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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

The PRESIDENT - Not in the Senate.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator is really anticipating the discussion on the Bill.

Senator PULSFORD - The Bill is noi on the notice-paper, and may not reach the Senate. During the present session, I have been silent about the Capital site, but in consequence of remarks made by Mr. Carruthers last_Friday, I think it is desirable to refer to the matter, and, in view of the stage of the session we have reached, I propose to be as brief as possible. I would remind honorable senators that the Constitution in section 125 distinctly provides that the Capital shall be in New South Wales. Naturally that State claims the fulfilment of the provision ; but I venture to say that it is not making the claim so much on the ground of. constitutional right as on the ground of the justice upon which it is based. The settlement which was come to in that regard was based entirely on the logic of population. If we take the figures for Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, we find that the aggregate population of those four States is considerably below the population of New South Wales, and that ittakes the whole of the population of those four States, and more than one-ninth of the population of Victoria,to reach the total of the population of New South Wales. It is on that ground that it was decided that the capital should be in that State.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - Was it not a compromise ?

Senator PULSFORD - I have not hesitated to say in this Chamber that had the condition been without justification, I should have been prepared to ignore it, and even to ask for its repeal. I have said before to-day that I am proud of the historical record of New South Wales, inasmuch as her policy in regard to her business relationships with the other States has always been a friendly one, based on generous lines.

Senator DAWSON (QUEENSLAND) - What about the war of railway rates; was that friendly?

Senator PULSFORD - I wish to point out that the special provision in the Constitution, embodied in section 125, was the result of a resolution agreed to by the Premiers' Conference that met in Melbourne in 1899. I quote the following sentence from the resolution referred to : -

Provision is made in the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales at a reasonable distance from that city.

The reference is, of course, to Sydney-

Senator Givens - Who said that?

Senator PULSFORD - That was tha decision of the Conference of Premiers that met in Melbourne in January, 1899.

Senator Playford - That is not in the Constitution.

Senator Givens - What were the exact terms of the resolution?

Senator PULSFORD - I thought to save time, but perhaps I had better read the resolution -

Federal Capital. - With regard to the Federal Capital, the Conference reported thus -

It is considered that the fixing of the site of the capital is a question which might well be left to the Parliament to decide ; but, in view of the strong expression of opinion in relation to this matter in New South Wales, the Premiers have modified the clause so that, while the capital cannot be fixed at Sydney, or in its neighbourhood, provision is made in the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales at a reasonable distance from that city. Accordingly, the request of New South Wales that the capital should be in that colony was granted, but with two conditions which Victoria insisted upon : - 1. That it should not be within 100 miles of Sydney. 2. That the Parliament should sit in Melbourne until it met at the seat of Government.

That was the resolution agreed to by the Premiers' Conference that finally settled this matter. Honorable senators will notice that there are two conditions mentioned ; the first, that the Capital should be in New South Wales, and the second that it should be not less than 100 miles from Sydney, but still within a reasonable distance from that city.

Senator Playford - There is nothing about a reasonable distance from Sydney in the Constitution.

Senator Matheson - Where is that said?

Senator PULSFORD - I have read the reference twice.

Senator Playford - It does not matter what the honorable senator has read; the question is : What is in the Constitution ?

Senator PULSFORD - I am obliged to the honorable senator. I shall refer to that point later on. The resolution deals with these two points, that the Capital should be established in New South Wales, and should not be within 100 miles of Sydney. But the agreement on which it was based contains also the words, " Provision is made in the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales at a reasonable distance from that city." I have been glad to find that one honorable senator is entirely ignorant of that fact. I take it that whether the whole of the conditions were finally embodied in section 125 of the Constitution or not, so long as they were agreed to by the representatives of the different States, the one fact will be held to have equal weight with the other.

Senator Givens - No, the Constitution has the force of law, and the resolution has not.

Senator Findley - The Constitution was submitted to the people, and the resolution was not.

Senator Matheson - The Honorable senator is merely quoting Quick and Garran's comment upon the section.

Senator PULSFORD - I beg the honorable senator's pardon. I quoted the actual resolution passed by the Premiers' Conference. Now, what was the view taken in regard to this matter by public men? I propose to put one witness into the box, in the person of the honorable and learned gentleman who is to-day Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. On the 29th June, 1899, Mr. Deakin, speaking in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, on the Australasian Federation Enabling Act Amendment Bill, referred at considerable length to the question of the capital, and from his speech, I propose to take four extracts, of which this is the first -

Much as I owe to Melbourne, my native city, where I have spent my life, and to which I owe all possible loyalty and obligation, I should vote as an elector of the Federal Parliament against any proposal to retain the Federal Legislature here more than' its due time. I do not think that it will be attempted to be so detained.

Senator Givens - Hear, hear; the only persons retaining it now are the members of the New South Wales Government.

Senator PULSFORD - This is the second quotation I make -

Since a special district has been sot apart for the Federal Capital, I may say that, so far as I have any knowledge of the feeling of the electors of Melbourne, and of the feeling of the members of this House, as well as o'f the Victorian representatives at the late Convention, there will be no. attempt to keep the capital in Melbourne one single day longer than is necessary. I believe this colony would feel that such conduct constituted a breach of faith. The people of Victoria would be ashamed to cherish such a prospect, and would resent any such statement as an aspersion on their honour. Be that as it may, there stands in the Bill a provision that the capital shall be within New South Wales, and I take it that the Parliament will be removed thither as soon as a site can be selected, and that will be before any lengthy period has elapsed.

This is the third quotation I make from the speech -

The Federal Capital, I hope, will be created at an early date on the most suitable site, not situated so as to be under provincial or metropolitan influences, but sufficiently in the interior to give a guarantee to the great ..'.. of the people of Australia that their interests will be considered apart from the overshadowing influences of any town, class, or caste. I believe that the Federal. Capital can be founded in temporary fashion within three or four years of the establishment of the Commonwealth, and I hope to sec it during that period able to accommodate the Federal Parliament and its Executive.

The fourth quotation I make is as follows : -

It is agreed on all sides that the Federal Parliament will remain in Melbourne no longer than is absolutely necessary.

These extracts from the speech delivered by Mr. Deakin make the matter very clear. I have only to add that I do not think that Mr. by other utterances, and similar utterances by other men, were repudiated by public men, either in "Victoria or in any other State. It was under this inducement, and with the full knowledge of these statements, that New South Wales accepted the Commonwealth Bill. It was in a belief in what was said that the people of New South Wales said "Yes" at the Referendum. It was with the expectation that the promise would be fulfilled, and that the interests of New South Wales would be absolutely safe that the people of that State entered into the Federation, although the Constitution provided for a Senate in which New South Wales would be represented by only six members, whilst a population less in the aggregate than hers would be represented by twenty-four members, because it was divided between four different States. Surely the trust of New South Wales was justified, and representatives of the other States are prepared to show that it was justified? It will be observed that the utmost limit of time mentioned by Mr. Deakin in the quotations I have given was three or four years. Within that period, at the utmost, Mr. Deakin expected not only that the Capital Site would be selected, but that the Federal Parliament and its Executive would actual Iv be located there.

Senator McGregor - He must have been very sanguine.

Senator Pearce - Mr. Deakin never reckoned on a Mr. Carruthers.

Senator PULSFORD - Very likely. About five years have passed, and we know what the position is to-day. There has come gradually to the front a certain force - I do not know how strong it may be, but it has its mouthpiece in the Age, and this newspaper stated not very long ago that fifty years hence will be early enough to' think about translating the head-quarters of the Federation from Melbourne to its. own Capital. I ask honorable senators if, on this bare recital of the facts, they do not think there is some justification for annoyance in New South Wales - that there is even .some ground for the use of strong language, and some excuse to be made for the rather heated speech delivered on Friday last by Mr. Carruthers?

Senator Pearce - Can the honorable senator excuse the gag?

Senator Givens - That speech was absolutely inexcusable.

Senator PULSFORD - The gag was not the speech. As I think honorable senators well know, I for one deprecate the use of the gag, and I think that on the occasion referred to it was a very ill-advised act to bring it into force. I point out that Mr. Carruthers did not refer to the fact that New South Wales is herself partly responsible for the present position.

Senator Matheson - Absolutely.

Senator Playford - We have chosen the site; why does not New South Wales give us the land?

Senator PULSFORD - It was proposed time after time by the Barton Government to indicate the sites which we wished to have considered, but the See Government in New South Wales maintained an obstinate silence. Then it has to be remembered that two New South Wales representatives - Sir William Lyne and Mr. Austin Chapman - representing border constituencies, fought keenly for their own individual electorates, without reference to the condition about a reasonable distance from Sydney, and ignoring also the wishes of the majority of the people of New South Wales. Further,, the reports of the two Commissions appointed to consider the question left much to be desired from the point' of view of New South Wales. One was appointed by New South Wales and one by. the Federal Government.

Senator Playford - The New South Wales Commission recommended the site that this Parliament adopted.

Senator PULSFORD - These matters all tended to delay, and in bare justice they should have been recognised by Mr. Carruthers. There is another matter. Honorable senators will remember,, that in the Senate I have most frankly recognised the honesty of those members of Parliament who have asked for information as to expenditure. The years we have passed through have not been years when the representatives of any State would have been justified in overlooking the necessity for economy. Two or three years ago I suggested the wisdom - nav the necessity - of a scheme of finance being arranged to cover a given number of years, and under which modest buildings could be constructed which ultimately could be superseded by larger and more imposing structures. To fail to recognise the honesty of opponents is not uncommon in( politics, but it has not been a failure of mine; and I have always deemed that Tasmania, for instance - which is struggling gallantly in the face of a very difficult financial position - is thoroughly justified in asking, when this Federal Capital business is pushed forward, what .it means as a matter of finance. The framers of the Constitution thought only of building with borrowed money. We have advanced, and, as I think, happily advanced, under that system of finance. But it brings difficulties with it. The cash system must be faced in all its details. These are some of the points which I think in all fairness must be remembered by those who study the subject. In these few remarks, I have, I think - as I said I would! - briefly traversed the main points connected with the subject. Mr. Carruthers has referred to a large number of matters in respect of which New South Wales has suffered, and under which it is, perhaps, natural that he and his Ministers should smart. I do not desire to go into those matters, except to say that I think that Mr. Carruthers' picture is over coloured. I have thought it to be my duty to refer to this subject in order to make clear the salient points, and also in the hope, and with the expectation that I should elicit from honorable senators an expression of their willingness to do all that is necessary in the most friendly spirit to carry out the conditions of section 125.

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