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Friday, 11 November 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - 1 should not like the Bill to pass without making a few words df comment. My first word must be one of commendation to Senator Givens, who certainly put up a strenuous fight against locating the capital at Yass-Canberra. The acceptance of the position by the honorable senator in the terms that he has employed to-day is just as generous and as magnanimous as his opposition to the selection on a former occasion was determined.

Senator Givens - I cannot help myself.*

Senator ST LEDGER - Exactly so. I hope that the fine spirit which the honorable senator has displayed in approaching this administrative act will be displayed generally by the Senate, and that we shall all regard the matter as settled, leaving the Ministry to take such further steps as are necessary, with, of course, a due sense of their responsibility to the Commonwealth Parliament. I wish to add a word of comment suggested by my honorable friend and colleague, Senator McColl, who has referred incidentally to the prospective expenditure upon the Federal Territory. Opinions on the same lines have been expressed in both Houses of the Legislature, and for a long time past have been thundered out from the press, not only of Victoria, but by other important and influential journals throughout Australia. I think that too much has been said1 on that subject. I have visited' the Territory, and I see no reason why, with wiseadministration, which we must assume will be the consequence of taking over the Territory, it should be absolutely unremunerative. On the contrary, I believe that, before long, it will pay for the cost of its establishment. By the introduction of population to the Territory., I have no doubt that all our initial expenditure will be more than recouped. I compliment the Government on the courage they have displayed in giving effect to the verdict of Parliament. In my opinion, it does not matter by what majorities the question has been advanced to its present stage. In the face of very strong opposition from some of their supporters in both Houses of this Parliament, the Government have exhibited consistency and courage. I almost despair of getting to the Capital site as speedily as I should like, but I shall now say something which I think is in the minds of many honorable senators, and that is that we shall transfer the Seat of Government from Melbourne with regret. The State of Victoria has treated the Commonwealth Parliament handsomely. I am afraid that the many attractions, especially from a social point of view, of this city may weigh with some, and lead to a desire to stay here longer, but we have a high duty to perform to the people of Australia, and in this matter, especially to the people of New South Wales, and at the earliest possible date we should establish this Parliament in a home of its own,' in its own Territory. The atmosphere of a home of our own, in our own Territory, will give us a proper sense of our jurisdiction and duty to the Commonwealth as a whole which it would be impossible for us to acquire if the .Parliament continued to meet in any State Capital. I hope that the Ministry, if they continue in power, will take every step necessary for the speedy transfer of this Parliament to the Federal Capital. We may be called upon to suffer many inconveniences if it is transferred to the Federal Capital in the immediate future, but it is our duty to the Commonwealth to assist the Government in every step necessary to establish this Parliament in the Federal Capital within its own Territory.

Senator E.J. RUSSELL (Victoria) {11. 3]. - As an Australian, I have always believed that the Federal Parliament should meet in its own Territory. I have never been an advocate of delay in the settlement of the question of the Federal Capital site. I am glad that we have now a Government who are prepared to do things. I differ from them as to the site which they are agreed should be selected, but I have to admit that it has been selected. I should not be expressing my true sentiments if I did not say that I regret that the settlement of the question which is responsible for the introduction of this Bill has not been accomplished without the humiliation of the Commonwealth at the dictate of a particular State. I regret that the grand opportunity afforded for the establishment of the Federal Capital at a site on which we might have expected that it would grow to be a great city has been missed by the Commonwealth Parliament. I believe that there have been incidents connected with the settlement of the question which, perhaps, it would be better not to revive. I ' remind honorable senators that the people of Victoria voted for the Commonwealth Bill when it contained no provision respecting the Capital site. They manifested their desire for. Federation, and their willingness to make great sacrifices to obtain it. When, in a later Bill, it was distinctly stipulated that the Federal Capital should be established in territory in the State of New South Wales, what was the attitude of the Victorian people towards that Bill ? Even by a larger vote than they had recorded in favour of the previous measure, they declared again for Federation, and showed that their adherence to it was not affected by any question as to the location of the Federal Capital. I wish now to take exception to the advice tendered by Senator McColl that we should not expend money at present on the establishment of the Capital at Yass-Canberra. A decision having been arrived at, there is not, in my opinion, the slightest reason why there should be any unnecessary delay in giving effect to it. Those who talk about a " bush Capital " cannot have the slightest conception of what may be done in the Federal Territory by a large expenditure of Commonwealth money. Although I do not approve of the site selected, I honestly believe that it is not so bad as to be altogether hopeless. I do want to say that it comes very ill from the honorable senator whose vote was responsible in the first instance, for the substitution in the Senate of YassCanberra ' for Dalgety, to suggest now that we ought not to do what is necessary to carry out the contract to which we were pledged in accepting the Constitution. I have no desire to take up so parochial an attitude. Shortly after the last decision of this Parliament was arrived at, I announced that, although I had fought a strenuous fight against Yass-Canberra, and that, in my judgment, it was not the most suitable site to select, I was still sufficient of a Democrat to believe that we should accept the verdict of the majority. I do not propose to adopt the narrow attitude dictated by a few individuals, or by parochial councils in this State, who, in their endeavour to misrepresent the position would lead the people to believe that the establishment of the Federal Capital at Yass-Canberra will cost an enormous sum of money. On the contrary, I believe that it may be made the means of considerable profit to the people.

Senator Millen - In any case, the people, when they adopted the Constitution, knew of the existence of the provision for the establishment of the Capital, even if it were to cost money.

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