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Friday, 27 July 1906

Senator HIGGS (Queensland) . - I wish to record a vote against the third reading of the Bill, because I disagree with that portion of it which provides for the maintenance of Sydney Government House. We have been able to get along very well without any legislation other than the annual appropriation for the GovernorGeneral's residences. I understood last year, when the Estimates were under consideration, that we had seen the last of the vote for the maintenance of a residence in Sydney. Certainly the Minister in charge of the Estimates at that time did provide a loophole through which he might escape by saying that if the matter were ever brought before the Senate again it would be in the shape of a Bill, but I think that the majority of us believed that we had seen the last of the item. The objections which were being raised in the early hours of the morning to the item would not have been withdrawn, I think, if we had had any idea that, in this session, we should be asked to vote money for this purpose, I believe that, in making this arrangement, the Government is only pandering to the desires of a very small section of the people of Sydney. In my opinion the majority of the people of New South Wales do not expect, and have no desire, that the Governor-General should be compelled to reside in Sydney for so many monthsin each year.

Senator Col Neild - There is no compulsion.

Senator HIGGS - There certainly is compulsion, because, if His Excellency knows that an arrangement has been entered into by the Commonwealth Government with the Government of New South Wales to pay a certain sum for the upkeep of Sydney Government House he will feel that it is incumbent upon him to reside there for so many months in each year. I desire to support the views of those honorable senators who said that, if there is to be an arrangement of this kind made, it should apply to all the States. What is there about New South Wales that entitles it to special consideration in this matter? What is there in the Constitution to justify this proceeding? It may be said that, until the site of the Federal Capital is selected, we ought to make this arrangement for the Governor-General ; but I would point out to the representatives of New South Wales that the passage of this Bill is likely to delay the construction of the Federal Capital. If an arrangement be made now for the occupancy of Sydney Government House for a term of five years, that, I suppose, will satisfy those persons in New South Wales who think that the site of the Federal Capital ought to be selected as scon as possible; whereas, if we refuse to indorse the proposed arrangement, there will be a renewed agitation on the part of the representatives of that State to have the question of the site settled. Most of those who come from other States are anxious to have the question settled as soon as possible, because we do not want to stay in Melbourne any longer than we can help. I desire to see the question settled, because, when that is done, I shall be so much nearer to Queensland. I hope, therefore, that honorable senators will reject the Bill at this stage. If I get any support, I propose to call for a division.

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