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Tuesday, 9 August 1904


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The speech of the honorable and learned member for Indi - which I will not venturetoquestion from the standpoint of the legal interpretation which he places on this provision - rather aston ished me, so far as it related to the claim which he considers the Commonwealth has upon New South Wales in regard to the Federal territory. He stated that rather than surrender to the will of any State he would refuse to choose a site for the Seat of Government. I could understand that declaration coming from an honorable member who desires to indefinitely postpone the selection of the Federal Capital, but I cannot understand it coming from one who is ready to promptly give effect to the provisions of the Constitution. Is our will - whatever it may be - without consideration of the rights, the equities, and even the sentiments of New South Wales, to be enforced upon that State, and if that State declines to allow of its enforcement, are we to declare that we will not give effect to the provisions of the Constitution ?


Mr Isaacs - That is not what I said. What I. said, in effect, was that the will of no State should be allowed to stand in the way of national sentiment and national requirements.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - According to the view entertained by the honorable and learned member, no consideration should be given to the request of that State for ordinary fair treatment, in regard to what was understood to be the meaning of the Constitution. He has told us that, according to his legal opinion, every inch of the State of New South Wales could be resumed by the Commonwealth for Federal territory.


Mr Isaacs - Who said so?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member said so.


Mr Isaacs - I beg the honorable member's pardon.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member declared that no maximum area was imposed by the Constitution, but only a minimum, and that, therefore, the Commonwealth can take as much as it sees fit. As a matter of fact, I do not think that is so, although I should be very reluctant to set my opinion upon legal matters against that of the honorable and learned member. Still there aremany good lawyers who entertain a very different view. I think that any Court would decide that the area of the Federal territory must reasonably approximate to the minimum of 100 square miles prescribed by the Constitution, unless, as a matter of negotiation, New South Wales chooses to grant a much larger area. Like the honorable member for South Sydney, I am not averse to that State ceding a larger extent of territory if she chooses to do so, although I personally object to large areas.


Mr Fisher - Suppose that New South Wales refuses to negotiate with the Commonwealth upon any terms other than by granting it a territory comprising 100 square miles?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not say that that State has any right to adhere too closely to the minimum area of 1 00 square miles. The Constitution declares that there should be an extension of that area if necessary, but the extension should be merely of a give-and-take character, for which we see necessity, or consider the natural features of the country require it. The intention of the Convention in this connexion is very clear, although it was not the Convention which prescribed the minimum area of 100 square miles. The idea of the author of that limitation was that the Federal territory should embrace an area of approximately 100 square miles. The right honorable member for Swan was its author, and from the official report of the Convention debates, I find that when the area of that territory was under consideration, he interjected, " Make it 100 square miles." A little later, in speaking, he said -

I should like to see it laid down in the Bill that the Federal area shall contain not less than 100 square miles.


Mr Glynn - It was also intended that the large cities should be excluded from becoming the Seat of Government by that provision.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I cannot say. It appears to me that on that point arguments were advanced upon both sides. Some desired to have the Seat of Government located in the capital of a State, and others did not. Evidently the right honorable member for Swan thought that100 square miles was a desirable area to acquire, in order that the city might be laid out in a manner worthy of its importance. Subsequently the very words which he suggested in the speech to which I have referred were incorporated in the Premiers' agreement, and embodied in the Constitution, which was accepted by the people of Australia. I do not argue that the Government of New South Wales ought not to give every consideration to the requirements which the Commonwealth may put before it. We must have a given area. In some localities one area would be desir able, and in another a different area. When we demand from a State what we do not yet know will be of the slightest value to us, and without good reason say we must have our own way, we indicate a desire to humiliate that State. It is a proposal, by taking a large area, to cut ourselves off from the State, even if the characteristics of the country we acquire render that area undesirable. The Minister of Home Affairs referred to the question as if the Bill merely provided that an area of 900 square miles shall be acquired, and the honorable and learned member for Indi also spoke of the same area. I interjected at the time that the Bill provides not that an area of 900 square miles shall be acquired, but that an area of " not less than " 900 miles shall be secured. That is a very important distinction. Under the clause as it stands it would be possible for the Government to ask, as suggested by an honorable member of another place, for an area of 20,000 square miles. I am altogether opposed to the acquiring of a large area, although I am not averse to negotiations on the part of the Parliament for what may be considered a suitable piece of country. I am personally opposed to the acquiring of a large area simply because I consider that it would be undesirable. No unearned increment would attach to some of the territory taken under such a proposal as this, and it seems to me that in respect to some portion of the area the Commonwealth would regret the purchase that it would be compelled to make. If it be not intended that the area to be acquired shall exceed 900 square miles, why not insert in the Bill a provision to that effect ? Why not provide that an area " not exceeding 900 square miles" shall be acquired? I believe, however, that objection could be taken to even such a limitation as that, because, by taking over a slightly increased area, we might be able to secure much better boundaries.


Mr Isaacs - We might fix a minimum and a maximum; there might, perhaps, be some reason for that.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The minimum is already fixed.


Mr Isaacs - The honorable member is referring to the minimum fixed by the Constitution ; I am speaking of a minimum and a maximum to be fixed by the Parliament.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member does not propose that the area to be acquired should exceed 900 square miles ?


Mr Isaacs - No,"- I say that we might provide that the area shall be not less than 800 square miles, and not more than 900 square miles.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Such an alteration would hardly be worth making. The Minister of Home Affairs spoke of the way in which New South Wales had been whittled away since the establishment of that State, and seemed to think that it had become so accustomed to that process that we had only to continue it.


Mr Batchelor - I did not think anything of the kind.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman said that this area and that area had been taken away from New South Wales.


Mr Batchelor - I said that there was a greater outcry over the proposal to acquire this territory than there was over making Queensland a separate Colony.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There were good reasons for the establishment of Queensland as a separate State, but I cannot see any reason for the proposal that, without knowing how the land is to be utilized, without a knowledge of the outlines of the territory, without any information as to what area in the vicinity of the Seat of Government is worth taking over, we should take over not less than 900 square miles, whether the land be good or not. We are to provide for a minimum, and to say to the people of New South Wales, " If you disagree with our proposal we have no right to surrender ourselves to your will, and you shall get no Capital in your State." That attitude might be followed by eventualities which I should be very sorry to see. In the interests, not of New South Wales, but of Australia, I am absolutely opposed to the idea that we should acquire a territory which we may approach without setting foot on New South Wales soil. If there be anything foreign to a 'Federal union it is the feeling that we cannot establish our Government in any State - I care not what State it is - without the expectation that the people of that State will become antagonistic to us. If honorable members hold such an opinion, I can only say that we have not advanced far towards the realization of the true spirit of Federal union.


Mr Fisher - Do not all our laws indicate that -we have the power to compel the States to do certain things?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was not even dreamt of in the Convention or in the Federal Conference, and it has never been dreamt of in certain other Federations. What was the motto of those who advocated Federation ? Was it not " Ohe people, one destiny ?" Yet here we are seeking to make ourselves a separate people; to insult a State ; to say to the people of that State, "We cannot put such trust in you as to allow it to be necessary for persons to pass through your territory in order to reach the Federal (Capital; we must be able to get from the Federal Capital to the sea without passing over a foot of your soil. If we do not obtain that means of ingress, and of egress, we shall not establish our Capital in your State." Is that an attitude that is calculated to breed goodwill between the States? Is that an attitude that is likely to make us one people with one destiny? I presume that if this area is obtained the Government will ask for a large vote for fortifications, because of a fear 'that the people of New South Wales, or of the rest of Australia, may attack the Federal Executive. Instead of seeking to realize the Federal motto, "One people, one destiny," we are endeavouring to create two separate destinies for the people. We are saying, in effect, to the people of one State, comprising a third of the people of Australia, that we should not trust ourselves to go among them, because if we did we might not be permitted to leave their territory. To my mind that is worse than ridiculous.


Mr Conroy - Why do we trust ourselves to come here?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If we were in danger here we might escape, if we were lucky, by the Yarra, but the suggestion that we cannot trust a State is, to my mind, one of the lowest aspects from which to regard the Federation. If there are other good reasons for this proposal they may 'be considered ; but how can we expect any State to give us a large portion of its coast line, arid to cut off its own territory north and south, simply for the reason which is implied, if not expressed, that we cannot trust the people of the State to give us means of access to and of egress from the Federal territory. I trust that the word " should " will be substituted for the word " shall " in the clause. The last Parliament adopted that courteous policy, and we should do the same. The honorable and learned member for Indi says that in the Constitution the word " shall " is used in reference to the Seat of Government. In that respect greater courtesy was shown than is proposed to be displayed in connexion with the taking over of the Federal territory. The Government of New South Wales was communicated with in reference to the matter, but even before that stage had been reached it showed its willingness to assist the Federal Parliament in selecting the Seat of Government. It appointed a Commissioner, whom every one will admit was thoroughly impartial - a man without leanings to any State - to inspect a number of sites that were suggested. Over forty sites were put forward, and having inspected those which he considered at all suitable for the purpose, he furnished a report to the State Government. The State Government not only offered the Federal Parliament the choice of any of the best sites, but said - " As far as possible we shall reserve the Crown lands within these areas so that you may get as much as possible for nothing."


Mr Isaacs - I for one do not anticipate the slightest friction in this matter between the Commonwealth and the State.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If a demand be made for this large area of territory on the ground thai we have a right to demand it - and I, in common with many legal authorities, doubt if we have that right - a difficulty will be created at the very outset.


Mr Isaacs - I have never said that we have a right to demand.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the provision in the Bill is really a demand.


Mr Isaacs - It is merely an expression of our opinion.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should certainly prefer to see the words referred to omitted, but, to meet the views of those who hold a different opinion, one pf two other courses might be followed. We might, first of all, substitute the word "should" for the word "shall." That would be at least a courteous course to adopt. If the honorable and learned member for Indi thinks that the use of the word "should" would be less effective than would be the use of the word "shall," his opinion differs from that of others.


Mr Isaacs - Would it give the Ministry power to accept a less area ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Ministry will not accept any area without submitting the matter to Parliament. I think that the Minister has already told us that that is their intention.


Mr Batchelor - I do not think that we should.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I certainly do not.


Mr Batchelor - The agreement should be submitted to Parliament.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will come before the Parliament. Therefore, as a matter of courtesy, the use of the word " should," as agreed to by the last Parliament, is preferable to the use of the word " shall." I should like to see the clause so amended that it would provide that an area of "not more" than 900 square miles should be taken over, instead of an area of " not less than " 900 square miles. That would indicate, at all events, that there was some limit to the authority given to the Government, and to our desire for the acquisition of New South Wales' territory. According to the Minister of Home, Affairs and others, it is not anticipated that more than 900 square miles will be required. It is rather extraordinary that the honorable and learned member for Indi voted to-day for the Upper Murray district, and that several other honorable members, who share his views on this point, did the same. Half of the unearned increment attaching to the selection of that site would have accrued to land on the Victorian side of the Murray. What, therefore, becomes of the argument as to the unearned increment ? I do not know what weight the honorable and learned member for Indi attaches to it.


Mr Isaacs - I did not say a word about it.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But many honorable members, who have advanced that argument, voted for the Upper Murray district, although the selection ot that site would have meant that half of the unearned increment would apply to land in Victoria.


Mr Fisher - Parliament, in its wisdom, decided otherwise.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But it was a very close vote. Is it because the State of New South Wales is concerned that the unearned increment is demanded ? I do not believe that, but look at the appearances. Some members were prepared to put the Capital in a situation where half "the unearned increment would have gone into the pockets of an adjoining State ; but when the Capital is fixed in another position, the State in which it is located is to have no advantage from the unearned increment.


Mr Fisher - We think that the people of Australia, who will have to find the money for the Capital, should have the benefit of the increment-


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have been contending that we have to consider the interests of the people of Australia, but some honorable members appear to think that we are choosing the Capital for the benefit of a separate people, and that it must be barricaded round and kept away from the rest of the people of Australia. I do not object in any way to the unearned increment, if there is any, being received by the Commonwealth Government, or the State Government ; it does not matter which.


Mr Fisher - It should be received by the Federal Government, because the people of Australia will pay the money.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In any case the. amount will not be great.


Mr Batchelor - It will pay the cost of the buildings, any way.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is possible that, in the course of time, the value of the land within the Federal area may rise considerably, but not alone in consequence of the establishment of the Federal Capital there. The only suggested site where the unearned increment was likely to be considerable was Lyndhurst, because that is the only district which has great resources. But at Dalgety I am afraid that we shall have to wait for the unearned increment until land begins to get scarce in Australia. I was in Washington in 1884. It was then a skeleton city. I believe that it has improved very much since then. My visit was long after the city was established. I was amazed, first of' all, at the beauty and expensiveness of the buildings, and also amazed to see that the cart-wheel streets that radiated from the centre, were nothing but skeleton streets with a few houses dotted here and there about them. I believe there has since been some considerable increase in the population.


Mr Glynn - There are 300,000 people there now.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But does not that include the inhabitants of Georgetown, on the Potomac River? I doubt verv much whether there are 300,000 people in the Federal territory.


Mr Glynn - At the time of the centenary the population was given as 298,000.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a verv small territory The whole, including the river town, does not exceed 100 square miles.'


Mr Conroy - Probably 200,000 of the inhabitants are negroes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the older town there are two blacks to one white, certainly, but in Washington itself that is not the case. The city may have increased considerably since I was there, but apparently at that time there was very little unearned increment in Washington. If that was the case in Washington, which is situated close to the Potomac River, and right in the centre of busy coastal States, how much can we expect from an area situated in the midst of the Snowy Mountains at Dalgety? I am not finding fault with the site, but am simply pointing out that Dalgety is near no stream that reaches the sea.


Sir John Forrest - The Snowy River runs to the sea.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I mean a stream by which traffic can reach the sea. No traffic can at any time reach the sea by means of the Snowy River. I accept the selection which Parliament has made, but I fear it will be a very long time before there is any unearned increment from the site selected.







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