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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Mr FULLER (ILLAWARRA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is a direct statement of the views of the first Prime Minister of Australia. It serves only to bear out the resolution passed at the Conference of Premiers, that -

In view of the strong expression of opinion in relation to this matter in New South Wales, the Premiers have modified the clause, so that while the Capital cannot be fixed at Sydney or in its neighbourhood, provision is made in the Constitution for its establishment in New South Wales, at a reasonable distance from that city.

Sir EdmundBarton was not the only public man in New South Wales who put that position clearly before the people. Mr: Justice O'Connor, who was then strongly supporting the adoption of the Constitution Bill, as well as many other public men, dealt with the matter in the same way. I feel satisfied that when honorable members come to realize the true nature of the compact which was entered into, they will see that it is strictly carried out, in fairness to New South Wales, and in the interests of the Commonwealth. But how can it be said that the selection of Dalgety would be a fulfilment of the compact? One of the reasons advanced for the selection of that site is that, if Dalgety were selected, the Commonwealth would have a port of its own at Twofold Bay. I do not see why the Commonwealth should have a port of its own. But, in any case, Twofold Bay could not be brought within the Federal territory without disregarding the arrangement which induced a large number of persons in New South Wales to vote for the acceptance of the Constitution, which otherwise they would have voted against. I took advantage of the facilities given during the first Parliament to visit all the suggested Capital sites, with the exception of Tooma, which was visited after the others, and, having given careful consideration to the whole matter, felt bound to cast my vote for Lake George, which seemed to me better than any of the other sites, supposing that a good water supply could be guaranteed. Now, as the honorable member for Bland has pointed out, the State Government is making a reservoir at Barrenjack, which will impound more than one-and-a-haIf times as much water) as there is in the great harbor of Port Jackson. That reservoir will furnish an ample supply for all the purposes of the Federal Capital, including electric power. The Prime Minister interjected that the reservoir, being a State property, the Commonwealth Government would have no control over it. But, no doubt, the State Government, composed as it is of business men, would be very glad to enter into a contract' with the Federal Government to supply what water might be required for the Capital. The Attorney-General, last night, delivered a speech in opposition to the position which most of us take up on this question. It was full of close legal reasoning; but surely such treatment of the subject was not necessary to determine the meaning of the words "within a reasonable distance of the city of Sydney." Common sense and a knowledge of the English language is all that is necessary for the interpretation of those words. The Attorney-General seems to have persuaded himself, and has attempted to persuade others, that Dalgety fulfils the conditions; but I could not follow his reasoning on the point. I shall not now discuss the merits of the various sites which have been proposed, because they have already been fully discussed, and are well known to all honorable members. The PostmasterGeneral cannot be expected to be keen for the postponement of this measure, but, in the interests of a proper settlement of the question, and recognising the strong dissatisfaction which now exists in New South Wales at the choosing of Dalgety, and the unsuitableness of that site, I hope that the Bill will be allowed to stand over until next session, when the matter can be dealt with properly.

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