Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 28 July 1904


Mr ROBINSON (Wannon) - Under this particular clause it is intended that we shall permanently fix the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. In the form in which the provision has been passed by the Senate, it seems to me a most extraordinary one. I find by reference to a surveyor that the area embraced in that portion of New South Wales which the Senate has reserved for the selection of a Federal Capital site aggregates 8,000 square miles. When the second reading of the Bill was under discussion, I supported an amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite, . in favour of securing an alteration of the Constitution, with a view to fixing the Federal Capital either in Melbourne or Sydney. My sole reason for so doing was that I believed the adoption of such a course would be conducive to economy. Having been defeated upon that amendment, I now propose to support the next most economical proposal. If I cannot secure the economy that I desire, I mean to approximate to it as closely as I can. Honorable members, therefore, will at once understand that I intend to vote for the Lyndhurst site, because I believe that, under all the circumstances, it is the most economical site which can be selected, from the point of view of the Commonwealth and of the States. I need scarcely point out that it is the only site which has railway communication with the big capitals and with our principal ports.


Sir John Forrest - What about the Gadara site?


Mr Austin Chapman - It would cost as much to provide a water supply at Lyndhurst as it would to establish railway communication with the moon.


Mr ROBINSON - Letme take the site which is advocated by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who is acting the part of interjector-in-general. It would cost £750,000 to connect that site with the existing railways before a single brick of the Federal Capital could be laid.


Mr McLean - What nonsense !


Mr ROBINSON - I am sorry to say that upon this question I have been compelled, for the first time, to part company with the honorable member for Gippsland. His idea is that a railway should be built from Bairnsdale to connect with the southern part of New South Wales. With the greatest possible deferenceto the honorable member's opinion, I make bold to say t'hat such a railway would not pay working expenses during the next fifty years. It would simply constitute a heavy drag upon the resources of the State. My great objection to that site is the enormous sum that would require to be expended upon it before a single sod could be turned towards the establishment of the Federal Capital. I admit, that in the case of any site which may be chosen, it will be necessary to spend money in the acquisition of land. If the Dalgety site be selected, it will also be necessary to construct an additional thirty-one miles of railway which will not pay the cost of axle grease. At the present time the lineto Cooma is a non-paying one.


Mr Austin Chapman - The honorable member has never visited the district.


Mr ROBINSON - The honorable member for Eden-Monaro is well aware that the line in question is a non-paying one, and yet he wishes to add to it another thirtyone miles of railway which will prove unremunerative. * The cost of that line would have to be borne either by the people of New South Wales or of the Commonwealth.


Mr Crouch - The Bathurst line does not pay working expenses.


Mr ROBINSON - I am informed that the Bathurst line is more than paying expenses. It carries a large goods traffic in addition to a considerable' passenger traffic.


Mr Austin Chapman - Does the Lyndhurst line pay ?


Mr ROBINSON - I am assured that the Bathurst line pays very well. At any rate, that line is already in existence, and if the people of New South Wales are carrying a burden in respect of it, that is no reason why they should be saddled with another burden in the shape of another non-paying line. I understand, however, that the Bathurst line is a paying one.


Mr Crouch - Why does not the honorable and learned member accept the official records ?


Mr ROBINSON - I am quite prepared to do so. I object to this Parliament selecting any site which will necessitate a heavy expenditure in railway construction before it can be made accessible to the different States. In the books which have been supplied to honorable members, setting out the cost of establishing railway communication between these sites and the termini of the present railways, various estimates have been given. These seem to show that if we select any site other than Lyndhurst a very heavy burden will be thrown upon the people of New South Wales or of the Commonwealth before we shall be able to reach it. It is scarcely likely that the Government of New South Wales will construct a railway for the convenience of members of this Parliament and of thepublic servants of the Commonwealth. If they do so, it stands to reason that we shall have to protect them against any loss by. guaranteering them the annual interest and the working expenses of the line. In justice to their own taxpayers, they cannot be expected 'to 'undertake a heavy liability for the purpose of conveniencing us. Consequently, if Parliament selects any of these sites but Lyndhurst, the Commonwealth, at its inception, will be weighed with the cost of establishing railway communication to it. When discussing the second reading of this Bill, I laid great stress upon the fact that it was highly desirable that we should establish the Seat of Government where publicity would be given to our proceedings and public opinion would have some effect upon our deliberations. Though the advocates of the various sites objected to the views which I then urged, I see no reason to modify them in any way. I am a firm believer in the good influence which is generally exerted by the press, just as in some instances I believe that it exerts a bad influence. But, taking the good with the bad, I claim that the community is benefited by the press giving publicity to our doings. The more' publicity that is given to our proceedings the better will it be for us and the people as a whole. If the Federal Capital is located at Lyndhurst, I take it that the utmost publicity will be insured to our deliberations, and for this reason - Lyndhurst is situate on the existing southern railway, which is the highway of traffic between Melbourne and Sydney. To deal with the sites by way of illustration, as if they bore some relation to a river, I would say that the difference between selecting Lyndhurst as against some of the other sites, such as Dalgety or Tooma, would be this : that in the one instance we should go to a place which is in midstream, and the other to a place which is, so to speak, on a kind of billabong rarely troubled by the rush of waters.


Mr Wilson - It would be a backwash.


Mr ROBINSON - That is so. It is in the highest degree desirable that we should know that the fierce glare of publicity will beat down upon all our actions.


Mr Ewing - A wash might be more valuable than a glare.


Mr ROBINSON - It might be to the honorable member.


Mr Austin Chapman - There is not enough water at Lyndhurst to allow a man to have a wash.


Mr ROBINSON - I do not know why the honorable member betrays so much anxiety in regard to the question of water. I am told that on the occasion of the visit of honorable members to the Monaro district water was never seen. They had something very much stronger than water.


Mr Austin Chapman - That is a libel on those who inspected the sites in that district, and the honorable member ought to be ashamed to make such a suggestion.


Mr ROBINSON - I believe that the Chief Engineer of Water Supply in New South" Wales is present, and I have been informed by him that within a few miles of Lyndhurst there is a water supply ample to meet all the requirements of a population of from 200,000 to 300,000. I do not think that the Federal Capital will have so large a population during the next century or two, and, therefore, the prospect of such a water supply should be quite sufficient to satisfy the anxiety of honorable members in this respect. I cannot see why we should select some out-of-the-way place merely because it possesses an ample water supply. One of the principal objections urged against the selection of Lyndhurst is that it has not an adequate supply. To that objection I pay little or no attention, in view of the expert opinion which I have obtained. I would rather act upon the opinion of a Government expert of such high character as is the Chief Engineer for Water Supply in New South Wales than upon the opinion of a person very much interested in a rival site. We are all in the same position. We cannot be expected to definitely decide such questions for ourselves, and we must necessarily accept the best opinion we can secure. If the Chief Engineer of Water Supply in New South Wales expresses the opinion that, at moderate expense, an ample water supply may be guaranteed 1 Lyndhurst at a cost of little more than half the price which is charged for the water supplied to consumers in Melbourne, it ought to be quite satisfactory to any honorable member who is free from bias. It is certainly good enough for me to act upon.


Mr Mahon - What is the Melbourne water rate?


Mr ROBINSON - We pay a sixpenny rate, and is. per thousand gallons supplied by meter.


Mr Austin Chapman - What is the estimated cost of a water supply for the Capital if it be established at Lyndhurst?


Mr ROBINSON - About one-third of the cost of constructing a railway to the site which the honorable member favours. The selection of the site which the honorable member favours would involve not only a large expenditure to secure an adequate water supply, but the cost of constructing a new railway.


Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would cost ;£:r. 600,000 to connect the site favoured by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro with the railway terminus at Cooma, and to connect it bv rail with the port at Eden.


Mr ROBINSON - Lyndhurst is easy of access from all the great cities of the Commonwealth. It is close to Sydney, and within easy reach of Melbourne. It is also 6 l 2 within easy reach of a State which deserves no little consideration in this respect, although it appears to receive none. I refer to the State of Queensland. From the point of view of Queensland alone it is no doubt the best site in the running. I have also learned from the representatives of Tasmania that Lyndhurst would be very suitable, from their point of view, as the Seat of Government. Some of the best steamers now trading between Tasmania and the mainland are running between Sydney and Hobart. The finest steamer owned by the Union Steam-ship Company, and engaged in the trade between Tasmania and the mainland, is that which voyages between Sydney and Hobart. Honorable members representing Tasmania would therefore have no difficulty in travelling by steamer to Sydney, and on reaching that city they would be within a few hours' journey of Lyndhurst. It will thus be seen that from the point of view of means of communication, Lyndhurst possesses undoubted advantages over other sites. It is on a main line of railway on which there is constant traffic, and which is well enough graded to stand heavy traffic. Those who represent country districts must know that many of the country railway lines are not very heavily ballasted, because they are not expected to carry heavy or frequent loads. I am told that that is the position of the line which connects Tumut with Gundagai on the main line. It is not designed to carry very heavy traffic. On the other hand, the railway from Harden to Blayney carries a very heavy traffic. I am informed that an express left Melbourne for Bathurst, carrying members intending to inspect the Lyndhurst site, and that although it was a very heavy train, it accomplished the journey in very good time. Another objection, which has been urged against the selection of Lyndhurst, seems to me a most unworthy one, and I am very sorry that it should have been put forward. It is true that it has not been voiced in this chamber ; but it has been stated in the press, and by persons outside this House, that if the Federal Capital were established at Lyndhurst the rights of Victoria would be sacrificed. A more contemptible and unworthy suggestion has never been made. I cannot conceive of any benefit that the Federal Capital would be likely to confer upon Victoria. It will confer but very little benefit on New South Wales, and the suggestion that if we selected Lyndhurst as the site of the Capital we should sacrifice Victorian rights is one of the most absurd propositions of which I have ever heard. Had the Constitution Bill provided for the establishment of the Capital in Queensland, I do not believe that even one of the votes recorded for the Bill in Victoria would have been lost; I believe that the same huge majority would have voted for the Bill, even had it provided that the Capital should be established . in Tasmania or Queensland. The people of Victoria were determined at that time to have Federation at any cost. When we entered the Federation we paid no regard whatever to the question of where the Federal Capital should be. As one who addressed many meetings in favour of Federation and of the Constitution Bill, I can say that that question did not cause a moment's anxiety to the people of this State. I would ask those who object to Lyndhurst in what way Victorian interests are likely to be sacrificed by the selection of that site. I fail to see that they would be affected in the slightest degree. Some persons urge that Lyndhurst is somewhat nearer Sydney than Melbourne," but surely that is a most trivial argument. It is almost impossible to secure a site equidistant between Melbourne and Sydney, and even if Lyndhurst be two hours nearer Sydney than it is to Melbourne, what injury will be inflicted upon this city by its selection? Will the £260,000 or £300,000 spent annually in the Capital in any way injure the trade of Victoria, or depreciate property in this State?


Mr Wilson - The selection of Lyndhurst would favorably affect Victoria, because it would not be necessary to expend a large sum of money in constructing a line of railway to it.


Mr ROBINSON - It would benefit Victoria, as my honorable friend remarks, because we should not be saddled with our share of the burden of building unproductive and unremunerative lines of railway. The population of the Federal Capital will necessarily be limited for many years to come. Many years will elapse before the States will be prepared to hand over their railways to the Federal Government ; but, granting the Federation the widest extension of its powers under the Constitution, the number of residents of the Federal Capital must be necessarily limited. The great bulk of the public servants of the Commonwealth must reside in the great cities where our trading operations are carried on. They must discharge their duties in the capital cities of the States, where the commerce of the nations comes, and from which our products are exported. It is for these reasons that the great bulk of thepublic servants of the Commonwealth and of the States are and must continue to be centred in the principal cities, and the number residing in the Capital will be limited. We shall have there the staff of the Department of Home Affairs, the administrative staff of the Postal Department, the administrative staff of the Treasurer's Department, and a few more officers of that description ; but 90 or 95 per cent, of the public servants of the Commonwealth will not be housed within Federal Territory. Hence the official population will be small. Other residents will consist, for the most part, of honorable members who may go there from time to time, and of those who settle there for the purposes of trade. It therefore seems to me that the estimates which have been put before us as to the probable growth of the population of the Federal Capital are positively ridiculous. We have estimates in respect of a city with a population, at the outset, of 50,000, and gradually increasing to 250,000 or 500,000. Reams of paper have been covered with calculations as to the probable cost of laying out a city for a population of halfamillion.


Mr Batchelor - Such calculations have been made mostly by opponents.


Mr ROBINSON - No ; if the honorable gentleman peruses some of the papers which have been issued by his Department, he will find that estimates have been prepared,' showing the cost of providing a water supply for a city of 250,000 inhabitants. These estimates have been prepared not by opponents of the Federal Capital scheme, but by officers who were selected by the late Government to deal with the question. When I carried home the bundle of papers bearing upon the selection of the Capital, which was supplied to me by the Government, I was at once struck by the extraordinary ideas which those who had been called upon to make reports upon this question, appeared to entertain, as to the probable growth of the Capital. The growth of the population of Australia during the last fifteen or twenty years has been comparatively trifling. We have been gaining little, if anything, more than the natural increase. Victoria has suffered from a succession of bad seasons, and it has taken her all her time to hold her own ; but the Commonwealth, as a whole, has gained little more than the natural increase due to the excess of births over deaths. The figures which have been published on Mr. Coghlan's authority, to the effect that thirty or forty years hence, the total population of Australia will not exceed 8,000,000, should satisfy us that the Federal Capital, even at that distant date, will not have an additional population of more than about 10,000. Estimates have, nevertheless, been put before us of the cost of waterworks, tramways, and modern improvements of every description for the Capital. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro desires to involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure, of heaven knows how many millions of money. He wishes to have a railway constructed between Cooma and Bombala, another from Bombala to the port of Eden, and still another from Bombala to Bairnsdale. He would force the Commonwealth into a tremendous expenditure to obtain the very smallest result. I am surprised that the desire to have the Federal Capital located in the constituency which he represents should carry the honorable member to such lengths. I do not pretend to speak on this matter for any but my own constituents. Their wish is that the greatest economy shall be exercised by the Federal Government. They have given me a free hand, and would allow me to vote for the location of the Federal Capital at Sydney, if that could be brought about. Failing that, I am at liberty to vote for whichever site will enable the most economic administration to be undertaken by the Federal Government. . I think that that end can be best attained by our voting for Lyndhurst. In the first place, Lyndhurst is already connected by railway direct with Melbourne and Sydney, and I believe that it is about to be put into direct communication with Brisbane. Therefore the selection of the Lyndhurst site would not require any expenditure upon railway construction. The Minister of Home Affairs has kindly placed at my disposal a return showing the actual time which is now taken to travel from Melbourne and Sydney to the several proposed sites. I asked for that information because the times given in the reports which had been placed before us are based upon bogus time-tables. It is assumed, for instance, that Bombala will be connected with Melbourne and Sydney direct, and that the Railway Commissioners of the two States will run trains right through at express rates of speed. Those who have travelled on the Gippsland line, however, know that before a train could be run to Bairnsdale at an express rate of speed, the line would have to be regraded, and more heavily ballasted. Victoria has, during the last ten years,' spent thousands of pounds in improving her railways in this way. To run an express train from Melbourne to Bombala, therefore, would not only require the construction of a first-class line from Bombala to Bairnsdale, but also the improvement, at a heavy cost, of the existing line from Bairnsdale to Melbourne.


Sir John Forrest - The honorable and learned member seems to have no faith in the future.


Mr ROBINSON - I have a good deal of faith in the future of the Commonwealth, but I am not prepared to pawn its future prospects. The right honorable member is ready to borrow ^5,000,000 to construct a railway to Western Australia, and another ^5,000,000 or ^10,000,000 to build a Capital city. But while I admit that a certain amount of money must be expended in these directions I do not believe in pledging our credit to that extent. The great curse of Australia has been, and will be for many years to come, the overborrowing which has placed us under such a heavy load of debt. The public debts of the States are heavier than that of any country in Europe.


Sir John Forrest - But what about the public works on which the money has been spent ?


Mr ROBINSON - The old country has a debt of ^800,000,000, most of which has been borrowed to carry on wars, but the money borrowed by the Australian States, and sunk in unproductive works, is proportionately nearly twice as much.


Sir John Forrest - Very little money has been sunk in unproductive works in the State from which I come.


Mr Poynton - The Australian railways pay nearly 1 per cent, more than the Canadian railways pay.


Mr ROBINSON - That does not alter ' the fact that an immense amount of the money which the States have borrowed has been spent on unproductive works. Coming back to the returns to which I have referred. I find that to go from Sydney to Bombala by rail and coach takes, according to existing time tables, twenty-one hours, while to go from Melbourne to Bombala in the same way takes thirty-six hours, including a detention at Goulburn.


Sir John Forrest - Will it always be necessary to wait at Goulburn?


Mr ROBINSON - There will probably always be a wait there ; "But even if I take three-quarters of an hour off, the total duration of the journey still amounts to thirty-five and a quarter hours. Does the right honorable member think that the Railway Commissioners of New South Wale's will reorganize their train service in order to carry dead-heads more quickly ?


Mr Fuller - We are not dead-heads, so far as the States are concerned.


Mr ROBINSON - I know that the Federal Government pays the States Governments for the conveyance by train of members of this Parliament; but, practically, the money is only transferred from one pocket to another, because, in any case, the States would get it back under the financial provisions of the Constitution. From Sydney to Tooma by rail and coach now takes twenty-four and a half hours, while the journey from Melbourne via Germanton takes twenty-seven and a half hours.


Mr Batchelor - A delay of six and a half hours is caused by the wait for a train.


Mr ROBINSON - Going by train from Melbourne to Tallangatta, and then driving direct to Tooma, the time occupied is twenty-two hours.


Mr Batchelor - The figures which the honorable and learned member is quoting are quite misleading.


Mr ROBINSON - In what way? They are based upon the existing time-tables. I assume that those in charge of the New South Wales railways will retain their sanity, and will not go to a heavy expense in providing special and rapid trains merely for our conveyance.-


Sir William Lyne - Does the honorable and learned member think that the country will be at a .standstill for the next fifty years ?


Mr ROBINSON - I am dealing with every site alike, so that the comparison is a perfectly fair one. The journey from Sydney to Tumut at the present time takes fifteen hours, while to travel from Melbourne to Tumut takes nineteen hours.


Sir John Forrest - With a detention of how many hours?

Mr. ROBINSON.Three hours are spent in waiting for a train. If, however, trains were run right through to Tumut at express rates of speed, the time occupied in getting there from Sydney would be eleven hours, the distance being 322 miles, and from Melbourne twelve hours, the distance being 390 miles. At the present time it takes twenty-one hours to get from Sydney to Bombala, .the railway journey occupying twelve hours, and the subsequent coach journey nine hours. If, however, we assume that the State will waste its money in extending its railways to Bombala, that will shorten the journey to about fourteen hours, or, allowing for an express rate of speed, about twelve hours. To reach Bombala from Melbourne via Cooma would take nearly twenty hours, if thi railway were continued from Cooma to Bombala. Lyndhurst is a ten hours' journey from Sydney by the existing time-table, and a journey of twenty and a half hours from Melbourne.


Mr Wilkinson - How long does it take to reach Lyndhurst from Brisbane?


Mr ROBINSON - I have not got that information before me, but the selection of Lyndhurst would shorten the journey of Queensland members, to the Capital by at least nine hours. I understand, too, that it is in contemplation to construct a line from Wellington to Werris Creek, which would give Brisbane direct connexion with Lyndhurst. I do not, however, wish to put much stress on that.


Mr Groom - The honorable and learned member is justified in referring to what is a reasonable expectation.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That line is sure to be made.

Six John Forrest. - Taking present time-tables, more time is now occupied in returning to Melbourne from Lyndhurst than in going to Lyndhurst from Melbourne.


Mr ROBINSON - If trains were run at express rates of speed to Lyndhurst from Sydney and Melbourne, the journey would take in the one case, about seven hours, and in the other about fourteen and a half hours, as compared with eleven and twelve hours to Tumut, under similar conditions, from Sydney and Melbourne respectively.


Mr Batchelor - The honorable and learned member might reasonably assume that there would be a motor service from the railway terminus to Bombala.


Mr ROBINSON - I have reduced the nine hours, occupied by the coach journey, to two hours, in order to pacify the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, but still the journey from Melbourne would occupy a great length of time, whilst the trip from Brisbane or Hobart to Bombala would extend over a much longer period.


Mr Poynton - But surely the time occupied in getting to and fro is not of any great importance.


Mr ROBINSON - I think it is.


Sir John Forrest - The honorable and learned member is dealing with present conditions.


Mr ROBINSON - Yes, I am dealing with present conditions, which I think are likely to obtain for the next fifteen or twenty years. In 200 years' time the conditions may be very different, but if thisHouse is determined to establish a Federal Capital in the bush at an early date, there is every reason for selecting a. site that will be easy of access; instead of resorting to a place which we shall have to reach by swimming rivers, descending into gullies, and climbing mountains, or by travelling for hours and hours in a coach. I think we should secure an accessible place, where the Parliament will be affected by public opinion. The further we go into the Never-Never land the less chance will there be of Parliament being affected by public opinion.


Mr Poynton - Let us go to Albury.


Mr ROBINSON - That is a very good place, but it is rather hot.


Mr Poynton - So is Lyndhurst.


Mr ROBINSON - Mo doubt it has * fairly warm climate ; but it has an elevated situation ; and, as one who has lived in a coastal town all his life, I much prefer. a fairly elevated site. We are not, as has been suggested, betraying Victorian interests by selecting Lyndhurst. It is most contemptible to suggest that the prosperity of Victoria depends upon the annual expenditure of .£200,000 of Federal money. If I thought that the people of Victoria were so small-minded that they would think of leaving the Federation if the Federal Capital were established at a site other than that proposed upon the Upper Murray, I should be very much ashamed of my country. I know, however, that, except in the case of a very small section, they do not take the very extreme view that has been represented. I believe that the majority are quite willing that New South Wales should have the benefit of the bargain into which she entered with the other States. We proposed the other day to give her something better than the terms of that bargain.'


Mr Batchelor - That was one ot thi most expensive proposals which have yet been made.

Mir. ROBINSON. - I differ from the Minister of Home Affairs upon that point ; but as the matter- has been decided I need not further discuss it. I am prepared to give New South Wales the benefit of the Federal Capital. I do not think that it will amount to much. The establishment of the Federal Capital at Lyndhurst will not injure the people of Victoria, but on the other hand will benefit them. The new expenditure in connexion with the establishment of the Capital there would be less than that involved in connexion with any of the other sites proposed, and the consequent saving would be attended with advantage to every taxpayer in Victoria. Further, I believe that Lyndhurst is the best site, because it is most easy of access from Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. It is situated on an existing line of railway, over which a considerable traffic in goods and passengers is already conducted, and I believe that public opinion would necessarily have more effect upon Parliament if it sat there than if it metin some secluded spot. For all these reasons, I intend to give my vote in favour of Lyndhurst. I do not .pretend to say that it is the most picturesque site that could be selected, but if we are to show any regard for the convenience of honorable members, and to attach any weight to considerations of economy, Lyndhurst should be our choice. In these respects, it is the best site yet submitted.

Mr. SYDNEY"SMITH (Macquarie).I have listened with considerable interest to the debate which has taken place upon this question, and I have been much, surprised at some of the objections urged against the Lyndhurst site, which I regard as the best. When the first Constitution Bill was submitted, the people of New South Wales refused to accept it. A meeting of the Premiers of the States was afterwards held, with a view to ascertaining if terms could not be arranged under which New South Wales might be induced to join the Union.


Mr Poynton - And New South Wales got her pound of flesh.







Suggest corrections