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Thursday, 4 August 1904


Mr FULLER (Illawarra) - I am very glad that the Government have afforded the Committee an opportunity to finish the debate on this question to-night, in order that a vote may be taken on Tuesday next. I think that we must all, under the circumstances, agree with the action of the Government in connexion with the adjournment over to-morrow. I certainly agree with it. During the last Parliament I spoke at considerable length on the question of the Federal Capital site and made a comparison between the various sites submitted at the time. Having already made up my mind as to the site for which I shall vote, and believing that most honorable members have also made up their minds on the question, I do not now propose to enter at length upon a comparison of the advantages of the various localities under review. I have given every consideration to the question, and, unlike some honorable members, I have taken an opportunity to visit every one of the sites with the exception of the last, which has been suggested at, I think, a rather late hour, and from the first I took the objection to that site that, being right on the southern border of New South Wales, its selection would be outside the understanding entered into with the people of New South Wales. That I shall presently endeavour to show. I shall ask the special attention of the honorable member for Gippsland to what I propose to say about Bombala; I think that the selection of Tooma, Bombala, or any other place situated on the southern border of New South Wales, would practically create a buffer State' between Victoria and New South Wales, and that that would be outside the terms of the arrangement as put before the people of New South Wales when the referendum was taken on the Commonwealth Bill in 3899.


Mr McLean - If that view is correct, should not the Constitution have provided for a limit from the border as well as a limit from Sydney?


Mr FULLER - Quite so; it would have been better if it had contained such a provision. But I shall ask the honorable member directly to listen to what was put before the people of New South Wales, not only by the leaders of the Federal movement and the advocates of the Commonwealth Bill, but also by those who were leading the movement in opposition, and who were known at the time as " anti-Billites." The statement put before the people of New South Wales at that time bv the leaders of both movements was that the Federal Capital should be established within a reasonable distance of Sydney, and that it should be in such a position that Sydney would be its port. I do not propose to deal with the statements made by the lesser lights who followed the leaders of both movements, but, contenting myself with the observations of the lenders, I am sure that I can satisfy the honorable member for Gippsland that my contention in this matter is substantially correct. Some honorable members are particularly touchy with respect to promises, or supposed promises, made before Federation was agreed to. I refer especially to honorable members who represent Western Australia. We; have had the right honorable member for Swan, and other honorable members from that State, telling us that a promise was given to the people of Western Australia that if they agreed to come into the Federation they should have a Transcontinental Railway to connect that State with the Eastern States.


Mr Carpenter - Would the honorable and learned member vote for it?


Mr FULLER - I shall consider that question when it is brought forward. What I ask of honorable members from Western Australia at the present time is that, if I am able to show that a promise was made by the leaders of the Federal movement in New South Wales that the Federal Capital should be established at a reasonable distance from Sydney, and in such a position that Sydney would be its port, they will give that fact careful consideration when deciding upon the site for which they will vote. It has been contended by various honorable members from New South Wales that, because that State must give the territory required, and for other reasons, the people of that State are entitled to some substantial gain. As I took a fair amount of interest in opposing the Commonwealth Bill, I am aware that a large number of people in various districts in New South Wales were largely influenced in the votes they gave in connexion with Federation by a consideration of the position in which they were given to understand the Federal Capital' would be established. When it was known that as the result of the Premiers' Conference the Federal Capital was to be established in New South Wales, and they were given to understand by the leaders of the Federal movement that it would be within a reasonable distance of Sydney, that had a material influence upon the number of votes cast for the Commonwealth Bill in the referendum taken in 1899. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, in advocating the Southern Monaro site last evening, said that we required a gateway to the sea for the Federal Capital. The gateway to the sea put before the people of New South Wales was the port of Sydney. There can be no doubt that the promise made to the people of that State was that Svdney should be the port of the Federal Capital, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and other honorable members who agree with him in supporting a Southern Monaro site, and in advocating another gateway to the Federal Capital, are departing from the understanding submitted to the people of New South Wales, that Sydney was to be the port of the Federal Capital.


Mr McLean - Does the honorable and learned member think that any one has the power or the right to promise anything that was not contained in the Constitution, either in regard to a railway to Western Australia, or anything else?


Mr FULLER - I do not; but I say that the leaders of the Federal movement put the position before the people of New South Wales in a certain way. A distinct promise, in the terms I have stated, was made to the New South Wales people by Sir Edmund Barton, the Honorable R. E. O'Connor, the Right Honorable G. H. Reid, and others leading the Federal movement, and honorable members representing New South Wales constituencies should, at all events, stand by it. But . in this Chamber we have some honorable members from New South Wales prepared to vote absolutely in opposition to the promise; we even have the honorable member for Hume ready to vote against the distinct statement which he himself made to the people of Sydney and of New South Wales, when speaking at Waverley in 1899. I propose to quote the honorable gentleman's observations on that occasion.


Mr Page - Does the honorable and learned member contend that the Committee should be bound by the promises of those individuals ?


Mr FULLER - I do not contend that for a moment. All I say is that promises were made to the people of New South Wales by the leaders of the Federal movement, and that when those promises are submitted to honorable members in the words used by the persons who made them, they should be given fair consideration. I do not for a moment contend that honorable members of this Committee are bound by promises made by Sir Edmund Barton, by the right honorable member for East Sydney, or by any other man ; but I hope that honorable members from all the States will take these matters into consideration when deciding the site for the Capital. I find that Sir Edmund Barton spoke, in support of the adoption of the Commonwealth Bill by . the people of New South Wales, in the Temperance

Hall, Sydney, on the 1st May, 1899. The right honorable member for East Sydney, and a large number of other Federalists were present at the meeting, and, from their silence, I presume they agreed wilh the expressions used by Sir Edmund Barton on that occasion. The right honorable gentleman said -

I am perfectly satisfied that the Federal Capital will always be in such a place that Sydney will be the trading port.

That was the position put before the people of New South Wales by the leader of the Federal movement. .


Mr Crouch - That was before the right honorable member for East Sydney had agreed to the exclusion of Sydney.


Mr FULLER - No. The honorable and learned member will pardon me. This meeting was held about three weeks before the referendum was taken in 1899, and after the right honorable member for East Sydney had agreed, in conference with the Premiers of the other States, to the 100- miles limit from Sydney. Speaking at Marrickville, a little later, on 13th June, Sir Edmund Barton said -

Wherever the Federal Capital was placed Sydney must be the trading port of the Capital.

Those are very strong expressions from the leader of the Federal movement, and, naturally, the people of New South Wales attached very great importance to what was said by the right honorable gentleman on that occasion. I find that the present Mr. Justice O'Connor, who was one of the prominent supporters of the Federal movement in New South Wales, speaking at Balmain on 15th June, 1899, in connexion with the Federal Capital, said -

The Capital being fixed in New South Wales, a vast advantage must accrue to Sydney.

These quotations surely show that these leading representatives of the Federal movement fully believed, wished the people of New South Wales to believe, and induced them to believe, that when the Federal Capital was established Sydney would be its trading port, and that Sydney and New South Wales would necessarily get some advantage from the arrangement. The right honorable member for East Sydney, speaking on 16th June, 1899, at Goulburn, referred to this matter in the following words : -

I am not saying this to-night to pleaseyou. I said it in February last, when coming through Albury. They asked me if the Capital would be there, and I said that, in my opinion, it would be on the Southern line, a little below Goulburn.

Other members of the right honorable gentleman's administration, including the Postmaster-General of New South Wales at the time, and a number of prominent men and members of Parliament in New South Wales, made use of similar expressions. This all goes to show that the idea in the minds of those gentlemen, and the idea which they desired to convey to the people of New South Wales, was that the Federal Capital was to be established in such a position that Sydney would be its port, and that New South Wales, in that way, would derive some distinct advantage from the establishment of the Capital within that State. I have given quotations from the leading "Billites " in New South Wales at the time of the referendum. But it was not only the ".Billites," but also the " antiBill ites " of whom the honorable member for Hume was one of the leaders, who put this view before the people of New South Wales. I point out, in passing, that the honorable member for Hume went so far as to say that in consequence of Eden-Bombala being so far south, it was entirely out of range, and could not be taken into consideration -at all. We find that the honorable gentleman is now advocating the selection of Tooma, which is right on the southern border of New South Wales, and which is fur- ther south even than Dalgety. As one of the leaders of the " anti-Billite " party in New South Wales, the honorable gentleman made use of expressions in connexion with the position of the Federal Capital very similar to those made use of by advocates of the Bill. Speaking here the other night, the honorable gentleman said that we should not be building this Capital for the present, but for the future, and that we should look forward to the time when the population of Australia would be very much greater than it is at present. He contended that in fixing the site of the Federal Capital we should take that into consideration, in order that it. might be established as near as possible to the centre of the population of the Commonwealth. In making these observations the honorable gentleman was advocating the selection . of the Tumut district, embracing the three sites of Tumut, Batlow, and the new site. at Tooma; but on 31st May, 1899, speaking in Sydney at Waverlev, the honorable gentleman took a very different view as to where the centre of population was likely to be. The honorable gentleman spoke at that time, not with a view to pleasing his constituents, but as a leader of the great movement in New South Wales in opposition to the Constitution Bill. He said -

The excess of population in the Colony in future would be to the north of Sydney, and not to the south of it, and the Capital should be placed at Armidale or somewhere in that direction.


Mr Mcwilliams - Who said that?


Mr FULLER - The honorable member for Hume, when speaking on the Constitution Bill at Waverley in 1899.


Mr Page - The scene has changed since then.


Mr Robinson - The honorable gentleman has found a new constituency since then.


Mr FULLER - The scene has changed; and the honorable gentleman is now advocating the selection of a site which is as remote from Sydney as any site in New South Wales can possibly be. He referred to the matter again on 31st May, 1899, when speaking at Sydney. The honorable gentleman was then strongly advocating the claims of Sydney as the Capital of Australia. He said -

Perhaps there might be something in the argument that Sydney should not be the Capital. Still, we had a right for the Capital to be placed within a reasonable distance of the metro, polis of New South- Wales.

It has been the subject of keen remark in New South Wales, and has come as a shock to the electors of that State who heard the honorable member for Hume say a few years back that if the Seat of Government could not be in Sydney it should be within reasonable distance of that metropolis, to find that he is now endeavouring to have it placed on the southern border of the State, and as far from Sydney as is possible.


Mr Kelly - The phrase " reasonable distance" is used in the resolution of the Premiers. They resolved that the Capital should be within reasonable distance of Sydney.


Mr FULLER - Quite so; but I do not wish to go over ground already traversed. The matters with which I have dealt are matters to which no. other honorable member has referred. Sir Edmund Barton, Mr. Justice O'Connor, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the honorable member for Hume, were four of the most prominent speakers for and against the Federal movement in New South Wales, and they undoubtedly led the people of that

State to believe that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth would be placed within a reasonable distance of Sydney, and that Sydney would be its port. Every elector in the mother State who took any interest in the matter was under the impression that the Federal Capital would be so placed. Therefore I ask honorable members to bear that fact in mind, and, while giving full consideration to the merits of the various proposed sites, see that the wishes of the people of New South Wales are not ignored. In my opinion, the Lake George site is the best that has yet been proposed, and when the last ballot was taken, I, with another honorable member, voted for it. That site is almost midway between the great cities of Sydney and Melbourne, and easily accessible by railway, because it is close to the main line which connects them. It also possesses an advantage which no other site has, inasmuch as it fronts a large sheet of water, while its climate is equal to that of any of the other proposed sites. The selection of that site would have carried out the representations made to the people of New South Wales, and would have fallen in with what was said on the subject by the right honorable member for Adelaide. Unfortunately, however, the Lake George site was inspected under conditions which did not give it a fair chance. We were taken to the worst part of the site - to one end of the lake which, after ten years' drought, was almost dry; and' the day was a -bad one, so that the place was seen under every disadvantage. Apparently the site is now out of the running, and under these circumstances the next best site is, in my opinion, Lyndhurst. Sydney would certainly be the port of the Federal Capital if Lyndhurst were chosen, and that site has all the necessary advantages of climate, accessibility, and so forth. I am, therefore, anxious that the Lyndhurst site shall be chosen, and I ask honorable members in dealing with this matter to give fair and honest consideration to the fact that a great many of the electors' of New South Wales who voted for the acceptance of the Constitution were led to do so on the representations of Sir Edmund Barton, Mr. Justice O'Connor, the honorable member for Hume, and the right honorable member for East Sydney, which I have already ( quoted.







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