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Tuesday, 12 December 1905

Senator STEWART (Queensland) - I can hardly refrain from expressing my surprise not only at the extraordinary attitude taken up by the New South Wales Premier and his Parliament, but that that attitude should be persevered in by honorable senators from New South Wales.

Senator Pulsford - No; that is a mistake. I repudiate that.

Senator STEWART - If I am mistaken, I apologize; but I understood that every New South Wales senator was more or less in sympathy with Mr. Carruthers. It ought to be clear to every one that the delay that has taken place in dealing with the Federal Capital question is not due to the Federal Parliament. The Constitution has given the people of Australia, through their representatives in Parliament, the right to choose the site for the Federal city. This Parliament has availed itself of that power. It lost no time in doing so. Indeed, a great number of people seemed to think that we rather hurried than otherwise. In any case,, we have done what the Constitution demand's. As pointed out byother honorable senators, we did not go searching for a Capital site on our own account, but visited the places singled out for us by the New South Wales Government. We examined each one in detail, and finally determined on a particular site; and the Federal Parliament and Government have done everything that ought to be expected1. But how have the New South Wales Government met the Federal Government? In a Federal spirit? No; anything more contemptible, more arrogant, more unFederal than the attitude of Mr. Carruthers and his Parliament it is scarcely possible to conceive. I am not very sure whether the New South Wales people are really in earnest. It has been stated in a newspaper that the closure was applied during the debate, so that members might go to a dinner given by Lord Jersey. They were apparently more concerned about dining with Lord Jersey than having the important question of the Federal Capital discussed exhaustively. That incident throws a little light on the subject. It appears to me that somehow our New South Wales friends are making far too much noise about the question. I have read of people who try to divert blame from themselves by raising a row about something which has no particular reference to the question in hand ; and I am very doubtful whether these tactics have not been attempted by the New South Wales Government at the present moment. In any case, I do not see what the Senate can do to help our friends in New South Wales. We have chosen the site and done our part, and it is now for the people of New South Wales to do their part. I can hardly believe that the electors of the State are in agreement with the New South Wales Government on this matter. I can scarcely conceive of people in any portion of the Federation being s,o unFederal - so selfishly and1 stupidly unFederal as Mr. Carruthers and his friends would make it appear. Mr. Carruthers, unfortunately, from my point of view, is the chief exponentor representative of public opinion in that State at the present time, and what he says, I suppose, we must take as the view of people. But it is, not likely that the people of Australia will ever permit New South Wales to thrust any particular site clown their throats. New South. Wales, from the beginning, has shown herself to be extremely selfish. In the first instance, New South Wales insisted on theCapital being situated within her territory, though not within 100 miles of Sydney. Was that not an extremely selfish stipulation to insert in the Federal bargain? What right has New South Wales, any more than any other State, to have the Capital within her borders ?

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - As the people assented to the Constitution containing that stipulation, we do not complain of it now.

Senator STEWART - I know that perfectly well ; I am merely pointing out that, from the very beginning, New South Wales has apparently been actuated by the meanest and most sordid motives. Unfortunately for us, instead of becoming more Federal, New South Wales is becoming less and less Federal ; and unless she can arrogate to herself all the power, influence, honour, glory, and cash, she threatens to secede. Well, that is a frame of mind that requires a good douche of cold water. Neither the Government nor the Parliament of New South Wales appears in a very decent light before the people of Australia, who, wherever they are, must regard with amazement and sorrow the position taken up by that State - amazement that any section should attempt to arrogate to themselves powers and privileges to which they have no right, and should be distinctly so unFederal. Certainly there is not much brotherly love and affection displayed in this business on the part of New South Wales. Like SenatorO' Keefe, I was prepared, in the interests of peace, to consider another site. The question of substituting Lake George on certain conditions was mentioned to me, and, in order to promote the settlement of the question, I said I was willing to give the matter further consideration. But I do not see how I can do that now. The Premier of New South Wales has come forward like a bandit or highway robber-

The PRESIDENT - I do not think the honorable senator should use such expressions in regard to the Premier of New South

Wales. The expressions are too strong, and very improper.

Senator STEWART - Then I apologize to the bandit and highwayman.. In any case, the Premier of New South Wales has come forward and presented his pistol, though I am not sure whether it is loaded,' and I am inclined to think it is not. At any rate, Mr. Carruthers, if he has not the power, has the desire and the will to coerce us; and we refuse to be coerced. I voted for Dalgety deliberately, because I thought it the best of all the sites I visited, and I am going to adhere to my decision. I am not prepared to reopen this question until the resolution of the New South Wales Parliament is withdrawn, and Mr. Carruthers makes a humble and sufficient apology. That is exactly the position in which I stand at the present moment, and it is just as well that our friends from New South Wales should understand our attitude. I believe that a large number of other honorable senators hold exactly the same opinions as those I have expressed. I trust that for the honour of New South Wales, and in the interests of peace and harmony, which ought to prevail in Australia, we have seen the last of this unFederal spirit. I hope that New South Wales will take its right and proper position, and, by granting the territory within, which the Federal Parliament desires the Federal Capital to be situated, conform to the expressed will of the people of Australia.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales). - I have no reason to be dissatisfied with the result of the motion. Honorable senators could not fail to notice my earnest desire, as a member of the New South Wales delegation, not to be regarded as indorsing the remarks, made in the State Parliament last week. The action of honorable senators in both Houses in regard to this question of the Capital site has been free from party influence. The votes given from time to time have been cast with a due regard to individual belief as to what is best for Australia. For my part, I am satisfied that I have been able to-day to draw attention to a resolution which was the basis of section 125 of the Constitution - a resolution which, I believe, had been largely forgotten if, indeed, some honorable senators ever knew of its existence. The Premiers agreed - first, that the Federal Capital should be in New South Wales ; secondly, that it should be distant not less than 100 miles from Sydney; and, thirdly, that it should be within a reasonable distance.

Senator Givens - There is no such contract in the Constitution.

Senator PULSFORD - That was the agreement arrived at by the Premiers, in conference, and it makes clear, beyond all doubt, the meaning of section 125 of the Constitution. I am pleased to find that several honorable members, while expressing themselves as hurt by the remarks of Mr. Carruthers, are yet willing, in the interests of fair play, to reconsider the position. I beg leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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