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Thursday, 4 August 1904

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I rise to speak upon this important question from a perfectly impartial stand-point, inasmuch as I have no electors to' please or displease, and, therefore, have no political axe to grind. I disagree with those advocates of the Lyndhurst site who affirm that in declaring "that the Federal Capital should not be located within 100 miles of Sydney, the Conference of Premiers responsible for the limitation, intended that the Seat of Government should be established as near to that limit as possible. In my opinion, no such idea was present in their minds, they merely intended to provide that the Federal Capital should not be within 100 miles of Sydney. I believe they desired that the determination of what was the most suitable territory in which to locate the Seat of Government should be left to this Parliament. If the representatives of New South Wales desire to settle this question without any further delay they can easily do so by agreeing to the selection of the Bombala district, which is the territory that has been chosen by the Senate. I claim that it would be difficult to find better land than exists in the Bombala district. Its great drawback is that- it is not connected by railway communication. There we find beautiful streams of water, and undulatingcountry, interspersed with occasional belts of trees. I have seen no finer stock than is to be found there, in any part of New South Wales. Although the weather is usually cold, the' climate of Bombala is quite equal to that which obtains in any other district. There is certainly a disadvantage in connexion with the water scheme of Bombala. The water would have to be pumped to convey it to the Federal Capital. But to ' obtain an excellent water supply, we have only to go to Dalgety.- There the Snowy River flows through the site, which is sheltered by the mountains from the westerly winds. I do not want to pit the Dalgety country against other districts. I admit that the land is poor as far as quality is concerned It is principally granite boulder country. There is very little basalt. If we took a large area probably it would include some basalt country, but there would be none within a limit of ten miles square. I do- not, however, attach much importance to the quality of the land. It has been proved' that by means of scientific manuring poor land can be put to very good uses. There is land in Victoria that formerly returned only three bags to the acre, but which now, in consequence of scientific manuring, is yielding seven to the acre. Therefore, I do not attach much importance to the land at Dalgety being inferior, and there are other considerations which make the site very desirable. There is water in sufficient quantities to supply a city very much larger than we shall have for many years to come. There is also enough water to give us electric power. With respect to railway communication at Dalgety, there would be thirty miles of line to construct. That is not a very large' undertaking. In connexion with the Lyndhurst site, we hear of the possibility of connecting Werris Creek with Wellington, and running a railway on to Western Australia. As compared with schemes of that kind, the thirty miles of line that would have to be built at' Dalgety, would be a trifling scheme: The honorable member for Moira spoke of the Dalgety country as being too cold for his horses. But any person who knows anything about stock will be aware that horses that have been fed in the Riverina country would necessarily suffer on being taken to a cold climate 2,000 feet above the sea-level. Therefore, there is not much in that point. I do not think I have seen finer cattle anywhere than I saw there. The sheep also were excellent. It seemed to me to be good stock country, though I do not attach much importance to that from the -point of view of establishing a Federal Capital.-

Mr Liddell - They were very poor horses that we had in our coaches.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - They were not grass-fed station horses. There are just as good horses on the stations in that district as are to be found in any part of Australia. They do not go in for draught horses there. Coming to Tooma, on the western side of the mountain, I do not think there is finer country in Australia than can be found there along the river flats of the Murray, and also along the creeks leading into the main river. I have not seen finer land anywhere for grazing or agricultural purposes. The cattle also look well. We have heard something about sheep records to-night. Some of the Upper Murray residents told me that they knew of land that was carrying seventeen sheep to the acre. That statement was too much for me. I flatly said that I did not believe it. But to-night the honorable member for Canobolas assured us that land to which he referred carried seventy-five sheep to the acre. The statement of the Tooma residents was mild compared with his.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was on irrigated land.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Fancy, 75,000 sheep on 1,000 acres of land ! 1 profess to know something about sheep and stock, and I venture to say that 75,000 sheep on 1,000 acres of land would trample down the grass in one night. You cannot make grass grow above the sheeps' heads. It does not matter whether the land was irrigated or not, the sheep would trample down the grass.

Mr Brown - The sheep were not fed on the land, but were fed off it. " .

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - That is quite another thing. I am speaking of running sheep on to land. When I was told of land carrying seventeen sheep to the acre. T said that I did not believe the statement, although some of my colleagues thought I was rather sceptical. I have never seen a finer site than that at Welaregang. Probably there is not a grander view in Australia. You see the snow-capped mountains running from Kiandra to the Bogongs in Victoria, and standing above them all is Kosciusko with its pyramid of snow. The climate is not too cold. I do not know what it may be like in summer, but when we were there in winter it was beautiful.

Mr Liddell - Are there no blizzards?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - We experienced none. You see on your right the beautiful crystal streams of the Tooma and the Murray trickling away on their course to the sea. I admit that if we intend to have an area of 900 square miles, we cannot get that extent of good land at Tooma. We can get it at Dalgety or Bombala. But if we are content with ten miles square, there is not a finer site obtainable than that of Tooma. The only objection to it appears to be that it is too near to Victoria. That is the whole cry of the New South Wales people. But that consideration has nothing to do with us. We need not care whether it is near Victoria or not. We have to decide which is the most suitable site for the benefit of the people of Australis. We are not deciding for ourselves, but for posterity ; and if we choose the worst site, posterity will curse us for what we have done. As to its being inaccessible from the point of view of railway construction, I would remind honorable members that some years ago there were many situations which were inaccessible from a railwaypoint of view. The railway over the Blue Mountains from Penrith to Glenbrook, had to go by means of the zig-zag. Bui that has been largely overcome, and to-day the engineers have the plans of a line t<\ go straight to Lithgow, without using the zig-zag at all. In these days of engineering advance, difficulties of that kind are more easily overcome than was the cast, in former years. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa, to whos*. opinion some credit has been attached, because he is a practical surveyor, spoke of the difficulties of the country. But, as a. matter of fact, he took no levels,- and his opinion is worth no more than mine. We must remember that in constructing railways, engineers do not go over mountains if they can help it. They follow the course of the creeks. That is always done in making roads and railways in any part of Australia. I happen to know something about Lyndhurst, because I lived in the neighbourhood for a considerable time. I have also read a great deal about the suggested site there. A picture book has been circulated amongst honorable members, in order to show them the beauties of the site. But half of the pictures in the book do not pertain to Lyndhurst at all. Thev have printed pictures of the Wentworth falls, and the Katoomba falls, and thev have had to go up to Pera, across the Darling, to find a picture of an artesian bore.

Mr Batchelor - Did the honorable member ever see any dust in that country ?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - As to 'the water scheme. I know the Lachlan from one end to the other, and at numerous places I have stepped across it in normal seasons, while in years like 1883 and 1884 no water is to be seen. If water does flow down the Lachlan at such times it is underground, like some of the engineering of which we have heard in' connexion with this question. I do not know the exact proposed site, and, therefore, I do not question the engineer's figures. While it may be rough country for prospecting, I believe that a large water catchment could be made by building dams ; but my experience of dams is that wherever they are built the water becomes objectionable to use. At the source of the water supply in Brisbane the water is full of weeds in the summer season, and the wild birds deposit foul matter in it.

Mr Fuller - What about the Prospect Dam?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - The Nepean, which supplies the dam, is always running, and that makes a difference. Rockhampton, too, has a stagnant water supply; and we should have the same experience if a dam were constructed at Mr McDonald. There is the Carcoar " sewer," as it is called, which runs through the town right up to the proposed Capital site. In the picture-book which we have seen, a weir, built by one of the mining companies, is shown with the water pouring over it; but that place is something like the Coombing Falls - when you go there no water is to be seen. As to the climate, I think that of Lyndhurst is as good as that of any other area. The Minister of Home Affairs asked about dust ; but my experience is that there is no place in Australia where dust is not to be found. Wherever we find auriferous country and mining we have poor country.

Mr Batchelor - What about Ballarat?

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I admit that Ballarat is an exception, but it is mostly deep sinking at that place.

Mr Kelly - It was alluvial at one time.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - It is alluvial now. At Canowindra, and round about there, we find good ' country, but that is thirty or forty miles away from this proposed site. At Orange there is good country, too ; but if Lyndhurst be chosen, Orange is out of the question. It is said that a railway will have to be made from Werris Creek to Brisbane. Thi? is held out as a bait to Queensland; but I do not think that it is at all likely that the New South Wales Government would build a railway which would divert the traffic from Sydney.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That railway has been submitted to the Public Works Committee.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - Many works have been before that Committee; indeed the honorable member was recently twitting the honorable member for Hume about the many proposals he has submitted to that body. Honorable members who talk about the cost of thirty-one miles of railway to Bombala or Tumut, say nothing about the cost of the railway from Werris Creek to Wellington. -

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That railway would be wanted if the Tooma site were selected.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - But it would then open up much better country than there is about Lyndhurst.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is a very limited area of good country at Tooma.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - I am only speaking of the country which I know, but there are large areas which I have not seen, but which I am informed comprise splendid land. Then I do not think that it is at all likely that the New South Wales Government will build a line from Cobar to Wilcannia and Broken Hill.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That line has been passed by the Public Works Committee, and has been constructed as far as Cobar.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - But the New South Wales Government will not extend it to Mount Hope or to Louth; they will not take a line through mallee or sand. I am a Queenslander, but I shall not vote for a site, the selection of which would prove a national calamity, and I say this with a full knowledge of every inch of the country. It is poor, miserable' country, where the only object that can be shown is Mount Macquarie in the distance. Whatever site may be chosen, I hope it will not be Lyndhurst.

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