Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - Were it not for the fact that Mr. G. H. Reid is now leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament, two things would not have happened. First of all, Mr. Carruthers would never have made the speech which he did make in Sydney on Friday last, and probably Senator Pulsford would not have moved the adjournment of the Senate today. I believe that the action taken bv Mr. Carruthers has done much to further delay the settlement of this question. I believe, also that the action taken in the Senate today by Senator Pulsford has been prompted more by party motives than by any desire that the question should be fairly considered. In support of that opinion, I propose to quote from a journal admitted to be favourably disposed towards Mr. Reid. There appears in to-day's Argus a statement made bv Mr. Reid in an interview with the representative of that newspaper in Sydney on the question of the Federal Capital Site. Most of the right honorable gentleman's remarks were made in criticism of the action taken by Sir William Lyne.

Senator Lt Col Gould .- And most of Sir William Lyne's remarks were in criticism of the action taken bv Mr. Reid.

Senator O'KEEFE - I particularly desire to bring under the notice of honorable senators what Mr. Reid has to say at the conclusion of the interview. The Argus reports him to have said - 1 heartily agree with Mr. Joseph Cook that the trouble has come from New South Wales' representatives in the Deakinite and Labour parties more than from the representatives of the other States.

That is the kernel of the whole question,' from Mr. Reid's point of view.

Senator Gray - The honorable senator is surely not going to deny it?

Senator O'KEEFE - Certainly I do. There has never been any party aspect in the consideration of the choice of the Capital site by this Parliament. There was never any party action taken in connexion with :the matter in the Senate, and we know that, but for the stand taken by the Senate, Dalgety would not have been chosen. No honorable senator representing New South Wales ' can declare that the action taken by the Senate in selecting Dalgety was prompted by party motives. I would ask whether Senator Mulcahy belongs to the Deakinite or Labour Parties? Does Senator Clemons belong to those parties ? I believe the honorable senator would not care to be told that he did. It will not be contended that Senator Dobson belongs to those parties. I believe the honorable senator was not in favour of the selection of any site at the time, but he preferred Dalgety to any other site suggested. Again, Senator Macfarlane cannot be said to be a member of either the Labour Party or the Deakinite Party, yet all these honorable senators voted for Dalgety. While we have honorable senators talking about what Mr. Reid has said, that the whole trouble comes from the Labour Party and the Deakinite Party, it is just -vs well for us to remember that there seems to be at least a suspicion that the action taken by Mr. Carruthers last week, and in the Senate to-day, is prompted as much by party motives as by an actual desire to have the question settled.

Senator Lt Col Gould - The honorable senator is absolutely wrong in making that statement.

Senator O'KEEFE - I think I have done well in bringing under the notice of Senator Gould the fact that the leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives is trying to make party capital out of this question ; and it is my opinion that if Mr. Reid had been Prime Minister, instead of leader of the Opposition, the extraordinary speech of Mr. Carruthers would never have been made. Extraordinary charges levelled at representatives of other States, who have shown that they are actuated by an earnest desire to have the question settled, would not have been made either. I am one who is anxious to see the question settled. I voted for Dalgety after having seen the Bombala country and all the other sites, except Tooma and Lake George, because I came to the conclusion that it was the best site in the interests of the whole of Australia. My chief reasons for voting for Dalgety were, first, that it was within reasonable distance of a port, and, secondly, that there was a chance there of obtaining a large area of land, which I think is necessary in the interests of Australia. The great question which has agitated the minds of the people in all the States in reference to the Federal Capital is that of expense. We have been repeatedly told that Australia cannot stand the expense of erecting a Federal Capital. A number of us came to the conclusion that if we could secure a large area of land around Dalgety, there would be a very fair chance of making the Federal Capital selfsupporting; that is to say, that the increased value given to the land by the establishment of the Capital there would, within a very few years, make the Capital selfsupporting. It would not then be a burden upon the taxpayers. But as one of those who voted for Dalgety, I have recently been asked whether I should be inclined to reconsider the whole question. It has been put to me in this way : " If you can be satisfied that a sufficiently large area of reasonably good land can be obtained around another site, giving free access to as good a port as Twofold Bay, would you be prepared to reconsider your decision in favour of Dalgety"? I said, "Yes." I have not gone the length of saying that I should be in favour of accepting the Lake George site. But as one who is anxious to see the question settled, and-who recognises that the delay is a source of friction between the Parliament of New South Wales and the Parliament of the Commonwealth - friction which has been largely brought about by the action of New South Wales - I should be willing to reconsider the question, if the new site which has been put forward offers the same advantages, in my opinion, as does Dalgety. But I shall have to be satisfied that it does offer equal advantages. Just when a movement was in progress amongst members of Parliament for the reconsideration of the question, we were suddenly confronted with the extraordinary speech of Mr. Carruthers, which heaps entirely undeserved insults upon the representatives of other States. In view of the attitude of Mr. Carruthers, I do not feel anxious that any further steps should be taken in connexion with the matter. It would be a good thing for the Premier of New South Wales to have a little time to calm himself down, and to come to a more reasonable frame of mind. It will be an advantage to give him an opportunity to take a more Federal view of the question than he now seems to do. I am not sorry that Senator Pulsford has brought the matter before the Senate, although the whole subject is likely to be gone over again between now and the end of the session. No doubt the discussion has been useful in clearing the air a little bit in advance of the debate which will take place later.

Suggest corrections