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Tuesday, 28 November 1905

Senator STEWART (Queensland) - I have no doubt that Senator Walker, whenever he has travelled, has met with the utmost consideration from the railway authorities; otherwise he would not stand up here and say so. But he should not cast a reflection upon other members, whose experience may not have been as fortunate as his own. Because the honorable senator has not had trouble with the railway .authorities, it does not necessarily follow that other Members of Parliament have had the same experience.

Senator Walker - I have never heard other members complain.

Senator STEWART - We are entitled to assume that those who do complain are speaking the truth, just as we assume that Senator Walker is speaking the truth. Other members having stated their grievances, it is not sufficient for Senator Walker to get up and say that he has never had any trouble. Perhaps not ; but he ought not to cast reflections on other members who say that they have had trouble. As to the Federal Capital question, it appears to me to have got into a most unfortunate position. The Parliament of the Commonwealth has practically chosen a site. I do not know whether any formal demand for the territory has been made upon New South Wales. But New South Wales has signified distinctly and clearly that she will not give us Dalgety. That attitude has been taken up by the New South Wales Government. That Government has thrown down the gauntlet, and has challenged the Commonwealth to a pitched battle on the question. It is our duty to take up the gauntlet.

Senator Walker - The New South Wales Government simply wants to obtain the opinion of the High .Court.

Senator STEWART - We do not want the opinion of the High Court. We want the opinion of the people of Australia, as expressed by their representatives in the Parliament of the Commonwealth. If the High Court should decide that New South Wales has a right to have a voice in choosing the territory, I for one will support an alteration of the Constitution, so that the will of the people of Australia may be ascertained. New South Wales deliberately refuses to grant the territory that we have chosen. What is the next step? What does the Government intend to do ? Does it intend to knuckle down tamely, or to insist upon the site chosen by the Commonwealth being adopted? I say frankly that if New South Wales does not come to terms, we have the other alternative - we can remain in Melbourne. Rather than concede to New South Wales practically the right of choosing the Federal Capital, I would have the Seat of Government in Melbourne for all time to come. But is the Government going to allow this matter to drift along as it has been doing for some time past? Is the Prime Minister going to continue writing pleasant letters to the Premier of New South Wales, whilst that gentleman answers them in language more or less unpleasant?

Is the Government going to bring the matter to a head, or to allow it to drift ? Last year we spent £1,645 on the Capital Site business. This year we are asked to vote £1,000. The probability is that if the question is not settled next year we shall have another sum placed upon the Estimates ; and so on every year thereafter until doomsday - and we shall have no site, no Capital, and nothing to show for the money. I should like to hear what the policy of the Government is, and whether it is likely to lead to an early settlement.

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