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Friday, 29 July 1904

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - As we are now in Committee on the Bill, I shall not deal further with the question which was under consideration on the motion of adjournment, but shall proceed to review the various sites proposed. I took advantage of the opportunity afforded honorable members to inspect the sites, not because I desired a mere pleasure trip, but because I felt that it was my duty as a representative of the people to personally investigate the merits of the several districts. The parliamentary tours of inspection have been most unfairly referred to by the honorable member for Macquarie as mere picnicing excursions, and the right honorable member for East Sydney has also spoken in a most reprehensible way of the " drawing of corks" which, he suggests, took place on these occasions. I went to Tumut, and was convinced that it was unsuitable as a site for the Federal Capital. One does not need the assistance of an engineer to enable him to judge of the conformation of the country, and to ascertain the reason why fogs prevail or a humid atmosphere exists. Any man possessed of ordinary common-sense is able, from his experience, to determine these matters for himself. As the result of my inspection, I felt satisfied that the sites in the immediate neighbourhood of Tumut did not possess the characteristics essential .0 a Federal city. I recognised that Tumut" would be subject to dense fogs in winter, and that in the summer months the atmosphere would Be humid - climatic conditions that should not be associated with the Federal Capital. The water supply, however, would certainly be sufficient for all requirements. One could see the water for himself, and that is more than can be said in connexion with some of the other sites. I watched the stream of water flowing at my feet, and was almost able to calculate for myself what would be the volume available for the Capital if it were established there. I was convinced, however, that the climatic conditions would not be conducive to the health of a large population ; the country which we traversed was difficult, and the area of suitable land available was exceedingly circumscribed. I drew a mental picture of what would be the appearance of the Federal Capital on this site, considered what facilities there would be for making such parks and gardens as should be found in a Capital, and what area of suitable land would be available for its suburbs, and arrived at the conclusion that I could not support the selection of Tumut or of any of the sites in the vicinity. We then inspected Batlow, which has already been favorably commented upon, and found that its climatic conditions were distinctly superior to those prevailing at Tumut. Batlow occupies a more elevated position, and we felt that the atmosphere was altogether different. If the Capital were established there it would be sheltered from the biting winds of winter, which are so prejudicial to health ; but here again the area of undulating country available is circumscribed. There was evidence of an abundant water supply - very different from that which would be available at Lyndhurst, where a supply would have to be gathered from all parts of the district and conveyed in channels or tunnels to the Capital. At Batlow the supply would be sufficient, not merely for domestic requirements, but to provide the necessary power for heating and lighting the city and for other purposes. In three respects - namely, climatic conditions, purity of water supply, and water power available, I found that Batlow was all that could be desired ; nevertheless, it does not contain all the requirements of a Federal Capital site. In the course of this pleasure trip - because it was a pleasure, notwithstanding the discomforts of travelling, to know that one was doing his duty to his country in inspecting these sites - we visited Lyndhurst. I was in no way prejudiced against that site, but went there determined to do it full justice. Although we inspected it in the month of May, the road along which we travelled for some miles was a very dusty one. I do not wish to question the veracity of those who support the selection of this site, but we know that a man who is enthusiastically in favour of a particular district is not the best person from whom to obtain reliable information in regard to it. Such men are prone, not -wilfully, but unwittingly, to supply information that is not reliable. They look only at the bright side of the picture, and one must therefore discount their evidence. We have been told of the remarkable productiveness of the land in the neighbourhood of Lyndhurst, and I should like to mention that during my visit I made inquiries on the subject. I know good country when I see it. The honorable member for Macquarie thinks that because he was reared among pumpkins he should be regarded as an exceptionally good authority on farming. I was born and reared in a district in the old country where scientific farming, is practised, and where the occupa- tions of the farmers comprise something more substantial that the growing of pumpkins and the rearing of pigs, so that I should have some knowledge of agricultural matters. I therefore resent the suggestion of the honorable member for Macquarie that, because he was born in the Lyndhurst district, he should be better qualified to judge of the productive character of the country than is any other honorable member. In my youth I had an intimate experience of agriculture in a district where rotation of crops was practised, and where one saw truly scientific farming. I have represented a pastoral district for some years, and presume that I should not have been returned to represent the interests of the people there if I were incapable of properly voicing their aspirations and interests. I mav also mention that I have travelled all over the western district, and should therefore have some knowledge of its characteristics. In the Lyndhurst district we find undulating country, practically rolling downs, but it is certainly not good agricultural land. I am strengthened in that view by the opinions of those who lived in this district some years ago. I sought information, not from those who were specially interested in the selection of Lyndhurst, but from a source which I knew would be untainted bv personal considerations. We have been told that yields of 60 Bushels of wheat to the acre are obtainable there, but men who at one time carried on agricultural operations in the district informed me that in really good seasons they- had secured as much as 20 bushels to the acre, but that as a rule the return obtained by them was not sufficient to pay for the labour of ploughing, sowing, and harvesting, and to cover the cost of selling. That is good evidence of the agricultural possibilities of the district. The fact that, although it is within easy distance of Sydney, and is connected, bv rail with that centre of distribution, land in the district is devoted, not to agriculture, but to pastoral purposes, should be a sufficient answer to those who claim that such magnificent yields can be obtained from it. We saw paddocks which at one time had been under the plough, but had since been turned into sheep runs. As a matter of fact, the land there will carry about two sheep to five acres.

Mr Tudor - The honorable member has destroyed the Opposition; they have all left the Chamber.

Mr WEBSTER - I care not whether they are present or absent. I am speaking, not merely to honorable members, but to the people of Australia. I am responsible to my constituents only, and I intend to give adequate expression to my views. The Lyndhurst district consists of what is admittedly pastoral country, and it is decidedly uninteresting. We found a monotonous sameness about it - an utter want of picturesqueness. Here and there we saw little knolls, and a line of mountains was dimly visible in the distance, but we looked in vain for water. I wondered why those whose duty it might be considered to be to point out the special qualifications of the site did not take me to water, or show me some indications of water. Had it not been for the fact that a thoughtful, generous soul amongst us had provided us with something to drink, we should have been very thirsty whilst we were inspecting that site. I remained a day after the party left, and went over the Canobolas site. I had seen the Bathurst site the morning before, and I could not understand for the life of me why honorable members representing the district should go back upon those eligible sites in f avour of Lyndhurst. When I inspected the Canobolas site I found' that it was picturesque, that there was good rich agricultural land there, and that the Lyndhurst site could not be compared to it. The Bathurst site also is miles ahead of the Lyndhurst site in suitability for a Federal Capital. I must admit that there is some doubt about the water supply, even at Canobolas. From the information I received. I understoood that the water supply at Orange was near " petering out " during the last drought, and the people were put on short rations in respect of water for domestic and other uses. That was the only doubt I had about the Canobolas site, but I did see water in its vicinity, and that redeemed it in my mind as compared to the Lyndhurst site. Some people wish to know why, as a New South Welshman, I do not advocate the site which comes nearest to the 100 miles limit from Sydney. Some- politicians may be dominated by press dictation, and may not look at this question from a Commonwealth stand-point. But in this matter I shall be guided first, not by what some persons may consider to be my duty to my own State, but by what I consider to be my duty to the Commonwealth. If any man in New South Wales tells me that, as a Federal member, I should be parochial on this question, I am prepared to argue the matter with him, but I am not prepared to bend to press domination, or the commands of certain New South Wales members, in dealing with this question. I drove over the Canobolas site, and if I had to give a vote for a site in the western district, I should give my vote every time for Orange. There is no comparison between it and the other western district sites. We left the western district sites, and travelled with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to visit the sites in his district. I may say that I was greatly impressed by the sites which we visited in the Monaro country. The land is possibly no better agricultural land than that at the Lyndhurst site; but from the evidence of my own senses, I was satisfied that with mountains, snowfalls, and adjacent rivers, there would be an ample supply of the purest water. It is quite unnecessary that any man should be called to the Bar of the House to corroborate or verify a report to that effect concerning the Monaro sites. There is obviously room for doubt about the existence of a very important factor if it is necessary that an expert should be brought to the Bar of this House to say that it is possible to provide a water supply at an v given site. That, to my mind, is an indication of absolute weakness in the claims of that particular- site. No expert engineers' reports are required to prove to any man visiting the Monaro sites that an ample and pure water supply is to be found there. There is, of course, a difference between the sites in the Monaro district. Some are in my opinion better than others for the purposes of a Federal

Capital. Bombala is undoubtedly a pretty site. There is ample room there for a city, and the undulating country in the vicinity supplies the elements of picturesqueness and utility. It has one or two disadvantages, but its general features come very near to what is required for the purpose we have in view. It must not be forgotten that while a good water supply may be secured at Bombala, it would have to be pumped at that site, and that that would raise the cost.

Mr Austin Chapman - That cost would not pay the interest on the cost of providing a water supply for Lyndhurst.

Mr WEBSTER - I am prepared to admit that. If we required water power, as 'well as an ordinary water supply for the inhabitants of the Federal Capital, the cost at Bombala would be considerable. The first feature to be looked for in choosing a site is the water supply, and that feature requires to be analyzed. We must know the source of the supply, the volume of water, its purity, and the cost involved in providing an adequate supply. I admit that a water supply, sufficient for a city of 50,000 inhabitants could be secured at Bombala at a medium cost, but that does not meet all that I think necessary. I should like to have water power provided if it could be supplied economically. Although the honorable member for Eden-Monaro diligently explained the advantages of the sites in his electorate, I could quite realize that at Bombala we should be likely to suffer to some extent from biting winds in the winter time. Climate is, of course, one of the features which must be considered in connexion with these sites, and there are varying degrees of climate, which must -be compared. We must take all the essential features of a site and ascertain the extent to which each is met by different sites, if we are to arrive at a proper decision. In the matter of eligibility, as a site for a Federal Capital, I admit that Bombala presented some elements which were not presented by sites I had previously visited. We drove out some ten miles from Bombala in order to obtain some knowledge as to whence the Capital, if established at that site, would draw its food supply. I was perfectly satisfied with the land that I saw. The area was somewhat circumscribed, but the land was. really good agricultural land. It is not at present utilized to any extent, because it is too far from a market. When, in dealing with the agricultural possibilities of various sites, the honorable member for Macquarie submitted a comparison of the areas under cultivation in each district, he neglected to mention that distance from a market has prevented agricultural development at many of the suggested sites. He omitted to say that the land in the neighbourhood of the Tooma site could not be profitably used, except for the growth of fodder, to meet times of drought, the cost of carrying agricultural produce to the railway, in the first instance, being very great, and the railway freight upon that produce to the market being also prohibitive. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that if the Eden-Monaro district had a railway, bv which the people there could get their produce expeditiously to market, the percentage of land under cultivation in that district would exceed the percentage which the honorable member for Macquarie quoted for the district around Lyndhurst. The character of the country adjacent to the Capital Site, in respect of its productiveness and its capabilities of providing the necessaries of life economically, is an important aspect. I contend that one essential feature of any town or city is that its people shall have the necessaries of life at first-hand,' instead of having to purchase them through middlemen. All the products necessary for sustaining human life should be grown as near to the city as possible. In this respect i recognise that the country adjacent to Bombala has much to recommend it. It struck me as being very peculiar that when we were driving down to the locality we should have been met not only by a large number of the residents, but also by a large number of cattle which evidently had come to welcome the Federal party ! Their presence was a clear indication of what the country would produce and support. As an illustration of its fattening qualifications, this herd of cattle was a revelation to me. There is one point about the Bombala site, and other sites, which has not been touched upon in a practical way, although it is an essential qualification in connexion with the Federal city, namely, the provision that can be made for sanitation. In addition to a clear and plentiful water supply, it is absolutely necessary that we should have an efficient system of sanitation. As one who has taken an active part in municipal affairs, and who has studied the question in the newer suburbs in New South Wales, where the initiatory difficulties of a sewerage system have had to be faced, I am naturally interested in this- aspect of the subject. There is only one economical method of disposing of the sewage of a great city, and that is bymeans of a sewerage farm. Consequently, one point that has to be carefully considered in connexion with establishing the city is whether we have in its vicinity land capable of absorbing the sewage matter, and thereby converting what would otherwise be a nuisance into a beneficial factor in the administration of the city's affairs. We want to be sure that when we establish our sanitary system, we do not run any risk of polluting the very stream from which we receive our water supply. Possibly in the future engineers will discover better means of disposing of sewage matter than have been discovered in the past. Probably we shall learn to treat it by means of electricity. That will remove some of the difficulties that have presented themselves to engineers hitherto. As far as I could see at Bombala, the water supply, having to be drawn from a river adjacent to the proposed site for the Federal city, would be in danger of contamination by the establishment of a sewerage farm within the area. Under the guidance of the honorable member for- Eden-Monaro, I had the pleasure of inspecting the district, and it struck me that, this was one drawback which, as a practical man, I could not get over.

Mr Bamford - That objection would apply to all the proposed sites.

Mr WEBSTER - I hope to show that it does not apply to all of them. The success of a municipal sewage farm is largely determined by the quality of the soil into which the sewerage matter is poured. That a well conducted sewerage farm is a source of profit is illustrated in the case of Melbourne. I saw this system worked in the old country, before I came to Australia, and worked in such a way that, instead of the sanitation of a city being a continual source of annoyance to the city corporation, by means of a properly equipped and economically managed sewerage farm, thev had made it a source of revenue, which reduced the taxation of the people. From this point of view, the sewerage farm method is, I maintain, the best and most commendable that can be adopted. On the tour to which I have alluded, we visited Delegate. Delegate is one of the sites which was submitted to the last Parliament. It is in many ways a very good site. The surrounding country is rather better than at either Bombala or Dalgety. There is more agricultural land. But the formation of the country is not of such a character as to commend it as an ideal spot for a Capital city. Further than that, the water supply would have to be secured by means of the obnoxious method of dams. I do not believe in a water supply that is secured by damming. A large city requires for human consumption a supply of pure running water,, and, from this point of view the damming of water in a large body, which sometimes becomes stagnant, is not wise or beneficial. Further than that, I calculate that the climate at Delegate would be rather warm in the summer time, judging by the latitude and the position of the site. Travelling further, we set out to Dalgety. It was rather a tedious journey. In fact, we did meet with some hardships on these Federal " picnics." as they have been called. The driver of the vehicle in which I travelled lost his way ; and had it not been that a man came to look for us with a lantern, Heaven knows where we should have got to ! I might not have been here at this moment to give my impressions as to the qualifications of the various sites. But, finally, we got to our journey's end, as determined men generally do. The following morning we were treated by the honorable and learned member for Corio to an illustration of what it is possible for a man to do in country of that description. Before we entered upon our expedition, the honorable and learned member undertook to ford the Snowy River early in the morning with bare feet. Seeing that his garments were not wet when he returned, I concluded that his feat afforded a practical illustration as to the flow of water in the river at that particular time. I do not know' whether his object was to afford such an illustration, but certainly that was the effect of his achievement. The country around Dalgety is not so good as the country at Bombala, and certainly not nearly so good as the country at Delegate. As we travelled, we encountered huge granite boulders on the surface of the soil. Thev reminded me of the kopjes in South Africa, behind which the Boers used to take shelter. Looking at the country from the stand-point of defence, I thought that it would be an ideal spot for the shelter of our troops if we ever had to encounter an enemy in the vicinity. But those granite outcrops indicated the character of the country. Granite country is not good country from an agricultural point of view. One did not, therefore, come to a favorable conclusion as to the possibilities of the soil, because the character of the soil is to a large extent indicated by its apparent composition. From the point of view of beauty, the surroundings at Dalgety were magnificent. There is a panorama on every side. It is a perfect beauty spot from an artist's stand-point. From every aspect a pleasant view meets the eye. The landscape makes the beholder almost long to live in the locality. With the Snowy River running close at hand, the site possesses many of -the most important essentials for a Federal city. When I saw it I felt that I had at last arrived at a place where I was sure that ths Federal Parliament could advantageously determine to settle. There was no stagnant dam of water there, but a constant stream, fed from the purest source, namely, the heavens and the melting snows. These are important elements in its favour. I recognise that it is necessary to establish the Federal city at a place 1 where there will be something to attract the tourist and the visitor - a place that will be a sanatorium, a place for rest and recuperation to those who live in the arid districts - a place to which persons in other parts of the continent will be inclined to travel for purposes of health and sightseeing. I quite agree, with the right honorable member for East Sydney that, we cannot live on scenery, not even on such scenery as Mount Kosciusko presents. But I would remind him that on the other hand it is not desirable that we should locate the Federal Capital at a dull place, where there is nothing whatever of interest, and nothing that would make the visitor desire to return, or long to remain. We certainly must pay regard to the element of picturesqueness. Dalgety possesses, to a very large degree, those features which would be- likely to attract visitors. Means of communication is another of the important features. Much has been made of it by the honorable member for Macquarie, who urges that because the establishment of the Federal city at Lyndhurst would not involve an expenditure of more than ^50,000 for railway connexions, honorable members should therefore select that site. But it is not a question of how many miles of railway would have to be constructed, but rather of whether, when the railway is constructed, the returns will be sufficient to pay interest and create a sinking fund. If New South Wales, or any other State, had been guided by the principle the honorable member advocates, this vast continent would not have been interlaced with railways. We have had to consider the possibilities which might accrue from their construction, and our wise predecessors in the administration of public affairs have acted in the main correctly, and largely for the benefit of the State. The lack of communication may raise to some extent a difficulty in the case of some sites as compared with others. I admit that Lyndhurst has accessibility, but I cannot admit that that should be allowed to overrule all other considerations. I cannot honestly say that Lyndhurst possesses fully any other of the features which are essential to the site for a Federal Capital. We know that railway communication could be provided from Cooma to Dalgety. It is also desired to have a through railway connexion. People from Victoria, South Australia, and other States desire to be able, to go direct to the Federal Capital, and not to be obliged to travel by a circuitous route. The connexion of that site with the Victorian railway system would involve a very large expenditure. But, in fairness to the site and its advocates, it should be said that the question to be considered is not so much the expenditure of money as the character of the country through which the railway would pass, and whether it would be an acquisition to the State and the Commonwealth when constructed. We are dealing with a matter which involves far larger issues than some men who talk very glibly about it appear to recognise. I have not gone into the details which have to be considered before one can arrive at an honest and just conclusion. The reports of this historical discussion will be read when we have passed away, and the wisdom or unwisdom of our choice will be criticised for generations to come. I do not wish my name to be linked with those who have jumped to a conclusion. There are many elements to be considered. We have to judge the sites from the standpoints of climate, soil, quantity and purity of water supply, accessibility, picturesqueness, and general adaptability. We have to consider, not only those questions, but the cost of resuming the lands, and not their intrinsic value only, but also their prospective productive value. Leaving the Bombala sites, the Coolringdon site, eight miles from Cooma, is very eligible from one standpoint. It has advantages from the standpoint of railway communication. A supply of water might be got from two sources - from the Murrumbidgee. and the mountains adjacent. This site is not so precipitous as the others. It is slightly undulating in character, and larger in area and scope. It resembles a large table-land more than anything else. And from the stand-point of accessibility it is far preferable to the Lyndhurst site. If we are to judge the quality of these sites and their claim to our support from that stand-point, the Coolringdon site is as good as,- if not preferable to, the site which has .been eulogized by the honorable member for Macquarie. I ask honorable members who intend to vote for the Lyndhurst site, because it could be cheaply connected with a railway .system, to- pay due regard to the claims of Coolringdon. Having dealt as minutely as I can with the sites, I come to the last visit we paid. to the Tooma site. I had no intention of going to see the site, but I felt that, notwithstanding a promise I had made to return to my home, it was an imperative duty on my part to make the visit in order .that I might be able to come to a right conclusion. Our journey to Tooma was not made under pleasant conditions; the companionship was pleasant, but the trials of the trip were disagreeable. To drive seventy miles in one day is not an agreeable undertaking" in this weather. AU along the line we found food for reflection, and the outlook was most interesting. The climate was very invigorating, and as I drank in the pure atmosphere I wondered why any country of that character should be unoccupied. My common sense soon supplied me with an answer. I quickly perceived' that it was unprofitable to occupy the country, owing to the difficulty of getting products to market. I then began to ask myself, " By whom is this country occupied?" I instituted an inquiry as to the number of landholders between Germanton and Tooma, and I found that for a distance of seventy miles the- country was practically held" 5y seven firms or families. I then asked myself, " Why, and for how long, have these families held this country?" I thought that, perhaps, it might have only recently come into their possession by reason of the failure of the previous holders. I found, However, that the land was so good that its holders did not wish to let it go. I discovered that they could find in Australia no better or more profitable place on which to pitch their tents. Why had they no desire to sell this land, which was the pick of New South Wales ? Because it provided them with a handsome income at a minimum of expenditure. From the carriage window as we travelled through thecountry we looked at beautiful scenery instead of at ring-barked timber. In the Lyndhurst district, one cannot see even a forest reserve, or a place where timber could be conserved. Every tree has been ringbarked. Why ? Because every blade of grass that can be grown is needed for the succour of stock in summer and winter. The timber has been destroyed by the hungry pastoralists, who are always ready to sweep away a forest, and to sweep away with it, as they often do, wealth far greater than the value of the land which they clear, or of its products for years to come. We can judge of the character of a country by the trees which it grows in the . same way as we can judge of the character of a man by his stature. The character of a country is delineated in that way. Yet when we go to Lyndhurst we find only inferior timber, and notice the absence of those elements which would indicate that its soil is capable of supporting a large population. Travelling towards the Tooma site, I was not prepared for the surprise which I experienced. I was surprised to find that at half -past 9 o'clock at night the cold did not make a person shrink towards the fire, or bring into use a top-coat or a rug, but invigorated him. That indicates the temperature and the character of the climate. On rising next morning, although there was ice on the shallow waters adjacent, my comrades and I, who had to turn out in our pyjamas to replenish our water supply, instead of being benumbed by the cold, felt fresh enough to take a good long walk. That is the kind of temperature that I like to find in a country - one which braces up and invigorates a man. It is a climate like that which produces the . characteristics which we desire to see in our population. Next morning we climbed to the top of a mountain called Bald Knob, I think, and although I admired the scenery of the Dalgety site, it is nothing to the panoramic view spread out before, us on the occasion of which I. am now speaking. I saw then the ideal site for the Australian Capital, a site which the artist could paint, and the poet could sing about. Honorable members opposite would have no trouble in securing the selection of Lyndhurst if it possessed such scenery. We all marvelled at the beauty of the prospect. Returning, we had a day's journey of eighty miles, because the Parliament of this great Commonwealth could not afford to allow its members to acquire information on this momentous question unless they travelled at top speed. Therefore, we missionaries who were looking for a site had to hurry along as fast as we could. We had really to submit to a sort of martyrdom, such as the Government should not have expected us to undergo, and therefore we did not make our examination of the district under the most favorable circumstances. We had not sufficient time to photograph the scenery with our eyes, and imprint it upon our memories. But I - and I think every other member of the expedition was equally zealous - used all my opportunities to the best advantage. At Welaregang we passed through beautiful undulating country - country somewhat, resembling that of Lyndhurst, but quite different in character. Beyond it is a fine panorama of hills. Then we saw the rich Murray flats. There is no denying the fertility of the land on the banks of the Murray, and the undulating country behind it is also capable of high production, if properly cultivated, as it would be if the Federal Capital were located in the district. In the matter of water supply, there is the Murray, which winds its way through the landscape, its glassy surface being seen here and there as one's eye travels over the prospect ; the Tooma River, the Tumberumba Creek, and several other creeks which come from the Snowy Mountains, bearing with them pure, undiluted, and ever-running water. We ought not to choose a site whose water supply will be derived from dams. The records show that townships which are so supplied are visited periodically, and almost annually, with epidemics of typhoid, diphtheria, and other diseases. We ought not, if by the exercise of a wise discretion we can avoid doing so, to locate the Capital where the people will have to depend for their water supply upon storage reservoirs. I am not influenced in this matter by the- hope of gaining votes, or by the fear of losing them. If there were a proposed site in my constituency, and it were one which I did not think the best, having regard to the interests of the whole Commonwealth, I should vote against it, even though I knew that by doing so I should lose my seat in Parliament, and the paltry living wage of ^400 a year, which practically provides us with only enough to keep us out of the workhouse.. I am not a surveyor. I could not take a theodolite or other instrument and measure the heights of the hills, or determine the fall of the water-courses. But I am a man of common sense and clear perception, and when I see streams which are fed by 900 square miles of snow-covered mountains, I know that the district through which they flow is provided with an endless supply of pure water. Surely a man can believe his own eyes, and rely on his own judgment in such a case. But I do not object to the Government authorizing the most minute investigation into the merits of the Tooma site. I feel sure that if such an investigation is made the district will be shown to be even a better one than I have described it to be. I am no more afraid of the production of an expert's report on the Tooma site than a man who is guiltless would be afraid of an investigation into his character. Knowing the advantages possessed by the site, I welcome such a report. But, although experts may put before us scientific calculations, and statements of quantities, volumes, heights, and so on, I shall never be guided entirely by their judgment. I have seen too many monuments to the incapacity of experts to be ready to sink my own judgment. In the electorate which I represented in the New South Wales Parliament, ^32,000 was absolutely wasted by experts who were without practical knowledge of the conditions under which their work was being done.

Sir William Lyne - Where ?

Mr WEBSTER - An attempt was made to divert the water from the Big River, in the Moree district, into the billabongs and dry creeks lower down, in order to supply a large area of waterless country. A weir was therefore constructed at great cost, and the work was -splendidly carried out. lt- was a credit to the. men who were responsible for it. But the experts who designed it forgot that they were dealing with black soil country having a gravelly bottom, with the result that the first flood washed the whole thing away, and thousands of pounds were wasted. Facts like that make one careful about accepting implicitly the statements of experts. "Once bitten, twice shy."

Personally, I shall never take the opinion of experts unless it is corroborated by that of other experts, and commends itself to my own judgment. It does not matter to me whether the Capital is located on the borders of Victoria or somewhere near Queensland. Accessibility is, of course, a consideration, but it is not the chief consideration. In time to come the artificial boundaries between the States will be swept away. Why, then, should we not put aside all parochial considerations, and regard the question with a broad sweep of view, as one affecting the future of a great nation? If honorable members wish to rise to the position of patriots, they will not be guided by parochial considerations, and they will not pass judgments upon sites which they have not seen. It is always the man who knows least who is the most confident. But those who have not taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Government to visit the various proposed sites, and are governed by the narrow parochial views of the press in their own States, are not the men who can be trusted to come to a right decision on this question.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have always been taught to watch the man who boasts of his own honesty.

Mr WEBSTER - I, ami not. boasting of my honesty ; I have never had need to do so. If the honorable member occupies a different position, he has my sympathy. I have never had to parade my honesty, and I hope that I shall never have to do so.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member has been parading it for the last half -hour.

Mr WEBSTER - I do not think that any impartial member will say that I have tried to be unjust to any one, but it will not redound to the credit of honorable members if they vote for a site which they have not personally inspected. I challenge anybody who has visited the Tooma site to say that it does not fulfil all essential conditions. I claim that it is in every way suited to the purposes of a Federal Capital. There is adequate land surrounding it to permit of the erection of suburban residences, and the soil itself is capable of producing everything that is necessary for the support of a city. At very little cost, a series of artificial lakes could be constructed, with a view to beautifying the Capital. Rows of trees could be planted for the purpose of affording shelter in the summer, and flowers could be grown in abundance. In the immediate vicinity the snow-clad mountains rise before one as far as the eye can reach. It is possible to gaze at those mountains, with the sun glistening upon them, at one moment, and immediately afterwards to turn round and behold orange trees growing to perfection. Do honorable members require any otherproof of the excellence of the climate ? In determining the location of a Capital Site, it is important that we should know which way the wind blows.


Mr WEBSTER - I took the precaution to ascertain which way the wind blows at Tooma, both in the winter and in the summer. The climate is admirable, and the country and its surroundings are beautiful. Do we not all understand what constitutes the main attraction of the watering places of the British Isles? Is it riot the scenery; and is not that attraction world-wide? If we select the Welaregang site, there will be no need for tourists from the old world to visit New Zealand or Tasmania in search of beauty spots. They will be able to spend their leisure at the Seat of the Federal Government. Of course, I am thinking of the stream of visitors who will continue to be attracted to Australia when we shall have passed away, when our population shall have learned how to till the soil, how to apply scientific methods to production, and when land which is now regarded as valueless shall have become one of our best assets. There will then be millions of people settled upon our territory, where today there are only thousands. I have endeavoured faithfully to outline a picture - a perfect picture, perfect because it is that " of Nature - of the Welaregang site. It pre.sents a scene such as no painter ever transferred to canvas. It must be seen to be appreciated. So far as sanitation is concerned, provision could easily be made there for the establishment of a sewerage farm without any fear of the water supply becoming contaminated. Further, I will undertake to say that any railway which is constructed to that site will practically pay from the outset. Consequently, that question presents no difficulties. But there is still another feature upon which 'we might well bestow our attention. The surrounding country presents vast mineral possibilities. Tumut and Tumberumba have already produced, and are still producing, a large quantity of gold. We all know that wherever alluvial gold has been washed down valleys between mountains, it is only a matter of time when the source of the deposits will be discovered. Mr. Holtermann, who was a mining expert, and who made so much money at Hill End, was so convinced of the existence of auriferous reefs in this locality that before he died he had, by means of a tunnel, penetrated into a hill a distance of 600 feet, in an endeavour to cut some of these reefs. That work only stopped with his decease. If by the construction of a railway to the Tooma site we can open up avenues of employment which will recoup the Treasury for the money expended, and at the same time impart a stimulus to mining, that consideration should constitute another of its recommendations. I am not here to favour or to seek favour from any one. I am not here to placate any honorable member, but to do my duty according to my lights, and to express as plainly as possible the views which I hold, so that they may be recorded for future reference by those who may have hereafter to criticise my actions. The resumption of the land in this district would be a profitable undertaking. In the territory which I favour we should have a large area of productive land. In dealing with this question we have to consider not so much the price of the land as its productivity. The true value of land can be determined only in that way. It is better to pay £5 per acre for land, 100 acres of which is sufficient to support a man and his family, than to pay £2 10s. for a tract of country, on 1,000 acres of which it would not be possible for a man to make a living for himself and those dependent on him. In dealing with this question we must look into every detail, and consider all the elements that are essential to a Federal Capital. If we do, we shall come to a satisfactory decision; if, on the other hand, we are guided only by ex. parte statements, I fear that an error will be committed. I have done my best to impartially place before the Committee the views that I hold, and I fear no report that may be asked for in reference to the territory which I favour. The honorable member for North Sydney, when discussing this question last week, referred to the possibility of beautifying a district by artificial means, and spoke of what England had accomplished in this direction. Does not that suggest that the honorable member has in view a site in which it would be necessary to endeavour by artificial means to make good in some respects the natural beauty that it lacks?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know of any such site.

Mr WEBSTER - Will any one tell me that any effort on the part of man could supply the equivalent of natural beauty? Nature cannot be successfully imitated. Natural, rather than artificial, beauties, constitute the chief attractions of England. I know, of course, that they have many magnificent gardens and parks in the old land, for I have visited them myself ; but none of them compare with the' natural scenery with, which the Almighty has blessed the, country. No snow-capped mountain ridge meets the eye of the visitor to Lyndhurst. Could the honorable member for North Sydney supply that deficiency? Lyndhurst gives no promise of even great artificial possibilities. We should certainly not be able to make any artificial lakes in the district - a feature which would be sadly missed. Those who urge that any deficiency in natural beauty may be made good by art cannot mean what they say, or if they do they have given no consideration to the cost that would be- involved in supplying even a poor imitation. In conclusion, I earnestly and sincerely appeal to honorable members to endeavour to do that which will redound to our credit, and to lay aside all parochial considerations. If honorable members have not seen the site which I have just described, there is yet time for them to do so before we arrive at a determination. Those who have neglected every opportunity to inspect these sites, and are disposed to support the selection of a district merely because it is in the vicinity of Sydney - quite unmindful of its disadvantages - should pause before they give their vote. The Sydney press appears to echo the statements made by certain politicians in this House. It is marvellous how the echoes of this debate are heard in New South Wales. We are told in the Sydney press that representatives of New South Wales are fighting against the interests of that State ; but I care not for the press of Sydney, or of any other place, nor shall I have regard to any party consideration in dealing with this question. I have a duty to perform, and shall do it even at the peril of losing my seat in this Chamber. Whatever may be the result, I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that I have endeavoured to do my duty to my constituents, to the State from which I come, and to the Commonwealth ; and with that knowledge I shall be happier than will be those who have not endeavoured to deal with this question on broad and general lines.

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