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Tuesday, 2 August 1904

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that I should have risen to speak again on this subject, but for the attitude taken up by the last speaker with regard to- the great majority of the representatives of New South Wales, who, he seems to consider, are not actuated by those honest intentions which he claims for himself. Seeing that my view of this question is in some respects very like his own, I cannot understand why he should not allow to us that credit for honesty of intention and purpose which he is perfectly justified in claiming for himself.

Mr Hutchison - I allow it to some of them.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is quite a mistake for the honorable member to think that there is any organization on the part of any representatives of New South Wales to get this question decided in any particular manner. Of all the representatives from the different States, there are none so much divided as are the representatives of New South Wales. The Prime Minister differs from me ; I differ from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and the honorable member for Hume is supporting at the last moment a third site, which was not discovered until a few weeks ago. I agree with all those honorable members who have urged that this matter should be viewed from a national Australian stand-point. I agree that honorable members should be actuated by the highest motives in deciding this question. I claim to be actuated by none but the very Highest motives. It will always happen that we shall estimate differently the various reasons which should actuate us, and one reason which has been little thought of by many honorable members, is the question of ways and means, or the economy of doing this thing. We find that one of the strongest reasons for deciding this question in one way, other things being equal, as they very nearly are, is the desire to secure a Capital of which we shall be proud without saddling the nation with any extravagant debt. If in one case we can get a really good Capital, with a fine climate and fair circumstances all round, without expending a single penny, except upon the site itself, and if in another case we should have to spend millions of pounds on a railway, and, perhaps, more millions on fortifications, and incur all sorts of other expenditures before it could be made of any use, we should be largely guided by that consideration, although f have just as great an ideal to aim at as have those who picture the glories of this or that site. It has frequently happened that while the site of a city looked very grand with its snow-clad mountains in the distance, it did not look nearly so beautiful when it came to be occupied.' It has also frequently happened that an ordinary looking building site has, by the art and hand of man, been converted into a thing of beauty. It is very easy to imagine that in their primitive state the sites of many Australian cities looked rather miserable.

Mr Hutchison - That cannot be said of the city of Adelaide.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No ; the city of Adelaide is remarkably well placed for looking at, although it is ill placed in other respects. When the honorable member talks about how the people of New South Wales should look on the settlement of this question, and says he is willing to give us the whole of the bond "as it were, he would appear to be willing to grant us what he recognises we ought to have ; but the gift is not offered- in a spirit which will tend to foster Federal ideas, although he puts that as his aim. The honorable member has misread the Constitution if he thinks that this Parliament is entitled to approach New South Wales and say, " You are to have the Federal territory in your State, but we shall demand as much land as we like, and we shall have it where we like." The honorable member is mistaken if he. thinks that any such demand can be made with any' hope of being successful. When it is proposed to take a piece off the end of the territory of New South Wales, and to make that piece very much larger than any one ever anticipated it would be made, we are not keeping the compact with that State, but deliberately breaking it in spirit. I believe that such an idea could not be carried out without either an alteration of the Constitution or an appeal to the popular vote of New South Wales.

Mr Hutchison - Why wa.s not the area definitely stated in the Constitution?

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Before I have finished I hope to be able to show the honorable member that there is something in my argument. When he talks about New South Wales having demanded something from the Federation which the other States did not get, he knows full well that this was absolutely a matter of com promise, which the greatest advocates of Federation in my State had to force themselves to consent to in order to get the majority of its people to accept the Constitution Bill. The honorable member knows full well, as other honorable members do, that, at the first referendum, notwithstanding the eloquent efforts of a number of gentlemen who sit in this House, and many thousands who are not here, notwithstanding all the organized effort which was made to get the people of New South Wales to join in this great Federal movement, the people were so convinced that they occupied a position of strength, and could run independently better than any other Colony in the group, that it was utterly impossible to get them to consent to the State entering the union. Much against the wish of those who desired to bring about Federation, just as heartily as did the honorable member for Hindmarsh or any other honorable member, we had to consent to the alteration of the Constitution in some respects, one, and perhaps the most popular being that the Seat of Government should be in territory within that State. Of course we do not know exactly what transpired at the Conference of Premiers in Melbourne, but I believe that the first proposal was that the Federal Capital should not be located with-, in a distance of zoo miles of Sydney, so great was the effort to keep the Seat of Government from being in that city, and that ultimately the distance limit was reduced to 100 miles, for the simple purpose of preventing the city of Sydney enjoying any benefit from having the Federal Capital in its midst. I think I shall be able to show the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who seems to have taken the greatest interest in this point of the argument, that in the case of very many of the sites which have been proposed New South Wales could get no benefit from the Federal Government, and that all the benefit would go to Victoria from first to last. That is not keeping the spirit of the compact with the people of New South Wales. I do not think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh can accuse me of being actuated by any spirit of greed in this matter, or by any desire to see Sydney benefit at the expense of any other city in the Federation, because, from first to last. I have refused to consent to any proposal1 to amend the Constitution so as to place the Seat of Government in Sydney. Tn the first session of last Parliament a representative of South Australia submitted a proposal of that kind, and it. was opposed by me most strenuously, and, I believe, by practically all the representatives of New South Wales. When a similar proposal was brought forward in this session it was scouted; as the honorable member will recollect, it commanded only three votes. It seems to be quite clear that the representatives of New South Wales do not desire to get the expenditure of Federal money in Sydney, and, therefore, they cannot rightly be accused of desiring to get that expenditure in a remote part of the State. Honorable members can fairly dismiss from their consideration any idea that the people of New South Wales, or their representatives, are 'simply actuated by a desire to get the Seat of Government located in some territory where the expenditure of money, the prestige, and so forth, would benefit that State to the detriment of other States, or even to the advantage of Sydney.

Mr Hutchison - Then why are they interfering with where we shall place the Capital ?

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because they have a right to interfere. They have as much right to interfere in the settlement of this question as have the representatives of any other State. 1

Mr Hutchison - I do not admit it.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under the Constitution New South Wales has statutory rights, and the representatives of its people here have to see that those rights - a privilege which no other State has - are carried out fairly and in the spirit. I think I shall be able to show that some of the proposals which have been made would not carry out that compact fairly and in the spirit. As the honorable member knows, we have had a great many sites to think of. I must say that amongst all the sites which have been considered here I still recollect one, if not two. which seem to me to be better than any of the others suggested but which have not been considered. When th-i honorable member tells some of us that we have no right to approach the settlement of this question without asking the Government to postpone the consideration of this Bill in order to allow us an opportunity of seeing the Tooma site, I can, in my turn, ask him if he has seen the Queanbeyan sits, and, if not, why he does not ask the Government 'to consent to an adjournment until he has had an opportunity to visit that site ?

Mr Hutchison - Because I understand that it was ruled out by the House.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No ; it has not been voted on. Of all the sites I have seen, the Queanbeyan site seems to be that which ought to have had 'the strenuous support of honorable members from all States. It seems to be perfectly healthy, to have good soil, and to possess a splendid water supply. With two hills in a vast plain, and surrounding hills in the background, it is an ideal site, which ought to have been placed in the forefront.

Mr Hutchison - Why is it not placed in the forefront?

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because it did not get a friend like those three -or four honorable members who have battled so valiantly for different sites. It had a friend in me to the extent of having- mentioned its qualifications when the previous Bill was being considered. I argued then that it did not receive the attention that it should have commanded. It is situated in the middle of a branch line.

Mr Tudor - In what electorate is it?

Mr Conroy - It is just outside the boundary of mv electorate.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It seems to be a sort of no man's land, like that inhabited by the Irishman who lived on the boundaries of two districts, and voted for both, and paid taxes in neither. The site I speak of has never had a fair show. The members of the parliamentary party who visited the various sites arrived at Queanbeyan very early on Sunday morning, and the leader of the Opposition, with characteristic rectitude, would not agree to the inspection of any site on that day, contending that we should go to church. In the afternoon I, with some half-dozen others, having wandered a little further from our pious upbringing than the right honorable gentleman had done, thought it no desecration of the Sabbath to climb one of the hills in the district, and take a good look at the site. We were delighted at the prospect which opened before us. We saw -then as fitting a location for a large city as I have ever met with anywhere. I took notes of the features of the locality, and marked my impressions with regard to it upon a map, afterwards consulting privately with the engineers, who informed me that an excellent water supply could be obtained there. But, although that site had been reported on by the first Commission, and by several experts, no consideration was given to it when the last

Bill was in Committee. I should have been ready to visit the Tooma site if it had been specified in the first itinerary. But it is not convenient for a business man who attends the meetings of Parliament day by day, to go off on these excursions. In my opinion, there are already a sufficient number of admirable sites to select from, and in making a selection, great consideration should be given to the question of cost. I think that the building of the Federal Capital should be paid for with money derived from the rental of the land in the Federal territory, without imposing any taxation on the people of the Commonwealth, and, other things beingequal, I shall support that site in regard to which that arrangement is most likely to be carried out. When the last Bill was under consideration, the Bombala site received a great deal of support in this Chamber, and a majority of the members of the Senate voted for it. Since then, although the supporters of the Lyndhurst site, amongst whom I am glad to number myself, remain firm advocates of that site, the supporters of the Tumut, Bombala, and Dalgety sites have chopped and changed so much that we do not know now what votes they will receive. There has also been a change of opinion amongst the members of the other Chamber, who, in sending this Bill to us, do not provide for the selection of Bombala, but have agreed to a very, roundabout clause, which gives the impression that they wish Dalgety to be selected, largely, I suppose, because the Snowy River flows so near that little township. Of course, the presence of such a river, which would give a perennial supply of pure drinking water, is an important consideration. I have always opposed the proposal to adopt the Bombala site, and to take in with it Twofold Bay and the country along the Victorian border for some considerable distance westward. The idea which some honorable members hold as to the need of some sort of buffer State between New South Wales and Victoria is an altogether wrong one. If we chose a territory which would have Twofold - Bay as a port, it would be necessary in the first instance to spend a large sum of money in making a harbor there. At the present time, the place would be of no practical use as a port. I have twice had to take shelter there when travelling on small steamers from Tasmania to Sydney. No steamer of as much as 3,500 tons has gone into Twofold Bay during the last five years. It is only the smaller vessels which go there, and they experience a certain amount of difficulty in getting in .and out. Not only have we among our papers charts of the bay which give all the soundings, but we have also been placed in possession of the proposals of engineers for constructing training walls to scour out the silt, and a breakwater to protect the shipping. > Various estimates have been given for making a serviceable harbor, and in each case the sum mentioned is considerable. But, in addition to making the bay serviceable as a port, it would require an extravagant outlay to fortify it, in order to defend the Capital from outside attacks. Very early in the history of Washington, English vessels proceeded up the river and sacked the city, the soldiery even entering the Capitol, desecrating the Speaker's chair, and tearing up the records. As we are bound to no particular district, why should we incur the risk of destruction by an enemy, in locating the Seat of Government near the sea coast? Furthermore, if we selected Bombala, we should have to make no fewer than three railways to give communication to the Capital. In the first place, it would be of no use to have a port forty or fifty miles away, unless it were connected with the Capital by railway. Then' it would be necessary to extend the existing railway from Cooma to Bombala, in order to get rid of the present coach journey ; and, finally, Victorian representatives would not be satisfied to journey all the way to Goulburn, and then to return via Cooma to Bombala; and, therefore, would agitate for an extension of the Gippsland line to the Capital. In this way many millions of pounds would be expended, apart from the cost of the city itself. The erection of public buildings, the making- of streets, the beautifying of parks, the supplying of water, and other expenditure which is incidental in every case, will be sufficiently heavy to make it necessary for us to go very slowly at first, and nothing would justify the expenditure of millions of pounds in merely providing means of communication. Then, the proposal to take a strip of territory along the Victorian border is a complete breach of the bargain made with New South Wales. Section 123 of the Constitution provides that -

The Parliament of the Commonwealth may, with the consent of the Parliament of a State, and the approval of the majority of the electors of the State voting upon the question, increase, diminish, or otherwise alter the limits of the State, upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed on, and may, with the like consent, make provision respecting the effect and operation of any increase or diminution or alteration of territory in relation to any State affected.

While New South Wales may, under section j 25, cede a portion of her territory to the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Seat of Government, if the territory asked for is situated on the Victorian border it could not be granted without an alteration of the boundary of New South Wales, and that is strictly forbidden, unless the consent of the people of that State is obtained. Therefore, to obtain a site bounded on one side by the New South Wales border - and the argument applies both to the proposal of the Senate, and to the Tooma proposalwould involve an appeal to the people of New South Wales, who would not be likely to agree to the selection of a site much nearer to Melbourne than to Sydney, whose trade would go to the former city. I do not know why the people of New South Wales should be asked to do so. The advocates of the border sites say that it is necessary for the people of Victoria to have an open door into the Federal territory, so that they shall not be obliged to go through part of New South Wales to get there. But why should not the people of the other State's also have an open door ? Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania would have no open door except by passing through Victoria. This policy of the open door, as applied to the selection of the Federal territory, is a pure myth. There is no necessity to have any open door whatever. The Federal territory would be there, and the Federal power would be behind it to enable the whole of the citizens of the Commonwealth to have free access to it. I do not see what necessity exists for having this territory situated alongside the borders of' Victoria. It might reasonably be asked, " If the Seat of Government is located alongside the borders of Victoria, what benefit will New South Wales derive under this compact?" I hold that, under such circumstances, New South Wales might just as well cede that territory to Victoria, and inform her that the Federal Capital could be established in the ceded territory. That is the logical position. One honorable member has made a great deal of the bene.fits which New South Wales will derive by reason of having the Seat of Government located in that State. I am prepared to admit that it will obtain some benefit from that source. But the fact seems to be overlooked that New South Wales is paying very handsomely for that benefit. Under the Constitution, she is compelled to hand over to the Commonwealth, without fee or charge, the whole of the Crown lands within the Federal territory. She is also obliged to surrender the Governmental rights of that territory, and we cannot yet say whether by so doing she will not sacrifice a share of her representation in this Parliament. Certainly she will lose the power of taxing the residents of that portion of the State. To my mind it is doubtful whether - if we ever settle the question of allocating the Customs revenue upon a -per capita basis - she will not lose the. product of the Excise and Customs duties, so far as they relate to persons resident within the Federal territory. If honorable members will look at this matter fairly they must conclude that New South Wales is giving a quid pro quo for the prestige of having the Federal Capital established in her midst. Outside the site at Queanbeyan, which I regret has not received more consideration, I have, from the first, favoured the site in the Western district, which has been misnamed the Lyndhurst site. To my mind, we ought to speak of it as the " western " site, because one side of Lyndhurst contains very uninteresting and unprepossessing country indeed. By some error the members who formed one of the parliamentary parties which inspected this area were driven to the poorest side of Lyndhurst, with the result that some grew so tired of the country that they saw no more of it. I claim that the western site - the Orange site - is one of the finest to be found in Australia. Certainly there is no site equal to it from the stand-point of that class of beauty for which we should look in the Federal Capital city. If we merely desired to obtain wild grandeur, there would be nothing to prevent us from selecting an area in the Blue Mountains - an area near the Leura Falls, in the vicinity of Katoomba - where, according to experienced travellers, is to be found some of the finest scenery in the world. But, in establishing a fine city, we do not look for that class of beauty. We do not want to tread upon the edge of a precipice or of an avalanche. The ideal site for a Capital city is that class of country which consists of beautiful undulating hills and plains, such as are to be found in the Orange district. I admit that, according to the reports of engineers, it is im possible to obtain a thoroughly adequate water supply for a site higher than is the present town of Orange. But I would point out that between Orange and the proposed Lyndhurst site there are two or three areas sufficient to permit of the establishment of moderate-sized cities - areas which' could be supplied with sufficient water-

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - For a million of people.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Personally, I do not believe that a population of a million will ever be settled in the Federal Capital. No difficulty, however, would be experienced in obtaining sufficient water to supply the needs of all the people who are ever likely to be attracted there. The last report of Mr. Wade - a gentleman of considerable engineering skill, and an expert in the matter of water supply - has removed any lingering doubt which I may have entertained that the Orange site would not meet all the requirements of the future Capital. Its position is admirably central. Already., lines of railway have been proposed, which would converge from the different States at Lyndhurst. Consequently, as soon as we erected our first building, we could settle there. The honorable member for Gippsland spoke of the poor quality of the soil of the Lyndhurst district. I am perfectly certain that if the honorable member had visited that country, he would have been forced to admit, with his admirable practical knowledge of land, that there are very few parts of New South Wales which are capable of feeding such a large population. The honorable member quoted statistics comparing the yields derived from land in the Orange, Lyndhurst, and Bathurst districts with those obtained from the country around Bombala, very much to the detriment of the first-named district. I have from the first questioned these figures, and practical men have pointed out the utter impossibility of their being correct. For instance, the honorable member stated that the yield of maize in the Bathurst district was i2-3 bushels to the acre, whilst in Bombala it was no less than 40*3 bushels to the acre. That would be an enormous return even in a part of the country most suitable for the production of maize ; but I undertake to say that in the Bombala district practically no maize is grown, except in the most favoured and well protected parts. What is the use of quoting statistics as to the yield per acre without taking into consideration the area under cultivation? If one sowed maize in a highly manured plot in an experimental farm he might secure a return equal to 100 bushels to the acre in respect of a few square yards of land. Owing to the prolonged drought the yields have been notoriously bad in the Orange district of recent years, and if they be compared with those obtained from small sheltered patches in and about Bombala, the result may be detrimental to Orange.

Mr Kennedy - The drought has not affected Lyndhurst

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It affected that part of the country to a very material extent. The honorable member, like the honorable member for Gippsland, has had great practical experience in farming, and if he were to visit the Orange-Lyndhurst district, and then visit Dalgety and Bombala, and look at the granitic country which prevails there, he would readily determine which of these two districts would support the larger population per acre.

Mr Brown - According to the Commissioners' report, there were only 4,207 acres under maize in the Bombala district, as against 6,938 acres under maize in the Lyndhurst district.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Quite so. Any man of common sense who visits the two districts must readily admit that Lyndhurst is better suited to agricultural purposes. I am only an amateur farmer, although I have had some litte experience in that direction; but the merest amateur would be able to say from an inspection of the two districts which is the better agricultural country. If he were to see Bathurst as we saw it on the morning' of our last visit - if he were to look at the evidence of successful and profitable farming to be seen on every hand there - and then . compare it with the vast stretches of land in the' Monaro country, he would recognise that the Bombala district does not comprise land as well suited to agricultural purposes as is the land in the western district. Various statements have been made as to the climatic conditions of Lyndhurst, but we cannot get away from the minimum and maximum temperatures recorded - we cannot get away from the figures collated for a number of years past; From a consideration of them I am forced to the conclusion that the climate of the Orange and Lyndhurst districts is similar in almost all respects to the climate of Tasmania, which is held to be one of the healthiest and most perfect in the world. Lyndhurst possesses many advantages. It boasts of centrality ; it is easy of access, possesses a good climate, and is already connected with the railway system of the State. Every one who has visited the district admits that its soil is capable of supporting a larger number of persons per acre of cultivation than is any of the other sites. Then we have the fact that there is an abundant supply of building material in the neighbourhood, that it possesses deposits of coal and of iron, and an ample supply of building stone, and there should be some strong reason to- justify the rejection of a district that is so admirably suited to the purposes of the Federal Capital. What is that strong reason? I have not yet touched very fully on the question of a water supply. I admit that in that respect Dalgety is the best of the sites.

Mr Kennedy - Except Tooma.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe that the Tooma water supply is practically inferior to that of Lyndhurst, in the sense that the water of many of the creeks there is polluted.

Mr Kennedy - Who says it is?-

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the report of the New South Wales Water Commission, a copy of which I saw in the chamber this afternoon, there is evidence that it is largely polluted by mining and sluicing operations carried on along the river. Evidence to that effect has been given by squatters and land-holders in the district.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member, for his own sake, should not talk any more nonsense.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I give the honorable member credit for that bluff honesty which is one of his chief characteristics, and he should give me some credit for honesty of motive, and allow me to conclude my remarks without interruptions of that kind. "Unquestionably the best water supply is to be found at Dalgety.

Sir William Lyne - No.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - On the other hand, Dalgety has many drawbacks which are not associated with Lyndhurst, and, in view of the last report received from Mr. Wade, I am convinced that we shall obtain sufficient water not only to supply the domestic requirements of the population of the Federal Capital for very many years to come, but for irrigation purposes, and to allow of the formation of an artificial lake. In these circumstances, and seeing that, if Lyndhurst were selected, we should avoid the enormous initial outlay of connecting the Capital by railway that would be incurred in the case of some of the other sites, I intend to vote for that site all the time. If I am beaten, I shall transfer my vote to Dalgety, because of the existence of the Snowy River there, which I consider is a very strong attraction.

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