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Friday, 29 June 1906

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I am glad to hear the statement which has been made by the Minister in regard to this matter. 1 should have liked him/ to say, during his speech - perhaps I should have suggested it - that at no distant date - I mean this session - the question of the Federal Capital Site will receive some attention at the hands of the Government.

Mr Groom - It is receiving attention now, and it will be submitted as soon as possible to the House.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am glad to have that assurance. Meantime, it strikes me that the proposal made in this Bill is a fair arrangement upon both sides. The New South Wales authorities have to provide a residence for Sir Harry Rawson, the State Governor, and I understand that they are desirous of entering into a five years' tenure of a house with that end in view. It is only reasonable, therefore, that they should ask the Commonwealth Government to occupy the vice-regal establishment in Sydney, which the State Governor is vacating, for a similar term. I suppose that the Government are following some precedent in the matter of the phraseology which is employed in this Bill. In it, I notice that they take power - it strikes me as sounding, rather strange - to permit the Go vernor-General to make an arrangement with the State Governor..

Mr Groom - In that we are only following, the official means of communication.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course, everybody understands that the GovernorGeneral means his responsible Ministers, but I did. not know that this form of phraseology entered into the question of securing of a place wherein the GovernorGeneral might live.

Mr Groom - It means that he must obtain executive authority.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is language to which one is not accustomed in our Acts of Parliament, and it shows the way in which constitutional law operates from the top to the bottom of our industrial and social order. I take it from what the Minister has said that the Government propose to enter into an indefinite agreement with the Government of Victoria, so far as the occupation of the Melbourne Government House is concerned, subject to twelve months' notice upon either side. With respect to the vice-regal establishment in New South Wales, the Government propose, at the request of the Premier of that State, to enter into an agreement' for a definite term.

Mr Groom - The Victorian Government may ask for the same agreement as we contemplate making with New South Wales. We are only placing the Governments! of the two States upon the same footing.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the attitude which is assumed, both by the Government of New South Wales and that of Victoria, is an eminently fair and reasonable one. There has been some criticism levelled against the recent action of the Victorian Premier in making a claim for rent for the occupation of Melbourne Government House.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was not the claim for rent that was objectionable, but the remarks which accompanied it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It strikes me that a mistake was made in this matter at "the very outset of Federation, and this fact shows the inadvisability of allowing sentimental considerations to enter into affairs of plain business. For my part, I believe it would have been better if, at the advent of Federation, we had entered into an agreement with the Government of New South Wales, under which we should have paid for everything which that Government did to place at our disposal accommodation forthe Governor-General. We should thus have put the matter upon a business basis. However, sentimental considerations were permitted to creep in, and we accepted the hospitality proffered by the Government of Victoria at the time. The result was that matters were not considered in that sharp business way in which ordinary transactions are considered. Thus it comes about that later proposals of a more strictly business character have been made, accompanied by language which gives rise to some amount of irritation. I say again that I think the Commonwealth Government ought to be under no obligation to any State of a pecuniary character. So far from that being the case, we ought studiously to avoid any such relations. We have supreme control and command of the purse of the Commonwealth, and the Government is supposed to be supreme within the limits of our Constitution. Therefore it seems to me that we ought to operate our powers independently of any outside authority, and without reference to any sentimental considerations whatever. We ought to be self-contained in every way, not only as to the place where we shall meet, but as to the payments we shall make for the privileges that we enjoy, and for every other aspect of our constitutional working. Consequently I make no complaint in respect of the proposals which are made by the Government, and which amount to this : that we simply propose to pay our way in relation to the matter of vice-regal accommodation. I do not see why the Commonwealth Government should not pay its rent just as freely and unrestrictedly as the commonest and poorest labourer in Australia has perforce to do.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill' does not propose that we shall pay a rental.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It amounts pretty much to the same thing. The Bill proposes that we shall make a definite arrangement with the States Governments in regard to the housing of our GovernorGeneral - an arrangement involving expenditure, if not actual rental.

Mr Wilks - The upkeep of the two vice-regal establishments is pretty expensive.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I suppose that it is alittle expensive from one standpoint, but, judged from the proper relation in which these things ought to be viewed, it strikes me that it is very reasonable.

Mr Groom - It is very small.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should say that it is small. It is as small, or smaller, perhaps, than the expenditure upon any other establishment of the kind in the whole Empire.

Mr Wilks - The honorable member misunderstands me. I was referring to the difference between the upkeep of Government House by the Commonwealth and that of the establishment occupied by the State Governor.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know what the arrangements are in respect of the accommodation provided for the State Governor. If the upkeep and rent together were included I should imagine that they would amount to quite as much expenditure as we are under an obligation to incur here. However, I do not intend to offer the slightest opposition to the Bill. I think it is an eminently fair one. My hope is that we shall soon secure a local habitation of our own, so that we may terminate this dual relationship with the various States, and have one GovernorGeneral's residence at the permanent Seat of Government - -in the place which this Parliament will decide, I hope, very speedily, and with satisfaction to all concerned. I understand that the Government are moving in this matter at the instance of the Government of New South Wales, and that other reasons press them to ask for a definite agreement of this kind to be concluded.

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