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Thursday, 28 July 1904

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN (EdenMonaro) - I think that the honorable member for Echuca is well within his rights in asking for further information in regard to Tooma; but it is unfair to the other sites that the advocates of Tooma, who appear to be "pulling the strings" very well, should be allowed special concessions. It may seem improper to speak of honorable members " pulling the strings," but we must call a spade a spade, and we know that 6 m '2 some persons are resorting to this practice. I have no objection to their doing so, but-

Mr Batchelor - Several sets of strings are being pulled.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - And some are rather interesting. It will be my mission after we have dealt with the matter, to draw aside the blind, and show what has been done. I object to the debate being prolonged in order that, in the meantime, a report may be obtained from a surveyor in regard to some particular feature of the Tooma site, which in the opinion of its supporters may help to secure its selection. I believe that Tooma is seriously in the running, and, that being the case, we should have the same information in regard to it that is forthcoming in reference to other sites. We should have information, not only upon the question of its water supply, but in regard to its elevation, and as to whether there is a sufficient area suitable as a site for the Capital. Let Tooma be subjected to the same scrutiny that has taken place in connexion with the other sites. We should have some information as to whether it would be possible to connect it with the railway system of New South Wales, together with an approximate estimate of the cost. I ask the Government not to allow itself to be drawn aside by the advocates of the several sites. It is all very well for the Ministry to say that they are in the hands of the House; but I hold that they should make a stand and say whether they are going to give us this information or not. We are entitled to the information for which the honorable member for Echuca has asked ; but I object to any officer being sent out to telegraph information on some special feature of the site, with a view to the capturing of more votes.

Mr Batchelor - Is the honorable member referring to the request made by the honorable member for Echuca?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Yes. It is a very reasonable request ; but a gentle hint has been thrown out from other quarters as to the information which should be obtained. I have no desire to impute motives. Probably, if I were an advocate of Tooma, I should be anxious to obtain a report on it, and would not desire to obtain any information that might be unfavorable to its selection. Some honorable members say that they like Tooma, but I have not heard of many who are going to support it. All this talk about the honorable member for Hume taking a parliamentary party out on a plcnicing excursion, and being able to persuade honorable members to vote for the site which he favours, is all nonsense. It might as well be said that I could induce honorable members to vote for the district which I favour. I resent the suggestions made by the honorable member for Macquarie Surely honorable members have minds of their own. It is indeed a well-known fact that most of us have made up our minds on this subject. The information which we possess about Tooma is not sufficient to enable any one to come to a definite judgment upon its merits, but may be sufficient to make some honorable members desirous of obtaining further details. ' Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Government to say whether they wish honorable members to come to a vote in our present state of information, or to wait until we can get further reports about Tooma. In any case, a definite decision should be arrived at. If we drag this debate on for another ten days, while waiting for telegrams to be sent to us, we shall become the laughing stock of Australia. What should be dona is to say that the vote shall be taken at such and such a time, arid then postpone the discussion until the information we require is obtained. If necessary, Mr. Chesterman, or Mr. Scrivener, might be sent to Tooma to get for us information similar to that which has been supplied in regard to the other sites. But I say unhesitatingly, that consideration is being given to the Tooma site which is not being given to the other sites. I was desirous cf getting honorable members to visit Twofold Bay, but I was not assisted in that project. The honorable member for Hume professes to regard the Tooma site as a New South Wales one, but I think that the people of the State look upon it as a Victorian site. For my own part, although 1 am a representative of a New South Wales constituency, I am here to consider the interests of Australia generally.

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