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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I' do not agree with the Minister when he says that the document which he has read shows that the Government are proceeding with due expedition in carrying out the work in the Federal Capital. The document proves entirely the contrary, as I shall be able to show.

Senn tor Millen.-- Remember that it is an official document.

Senator GIVENS - I do not care about that. Reading the report in conjunction with these Estimates, and with the Minister's comments, I should say that it proves exactly the opposite from what has been represented. Take one of the last items read out. A sum of ,£25,000 is put down for the building of a railway from Queanbeyan to the Capital. The Minister was asked by way of interjection if that sum was to come out of the £110.000 included in this Bill. He replied that so much of it as> will be necessary in carrying out the preliminary work will come out of the sum to be voted. I say that if the Government were in earnest the whole sum necessary for the construction of the railway would be spent this' year. A Government which cannot build 6 miles of railway in twelve months cannot be said to be in earnest.

Senator Pearce - It will be done if it can be done.

Senator GIVENS - Then the whole £[25,000 .will be spent.

Senator Millen - There are three items of £[25,000 each.

Senator GIVENS - Then there is- £25,000, or thereabouts, for a power plant ; there is the dam on the Cotter River, the pipe line, the pipe-head reservoir, and the reticulation scheme. According to the details read out by the Minister, the .£110,000 is not nearly sufficient to cover expenditure on these various works. The Minister recognised that fact, because he was careful to say that the sum covers as much of the cost as can be undertaken this year. I say again that if the Government were really in earnest in the matter, the whole of the works now contemplated1 could have been completed at the "present moment.

Senator McGregor - But you did not give us the money.

Senator GIVENS - I have never declined to vote money after the site for the Capital was chosen. I admit that I put up a good fight before the selection was made, because I did not believe that YassCanberra was the best site. I am of the same opinion now. But Parliament selected this site, and I am prepared now to spend all that is necessary to complete the work. To show that the Government are not in earnest, let honorable senators remember that every Commonwealth industrial project that we enter into is always started somewhere else than in our own Federal Territory. We have established a Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and a Cordite Factory in Melbourne. I venture to say that if the Minister of Defence will call for an unbiased opinion from his military advisers, they will tell him that from a strategical point of view, the very worst thing that could happen is to have the Cordite Factory in Melbourne.

Senator Pearce - It is only right to say that the Small Arms Factory and the Lithgow factory were commenced before Yass-Canberra was selected for the Federal Capital.

Senator GIVENS - But we always contemplated having a Federal Capital. This Government is no more guilty than any other in the matter I have mentioned, except that it has more opportunities for commencing Commonwealth activities. But this Government, like its predecessor, appears to be disposed to establish these activities anywhere but in the Federal Capital. No doubt they will say that the place is not suitable. But they forced the site upon a reluctant Parliament, and carried the selection against a majority of their own party in the Senate. YassCanberra was then represented to be everything that was desirable. It was one of the most beautiful places on earth. Ministers were almost prepared to disrupt their own party rather than accept a vote against this most desirable site. But now it is not a fit place to start anything in ! If the Government were in earnest in this work, they would have recognised that the first essential for a city is a water supply. Two years ago, all the plans were made out for a water supply for the Federal City. Everything was ready for the making of a dam 'on the Colter river, the pipe lines were marked down, the site for the pipe head reservoir was mapped out. Yet nothing has been done. The Government might have completed those works before to-day. I have seen a water supply for a city of 25.000 people, involving quite as much work as this will do, carried out in six months. Yet the Government reluctantly come along, and tell us, through the mouth of the Minister of Defence, that only a small amount can be spent this year towards carrying out all these projects. There ought to be no doubt about them. The railway ought to be built. The water supply ought to be completed before the end' of the present financial year, and the Government to be in a position by that time to carry out the necessary work on the Capital itself. We have been given, as a reason why the Commonwealth Clothing Factory, the Woollen Factory, the Harness Factory, and the various other industrial activities could not be started in YassCanberra that there were no people there to do the work. There will never be people there until there is profitable employment for (hem ; and as soon as there is profitable work people will flock there wholesale. Soon there will be more hands than employment can be found for. But. we shall never get this place occupied, and establish a town - we shall never have anything hut a wilderness - unless we provide profitable occupation for the people. Let us establish industries there, and we shall have more hands than we need. But the Government want to placate Geelong on the one hand, and Lithgow on the other, and some other constituency in connexion wilh some other work, and consequently these various Commonwealth activities are scattered all over the country, to the neglect of our own Territory, which the Govern ment themselves forced upon a reluctant Parliament. If Yass-Canberra be so desirable a situation, why do they no.w tell us that it is of no use at all ? So long as they pursue a policy of trying to placate various sections in this way, so long will Yass-Canberra remain a wilderness. I have no axe to grind in this matter. I was, as every one knows, strenuously opposed to the choice of Yass-Canberra. I did my level best to prevent its selection, because I believed then, and I am convinced now, that it was not the best possible site. But this Parliament, having made the selection, something more should be done than has been done up to date. We should be in earnest about it. If we are not in earnest, we should not bother about the matter at all, but if we are, we should take steps to establish the Capital there at the earliest possible moment. At present, we are housed in the most inconvenient fashion in Melbourne. The State Government, it is true, has done everything possible to make things comfortable for the Federal Parliament. I say so much gladly, and give them every credit for it. They have given us the use of this magnificent building free of rent, and have placed many other facilities at our disposal. But if a member of this Parliament has occasion to visit the Commonwealth offices, he has to search round Melbourne to find some of them. They are here, there, and everywhere, in all sorts of odd corners. We are paying enormous rents, and suffering great inconvenience. In our own Territory, however, we have land at prairie value - obtained for a mere song. If we establish our Commonwealth activities there, we shall soon create a large population. The first result would be that this land which we have acquired would be enormously increased in value, and the people of Australia would make an enormous profit out of it. But it appears that some member of Parliament, or some constituency, some State, has to be placated, and the people of Australia do not matter. But I am here to see that the people of Australia get a fair deal in this matter. Another point which I want honorable senators to consider is this : We have been told that it would not pay to establish factories at Yass-Canberra, because the facilities are not there. But have all the disadvantages been taken into consideration? Has the enhancement of the value of bur. land been taken into consideration ? 1 Has the amount per head that we have to I pay . to the various States been considered ?

When we establish clothing factories, harness factories, ammunition factories, and so forth, in New South Wales, or Victoria, we employ some thousands of hands. Many of these have families and other persons dependent upon them. It may be said that we shall be employing and maintaining perhaps 12,000 people in these various industrial activities. For every one of them we have to pay 25s. per head under the financial arrangement with the States.

Senator Gardiner - All loss to the Commonwealth.

Senator GIVENS - Of course it is. We should have these people residing in our own Territory, and should create a new centre of Australia instead of carrying further the congestion that is already proceeding too rapidly in the enormous cities of Melbourne and Sydney. They are too large altogether in proportion to the number of people in the rural portions of Australia. In South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria, more than half the whole population live »n the big cities. There is more than half the population of South Australia in Adelaide.

Senator Vardon - In the metropolitan area, but not in Adelaide itself.

Senator Sayers - It is about the same in Queensland.

Senator GIVENS - It is not so bad in Queensland, and no thanks to the successive Governments, but because the capital of the State is situated in a corner, and the long coastline of Queensland does not conduce to centralization. In New South Wales, the population of Sydney is nearly a third of the whole population of the State, notwithstanding the existence there of such large cities as Broken Hill and Newcastle. That is not a system which is beneficial to Australia. When we have the opportunity to establish a new city in a considerable area of country which is now a wilderness we should avail ourselves of every possible means, not to add to the population of already congested cities, but to form an industrial centre in our own territory.

Senator Vardon - The honorable senator is now advocating centralization in the Federal Territory.

Senator GIVENS - No. I desire, instead of adding to the number of people in Melbourne, to place them in an area of country that is now a wilderness, where we have obtained the land at a prairie value, instead of having to pay from £10 to £15 a foot frontage for it, as residents of Melbourne are obliged to do. All the facts go to show that the Government are not in earnest in this matter. The fact that nothing has been done after two years towards providing water supply, or towards the building of a little railway of 6 or 7 miles in length, is proof positive of that. The Minister of Defence has carefully explained that these votes are intended only to be towards the cost of carrying out the works mentioned during the current year. The Government may not spend half of this sum this year, and it is clear that they do not mean business. I agree with Senator Millen that we should either let the whole thing slide or go about the work seriously. If the Government, tackled the problem seriously there is no reason why, inside of five years, we should not have the Federal Parliament and officers of the central Federal Departments comfortably housed in the Federal Capital.

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