Early Canberra

The Naming of Canberra 1913

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Early Canberra-Canberra 1913 by Ann Gugler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://earlycanberra.webs.com/.


This section contains documents from 1909-1920 period.  It includes the naming ceremony 12 March 1913 and the conflict between the Department of Home Affairs and Walter Burley Griffin with the choice by the former of the department's plan and Griffin's. It also includes the laying of the foundation stone by the Prince of Wales 21.6.1920 and the loss of the stone - refound.

Politicians' camp 1909

The Advertiser 21 December 1908


Melbourne, December 20

The expense of the proposed canvas camp in the Yass-Canberra district to make it convenient for members to inspect the new Federal capital site has been roughly estimated at under 250 pounds. The Prime Minister (Mr Fisher), referring to the project yesterday, said if it was going to run into a lot of money,  careful consideration would be give into it before it would be carried out.

 The Advertiser 27 February 1909


Melbourne, February 26

Arrangements have now been completed for the camp for Federal members who desire to inspect the Yass-Canberra district, which was the last section(?) selected by the Federal Parliament as suitable for the new Federal capital. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Mahon) has fixed the site of the camp near the Duntroon homestead in the bend of the Molonglo river, about seven miles from Queanbeyan, and about 50 members are said to be likely to undertake the tour.  They will detrain at Queanbeyan, not Yass, as previously announced, and will be taken probably in motor cars to the different places regarded as suitable for a capital.  The Yass-Canberra territory is about 44 miles by 20 miles and it is estimated that everything worth seeing can easily be inspected by each party of members inside two days. The camp is to start on March 8.  Colonel Miller, secretary of the Home Department, who will have charge of the arrangements, leaves Melbourne next Thursday.  Mr Mahon is to attend the Premier’s Conference in Hobart and will therefore not be able to visit the camp until its second week.  It is to last about a fortnight.

The Advertiser 20 March 1909



Melbourne March 19

It is intended to continue the capital site camp in the Yass-Canberra District only until Monday week, as it is considered that by then all members who want to see the site will have been afforded ample opportunity to do so. Up to the present only 29 have been there. Mr Mahon left for the camp to-day.

Politician's Camp February 1909 and Report March 1909

The Advertiser 6 February 1909



Nearly half the 111 members of the Federal Parliament have informed the Minister of Home Affairs (Mr Mahon) that they will take advantage of the fortbooming opportunity to inspect the Yass-Canberra district in which is it proposed to establish the Federal capital.  Mr Mahon has received a preliminary report from the State Government surveyor, Mr Scrivener, who is going over the ground, and he intends to visit the district himself on February 18 to fix the actual site for the camp. ‘I have had an estimate of the cost prepared,’ said Mr Mahon to-day, ‘and it is nothing near what hotel and other expenses would come to.’  Members will be taken over the country in small parties, the round of inspections for each party lasting three days. The duration of the camp will depend entirely on the number of members who attend.

The Advertiser 18 March 1909


Unless some new development in regard to the proposed Federal capital site should occur, Melbourne will not for many years longer be the home of the national Parliament. Some time must necessarily elapse before the new city, with buildings capable of housing the Legislature, can be brought into existence, but there is no apparent reason, apart from financial considerations, why the preliminary work should not be pushed along apace.  Parliament in an indefinite way has decided upon the locality for the seat of government, and the Federal surveyor has mapped out the land which it is suggested should be acquired by the Commonwealth for the purpose. It may be taken for granted that the decision in favour of the Yass-Canberra district will be adhered to, although whether this locality will be more suitable in the interests of Australia as a whole than the discarded Dalgety would have been is open to question. In any case, the district has the approval of the majority of the members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, as expressed in the latest exhaustive ballot, and its selection meets with the approval of New South Wales politicians.  Unfortunately, Federal legislators were restricted in their choice owing to the bargaining spirit in which the senior State entered into the Federation.  Still as the Constitution was agreed to by all parties, its provisions must be respected and as New South Wales will be required to make over to the Commonwealth the territory in which the seat of government will be situated, it would be obviously unfair to insist upon the selection of a site in any district to which that State strongly objects unless it could be shown that the larger interests of the whole of Australia would be more adequately conserved there than would be the case if the wishes of New South Wales were respected.  There are some conditions, however, which ought to have been insisted upon by the representatives of the States, other than New South Wales. The principal of these is that the land should have had a sea boundary. It needs no argument to show that the commercial interest of the senior State will stand in a more advantageous position than those of the rest of the Commonwealth if the capital can only be approached through State territory.

Mr Scrivener, who has acted as Federal surveyor, as the outcome of an arrangement entered into by Mr Mahon (Minister for Home Affairs) with the New South Wales Government, has mapped out a curiously  shaped area, which embraces about 1,000 square miles, but is so irregular in form as to leave a large tract of State territory between two long arms of the block surveyed for Federal purposes.  Unless some good reason can be adduced for this, it will appear to most people that the course adopted is by no means satisfactory.  Considerations of water conservation, sir, Scrivener explains amongst other things have guided him. A compact rectangular block would naturally suggest itself as being the most appropriate unless physical features made this impracticable. However, as an opportunity has been extended to members of the Commonwealth Parliament to visit the district and camping arrangements have been made, together with facilities for inspecting the country, those who avail themselves of this means of acquiring first-hand acquaintance with the general contour of the land, its water sheds and its suitability for the purpose for which it is proposed to utilize it, while able to form a trustworthy opinion on the merits of the present proposal.  That Queanbeyan near which each of the three suggested sites for the city ...(unreadable) is seventy miles from the sea and 100 from Jervis Bay, the probable port for the Federal territory, should not be overlooked when the matter is further considered.

The Constitution stipulates that the area of the capital site shall be not less than 100 (?) square miles. Whether or not New South Wales will take the liberal view of the interpretation which should be given to this condition is a matte its own state ...(?) may be left to decide.  Certain it is that they will not lose sight of the advantage which will probably be reaped by Sydney and other portions of the State as the result of the early removal of the Federal Government to its ...(?) home.  In asking for 1,000 square miles the national Government are running the risk of refusal or while the power to demand 100 (?) square miles is ...(?) by the Constitution  it would be a very doubtful reading of the provision ...(?) because no maximum is fixed the Commonwealth is under no restriction to this (?) area the Government or Parliament may take. Probably the Federal law authority would not content that the Commonwealth is by right entitled to insist upon the 900 square miles which Parliament has declared in favour of. For the purposes of the capital such a vast tract of country could not of course, be needed by the Commonwealth may well take the view that much more than the extent of the capital should be brought under their own direct control. Frequently have Ministers urged the disability they labor under as the result of having no lands which are distinctly Federal territory.  Of course this inco... will entirely disappear when the Northern Territory is transferred, but this part of Australia will be removed from the seat of government and will not be suitable for all purposes.  Widespread interests will centre in the capital. In deliberately bringing  into existence a new... (the final section of this article is too light to read.)

Scrivener's May Report 1909

The Advertiser 31 May 1909



Melbourne, May 30

The report presented by Mr CR Scrivener to the Minister for Home Affairs on his survey of the Yass-Canberra capital area sets out that the work covered about 35 square miles being portions of the following holdings:- Duntroon, Acton, Jerrabomberra and Yarralumla.  Contours were run at the following levels:- 1,825, 1850, 1,875, 1,900 and 2,000ft above the sea.  Weirs for ornamental purposes are recommended at four different sites.  At any of these localities weirs raised to the 1,825 ft level would impound water covering an area from 1,100 to 1,500 acres.

This area, however, Mr Scrivener points out, would be badly discolored for long periods.  If the eastern portion of the area contoured is released for the city site the weir should be raised to the 1,830 ft level in order to cover lowlands bordering the Molonglo river, especially on the southern side and near the boundary between Jerrabomberra and Duntroon holdings.  At  this level the water would be thrown back up the Jerrabombera Creek beyond the bridge on the Queanbeyan road.

One effect of the construction of any of these weirs would be the gradual reduction of depth by deposition of silt, which is brought down by thee Molonglo in very large quantities in the high floods the Molonglo rises vertically about 25 ft.  During recent years the river has cut a channel which is now ordinarily about 15ft deep.  It is said that in 1830 there was no defined channel such as at present exists, but rather a depression with deep holes at intervals.  Excepting on the higher spurs of Ainsley, Mugga Mugga and Black Mountain. No difficulty would be experienced in the projection of a design satisfactory so far as the street gradients are concerned.  There are areas of fairly deep  sandy soil suitable for sewerage treatment in connection with septic tanks.  Ample areas are available for parks and gardens.  No doubt if Canberra becomes the site of the Federal city the tendency will be to occupy the slopes under the higher ranges in order to secure as much shelter from strong winds as possible. Good residential areas are found at as high a level as 2,200ft.

Mr Scrivener thinks that Cotter River cannot be regarded as a satisfactory source from which to obtain a water supply for the following reasons:- In the earlier investigations by Mr DeBurgh it was proposed to have a service reservoir at  Canberra at an elevation of 2,050 ft, but this is too low an altitude as the land suitable for the building and desirable from a residential point of view is as high as 2,100 ft, or even 2,200 ft.  The highest occupied building is at an elevation of 2,185 ft.  The service reservoir therefore, be at a level of 2,250 ft.  In order to provide a reasonable head to deliver water to such an elevation from Cotter by gravitation the weir on that river would need to be at a level of 2,400 ft allowing a 150ft fall in the pipe line from the weir to the service reservoir.  This allowance is none too great because to reach an elevation of 2,400 ft on the Cotter the pipe and aqueduct must be longer than 30 miles.

If a pumping scheme is decided upon the weir would be placed near the junction of the Murrumbidgee and Cotter Rivers and the water would be available at a level of about 1,560 ft.  The supply judging from the gauge readings extending over a year is ample to meet probable future requirements.  These readings were taken just above the junction with Paddy’s River and about one mile from the junction of the Cotter and Murrumbidgee.  The average daily flow at that point is about 38 million gallons.

‘It has already been pointed out in my earlier report,’ says Mr Scrivener, ‘that this quantity is not available either for power or a gravitation schemed of water supple.  The Cotter River affords and excellent supply of pure water rarely discovered.  This is due to the fact that the catchment area is very lightly stocked at any time and that little or no ringbarking has been done.  Under similar conditions the water of Molonglo or Queanbeyan would probably be equally clear.  A much cheaper supply of water for domestic purposes could be obtained from the Queanbeyan than from Cotter, but if this river were used it would be necessary to make provision for a storage of at least one month’s supply and possibly for filtration.  It would also be essential to restrict stocking.  This would reduce the value of the land.  Since, however, the cost of a gravitation scheme on Cotter River, delivering water to a service reservoir at a level of 2,050 ft near Canberra is estimated by Mr De Burgh at 853,920 pounds and clearly to reach the higher level of 2,250 ft the cost would be increased considerably, it is desirable that every means by which a sufficient water supply for a large city can be obtained at a less cost should be considered.

A gravitation scheme from the Queanbeyan is possible but it would be found cheaper to pump than to carry a long pipe line through rough country.  The Molonglo carries too little water to be alone of much use for power purposes and as mining is carried on in the upper river its water could not be used for a two purpose supply.  To utilise the waters of the Molonglo, Queanbeyan and Cotter rivers for power, a series of storage reservoirs would be required to maintain a uniform flow.

An inspection of the country between Canberra and Jervis Bay, with a view to determining the probable route for a railway, was made during March last as the main division range, forming the eastern watershed of the Molonglo River is usually high.  A start was made near the 16 mile post on the Goulburn-Cooma line.  After that line has crossed the range from this point to Jervis Bay a practicable railway with a ruling gradient not worse that 1 in 40 and probably as flat as 1 in 150 can be obtained. The chief difficulty will be experienced in descending from the range at Sassafras to the Turpentine where there is a very rapid fall.  From Cooma the line of country passed through presents so unusual difficulties as far as Shoalhaven River.

‘This I should cross,’ Mr Scrivener continues, ‘below Lavert, thus avoiding the Durra Durra Range line. To the east of that village to Shoalhaven the river country is fertile.  After Shoalhaven is crossed the country changes in character and becomes very poor.  This continues beyond the Corong  River, with little variety.  The route lies close to the range forming a watershed between the Shoalhaven and Clyde rivers.  From Sassafras the range would be followed for some distance. Speaking generally, the country between Shoalhaven River and Jervis Bay is of the poorest description relieved only by the few basalt outcrops met with.

It will be costly to clear, and when cleared it will be of little value. Hence it is unlikely in the near future to carry any considerable population.  The only settlement along this part of the route is about Warrigo and Sassafras.  The former is a hamlet comprising one hotel, a store, post-office and school while the latter has a group of 12 occupied holdings, but the owners do not appear to be exceptionally prosperous.  The railway would not give access to a large amount of useful timber.

Two routes are indicated; one requiring bridges over the Shoalhaven, Mangarlowe and Corong rivers and the other following Bora Creek. In crossing Shoalhaven, Mangarlowe and Corong rivers if the latter proves practicable it will reduce the distance between Canberra and Jervis Bay, and avoid a large bridge over the Mangarlowe by using that part of the Cooma line between Queanbeyan and the 168 mile post much rougher country is avoided, though it is thought advisable a route might be possibly be obtained leaving the Cooma line near Burbong and crossing the main range east of that station, but there would appear to be little to gain by this departure. If this line were constructed it would no doubt carry eventually all the traffic from the Monaro district, as well as that of the Upper Murrumbidgee.  The distance from Canberra to Jervis bay by the Shoalhaven, Mongarlowe and Corong River route would be about 125 miles.

Dealing with Jervis Bay, Mr Scrivener says:-‘The port has a fine entrance open in all weathers and the shore line is regular.  To provide shelter, in the bay itself, and on account of its large area rough water will be experienced with all winds to the west of north or even due north, works must be undertaken to provide shelter.  The most sheltered part of the bay is at the north-east, but here there is a shoal, and there are mud flats along the margin.  This cannot be seriously considered.

St George’s basin which is connected with the sea by the Sussex Inlet was inspected.  The inlet is three miles long and ten chains wide.  Through the inlet there is a tortuous channel carrying from 8 to 10 ft of water for the greater part of the distance, but near the entrance the depth is only 2ft at low tide boats drawing that cannot pass the sandbank. Without works of a very expensive character dredging and stone retaining walls for six miles nothing could be done to render Sussex Inlet navigable even by small craft.

Mr Scrivener estimates that if the whole of the alienated and leased lands of the area were resumed the cost would be not less than 1,100,000 pounds.  Of the total area of 644,929 acres 399,055(not clear) are either freehold or may be ultimately converted freehold lands alone covering 231,100 acres.  The population within the proposed Federal territory is about 3,400.  The value of the lands within the boundaries can only be given approximately.  Such estates as Duntroon, Gungahlin, Acton, Jerrabombera, Yarralumla and Ginninderra as well as smaller holdings in their neighbourhood, will be costly to resume.  On Duntroon rentals range from 6/- to 10/- per acre.  A large price is charged for river flats.  Taking the whole of those estates it is doubtful whether they could be acquired at an average of less than 4 pounds 10 shillings to 5 pounds per acre,

[The land known as Klensendorlffe’s on the 1913 strip map became part of Duntroon Estate in the early 1860s – hence is included in this report as part of Duntroon Estate.]


Obituary coach driver

Following is a brief obituary for William Barry who drove the coach for surveyors and politicians in 1909. In the section on people is another obituary for Jack Kirkwood who looked after the horses for the surveyors' 1910 camp.

The Canberra Times 16 June 1947



The death occurred recently of Mr William Barry at his residence in Queanbeyan of Mr William Barry at his residence in Queanbeyan, after a prolonged illness. Mr Barry died on his 66th birthday. Born at Young in 1881, the eldest son of Mr JJ Barry, mailman for the Young-Temora district he soon became steeped in coaching lore, and drove for Cobb and Co to the Wyalong goldfields before he reached his twenties.

Early this century Mr Barry came to the Southern Districts and was engaged in running the mail in the Cooma-Bombala district. He was one of two coachmen selected to drive Parliamentarians and surveyors over the proposed site for Canberra in 1909 and later, when the development of the capital commenced, operated a four-in-hand daily between Queanbeyan and the scene of the operations.

The deceased eventually joined the Department of Works for whom he worked until retirement.  Mr Barry is survived by a widow and four children.

Surveyors start work 1910

The initial survey work was carried out between March and May 1909 when the 36 square miles of the city area was surveyed - properties of Duntroon, Yarralumla and Jerrabombera surveyed. 

The Advertiser 14 January 1910



Melbourne January 13

In relation to the new Federal capital the Minister for Home affairs has authorised the appointment of three surveyors to assist Mr Scrivener. One of them is Mr Sheaffe also a New South Wales officer and the other two, Messrs Percival and Martin are connected with the Victorian Service.  These four officers with the necessary assistants will proceed to the site area almost immediately and will start with the survey for the delineation of the boundaries of the Federal territory.  The Premier of New South Wales (Mr Wade) has agreed to accept the boundaries marked by Mr Scrivener.  In due course a variety of other work will be undertaken.  Mr Guilfoyle, ex-director of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens is to be entrusted with the afforestation of the Territory. Colonel Owen, the Director-General of Works under the Federal Government is to have charge of the engineering undertakings, such as the water supply, power and light, sewerage, roads and bridges.  The Minister intimated that an early decision would be necessary with regard to the steps to be taken to accommodate the members of the Federal Parliament.

April 1910 work on the site

The Advertiser 7 April 1910



Melbourne April 6

The work of preparing the Yass-Canberra district in New South Wales for Federal occupation goes steadily on. The departmental committee has just reported to the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Fuller) what site it things best for the observatory for astronomy, meteorology, solar physics and other scientific purposes, which it is proposed to erect at the Federal capital.  The site recommended is on Mount Stromlo, which has an elevation of about 600 ft above the surrounding country, and is 2,600 ft above sea level.  It is six miles south-west of the Federal capital site.  The committee has suggested that in order to test the suitability of the site a temporary observatory should be at once established there, and remain for about 12 months.  This course will probably be followed by a suitable building being erected to house the telescope presented to the Commonwealth by Mr Oddie of Ballarat, and a star camera.

The Director of Works for Victoria (Mr Thomas Hill) has just returned to Melbourne after arranging a number of preliminary matters in connection with the domestic water supply of the future capital. Gauge weirs are to be constructed across the Cotter River to test the flow of the water.  The location of the city water reservoir, about twelve miles from the capital, and pipe lines were tentatively mapped out.

Another matter that received attention was the question of determining the area in which the sewerage from the future city will be treated.  A broad irrigation system will probably be adopted at the site at such a distance from the city as to cause no risk to the population.

1910 concerns about labour

The Argus (Melbourne Vic) 13 September 1910



Domestic legislation for the administration of the Federal territory at Yass-Canberra is not to be only done before the issue of the proclamation formally taking over the territory.  It will probably be nearly twelve months before the proclamation is made.  From the information available it appears certain that at least no action will be taken until after the referendum on the question of industrial control has been taken next year. For some time to come the site of the Federal capital will necessarily be the scene of employment for a large numbers of men, and amongst the party in power there is a strong disinclination to allow the possibility of disputes within a solely federal territory being amenable only to the State law. Of course, it would be possible to meet the case if it were deemed sufficiently urgent, by special industrial legislation for the territory, but Ministers will hardly find that justified by the circumstances.

October 1910 Preparing the Plans

The Argus 10 October 1910



A large contour plan of the capital site area has been received by Colonel Miller secretary to the Department of Home Affairs. To-morrow it will be hung in Parliament house for the information of Federal Members.  It shows the contour lines in all directions at intervals of 5ft over the whole area.  The plan has been prepared for the purposes of the competition for designs for the laying out of the new city.  It indicates broadly where the buildings and streets are to be located and the spaces for sanitation, parks and other reserves.  The source and location of the water supply are also shown.  The Molonglo River runs through the site and the railway route, as surveyed from Queanbeyan is shown.

It remains for the Ministry yet to decide upon the amount to be offered as a prize for the successful design whether it shall be confined to Australia or open to the world.  There is much to be said on sentimental grounds for ensuring that the Australian capital city be designed by an Australian, but, as the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr O’Malley) has said, to have the competition open to the world would tell the world that the Australians are willing to compete with the world.  Already many inquiries have been received from engineers, surveyors, and others interested in the city building concerning the scope and nature of the competition and reports have been prepared by Colonel Miller respecting the conditions.  A great deal of information is being collated in order to place competitors in other countries in the event of the competition being open to them – on equal footing with those who have local knowledge.


Piggin memories 1910 and later

The Canberra Times 23 July 1948


Coaches and wagonettes, the building of the weir at the Cotter and characters who roamed the roads of Canberra 35 years ago, were described by Mr Fred Piggin of Red Hill, who retired from the Commonwealth Public Service this week after 46 years.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Piggin told of his arrival in Canberra in December 1910.  He arrived at Duntroon in a coach, driven by an old Queanbeyan identity, William Barry.  At that time it was customary for Government Officers and others to alight from the train at Yass and proceed by coach or wagonette to Canberra. The trip took five hours and a stop was made at MrsMcClung’s Murrumbateman for breakfast.

On the afternoon of Mr Piggin’s arrival at Duntroon the manager of Duntroon Station Mr EK Hudson invited a party including Mr T Haig, store and timekeeper and himself then paying officer to the FCT to attend a cricket match at Queanbeyan.

Mr Hudson drove a team of four horses in a wagonette and I don’t think the leaders had even been driven in that position before.

At the conclusion of the match a dinner was held in Walsh’s Hotel, then being run by Mrs M Ryan, later of Hotel Wellington.  Members of the party became merry and bright and two of them walked back to Duntroon, taking four hours for the trip.  Two other members who decided to walk, got bushed, arriving home at 1.30am.

At that time rabbits were more numerous than sheep at Duntroon and I had some good practice with my office automatic, shooting at them.  It was in my own time of course.

Canberra was then mainly divided into stations – Duntroon, Yarralumla, Ginninderra, Cuppacumbalond, Tuggeranong, Lanyon and a few smaller properties.

The work on the Royal Military College was commenced in 1910 and the parade ground was excavated by a bullock team belong to the late Charles Edlington.

Timber was brought by dray from as far as Braidwood.  ‘For sometime, two of us were the sole occupants of the Duntroon homestead, now the Officers’ mess.’

Mr Piggin was present at the first parade of cadets at the College.

‘The late General Bridges was the first commandant. I always thought he marched as though in deep thought looking neither to the right nor to the left. He was a tall thin man and usually walked with his head thrust forward.  He was  a strict disciplinarian and cadets were not permitted to smoke, although I could not swear that they did not.’

Mr Piggin said that the two-storey residence facing the road at Duntroon were built of concrete blocks made on the spot by bricklayer, Harry McEwan.


Continuing, Mr Piggin recalled that the Acton offices were first occupied in September 1912, by the survey staff under Mr Charles Scrivener. Previously the staff had been located at the survey camp near the concrete strongroom near the Canadian legation [ex home of Lord Casey built 1938 – now Casey House].  The Acton offices were built at that time as a temporary measure.

‘I occupied the first cottage completed at Acton. Others were later occupied by the late Felix Broinowski, C Vautin, Brown, Gourguad and Brackenreg.  The hospital was the building now occupied by the Department of Immigration [now and ANU building].  The first medical officer was Dr JRM Thompson. I think the first job completed in the ACT was the small gauging weir of the Cotter and it is still in use.  The Power Station was one of the first buildings and difficulty was experienced with the foundations.  My conveyance in the early days as paying officer was a horse and sulky.  I used to visit the Cotter once a fortnight and the journey took two hours. I was escorted by Constable Ford, who rode behind the sulky.  Trout fishing was excellent in the Cotter at that time and some of us would camp out during the fishing season.

Mr Piggin said that motor cars were not available in the ACT for official work until 1912. There was no bridge over the Murrumbidgee at the Cotter. It could be forded when low but mostly a punt had to be used. The crossing was a perilous affair and later a man was drowned there.

During the period 1910-15 only a small staff was employed at Acton, but recreation was found in golf, rifle shooting, tennis (one concrete court on the Acton Flats) and fishing.

One of the early characters at Uriarra was a road maintenance man named Michael Dunn, who used to live in a humphy near the Condor Creek. In his spare time he used to carve with an axe figures of birds and animals on the trees near the road. They were very lifelike.

‘Mick used to save his pay cheques for some months and then go on a ‘bender’ at Queanbeyan. Later he would write to me to straighten out his finances,’ he added.

Mr Piggin attended the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone in 1913 when Lady Denman announced the name of Canberra.  Mr Piggin recalled that the most trying experience for the officers concerned was the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into various works carried out by the Department of Home Affairs in 1911 to 1918, including the sewerage system and the Canberra water supply.

He said that strenuous efforts were made to prove wrong-doing but he was glad to say that everyone concerned with the business came through with a clean sheet.

‘Perhaps I might be pardoned in expressing considerable pride and pleasure in stating that in my 46 and quarter years of service with the department I have only known one serious case of wrong doing and that was prior to 1910 when a paying officer absconded with some cash.’

Mr Piggin stated that he had the unique experience of conducting on behalf of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer Sydney, the only referendum held in the ACT, the conscription issue during 1914-1918 war.

Reminiscing, Mr Piggin recalled with a certain amount of satisfaction, being barred from entering his horse and buggy in the Queanbeyan show in the best turnout section. The reason was so good that others would not enter their turnouts.

‘I was nearly beaten once, however, but as a condition was that the horse, harness and buggy had to be the property of the exhibitor for three months prior to the event and my opponent had borrowed his buggy from the local wheelwright and his harness from the saddler on the morning of the show, he was disqualified when I protested. I think he owned the horse.’


1911 The Residency

This short article refers to the federal beginnings of Acton.  The dwelling referred to in the article is The Residency

The Mercury (Hobart Tas) 13 July 1911

The federal city area is a scene of great activity. All the roads are being reconstructed and a gang of bridge builders is erecting a bridge over the Molonglo River. On the left of the road the foundations of the first federal building are being laid.  It will form a branch of the public works office. Surveyors are camped on the hillside marking off the area to be covered by this large building, which will accommodate a large army of resident architects and draughtsmen, who will have charge of the contracts for the building of the capital.  When this structure is completed a small village of cottages will be erected adjacent in order to provide the surveyors with residences.  ‘How to be happy, though married’. …(?) james IXL Ja…(?)


1910 - 1911 the competition

The Advertiser (Adelaide) 2 May 1911


The Department of Home Affairs to-day issued another chapter of conditions of the competition for a design of the Federal capital at Canberra. This chapter is headed ‘Requirements,’ and it states that the city will be primarily an official and social centre of Australia and the special consideration of designers must be given to the allocation of appropriate areas, suitably situated, and embracing sites for the following:-

Houses of Parliament (these should) be so placed as to become a dominating feature of the city. The building will probably have a frontage of 600 ft and a depth of 200ft. 

Residence of Governor-General.

Residence of Prime Minister.

Public offices, courts of justice, places of public worship, Mint, National Art Gallery and Library, State House, Printing Office, Government factories, University, Technical Colleges, City Hall, General Post office, Museum, Central Railway Station, railway marshalling yards, military barracks, Criminal and Police courts, gaol, hospitals, National Theatre, Central Power Station, gasworks, markets, stadium and parks and gardens.

The statement adds:- ‘The occasion for the design of the Federal capital city of the Commonwealth of Australia is unique in recent times, and it is expected that competitors will embody in their designs all the recent developments in the science of town planning. The conference held under the auspices of the Royal Institute of British Architects in October last, at which many authorities were present must have a marked influenced upon the city design from utilitarian, architectural, scientific and artistic standpoints.


The Advertiser (Adelaide) 9 September 1911


Melbourne, September 8

A deadlock has arisen between the Minister of Home Affairs and the Royal Institute of British Architects concerning the conditions of the Federal Capital design competition. The institute which expresses the views also of the American Institute, has informed the Government that it will not allow its members to compete.  ‘The conditions’ it states, ‘are that the plans are to go before a committee of one engineer, one architect, and one surveyor. That might mean anybody.  We have a rule that we do not compete unless the assessors are named beforehand and we will not compete in this competition. An architect who enters is put to a heavy outlay of time and money, and he does not want to find that the assessors are no competent to deal with the designs and that no guarantee has been given that if he is recommended by the assessors he will get the reward.’

The Institute suggested that the Government should extend the date for the completion and have a board of three architects – one each from British, American and Australian Institutes to act with engineers and surveyors as judges. The rest of British and American representatives, it was stated would be 1,000 pounds each.

The Minster decided to-day that no alteration would be made. ‘The position taken up by the British Institute,’ he stated, ‘shows want of confidence in the probity and impartiality of Australian professional men.  Town planning comprises three professions – engineering, surveying and architecture, and we laid it down that the Australian Institutes in these professions should nominate an advisory board. I deeply regret that the British Institute should take this attitude, but I cannot depart from the conditions sent out to the world, and while the aristocracy of the profession may not send designs, there are hundreds of young progressive and up-to-date professional men who will still compete. They have reputations to make. Australia is a continent sunny and cheerful and its city will probably be better planned by men with continental ideas than those scarred(?) in a circumscribed (?) atmosphere isolated from great continental horizons. We are a mighty growing nation and we will get our best designs from me of continental intellectual outlook.’

The Advertiser (Adelaide) 30 October 1911


Melbourne October 29

For preliminary work on the Federal capital site the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr O’Malley) is being provided with 10,000 pounds by the new Federal Estimates and he is determined that the city shall be designed without delay so that he may spend the money.  The general opposition of architects Institutes to the city competition is not disturbing Mr O’Malley.  He insists that he will get many good designs from young professional men who are not in institutes and from surveyors and engineers. Further he has a trump card in reserve, as a design could be obtained from the Architects and surveyors of the Home Affairs Department.

Mr O’Malley said yesterday that even if all the architects in the southern hemisphere joined the institutes or unions and went on strike, the building of the capital city would not be affected. The design competition would go on just as if they had never been born.


1911 and 1912 including the competition.

The Advertiser 9 March 1911


Melbourne March 8

Whatever may be the future of Yass-Canberra as a site for the Federal capital, the Department of Home Affairs has some progress to report in connection with the work of making the territory fit for occupation.  The Minister finished a short statement to-day, showing what had been done since the beginning of the year.  The chief executive acts are as follows:- Acquisition of ‘action’ (sic Acton) about 1,790 and half acres acquired from Mr J Jeffries, to provide sites for temporary offices outside the city area: accommodation for staff engaged there, and cottages for construction workmen.  Roads and bridges – Approval was given on February 2 of the expenditure of 8,000 pounds during the current financial year in the maintenance by day labor of a road making system within the territory, Road-making plant – Approval was given on February 2 of the purchase of the necessary road-making plant at a total expenditure of about 2,122 pounds.  Weirs- Approval was given for the construction of a weir to gauge the flow of the Cotter River, and the work is now being completed.   Approval was given on February 3 for the construction of a weir to gauge the flow of the Molonglo River at Yarrow-Lumla at an estimated cost of 500 pounds. [Site near the present Water Police buildings on the south side of Lake Burley Griffin.  This was the site of Riverside Farm Cottage last tenanted by Corkhill family and built for Frederick Campbell of Yarralumla Property in the late 1890s by Young.]

Approval was given on January 1 to erect a suitable temporary Observatory and set up instruments at Mount Stromlo at a cost of not exceeding 500 pounds. Road to the Observatory site – Approval was given on February 2 to expend 540 pounds on the construction of a road 12ft wide from the foot of Mount Stromlo to the Observatory site.  Rabbit proof netting – Approval was given on February 17 for the erection of seven miles of rabbit proof wire netting, to enclose property and divide paddocks at Acton.

The department has announced its intention of calling for designs for the layout of the Federal capital city.


The Advertiser 16 June 1911



Sydney June 15

Residents of Yass-Canberra are complaining of neglect. Not only are they disenfranchised, but they receive scant consideration from the Government. Postal facilities are denied them, and they are unable to cobtain postal-notes in order to remit money to their families.


THE ADVERTISER 13 April 1912


Melbourne April 12

Works in the Federal capital territory other than those at the Royal Military College and the Acton administrative block are now hung up for lack of funds.  This is a chronic state of affairs.  It occurred last year in an even worse degree than now, and it will doubtless occur towards the close of very financial year till the city is built and occupied.  Federal Ministers claim to be proceeding with the capital works as quickly as possible, and some have hinted that they will have the city ready for occupation by Parliament in five years.  It will therefore come as a surprise to learn that the Home Affairs Department is working on the basis that it will take 10 years to have the city well(?) enough advanced to house the Federal Parliament.  This is the accepted estimate of the experts employed.  Money is available for certain special works such as the erection of the powerhouse on the banks of the Molonglo, but the tenders for the machinery have not been returned.  When the power is ready the department will proceed with its water supply and sewerage schemes, brickworks and cottages for workmen, all of which depend on electrical power and lighting.  The surveying work has been conducted and the plans are ready.

 The Advertiser 19 April 1912

ADELAIDE FRIDAY April 10, 1912


Some disappointment will doubtless be occasioned if no British competitor, either English or Australian, is successful in taking a place amongst the prize winners in connection with the designs for the Federal capital.  At present it looks as if this is likely to be the case, although nothing is known with absolute certainty concerning the origins of the eight sets of plans which still remain after the careful sifting which has occupied the time of the adjudicators for some weeks. Very properly the gentlemen entrusted with the task of deciding which of the three most meritorious and at the same time the most suitable in all the circumstances, of the large number of designs forwarded, know nothing of the authorship or even of the nationality which any set of plans represent.  But, as was intimated in our columns yesterday, the adjudicators are able to draw inferences respecting the nationality from the general characteristics, and it is believed that no British competitors now remain in the running for a place.  Disappointing as this may be, it must be admitted that in an important work of a permanent nature like the building of a new capital city, the one aim of the Government and of all associated with the enterprise should be to secure the best possible type for the purpose.  This is not an instance in which preference could properly be given on sentimental grounds, even to Australian competitors.  It is, however, regretted that in consequence of dissatisfaction regarding the methods of selection originally provided for, the competition has been to some extent restricted in its scope.  Although the Commonwealth Ministers do not bind themselves to follow the lines of the first prize design, or of any other submitted they will probably be largely influenced by the ideas expressed in the plans selected for reward. It hqs long been recognised that the new city must combine beauty with utility.  It must be constructed on a plan which will provide ample space for parks and gardens, and also display to advantage the architecture of the more imposing buildings; it must have areas reserved for business and others for residential structures; in its composition architects and road and sanitary engineers must have a voice and the comfort and convenience of its inhabitants must be carefully considered.

Town-planning has evolved to a high standard in recent years, although in this as in every other great department, there are different schools  with conflicting views.  That a city can be made attractive and at the same time conveniently arranged and well-drained, if construction with long straight rectangular streets is abundantly proved by such excellent examples as those afforded by Adelaide and Melbourne, without going further afield, but  this fact does not furnish a conclusive argument in favour of the adoption of this style for the Yass-Canberra undertaking.  At the same time the distinctly different physical features of the sites of the Victorian and South Australian capitals make it clear t hat the general principle involved is susceptible of adaptation to varying conditions. It is understood, however, that the adjudicators are favourable to the radial plan which has been adopted in several instances in America and Europe, where town-planning has become a scientific study. Between the city that is deliberately designed before say of its streets are made and while as yet, no buildings exist, and one which simply grows with out any prearrangement, there must naturally be a wide distinction. Many of the older cities of Europe have come into existence street by street, and the result is chaos, in which, in some instances, glorious examples of architecture are hidden away in narrow thoroughfares, and a comprehensive and efficient drainage system cannot be installed.  Any recognised plan would make such defects impossible in a newly laid-out town, and the relative merits of different  modern systems must depend to some extent on the situation.  A seaport for instance, would have to be arranged with regard to wharfage, convenience, but a capital planted (?) at Yass-Canberra would admit of either the rectangular or radial plan, so long as the details were artistic and proper provision was made for commercial, residential and pleasure requirements.  The ideal of a majestic federal city, which is evidently in the minds of some of the competitors, takes no account of the practical considerations of pounds, shillings, and pence.  But if it is inevitable that the Commonwealth shall have its capital in the New South Wales bush at an early date, the sternest economist will be agreed regarding the expediency of making a good start with suitable design that can be carried out gradually as necessity arises.  Adelaide is a good illustration of the wisdom of providing in advance for all future requirements.


February 1913 1st peg for departmental plan - Mrs Miller names the hill, Canberra

The Advertiser 24 February 1913



Sydney February 23

The Minister of Home Affairs (Mr O’Malley) arrived from the federal capital site yesterday morning. ‘Is the secret out?’ he was asked. ‘No, brother, not yet,’ he replied.(continues on to refer to Lady Denman...)

Mr O’Malley, accompanied by Mr McDonald, MHR, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs and Miss McDonald, visited the Federal capital on Thursday and during the afternoon performed the ceremony of driving in the first peg in connection with the recently approved departmental design for the layout of the city.  The peg driven by the Minister defines the central feature of Parliament House.. Minister invited the Speaker to drive in the second peg... The Minister then asked Mrs Miller, the wife of the administrator of the Federal capital territory to give a name to the ground where the ceremony took place, which she christened Canberra Hill.


The Canberra Times 16 February 1932



The death occurred in Sydney last week of Mrs David Miller wife of Brigadier-General David Miller of Wallangrove Station, New South Wales, formerly secretary of the Department of Home Affairs and Administrator at Canberra.

The late Mrs Miller was well known to many of the old residents of Canberra.  Brigadier-General Miller was the first occupant of the Residency now known as Canberra House.  Mrs Miller resided at Canberra for about three years from 1913 until the retirement of her husband from the Public Sevice.

1913 Ceremony - laying foundation stone

Adelaide Advertiser 13 March 1913 


Canberra, March 12

‘I desire to convey greetings from the people of Australia to your Majesty and announce that I have to-day laid the foundation stone of the Federal capital city, and that Lady Denman has named it ‘Canberra.’


This was the dispatch sent by Lord Denman to the King immediately on the conclusion of the ceremony to-day to do honor to the occasion of the naming of the Federal Capital and the commencement of its memorial column.  All nature was smiling and gay.  The early morning was slightly raw with a this haze from a night mist, but the visitors were later grateful for the veil that covered the face of the sun and a slight breeze tempered his heat, which in the rarefied atmosphere of the Kurrajong Hills would have been rather trying in the entire absence of wind.  A long and weary wait was the lot of whose who stood round the square flanked by troops, awaiting the arrival of the Vice-Regal party. The concourse had grown to 3,000 when there was a parting in the ranks and a richly equipped carriage swung round in front of the grandstand.  Lady Denman and Lady Barttelot were the occupants.  Lady Denman was met by the Prime Minister and several other Commonwealth Ministers and presented by Miss Stella Broinowski, the seven year old daughter of the senior draftsman of the Survey Department with a handsome shower bouquet.  She was then escorted to the Vice-Regal enclosure on the grandstand, which had already been filled to its utmost capacity by representative people.  The Governor-General was scheduled to arrive at 11.30am but is was five minutes later when the booming of the artillery on the adjacent hillside and the strains of the National Anthem, played by the Lancers’ Band heralded his arrival.  His Excellency, who was accompanied  by Major Quilter and Captain Sir Walter Bartellot, inspected the guard of honor from the Duntroon Military College and then the most interesting period of the morning ceremony was reached. 


The Foundation Stones

The Prime Minister acted as a sort of master of ceremonies in connection with the laying of the foundation-stones.  As he walked to the base of the column he was cheered. ‘ Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,’ he began, ‘it is now my pleasure and privilege to invite his Excellency to lay the foundation-stone of this column on behalf of the people of Australia. I ask him to perform that duty for us.’ (Cheers)


The Governor-General was given an ovation as he accepted the gold trowel.  The stone having been lowered, he tapped it gently in the orthodox way and said, ‘I declare this first stone of the commencement column well and truly laid.’ (Cheers)


Then the rugged form of the Minister of Home Affairs appeared against the skyline. ‘I am going to asked the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia to lay the foundation stone of the second commencement column,’ he announced amid cheers and a shout of ‘Good boy, Andy.’ The Prime Minister accepted his present of a trowel and went through precisely the same performance as that of thee Governor General declaring as Lord Denman had done, ‘this second stone of the first column of the Federal city well and truly laid.’ (Cheers)


For the third time Mr O’Malley appeared. As he reached for his trowel and waited for his instructions he was loudly cheered and then he proceeded seriously about his business. ‘I declare this stone well and permanently laid,’ he said.


The Secret at Last.

The base of the Commencement Column of the capital city was complete. The brief delay of the next few minutes while the dais from which Lady Denman was to declare the name of the new city was being removed, was a time of anxious expectation on the part of the assemblage.  When Lady Denman stepped to the centre of this column, which had been converted into a crimson-coloured platform, there was an almost breathless  silence.  Local residents grouped at the corner of the stand shifted nervously, since the whispered information that they were to be singularly honoured had been almost too good to be true.  Lady Denman carried in her hand a small golden casket, between the corners of which was hidden a card bearing the mystic word that would be known all over the Empire a couple of hours later. A fanfare of trumpets sounded by buglers announced the psychological moment had arrived. As the echoes of the last notes died away in the little valley between the hills, Lady Denman looked round upon the circle of waiting spectators and smiled. ’I name the capital city of Australia, ‘Canberra,’’ she said.  There was a frantic outburst of cheering from a group of local residents, who all along desired to have the original appellation retained. The infection was carried even into the ranks. Everybody cheered. Apparently everybody was happy. The dreaded ‘Myola’ had not survived the trying ordeal of public criticism, if indeed, mention of it originally had been a joke.  Another salute of 21 guns was fired. Cheers were given for all who had taken part in the proceedings for the King and Commonwealth. An adjournment was then made to the parade-ground to witness the march part.


The luncheon.

Mr Fisher presided at the luncheon and introduced the Governor-General. Mr Fisher said that the event had been a very happy one.  The wrangle about the home of the government of Australia was over and the city was to be built.  ‘The Commonwealth,’ proceeded Mr Fisher, ‘ will built it, and I believe all partners desire to make it worthy of the country and the nation to which we belong.  Here on the spot the best thoughts of the people of Australia will be expressed both in legislative and administrative acts.  I hope this city will be the seat of learning as well as politics and it will be the home of art. I hope also that the district will prosper in unison with the States.


Felicitations from New Zealand

Mr Fisher read a cablegram from the Prime Minister of New Zealand congratulating Australians on the ‘Important events taking place,’ and expressing the hope ‘that the new city will be worthy of the great Commonwealth in whose prosperity and welfare New Zealand takes the keenest and most friendly interest.’


Mr Fisher in reply, voiced the hope that the two countries would prosper side by side and work together in all things essential(?) for the common  welfare.


The Case for the Capital

The Governor-General proposed the toast of ‘The Federal capital city.’ After expressions of delight he and Lady Denman felt at being present on such a unique occasion and his pleasure at the very representative gathering, his Excellency regretted that so few of those who took part in the foundation of the Commonwealth were present that day. Sir Samuel Griffiths and Sir Edmund Barton were detained by their duties in the High Court.  Mr Deakin had recently retired from public life. (Cheers).  His Excellency continued:- ‘There are people who say why have the Federal Capital at all?  Why not let the seat of government be at Melbourne or Sydney?  The best answer seems to me to be in the fact that in the judgement of those who formed the Constitution Act of 1900 Federation would have been impossible had not a compromise been arrived at in this matter, and  that it would have been postponed for at least  a generation.  Now the essence of British self government in compromise and acceptance of accomplished fact. If the Federal Government and Parliament were to repudiate the obligations contained in the Act of 1900 it seems to time that they would lay themselves open to a charge of bad faith that would be difficult to refute.  These people say that this Federal capital is too costly an undertaking, but when you consider the great advantages that have accrued from Federation, the better relations between States as evidenced by the abolition of inter-State duties, the building up of the army and any, the adoption of universal training, and above all the creation of a national Australian spirit, it seems scarcely generous(?) to cavil at the initial expense which must sooner or later be incurred at the founding of the Federal city.  I believe that Ministers contend and not without forces, that owing to the improvement of land values in the Federal Territory it is not likely eventually to prove such a costly undertaking after all.  Whether that be so or not, it can scarcely be to the advantage of Australia that so large a proportion of the people of this country should be massed in two great centres of population, Sydney and Melbourne.  I do not want t o say a word of disparagement of these two splendid cities. Indeed for both of them I have the warmest admiration; but we do not want them to be the only cities.  We want to see other town and cities in other parts of the continent.  Canberra will add another to those already existing.  Incidentally it will open up another port, Jervis Bay, for the eastern coast of Australia and a harbor which without being a serious rival to Sydney will be of immense value to the naval base and a free outlet for trade and commerce in this part of the Commonwealth.  Now the Federal capital cannot hope to vie in wealth and population with Sydney and Melbourne or other large cities of Australia; but that seems to me no reason for discouragement and to afford no grounds for regret.


Courage and Determination

‘In conclusion, I would say a few words as to the future of this city. I think it must be admitted that the prospect of founding it is an ambitious one,  This occasion seems to me one less for mutual congratulation than for mutual encouragement. Let not him who putteth on his harness, boast himself as he that taketh it off.  We are only at the beginning.  The bulk of the work lies before us, but if you believe as I believe in the great future of Australia, and if you recognise as I recognise the courage, grit and determination with which the Australians have already carried through more difficult enterprises than this, we need have no doubts or misgivings as to the undertaking we are inaugurating to-day.  The time for doubt, misgiving and criticism has passed.  It is always easy to sneer and criticise but now as a start has been made it seems to me to be the duty of patriotic Australians to do all that has been made, it seems to me in to be the duty of patriotic Australians to do all that lies in their power to make this capital worthy of the Commonwealth.  To those who criticise the choice of the locality I would  recall this..(words very faint and hard to read)...


The Governor-General announced that the territory was to be known as ‘The Federal territory of Canberra.’  The address will therefore be ‘Canberra, Commonwealth, Federal Territory, Commonwealth of Australia.’


Message from Sir Edmund Barton

His Excellency then read a message from Sir Edmund Barton, who wrote as follows – ‘Your Excellencies are about to perform an act of deep significance to Australia for we many all be confident that the city you are about to name will be prepared with due activity for its great future as the seat of government, where Australia will be mistress in her own house and there will be no room for complaint of provincial influences in the pursuit of national aims.  I fervently hope an believe that those to whom the high trust of government and legislation will from time to time be committed will be true Federalists that they that they will hold the balance even between the citizenship of the Commonwealth and that of the States and will not sacrifice either in mistaken favour to the other. Discharging their noble trust in this spirit, I predict that they will make our country ever stronger as a partner in an Empire whose watchword is ‘Duty’ and their justice as well as their wisdom, will be the pride of generation after generation.  I feel that I am giving voice to the aspirations of the great men my association with whom in the framing of the Constitution will to me be a glorious memory while life endures.’


One of the World’s Greatest Nations

Mr O’Malley, who began his speech – ‘Your Excellencies, Mr Prime Minister and my Christian Friends’ said they were assembled on ground made famous through having been chosen as the permanent home of the commonwealth government publicly to celebrate the commencement of operations at the capital of what would prove to be one of the world’s greatest nations. All subsequent Australian political history would concentrate its searchlight on that spot, a magnetic centre of attraction to the eyes of countless generations still unborn, and forever the visible evidence of Australia’s national destiny.  Living in what was only the infancy of this mighty Commonwealth they realised that through all successive ages numberless billions of human beings must appear on this horizon to suffer and enjoy the dispensations that belong to humanity.  It required no prophetic mind to peer into the vista of future centuries to behold stupendous events occurring here.  How could they contemplate the discovery of Australia without recognising the meaning of that supreme adventure for their own welfare. It must have been an uninteresting and really pathetic scene when that great sailor, the discoverer of this continent Captain Cook, stood on the deck of his little wooden barque, rocked on the billows of an uncharted sea, straining his eager anxious eyes, till finally came the reward – the glimpse of an unknown world.


Venerate the Pioneers

Nearer to the present period, more closely associated with it progress, and therefore with modern economic thought, was the colonisation of the Commonwealth by people from the motherland, America and other countries.  Australian natives should always cherish the memory of those sterling pioneer ancestors, revere their patience and resolutions, admire their pluck and daring enterprise, and make the school throughout the nation teach the children to venerate their deeds. (Cheers)  The Government trusted that this capital city based on a sure foundation pushed on with vigor and determination rising high in sublime solidity and unadorned splendour might endure forever emblematic  of the purpose for which it was being created.  The rewards of glorious achievements were permanently deposited in the universal memory of humanity.  Sentiment and imagination as well as reason, were elements of human nature, and in the proper guidance of these attributes, there was neither loss nor sacrifice.  They had specially come to dedicate a spot which from now onward should be precious to all true Australians.  They hoped that this capital would never be the headquarters of an intriguing tyranny, of a modern military despotism, and therefore they consecrated it to the spirit of human freedom and national unity, trusting that the light of happiness might for ever shine upon it. (Cheers).  They desired that the capital city, which was the legitimate offspring of the Federal union might help to demonstrate the magnitude of importance of Federation to  (part of a line missing)...patriotism would gather inspiration from the nation’s capital and rest assured that the national power, justly founded was indestructible.  They were the privileged participators in an age of extraordinary inventions and world-wide discoveries, a time of wonderful activity and prosperity, in an era of great industrial, commercial and financial progress.


Uplifting the Race

Events so vast and varied that they might magnify and distinguish centuries were now condensed within the span of a single life. During that previous period in the world’s history had it been possible to record so many measures for the uplifting of the human race as in the Commonwealth since the first elected Federal Convention met at Adelaide in 1907.  Their own evolutionary peaceable revolution,that might have been productive of a 30 year’s war had been accomplished and six independent States and territories were federated with one national Government over all so just and free that many wondered its achievement should have been so successful. (Cheers) Dense forests or scrub were annually being cleared by the strong aid of intelligent industry and the dwellers along the Murray and Murrumbidgee were gradually becoming neighbours and co-producers of those whose homes were the downs of Queensland, the plains of Western Australia, the charming hills of Tasmania, and the fertile lands of the Northern Territory and Papua.  Already they possessed a trade and commerce that left few countries or seas unexplored: the nucleus of a military and naval organisation that feared no foe; income founded on reasonable taxation, sufficient to meet all the necessities of honest government; and friendship with all creation, ranking(?) on equal rights and mutual(?) respect. (Cheers) Such was the universal advance of learning in the arts and sciences, in literature and law, in the development of international trade and commerce – above all in modern reformative ideals, and the general spirit of the times that everywhere everything was changing, emphasising the fact that there was a world-transforming social ideal as the heart of modern business activity. Humanity was daily realising that all should live to serve the ends of justice.


The Golden Rule

They were endeavouring to practically focalise some of the ideals of the Golden rule, giving them a commanding prevalence by creating in every community a society or institution to interpret and champion them – a kind of nationwide public trust commissioned to promote mutual interests among all, insisting that no transaction was good that was not good for all, and that no business was legitimate that did not honestly serve the public. Nations like individuals could only progress as they ceased to think mechanically and learned to thing chemically.  Science was triumphing over all barriers.  It was shortening distances, universalising languages, pulverising diversity of hab...and customs, paralysing prejudices and bigotry, penetrating the heavens by means of aerial(?) navigation and gradually dissolving in the modern crucible of knowledge all the ancient hideous nightmares of superstition and ignorance.  The promotion of free education so amazing in the last half century, had rendered innumerable minds variously capable of being competitors in the high form of intellectuality.  From the wider expansion of accumulated knowledge, the general improvements in legislation and administration and the progressive operations were occurring in the economic conditions of the masses.  Humanity has now an all-round higher standard of living more refinement, more self respect, and a superior measure of education, worked shorter hours for an increasing average rate of wage and was universally more hopeful.  Those essentials ....(too light to read) in elementary stages and while the inevitable use of machinery would seem to displace labor, labor should always secure its occupation and receive its reward.  The possession of power did not swell the brade(?) of Australians for the  ... of the profiter (?) trained them in the art of self-control.  Although the authority in Britain was paramount practically that whole field of legislation had always been open to the State Parliament.  They had been accustomed to representative methods and the forms of free responsible government.  They understood the principle of the division of power among different branches and the necessity of checks and balances for each.  The true character of Australians was sober, moral and semi-religious and there was little in the change from the regime of the separate States to the Commonwealth that did violence to their conscientious scruples.


For the Worker

The creation of free representative responsible government was man’s master achievement. Federation being accomplished and a national government established, they were trying to devise more equitable means of securing to the real workers an honest share of the comforts and conveniences of life.  The extreme inequalities that so glaringly existed between poverty and wealth, so demoralising to both should be abolished.  Young Australia should be taught to despise the extravagant luxuries indulged in by the vulgar worshipers of mammon.  All should adopt that natural simplicity so admirable in manners, speech and generosity.  While the Commonwealth had its dangers to overcome, its enemies within to conquer, its detractors to confuse and its doubting Thomasses  to convince; yet with profound admiration and intense satisfaction it was contemplated by four and three quarter millions of liberty loving people.  This celebration should animate and elevate the hopes of all patriotic Australians.  On most occasions they were partisans, and strenuously maintained their political differences; but to-day they were all Australian Nationalists.  Their hearts should rejoice as they realised that this sublime inheritance of freedom, the proud product of the English speaking peoples was still theirs undiminished and unimpaired in all its original integrity  to transmit to posterity. He believed, according to the Divine plane and specifications, God commanded the English speaking peoples to secure control and constitutionally govern the earth in the interests of civilization.  Therefore the federation of the English speaking peoples, forming a world-wide cause with one universal hope and destiny should be the pre-eminent aspiration of all thinking Australians.




OTTOWA March 12

In connection with the christening of the Australian capital, the Prime Minister (Mr Horden) has dispatched the following message of congratulations to the Right Hon Andrew Fisher:-

‘Earnest wishes for the continued and increasing prosperity of the great sister Commonwealth.  Though far removed by miles we are very close in ideals, the aspirations and democracy, and the common ties which bind the two kindred nations in firm allegiance to the Empire.’




The special correspondent of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ at the Federal Capital wrote on Sunday:-

Mr Scrivener, the Director of Commonwealth Lands and Surveys, whose report on the district was the immediate cause of its adoption as the location of the capital city, was good enough to accompany me to the site and explain its topographical features.  It was a dull wintery day, but even under very unfavourable conditions one could not help being impressed with the picturesqueness of the site of Australia’s future capital.  Standing at the summit of Canberra Hill (so named recently by Mrs Miller[Camp Hill?] which is to be the site of the Parliament House, one looked round upon one vast amphitheatre enclosed on all sides by a ring of mountains, which in three directions form the boundaries of the Federal Territory.  If the capital will not, like ancient  Rome, be built on seven hills or like Jerusalem on four, it may truly be called the city of hills.


Full advantage of the natural features of the site has been taken in the design.  One realises for instance, what a noble thoroughfare will be the grand avenue, 400 feet wide, which is to lead from the Kurrajong Hill (the site of the Capital) and the scene of Wednesday’s ceremony) past the Houses of Parliament on Canberra Hill, across the ornamental lake which is to be formed from the Molonglo River to the foot of Mount Ainslie. The other avenues which are to radiate from the same centre will be clearly equally imposing, whether one takes the roads leading to Black Mountain on the north-west to Mount Vernon [now City Hill] on the north or to Mount Russell on the east.  The valley of the winding Molonglo River beneath Mount Ainslie and Black Mountain which is to be the venue of the ornamental lake appears to be as suitable and delightful a situation when viewed on the spot as it does on paper.  The inhabitants of the capital city will indeed be fortunate if the projected plans are carried out as they have been designed.



From Kurrajong Hill the spire of Canberra Church [St John the Baptist Church Reid] can be seen.  Curiosity as to the history of the scattered settlement whose name will at all events be associated with one portion at least of the capital city led me to the parsonage where the Rev LH Champion, who was at one time headmaster of Kings School Parramatta was good enough to give me some particulars with regard to the past record of his parish.


‘Merchant’ Campbell

The whole district is associated with activities of the Campbell family. Robert Campbell was a Calcutta merchant who came to Australia in 1799 to make enquiries with regard to a ship which had been lost in the Bass Straits and apparently he was sufficiently pleased with Sydney to remain in that city.  He became known as ‘Merchant’ Campbell, and afterwards owned Campbell’s wharf.  In the early years of the last century Sydney suffered from a severe drought, and the Governor desired to send ships to India for food supplies.  The only two vessels in Port Jackson suitable for such purposes were two which Mr Robert Campbell had in the harbor loaded with sealskins.  The authorities commandeered these ships and sent them away for grain, the only compensation which Mr Campbell received being two blocks of land 5,000 and 4,000 acres respectively and about 7,000 ewes.  The land which he selected is now part of the site for the Federal capital.  ‘Merchant’ Campbell had in his employment an old trooper named Ainslie, who had seen service with the Scots Greys and who had been seriously wounded at Waterloo.  He was deputed by Mr Campbell to take charge of the ewes and to select suitable land.  The ewes were obtained in the early twenties at Bathurst, but finding the country near that town occupied Ainslie came south towards Goulburn and Yass.  Still finding the country occupied he went further south and from the blacks he heard of suitable country in what is now the Queanbeyan district.  He was led by a black gin to Duntroon Plains and choose the spot where the Military College now stands because it had been a blacks’ camp.  The property was called Duntroon after the family estate in Argyllshire, Scotland.  The aboriginal name for Duntroon is Pialigo and the district is still so called by many people. Ainslie managed the property for several years, and grew wheat.  He returned to the old country some time in the thirties and gave his name to Mount Ainslie. Robert Campbell had four sons, two of whom, Messrs John and Charles Campbell were members of the New South Wales Legislative Council.  Mr George Campbell, another son, lived at Duntroon and one of his sons was Colonel Campbell DSO.  Mr Frederick A Campbell who has lived in the district for many years is a son of Mr Charles Campbell.


An Old Church

St John the Baptist Church Canberra is the oldest in the southern district, having been built in the early forties, when this portion of the country was literally ‘a wilderness’.  It is about eight miles west of Queanbeyan and  is one and half miles from Duntroon, and the site was given by Robert Campbell who consecrated it in 1845 and he and his family endowed the church with several thousand pounds.  The first baptism took place in June 1845.  An inspection of the register discloses the fact that in the early days there was a good deal of confusion as to the spelling of the name of the parish. Canbury was favoured at first and on one page, Canbury, Canberry and Canberra are all given.  Hu..(?) Canberra seems to have come into general vogue in 1861 and the name has continued in that form ever since.  It is noteworthy that only three places on the capital site have so far been named after individuals associated with the district.  Mount Ainslie has already been mentioned. Mount Vernon has been named after Colonel Vernon, who was until recently Government Architect and was a member of the Advisory board which recommended the choice of the site.  Mount Russell commemorating the vote given by the late Senator Russell in the Federal Senate which secured the final adoption of the district as the Federal capital.



Forgotten foundation stone 1932

The Canberra Times 8 November 1932


Better Site Wanted

One of the earliest of Canberra’ foundation stones – the Commencement column unveiled by Lady Denman when the city was named in 1913 – was the subject of discussion by the Advisory Council yesterday.  A motion was moved by Lt-Col Goodwin that the Minister be asked to place the Commencement Column on Capitol Hill in a condition more worthy of the event which it commemorated. [originally laid on Camp Hill.]

The resolution added that this could be done with little expense by removal of the protecting timber and the erection of a suitable form of enclosure such as granite stone pillars connected by chains.

Lt-Col Goodwin said that the column was not in a direct line between the initial point of Mr Griffin’s  plan and Mount Ainslie, which passed through  the centre of Parliament House [Provisional] as it was placed on the radial line of the departmental design which at the commencement of the building of the capital was the accepted plan.

This difficulty however, could be overcome by the erection at a future date of another column to commemorate the granting of the franchise to the people of the Territory and their emancipation form the condition of serfdom under which they are now suffering. (Prolonged laughter and applause).

Mr Gourguard: ‘Who wrote you your speech, Colonel?’

Members of the council appeared to be uncertain of the exact location of the column, as Lt –Col Goodwin explained that it was not yet a column.  It was really the base for a column and was composed of polished granite with many engravings.  It had been intended that the column should be constructed of stones sent from every part of the Empire.  The column would thus prove a valuable symbol of the unity of the Empire and would be, the Colonel felt sure, an object of interest for Australians.

‘At present,’ he continued, ‘ the stone is obscured by wooden wallings erected to protect it from small boys.’

Mr Daley: Why not erect a wailing wall?

Dr Cumptson asked if Lt-Col Goodwin was referring to a structure erected to commemorate the first auction sale of leases.

Lt-Col Goodwin (empahtically) No.  It was erected in 1913 to commemorate the naming of the city by Lady Denman.

Mr Gourgaud offered to bring along a complete set of photographs of the occasion.

By this time the council was so undermined by laughter that Mr Daley thought it necessary to move that discussion of the matter be deferred until next meeting.

Mr Daley’s amendment was carried.


Canberra 1913

In 1909 the surveyor's camp was established on Capital Hill to commence the survey work on an area of 36 square miles for the city area.  The following year in1910 the base camp was established in the same area and the 'serious' work of surveying began. In 1911 Acton, a property on the north side of the Molonglo River was resumed by the Commonwealth.  Here the temporary timber cottages and barracks for single men, along with offices, a Commonwealth Bank, gaol, police station and a school (1919-1923) were established.  Acton became the Administrative Centre of Canberra.

1912 work commenced on the Cotter Dam (water supply) and the Power House (electricity) - 1913 brickyards producing bricks and 1915 work on the sewer began.  1916 work slowed to an almost standstill as men and money were diverted to World War 1 (1914-1918) and did not restart until 1920/21.

1913 was the year that Lady Denman named the future city - CANBERRA - the Ngunawal name for the area that continued to be used by the locals.  By the late 1850s - early 1860s the spelling settled to Canberra.  Following are articles found in newspapers written about the naming day and the year in general. 

The Federal Capital 1913

Adelaide Advertiser 24 November 1913 

The Federal Capital

Progress is being made with the works at the Federal capital at Canberra. Two miles of the main pipe line have been laid between the city site and the Cotter River about seven miles away.  Kilns are now turning out bricks of a satisfactory quality with clay obtained in the territory.  About 850,000 bricks have been made. Half this quantity will be used for the walls of the Power House and the rest for the main sewer.  Another work that is well in hand is the store for seasoning timber.  This is almost completed.

February 1913 important ceremony

The Adelaide Advertiser 24 February 1913 

The article refers to the placing of the first pegs to mark the beginning of the departmental plan for Canberra. Walter Burley Griffin won the competition but there was resistance to accepting his plan.  The result was that a Department Plan was drawn up – this was later scrapped and the plan that Griffin designed was reinstated.  By that time, however, the Power House was already under construction in a place that Griffin did not want.



Sydney, February 23

The Minister of Home Affairs (Mr O’Malley) arrived from the Federal capital site yesterday morning. ‘Is the secret out?’ he was asked. ‘No, brother, not yet,’ he replied. ‘It will be announced formally by Lady Denman, who will give the name to the capital of federated Australia when the appointed time arrives. Don’t you think that’s a good idea, full of gracefulness, dignity, and mystery, eh?’


The name has not yet been finally decided upon. It will depend upon the vote of the majority of the Cabinet.  Mr O’Malley accompanied by Mr McDonald MHR, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs and Miss McDonald visited the Federal capital on Thursday and during the afternoon performed the ceremony of driving the first peg in connection with the projection of the recently approved departmental design for the layout of the city.  The peg driven by the Minister defines the central feature of Parliament House. It also marks the centre line of the great avenue from the Capitol direct towards Mount Ainslie and from it the axis of important radiating avenues having objectives fine public buildings. Before driving in the peg, Mr Scrivener, Director of Commonwealth Lands and Surveys at the request of the Minister explained to the assemblage the significance attaching to the location of the peg, which forms the starting point of the survey of the capital city.


After this the Minister invited the Speaker to drive the second peg marking the direction of the entire line of one of the principal avenues of the city having as its objective the hospital.  This avenue is designed to cross the Molonglo River by a fine bridge, and near the hospital, is bifurcated one branch leading to the University.  Mr O’Malley addressed the assemblage but pointed out t hat as he would probably have to say a few words on the occasion of the laying of the foundation-stones of the commencement column he would reserve his fire for t hat occasion.


Mr McDonald emphasised the fact that while the ceremony which took place might not play an important part at present, yet in time to come it would be regarded as the most significant event in the history of what must one day be one of the world’s greatest nations. The Minister then asked Mrs Miller, the wife of the administrator of the Federal capital territory, to give a name to the ground where the ceremony took place, which she christened, Canberra Hill

1914 RMC Camp at Yarralumla

The Queanbeyan Age 13 February 1914


Artillery practice will be carried out by the Staff Cadets who are now in camp at Yarralumla during the week ending 21st instant. Targets will be placed on the spurs of both sides of the Molonglo River near Coppin’s Crossing and will be fired at from positions on Green Hill. The owners and lessees of lands in the line of fire which corresponds generally with the line of the river west of Coppin’s Crossing, will receive notice, when necessary to move stock, and lookout posts will be placed to stop firing when persons desire to pass along Coppin’s Crossing road. Firing will be carried out with live shell which should burst at the target.

Occasionally, however, the fuse fails to act and anyone finding a blind shell is cautioned not to handle it, and is requested to inform the Commandant of the Military College where it may be found in order that he can take steps to have it destroyed.  Rifle practice will also be carried out on the southern slopes of Green Hill during the camp, which terminates on 7th March.  This will not interfere with the traffic on Coppin’s Crossing road.


1951 Canberra Pageant

At the time of this pageant I was nearly 14 years of age and lived nearby.  I have no recall of this pageant. I was in second year at Canberra High School and perhaps our school did not take part. 




More than 7,000 persons from Canberra and districts as far afield as Cooma, Captains Flat, Yass and Goulburn watched the Jubilee pageant of Canberra on Capital Hill yesterday afternoon.

Onlookers included the Governor-General and Mrs McKell, the acting Minister for the Interior (Mr HL Anthony), Mr WM Hughes MP and members of the diplomatic corps.

Mr King O’Malley Minister for State and Home Affairs in 1913 was invited but could not attend.

The crowd was in a holiday mood applauding generously, and laughing heartily at unrehearsed incidents when a hare broke from cover and ran through the players, or when a dog bull-dogged cattle in the pageant until chased from the area by a stock-man.

Encroachment of the crowd on the pageant area, however deprived the final episode of its impact, spoiling the view of hundreds of spectators who remained on the hill.

The pageant represented community effort, directed by Mr A Borsell and included approximately 1000 children from eight Canberra Schools, a large party of RMC cadets and naval ratings from Harman.

Other organisations including the Canberra City Band, a massed choir, the Canberra Repertory Society, scouts and guides, the Canberra Riding School, the mal Strachan Square Dancers as well as several departmental helped.

The diplomatic corps in Canberra also assisted Mr A Borsell with costumes and music.

The acting Minister for the Interior (Mr Anthony) congratulated the committee for its colourful pageant. He paid tribute to the work of Sir Henry Parkes who was regarded as the leader of the movement which ended in the establishment of Canberra.

He included Mr WM Hughes and other stalwarts in the history of the Commonwealth, adding that everyone hoped that Mr Hughes will be present in the next Parliament.

‘Many others have contributed to the growth of Canberra – men like Walter Burley Griffin, the civil servants who were responsible for the establishment of the parks, gardens and the plantings of trees which make the city so beautiful today,’ he declared.

He said that 38 years ago there was scarcely a single building in Canberra, but to-day there is a population of approximately 20,000.  In a few years it was hoped to have 50,000 ‘even if we have to get a bulldozer to remove some of the departments from Melbourne,’ Mr Anthony, continued.

He concluded with the hope that expansion in the next 50 years will outstrip growth since 1900.

Moving a vote of thanks, Mr WM Hughes said that the development of Canberra, as the rest of Australia has been done by the people.

‘This country has been built up by men of courage and iron physique. It is not a country for weaklings, but for men with vision.   It has been built up by men who worked and believed that there was no salvation other than work.

To-day the world is greater and richer than that we knew at the time of Federation.  I commend to my fellow citizens to gird up their loins.  They enjoy the greater freedom of any nation in the world, and we are in the forefront of free nations.

Evil forces have been unleashed and unless we learn how to hold this country, we are utterly undone.’

He said that it was appropriate that such a function should be selected for Canberra to celebrate the foundation of the Commonwealth.

Chairman of the Celebrations Committee (Mr CS Daley) thanked Mr Anthony and Mr Hughes for attending.

The pageant opened with the appearance of three aborigines clad in loincloths on the hillside near Capital Hill Camp.  They danced and chanted a tribal hunting song of the district before the advent of settlers.

In sequence Captain Arthur Phillip (played by Mr TW Pye) appeared in a rowing boat.  The formation of the map of Australia followed, with brief historical reference to the establishment of each State and finally the Commonwealth.

The children who were marshalled opposite Streets bearing the names of the State capitals, moved behind State flags to their position on the map.

Youngsters representing State boundaries jostled each other as narrator (Mr M Purnell) spoke of the interstate rivalries. 

At the conclusion of this episode, square dancers applied an American technique to a ‘Waltzing Matilda’ square dance.

The ‘Pioneer’ episode was introduced by Miss Doris Fitton and Repertory Choir, who recited Dorothea McKellar’s poem, ‘My County’.

This replaced a series of Australian songs which had been included in the original scheme.

A truck load of sheep and a herd of cattle were drived across the reserve to symbolise the pastoral nature of early development.  The bushranging scene was greeted with excitement and amusement as alternative the ‘baddies’ and the ‘goodies’ triumphed in lawstick interpretations of the perils of inland travel.

For the main episode – the re-enactment of the naming of Canberra – a commencement column had been constructed on the reserve.

Stones were laid by the Governor-General (represented by Capt. D Sharp), the Prime Minister, Mr A Fisher (Mr J Brophy) and the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr King O’Malley (Mr J Garran).

Lady Denman (Miss Doris Fitton) named the city after being presented with a bouquet of flowers by Stella Broinowski (Willetta Little).

Excerpts from speeches made at the official luncheon on May 12 1913 were included in the scene as well as automobiles of the period, and a salute of 25 pounders from RMC prior to the inspection by Lord Denman of the Guard of Honour.

The pageant concluded with a parade of 25 nation s which are represented in Australia Players in national costume and bearing a banner which followed flags of those countries on the reserve and at a given signal advanced towards the official enclosure.

The Canberra Band played the National Anthem of the groups as they appeared.

New Zealand cadets from RMC stole the show with the most blood curding haka yet heard in Canberra.

More restrained were the English folk dance and the American square dance which accompanied the appearance of those countries.


Billy Hughes remembers 1938

The Canberra Times 12 March 1938

Symbol of 1913 is Nation’s Capital To-day


Mr W M Hughes, who as Attorney –General attended the foundation ceremony in 1913, said yesterday:-

‘It is twenty-five years since I stood on Capital Hill at the official christening of the Federal capital. At that stage Canberra was merely an idea embodied in a blue print and the deed of transfer which made over to the Commonwealth 900 square miles to become the Federal Capital Territory.

But those of us who witnessed the ceremony saw not the few scattered homesteads and pegs which surveyors had put up to mark the feature of the promised city Canberra to us was the symbol of the hopes and ideals of Australia.

On that broad valley bounded by blue hills which stretched before us, a beautiful city was to be built free from the jealousies of States and cities, its buildings without the smoke and grime of other towns and spires rising in sylvan peace.

To-day the symbol has become a reality. A city unique among the capitals of the world, a gracious vista of green trees and spreading lawns now stands amidst the encircling hills. It is fitting that we should remember Walter Burley Griffin, the man in whose fine mind the magnificent design was born. The city which he planned still rises, a monument to those statesmen who fought and worked for the ideal of Australian unity and nationhood.’

Celebrations 1933

The Canberra Times 13 March 1933


Of City of Canberra


Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the city of Canberra.

The capital city of Australia was named Canberra by Lady Denman at the ceremony on Capital Hill on March 12, 1913

The ceremony was to mark the foundation of the commencement column and to name the city, the name of which had been chosen by Cabinet and had been kept a close secret until pronounced by Lady Denman at the ceremony.

About 500 guests from Sydney and Melbourne were present by invitation at the ceremony while hundreds of district residents and troops from a camp held in the district added to the witnesses of the foundation of the unique city of Canberra.

The proceedings are described by Dr F Watson in his ‘History of Canberra,’ as follows:-

The Prime Minister (Mr Andrew Fisher) and members of his Government, Mr JST McGowen, the Premier of New South Wales, Mr JC Rice, the Chief Secretary of South Australia, and the invited guests assembled in a stand, which had been erected at the rear of the site for the column. Squadrons of the 11th Light Horse of the NSW Lancers and of the 25th Light Horse and 9th Mounted Rifles formed three sides of a hollow square: to the left two mounted Bands were massed; a guard of honour forked of cadets from Duntroon awaited the arrival awaited the arrival of His Excellency the Governor-general, whilst a battery of field artillery occupied a position for firing the salutes.

At 11.30am Lord and Lady Denman arrived in bright sunshine from the Vice-Regal Camp on the slopes of Black Mountain attended by and escort of Light Horse whilst the artillery fired a salute of nineteen guns.

After he was received by Mr Fisher and his Ministers, Lord Denman laid the first foundation stone, Mr Fisher the second and Mr King O’Malley (Minister for Home Affairs) the third with inscribed gold trowels with ivory handles, given to each for  the occasion. A salute was then fired by the artillery, and it was followed by a fanfare of trumpets.

Mr Andrew Fisher then requested Lady Denman to name the city. Before doing so, the ‘Old Hundredth’ hymn was sung followed by a fanfare of trumpets and Mrs O’Malley presented Lady Denman with an inscribed gold card case containing a care with the name of the city.

Lord and Lady Denman, Mr Fisher and King O’Malley mounted the platform which had been placed on the stone just laid. Exactly at noon, Lady Denman opened the card case, took out the care and said, ‘I name the capital city of Australia, Canberra.’

The artillery then fired a salute of twenty-one guns and the massed bands played, ‘Advance Australia Fair,’ and the National Anthem.

The ceremony of naming Canberra was completed amid resounding cheers for the name chosen was popular amongst the residents of the district.

After the ceremony, the troops marched past Lord Denman on the plain at the foot of the hill.

An official luncheon was given in a marquee. Mr Andrew Fisher presided and, after the usual loyal toasts, Lord Denman proposed the Federal Capital City, and Mr King O’Malley replied as Minister for Home Affairs.  Messrs Andrew Fisher, WM Hughes, JST McGowen and JG Rice also spoke at the luncheon.

In the afternoon, Lord Denman held a levee at the commencement  column and afternoon tea was provided in the luncheon marquee.

This concluded the first important ceremonial day at Canberra.

The choice of the name of Canberra had been kept a close secret.  The choice had been the cause of much discussion in the Fisher Cabinet and was made after the two alternative names of ‘Myola’ and ‘Shakespeare’ had been rejected.

Foundation Day Celebrations 1938

The Canberra Times 11 March 1938


26th Anniversary of Canberra

‘Time Marches On’ says the columnist.  And mere humans realising how true it is, feel that they must have way of remembering ‘ the days that wuz’ in order to gauge the extent of our progress. Anniversaries are devices which permit such comparisons to be made. Canberra’s Foundation Day is one of these.

On March 12th, 1913, there was much activity on Kurrajong Hill, later to be known as Capital Hill. Here it was stated, the Governor-General and notable politicians would assemble and foundations stones for a commencement column would be set to mark the beginnings of the capital city of Australia.  But much more interesting than this was the fact that at this ceremony would be announced the name by which the capital would be known. A city was to be christened to-day!

Speculation was keen as to what the name would be.  It was known that one minister favoured Shakespeare while another was partial to ‘Myola’.

This day was fine and clear, with a brisk wind, but the weather had been dry and the Canberra Plain was dusty.  Special trains had brought about five hundred visitors to Queanbeyan from which they journeyed to the site of the ceremony by motor car or wagonette, according to their importance. People living in the district came in buggies, sulkies or spring carts or on horseback.

At the appointed time grew near a motor car drew up, and from it stepped the Governor-General’s lady. 

A cloud of dust in the direction of Black Mountain gradually took shape and the Governor-General arrived on horseback.  Speeches were made and presently Lord Denman declared the first foundation stone well and truly laid. In like manner, the Prime Minister, Mr Andrew Fisher, and the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr King O’Malley officiated with small golden trowels. Press photographers dodged around the crown in efforts to secure the best pictures, while a motion picture camera, as yet a novelty, made its celluloid record. 

Then came the exciting moment. Lady Denman was escorted  to the dais and was handed a small card case, within which reposed a card bearing the all-important name. Opening the case she read the card, and announced in a clear voice, ‘I name the Capital of Australia, Canberra.’

The crowd dispersed to eat a picnic lunch under shady trees, while more privileged persons partook of an official luncheon set out in a marquee.  But they listened to more speeches, so probably the honours were even.  The cinematographer took his camera to Mount Russell to obtain a panorama of the plains and hills so that picture palace fans might see this place whereon a city was to be built.  The morse telegraph operator merely sat in his tent, manipulating a key.  But his was the honour of telling the world that the name by which the district had been known since 1826 (with variations of spelling), was to grace the Capital of Australia.

Years rolled on. The drums of war called sternly to the light horsemen who had formed the guard of honour. Carpenters and builders laid down their tools and marched away.  Brigadier-General Sir Wm Throsby Bridges who, as Commandant of the Royal Military College had called his cadets to attend the same ceremony was brought home and laid to rest on the hill overlooking his beloved Duntroon.

But after a time the building progressed and in May 1927 the Government of the Commonwealth was ablt to meet in its own city.  Those who were present on that historic day in 1913 became fewer year by year and yet many more years must pass before Canberra displays the fullness of the designer’s plans.

While many people regret that the Commencement Column has not been completed, there is surely something appropriate therein.  Year by year we are building our city nearer to completion.  The uncompleted column is our pledge to build faithfully and well, with a patience to add in each decade as much as our purse can afford to the end that in the completed capital no portion shall have suffered in our haste to see the fulfilment of our dream city.

The anniversary will be observed  in Canberra Churches to-morrow, when special reference will be made to the occasion.  Last night a function was held in the Friendly Society Hall, at Kingston, under the auspices of the ALP.

[The Friendly Society Hall was part of the Engineers’ Mess opposite the Power House that was moved in 1926 to a site down near the Railway Station.  It was moved in 1970s(?) to Hovea Street in O’Connor where it now serves at a Scout Hall.]


Is the Secret Out (1913)

The Advertiser 24 February 1913 page 15



Sydney, February 23

The Minister of Home Affairs (Mr O’Malley) arrived from the Federal capital site yesterday morning. ‘Is the secret out?’ he was asked. ‘No, brother, not yet,’ he replied. ‘It will be announced formally by Lady Denman, who will give the name to the capital of federated Australia when the appointed time arrives. Don’t you think that’s a good idea, full of gracefulness, dignity, and mystery, eh?’


The name has not yet been finally decided upon. It will depend upon the vote of the majority of the Cabinet.  Mr O’Malley accompanied by Mr McDonald MHR, Speaker of the House of Representatives

November 1913 - progress

Adelaide Advertiser 24 November 1913


Progress is being made with the works at the Federal Capital at Canberra.  Two miles of the main pipe line have been laid between the city site and the Cotter River about seven miles away.  Kilns are now turning out bricks of a satisfactory quality with clay obtained in the territory.  About 850,000 bricks have been made.  Half the quantity will be used for  the walls of the power house, and the rest for the main sewer.  Another work that is well in hand is the store for seasoning timber.  This is almost complete. [The timber was stored near the Power House.]

Federal Capital work in hand 1913


Above is a 1913 photograph showing the construction of the brickyards at Yarralumla.  The site was Fred Campbell's ram paddock where good quality shale was found.  The early bricks had the frog mark with word - C'Wealth on them. (photograph courtesy Robin Donnely whose father and grandfather worked on the construction of the brickworks.) 

The Advertiser 24 November 1913


Progress is being made with the works at the Federal capital at Canberra.  Two miles of the main pipe line have been laid between the city site and the Cotter River, about seven miles away. Kilns are now turning out bricks of a satisfactory quality with clay obtained in the territory.  About 850,000 bricks have been made.  Half the quantity will be used for the walls of the power-house and the rest for the main sewer.  Another work that is well in hand is the store for seasoning timber. This is almost complete.

Mr Griffin's Grievance July 1916

The Advertiser 22 July 1916



Melbourne, July 21

In connection with the enquiry into the administration of the Federal Capital works as carried out by officers of the Home Affairs Department, Mr Griffin, the Federal Director of Design and Construction continued his evidence today, said the location of the powerhouse was entirely different from that marked on the premiated(?) design.  The spot he had chosen was on a direct  line of railway and would not have necessitated a branch line.  The building was a decided disfigurement of the plan of the city, as it was in a very conspicuous place, and not only needed three quarters of a mile of railway, but destroyed valuable property.  He had been given to understand that the building cost 49,000 pounds (or 19,000 – blurred). Considerable difficulty had been experienced by him in ascertaining what the various works had cost, as information necessary to enable him to carry out his agreement had been withheld.

Referring to the estimate by the Director of Works (Mr Owen) of 170,000 pounds for excavation and filling at the site of the Parliamentary and administrative group of buildings Mr Griffin said the estimate was inflated to the extent of 300 per cent. His own estimate was about 35,000 pounds.  Such an estimate as that prepared by Mr Owen would have a strong deterring influence on the prosecution of his plan.  Neither that estimate nor any of the others was ever submitted to him. His impression was that the object of the estimate was to damn his plan.  This very wor..came within Mr Archibald’s own definition of his duty as town planner. Only ten per cent of his time had been devoted to the constructive and effective work contained in his agreement and the remaining 90 per cent had been frittered away in defending himself.  In other words if he had had the co-operation of the department instead of opposition, he could have done at least nine times as much as he had been able to do.  His right under the agreement had now been established.  Mr O’Malley had instructed that no matter at the capital should be initiated without reference to him. Now that his requirements had been met the witness hoped to make progress with the work.  Documentary evidence relating to the whole history of the Federal capital went to show that the officers considered themselves qualified and capable of carrying out the whole Federal capital scheme without outside assistance.  The opposition of officers towards him was continuous and consistent.  From the earliest stages he had not been able to ascertain the reason for it.  Since he had been given full control he had authorised the removal from the staff of the territory 30 men and the total savings in wages amounted to 7,398 pounds per annum.  Some of the men were caretakers, whose only duty was the opening and closing of gates.  In one case the gate simply led from one paddock to another.  In his opinion the gates should be made to work automatically, and plans with that object were now underway.  Mr Archibald’s statement that the witness required and independent staff was entirely without foundation.  He simply asked that the staff carry out the work for which he was responsible should be made responsible to him.  The only reservation he ever made in connection with his relations with the Minister was that he should not reconsider the question of the adoption of his plan.  Events that took place from time to time, however forced him to the conclusion that instead of being director of design and construction, he was being forced into the position of a departmental officer.  The railway known as Holbler’s railway which Mr Archibald submitted to Parliament conformed more to the departmental plan that to the preminted  design. 

The Postmaster-General (Mr Webster) – Would that imply that a constant attempt was made to introduce the departmental plan?

Mr Griffin – If it did not do that, it had the effect of destroying mine.

Do you think it was a preparatory step? – It was quite likely. The various reports and estimates submitted byu the departmental officers had the tendency to furnish information which would discredit my plan.

The Commission adjourned until next day.


Yankee bounder July 1916

The Argus 19 July 1916




The taking of evidence in the inquiry into statements made by the Postmaster-General (Mr Webster) in a speech in the House of Representatives which are construed by certain officials of the Home Affairs department as reflecting on their professional capacity, was entered upon in the Senate clubroom yesterday morning. Mr Wilfred Blacket KC of Sydney is sitting as a Royal commission to investigate the statements. No counsel appeared but Mr Webster appeared on his own behalf to cross-examine witnesses, and Colonel Owen director-general of works, watched the interests of the officers. Messrs O’Malley (Minister for Home Affairs), WO Archibald (formerly Minister), WD Bingle (secretary to the department), WB Griffin (director of design and construction of the Federal Capital site), and Poynton (of the Commonwealth railways) were also present.

Discussion occupied half an hour on the question of whether officers referred to in the charges should be allowed to appear in their own defence.

Mr Webster declared that in his speech officers were not individually charges, but he had shown that the Federal capital was not properly administered. A person not charged should not have the privileges of persons charged.

Mr Blacket said that he was disposed to allow any officer whose reputation was at stake to defend himself by his own evidence, cross-examination or address. As soon as evidence was given in support of the charges made in Parliament, the officer in charge of the work was involved. There should be no appearance of any person not touched by the speech or the evidence. On that rule only three persons would be involved and entitled to give evidence, vis, Colonel Owen, Colonel Miller, and Mr Hill.

Mr Webster proceeded to state his position at considerable length and Mr Blacket finally closed the discussion by insisting on the rule he had laid down.

Mr Archibald MHR gave evidence that he was appointed Minister for the Home Affairs on September 17, 1914 and found Mr Griffin installed as director of construction of the Federal Capital. He took the view that the policy of his predecessor as Minister should not be altered, except for weighty reason. He found that Mr Grfiin was the prize winner of the premiated plan and looked at no other plan.

Mr Blacket:- Did you know there was another plan?

Mr Archibald:- I understand that the board of three officers created by Mr O’Malley had formulated a plan known as the Departmental plan.

Can you produce that plan to me? I never saw it. I cannot swear that there was another plan, but I believe there was. I think it is now at Canberra.

Continuing. Mr Archibald said that the water and sewerage and brickmaking plant were in existence when he took office. These were all established by Mr O’Malley with the authority of the departmental plan. The Cook Government ‘turned down’ the departmental plan and entered into a three year’s contract with Mr Griffin, which would expire in October next.

Mr Blacket:- Was that an Executive appointment? – Yes.

Mr Griffin was director of construction according to his plan? – Undoubtedly; but he said he was director of design and construction for the whole of the Federal territory.

Continuing. Mr Archibald said that he arranged an interview with Mr Griffin shortly after taking office. Mr Griffin then said that he had absolute control of the planning of the work and claimed the right to do as he liked in the territory. Witness claimed the right as Minister, to exercise control over the work.  Mr Griffin then intimated that he had a legal claim and said it was a matter of a law suit. Witness then consulted the Attorney General’s department and was informed that Mr Griffin was director subject to the control of the Minister.

Mr Blacket:- Was any particular work in question at the time?

Mr Archibald:- No, it was when I took office. He told me that the officers had a prejudice against him, and I replied that everyone would have a fair deal while I was there.  He said he had not been consulted about the sewerage and drainage.

Was there a scheme of water supply on his prize plan? – Not as far as I know; but I say frankly that I never exhaustively examined the plan. I left it to the engineers.

In further evidence Mr Archibald said that he had a long conference with Colonel Owen, feeling that if Mr Griffin were right, the sooner the work was stopped the better. Witness thought that there was very little in Mr Griffin’s contention for a septic tank in the city, as the modern tendency was to get sewerage away. There was a sewerage farm in existence, and witness favoured the gravitation system.

Mr Blacket:- Did he contend his decision should prevail over yours and the other officers?

Mr Archibald:- Over the Officers certainly, but no so much over mine. He said that all engineering matters should go through his office.

What was the necessity of a legal opinion from the Attorney General? – He questioned my right to intervene. He insisted strongly that I thought it time to let the law people have a look at it.

Further examination witness said that he was not an exclusive man, and Mr Griffin was perturbed about the Government ‘turning down’ the competition for the Parliament House design. Witness was strongly against the previous Government reappointing Mr Griffin for three years as his work was narrowed by the stopping of the completion.

Mr Blacket:- Did your feelings of resentment against the reappointment extend to the person appointed.

Mr Archibald:..No.

Witness (continuing) said that Mr Griffin got it into his mind that he (witness) supported the officers in opposition to him.  Witness objected to the railway going through a tunnel approaching the town, as favoured by Mr Griffin.

Mr Blacket.- What objection could there be to that?

Mr Archibald:- People entering the city should have a clear view of it. Canberra is a pretty place and worth seeing.

Did you see Mr Griffin about these matters? – No; I was so impressed(?) that I thought I should have an inquiry by the board. I did not propose to consult and architect on engineering matters.

A man to design the Federal capital must be both.- Yes, if you can get one, but I doubt it.

Did you regard him as a man with knowledge of engineering?- He has certain qualifications and diplomas. I did not take him as an authority on it as all. I may be a fool, but I know a lot of people wandering through the world with a lot of letters after their names, but with no practical knowledge.

There was discord in the department because of the relations between Mr Griffin and the officers?  He was rubbing them the wrong way. They spoke about it, and I said, ‘Let us get to work; take no notice of it.’ I considered I was the ‘boss’.

When you called him a ‘Yankee bounder,’ what was in your mind? – The lawsuit. Any man of the world knows what the term means- one who undermines others.

Mr Webster:- What was the policy of your predecessor? Was there a minute? You could not take hearsay.

Mr Archibald:- Mr Cook signed the agreement, Mr Kelly adopted the plan is the digest, and I took the world as I found it.

Which did you take as your guide? – You have been scratching around the papers long enough to know that Mr Cook was the Minister and Mr Kelly Assistant Minister.

Mr Blacket:- In the correspondence when you spoke of departmental design, had you any knowledge of one?

Mr Archibald:- Only from hearsay. Everyone was talking of it at Parliament House.

Mr Webster:-Am I to take it that in replying to Dr Maloney in the House of Representatives you knew nothing of the facts?- You are to take nothing of the sort.

Where did you get your knowledge? – From general talk in and out of the House.

Mr Archibald was cross-examined at considerable length by Mr Webster, and maintained the statements made in his evidence in chief. At five 0’clock the inquiry was adjourned until 11 am to-day.


Sept 1916 Colonel Miller questioned

The Advertiser 12 September 1916



Sydney, September 11

The Royal Commissioner who is enquiring into the administration and other matters relating to the Federal capital, Mr Blacket KC sat in Sydney to-day. Colonel David Miller, who prior to the war was permanent head to the Department of Home Affairs, said he was appointed to that position in 1901, and had organised the department.  Colonel Owen, who after 1904 was appointed Inspector-General, had submitted a scheme and diagram of Canberra allowing for a population of 25,000.  That was during the period of construction. He also recommended the establishment of water and sewerage works, and the manufacture of bricks, lime, &c on the spot.  These recommendations were drawn up in 1913.  The witness became administrator in 1912.  The witness met Mr Griffin on his arrival in Sydney and assured him he would assist him in every possible way.  He later visited Canberra, and during the whole time he was showing Mr Griffin the site there was no discussion as to the designs of the city.  The board had not met Mr Griffin until then Minister.  Mr Kelly instructed the witness that they should do so, and no influence was used either in regard to Mr Griffin’s design or the board design.  The witness had done nothing directly or indirectly to hamper Mr Griffin. The witness had been appointed chairman of the board under compulsion from the Minister.  He had particularly asked to be left off the board so that he could submit matters connected with the territory with a free mind.  The board’s discussion with Mr Griffin on his design was quite free and frank on both sides, and neither endeavoured to withhold information from the other.

In reply to Mr Blacket the witness said the site on which the powerhouse at Canberra was erected was according to the departmental plan and not in accordance with Mr Griffin’ s design.  The original authority was for it to be erected in bricks but it had since been built in concrete.  There must be papers giving authority for the change.  It would be difficult to shift as the foundations were solid and went up to the first floor.

Mr Blacket – if you wanted to level the building to the ground, how would you do it?

The Witness – that is an engineering matter.

Mr Blacket – isn’t it a matter of dynamite?

The Witness – I doubt if dynamite would do it.

The Commission adjourned.

[Mrs Miller hit in the first survey peg to mark the beginning of the departmental plan.\

Completion of hearings Blacket Report Feb 1917

The Argus 22 February 1917



Six Reports Expected

Mr W Blacket KC sitting as a Royal commission to inquire into the conduct of affairs by the Home Affairs Department with special reference to the construction of the Federal Capital at Canberra, concluded the taking of evidence yesterday.  His report will be issued in sections dealing with the various aspects of the inquiry and it is expected that the first instalment will be issued next week.   Mr Blacket’s reports will deal with the following sectional subjects:

1.       Issues relating to Mr Griffin

2.       Accounts and finances at Canberra

3.       Issues regarding waste at Canberra

4.       Sewerage at Canberra

5.       Canberra brickworks

6.       Canberra water supply and miscellaneous matters.


The Commission began sitting in July last and altogether  52 witnesses have been examined during the 100 sitting days.  Mt T Hill (engineer Home Affairs department) was in the witness box on 22 days, Mr WB Griffin (Federal capital director of design and construction) on 12 days and Colonel Owen (director-general or works) on 11 days.

Mr Blacket yesterday said that during the inquiry an enormous amount of work had been done by the parties.  The inquiry could never have been carried out but for the assistance which had been given to the commission in every possible way by those who represented the various departments.  In this connection he intended in the first portion of his report to refer to the services which had been rendered by the Post-master-General (Mr Webster), Colonel Owen and Mr Archibald (formerly Minister for Home Affairs).

Mr Webster said that now that the end of the labours of the Commission had been reached he wished to express his gratitude for the kindness and forbearance which Mr Blacket had shown in the conduct of the inquiry.

Mr Hill said that, on behalf of Colonel Owen and other officers of the department he would like to say that the support which Mr Blackett had given them throughout the inquiry was highly appreciated.

Mr Blacket said that it seemed to him that there had been enough work in the inquiry for six commissions, and for that reason he meant to issue his report in six sections.  He hoped that he would be able to do justice to all the parties concerned and that his reports would show the justification for the holding of the inquiry and the advantage which it might be and ought to be, to the public of Australia.


Mr Blacket's Report March 1917

The Argus 15 March 1917




Sydney, Wednesday – The ‘Sun’ this evening publishes a summary of the first section of the report by Mr Wilfrid Blacket KC on the Federal Capital administration.  It says the report is a voluminous document, comprising over 100 pages and deals with issues relating to Mr Griffin.  It will be followed by other sectional reports dealing with –

a.        Accounts and finance at Canberra

b.       Wasteful expenditure

c.        Sewerage

d.       Brickworks

e.       Water supply, power and miscellaneous mattes.

After reviewing circumstances leading up to the appointment of Mr WB Griffin as Federal Capital director of design and construction on October 18 1913,  and his subsequent complains of ‘persistent opposition, obstruction and delay’ on the part of the officers of the Department of Home Affairs the commissioner arranges the case as presented on behalf of Mr Griffin under five heads:-


1.       That necessary information and assistance were withheld from him, and his powers usurped by certain officers.

2.       That he and his office were ignored, his rights and duties under contracts signed(?) and false charges of default made against him.

3.       That Mr WG Archibald (then Minister for Home Affairs) and members of his departmental board endeavoured to set aside his design and to substitute the board’s own plan.

4.       That in order to prevent  his design from being carried out, wilfully false estimates of its own were given.

5.       That there was in the department a combination(?) including Mr Archibald and certain officers hostile to Mr Griffin and to his design for the capital city

Officers whose actions are reviewed under the first charge include Colonel Miller, administrator of the Territory who ‘objected to anyone intervening between himself and the Minister: Colonel Owen, who as director-general of works was jealous of any encroachment upon the domain of his authority; Mr Murdoch, architect, ‘who seems to have given some evil counsel to Colonel Owen as to a conflict that might arise between the colonel and Mr Griffin;; Mr Scrivener, director of lands and surveys who objected to his surveyors taking orders from Mr Griffin; Mr Bingle, acting secretary of the department who was charged with delaying and withholding information; and Mr Archibald, the Minister himself.


Under charge 2 the contention of Colonel Miller and Mr Bingle ‘which had the support of the Minister,’ that, ‘Mr Griffin had nothing to do with matters outside the city boundaries,’ is closely reviewed, together with certain ‘misrepresentations’ and ‘inaccuracies’ set out in correspondence to the detriment of Mr Griffin.  The commissioner does not think it likely that Mr Archibald was misled by these misstatements because however damaging they otherwise would have been to Mr Griffin’s reputation, they were incapable of adding to the Minister’s antipathy to Mr Griffin and his plan.’  In addition to the same two officers and the Minister Colonel Owen figures in the third charge but in the colonel’s case the commissioner finds that his efforts to have No 1 Arsenal site adopted as against No 2 site favoured by Mr Griffin were not actuated by any desire to injure Mr Griffin’s city design, but simply to carry out the wishes of the Minister for Defence.


Colonel Owen is also fortunate in regard to charge No 4 which mainly concerns him.  Asked at the inquire whether he had detected any hostile actions on the part of an officer Mr WH Kelly who preceded Mr Archibald at the Home Affairs department,  replied:- ‘Yes on one occasion the director-general of Works put up an estimate of the cost of works at t he capital which was obviously an attack upon the accepted plan. I refused to accept it, and in a friendly way asked Colonel Owen who has been a friend of mine for some years, not to try that line of procedure.’


Regarding this matter the commissioner points out ‘that Mr Kelly had apparently forgotten that the document which he appeared to regard as confidential was not volunteered by Colonel Owen presuming on the friendship existing between himself and the Minister, but had been specifically called for by Mr Kelly himself and was therefore and official estimate in accordance with that request.’  The commissioner’s conclusion concerning this document is that the estimates do not appear to be excessive and Colonel Owen in preparing them was not actuated by any motive of hostility to Mr Griffin’s schemes.  Mr Thomas Hill engineer is similarly acquitted of any blame in connection with the estimates he prepared as to the cost of cutting and excavating Mr Griffin’s lakes.


Under charge 5, Mr Archibald’s attitude to Mr Griffin is illustrated by quotations from the Minister’s evidence.  He regarded Mr Griffin’s engagement as ‘a grave mistake.’  He ‘had a suspicion of jacks of all trades.’  Mr Griffin’s time was taken up ‘with grand theorising, moonshine, and dreaming.’  It is stated that ‘he seemed to have no plan,’ that his idea was ‘we will do the best we can and see how the world goes round.’  The Minister’s feeling with regard to Mr Griffin personally seems to have been extended to Mr Griffin’s nation.  In Parliament he had used the term ‘Yankee bounder,’ and in evidence he justified it by saying, ‘The American system of business as I understand it, is not to ‘endeavour to undermine everybody else and every man of the world knows that they ‘Yankee bounder’ does try to undermine others,’ ‘This reference comments the commissioner, ‘ to men who try to undermine others is singularly unfortunate in view of some of the official papers and correspondence attacking Mr Griffin after Mr Archibald’s succession to office.’


Upon all the evidence the commission finds that the reasons why Mr Griffin between October 18 1913 and November 13 1915 performed no substantial part of his duties under his contract with the Commonwealth are as stated in four of the five charges advanced namely charges 1,2,3 and 5 and that Mr Archibald and the officers mentioned in the references  to the evidence under the charges are severally responsible to the extend indicated for this result.  The commissioner emphases  the fact that after Mr Archibald’s accession to office it must have been perfectly clear to all the officers that the carrying out of Mr Griffin’s design, and that any acts they did in frustration of Mr Griffin’s efforts were, therefore done in furtherance as they believed of the Minister’s desires.


‘I cannot say that this excuses them,’ continues the commissioner; ‘ still the greatest responsibility in respect of the obstruction of Mr Griffin is with the Minister.  Holding the views he did as to the grave mistake he considered to have been made in the engagement of Mr Griffin he should have adopted one of two alternatives – either to have cancelled the contract and reverted to the design of the departmental board, or else to have allowed Mr Griffin’s contract to be performed and his design carried out.’


As to the fourth charge, the commissioner finds that it wholly fails and that such false estimates were issued.


Mr Israel's Reply to Blacket report

The Argus 15 June 1917


Auditor-General and Mr Blacket

A report was yesterday presented to the Federal Parliament, in which the auditor-general (Mr Israel) replied to certain comments made by Mr W Blacket, KC, in his report on the Federal capital on the manner in which Mr Israel had conducted his audit.  Mr Israel began by saying that Mr Blacket considered it his duty to state that there had been a failure to comply with certain provisions of the Audit Act.  While he (Mr Israel) had no responsibility with regard to departmental administration he thought it desirable that Parliament should be informed at the earliest possible date that the commissioner was entirely mistaken both as to the construction which he placed on certain provisions of the Audit Act and in his views of the auditor-general’s duties.

Mr Israel then proceeds to take Mr Blacket’s seriatim.  He quotes an opinion given by Mr Deakin when Attorney-General that there was no obligation on the part of the auditor-general to ‘go behind a certifying officer.’  The certifying officer was a person appointed under the Audit Act, and his certificate was ...tial, and it was necessary to rely upon it in cases where it was not practicable to check items of accounts, such as the signature of a claimant, or the quotation of a Ministerial authority for expenditure.

Mr Blacket had stated that t he ‘authority book’ was never looked at in the audits. It was certainly looked at, but to audit this book properly would involve the sorting out of thousands of vouchers, some more than 12 months old.  In the meantime excess expenditure would probably have been rectified by the Minister. The commissioner did not seem to realise the difficulties of auditing such authority books.   Neither the Audit Act nor the regulations appeared to him (Mr Israel) to have any bearing on these books.  The fact t hat the Auditor-General requires required that in every case the authority should be quoted on vouchers disposed of the idea that he considered that a vote could be expended by officers at their own discretion.

Mr Israel transverse a number of other statements made by Mr Blacket, and states the direct responsibility for seeing that the Ministerial authorities are not exceeded should rest with departmental accounting.

Blacket and Anderson Reports

The Argus 24 April 1917



Opposite Views expressed.

Mr W Blacket KC having completed his reports upon Federal Capital affairs a comparison between some of his findings and the report of Mr (now Brigadier McC Anderson upon the business management of the Home Affairs department, dated September 25,1915, will be found interesting. All the principal officers of the department – the administrator of the Federal Capital territory (Colonel Miller), the acting secretary to the department (Mr Bingle), the director-general of works (Colonel Owen), the engineer (Mr Hill), the chief architect (Mr Murdoch) and the heads of the accounts branch,  have been severely blamed by Mr Blacket; but Mr Anderson, on the contrary, expressed himself favourably about their work.

‘It speaks highly for t he fact and ability of the acting secretary (Mr Bingle),’ Mr Anderson’s report read, ‘that he has been able to carry on in such discouraging conditions and surely the time has arrived when this gentleman should be definitely appointed to the position of secretary. The discouraging conditions referred to were that the department had been carried on by men only ‘acting’ in their positions.  Mr Anderson’s report continues: ‘I have been struck with the cordial feeling existing amongst the principal officers of the department.  They are all good friends, desirous of assisting one another, and keenly anxious to advance the interests of the department.  The professional officers such as the director-general or works, his chief engineer, the chief architect, and the works directors in the States, seem a happy family in close and cordial touch and are not only willing but anxious to try new ...(unreadable) which seem improvements with a view to their adoption.’

On the manner of preparing estimates Mr Blacket and Mr Anderson, judging by their reports hold diametrically opposite views. Mr Blacket condemned the transfer of money allocated for any special work or(?) another work, and held that in future the estimates for work and services and the Federal Capital should be submitted to Parliament in the ordinary form of subdivision and item.

On the other hand, Mr Anderson expressed the opinion in his report that the form in which early(?) estimates were submitted in Parliament were perplexing and called for revision.  He objected very strongly to the ...division of items as productive of unnecessary work. The grouping of sub items would, he stated, ‘reduce accounts in authorising books appropriation ledgers, and so on.

Yet another objection of Mr Anderson’s to ...subdivision system was precisely what Mr Blacket advocates in regard to the Federal Capital. Mr Blacket frequently in his reports commented adversely upon money allocated to one purpose being spent on some other work. ‘At present,’ Mr Anderson reported, ‘ there is too much detail in some department’s estimates, which binds that department to the exact cost quoted in each item, and in case of any excess now matter how trivial the Treasurer’s authority has to be obtained at considerable trouble to the officers and to the busy Minister.  In other cases more information but not itemised is supplied.)  It is rare that the total amount sanctioned by Parliament) for any department is exceeded, variations being by way of surplus of deficiency, but a surplus on any job cannot be used against deficiency on any other, although for exactly similar class of work in the same district.

In the case of the Federal Capital the money was voted in a lump sum, and its expenditure was subsequently allocated by the Minister on departmental recommendations.  Mr Blacket recommended the ordinary method of presenting estimates or precisely the method which Mr Anderson took exception to.

Mr Anderson recommended that steps be taken to train men especially for Commonwealth accountancy. Me seemed to blow in and drop out of the accountancy branches in quite a casual way, coming from records and thence to clerical duties to purely clerical duties, which prevented continuity and expertness of service. Investigation into this matter was well worth the attention he added, of the public service commissioner.

Colonel Miller’s work in connection with the valuations of properties was commended by Mr Anderson. His total valuations amounted to 392,000 pounds and the total amount at which the properties were acquired was 412,000 pounds (could be 422,000 – not clear), the small margin of 20,000 pounds being almost accounted for by the fact that the areas on survey disclosed an excess over the original plans.

Whilst Mr Blacket in many instances condemned the action of the director-general or works (Colonel Owen), Mr Anderson on the other hand cited in his report a number of cases where Colonel Owen had been right in opposing his views to those of other departments.

At the West...port naval base Colonel Owen according to Mr Anderson, saved the Navy department 24,000 pounds by introducing it to adopt his plan of certain works.

In concluding his report, Mr Anderson expressed general satisfaction. ‘I have the pleasure,’ he said, ‘ in stating that I was well pleased with the tone and attitude of the department and the matters calling for remedy do no reflect adversely on their capacity.’


1920 Prince of Wales Laying foundation stone

The Mercury 8 May 1920



Melbourne May 7

It was not originally intended that the Prince of Wales should perform any such function as the laying of the foundation stones during his visit to Canberra, but it has since been decided that he shall be asked to lay the foundation stone of the Capitol.  This is the building which is designed, when completed, to house the National Memorial and records of the Commonwealth.  It is to be, as it were, the coping stone of the edifice which is to house the activities of the Commonwealth Government.  It does not necessarily follow that the building of the Capitol will proceed with immediately after the laying of the foundation stone.  Not far away from the site of the Capitol is a foundation stone which was laid seven years ago for a national memorial.  The stone is still there, but there is no sign of the memorial, although the Prime Minister, Mr Hughes, has expressed the hope that the Federal Parliament will be meeting at Canberra within five years.

Very little activity is as yet being shown on the capital site, and nothing definite has yet been done with regard to the proposed appointment of a  Commission to carry out the work of construction, and at present  there appears to be very little money available.


The Argus 22 June 1920





Sydney, Monday – The enthusiastic ‘send off’ which the Prince of Wales was given at Central Railway Station Sydney, when he left late last night on his first country tour was continued until the train left the suburbs. Passing Eveleigh workshops where every employee is an ardent unionist, there was a remarkable demonstration of loyalty.

The train reached Bungendore, a wayside station 16 miles from Queanbeyan, at 6o’clock this morning, and soon every inhabitant was at the station to greet his Royal Highness.  The town band turned out, and after playing the National Anthem and ‘God Bless the Pri8nce of Wales,’ entertained with selections the members of the party while they were at breakfast.  Although the train did not leave the station until half-past 9 o’clock it was a little early for the Prince, and the people were much disappointed at not seeing him.  He had sat up late reading stories written by one of the Australian journalists in the party.

At Queanbeyan where the first country reception was arranged the returned soldiers and VADs of the district were assembled outside the station and the Prince was welcomed by the members of the Queanbeyan and Yarralumla shire councils and presented with an address of welcome.

In his reply, His Royal Highness said:-

‘I am particularly interested to know that within the boundaries of this district lies the selected site for the future capital of the Commonwealth.  Like Ottawa, Canberra is to be built as a capital from the very first, and offers a splendid opportunity to Australian architects.  I have already visited the Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay and was much impressed by the system of training there, and by the character and smartness of the cadets. I am most grateful for your kind references to myself and can assure you that I am greatly enjoying and profiting by my stay in Australia. (Cheers).


A procession of cars was formed, led by His Royal Highness.  A visit was first paid to the Royal Military College at Duntroon.  The Prince was met and welcomed by the commandant of the college (Major General JG Legge).  All sections of the college were visited and His Royal Highness was greatly impressed by the splendid physique of the cadets.  The members of the staff were presented to the Prince who shook hands with every cadet after he had viewed them on parade.  He also presented 1914-1915 stars to four officers and addressed the cadets in the dining hall.  He said that the late General Bridges had proved himself one of the finest soldiers of the Empire.  He left for the front with 150 officers trained at the college, but, alas! he was killed and 20 of the boys also.  These men had made a great impression and had set a good example, and his advice to them was to live up to that example, so that they would be worthy of the service and the college. (Cheers). 


At the Federal Capital where the principal ceremony was the laying of the foundation stone of the capitol by the Prince, the Prime Minister, (Mr Hughes) did not attend.  The Federal Ministry was represented by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr Groom), the Minister for the Navy (Sir James Cook), the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr Poynton), and the Assistant Minister for Defence (Major General Sir Granville Ryrie). Residents of the district drove many miles to be present at the ceremony and on the Kurrajong Hill where the Capitol is to be erected 5,000 people awaited the Prince.  His drive though the barren undulating country which might some day be the seat of the Federal Government, was in the teeth of bitterly cold wind.  Lunch was served in a large marquee and the gathering included several Federal members, Sir Joseph Cook presided.  There were two toasts, ‘ The King’ and ‘Our guest,’ Sir Joseph Cook, in submitting the health of His Royal Highness, said that it was appropriate that the Prince should lay the stone of the new capitol in the new Wales of Australia. (Cheers). The toast was received with the singing of ‘He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.’ On responding the Prince said: I thank you very much for the way you have drunk my health, also for the way you have sung that song.’

A piece of granite 4ft square, brought from Victoria, was the only sign of the Capitol.  It was suspended under an old kurrajong tree on the summit of the hill, and bore the following inscription: ‘His Royal Highness Edward, Prince of Wales laid this stone June 21,1920.’

In asking the Prince to perform the ceremony of laying the stone, Mr Groom said: ‘The founders of our nation made definite provision in the document which is the basis of our national existence, for the establishment of a seat of government, where, to quote the late, Sir Edmund Barton, ‘Australia will be mistress of her own house, and there will be no room for complaint of provincial influence in the pursuit of national aims.’ The intension was the creation of a truly national federal capitol, where t he Parliament might legislate and the Executive administer the affairs of the Commonwealth untinged by any bias, conscious or unconscious  which might result from proximity to a large population in any one State.  The site for the city having been fixed, a world wide invitation was issued for  competitive designs for a city, which resulted in the selection of one submitted by Mr WB Griffin, which is the lay-out under which it is now contemplated to proceed.  Arrangements for commencing the building of the city were put in hand, and a considerable amount of work is regard to preliminaries was done more than is evident to the casual observer from this spot.  The design adapted for the city provided among other prominent buildings for a capitol in which would be enshrined the records of Australian achievements and the archives of the nation. It is the foundation stone of this building His Royal Highness is asked to lay.  The historic stone will ever stand to testify to Australia’s devotion to the Throne and loyalty to the Empire, but it will be the most cherished by the Australians of the future as having been laid by a Prince, who by his many fine qualities endeared himself to the hears of the people of the Commonwealth. (Cheers)


The Prince then declared the stone, ‘well and truly laid.’  ‘I consider,’ said His Royal Highness, ‘that it is a very great privilege to be asked to lay the stone. I am very glad to have had the opportunity of seeing the site of the new Federal capital. I think that the present moment Canberra consists chiefly of foundation stones (Laugher), i wish the new capital and those who come to live and work in it every possible success.’ (Cheers)

Cheers were given for Canberra, and afterwards His Royal Highness was shown the sites of the various buildings dotted around the barren stony hills.

Rousing cheers were given for His Royal Highness as he was leaving Canberra.


On the return journey to Sydney, stops were made at Goulburn, Bungendore and Moss Vale to enable the towns people to greet the Prince.  The residents rose loyally to the occasion. Replying to an address of welcome at Goulburn, His Royal Highness said:- ‘I am very happy to have been able to pay a visit to Goulburn and I am much interested to know that it was Queen Victoria who conferred upon it the title and dignity of city, which it has enjoyed for nearly 60 years.  I thank you sincerely for your loyal address and I shall be happy to convey to my father the King, the expressions of your devotion to Empire and Throne.  Your kind references to myself have touched me very much.  I can assure you that I value nothing more than my close association with the men and women of the Empire who went overseas to fight and work for freedom and right.  My travels thought the Empire since the war have deepened my appreciation of its spirit and my sense of comradeship with its peoples. My visit here is proving not only a very great pleasure, but a most thrilling and inspiring experience.’

His Royal Highness also suitably replied to an address of welcome presented at Moss Vale on behalf of the towns of Mossvale, Bowral and Mittagong. 

Country people drove for miles to the railway line to see the train pass and at many places large bonfire were lit in honour of the Prince and children shouted and waved blazing bushes.

There were special trains to Canberra from Melbourne and Sydney for members of Parliament and their wives, and these took 250 person to Canberra.


The Mercury 25 June 1920




Melbourne, June 24

It is the custom when the foundation stone of an important public building is laid, to preserve beneath it in an airtight container some copies of contemporary newspapers and a set of contemporary coins and stamps.  The is that in event of the building ever being demolished a future generation may find some record of the times when the building was erected.  Those responsible for the arrangements in connection with the laying of the foundation stone of capital at Canberra by the Prince of Wales this week have departed from this time-honoured custom.  A panoramic view of the site of the capital, as it now appears has been preserved beneath the foundation stone. That is a good idea, but instead of the newspapers and the coins which in ordinary circumstances would have been preserved with it the Federal Ministry has enclosed beneath the stone a list of the members of the Federal Parliament.  In their opinion that is apparently the one feature of contemporary history worthy of permanent preservation.


The Canberra Times 28 February 1929





When the Prince of Wales was in Canberra, he is alleged to have said facetiously that this was a city of foundation stones. It appears to have suffered somewhat in prestige lately from the fact that one of these foundation stones has apparently been mislaid.

The foundation stone in question is that which His Royal Highness laid on his visit to the city, then in its infancy.

It is understood that in order to carry out certain quarrying work on Capitol Hill it was necessary to move this stone. A cable was sent to England to ask permission to remove the stone but this was refused.

The stone has been moved, however, and it is impossible for the uninitiated to find it.


The Canberra Times 1 March 1929


The foundation stone laid by the Prince of Wales on Capitol Hill in 1920 was removed to prevent it being damaged by quarrying operations, said the Minister for Home Affairs Mr Abbott, in Parliament yesterday. It was thought it might be in danger from vandalism as well, but the stone will be replaced on the completion of quarrying operations and will be properly protected.  It is now in the Commission Store in safe custody. Mr Abbott also stated that no permission to remove the stone was obtained from London.


Turning First sod Provisional Parliament House and first Permanent Building

The Argus 3 August 1923


First Sod to be Turned Next Week

Arrangements for the turning of the first sod in the construction of a provisional House of Parliament at Canberra have been made. The ceremony will take place to-morrow week, August 11, and will be performed by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr Stewart).  Mr Stewart said yesterday that the site for the provisional building was just below Camp Hill, in a position that had a commanding view and was on the main axis of the city between Kurrajong and Mount Ainslie. The building would be constructed on the lines outlined in the report of the Federal public works committee recently tabled in Parliament.


The Argus 28 August 1923


Invitations to representative persons to be present at the ceremony of the turning of the first sod in connection with the building of the provisional Parliament House at Canberra were not issued by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr Stewart). Before leaving for Canberra yesterday Mr Stewart said that it was not desired that an elaborate ceremony should be held in connection with the turning of the first sod.  His opinion was that there had been too many such functions at Canberra, and he desired that efforts should be concentrated more on the actual carrying out of the work. Mr Stewart added that when everything was in readiness to begin the actual building of Parliament House he would endeavour to arrange for his Excellency the Governor-General to lay the foundation stone,  Invitations to be present would then be issued to State Ministers and others interested.


The Canberra Times 21 October 1927





The policy of erecting public buildings of a temporary nature in Canberra was condemned by the Prime Minister (Hon SM Bruce) in a memorable speech this morning, when he turned the first sob of the foundations of the first permanent administrative building represents a definite advance in the progress of Canberra, marking the beginning of a period of transition from a city of temporary buildings to one of permanent structures.

The Prime Minister turned the first sod of the new building at 10 o’clock in the morning in the presence of an assembly of members of parliament, officials of the Federal Capital Commission and the general public. The second sod was turned by the Minister for Home and Territories (Hon CWC Marr). Other members of the Parliament turned sods at the conclusion of the ceremony.

The Chief Commissioner (Sir John Butters), invited the Prime Minister to perform the ceremony.  In turning the sod, Mr Bruce urged the discontinuance of the policy of erecting temporary public buildings in Canberra, condemning it as  the ‘ falsest economy.’ Emphasising the importance of the occasion he said this was the first public building of monumental design to be erected in Canberra by the Government. He hoped it would be the forerunner of many more permanent buildings and that it would stand for generations and even centuries.


The Canberra Arsenal

The Advertiser 26 July 1916



Melbourne, July 23

The examination of Mr Griffin before the Home Affairs Commission to-day largely concerned the uncertainty of the departmental attitude when Mr Archibald was Minister, regarding the site for a Commonwealth arsenal at Canberra. Mr Griffin said the original adoption of what was a park and ornamental lake was killed. The departmental plans had resulted in the area being required for the arsenal stretching a mile and a half along the foreshore of the lake, debarring the public from access.  It would have affected the beauty of the water access, and the substitution of an industrial area for a park would have involved the expense and delay and destroyed the effect he intended.  After 40,000 0ounds had been appropriated and instructions given to proceed with the work he was consulted about the layout out of 130 to 200 cottages. He then pointed out that the adoption of the scheme would be destructive to his plan.  When Mr O’Malley came into office the witness saw him, and as a result the Government changed the location of the arsenal to the present site.

The Commissioner – Had any work been done at No 1 site?

The witness said he had seen excavations and certain buildings used for storage removed to No 1 site.  The witness denied that he had ever made the statement attributed to him by Mr Archibald, that he believed in gravitation for the water supply scheme and not pumping.  That was a matter of technical consideration not one of belief.  The cost of the waterworks to Canberra as far as could be ascertained was 300,000 pounds!

Mr Webster – This is our contention.

The Commission adjourned.

THE ARGUS 15 June 1918


1,440,000 SCHEME


In pressing for a statement from the Ministry as to its decision with regard as to its decision with regard to the proposed arsenal at Tuggeranong, near Canberra, Mr Chapman (New South Wales) stated in the House of Representatives yesterday that a report recommended that work should be begun at once.  The cost was estimated at 1,440,000 pounds and it was considered that employment would be immediately found for 1,200 men.  The cost of the preliminary works was estimated as follows:- Railway from Canberra (10 miles), 90,000 pounds; water supply, 25,000 pounds; works and town buildings, 650,000 pounds; excavation and leveling site, 20,000 pounds; power main 5,000 pounds.

Mr Bamford (Q).- You can multiply those figures by three.

Mr Chapman admitted that a great deal more work would be needed than that set out in these figures.  An immense amount of work would be provided for returned soldiers, who were now spoilt because they were kept hanging about the capital cities. The ‘curse of centralisation’ had got into repatriation. There was an immense deposit of iron ore near the arsenal.

The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr Groom) stated that the Ministry had decided that the best site for the Arsenal was at Tuggeranong. It was intended to proceed with the work. The matter had been brought under the notice of the Imperial authorities and the necessity for the work was thoroughly recognized.


Scout Visit to Canberra 1919

Queanbeyan Age & Queanbeyan Observer  11 January 1921


A trip round the Federal Capital!  What oh! How we were pleased when the motor lorry driven by Arthur hove in sight and we made a hurried scramble for our seats. Reading and hearing about the future Capital, we would have been sadly disappointed if we had returned home to Granville without having had the opportunity of seeing what will be in time and active and importance centre. The first place visited was the Royal Military College.

 Here we were shown throughout the various offices of the military staff, had a peep in the strong room and viewed the beautiful cups and other trophies won by the Cadets. We also saw a number of clocks (16 altogether) in various parts of the College which are controlled by one large clock. The next place visited was the library, containing 10,000 of the most up-to-date books. It was difficult to induce my mates to leave this wonderful collection, and one boy remarked, ‘I could spend a week here.’

The engineers’ class room was also most interesting. Here were beautiful models of railway bridges, suspension bridges, and other various designs to be noticed wherever one looked. Bombs with their intricate mechanisms showing wonderful little springs and parts were a study in themselves, and one’s thoughts were carried away to the theatre of the late great war, where these little implements did such terrible havoc amongst the enemy. Fuses that burn at the rate of 60 feet a second looked  harmless enough in their glass case, where they were on view. A miniature encampment was also greatly admired by us.

We had a peep into the armory, but as our guide did not have with him the key of the machine gun room we had to pass on to several class rooms and then the lecture theatre.  This is set out in beautiful style and is capable of seating 200 students.

The gymnasium was the next place visited, and by lifting numerous trapdoors that were unnoticeable in the flooring one saw appliances that go towards making a modern up-to-date training room. Thence we made our way to the stables where everything is spic and span. Harness is beautiful and clean, brasswork nicely polished and horses sleek and well groomed.

Next we had a walk up a tough little hill at the rear of the College to view the grave of that brave man – General Bridges – who was the first commandant of the RMC.  Unfortunately owing to holiday time, we could not see the cadets undergoing their various course of training which they have to perfect themselves in.

Before leaving Duntroon we spent an enjoyable quarter of an hour finding our way in and out of the maze which proved very confusing. 

All aboard the lorry, we’re off to Canberra!  Owing to limited time, we passed straight through Canberra, but the beautiful buildings and surrounding country was not lost sight of by us.  In the distance we could see Yarralumla House and Mt Stromlo, also further back the Murrumbidgee and Cotter ranges.  Through the river we went, and  then made for Capitol Hill, to see the foundation stone of Parliament House which had been placed by our chief scout for Wales (Prince Edward) on his recent visit.  The foundation stone laid by King O’Malley in 1913 was also seen by us.  The next goal was the Power House. This was another interesting place. Machines were working in a noiseless manner and the various parts in the making of electricity were well worth an inspection.  We were sorry more time was not available for us a minute inspection of this great power plant.

Passing along the main road home we saw the Canberra railway line also the remains of the German Concentration Camp. Town was sighted again about 2pm. We will always carry with us the memory of the pleasant holiday on the Murrumbidgee, also the trip through the Capital thoughtfully arranged by the Queanbeyan Boy Scouts.


July 1928 Inquiry into costs Hostels etc

The Canberra Times 21 June 1928


The building Commissioner, Sir John Harrison was submitted to close examination by the members of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday morning. 

Discrepancies in the estimated and completed costs of hotels were gone into; but the Committee’s endeavours failed to produce satisfactory explanation.

Sir John Harrison stated that the price per square of Yarralumla House on his estimated cost of £25,213 worked out at £126.7.  The work had not been inquired into by the public Works Committee.

Senator Kingsmill (Chairman): It appears to be over £25,000.   That being the case, wouldn’t it have been necessary to refer it to the Public Works Committee?

Sir John Harrison: If it had been so estimated at the time; but the sketch then submitted indicated that the cost would be considerably under £25,000.

Senator Kingsmill: This is the sixth instance of a work estimated under £25,000,which cost considerably more when completed.

The Chairman then cited the cases of the Acton, Ainslie and Wellington Hotels and Beauchamp and Brassey Houses.

Sir John: The actual final price of the Ainslie was under £25,000 being £24,847, and I’ve always understood that the completed costs do not embrace architect’s fees.  The completed costs of all the buildings mentioned is under £25,000.

Senator Kingsmill then quoted from a return showing the price of the Ainslie Hotel at the date of occupation as £32,207/8/-, not including furniture and equipment.

Sir John: All I know is that the final amount paid and the contract price was under £25,000.

Senator Kingsmill then state that the price of the Wellington was given as £29,487.

Sir John Harrison: It passes my understanding sir!

The prices of Beauchamp and Brassey Houses, Senator Kingsmill continued were giver at £28,234 and £27,210/10/-.

Sir John Harrison thought that these figures must include the costs of parks and gardens. He added that as far as Brassey and Beauchamp Houses were concerned no final statement had come in front of him. The contracts, he stated, in the first place were let for the building complete under £25,000.

Senator Kingsmill: this is a return furnished by Colonel Thomas as to the cost of the building: it does not involve furniture and equipment.

Sir John: I could not enlighten you more than I am doing. These two hotels are final at that price in the building price.  The formation of parks and gardens must have been added.

Senator Kingsmill: It is somewhat misleading when you get a return setting forth the ‘cost of building’.

Sir John: I am quite sure that that can be explained. The amount given by Colonel Thomas certainly includes the cost of paths which was not in the original contract.

Senator Kingsmill: Would not that formation be included in the original cost of the work? There are so many of these works hovering around the £25,000 on which the Public Works committee has not had an opportunity at expressing an opinion.

Sir John : There has been no effort by the Commission to prevent these works from coming before the Committee.

Senator Kingsmill then questioned witnesses on alterations to Hotel Kurrajong costing £4,000 and which Sir John stated on a previous occasion he believed had been made to meet the requirements of members.

He now stated definitely that the alterations had not been made for members but for office accommodation. ‘If I was in error,’ he added, ‘I am sorry.’

Mr Parker Maloney: It is rumoured that these offices of the Works and Railways Department are to be knocked back again to provide additional accommodation for members.

In reply to a further question, Sir John stated that he did not know that tenders had been called for this work.  Continuing Sir John stated that he was not in a position to state the proposed reduction in rentals. The matter had been finalized and he would provide the information at a later date.

Senator Kingsmill: I suppose it will be uniform and of general application.

Sir John: Oh yes.

Sir John added that the Oakley and Parkes houses had already been brought down to a basis of £102 per square, which was a considerable reduction. The rental would be 7.1 percent of that. This percentage he stated would apply to all Commission houses, some of which would be remain at the present price, while others would be reduced.

Replying to Mr EC Riley, Sir John gave the final costs in connection with Hotel Acton as £104.16 per square with Hotel Ainslie £105.4, Hotel Kurrajong £112 and Hotel Wellington as £112.4.

He then stated that the additional expenditure of £4,000 on the Kurrajong included £1,200 for painting. ‘There is no disguising the fact,’ he went on, ‘that wooden and plaster partitions put in were not too good.’ There were many things he interpolated, for which the Commission was responsible; but damn it, not the Hotel Kurrajong. (Laughter)

Mr Riley: Has this white cement on Parliament House any special virtue?

Sir John explained that it had been used to obviate repeated painting. It had been expensive, but he was satisfied that it would stand up to the job.

Mr Riley: Was there an unfavourable report as to use of this cement?

Sir John: If there was I have no recollection of it. ‘This,’ he added, ‘is one of the best plastered jobs in Australia and one of the cheapest.’

Questioned next as to the cost of the homes erected for the Secretary and the Engineer and the Accountant of the Commission, Sir John Stated that this was a sore point with him. ‘I could never understand,’ he stated ‘ how they did cost so much. The Secretary’s residence is on the £4,000 line.’

Mr Riley: Were any steps taken by the Commission to ascertain why the costs were so high?

Sir John: Yes I have analysed that myself. I will never be able to satisfy myself with regard to those places.

Mr Riley: Is there no hope at all that things will be likely to change in Canberra regarding these building costs?

Sir John: At present we consider we are doing building as cheaply as one possibly could build. The whole trouble at the start was that there was no time for making estimates. Undoubtedly reforms have taken place. We have crowded into three and half years seven years;’ work: there is no getting away from that.

Mr Riley: It is not extraordinary that you as the Commissioner in charge of building activities are no aware of the tenders for the conversion of part of the Hotel Kurrajong appearing in the Sydney and local press?  I asked Mr Casboulte the same question yesterday and he knew nothing about it.

Sir John: All I can say is that they have told me and I have forgotten about it. God help me!

Senator JB Hayes: But it should come from you as the Building Commissioner?

Mr Riley: It certainly should require some explanation that neither you nor the Chief Architect know about it.

Senator Kingsmill: You’ll realize now, Sir John, why we asked you about the overhead costs in the Architects’ Department.

Mr Riley: It is proposed to make additions to the existing Secretariats?

Sir John: Plans and estimates have been prepared for putting an additional story [sic storey]on No 2. He explained that this would cost something in the region of £10,000; but that nothing had been finalized as yet.

Sir John went on to explain that the Commission had no intention of proceeding with the work on the Administration Building during the next financial year. His information was that it was likely to be idle for the next five or six years or probably indefinitely. £50,000 had been spent on the project so far, exclusive of architect’s fees. The estimated cost of the building was in the region of £840,000.

Mr Riley: What is the reason for this change of policy?

Sir John: At the start I was under the impression that the superstructure would be proceeded with immediately. The foundations are in. I don’t know the reason for the change in policy.  I wouldn’t say that the Chief Commissioner knows the reason. I only know that the Commission has been told not to proceed with the work.

            Sir john then explained that the foundations of the Administrative Building had been completed before the stipulated time and that the contractor thereby  became entitled to £100 for every week up to the stipulated time.  The Commission had inserted this provision in his contract because it had realized the urgency of this work. He was of the opinion that under the provision of either £600 or £700 would be paid.

Mr Riley: For a job that will remain idle for six or seven year?

Major McDowell. The commission’s Industrial Officer was then called:

He explained that whereas there was no award applying to workmen employed privately in Canberra, there was a special award for employees of the Commonwealth Government and for contractors working for it. He stated that under this award the workmen received pay for nine statutory holidays and wet weather pay throughout the year. For the year 1926-27 moneys disbursed  in this way had amounted to 3 percent of the total pages paid, exclusive of those on Parliament House. In addition, free of charge to the men in the camps.  This, last year, had worked out at 1/- per man per week. Then there was a zone allowance, ranging from 1/- to 2/- per day in the case of men working outside the city area proper. In the case of Yarralumla this particular charge had amounted to another 10/- a week on to wages. The payments for workmen’s compensation in the Territory, he stated, amounted to 35 per cent of the wages paid.

‘The barracks for workmen here,’ he continued ‘are equal to any I ever saw in the military camps in England. The cost of the two-men cubicles as erected and fitted with electric light and stove amounts to £32.’

Major McDowell added that the total accommodation for workmen in the territory was 1,458. At the present time there were about 630 in the Territory. The Commission’s own men were charged 2/6 per week for accommodation. The contractors’ men who were also housed by the Commission, were charged a little more, because in this case the Commission was not obliged to supply them with firewood. He then stated that estimating the life of the barracks at five years, the present charge would cover the costs incurred.

He stated that 62 workmen and their families were housed in workmen’s cottages at Westridge, Ainslie, Kingston and Braddon. These were the better type of weatherboards equal in his opinion to any of the suburban weatherboard cottages in New South Wales.

Referring to the Molonglo tenements of 96 cottages Major McDowell stated that £10,000 had been spent in subdividing and putting in electric light, sanitary conveniences and fences. Altogether there were 438 of the cheaper type and 62 of the better type cottages.

At the present time they were almost completely occupied and there was a waiting list numbering 42.

            Mr McDowell then referred to the dwellings at Russell Hill stating that the camps were under almost daily inspection. The men and women living in them seemed to be quite satisfied, and he had not received one complaint of a serious nature.

Mr Riley: The ladies are easily pleased here!

Replying the Senator Kingsmill Major McDowell stated that he had never experienced any trouble in getting labour in Canberra, except one instance where plasterers were concerned. ‘As far as the work in concerned,’ he added, the Commissions work on day labour is equal to anything I have seen anywhere. Some of the work in the contract houses I don’t think too good.’

            Senator Kingsmill: It has been said before the Committee that the extra wages have added about 12 per cent to the cost of building.’

Witness: I make it 14 per cent over Melbourne and between 9 and 10 percent over Sydney.

Mr Riley: ‘have any complaints been made concerning the class of work contractors have wanted workmen to put in?’

Witness replied that he had heard from the secretary of the Carpenters’ Union on several occasions. The work complained of hadn’t been too good and he reported it to the chief architect.

            ‘Our union organization her,’ he states,’ are really exceptional. Practically the lot are careful to see they get skilled men into the unions. In this particular case the secretary of the carpenters’ union said that the work was bringing  discredit on his organization.’

‘Whether,’ he went on, ‘ an applicant for membership possessed a ticker or not, members would watch him at work to see if he was up to the job.’

Witness added that certain portions of Mason’s contracts were faulty. This was because it had been carried ut on piece work. ‘Once,’ he stated, ‘you establish piece work, you can’t get away from the human element.’

            Mr Riley: ‘What would you say were the main reasons for the excessive building costs her?’

            Witness: ‘Wages and increased freights. I would not blame the supervision and certainly would not blame the workmen.

Replying to Mr Abbott witness stated that it would be impossible to utilize the workmen’s dwellings and barracks after cessation of building operations in Canberra.

Mr Lister was informed that the workmen engaged on Yarralumla had been conveyed to the scene of operations in the Commission’s time.

At this state the inquiry was adjourned. During the afternoon the committee made a tour of inspection. The Chief Commissioner Sir John Butters will give evidence before the Committee today.