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IV

A party of Senate members similar to that from the House of Representatives also made a tour of inspection of the proposed sites for the federal capital. When votes were taken by an exhaustive ballot in each federal chamber, the Representatives chose Tumut and the Senate Bombala. Neither of these two sites was ultimately selected.

A New South Wales member confided to me that


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he was awkwardly situated, as he had two of the proposed sites in his electorate. His constituents required him to declare which of the two he would vote for. If he did not vote for either of them, he felt he had no hope of re-election, but if he voted for one of them he would be bound to have the hostility of the voters who favoured the other side. He was a conscientious member, and he was extremely worried, as I knew he did not favour either of the sites in his electorate, and thought a site in another part of the state was the best.

An even more difficult problem faced Sir William Lyne. There were three towns in his electorate, each claiming to be the capital site. He had an uncertain seat. We thought that no matter how he voted he could not fail to arouse the hostility of two of the three towns. We were mistaken. We did not know what a wily politician he was. He actually succeeded in doing what appeared to be impossible—namely, pleasing all three. The exhaustive ballot system was adopted for selection. He voted in the first ballot for the town that of the three was most likely to be eliminated. Then he voted for the next of the three that he knew would be least favoured. When the second was eliminated he voted for the third. He thus voted for the three.

He was a big, heavy man, and was usually known as “The Rogue Elephant.”

It was in May, 1902, that the parliamentary tour I have referred to was made, but it was not until long after that that the site of the federal capital was selected.

The fact that in the first Parliament the Senate


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selected Bombala and the House of Representatives Tumut created a deadlock. The next Parliament passed an Act favouring Dalgety. This decision met with strong opposition in New South Wales, as the site was too far from Sydney, and the New South Wales Parliament, by resolutions carried in both Houses, suggested Tumut, Lyndhurst or Yass. Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister, and the question was then deferred for years on the plea that it might create friction between the Commonwealth and New South Wales. It was not until 1909 that Canberra was finally selected as the best site, and it was not until four years later that the official ceremony was held to mark the initiation of operations in connection with the establishment of the seat of the Commonwealth Government.

Curious to say, neither the party from the House of Representatives nor the party from the Senate in 1902 visited Canberra, though we went to Queanbeyan, which is but four or five miles distant. I remember we viewed the Queanbeyan locality in unfavourable circumstances. It seemed to be suffering from a drought. A lake we saw was dry except for some shallow water near the centre. Forests of ring-barked trees, standing bare and white, like so many skeletons, gave an air of desolation. The land was, however, some of the finest for agriculture in the state. It was unfortunate we were not taken to what is now Canberra, which is unquestionably an excellent site. It is 2,000 feet above sea level, two hundred and four miles by rail from Sydney; it is seventy-five miles in a direct line from the sea, and access to it can be obtained by a railway one hundred and twenty-three


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miles long to Jervis Bay, which is its port. The federal territory comprises an area of nine hundred and twelve square miles and twenty-eight square miles at Jervis Bay.

It was not until May, 1927, more than a quarter of a century after the establishment of the Commonwealth, that Parliament House at Canberra was officially opened by H.R.H. the Duke of York. I was present at the Canberra ceremony, which took place in the Senate chamber. The Duchess looked pretty and charming, winning everyone's heart there as she did throughout Australia.

W. H. Hughes was amongst those present, as bright and cheery as when we were touring in search of a site for the federal capital. He came to me, and pointed to a mutual friend who was standing near and remarked, “That blighter has no right to be here.”

“Why not?” I replied. “That is Drake. He was Postmaster-General in the first Federal Ministry.”

“That is so,” said Hughes, “but in an article I wrote that was published a few days ago in a Sydney paper I said he was dead. I thought he was, and now I feel it is not right that he should be walking round here making a liar of me. I must go and ask him what he means by treating me like that.”

Stanley Bruce, who was Prime Minister at that time, did not come into federal politics until 1918, and he was different in many was from other holders of the office.

Barton's reputation rests, not on his work as first


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Prime Minister, but on his efforts before the establishment of the Commonwealth to secure federal union. Two of Deakin's Governments were short-lived, and the third left nothing remarkable to its credit. Watson, during the three or four months that he led the first Federal Labour Ministry, lost the commanding position he had previously of holding the balance of power between the Government and the Opposition.

When the Revenue Tariff or Free Trade Party were badly routed at the polls, Reid recognised that a vast majority of the electors was against him. Wisely he accepted the verdict. He and that dour Scotchman, Allen McLean, came together and formed a Ministry, but it existed less than twelve months.

Andrew Fisher was three times Prime Minister, and his second Labour Government was responsible for important undertakings that are elsewhere referred to in this book. The Cook Ministry lasted between two and three months. Hughes was Prime Minister of one Labour and two National Governments. When he resigned in February, 1923, he was succeeded by Stanley Bruce, who became a new force in federal politics. Bruce had been Treasurer for fifteen months previously, but to the great bulk of the Australian people he was almost unknown. He was then but forty years of age, handsome, well groomed, dressed with scrupulous care, and possessed of independent means. Though an Australian by birth, yet in accent, diction and other respects he seemed less Australian than English. Spats are not worn in Australia, but, despite the jibes of week-end papers, he wore them constantly.

His sporting and war record, as well as his great ability, won him the respect of even his severest critics.


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A student of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he was a member of the Cambridge crew who in 1904 beat Oxford, and seven years later he coached the Cambridge crew. During the war he served with the Worcester Regiment in Gallipoli and was severely wounded. Later, as captain with the Royal Fusiliers, he was again wounded. In 1915 he won the Military Cross, and the following year the Croix de Guerre.

A ready, polished speaker, he could always hold the attention of audiences. Sometimes, but not often, he was humorous. Once at a Kalgoorlie gathering Mr. E. A. Mann, then federal member for Perth, said that a man who at the close of a meeting was asked to make a speech of thanks should “stand up, speak up and shut up.” Mr. Bruce, in reply, said a better definition of a speech for such an occasion was that it should be “like a lady's dress, short enough to be interesting and long enough to cover the subject.”

Bruce's chief achievement as Prime Minister was his preparation for the financial depression which he announced as inevitable. The passage of the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the states was a wonderful achievement, for which he deserves most of the credit. It had to be carried through thirteen Australian Houses of Parliament and afterwards submitted to a referendum of Commonwealth electors. It resulted in placing the power of all further Government borrowing in the hands of a Loan Council and made the whole of Australia responsible for the payment of not merely Commonwealth, but also state Government debts. That and the heroic financial emergency legislation of the Commonwealth and state Parliaments saved Australia's credit and solvency.

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