment of the whole House, must be the best site in that district. Surely there could not be a fairer way of testing the merits of the districts than for the whole House to decide as one united body, which is the best site in each district, quite apart from the merits of the rival districts, or of the rival sites in other districts. We are now asked practically to address our intelligence to discriminating between districts A, B, and C. We decide first which is the best site in A ; then, which is the best site in B ; and, lastly, which is the best site in C. Having thus chosen a representative site for each district, but having exterminated none of the districts, we allow a fair fight, site bv site, and district by district. The objection to the other mode is that one district would be wiped out without the chance of a second vote, whereas the two remaining districts would have such a chance.

Mr Ewing - Suppose each site stands on its: own basis, and there is something to be said in favour of the Tooma site, would the right honorable member agree to a fortnight's postponement to allow of a thorough investigation of the merits of that site?

Sir William Lyne - It would be of no use for the right honorable member to agree. He cannot dictate to the whole House.

Mr REID - After the agony the honorable member for Hume has suffered during the past few days in trying to square twenty members of Parliament, does the honorable member for Richmond ask that he should be forced to begin again?

Sir William Lyne - That is a disgraceful and- unworthy remark.'

Mr Webster - Is it in order for the right honorable member to say that' the honorable member for Hume has been trying to square twenty members of Parliament ?

Mr SPEAKER - The right honorable member was speaking with his back turned to me, and a considerable amount' of conversation was going on, so that I did not hear him distinctly ; but if he made the statement attributed to him by the honorable member for Gywdir, I ask him to withdraw it.

Mr REID - Certainly, I withdraw it. The honorable member had this picnic party, to which he took a number of honorable members. It was their own fault if other honorable members did not' go. He offered equal facilities to all, I understand. I was not asked, but that is a mere detail. Some honorable members were asked. I do not know what the process of selection was; but as the undertaking was managed at' Government expense, I think that every honorable member should have been invited.

Mr Batchelor - The projected visit was announced on the floor of the House.

Mr REID - That is a very loose way of inviting men to a picnic.

Sir William Lyne - It was publicly stated by the Prime Minister that a visit would be made. I was not going to run after the right honorable member to ask him to go anywhere.

Mr REID - There is nothing to be got by running after me. The honorable member knows that very well. I am willing that the honorable member should enjoy any advantage which he has obtained from that picnic. From all that I can hear, Tooma is a lovely place for a burial ground. No one could wish to lie in a more beautiful spot. I understand that if has been only lately discovered. However, we are not discussing the merits of the sites at the present time. That discussion is reserved for a later stage. What I am drawing attention to now is the unfair results which would follow if we did not adopt the proposal of the Government. It is to their credit that they have seen that their original proposal was not a fair one, and have therefore adopted a modification of it. Their present proposal was certainly not made because of the exercise of any influence on my part. If it is' due to' anything, it is due to the arguments urged in this Chamber yesterday. I understand that the amendment was in print then.

Mr Watson - No. But before that the Minister had intimated that he wished to have the sites defined, though he proposed to do it afterwards.

Mr REID - That statement shows how untrue the suggestion is that it was because of some influence exercised by me that the Government brought forward the present proposal. It turns out now that this action was intimated before I said a word about it.

Mr Watson - Not the precise method now proposed ; but we intended to fine down the decision of the House to a distinct site.

Mr REID - Exactly. The only subject to which I addressed myself yesterday was the importance of doing that, and it now turns out that it had previously been the intention of the Government to do it. That disposes of the suggestion that I had been endeavouring to influence them. I am the last man who could do so. They are proposing what is a fair thing, and I hope, that the House will consider the proposal. It is no light matter to disregard the protest of any body of members in regard to a question which has some sort of interest to the State which they represent. We should, so far as we can, treat the States generously in this matter.

Mr Page - So we do. ' .

Mr REID - I think that we have done so, and I desire that the reputation of the House shall be maintained. It comes with rather a surprise to me that, in a House which has the desire to act fairly, within bounds, to each State, so little regard is now being paid to the protest of such a large majority of the members representing New South Wales. It is not a protest against the choice of a site. If it were that, honorable members might say that it is unreasonable for New South Wales to attempt to dictate to the Commonwealth as to where the Capital shall be. But, as it is a question of giving a fair chance to all the sites - a fair chance to the site which is most favoured by the people of that State - surely our requests _ and protests might be received with fair ' consideration. The other States will, no doubt, come along in the future with.' matters, by' which their interests are particularly affected.

Sir William Lyne - - Is that the bribe which the right honorable member is hold- l ing out?

Mr REID - I am not holding out any bribe. If I could hold out a bribe, there is only one man in the House to whom I would hold it out.

Sir William Lyne - That is a disgraceful thing to say. No one but a blackguard would say it.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. I rose to ask the right honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw his remark that conveyed that an honorable member of this House would be open to accept a bribe, but-

Mr REID - I did not say so.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member for Hume has just stated, by way of interjection, that the statement made by the right honorable member for East Sydney was blackguardly. I must first ask the honorable member for Hume to withdraw that remark, and then I shall ask the right honorable member for East Sydney to withdraw his statement.

Sir William Lyne - I withdraw.

Mr REID - I withdraw; but it is only fair to say that I did not put the matter in the absolute way that you, . sir, have indicated. The honorable member for Hume interrupted me by saying that my statement was blackguardly. I said, " if I could hold out a bribe." I did not say that I did so. I was assuming a most incredible thing, in the first pla.ce, and I assumed another incredible thing when I indicated I should hold out a bribe to only one honorable member. Sir William Lyne. - I rise to a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was called upon to withdraw, and I did so. The right honorable member for East Sydney was similarly called upon, but I submit that he has not complied with your order.

Mr SPEAKER - The right honorable member for East Sydney first withdrew the remark he had previously made, as indeed he would do under the Standing Orders ; but now he is practically repeating his statement. I would ask him not to do so, as he knows that it is absolutely unparliamentary.

Mr REID - I certainly withdraw my statement, especially as the honorable member for Hume has- withdrawn the congenial epithet which he used. I am in no sense offering a bribe. I am not asking honorable members to deflect from any choice of any site that they may have in their minds. I am not endeavouring to warp their judgment in regard to any particular site, but I am making an appeal - and such an appeal is generally successful - to the instincts of fairness of honorable members by asking them to exercise their consideration towards one of the States of the Commonwealth. If I asked them to change their views, or to vote for some portion of New South Wales which, in their opinion, was not the best, merely out of consideration for the interests of that State, I might be regarded as making an improper appeal. But when I ask honorable members to act with common sense and fairness, and to give a fair start to New South Wales in a matter so vitally affecting her, surely I am not making an improper appeal. ' That is the only request I am making. I am pointing out the effect of following a certain course. If there were only one site which-the House had any notion of adopting in the southern and south-eastern districts, I should not have a word to say except that the last method proposed would result in a waste of time, and throw us back, but inasmuch as there are rival sites in each of the two districts which are supported by bodies of antagonistic supporters, some of whom would vote for Lyndhurst upon the second ballot, I think that I am submitting a fair proposition. If the sites were narrowed down to one in each district, honorable members would be asked to choose between Tumut, Bombala, and Lyndhurst, and the selection could be made with absolute fairness. We should then have a fair start. But the existence of two absolutely separate and antagonistic bodies in each of the two districts referred to introduces an element of unfairness, because they have the effect of creating a' double-headed compact in opposition to the Lyndhurst site.

Mr Webster - Against a solid body of supporters of Lyndhurst.

Mr REID - There is nothing to be made out of that observation. I have made this appeal to honorable members only in the spirit which I have indicated, and if that spirit is not to prevail in the preferences affecting the different sites, honorable members who do not observe it must "not be surprised if other people accept the standard which they set up. I hope, however, that this will not occur; but I think, without referring to the sites at all. that, as a matter of fairness in the selection, some attention should be paid to what we think as to what would constitute a fair start.

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