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Tuesday, 9 August 1904

Mr WILKS (Dalley) - Whatever doubts I may have had in the early part of this debate have been entirely removed by the honorable and learned member for Indi. He talked about Federal sentiment and Federal ties, but he desires to strike the hardest bargain possible with New South Wales. His steel-pointed and casehardened idea with regard to the Capital site was enough to destroy the Federal spirit in almost any member of this Chamber. He talked as though a bargain were about to be made between two foreign countries - say, between Russia and Japan at the conclusion of the present war.

Mr Isaacs - What is the hard bargain?

Mr WILKS - The honorable and learned member read the phrase " not less than 100 square miles " to mean " as much more as we can possibly get." If he fights so bitterly for what is contained in the Constitution, I must interpret in the same way his desire that the Commonwealth shall acquire not less than 900 square miles, as provided in this Bill. If the people of New South Wales have been caught once, they are not likely to be caught again in the same way. " Once bitten, twice shy." This is where the hard Bargain comes in. If the honorable and learned member interprets "not less than 100 square miles" to mean that we can take 900 square miles, we may expect that he will interpret " not less than 900 square miles" to mean that we can take 90,000 square miles, or even the whole of New South Wales.

Mr Isaacs - I have not said that I agree to that interpretation.

Mr WILKS - I think that it is an impudent action, to put in this Bill a demand for so large a territory. The right honorable member for East Sydney said that there is too much ultimatum in it. Let me add that there istoo little pomatum. The Prime Minister can easily approach the Premier of New South Wales, and say that the desire of the Federal Parliament is that 900 square miles shall be acquired. If he can show good reasons, I have no doubt that that area will be granted, and the matter will be over. But in this Bill we are not asking for negotiations. The Minister of Home Affairs points a revolver at the head of the Premier of New South Wales, and says - " I am not going to negotiate with you; my position is that we must have 900 square miles, and you had better be a good fellow, and grant it." But now the honorable and learned member for Indi says that he will not be satisfied even with that. He must have access to the territory by sea, because, he says, there is a danger that some time or other Federal members may be molested by the people of New South Wales. That, I suppose, is the Federal spirit ! The honorable and learned member has the impudence to tell us that the people of New South Wales are a race of savages. He is afraid that he would not be able to travel through the territory of that State. We must give him a port. He must have a strip of territory from the Capital city to the sea, seventy miles by twelve. This attitude is not new on the part of the honorable and learned member. He played the same game in the last Parliament with the same motive.

Mr Isaacs - Is the honorable member responsible for what he is saying?

Mr WILKS - Yes, I am.

Mr Isaacs - I should not have thought it.

Mr WILKS - The occasion was when Tumut was selected. The honorable and learned member for Indi moved an amendment that the territory be stretched down to the Murray River, in order to get access to the sea.

Mr Isaacs - I was not even present when the vote was taken. I believe that it was the honorable member for Grampians who made the proposal, but I was not here.

Mr WILKS - I thought that it was the honorable and learned member who started the idea. I apologize to him for making the mistake. New South Wales did not expect to have a model territory carved out of her province. She did not expect to have experiments made in Socialism and collective industry. She took a rational view of this question, and was prepared to grant a certain area of Crown land to the Commonwealth. She did not contemplate that the Commonwealth was to take as much as it liked. If the Prime Minister can approach the Premier of New South Wales and show good reasons for a larger area being granted, probably it will be granted. Butwe should not demand it. The Prime Minister will find that if the people of New South Wales receive proper treatment, and are taken into our confidence, they will not be inclined to strike a niggardly bargain. They have always adopted the policy of open-handedness towards the people of Australia generally. But they certainly are suspicious when Federal members like the honorable and learned member for Indi say that they will not surrender this and that. He must have a Bill, which says that a certain thing shall be done, that there must be an area of not less than 900 square miles - and that may mean any larger area - and that there must be access to the sea. The only lesson to be learnt from this by New South Wales is either that the honorable member wishes to filch too much territory from that State, or that he wishes to further delay the selection of the site.

Mr. REID(East Sydney).- I desire to test the question I raised some time ago, and I now move -

That the word " shall," in line 4, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " should."

I recognise that, although I am opposed to an area of 900 square miles, "the majority of the members of the Committee disagree with me on that point.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not so sure of that.

Mr McDonald - The amendment to substitute " should " for " shall " was carried by a large majority last year.

Mr REID - I content myself at present with the amendment I have moved. I believe that it will express the view of the majority of honorable members with perfect clearness, and will avoid, what seems to me, to be a positively offensive way of beginning what ought to be a friendly negotiation.

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