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Friday, 29 July 1904

Mr BATCHELOR (Boothby) (Minister of Home. Affairs) . - I do not know that the Government can complain altogether of the delay in the transaction of business which has been caused by this debate. But, on the other hand) it is certain that the Government are not getting quite as much support in their endeavour to push forward the settlement of the Capital Sites question, as, perhaps, they had a right to expect from some quarters. A request has been submitted to-day, which, it seems to me, the honorable member for Macquarie cannot reasonably think that the House is likely to grant.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do nol see why the House should not, if we are to have fair play.

Mr BATCHELOR - Such a request should only be granted in the event of very serious misstatements having been made. I am expressing my individual opinion in this respect, but my view certainly is that only in the case of very serious misstatements would it be advisable to call any person to the Bar of the House. It is a most unusual procedure, and is very seldom adopted by any Parliament. I have never heard of its being adopted for the purpose of rebutting statements made by way of interjection in the course of a debate.It is a most remarkable request. All kinds of statements have been made in interjections and in speeches about each of the suggested sites.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman made a statement himself.

Mr BATCHELOR - Does the honorable member for Macquarie suggest that' I made any statement that was unfair to Mr. Wade? I can assure him that I did not for a moment mean to suggest that Mr. Wade was a partisan of any site.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know his opinion.

Mr BATCHELOR - I do not know his opinion either. I have' not the slightest idea what it is. Indeed, I do not care. He is certainly an eminent engineer, and to the extent that his professional skill entitles him to receive from this House the very fullest credence, he would have that and no more. His professional skill is the main point ; his personal opinion is quite another question. So far as concerns the information which the honorable member desires to obtain, I desire to say that, if Mr. Wade submits a statement to the Government they will take care that it is made available to honorable members. Surely nothing more than that can be desired. Nothing more can reasonably be asked for. If the honorable member for Macquarie had put a simple question, the Government would at once have complied with his request.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I want Mr. Wade to answer questions put to him, and to meet objections raised by honorable members.

Mr BATCHELOR - The honorable member will see that if that practice were adopted every supporter of a Capital Site might make a similar request. If we are to have experts called to the Bar of the House to be examined by honorable members, how long will it probably take to settle the matter? Instead of days or weeks being occupied, it might take months, or perhaps years, to settle it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be bad for Mr. Wade if it took so long as that to examine him.

Mr BATCHELOR - But there are other experts who might also be called with just as much reason in connexion with other sites. All that the honorable member for Macquarie can reasonably ask for is what I have already offered to do. If Mr. Wade likes to send a full statement to the Government we shall be happy to make it available to honorable members.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What we suggest would be a quicker way of securing the information.

Mr BATCHELOR - The honorable member surely does not put that suggestion forward seriously?


Mr BATCHELOR - What the honorable member for Macquarie really urges is that the special engineering skill of Mr. Wade should be made available to honorable members. I am quite prepared to agree to that by circulating any statement which Mr. Wade may make.

Mr.Fowler. - Why not appoint a Select Committee to examine him ?

Mr BATCHELOR - We should certainly not appoint a Select Committee. If we did that we should have all kinds of statements made. I suggest that the honorable member should accept the undertaking now given, and let the House get on with the discussion of the sites.

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