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Thursday, 4 August 1904


The CHAIRMAN - The determination of the Seat of Government is the question before the Committee.


Mr CARPENTER - I shall allude only briefly to the matter with which I am dealing. We had a change of Government, and it taxed the energies of the Prime Minister to the utmost to meet the various objections raised against the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. His continuous application finally caused him to become unwell, . and under the circumstances, he was quite justified, when a stage in the consideration of that Bill in Committee had been finished, in asking honorable members to go on with the discussion of another measure, while the Government considered the amendments made in the Conciliation Bill. Although coming from a distant State, and although it is to my advantage to have the business of Parliament conducted in as short a time as possible, I have no sympathy with the objection which has been raised to the ' action of the Government in bringing forward the Seat of Government Bill. I believe that had other legislation been introduced, their action would not have been criticised, but in any case, we do not wish to be enabled to return quickly to our homes by overworking those who hold Ministerial office. What I have to say in regard to the proposed sites is not very much. I believe that no votes will be changed by the discussion of this clause, Every honorable member who has dealt with the subject has treated it differently, but most of them have viewed it wholly from the stand-point of the States from which they come. .1 do not blame them for doing so. But I claim the right to deal with it in the same way, particularly as the State which I represent received no consideration whatever in the early stages of this matter. I .take exception, however, to two sets of arguments which have been used by honorable members. In the first place, I think that it would be disastrous to approach the consideration of the question from what I may call the extreme Kyabram stand-point, which was emphasized by the honorable and learned member for Wannon.


Mr Tudor - Kyabram is dead.


Mr CARPENTER - I am aware of that ; but its ghost still lives, and a few honorable members, especially representatives of Victoria, are always ready to bring it before us. I hope that parsimonious ideas will nol. take possession of the minds of honorable members in connexion with the building of the Federal Capital. I would rather see the matter delayed for fifty or 100 years than have a cheap and nasty place erected, in accordance with the ideas of Kyabram. We can afford to wait for our Capital, but we cannot afford to disgrace the country by building a city of tin shanties. Let us erect a city of which those who come after us will be proud. I do not blame honorable members -for dealing with the subject from the local point of view. We were sent here to represent particular districts and Stales, and we cannot forget the fact, no matter how much we try. But, in dealing with a great national question such as this, parochial interests must be left out of view. At the present time only the fringe of this great country is populated, but I believe that in the future the whole of Australia will be settled. In my opinion, Central Australia will in future carry a very big population, and coming generations will wonder why we were so short-sighted in fixing the site of the Federal Capital as to consider only the existing population on the coast.


Mr Kelly - Does the honorable member think that the centre of Australia is capable of carrying a large rural population ?


Mr CARPENTER - Certainly I do. To my mind there is no doubt about it.


Mr Mcwilliams - In that case thefuture generation must be constructed like camels, and able to go for a week without water.


Mr CARPENTER - I think that the experience of other places has shown that the settlement of Central Australia is more than probable. I am with those honorable members who contend that the Federal Capital should be centrally situated. But ideas on the subject appear very vague, and very much at variance with actual facts.


Mr Batchelor - Port Augusta is the true centre.


Mr CARPENTER - If the matter is to be looked at from the Australian standpoint, the Capital should be placed as near to the western borders of New South Wales as is possible. Of course, the matter has hitherto been argued only with regard to the present location of population. It is strange that honorable members have lost sight of the fact that during the last ten or twelve years the trend of population has been altogether away from the more populous States. Not only honorable members, but also the representatives of the States at the Convention, overlooked the important fact that population was trending westwards.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And northwards.


Mr CARPENTER - I shall give the figures for the Northern States. According to Coghlan, during the period from 1 89 1 to 1902 - twelve years - Victoria lost by excess of emigration over immigration 123,855 people. South Australia lost 21,142, and Tasmania 1,895 - I suppose it had not any more to lose. New South Wales gained 16,155, Queensland 18,675, and Western Australia 145,165. Thus the gain of Western Australia was four times greater than that of all the other States combined. These figures show that Western Australia has been entirely overlooked. I know that it is now too late to remedy the mistake that has been made. I find that the population per square mile in New South Wales is 4"53, as contrasted with13.78 in Victoria. When honorable members who represent the mother State are speaking of Sydney as the hub of the universe, they should remember that there is something to be said in favour of establishing the Federal Capital in a localitv to the southward of Sydney, inasmuch as the population of Victoria is three times as dense as that of New South Wales.


Mr Liddell - What about, the Panama Canal ?


Mr McLean - What about the Encyclopaedia Britannica ?


Mr CARPENTER - It is rather early to consider the possible effects of the Panama Canal upon Australian trade. Although I admit that we cannot alter what has been done, I have always objected to the manner in which the question of the Federal Capital was dealt with at the Premiers' Conference. That was a secret meeting, and only those who were present know exactly what happened. In spite of all our inquiries, all we can ascertain is that there was a lot of haggling and bargaining. We are told that the representative of New South Wales insisted upon provision being made in the Constitution for the establishment of the Federal Capital in New South Wales. The Victorian representative said that if that were insisted upon that he would see to it that the Capital was not established anywhere near Sydney, and in spite of the protests of the right honorable member for East Sydney, the historical 100-mile limit was imposed - a stipulation at which future generations will laugh.


Mr Mcwilliams - The present generation is laughing al it.


Mr CARPENTER - It is enough to make people laugh. It would have been preferable to have the matter left for settlement by the people of Australia. I believe that if we had had a perfectly free hand we should have selected a site somewhere on the borders of New South Wales. As matters stand, however, we cannot do justice to the subject, because we have to observe hampering conditions, which prevent us from doing that which we conceive to be best. I have visited all the proposed sites, and have honestly tried, apart altogether from my predilections, and certainly free from local bias, to decide which is the best site. I shall refer only to the three sites which are regarded as having a chance of selection. I went to Lyndhurst expecting to find a much better tract of country. I was disappointed, after hearing so much in praise of that site from the representatives of New South Wales, to find a dry, dreary, barren prospect, with nothing whatever to make it attractive. The land appeared to me to be of only second or third-rate quality, and I saw no vegetation except in the form of dried grass or Scotch thistles.


Mr D A THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The Scotch thistles would be an indication of good land.


Mr CARPENTER - Yes ; but these thistles were dead. Even the hares and rabbits there seemed to be more miserable than those to be found in other parts of the country. In the Bombala district I saw more than one site that would be suitable for a very fine city. I think that the district is to be congratulated upon having two or three eligible sites. The desirableness of having a Federal port led me, in the first instance, to give my adhesion to the Bombala district. I regard as of the highest importance the question of providing an outlet by sea, so that the Commonwealth Government shall not be confined within the borders of any one State. I am afraid that, if we tie ourselves up within the borders of New South Wales, and thus place ourselves at the mercy of that State - I use the term advisedly - as to means of ingress and egress, the time may come when we shall regret our action.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is exhibiting a fine Federal spirit.


Mr CARPENTER - My attitude is only in keeping with theFederal spirit which has been shown in this Chamber. The representatives of New South Wales are not displaying a very good spirit towards the rest of Australia. Although they are assured by the terms of the Constitution that the Federal Capital shall be located within New South Wales, they are now claiming that they have the right to name the district in which it should be situated, and the extent of territory which shall be acquired by the Commonwealth.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why does not the honorable member object to the Seat of Government being in Melbourne, seeing that we are at the mercy of Victoria?


Mr CARPENTER - The question of meeting here for a time is entirely different from that of establishing the permanent Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. Of the sites in the Bombala district, that at Dalgety appealed to me as being the best, chiefly on account of its picturesqueness. I am not given to raving about beautiful scenery, although I appreciate it as much as most men. If we are to build . the Capital in the Bombala district, it would be a pity to overlook the Dalgety site, with its fine background of mountains and the Snowy River flowing around three sides. When I went to the Tumut district, however, I was forced, much as I liked Dalgety, to award the palm to Welaregang. It has all the advantages possessed by Dalgety, from the picturesque stand-point, and it possesses the further recommendation that the country is very rich. I do not think that we could find anywhere in Australia a more suitable tract of country or a better site for the 'Federal city. The site possesses every essential, and I am quite sure that if those honorable members who have not yet visited it could only see it they would agree with me. As regards accessibility, I. would point out that a matter of 100 miles is a mere bagatelle to the average Australian traveller. The representatives of Western Australia have to travel from 2,000 to 2,500 miles in order to attend the meetings of Parliament, and yet we find honorable members who live in Sydney attaching great importance to the question of a mere fifty or 100 miles of extra travelling. When once a man has to travel, of what importance is an extra fifty or 100 miles? Are we going to sacrifice the very best site that can be found in Australia for the sake of bringing the Federal city 100 miles nearer to some particular point? Honorable members who regard the matter from that stand-point lose sight of the most essential consideration. I began by saying that I should prefer to see the establishment of the Capital delayed for fifty or 100 years rather than that we should engage in such an enterprise in any spirit of parsimony. Although I. am now prepared to vote for the site I have indicated, with Dalgety as a second choice, I still hope that there will be no undue haste in arranging, for the establishment of the Federal city. The people of New South Wales may, perhaps, grumble if we do not make as much haste as they think we should, but we have to consider the whole of the Commonwealth. Instead of building the city with borrowed money, we should cut our coat according to our cloth, and defray the cost of the preparatory work out of revenue. Then, by-and-by, when we have to build the city, we may possibly have to resort to some other means of raising the necessary funds. I hope, however, that for some years to come we shall not be under the necessity of borrowing money. The suggestion has been made by one or two honorable members that we ought to make haste to leave Melbourne. I confess that I am in no hurry to get away from this city. I am aware that some honorable members - myself amongst the number - occasionally chafe under what we regard as the unfair criticism of the press. But I am not going to allow that criticism to drive me to take up my abode in a desolate wilderness. I like to read my morning newspaper, as well as do most honorable members. Those who cry out most loudly against press influence would probably be the first to grumble if they woke up in the Federal Capital and lacked their morning newspaper. To my mind, it would be a calamity if Parliament were placed out of touch with the best thought which finds expression in our great cities. Upon more than one occasion I have had to fight the press, and I may yet have to repeat the experience. Nevertheless, I do not hold with the cry that we should place ourselves outside the sphere of press influence as speedily as possible. When we go to our new home we should do so because we are under an obligation to acquire a territory of our own, and not from any other reason. Of all the localities in respect of which we are asked to vote, I regard the Tumut area as the most suitable for the establishment of the Federal Capital. The Bombala district is my second choice, and, I think, that Lyndhurst is the very worst site that is available. In my judgment it would be disastrous to the best interests of the Commonwealth if that site were selected.







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