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Thursday, 20 May 1915

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) .- It must have surprised, and even shocked, many honorable members to see the honorable member for Echuca father this motion. I have just been reading the record of utterances delivered by him not so long ago, which seem to contradict his present action .

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - The honorable member must take care lest his own remarks be quoted.

Mr FENTON - I hope that I shall never be afraid to confess to an honest change of front. I thought that . practically every honorable member had come to the conclusion that, whatever views might be held originally regarding the selection and establishment of the Capital, Canberra having been finally chosen, we should push on with the establishment of the city. In my opinion, the sooner this Parliament meets at the Federal Capital, the better it will be for Australia. I should be prepared to meet in a tin shed at the Capital, if necessary. I am certain that, from a health point of view, it would be no worse than the place in which we are now. Speaking on the 15th October, WIS, the honorable member for Echuca said -

Prior to the late election, when I had the honour of beirne returned by a large majority indeed, I told the people that we had embarked on the building of the capital, and that the position of honorable members was such that it would go on, whatever Government might be in power.

He also said -

A large majority is pledged to push on with the capital, and unless money is to be thrown away progress must be made at a reasonable rate.

Mr Palmer - I was speaking of normal conditions. The conditions now are abnormal.

Mr FENTON - The honorable member, who was then discussing the precarious state of the finances, was ready even to go to his uncle to borrow the money, if need be. He said -

If the Federal Capital can be built with loan money, borrowed at a reasonable rate, with a properly apportioned sinking fund, there will be more to justify our support of the project. As the honorable member for Grey has thrown out a challenge to those on this side, I have made my position in regard to this matter plain. I told the people that whatever Government was in power, this expenditure would continue, and that if I could relieve the burden of taxation by supporting a judicious borrowing policy I would do so.

The honorable member must be aware that, if there were a cessation of expenditure at the Federal Capital now, a large number of men would be thrown out of employment. Would that be conducive to the well-being of the community at this juncture ?

Mr Palmer - Why not employ them on reproductive works?

Mr FENTON - They are being employed on reproductive works now. We have 1,000 square miles of Federal Territory, and the more we improve it, the more the Commonwealth will ' benefit. When the honorable member was speaking on a previous occasion, the honorable member for Darwin interjected that the establishment of the Capital would be a very good proposition indeed, and the honorable member himself advanced arguments in favour of proceeding with the work. Very few honorable members have seen the whole of. the Territory. I believe that if honorable members generally had seen a large part of the Territory, they would be more inclined to push on with the work there, to increase the value of this asset. It surprises me that at this late hour the honorable member for Echuca should object to our expenditure there, seeing how much we have already spent. I hope that the work will proceed, and I am sorry that there is not a larger number of men employed there. ,1 should like to see the labour market relieved by the extension of works at the Federal Capital. I do not think that we should wait until a large ornamental building can be erected before moving to the Federal Capital. The construction of the outer portion of the Federal Parliament House could await a convenient time, and, in the meanwhile, our architects could easily provide a hall whose acoustic properties would be better than those of this chamber. Once Parliament met at the Federal Capital, its development would be very marked, and the value of the land there would increase rapidly because of increased population. The proposal having got beyond the debating stage, we should give effect to our determination regarding it as soon as we can. I believe that the sentiment of the people of Australia will be more truly expressed by the National Parliament when it meets at the Federal Capital than would be possible in any big centre of population. In a big city the Parliament is surrounded by local influences. Australia, like America, needs a Federal Capital.

Mr Palmer - Is the honorable member afraid of the local press?

Mr FENTON - There are other pressing influences at work in a State Capital besides the press. I shall oppose the motion by vote and voice, and I trust that the Minister of Home Affairs will push on with the works at the Federal Capital, so that the Federal Parliament may meet there as soon as possible.

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