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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr REID (East Sydney) - I am glad that the Mother State has been able to supply this House with an honorable member whose brilliant advocacy of scenery and water- will enable us to give effect to these attributes of national character. My honorable friend, like every other man of gifted imagination, occupies a position of peculiar advantage, owing to the fact that he knows nothing whatever of the particular locality of which he has .spoken. Imagination is the first essential of poetic excellence, and he occupies the happy position of being highly imaginative. Upon the strength of the impression made upon his mind by reports which have reached him from some stragglers who safely returned to the centre of civilization a day or two ago from a highly festive excursion, the honorable member for Richmond positively announces to the House that a particular site, which was not previously discovered by the member for the district, is the most beautiful in the whole world.

Mr Ewing - I did not say that.

Mr REID - The honorable member said more than that. He said that it was the most beautiful site in the universe, but, subsequently, corrected himself by substituting the words " in Australia." Is it riot a singular circumstance that one of the most indefatigable local members that Australia ever had, in the person of Sir. William Lyne, who has an intimate knowledge of that part of Australia - a knowledge which has been derived from association with it as a settler for many years, because he resided within 200 or 300 miles of it - is it net remarkable that when he impressed upon Australia that there were certain eligible Capital sites in his electo rate, this particular site which our friend has described in such magnificent terms, was never once mentioned by him as being good enough for a local pound ? It is a place which, I believe, is very beautiful. If I thought that in the settlement of this question our first consideration should be the beauty of any site, I say, at once, that from all I have heard, I would admit that it is one of the most beautiful spots in Australia. If I thought the matter could be settled in that way, I should be one of the first to say that we should have some further time to enable honorable members to get a more general and a more accurate knowledge of this particular site. But I fancy that the honorable member for Hume, if he ever thought of this site, dismissed it from his mind, because of the view which the late Government had of the main question to be studied in connexion with the selection of a Capital Site. I have before me the terms of the Commission which was issued by the late Government. I think that the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, countersigned the proclamation, but it was within the Department of Home Affairs. The Government issued a commission to a number of skilled gentlemen, who were to report, at considerable expense - I do not say unreasonable expense - upon the different sites which had been mentioned. There were a large number of sites. The proclamation set out in their order the considerations which this Commission of skilled men should have in view. The first place was given to accessibility. I wish to say that I think that the late Government properly and wisely put accessibility at the very head of the requirements. You can get up pleasure trips to beautiful scenery, but when a Capital has to become the centre of the executive business and the legislative business of a business Commonwealth, you have to consider something more than beauty. According to the view of my honorable friend, the member for Richmond, there could have been no doubt whatever as to the wisdom of placing the great Capital of the United States near the Falls of Niagara. You have plenty of water there. They would have had there the most beautiful waterfall then known in the whole world. But if any one happened to visit Niagara, as I did a year or two ago, he would have found that this scene of grandeur, which stands in the very front of the great sights of the world, has settled near it the population of a little village hamlet. Amongst 80,000,000 of highly enterprising wealthy people, prone to every form of enjoyment and luxury, we find this magnificent scene simply settled as a village-hamlet would be settled.

Mr Ewing - It is on the border of Canada.

Mr REID - That brings two great populations within reach of it. But while it is the scene of unrivalled grandeur, as we all admit - one of the wonders of the world - in spite of that, the Americans never thought of putting their capital there ; and the Canadians, when they selected a capital later on, never thought of putting it on the other side of the Falls.

Mr Skene - -There was not a large population in America when the capital was settled.

Mr REID - But with a population of 80,000,000 to-day, there is a village hamlet close to Niagara. Notwithstanding the enormous growth of this mighty people, with this magnificently beautiful natural attraction close at hand, it is merely an attraction for pleasure-seekers, not for men of business. Men of business - except with reference to the motive power to be derived from these magnificent falls - do not consider them. Men of business do not live on beauty. They do not flock to places of great natural beauty for business purposes. The business world is not carried on by means of picnics to Niagara or by means of excursions to the Blue Mountains. We put the true national idea of this question .upon a ludicrous basis, to my mind, if we forget the obvious necessity for an accessible site, and lose our heads in a rapture about a certain volume of water, and a certain view of distant mountains. So far as a view of a mountain is concerned. I rather think that Dalgety is within view of Kosciusko. But I do want to impress upon honorable members that we are not selecting a place for a picnic, or for a pleasure resort. We must have some regard for the interests of the serious affairs of State, to say nothing of business, and, first of all, for the accessibility of the site with reference to the rest of Australia. We must have some regard for the use which is to be made of the site as the centre of our Government, and' the centre of our Legislature. We must, as the late Government did, put that question at the very head of the requirements. Mr. Chesterman, in the report which has been furnished - and he is a gentleman whom I take to be a most competent man, and one who had the advantage of personal knowledge of this beautiful 'district - adds most significantly that the most serious question of accessibility has to be determined. I did not visit Tooma, for various reasons, but in fairness to Tooma, I should have gone if I had not felt that even if it were the most lovely site in the world, it is from other conditions one which we could not accept. One who arrives at that opinion does no injustice to a site in not visiting it. Therefore, I feel that I am doing no injustice to this site, having regard to the grounds of the opinion at which I have arrived. I rule it out absolutely on the point of accessibility. I will admit, if you like, that it is the most beautiful site in the world. But if we wanted merely beauty could we get a grander panorama than we have in the Blue Mountains. There are no grander views in Australia than are to be found there.

Mr Spence - But they are within the 100-miles radius.

Mr REID - Some parts of the Blue Mountains are, but some parts are not. The range is a very extensive one. But I mention that incidentally. If the Blue Mountains had been outside the 100-miles radius, who would ever have suggested building the Capital there? Probably no one. When the late Government put forward this proclamation,- no doubt they were acting under skilled advice; they had the advantage of that advice. What was the point which they put next in importance? - " (2) Means of communication."

That is nothing to my honorable friend. So long as there is a scene of beauty, a trip of two or three days in a coach is not of the slightest consequence. If the weather were wet, that would be inevitable. One of my honorable friends, who is an ardent believer in another site in another part of the State, was impious enough to pray that half-an-inch of rain would fall upon the recent picnic, because the result would be that those honorable members who took part in it could not, in that event, possibly be back in time to take part in the division. I understand that in wet weather this place, which is mountainous - there are a number of spurs in the ranges converging upon it - is one of the most difficult places with reference to means of communication. On the Victorian side it is difficult ; but on the New South Wales side what would it mean? You first go to, I think, Culcairn. Then you travel upon a branch line to Germanton, and then there is about fifty or sixty miles of coaching to be done. Taking the journey from Tumut, it would be fortysix miles; but I am taking it from the existing line to Germanton.

Mr Skene - Fifty-four miles, according to Mr. Chesterman's report.

Mr REID - I will, if honorable members prefer that I should do so, take the journey at forty-six miles from Tumut. I have every reason to believe, from what I have been, told, that a railway from Tumut to Tooma would not be by any means a cheap piece of construction. Professional men - a surveyor particularly - have told me so. This gentleman knows the district well.

Mr Austin Chapman - The lowest estimate of the surveyors is£9,000 per mile.

Mr REID - If the Committee chose a site away from the existing railway communications of the State, and near the boundary of New South Wales and Victoria, surely no honorable member would have the audacity to ask New South Wales to spend a million of money in connecting the Federal Capital - erected at the furthest extremity of its territory, on a site which for all practical purposes is much nearer another State - with the local railway system ?

Mr Ewing - How does the right honorable member arrive at his estimate of £1,000,000 ?

Mr REID - I have not visited the district', but I am informed that the character of the country is such that an enormous expenditure would be necessary to enable the ' Capital to be properly approached by railway. I shall say, however, that the necessary railway communication would involve an outlay of£500,000. Would this Committee expect New South Wales to disburse half-a-million of money in constructing a railway to carry honorable members to that out-of-the-way part of the State? Would they have the auda: city to ask New South Wales to do anything of the kind? If any other State were asked to incur such an expenditure, what a howl of execration there would be. Other States are terrified by the proposal to expend money in the establishment of the Capital, although it is a Commonwealth object, yet they apparently expect New South Wales to construct a railway at this enormous expense to carry us a distance of forty or fifty miles.

Mr Wilson - To carry " dead-heads."

Mr REID - We are not "dead-heads," because our railway fares are paid by the Commonwealth. These are considerations, however, to which every honorable member must attach a certain degree of weight. The accessibility of this site from the capitals of the great States is decidedly inferior. I am now dealing 'with the question of accessibility with absolutely no reference to any one State. I am putting the facts for the States and the representatives of each State. The difficulties are the same in both cases. Could we expect Victoria or New South Wales-they have now to look at their moneypretty closely before they throw it away - to build a railway in the one case running up to the Murray and in the other either along the Murray from Germanton or down from Tumut to the Murray? The building of the two lines would involve the expenditure of£1, 000,000, and could any reasonable man expect the two States to incur such a liability? These are matters which business men have to take into consideration. We do riot wish to make the holding of a seat in the Federal Parliament more difficult for the representative men of Australia than it is. Wherever the Capital may be, the position will be difficult for honorable members of this Legislature. Even- with the Seat of Gove!rnment in a great city like Melbourne honorable members have to suffer inconvenience in attending the Parliament; but what is that inconvenience when compared with that which would be suffered in attending the sittings if the Federal Capital were established at some inaccessible spot? Could we sit gazing on Mount Kosciusko for . three months at a stretch ? It is a lovely spot to visit for a day or two, but even my honorable and enthusiastic friend would die if he had to remain there for three weeks. The rapturous view's gleaned from picknickers are very entertaining, but we are dealing with a matter of vast business conce'rn, and have to come down from the clouds that dignify Mount Kosciusko and my honorable friend to the prosaic facts with which the Commission was called upon to deal at the instance of the honorable member for Hume. What were the considerations to which the Commissioners were to have regard ? We find that they were to consider the question of climate: I have no doubt that the climate at Tooma is all right, and the same may be said of the climatic conditions of the other sites. But, having regard to the first two points which the Commissioners were to take into consideration, I submit that, if Tooma were the most beautiful spot in the world, it would stand self-condemned because of its inaccessibility. I have no hesitation in saying that I would rather vote for Tumut than Tooma. It would be infinitely better if those who admire beautiful sunsets and magnificent mountain effects were given a weekly excursion to Kosciusko - if they would go there instead of talking about it - and had everything provided ibr them on a sumptuous scale, rather than that the States should have to incur an unnecessary expenditure of a million of money simply to enable those who have to legislate and to do business in the Federal Capital to reach it conveniently.

Mr Ewing - I should like to hear whatthe right honorable member would have to say if these natural advantages were associated with the western site.

Mr REID - No doubt; but, fortunately for myself, although I was once a poet, the poetic would, in that case, gracefully" blend with the practical. Let us consider Lyndhurst from the point of view of accessibility. There is a great State railway running practically from Melbourne to Lyndhurst, and not touching at Sydney. A man may travel from Melbourne to Lyndhurst in two hours less than the time occupied in travelling from Melbourne to Sydney. Men of business and of common sense must take into consideration the fact that a locomotive is running practically into Lyndhurst, and that a man coming from Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, or Victoria, may enter a train at Melbourne and find himself in Lyndhurst next morning, two hours earlier than if he travelled on the main trunk line to Sydney. These are matters which affect the first two heads, or questions, which were submitted for the consideration of the Commission, and my own view is that, having regard to these considerations, Lyndhurst is the best site. Where does beauty come in in this category? There are ten heads, and when we come to the tenth, what do we find ? Picturesqueness. There are about sixty lines under ten heads in the Royal proclamation, and the very point on which my honorable friend is so strong, is dealt with in about the fiftieth line under the tenth heading. A sensible course was adopted in placing the question of beauty so far down in the list. Lovers of natural beauty could, resort to these lovely spots from the Seat pf Government if they were so in clined. If, for example, Tooma were selected, honorable members could have a country residence on the top of Mount Kosciusko, without very great inconvenience, because it is not very far away. I hope the Committee will understand that I am not acting unfairly in refraining from visiting Tooma, because if I went there and saw that it was the loveliest spot on the face of nature, I should have to condemn it, on the ground of want of accessibility and means of communication. I come now to Dalgety and Bombala. They are sites which I prefer to Tumut. I have had the advantage of travelling from Cooma to Dalgety, and my recollection is that a distance of something like thirty miles separates the two towns.

Sir John Forrest - About thirty-one.

Mr REID - Judging from my journey by coach to Dalgety, I would say that it is absolutely easy country over which to carry a line.

Mr Austin Chapman - The estimate made years ago of the cost of constructing a line to Dalgety was ,£127,000.

Mr REID - That must be a very liberal estimate.

Sir John Forrest - It is plenty.

Mr REID - Dalgety is inconvenient, in the sense that it has no railway ' communication ; nevertheless, it is near a railway terminus. Tumut is already the terminus of a railway line.

Mr Austin Chapman - The construction of a line from Cooma has already been recommended.

Mr REID - It has. If we wish to select a site which has no railway communication, we must study the wishes of the State to some extent, provided that we expect it to construct a line for our convenience. We are now talking in this Chamber as if the whole matter rested solely with the Commonwealth ; but when our Government have to deal, as business men, with the Government of New South Wales, a number of business considerations will press upon them, and will lead, no doubt, to some reasonable solution. We cannot expect New South Wales to run an expensive line to nowhere. Consequently, we should have, in the case of Tooma, a coach journey of fifty or sixty miles, which ' in " itself would, I think, make the whole project inadmissible." If it were likely to be a convenient site in the future we might decide to submit to very serious inconvenience for the next ten or fifty years, because of the future advantages to be gained from its adoption. I am going on the assumption that the enterprise of New South Wales, which is conducted by men who have money to risk and money to make, is more intelligent than the views taken in this matter byhonorable members who have no personal interest at stake.. Where is the hand of destiny pointing, so far as we can judge from the furrows which enterprise, is driving across the face of Australia? Where are those furrows, which will increase in depth and breadth as the years go by, leading? They point in many directions, but none of them point to Tooma. Judging from the descriptions of the place which I have read, it seems to be one of those beauty spots which no one who has his way to make in the world would live in. If it were a wonderfully productive district, I think that, in spite of its lack of railway communication, it would have shown more marked evidence of development than we have any notion of to-day. If the soil of the district were really good, it would have been more closely settled. The finger of destiny points to various trades, but it never points in the direction of Tooma. In studying the interests of the millions who will develop. Australia in the years to come, we should pay regard to their business "convenience more than to their desire for the beautiful. It is not the love of the beautiful which makes a nation great. The beautiful can be bought in pictures, or seen in art galleries, or if one wishes to study it in nature, he can make a holiday trip to some beautiful spot. But when one is thinking of business considerations he studies his convenience, not his love of the beautiful. It is those who study business convenience most who most frequently have opportunities to gaze upon the grandeur of nature. I would put all the sites to that test. Dalgety, Bombala, Tooma, and Tumut are all far removed from the broad tracks of the nation's progress. But when we speak of Lyndhurst, we speak of a place which, because of its natural wealth, is bound to become one of the great centres of industry. The Lyndhurst district has great mineral wealth, and its soil is very rich. I do not put forward the Lyndhurst site because of its beauty, though it possesses a fair share of beauty. It is a site which is open to some praise on that score. But if we study the by no means hidden springs which control the movements of settlement, and the growth of population in new countries, we must see that Lyndhurst, which, after all, is not so far removed from Melbourne, and is connected with the great system of railways which is really Australian, in spite of the differences of gauge, must become a large and beautiful city, because it is so closely in touch with the industrial life of our people. According, as honorable members lo'ok on the map with the eye of the tourist or with the eye of the business man, they must make their choice of the proposed sites. If we are going to choose our Capital from the sickly tourist point of view, we might go anywhere ; but if we are going to deal with the question as business men, and pay regard to the movements of population on this great continent, we shall leave the arguments derived from the possession of the beautiful to some other occasion, and study practical business convenience. We should remember that the Federal Capital is to be built for the grandest of all business objects. It is not to be constructed as a place of resort for the idle and the rich, as the place to which people are to be taken by guides, to admire the elevation of "our only mountain," or the tints of our lovely gloaming. Those are pleasures which the poor cannot afford, and which the business man has not time to enjoy, except in his hours of idleness. If we wish to make our great Capital, a mere mooning resort for the idle and the rich, let us choose Tooma as a site. But .if we wish to lay the foundation-stone of a city which will some day or other form part of the great family of Australian centres of industry, instead of a township removed to a distant place like some mysterious object of nature, having no connexion with the national life of the people, we shall choose Lyndhurst. Lyndhurst would not be under the domination of any of the great cities. The locality is situated at a great distance from Sydney, and it is separated from that city by the Blue Mountains. But it is the heart of an industrial rural population. If we wish to choose a Capital which will be connected with the future development of Australia, we shall not try to discover a place which has a beautiful view; we shall rather study the convenience of our people. We shall not choose a place so remote and so difficult of access that only the poorest intellects will bury themselves there. Tooma would be a paradise for mediocrity, but it would be a misfortune for the nation to have the Capital in such a place. We wish the Capital to be the centre of our national life, and of the national power, and the- source of our national legislation. We do not wish to make it a township to which tourist parties will go to spend a dayor two. The facts which I have mentioned in respect to Tooma should "be sufficient to condemn that site in the estimation of business men. I now leave New South Wales out of the question altogether. I thought it my duty , to refer to that State when I was dealing with the method of procedure for selecting a site, but I was defeated in what I then proposed, and I therefore deal with the matter now, not as a representative of New South Wales, but as a member of the Federal Legislature. I invite the attention of honorable members to the form in which the Bill has come to us. As I said last night, we have for three years past been spending money to obtain accurate reports on all the sites eligible for a Federal Capital, and have been setting ourselves, as a body of capable men who expect to be judged by our constituents by the ordinary standard of business capacity, to the task of fixing a site for the Seat of Government, not of choosing a Federal Territory. The Bill introduced two years ago invited us to say that the site of the Capital should be at or near a definite spot, and the measure now before us is declared to be a Bill to determine the Seat of Government. The Constitution points out that -

The Seat of Government..... shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth.

We know what the term " Seat of Government " means as opposed to the territory which is afterwards to be acquired or given. Here we have a Bill to determine the Seat of Government, which is an absolute fraud. It says, in clause 2 -

It is hereby determined that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be within that portion -of New South Wales bounded on the north by a direct line running from the town of Pambula -

I do not know why Pambula has been dug up from the obscurity of our country towns. Has any one ever heard of Pambula before ? The honorable member for Eden-Monaro may not be quite equal to the honorable member for Hume in some respects, being a younger man ; but he. has achieved this triumph over his great rival in these matters, that he has got three towns in his electorate included in this clause - Pambula, Dalgety, and Bombala.

Sir John Forrest - And Delegate.

Mr REID - If the map is examined, it will be seen that there are fifty other towns within the specified radius from the town of Pambula. In the clause they cannot even spell its name correctly. It is spelt Panbula, but the correct spelling is Pambula.

Mr Austin Chapman - It is a misprint.

Mr REID - That acquits my honorable friend of having supplied the clause.

Mr Austin Chapman - There are not fifty other towns in the area, though it is a large, rich one.

Mr REID - It is a really beautiful and closely settled district, which contains a number of towns.

Mr Austin Chapman - I quite agree with the right honorable member there.

Mr REID - The clause says -

It is hereby determined that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be within that portion of New South Wales bounded on the north by a direct line running from the town of Pambula to the town of Cooma.

I know the town well; but is it within the bounds of my honorable friend's electorate?

Mr Austin Chapman - Yes.

Mr REID - My honorable friend is not in the Senate, yet he has got the Senate to put four towns in his electorate into a Bill for this national object. From Cooma a line is drawn somewhere in the direction of the western setting sun, until it strikes the Victorian border, and thence it returns along that border to the Pacific Ocean. And yet this is called a Bill to determinethe Seat of Government of the Commonwealth ! Are our ideas of building a Capital so extensive that we propose to have a building plan of about 300 miles? I used a strong word, which, perhaps, I ought to withdraw, but it really amounts to something like what I said - to call this a Bill to determine the site of a city. Why, it is a Bill to determine that the Capital city shall not be anywhere else in New South Wales than within a big district'. That is the meaning as well as the effect of the Bill. We can have any spot we like in that big area, but all the rest of the State is excluded, and when that is barred off, then we can at some remote period in the history of Australia address ourselves again to the question of determining the site of the Seat of Government by deciding which of these several towns or localities shall be adopted. Is not that playing the fool in the face of Australia, not only with the people of New South Wales, but with this question? If the Government would straightforwardly ask Parliament to pass a Bill to acquire a territory - although it would be putting the cart before the horse-

Mr Austin Chapman - That is what we want them to do.

Mr REID - But the Constitution most sensibly says - " First find the point of your' Capital city, and then get your territory in relation to that point." That is the logical proper arrangement of the Constitution. Under the plea of determining the site of the Seat of Government, we are deliberately determining a big area out of which we shall carve a territory in which we shall select the site of the Seat of Governrment. That form of dealing with the subject is not worthy of the business capacity of the House. It is creating endless trouble. We desire to have this question, which excites a certain amount of feeling, settled with reasonable speed ; but, under the phraseology of the Bill, we are not doing anything of the kind. I hope that the House will do its duty to the subject by making up its mind about the site of the Capital. Let us do our duty. We admit that we are. here to fix the site of the Capital, not to fix a territory in order to have another fight afterwards over a site. Suppose that we passed the Bill as it has come down from the Senate, would not there be a fight between Dalgety and Bombala? Will the honorable member for Eden-Monaro get up and say that his electorate will be content to rule out one of the sites and take the other?

Mr Austin Chapman - Yes.

Mr REID - Which would my honorable friend rule out?

Mr Austin Chapman - I shall tell my right honorable friend when I speak.

Mr REID - I do not wish to press my honorable friend unfairly. That would simplify the matter very' much. That, I think, ought to simpify our task in another way. Since the representative of the district is prepared to take that course, surely the Government especially, if it turns out that the House is in favour of one of the towns in this district, will do its part in a businesslike way by proposing that that place shall, be the site of the Capital. We are not bound by the words in the Bill. Let us do our duty ; let us carry out the title of the Bill, and determine the Seat of Government. Let us be done with the sub ject, because we are now simply taking up time over a question which has already caused a great deal of feeling, especially in New South Wales. When it has been settled in the way now proposed, after infinite trouble, we shall have got no further forward than we were, because the whole battle will have to be fought over again. Supposing that clause 2 of the Bill is passed into law. My honorable friend may say, " I am content to take Bombala and wipe out Dalgety," or vice versa. But there is not a town in that area which will not begin to clamour to be the Capital site, and it will be entitled to consideration. We may then have eight or ten rival sites in this small area, and we shall have to fight this battle over again.

Mr Austin Chapman - Any one of them would do.

Mr REID - I think that I can fairly agree with my honorable friend there. But, apart from this question of sites, I really think that we, at any rate, ought to do our dutv and finish with this business once and for 'all.

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