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Thursday, 27 September 1906

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [3.25]. - I move -

That this Senate records its regret that no definite action has been taken during the present session to give effect to the provision of the Commonwealth Constitution relating to the Federal Capital.

I do not know that I should have taken advantage of the time devoted to private members' business this afternoon in order to bring this matter forward, had it not appeared, from the answer given by the Minister of Defence the other day, that no progress has been, or is being, made this session towards the determination of the question of the Federal Capital Site. If it will be any relief to the minds of honorable senators, I may say at once that I do not propose, in the few remarks I have to make, to say anything that can be regarded as a reflection on the Federal Parliament or the Federal Ministry. That, however, does not prevent me from asking the Senate to record its regret that nothing has been done during the present session to definitely settle this serious and important matter.

Senator Guthrie - It was settled last session.

Senator Col NEILD - The honorable senator is referring to something which took place a long time ago, but from which, by reason of action elsewhere, there has been no result. I ask honorable senators to remember exactly what the position is in reference to the Federal Capital. InOctober of 1903 there was presented in the House of Representatives a Bill to determine the Seat of Government. A number of ballots were taken, and the final ballot resulted in the selection of Tumut by thirty-six votes as against twenty-five votes recorded for Lyndhurst. The" Bill came up to the Senate, where Bombala was substituted for Tumut. The House of Representatives, however, refused to assent to that amendment, and a majority of the members of the Senate "went back" on themselves, and agreed to the selection of Bombala. Nothing came of that selection. I draw attention to the utter indifference of senators generally to thequestion of the selection of the Federal Capital, as evidenced by their absence this afternoon. I draw attention to the absence of a quorum. [Quorum formed,} In May, 1904, the Ministry of which Mr. Watson was the head introduced a Bill irc this Chamber, and the Senate selected Bombala as the site. In the House of Representatives the locality of Bombala was agreed to by thirty-nine votes, as against twenty-eight votes recorded in favour of Lyndhurst. But the Bill -was so altered as to give a preference to a site within 17 miles of the little town of Dalgety. To that the Senate assented, and, so far as any settlement of the matter by the two Houses of the Federal Parliament is concerned, that was the final settlement.

Senator Keating - The honorable senator was the originator of the Dalgety site.

Senator Col NEILD - I might have had something to do with securing an investigation of the claims of Dalgety. I thought that, as such a number of extremely out-of-the-way localities were being inspected, it was only fair that a locality which certainly possessed the finest water supply of any should at least be considered bv the Commission. The Federal Parliament was not in session at the time, and I did take some little action, in conjunction with the Prime Minister of the day, to see that the Commission investigated the claims of Dalgety as well as of sites much more out of the way. I offer no apology for that, and I do not suppose that any one will throw it up against me. To-day there are reasons why Dalgety has strong claims for selection, especially in view of its water supply. Both Houses of the Federal Par- liament deliberately selected Dalgety or its immediate vicinity. Four months after we had selected that site the New South Wales Parliament, which had remained quiescent while we took action, was invited by the Premier, Mr. Carruthers, to - formally offer to grant to the Federal Government an area of between 100 square miles and 200 square miles at or near the four following sites : - Tumut, Lyndhurst, Dalgety, and Yass.

The proposal was negatived by both Houses of the State Parliament. It was the negativing of that proposal of the New South Wales Premier that has, to use a colloquial expression, "upset the apple-cart." The Federal Parliament selected a site, and the New South Wales Parliament have refused to grant that site. If there is a complaint or grievance against any one, it is to be found rather in this, that the Federal Government - and I think more than one has been in office during the time - has, if not exactly quiescent, nevertheless shown an amount of ineptitude in not forcing this issue to a settlement. Either the Federal Government, acting on behalf of the Federal Parliament, has a right to force the hand of New South Wales or it has not. By its quiescence it appears to have recognised that it was unable to do anything, and must wait the pleasure of the Parliament sitting in Macquarie-street, Sydnev. From the end of 1904 to the present time the Federal Government has been quiescent, at least in so far as any actual outcome of negotiations is concerned. I do not hold that the Federal Government, whether that of Mr. Deakin, Mr. Reid, or any other, is wholly and solely to blame in this matter. The facts I am prepared to submit will show very clearly that a large measure of responsibility rests on the New South Wales Government and Parliament. As an old member of that Parliament, I am speaking against what was at one time my political nest, but as that Parliament has evinced a verv warlike spirit towards the Federal Parliament I thin'k,the time has surely come when without heat or feeling the Federal Parliament should put forward its views in opposition to the rather rancorous attack that was made upon us some time back in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, and, to some extent, also in the Legislative Council of that State. The facts are these: The Ministry, of which Sir John See, then Mr. See, was Premier, offered the Dalgety site, as well as some seventeen or eighteen other sites, to the

Federal Government. That was in the early days of the Commonwealth. Then, while this Parliament was actually considering and determining in 1904 in favour of the Dalgety site, the New South Wales Government, of Mr. Thomas' Waddell, by proclamation in the Government Gazette of the State, deliberately reserved all lands in the neighbourhood of Dalgety for the purpose of the Federal Capital. That was a practical repetition of the offer of Dalgety. Then, as I have already said, at the end of 1904, the State Ministry, headed by Mr. Carruthers, invited the State Parliament to offer the Dalgety site to the Commonwealth as one of four from which we might make a selection. I think that no complaint can be made against the Federal Parliament for selecting Dalgety, although I was one who preferred Lyndhurst, as being more centrally situated, particularly in view of the future development of population in Australia. However, upon the negativing of the motion proposed by Mr. 'Carruthers, offering Dalgety to the Commonwealth, we had Mr. Carruthers coming along a year afterwards, and, metaphorically, " raising Cain " because we had selected Dalgety. That happened a! the end of last year. Later still, we have had a number of interesting localities suggested as suitable sites until the issue has become so confused that I suppose there are few members of either Chamber who have any definite idea of what the Government and Parliament of New South Wales really desire in the matter. We had an interesting incident the other day, when the New South Wales Government provided funds to enable members of the Federal Parliament to visit the site of Dalgety, which] the New South Wales Parliament had refused to grant. But there were no funds forthcoming to enable honorable members.of this Parliament to visit the site that the New South Wales Parliament had' offered. I mav be accused of speaking against my own State to some extent, but I am a member of the Federal Parliament, and when I. think that all the blame should not rest on one set of shoulders, I have as much right to point out where I think the blame, or some portion of it, should rest, as to hold my peace, and profess that I do not understand. Whilst I have said this on one side, per contra I regret that the present Federal Government have not taken

Steps have already been taken to cope with the difficult matter of selecting the Federal territory within which the capital of the Commonwealth is to be built, and in this task no longer time will be occupied than is necessary for the exercise of a good judgment in the choice of an area which it is hoped will be of a size ample for all public requirements, and of which the climate, accessibility, and natural beauty will give promise of a Seat of Government worthy of the new nation.

Could anything be more beautiful than that? It reads like a paragraph from a fairy tale, and, unfortunately, it proved to be a fairy tale. That is what we had from the first Ministry. Then came along another Ministry ; I do not know which - but either a Deakin or a Barton Ministry - and they presented a speech in October, 1903. They were a little more reticent, and not quite so flowery -

An early opportunity will be afforded you of considering the report of the experts who were intrusted with the duty of examining the conditions of several areas within which it had been proposed that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth should be placed. My Advisers expect that the information which has been collected on this subject will enable you to come to a satisfactory conclusion.

If "When?" with a mark of interrogation, had been added, we could better have appreciated the paragraph than we are now able to do. A little more time passed, and we had more fairy tales fired at us by the representatives of the Crown. In March, 1904, this statement appeared in the Governor- General's speech -

The selection of a site for the Federal Capital was considerably advanced by the dis-

Who has ever heard of the carrying out of that contour survey ? I think I am justified in saying that it has not taken place. It was only ordered. It is like the case of the man who ordered a steak at the restaurant, and did not get it : he got something else- and is in progress in the Tumut and Bombala districts. An early and final settlement of this question is very necessary.

That was the opinion of the Government two years ago. However, time passed, and so do vice-regal speeches. .On the 31st December, 1905, when the members of the Parliament were being released from their duties, a paragraph on this subject was addressed to the House of Representatives only. It is the old story. The Senate is regarded by Ministries as a sort of sawhorse, off which they can cut certain chunks of legislation, but they take every opportunity - at the opening ari3 the closing of the Parliament - to restrict our sphere of action, and ignore our position in the Constitution Until they learn a little more sense in that regard, they will not get many more chunks, if I can prevent it -

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives :

Unfortunately the definition of the territory of the Seat of Government has not been completed, but it is hoped that the pressing question involved, which has been the subject of prolonged inquiries and exhaustive debates for several years, will be determined by this Parliament.

Like the countryman with the claret, we do not seem to get any. " forrader. " Them we come to the beginning of this session, when a few interesting words were addressed to the Parliament. Each time the paragraph on the subject gets shorter. On that occasion it was cut down to one line and twothirds. Poor old Federal Capital ! From all the flowery phraseology of the first Bartonian deliverance down to the oratorical possibilities of Mr. Alfred Deakin we have got down. to this brief statement -

The proposal to more definitely determine the territory for the purpose of the Seat of Government will be submitted to Parliament for final consideration.

Only two days ago the Minister of Defence told me across the table that there is no time to do anything. The next paragraph in this speech - .and this, by the way, seems the first speech in which the paragraphs have been numbered - deals with what the Age is pleased to call the " desert railway." Except in the matter of fifteen letters, the latter occupies as much space in the speech as does the Federal Capital. I admit the importance of the transcontinental railway, and if some of those who have the project very much at heart had displayed as much, interest as I have done very likely the Bill would have passed. The point I desire to bring before the Parliament is that a couple of years ago it certainly did select a site. The State Parliament said, " No, we shall not give you that site." The Federal Government then started negotiations with the State Government to arrive at a decision, and I now ask the Senate to record an expression of regret that a provision of the Constitution has not been complied with. I do not think that when a member of the Chamber puts forward such a proposition he can be said to be injuring the feelings of any one. He is merely offering an expression of regret that a much vexed and much negotiated question has not been brought to a final issue in, accordance with many vice-regal speeches. I do not blame the Parliament at all, because since we selected a site we have not had an opportunity to correct any misapprehension or difficulty. I take it that a proposition for settling the position of the Federal Capital is one which must come from a Minister, and cannot appropriately come from a private senator. That I do not hold the Federal Government wholly to blame is shown by what I have said. I suppose I have gone as far as any honorable senator has ever (jone in reference to remarks adverse to the doings of the Premier or the Parliament of his State. I go further, and say, as I .have said over my signature in the Sydney press, particularly in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that in propounding a list of new sites - some of them so absolutely out of the way that there was not even a road to them - the Premier of New South Wales has distinctly tended to delay the settlement of this question. I therefore cannot be supposed to be passing strictures upon the Federal Parliament, especially upon the Senate; nor will the Ministers opposite, I am sure, deem my remarks in any way ungenerous to them. I recognise that there has been a lack somewhere. There has been delay created by the submission of unnecessarily numerous sites. If we are to go on year by vear coming across Barren Jack schemes, we can go on for ever, because New South Wales contains a sufficiency of sites for the Federal Capital that practically there would never be an end to the proceeding. From what I have read in the press, I have gathered that some questions have been asked in another place. We have been told that, as certain negotiations are or have been proceeding about the Federal Capital, the Ministry do not seem disposed to disclose the position of affairs. I hope that the Minister of Defence, when he replies, as I am sure he will-

Senator Playford - I know nothing about the matter, therefore I cannot reply.

Senator Col NEILD - That is a pretty hard case.

Senator Playford - I know nothing about what is going on between the two Governments. I have not been shown the papers.

Senator Col NEILD - Then,, speaking as a very old parliamentarian, I think that my honorable friend is hardly being treated fairly by his colleagues, or the Senate is not being treated fairly by them. Because this motion which I am now submitting has been on the business-paper for a day or two, I suppose that my honorable friend Senator Playford knew that it was going to be discussed, and it would certainly be only consonant with the courtesy which usually characterizes my honorable friend that he should be in a position to tell us something about the negotiations which have taken place. My honorable friend is at present conversing over the barrier with the Postmaster-General. Of course, applying to his present source of information, he will only be able to tell us something about Dalgety. Another thought occurs to me. I am afraid that, so long as the present Government lasts, this question never will be settled, because it is notorious that the selection of the Federal Capital Site is of infinitely less importance than the political destinies of two members of the Ministry ; and it is as ' notorious as the fact that the sun does occasionally shine in Melbourne - of which we are assured by what we sometimes read in the newspapers - that in the Cabinet the question has been one, not of " pull devil pull baker," but of " Pull Lyne pull Chapman " for the last five years. It is idle to deny that if one .of those gentlemen does not get the Capital Site in his electorate he is going to take all the care in the world that it is not fixed anywhere else.

Senator Givens - Where does the honorable senator really want it to be?

Senator Col NEILD - I dp not really care where it is, so long as it is in a position reasonably convenient and accessible by rail from the great centres of population, Melbourne and Adelaide on the one side, and Sydney and Brisbane on the other.

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator think that Dalgety is a suitable place?

Senator Col NEILD - It is superior to the large majority of sites submitted.

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator favour Dalgety being the site?

Senator Col NEILD - I have no small feelings about the matter. In the first instance I voted in favour of Lyndhurst, believing, as I said a while ago, that it is the most central site, having regard to the present position of the population of. Australia.

Senator Givens - But does the honorable senator favour sticking to the choice of the Federal Parliament?

Senator Col NEILD - What is the use of sticking to it when we cannot get it?

Senator Givens - Why can we not? What is to prevent us? Joey Carruthers?

Senator Playford - If we cannot get Dalgety, we need not choose any other site.

Senator Col NEILD - I told the Senate a moment ago that if we heard anything from Senator Playford, as the result of a recent conversation with the PostmasterGeneral, he would tell us that he was favorable to Dalgety.

Senator Givens - Have we not power to take Dalgety, if we really mean busi- 116ss ?

Senator Col NEILD - If Senator Givens is prepared to go in for a large scheme of land annexation, it would be necessary in the first instance for the Minister of Defence to put the Military Forces of the Commonwealth upon a war footing, and to become, not Minister of Defence, but Minister for War.

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator favour the Commonwealth Parliament adhering to its choice?

Senator Millen - These interjections are disorderly.

Senator Col NEILD - I thank Senator Millen, and I am sure that, if appealed to, Mr. President will accept the proposition just submitted, that all interjections are disorderly. I hope that Senator Givens will not pursue a course of action that is calculated to make me disorderly by way of retort. I do not wish to delay the

Senate. There are other matters to be discussed. I have submitted a motion containing an expression of regret that in this, the final session of the second Parliament of the Commonwealth, the question, has not been settled. That is all that I ask the Senate to affirm.

Senator Givens - Whose fault is that?'

Senator Col NEILD - I have indicated that I think there are faults on both sides.

Senator Givens - That is always the cry in the case of a family quarrel.

Senator Col NEILD - I do not know that there is even a family quarrel. I ask the Senate to affirm the very moderate terms of my motion. It entirely refrains from any comment which any one can construe into a grievance. This condition of the Constitution not having been fulfilled, it is appropriate that the Senate should express its regret.

Senator Givens - Honestly, where does the honorable senator really think that the Capital ought to be?

Senator Col NEILD - It is not necessary for that question to be answered to carry out the terms of my motion. It has to be in New South Wales, according to the terms of the Constitution. I will answer Senator Givens' question by saying that the Senate ought, in ray opinion, to take this opportunity to express its regret that the site has not been fixed in a suitable ' position.

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