3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. JOHNSON presented a petition from certain women electors of New South Wales, accompanied by the declaration by the officers of the Women’s Liberal League of St. George, signed before a justice of the peace, that every signature attached to it was genuine, praying the House not to pass the Tariff.
Petition received and read.
Mr. SINCLAIR presented a petition from certain teachers of music resident in the Moreton electorate.
– Will the honorable member read the prayer of the petition ?
– The petition concludes with these words-.
We respectfully urge that the duties hitherto levied on pianos arequite high enough, and that, the proposed increased duties should not be agreed to by the Federal Parliament.
– I asked the honorable member to read the prayer of the petition because it is required by standing order 73 that every petition shall conclude with a prayer.’ What is intended is that the request which petitioners make shall be intimated to the House. Unless a petition contains a request it is not in order. I am not quite sure whether the paragraph which the honorable member has read will be regarded by honorable members as a prayer, though I think that it comes near enough to the statement of a request to answer the requirements of the standing order. If honorablemembers will in future see that in the concluding paragraphs of the petitions which they present something is asked for, the petitions will comply much more closely with the requirements of the standing order.
Petition received and read.
– In reference to petitions, I may state that certain documents have been intrusted to me for presentation to the House, but I am not sure that they are strictly in order.
– Are they against the Tariff?
– Petitions against the Tariff are coming in like snow-flakes.
-I ask to be allowed to read part of one of these documents, so that you, Mr. Speaker, may inform me whether I shall be in order in presenting them as petitions. These are the documents referred to in a letter received by the honorable member for South Sydney some time ago, in which it is stated that the mining managers of Western Australia were forcing individuals to sign certain petitions. I notice several names attached whose owners could not be forced to do anything that they might be unwilling to do. One of these documents reads -
We, the undersigned, recognising that the result of the new Tariff will operate most harshly upon the people and industries of Western Australia, begrespectfully to record our protest against such a Tariff, and to ask our representatives in both Senate and House of Representatives to use every endeavour to have the additionalduty rescinded. We are convinced -
That under the new Tariff the mining, agricultural, pastoral, and other industries will suffer materially.
That the purchasing power ofwageswill decrease ; and that stagnation in almost every department will be the inevitable result.
– Is this a petition? If so, it should not be read until it has been received.
– I am asking for information.
– What information?
– I am asking whether I shall be in order ill presenting certain documents as petitions. To continue the quotation - .
The document from which I have read comes from the Mount Morgans and Murrin Murrin districts of Western Australia, and there is another couched in almost similar terms from the Laverton district of the Mount Margaret gold-field. Neither commences with the usual preamble nor concludes with the usual prayer, which leaves a doubt as to whether they can without amendment be received.
– I take this opportunity to say that there is no such thing as a usual prayer. The prayer required by the standing order is not that form of words which usually concludes a petition - “ and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.” These words are quite unnecessary, and are not the prayer of a petition. The standing order requiring that every, petition shall end with a prayer means that something must be asked for. A document which does not ask for something is not a petition. If this petition is addressed to the House, contains at its close a request, and is throughput respectfully worded, it may be received. But listening just now to the portion of the petition which the honorable member read it appeared to me that it has been addressed to honorable members representing Western Australia, and not to the House.
– No, that is not so.
– If I am mistaken, and the petition is presented by the honorable member, I shall put the question that it be received, because I noticed nothing in what the honorable member read which would preclude it from being received.
– The petition is addressed “ To the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament,” and is headed “Protest Against Increased Duties.”
– Does the petition ask for anything? If it does not I think that it cannot be received.
– Substantially it. asks that the increased duties should not be imposed, though in a particular form of words.
– May I suggest that it would save the time of the House if honorable members intrusted with the presentation of petitions about the form of which they are not quite clear, would show them to me before the meeting of the House at which they propose to present them. In this case I think from what the honorable member for Coolgardie has last said that the documents which have been ‘ intrusted to him are not’ petitions containing a request, but are protests, and this House has no power, under any standing order with which I am acquainted, to receive a protest at the hands of any one.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence without notice whether in view of the fact that the New South Wales branch of the NationalRifle Association holds its annual meeting next month he will take immediate steps to supply cadets who desire to take part in that meeting with proper ammunition for practice purposes?
– I shall make a note of the honorable member’s request, and will see that every necessary step is taken.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Defence without notice if before honorable members are asked in Committee of Supply to agree to the votes proposed for the establishment of small arms and cordite factories he will arrange to have all the papers dealing with these matters, including the reports of responsible officers, available to honorable members?
– The question of the manufacture of cordite is a very intricate and important one, and honorable members will be suppliedwith the fullest information before the Government will ask them to take any steps in the direction indicated. Mr. Hake, the Government adviser in the matter, is at present in England. The whole question of explosives is in such an uncertain state at the present time, not in Australia but in Great Britain, that the House is entitled to the fullest information in order that honorable members may know exactly what the Government propose. I have spoken to the Acting Prime Minister, and can now state that the vote in reference to cordite will not be gone on with to-day, or until the House is in possession of the fullest information on the subject.
– I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister, without notice, whether, in view of the many stater ments daily appearing in the press concerning the possibility of Mr. Deakin’s early return to the House, he is able to inform honorable members as to the date of his return ?
– “A most impertinent question !”
– In reply to the honorable member’s question, I may say that I was speaking to Mr. Deakin to-day on the telephone, and that be expects to be in his place in the House to-morrow.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I am glad to hear it.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Ministef a question with out notice. Reference is made in the Age this morning to operations of the coal vend, which, in my opinion, are a very serious matter. In an article in the Age dealing with the delay being experienced by Inter-State steam-ship companies in obtaining loadings of coal for their vessels at Newcastle, two illustrations are given ; one of the refusal of the vend to supply a small steamer with about 1,000 tons of coal, after three months’ notice, the reason being that this vessel did not happen to be one of the Union Steam-ship Company’s steamers. I should like to ask the. Acting Prime Minister if that is not clear evidence that the colliery combine and the shipping ring have entered into a solemn partnership under which one party chloroforms the people while the other picks their pockets, and whether, if the law is not sufficiently wide to reach these people, he will introduce a Bill in order that we may have an opportunity to so legislate as to prevent this plunder vend from robbing the people of Australia?
– I did not read the whole of the article to which the honorable member referred, but I read a. portion of it. On Saturday I had a consultation with theAttorney-General in regard to this matter, and another to-day, and, as a result, action is being taken to see whether it can be proved that the statements referred to are correct. They are merely statements, and we must have absolute proof that they are well founded before we take action so that we shall not fail in the course we take. I may say further that if there appears to Be any defect in the law at the present time which would prevent our dealing with such a matter the Attorney-General will introduce a Bill of a clause or two to remedy the defect.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papua. - Appropriation Ordinance - No. 8 of 1907.
Census and Statistics Act - Statistics of the Commonwealth - Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue 1906 - Part II.
Defence Acts - Military Forces - Provisional Regulations -
Amendment of Regulation 67 - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 95.
Financial and Allowance Regulations.Amendment of Regulation 154a - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 96.
– By permission I desire to move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 o’clock to-morrow.
This motion is moved for the same reason as that which justified the adoption of a similar motion last Tuesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
LATE MR. M. H. J. McDONNELL.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Department to grant-to the widow of the late Mr. M. H. J. McDonnell, a postal official for 45 years, any gratuity in lieu of the sum of£231 paid by such officer into the Superannuation Fund during his term of service, he having died while on leave prior to retirement?
– This is entirely a matter of State law, and one for arrangement with the State Government. The official answer to the question is as follows : -
This case is governed by the provisions of Section 51 of the New S.outh Wales Civil Service Act 1884 which provides that -
If any officer die leaving a widow or any children under sixteen years of age in necessitous circumstances, the Government may, on inquiry into the case, grant out of the Superannuation Account to such widow or children a gratuity not exceeding six months salary which such officer shall have been receiving at the time of his death.
Unless Mrs. McDonnell furnishes the requisite evidence that she is entitled to a gratuity in accordance with the above-Quoted provisions of the New South Wales Civil Service Act 1884, no gratuity can legally be paid.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In answer to the honorable member’s question, I beg to state) -
I am not aware of the trouble referred to, butit is the desire of the Government to obtain authority to deal with cases where attempts are made to clog the working of the Wages Boards or similar bodies, and it is hoped that this can be done in connexion with the new protection.
– Before the House proceeds with Government business I should like to ask permission to put a question to the Acting Prime Minister.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that thehonorable member haveleave to. put a question at this stage?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– My reason for asking the question is the position of business before us. I see that the second order of the day is for the resumption of the Committee of Ways and Means, apparently to be taken immediately following Supply. Is that the intention of the Acting PrimeMinister? Has the honorable gentleman dropped the idea of proceeding with the Bills which he has already announced his intention to submit? I ask the Acting PrimeMinister to give honorable members an idea, generally, as to the course of business this week.
– There has been no alteration in the order of business, but the resolutions in Committee of Supply will have to. be covered by resolutions in Committee of Ways and Means, and then embodied in a Bill for transmission to another place. Therefore, the business referred to by the honorable member hasbeen placed second.
– For the purpose of dealing with the Works and Buildings Appropriation Bill ?
– And then the other measures to which the honorable gentleman- has referred will be taken?
– One or two of them.
Additions, New Works, and Buildings
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 20th. September, vide page 3619) :
Department of External Affairs
Division 9(Commonwealth Offices in London),£1,000.
– When the House rose on Friday the understanding was that we were to havesubmitted to us by the Acting Prime Minister a memorandum setting outall details; connected with the proposal for the acquirement of a site in London on which to establish Commonwealth offices. A document has been placed in our hands, but apart from the fact that we have just received it, a cursory glance leaves the matter, to my mind, as indefinite and chaotic as before.. I do not know what the Government propose to do. Have the Government a definite proposal in regard to this matter, and if so, what is it? The statements in the memorandum are as indefinite as were the statements made on Friday. For instance, we are told that there are three sites under offer to us, and that the lowest rent is 15s. per superficial foot.
– If the honorable member reads the memorandum he will see that the person acting for the Commonwealth in London expects to obtain the land for 13s. per superficial foot.
– That is one of the points of indefiniteness about the whole scheme. The Acting Prime Minister ought to have had a definite offer to submit to “.honorable members. What may or may not happen in further negotiations is ‘ scarcely satisfactory to the House, particularly when the difference is so much as that represented between 13s. and 19s. per superficial foot. The last offer of the London County Council was, I think, 18s. per superficial foot.
– It appears from the memorandum that the London County Council made an offer of land at 18s. per superficial foot, and that they have since said they are open to. receive an offer, but will not quote any lower price. We are further told that Mr. Burr, the architect, hopes to be able to get the land for the same price as was paid for the site purchased by the Victorian Government. However, that is only the expression of a pious hope, which may or may not be realized.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister made any statement in the matter ?
– Yes; the Acting Prime Minister made a statement which left honorable members in such a condition of mind that they were not able to appreciate the position.
– If I spoke for a week I could not satisfy the honorable member, who already knows as much about ;the matter as I can tell him.
– Then I confess il know nothing about the matter. If that is all the information the Acting Prime Minister can give me, I regret very much “that his labour has brought forth ‘ such a shocking mouse in the way of a proposal.
What is the projected building to cost?” Has the Acting Prime Minister any information on that subject?
– A little.
– One newspaper of this morning says that the building will Cost from ^150,000 to ,£200,000, while a second newspaper estimates the cost at between £70,000 and £80,000. Has the Acting Prime Minister any estimate of the proposed expenditure? Has he any definite statement to make to the- House as to what the ground is to cost? Is there any undertaking with respect to the rates that will have to be paid? Having regard ‘ to the trend of politics in the old country there ought to be a very definite covenant in the contract as to the payment of any land tax which may be imposed. All these are matters in respect to which the agreement may be modified very considerably, and as to which there ought to be some definite information given to the Committee by the Acting Prime Minister. If a land tax be imposed in the old country it will fall very heavily on these choice sites in the city of London. Who is to pay the land tax?
-Not the tenant surely ?
– But we shall be lessee for ninety-nine years - practically the owners of the site, and, therefore, presumably the tax will fall on us.
– I think the presumption is the other way.
– At any rate, these are matters which ought to be settled in the covenant. We ought to know exactly what the offer of the London County Council means. If the offer is from 13s.. to 19s. per superficial foot, plus rates of all kinds, and plus land tax, we may find the site . cost us very dear indeed. But apart from the cost, there are matters which ought to be definitely dealt with in the contract. After all Captain Collins’ stupendous efforts in the direction of negotiating for a site, we know nothing whatever as to price or conditions, except that a schedule of prices has been given, and that the London County Council are open to receive offers. . This leaves the matter as indefinite as it is possible for it to be ; and before we pass this vote, which, I take it, will involve the subsequent voting of money for a building, we ought to know exactly what are the terms of the contract.
– I understand that the municipal taxes in London amount, in some instances, to 6s. 8d. in the £1
– And, judging by what we know df British politics, it will not be long before there is a land tax which will have to be added to the price.
– The land tax will not be added unless there is a clause in the agreement to that effect.
– I am inclined to think it will be added - any one who took a block of land for ninety-nine years would have to pay the land tax. At any rate, I shall be very much surprised to hear to the contrary.
– Does the honorable member remember what was the effect of the Reid land tax on the Cooper estate?
– Whatever the” effect may be, we ought to have definite information before we decide to make the purchase.
– It all depends upon the title of the London County Council. . For all we know, the London County Council may not have the freehold, but merely an extended lease for, say, 999 years.
– that, again, is a matter on which we ought to be informed, but not one word has been said bv the Acting Prime Minister in reference to any of the points I have raised. When I ask for information, the honorable gentleman simply says that he could not satisfy me if he talked for a hundred years.
– I said I could not satisfy the honorable member if I talked for a week.
-What is the difference? Will the Acting Prime Minister tell us what the terms of the contract are? If he will do so, I shall sit down and listen with every desire to help in the acquisition of a site. So far, however, we have had thrown before us a proposal which I venture to say ‘may involve an outlay of ^10,000 per annum in the shape of rent and taxes. ~~
– What about the interest on the building?
– I am speaking of the. ground rent alone, which may involve us in .the amount I have mentioned”. Then it is proposed to erect a stately building upon’ it in accordance with plans which must be acceptable to the architect to the London County Council. We are also told very frankly that the building must be such as to add to the architectural beauty of the city. That again, if it means anything at all, means a huge expenditure in the shape of buildings. I venture to say that ^200,000 will not be far from the mark as the expenditure which will have to be incurred before the buildings are erected and ready for occupation. That means a serious undertaking for the Commonwealth. If we are to pay for the office out of revenue it means that we shall have to go to the Customs for ^800,000- for the purpose. Is that in contemplation by the Acting Prime Minister? From what source does he propose to raise the revenue to erect this huge and handsome building? Does he propose to raise a loan or to take the money from our revenue? We ought to know. If we are going to take the amount from revenue, involving by way of Customs duties the raising of four times the amount required for this purpose, the people of this country ought to be given definite particulars of the undertaking upon which they are entering. They ought to know that they will have to’ pay ^200,000 for the building alone, ground rent at the rate of ^.10,000 a year, if taxes be added, and in all probability still more by reason of land tax, which is likely, soon to be imposed.
– The London rates amount to about 10s. in the £1.
– I am told that they amount to 6s. 8d. in the £1. At any rate, they are a serious item. Before we make a purchase of this sort we ought to know the full amount of the liability which we are incurring. And after all the expenditure that it is proposed to incur, have we a single function operative in London for which we need a building at all? We have not one of any kind - not a single Federal function operative in London requiring such a building. Of course we are hoping that in the future the Commonwealth will need a business office in London in order to transact a general agency business.
– What is Captain Collins doing?
– I venture to saythat that is a question which the Committee would like the honorable member to address to the Acting Prime Minister. We should like very much to know what Captain Collins is doing. We know that the amount involved in the upkeep of his office is steadily and gradually increasing.
– Order. The honorable member cannot enter into a general discussion on this item.
– It has nothing to do with Captain Collins.
– Yes, it has.
– Nothing to what with Captain Collins ? Does . the Acting Prime Minister say that the London office, as well as the ordinary agency business of the Commonwealth, has nothing to do with Captain Collins? I take it that Captain Collins is undertaking certain functions in London, whatever they may be. Every one knows that .the Commonwealth requires very little financial and ordinary general business to be transacted in London just now, except perhaps in relation to the purchase of material ordered by the Federal Government; though what that material may be I do not know. I am at a loss to know what Captain Collins is doing in London. I should like to be informed. He is supposed to be undertaking some complicated business for us, by means of which he is saving a great deal of money. But no one is able to tell us exactly what those operations are. We know that he is there, and we know that the cost of keeping him there is creeping up. In the Estimates for the current year the cost of the upkeep of the London office is from £4,000 to £6;000. I forget the details, but the expense is increasing. There is a large increase over last year’s expenditure. It may be justifiable,” but I do think that, in view of the tentative, or I might say secretive, methods employed in our London agency and functions, this Committee has a right to know definitely what is in the mind of the Government both in regard to the business to be transacted, and especially with regard to the financial obligations we are asked to incur in undertaking this fresh liability. Are we going to erect these buildings, costing £200,000 or £250,000 - we do not know-:-
– Nonsense !
– It is an easy thing to say “ nonsense;” but when you begin to add to the architectural beauties of a thoroughfare like the Strand by the erection of a building under conditions which must be approved bv the architect of the London County Council, it is not nonsense to say that the expenditure will run into £200,000 or a Quarter of a million. Before the Acting Prime Minister interjects that my statement is nonsense, he ought to know a little bit more about the matter himself. That is not a proper way of disposing of criticism, and of criticism which is being made in all good faith, and with a desire only, to arrive at the best possible arrangement. We must begin this work in London sometime or other, but it is “a rule that before you begin to house your functions you should begin 10 operate those functions, and to operate them effectively. In this matter it seems fo me that we are putting the cart before the horse. We are taking steps to put up the building, and shall then begin to develop the functions which that building is supposed to house and accommodate. I should like to know to what extent we intend to operate our functions “before we begin to do any such thing. We are told that the office is to accommodate the High Commissioner. Is a Bill providing for the High Commissioner likely to speedily become law ? I should like to know that. I know that the matter is associated in the Governor-General’s speech with the question of immigration. The High Commissioner is supposed to have something to do with immigration, and no doubt will have something to do with it when he is set up in London to .do business for the Commonwealth. But just now we ‘‘have no High Commissioner, and we have no immigration policy. We are in the dark as to all these matters. The least the Acting Prime Minister could do would be to tell us what is in the mind of the Government in reference to the High Commissionership and all kindred matters. A criticism was made by the right honorable member for Swan on Friday last with regard to” the inconvenience of the Strand site for purely financial reasons. _ The right honorable member told us that the site would be unsuitable for the purpose. May be it ‘ would, but from what I can learn about the site, it is not more than a mile from the Bank of England.’ If that be so, it would not be unduly out of the way.
– It means a penny ‘bus fare.
– I do not think that any one who wished to inquire about inscribed stock, or to collect interest, would be debarred by a penny ‘bus fare. If that were the only criticism that could be made against the site, it would seem to me to be rather inadequate. I have not been in London, but from my reading, and from the information which I have been able _to obtain, I should say that the site is an admirable one for one of the purposes for which this building is to be erected, namely, to advertise the resources of Australia. I have no quarrel with the site, but I complain of the indefiniteness of our information as to the arrangement existing between the Acting Prime Minister, who is supposed to have this matter in hand, and the London County Council. Before we agree to this expenditure we ought to know definitely what the terms of. the contract are and to what we are committing ourselves. So far we know nothing except that the London County Council will entertain an offer. Has an offer since been made ? If an offer has been made, then we are wholly in the dark. We might find after agreeing. to this expenditure that the site was not obtainable.
-The passing of this item will be an indorsement of the. authority.
– An indorsement of the action of the Acting Prime Minister in securing the option ofthis site. If we vote the sum of , £1,000, we shall give the Government authority to lease the site, if no better terms can be secured, at the rental at which it has been offered, namely, 18s. per superficial foot. If we agree to this item, I should like to know what chance we shall have of obtaining the land at a lower rental. What chance shall we have of securing it at 13s. per foot ?
-I should say so. The London County Council have certain sources of information open to them, and if we agree to vote this money it should be on the definite understanding that the Committee is authorizing the Acting Prime Minister to negotiate for the site, shall we say, on the same basis as that upon which Mr. Bent has secured a block for Victoria, viz., 13s. per foot. It may be that it was because of a want of the sense of responsibility on the part of Ministers that they were unable to make such a bargain as that made by Mr. Bent. He did not wait to consult any one; he saw a bargain, and snapped it up. The Federal Ministers waited to consult the House, and the result is that theprice has gone up to 18s. per foot.
– That is not correct.
– The Acting Prime Minister does not know what the price is.
– The honorablemember for Parkes does not know his own. mind for live minutes..
– Neither does theActing Prime Minister.
– Do not talk rubbish.
– I hope that the Acting Prime Ministerwill not lose histemper. Does he suggest that we should have had to pay a rental of 18s. per foot for this land had we acquired it when itwas first offered to us?
– £1 per foot wasthen asked for it.
– How is it Mr.. Bent obtained a lease at 13s. per foot?
– That is a different site altogether.
– It is part of the same block?
– Yes; but it is at the other end.
– It is a corner block.
– It is a corner block, and, therefore, I should think, ought to be the more valuable one.
– I think it is a better block.
– It may or may not be better than the other corner block, but surely it should be superior to the intervening allotments. I should be glad tohear from the Acting Prime Ministera statement on all these points. They relateto ordinary matters of business that should be taken into account.
– I wished to speak, before the honorable member did, but he was so anxious to make an attack on thisproposal that I could not do so.
– I have not made any attack on the proposal ; I have simply asked for information. I should bevery sorry if it were thought that I was making an attack on the scheme. I have endeavoured merely to put to the Acting-. Prime Minister some points which I invite’ him, with the greatest possible respect, toanswer before we proceed to pass this item.
– I have listened to the honorable member’s speech, a good deal of which was a repetition of the remarks madeby him a few evenings ago.
– Not at all.
– I think it was It was a curious way of assisting the Government project. I brought the proposal before the House prior to making any de- -finite move in regard to it. Had I made a definite offer on behalf of the Government before consulting Parliament, what a storm of indignation we should have had. Instead of doing what, in the circumstances, I should have been justified in doing, I took what seemed to me to be the proper course, and I think that the’ Government should be commended instead <of abused for their hesitation to acquire the land before consulting Parliament. The block owned by the London County Council is a large one, and with the consent of the House I should like to take the whole of the frontage to the Strand up to the point at which Aldwych-street leaves that thoroughfare, which is far more valuable ‘ than is the site acquired by Mr. Bent.
– Who has abused the honorable member?
– I think I have had a little abuse from the honorable member.
– I simply asked for information.
– After consulting the Prime Minister, I acquired the option of renting the land. That option expired on 20th July last. My intention was to bring the matter before Parliament in the earlier part of the session, with a view of securing the necessary authority to take the course desired by me. I do not know what exception can be taken to that attitude. I adopted it in preference to concluding any arrangement with the London County Council. Just before the original option expired, I cabled to the London County Council that I should be unable to bring the matter before Parliament prior to 20th July. A Committee of the London County Council deals with all these matters in the first instance, and, while it would not make ari offer, it extended the option for a further period of two months. That option will expire next Thursday. It remains, therefore, for the Commonwealth to make an offer. Had I done so before obtaining the authority of Parliament, I should have felt bound to honour it as an agreement made on behalf of the Government of Australia, but I did not desire to take such a step until I had ascertained whether or not honorable members were agreeable to my proposal. I should like to know in what respect I am to blame. As the map in my hand shows, there are three sites offered to us’. The Aldwych-street corner is far more valuable than is that acquired by Mr. Bent. It will be observed that the centre block does not meet that acquired on behalf of Victoria. I should like the site acquired by us to adjoin the Victorian block, because Mr. Bent informed me, after he had’ completed his negotiations, that he would be prepared to join with us. The land which,we take should extend right to the corner of Aldwych-street and the Strand, thus including the most valuable part, because it can never be obtained again at as low a price as that at which it is obtainable now. I can get nothing definite as to the price, but I have the assurance of the principal officer who deals with this matter that ‘ he believes I shall get the whole for- 13s. a foot, including the end next to Aldwych-street.
– Would the honorable gentleman be satisfied with the authority of the Committee to conclude an agreement at 13s. ?
– I do not think it would be fair to the Committee for me to state definitely that the land can be got at 13s. per foot. I do not desire to do anything without the concurrence of the Committee. If the London County Council asked for what I thought a much larger sum than was justified, I should not move in the matter without first obtaining the concurrence of the Committee.
– What price do they put on the land?
– For the site marked “A,” they put down 19s. a foot; for “B,” 18s. per foot; and for “ C,!” 15s. per foot. The most valuable of the three - site “A” - is the one which takes in the whole. The second one takes in the valuable part, but does not come up to the boundary of the part secured by Victoria; while the third site, marked at 15s. per foot; starts from the Victorian boundary and only goes a part of the way across to Aldwych-street.
– They all face the Strand ?
– All the land has a frontage to the Strand. I obtained to-day - it is npt easy to obtain these things -a copy of the agreement made by Victoria.
– Captain Collins stated, on the 26th June, that the London County Council were prepared to receive an offer of 18s. a foot.
– The prices are marked on the plan.
– That offer is dated the 21st June, so it was made before Captain Collins made his statement.
– I know, but what I have quoted is the value put down by the London County Council, because I have had two or three communications about the matter. The following are the terms of the agreement signed by Mr. Taverner, as Agent-General for the State of Victoria -
All rents shall be payable quarterly on the usualquarter days without any deduction or abatement, except the landlord’s property tax.
What that is, I do not quite know.
– It is 4s. in the£1 on the unalterable rent.
-I made inquiries this morning, and understand that it is a fixed tax. The second portion of the agreement is -
All rates, taxes, impositions, and outgoings whatsoever, except the landlord’s property tax, payable by either landlord or tenant in respect of the said land or. the buildings thereon, shall, as between lessor and lessee, be paid by the lessee, but subject and without prejudice to the rights of the council under the stipulations hereinbefore contained.
– Is anything said about the County Council paying the rates and taxes ?
– According to what I have just read, the lessee pays those.
– That agreement is not an absolutely safe one.
– I do not know that. I know that the honorable member is very keen on these points. I obtained a loan of this document only this morning from Mr. Bent’s office, with a view to inform myself upon this very point, because it is very difficult to ascertain such particulars at this end of the world. My intention was to read the agreement to the Committee. With regard to the price for a building, I hold in my hand an estimate by Colonel Owen. I found out what Mr. Bent had agreed to pay for his share of the building. I do not know whether he wants it to be known, but at any rate, on the same proportion, the cost of the whole of the building which we would put up would be £60,000 - that is, along the whole frontage of 190 odd feet.
– A building with 200 feet frontage for £60,000 must be a gimcrack affair.
– What is the use of the honorable member saying that? An agreement for a building on the same terms has lately been entered into by Mr. Bent. The honorable member for Fremantle seemsto think that he knows everything. The actual fact is that Mr. Bent has entered’ into an agreement for the construction of a building with a 25 feet frontage, which would be part and parcel of this building, for a sum of money that, on the same proportion; would mean £60,000 for a building carried along the whole frontage. The part built by Victoria will form one end of the whole building. I mention what Mr. Bent has done, because I am. very anxiousto give the Committee as reliable an authority as possible as to the cost of the building if it were all put up at once. What I have stated is the estimated cost of the building if put up in the same way as Mr. Bent has agreed to put up his share.
– As Mr. Bent put up the Central Railway Station?
– I do not think Mr. Bent is a man who would put upa trumpery building in such a position, nor do I think Victoria would agree to such a proposal.
- Mr. Bent is oneof the best business men in Australia.
– It is all very wellfor the honorable member for Hunter to attempt to detract from Mr. Bent’s business capacity, but I am taking what Mr. Bent has done as the best informationI can give the Committee. It is only a matter of speculation as to what the building will actually cost, because if marble, for example, were used it would cost a great deal more.
– It should be built of steel and concrete.
– At any rate. I have given the Committee some indication of what the complete building is likely to cost.
– Can it be built twelve stories high ?
– No; the proposal is for six stories. The reason why I speak about erecting the complete building is that if we take the land to the corner of Aldwych-street we shall obtain absolutely the cream of the site. The other end, although it is good, is not as good from the point of view of traffic as the end where, going along the Strand towards the city, one meets Aldwych-street. I believe that is the best site on the Strand.
– Are we bound in any way to fall in with Mr. Bent’s scheme?
– We are not bound at all. What Mr. Bent said was, “ If you take any other portion for the Commonwealth, Iwill fall in with you.” That is all that has been agreed to.
– Would Mr. Bent take one end of it?
– He has taken it.
– Would he agree to take it only if we put up a uniform building?
– It would be looking a great deal too far ahead to attempt to make detailed arrangements before we have made up our minds to lease the land. What I want the Committee to agree to is that I shall open up negotiations. I have no authority to enter into negotiations of a permanent character unless I obtain the authority of Parliament.
– We want to know whether the honorable gentleman is going to negotiate for the whole block or only for a part.
– I wish to ascertain whether the Committee is with me in my desire to take the whole frontage of 190 odd feet, including the frontage taken by Mr. Bent, by a depth of 65 feet.
– The question is whether the Committee is with the honorable gentleman in granting the money for the purpose.
– I am quite sure the Committee is.
– We shall find that out very shortly.
– We shall find it out. I hope that there will not be too much debate before the matter is settled. Of course it is nothing to me personally, but I wish to see Australia properly represented in London. I was never more disgusted at anything than at seeing, when I went to London, little pigeon holes for the Agents-General all over the city, and no place to fitly represent Australia. The little cribs of the present Agents-General are a disgrace to Australia. I foundonly twoof them while I was there, although I looked for the others.
– Captain Collins makes up for all that.
– I gave the Committee information as to what Captain Collins had clone in London when I was asked to do so the other day by the deputy leader of the Opposition. I then showed that that officer had done one good thing since he went to London, in that he had secured for the Commonwealth interest upon money which was previously returning no interest. Prior to his present appointment our money was deposited in a number of banks and was earning no interest whatever. His instructions were to “ lump “ the whole of it, so that it might be made to earn interest. He has done so, and his efforts in that direction represent a considerablegain to the Commonwealth.
– Do we want an officer in London simply to do that?
– There are many other duties which Captain Collins has to discharge. Almost invariably he has to attend the Colonial Office two or three times weekly on behalf of the Prime Minister. The honorable member for Franklin cannot have the faintest conception of the amount of correspondence which passes between the Prime Minister and the Colonial Office.
– What has Captain Collins to do?
– If the honorable member would exercise a little common sense he would know that that officer has a great deal to do.
– Tell us what businesshe has to transact.
– A great number of communications are exchanged between the Prime Minister’s Department and Captain Collins on a variety of subjects. That officer has been appointed to his present position only temporarily, but as far as I can judge he has done his work very well - sometimes under circumstances of great difficulty.
– I merely wishto know what he has to do.
– The Government would not grant him an increase of salary, and I think that they acted quite properly.
– I saw a statement to that effect in the newspapers, which evidently know more about this matter than I do. I scarcely know whether there is any other point to which honorable members desire me to refer in connexion with this matter. Ten thousand superficial feet - the area first spoken of for the building - leased at 13s. per foot, would amount to £6,500. Of course there is no necessity to erect the whole of the building immediately if honorable members do not desire to vote the money necessary for the purpose.
– What will the London County Council say to a proposal to erect only a “shell” ?
– The London County Council allows us five years before it exacts the full amountoftherent. It will charge us no rental during the first twelve months, only a quarter of the full amount during the second year, one-half during the third year, three-quarters during the fourth year, and the full amount at the end of five years,
– Is the proposed building to be erected in accordance’ with the idea outlinedby the honorable member for Darwin some time ago?
– I do not know. The idea of the Government is that there shall be one central building to represent Australia in the most prominent part of London. It will be - if nothing else - a very great advertisement for this country. Visitors from the Commonwealth will know exactly where to go to find our offices in London, instead of being obliged to travel all round the city, as they are at present, in an effort to locate the offices of the various States.
– What are the Canadian offices like?
– Canada, I understand, has secured the adjoining block, and I have here a plan of the building which it proposes to erect - a plan which was only received by the last mail. That building, I imagine, will cost more than £200,000.
– It will cost more than £300,000.
– What sort of offices has Canada now ?
– Its present offices are situated in Victoria-street, Trafalgar Square. These it proposes to retain, besides erecting a new building.
– Probably Canada contemplates taking a lease of London.
– At any rate, the Canadians advertise their country well,_ and we should copy their example. It is no wonder that we cannot attract immigrants from the mother country, when they cannot see any evidence of the resources of Australia in London. But intending immigrants to Canada can be supplied in London with full particulars as to Canadian resources. If for no other reason, we should have a respectable building in London in order that prospective immigrants may realize the sort of place that Australia is. I do not know whether honorable members desire any further information in respect to the proposed site. I am very desirous of securing authority to negotiate with the London County Council to secure this block upon the lowest terms possible. When the Prime Minister and myself visited London, the Council were asking £1 per foot for the whole of this block. I suppose they have found that they cannot obtain that price, and accordingly it has been reduced to the 13s. per foot, which one block has already realized.
– If we wait a little longer, we shall probably secure the site for a less amount.
– There is no chance of doing so. The London County Council are very anxious that Australia should obtain this block. I have no doubt that when its members know that I have the support of Parliament, we shall secure it upon the best possible terms.. I fully anticipate we shall not be called upon to pay for it more than the 13s.6½d. per foot which Mr. Bent has paid.
– What is the opinion of the Government with regard to the appointment of a High Commissioner to occupy the offices ?
– It is the intention of the Government to make these offices the home of the High Commissioner.. Plans are being prepared which provide that one floor shall practically be the home of that officer. I hope that he will be appointed before very long. There is a great necessity for his appointment, and it will not be the fault of the Government if the High Commissioner is not appointed before the present year has expired.
– Have the Government made any selection yet?
– No. But in the interests of the Commonwealth, there should be an energetic Australian in London for the purpose of rebutting the extraordinary statements which are improperly made concerning this country. I am glad that the honorable member for Parramatta has asked me the question, because I think that we can make these offices a good home for the High Commissioner, whilst providing sufficient room to enable the States to have their representatives located in the same building. I further desire that the ground floor shall be so built as to permit of a continuous exhibition of Australian produce in this great thoroughfare.
– Is it intended to establish wine cellars in the basement of the building?
– I cannot too strongly impress upon honorable members the desirableness of maintaining an almost continuous exhibition of Australian products in this great thoroughfare, along which such an enormous traffic passes. I should like to see a building erected which would permit of a display being made of the products of the six States of the Commonwealth, either separately or in combination.
– Does the Acting Prime Minister think that result can be brought about without the co-operation of the States ?
– Icertainly hope to secure their co-operation. Mr. Bent has made a beginning, and I have to thank him very much for entering into this arrangement the moment that I mentioned it to him. If it is advisable that Victoria should secure offices in this particular spot, it is certainly in the interests of the other States that they should follow her example. 1 do not think that the people will allow their respective State. Governments to hold aloof very long. They, of course, will save the expense of their offices in other parts of the city. We hope to debit them with a share of the cost of our building, but that will be a matter for arrangement. I am satisfied that the Government is doing the right thing in taking the opinion of honorable members before I send a cablegram to the London County Council - I shall be doing so within two or three days from the passing of the item - to ascertain the lowest possible value at which we can hope to get this property.
– I agree with the Treasurer that this question ought to be settled quickly because I learn from his’ statement that the time within which he must make an offer will expire on the 26th inst. I almost regret that he was under the necessity of making so many explanations to the Committee, because it is not well to have the private negotiations which are associated with the name of Mr. Burr mentioned publicly so that thev can come to the ears of the London County Council. We ought to close with the offer, because it is the best site which we can possibly expect to obtain. It is far more suitable for our purpose than would be a site in the centre of the financial world of
London - that is about the Bank of England. What we want is a site which will not only be suitable for ordinary business arrangements, such, as, for instance, the in- . scription of stock, but also serve to some extent to advertise the existence and the prospects of the Commonwealth. In this matter, we are as much entitled to “ blow” as is Canada. It is true that Canada is having a bit of a boom at the present time, but I do not know that its capacity for ultimate development is any greater than is ours. This morning, when I was travelling in the train, I was reading some extracts from old files of the Times. One was an account of a boxing match conducted in the spirit which is sometimes displayed nowadays, while the other discussed the relative position of Canada and Australia. During the intervening period, while the population of. Australia has increased from 100,000 to over 4,000,000, the population of Canada has jumped from 2,000,000 to, I think, 5,750,000. About five years ago, there were no less than 1,200,000 native born Canadians resident in the United States.
– Canada did not get that increase by reason of her fine building in London.
– I do not suggest that. A fine building is a means of drawing attention to ourpotentialities which, on a close comparison, are quite as encouraging as are those of Canada.
– The Canadians propose to spend , £400,000 on their building.
– About twelve months ago, the Canadians were spending 15s. a head, or £200,000 a year in importing immigrants., and I understand that they have increased the amount. Besides the Canadian Pacific Railway is largely subsidizing immigration. Were it not for that tremendous stimulus given by advertising, a certain amount of national “ blow,” and the annual public expenditure which is being increased, and subsidized by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, I doubt whether Canada would figure at Home so prominently in comparison with Australia as seems to be the case. Having spent a few years in London, I know that the site under offer to the Commonwealth is a very good one. It is not for us to do more than to authorize the Minister to make an offer. The limits of that offer are fairly prescribed by the figure at which he can obtain the best site - which, I think, ought to be obtained - and the amount which he is prepared to offer- we do riot want to put a limit, but an approximation . to a limit is given by the figures, namely, 19s. for the best site, and 13s. which Mr. Burr says it may be obtained for. The Minister has quoted certain conditions, but I do not know yet whether he was reading from a draft or an actual lease.
– It is an agreement for a lease.
-Last week, by interjection, I urged the honorable gentleman to be careful about the land tax. The land tax referred to in the document is a property tax of 4s. in the£, which was imposedin 1689 on English profit rent, not on land. It is called a land tax, but is really a tax on the rent capacity of the land and the profit-producing capacity of something besides land.
– As existing then?
– Yes. Through the influence of the landlords the proceeds tax of 4s. in the£ remains constant, because, as they controlled Parliament, they prevented any increase in the valuation. “The so-called English land tax is - there being, no re-valuation- a fixed charge, instead of being a true land tax. Wherever they did get the opportunity this class interfered with the land tax; they did in India by making it a fixed charge. In England it is only 4s. in the £ on the rental value, which was estimated about 200 years ago. As a matter of substance, I think the Minister will find that it is a very small tax. As a matter of law, it may not toe a land tax such as is likely to be imposed within a comparatively short period, I believe, in England: Therefore, we ought to stipulate that we may deduct, not only the property tax, but also any land tax which may hereafter be imposed in addition, to or substitution for the property tax.
– I understand that the agreement with the Victorian Government provides that no land tax - that is, outside the property tax - is to be paid by the lessee.
– I think that the effect of the agreement is that any land tax will have to be paid by the Victorian Government. It says that the rent is to be clear of all rates, taxes and other outgoings except that particular property tax. The result will be that if a land tax is imposed, and probably it will be imposed in substitution for the existing property tax, it may not be capable of toeing de ducted from the rent which the Commonwealth will have to pay under the lease. If the lease is for at term of ninety-nine years, this is an important matter. On this point, I may refer to what is done in the Commonwealth. In South Australia, when they passed a land tax in 1884, it was provided that not only the owner of the feesimple was to paly the tax, but that the tax was to have an incidence upon any holder of a freehold or any lessee in existence at the time who was not exempt by contract, and whose term had an unexpired run of seven years from the date of the Act. Our lease would be within that category, because if a land tax is imposed at any time within the next fifty or sixty years, we shall have an unexpired term of long duration which may be made liable to land tax. In England, they are beginning to nibble at the question of direct taxation of land. In March, 1906, the House of Commons passed a Bill imposing an unimproved land tax in Scotland. I do not know whether the Bill became law, but I remember that it was passed by the House of Commons by the very great majority of 258 votes. That indicates how things are trending in the old country. I wish to keep within the Minister’s suggestion to toe curt, because I consider that, as he has only two days in which to make an offer, the sooner we dispose of this question the better. What I chiefly rose for was to direct his attention to the necessity of making a condition in his offer which will exempt the lessee from paying any land tax which may hereafter be imposed in substitution for, or in addition to, the existing property tax.
.- While it seems to me the proper policy to obtain a central site’ in London for the erection of Commonwealth offices, the procedure now proposed is like that involved in putting the cart before the horse. The first thing to be done is to determine whether a High Commissioner should be appointed. Personally, I think that we have allowed too long a period to. go by without passing an Act providing for the establishment of a High Commissionership, and appointing some one to fill the position. If we had a. High Commissioner, the problem would be much simplified, because when such an officer is appointed an irresistible agitation will arise for the withdrawal of the Agents-General. Probably the States will find it advantageous to appointcommercial agents to look after their interests in London, but the maintaining of separate Agents-General, each with the elaborate staff and appointments of a plenipotentiary, will be so ridiculous that the constituencies of the States Parliament will insist upon the abolition of these offices or the reduction of their status . The concentration in the Department of the High Commissoner of the work now beng done bv the Agents-General would make it comparatively easy to arrange for the accommodation of the necessary staff in one building, but I think that the appointment of a High Commissioner should precede the acquisition of a site in London for Commonwealth offices.. At the same time, I admit that it may be a good thing to enter into the contract now proposed.
– The honorable member thinks that we should first catch our bird and then get a cage for it?
– Yes. . If a good man is appointed High Commissioner, his opinion on the suitability of the sites available to us. will be of value. I was under the impression, when this matter was first spoken of, that the Government had a definite offer as to rental, but I find now that the price of the land varies from 13s. to 19s.
– A very dangerous margin for middlemen to play with.
– It is a very wide difference. The question arises, what is Captain Collins doing in London? He is paid handsome expenses and a fair salary for looking after Commonwealth interests there, and he should either do so, and retire from the head of the Defence Department, or return to his original position. I. should like to know why he did not go direct to Mr. Burr?
– Mr. Burr is the representative of the London County Council.
– According to thepaper which has been laid before us, Captain Collins, oh the 26th ult., “repeated a suggestion already made by him that negotiations be conducted through Mr. Burr.”
– If Mr. Burr is an officer of the London County Council, how comes he to be in a position to negotiate on behalf of the Commonwealth?
– If Captain Collins knows Mr. Burr to be an officer of the London County Council, he should, as a business man, go straight to him, and say, “ What are the lowest terms on which you will arrange a lease of this land with the Commonwealth ?”
– He could not do that. These matters are dealt with by a board, or a sub-committee, of the London County Council, which meets only every two or three months.
– If Mr. Burr is the official to be gone to, why has not Captain Collins gone to him? If he is some one who is to get a commission out of the transaction, the affair has a somewhat fishy smell. Captain Collins should be able to go direct to a body like the London County Council to ask what its lowest terms are.
– It will not state them, except through this officer.
– I am surprised that such an important body will not say definitely what its terms are. If it refuses to do so, and deals with matters of this kind as a hucksterer would, I cannot understand those whom it represents tolerating its actions. Such a body is on. a different footing from that occupied by any set of private individuals, and it should be easy to ascertain definitely from it what are its lowest terms for land which it wishes to lease.
– It seems preposterous that the London County Council should be unwilling to deal directly with a representative of the Commonwealth.
– I think it almost certain that, if approached, it would deal directly with us. The sub-committee to which the Minister refers must have sufficient business knowledge to be aware that, in dealing with the direct representative of Australia, commission can be saved to one, if not to both, parties. I do not think that there is much doubt as to the wisdom 01 arranging for the erection of Commonwealth offices in London, assuming thatwe can obtain land for a reasonable rental, because the increase of values there is so great that, within a few years, we shall have made a very good bargain.
– Has not this particular land been vacant for the past six or seven years?
– The buildings that were on it have just been pulled down. The land was resumed to enable new streets to be made.
– The buildings in Holywell-street were pulled down in 1900.
– Land values do not fluctuate as much in London as they do in young countries.
– There have been large increases in London values during the past few decades.
– . Seven years is a long time to keep a block like this vacant.
– If it has been vacant for seven years we might expect to get it at a lowerrental. I think that the Commonwealth should have a block of buildings in London, and that the securing of a site for such buildings will, in the end, prove economical ; but before entering into an agreement we should know definitely what rent is to be paid, and, in my opinion, it would be preferable to appoint a High Commissioner before taking further steps in the matter.
.- All the information we have on this subject so far is contained in two disconnected statements made by the Acting Prime Minister, and in the memorandum circulated to-day, which’, if it shows anything at all, shows the ineptitude of Captain Collins. The representative of the Commonwealth Government in London, as the honorable member for South Sydney has pointed out, is unable to conduct negotiations with the London County Council, and refers to Mr. Burr, who is an architect, and who it is said obtained very good terms for Mr. Bent. This is the information on which I am asked to vote this money. I ask whether we have yet heard anything which would warrant our voting £1,000, to - say nothing of the much larger sum to which we are asked by this vote to commit ourselves. The Acting Prime Minister has spoken once or twice as if it were a compliment to honorable members that he should bring this matter before the House. We know that he could do nothing else. He has said that instead of closing with the offer when he was in London he waited until he could meet Parliament, and has thus endeavoured to make us believe that it has been out of compliment to the House that he has submitted the matter for our approval. There was no other course open to the honorable gentleman. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that we should do this thing well or leave it alone. To do it well will involve the expenditure of a large sum of money, and we know the difficulty under which we labour in raising money for expenditure on public works. If we require £100.000 we have to tax the people to the tune of £400,000 in order to get it.
– The proposal is to put up a costly building on a piece of land costing £10,000 for the ground rent alone. Mr. WILKS. - Exactly, and we are invited to believe that it is proposed to put up a magnificent structure on this land at a cost of £60,000. I have never had the good fortune to see the “ Big Smoke,” and therefore know nothing of London. Certain honorable members are apparently under the impression that we can attract the attention of the people of Great Britain only by the erection of an imposing structure in London. I differ from that view, and I trust that we can suggest something; more original. From what I have read Americans travelling in Great Britain and” on the Continent of Europe advertise their presence by ostentation, but the people of Great Britain are not, I think, to be attracted to Australia by any ostentatious display. I do not think that Australia would gain very much by the erection of an imposing Commonwealth building in London, butin any case I would ask why this rush? I do not say that the site proposed is not the most suitable site that could be obtained” in London, because I understand that all who are acquainted with it are agreed that it is the most suitable site for the purpose, but I say that we are not yet prepared to deal with the matter. As the honorable member for South Sydney has pointed out, we have not yet considered the appointment of a High Commissioner, what his functions are to be, or whether the Agents-General of the various States are in future to be dispensed with. According to the memorandum with which we have been supplied, the scheme proposed is to secure a site providing 10,000 superficial feet, and to erect a six-story building that would give a floor space of 60,000 superficial feet. What are we going to put into such a building? Do the’ Government propose to run an exhibition ?
– The Government will let portions of the building.
– Then Australia is to pose before the public of Great Britain as competing with those who have offices to let. The Acting Prime Minister has said that Canada has undertaken an expenditure of £200,000 for this purpose.
– I did not say what their expenditure was.
Mr. McWilliams. The Canadian building will cost £400,000.
– It is a very fine building.
– If Canada is spending ^£500, 000 for advertising purposes in this way, I am with the Acting Prime Minister when he says that Australia must get a move on, and approach to the position of -Canada as quickly as possible. I am with the Government in every reasonable effort to direct the attention of the people of Great Britain to Australia, but I do not believe that the erection of a large building in the, city of London would have that effect.
– The site proposed is not in the city of London.
– I have already admitted that I do not know anything about the city of London, but this is supposed to be the best site there. I again ask where is the necessity for the haste shown in this matter ? The Acting Prime Minister has already had the option of securing this site renewed for two months, and there is no reason why it should not be renewed for two months longer.
– We cannot get it renewed for any longer term.
– Then let it go.
– I do not think we should do so.
– We are to vote £1,000 to secure a particular site, because no other like it can be obtained in London. Are we to understand that this is the only possible site for the purpose which we could obtain in the next twenty years?
– This is the best site now available.
– The best site in London has remained vacant for seven years. That does not say much for it.
– That is so. There are very keen business people in London, and if this be such a good site, why has it remained vacant for so long? I can understand that the Acting Prime Minister has been impressed bv the fact that the Premier of Victoria, who has the reputation of a keen business man, has got in early, and secured for his State 25 feet at this spot. That honorable gentleman knows what he intends to do. His views on the subject are denned, his AgentGeneral is informed, and he does not desire to wait until the Commonwealth erects a building. I am prepared to believe that Mr. Bent has made a very good bargain, but the Acting Prime Minister says that because Mr. Bent has dropped upon this site the Government should play the game of “ follow my leader.” I see that he says in his memorandum -
It is expected that the Government of Victoria will agree to throw in the lot they have taken with any land leased by the Government, and agree to rent part of the Commonwealth building when erected. (Mr. Bent informed me he would do so.)
I suppose the authorities of the other States are to be asked subsequently whether they will do what is expected of them. To agree to this vote may not be the same as “ buying a pig in a poke,” but the Committee is certainly being asked to commit’ itself to a very large expenditure without sufficient information. I should like to say that I think £60,000 would not be sufficient to erect a building which in Australia would be regarded as imposing. The proposal is that on land with a frontage of nearly 200 feet, and a depth of 75 feet, a structure six stories high is to be erected at a cost of £60,000.
– And one which is to add to the architectural beauty of London:
– Exactly. I ask honorable members to consider ‘ what kind of a building could be erected for £60,000 on a 200-feet frontage in any city of Australia. I should say that there is hardly one of the principal city offices of our banks that has not cost more than that.
– And none of them cover a. frontage of 200 feet.
– Yet no one would say that they are such imposing structures as to attract attention for all time to the great potentialities of Australia. £60,000 spent without any return would be a waste of money, whilst £250,000 spent with a good return would be a profitable investment. I am not afraid of the expenditure, but I am afraid of the provision which would have to be made for such an expenditure as I anticipate, because, in order to raise £250,000, we should have to tax the people of Australia to the extent of £1,000,000. Is the Acting Prime Minister prepared to impose taxation to that amount within the next two years ? Until the Acting Prime Minister can show me some scheme for obtaining the money without levying that excessive taxation, I shall be compelled to vote against the item. ^ I am with the honorable gentleman in his desire to have Commonwealth offices in London.
– The honorable member always seems to be with me, but he votes against me.
– Simply because the Acting Prime Minister dees not appear to know how the money is to be raised. I want the Government to show their bona fides by appointing a High Commissioner, and, what is more, letting us understand what the High Commissioner’s duties are to be. We have not as yet taken over the debts of the States; and I have had the idea - it may be a foolish dream - that the work of the High Commissioner would be that of a financier in this connexion, and that, by his knowledge and ability in carrying out a conversion scheme, he might save Australia a large sum. I never expected the High Commissioner to be simply a wellhoused social pivot, but, rather, that, in addition to maintaining the dignity of his position, he would attend to such work as I have indicated. The Acting Prime Minister has said that the High Commissioner ought to be housed in the city of London. But if the Australian High Commissioner is to be on an equality with the Earl of Strathcona., will he be expected to reside permanently in the centre of a large city ? In other words, have the Commonwealth offices to be residential quarters as well as a place of business for the Commonwealth ?
– We do not know.
– Exactly ; and even Captain Collins, who receives a large salary, and only three weeks ago asked that it might be increased by three guineas a day, does not seem to have any information on the point. According to the memorandum now before us, that gentleman is not even able to negotiate ‘ with the London County Council, but refers us to Mr. Burr, the architect, who is said to have done very well for the Victorian’ Government. Even the most ardent supporter of the proposal to erect Commonwealth buildings in London would hesitate to vote the expenditure until we have been supplied with more particulars. We have been told bv Captain Collins that the proposed building will be six stories High, but we have not been told how the Australian exhibits are to be disposed there. I again emphasize the point that a building with the frontage suggested will require the expenditure of a larger sum than £60,000, and, under all the circumstances, I suggest that the item be withdrawn. This would not necessarily mean an abandonment of the project of a London office ; and I trust that, when pre mises are provided, they will be worthy of Australia. I cannot believe that an expenditure of £60,000 would provide a building of dimensions calculated to be an advertisement for Australia. I am with those who are willing, if necessary, to expend ,£500,000 in order to make manifest to the British people the merits of this country.
– Then the honorable member is willing to impose taxation to the extent of £2,000,000 ?
– The honorable member did not allow me to conclude. I was going to say that, before we sanction such an expenditure, we ought to put our own finances in order.
– It is rather late in the day. after seven years of Federation, to talk of putting our finances in order !
– Whenever I have troubled the House with financial matters, I have always advocated the putting of our finances in order, and the early appointment of a High Commissioner with a view to taking over the debts of the States.
– Only when the Government have introduced proposals for the expenditure of money.
– Surely the honorable member would not make a party question of the building of Commonwealth, offices in London?
– The honorable: member does so. Honorable members over there are likea brick wall - solid.
– The honorable member,. I am afraid, is like a wooden wall, so far as his head is concerned in the understanding of these matters.
– The honorable member could not “ fire me out,” even if I amwooden !
– If I were the build of the honorable member, I should simply fall on him. The honorable member has a strong voice, but he will not be able tocry me down. The honorable member says that I cannot “fire him out,” and I retort that he cannot “fire me out.”
– Come down to my electorate, and have a try to “fire me out.”
– I am simply giving the honorable member’ a little information as respectfully and mildly as I can, and in aChristianlike spirit.
– It would be of - no use the honorable member waving the yellow flagin my electorate ! :
– It would be of no use waving any flag in the honorable member’s electorate, and I should not waste my time by entering into a contest there. The honorable member is apparently allowing himself to be carried away, simply because he is afraid these Commonwealth buildings may not be erected.
– I do not particularly want the Commonwealth buildings to be erected.
– To resume, I can command only my own vote, and it shall be cast against this item, unless more information is forthcoming.
– There is a change coming over the spirit of the dream, seeing that the honorable member told me the other day that he would vote for the item.
– The Acting Prime Minister is under a wrong impression. ( I say openly that I believe in a large expenditure with such an object, but the expenditure must be on proper lines. There is no need to rush this proposal through. Let us first appoint a High Commissioner, and provide the proper machinery. It is not a matter of life and death that we should settle the question within two days. I hope the Acting Prime Minister does not regard this as a party question, but, if he regards it as such, why did he not, as he said he had power to do, secure the site without submitting this item to honorable members ? As a matter of fact, the Acting Prime Minister was compelled to brine the question before Parliament; and I refuse to be under any obligation to him or any other Minister for the submission of this item. I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he really thinks Captain Collins has given him sufficient information ? Does the Acting Prime Minister honestly believe that Captain Collins is properly fulfilling the office of the representative of Australia? The fact that Captain Collins shelters himself behind Mr. Burr shows that he has not been doing the work of the Commonwealth. Captain Collins was the man who ought to have arranged the terms, and that is why I urge the appointment of the best man we can get as High Commissioner. I do not care whether the High Commissioner be selected from Parliament or outside - I do not care from which side of the House he may be selected - if we can procure the right man for the place he ought to be paid the highest DOSsible salary. Surely I display no miserable spirit in making that suggestion?
– I think a very miserable spirit is shown by honorable members opposite.
– When a High Commissioner is appointed, let one of his functions be to decide on the site of the Commonwealth offices in London. I certainly had hoped that Australia would have produced a more original idea for bringing the country under the notice of the people of England than is shown in the erection of palatial offices, which apparently are not to be exclusively for our own purposes, but are to be sub-let.
.- I am not inclined to support the proposal before the Committee. It appears to me that no reasons have been put forward why we should erect the projected buildings, and I certainly see no reason why they should be erected on the site mentioned- I have heard a great deal said by people who do not know London as to this being a very eligible site. But for my own part I’ am inclined to think that it is not suitable at all. I lived in London for the best part of twenty years, and know it very well. I have just had an opportunity of refreshing my memory ; and I say that those people who imagine that, because the site is in the Strand and because the Strand is one of the main arteries of traffic in London, it is a good site, seem to have forgotten that a stream of traffic in the Strand is like other streams - it has its ebb and its flow. The site is in a backwater of the Strand. In times gone bv it used to be one of the old thoroughfares leading to Holborn through Holywellstreet. It never was a good business place, and it is no better now than it was in days gone by, except that whereas formerly it was crowded with old houses, and ‘the thoroughfare was narrow, it is now very wide. But I venture to say that if : 111’ man walked along the Strand he would notice that for every twenty people who walk on the Somerset House side - the right-hand side going to the city - only one walks on the other. You. may erect whatever kind of building you like, but you cannot pull a stream of people from one side of the street to the other. It is impossible.
– May that not be because this land is vacant ?
– There is very little to attract people to that side of the Strand.
– One side is all shops and the other is not.
– Yes ; but in the vicinity of this particular site, there are none. I remember the site thirty years ago, when I was a boy, and I saw it again the other day. It has been made more commodious, but the characteristics of the thoroughfare are still the same. People mostly go on one side of the road. Let me illustrate what I mean by mentioning a street that we all know - Bourke-street. Suppose that it is proposed to erect a building there, and a person interested tells people in London “ We are going to put up a fine place in Bourke-street, Melbourne.” The man in London has heard of Bourke-street perhaps, but knows no more about it. But a man in Melbourne would inquire, “ What part of Bourke-street, and on which side of the street “ ? I do not deny that the site in question is a very convenient place from the point of view of being accessible from anywhere in London. You can get to it as quickly as to any place. But at the same time you cannot get people to go there. If it is proposed to take this site with a view of attracting immigrants, all I have to say is that country people do not go there and are not likely to go.
– We do not want to get our immigrants from London, anyhow.
– There is an unfailing stream of country people going to London, many of whom would be suitable for immigrants. But they do not and would not go near the site.
– Does the honorable member think that to erect a building is the best way to attract immigrants ?
– No, I do not. A theatre has been built in this locality now, and they are also building a hotel, the Waldorfia, which is to be the best hotel in England. But if you build a hotel or a theatre in such a place it may be many years before you will get people into the habit of coming to it. Or you have to put twice as much money into your building asyou would otherwise do in order to get over the unattractiveness of the site. The honorable gentleman in charge of this measure says that the site is cheap. As to that, I say this : The London County Council pulled down a couple of miles of streets in order to construct the Kingsway through to Holborn. They cut this crescent which they called Aldwych-street. But they have never been able to let much of it. There is the theatre to which I have referred, and also the big hotel, and the Morning Post office round the corner. But beyond that, they have done nothing at all. Now, does any one suppose that the people of London are such fools that they would not snap at it if it were such a. magnificent spot for business? Here is an opportunity of a lifetime to get land at 13s. a foot. Yet the business people of London will not take it. Why not ? There is always a good reason for such conduct. The reason is obvious in this case. It is not an eligible site. It is a convenient one - I do not deny that - but it is not eligible. My honorable friend the Acting Prime Minister says that the London County Council wants the Commonwealth to come there. On the face of it, that is an unbusiness-like statement. The London County Council wants people to take up its land at a suitable rent, and does not care two straws who they are. I expect the Council wants us to go there because no one else will take the property. That is the only reason I can think of. My honorable friend also says that he found that the offices of the various States were scattered all over London, and that it was difficult for him to find one. Well, as a matter of fact most of them are in one street, and they are to be found readily enough. It would, however, be a very good thing if the offices of all the States were in one building. But if we wish to advertise Australia, and are prepared to spend £10,000 a year, I venture to say that we can do it in a far better way than by buying this site. £10,000 spent in advertising Australia through the press would do far more than putting £10,000 into the coffers of the London County Council, and would be a much better investment. What we want to do is to induce suitable immigrants to come to Australia. We do not want to establish a place to which Australians could go when they are in London. We are not going to pay £10,000 a year to provide a place to which visitors can go. If we want to attract immigrants, they are not to be found in London. They can be brought to London, no doubt, but the people in London are not the people we want at all. We want people who are suitable for going on the land, and we also desire that this country shall be extensively advertised.
– In a somewhat more novel way than by putting up a building.
– I do not know a better way of advertising Australia than through the press. It is the method that Canada has adopted, and which business men adopt.
– We can also do it by means of lectures.
– There is no medium so good as the press. The press of Great Britain naturally booms Canada, because it has been paid to boom, that country, and paid very well. It has been said - I think by the honorable member for South Sydney - that the land in question will probably be worth more in times to come. I do not think that it will be worth any more. I do not think the land will be worth any more in ten years’ time, for instance, than it is worth now. I do not believe that the process of concentration can go on interminably, except, perhaps, upwards. Higher buildings may be erected, but, so sure as that is done, so sure will power be given to tax ground values. Nothing is surer than that. It is highly probable that within the next five years power will be given to municipal councils to tax ground values. Therefore, the land will not be worth any more to the holder than it is to-day.
– Does the honorable member think that the land is- worth as much as the London County Council is asking fpr it?
– I know nothing on that point. I take it that the value of a thing is determined by what it will fetch. This land will not realize what we are asked for it, otherwise it would have been leased long ago.
– Has it not been .vacant for the last seven years ?
– I think that fully seven years have elapsed since the resumption scheme was entered upon, and’ the improvements were sufficiently advanced three or four years ago to make it available as a site for a building. It is notorious, however, that the property hangs fire. I wish to make my position clear. I do not deny that the site is a convenient one, but I hold that the rental is not a low one, and that there is no reason to hasten to a settlement. The honorable member for Dalley has referred to the suggestion that something like ,£60,000 will be sufficient to erect a suitable structure. I do not know whether honorable members have seen a sketch’ plan of the proposed Canadian offices in London, which has been published, but I” ‘should, like to point out that that’ building will be on the Trafalgar
Square side of the proposed site. It isnearer Trafalgar Square, and immediately opposite St. Mary’s in the Strand. That is the better site, since the Strand at that point is narrower. It has always beenpart of the Strand proper. _ To put such a building in competition with a Commonwealth office costing £60,000, would benot to advertise, but to ‘disgrace Australia. “ Comparisons,” as Mrs. Malaprop says,. “ are odorous.” On the one hand we should have a building costing something like- £500,000, and on the other one costing. £60,000. Such a comparison would simply be an advertisement of our parsimony or poverty.
– It is proposed to expend something like £300,000 on the Canadian offices in London.
– Judging by the sketchplan it would cost fully that sum. It appears to me that if we desire to advertiseAustralia, and intend to secure in London a site for that purpose, we should obtainone in the very heart of the Strand, nearTrafalgar Square. More people would, notice the building if it were erected in that part of the Strand in half-an-hour than would notice it in half-a-day if erected’ in the place proposed. That is not an exaggerated statement. If we desire to attract immigrants we cannot do better thanadvertise in the press. We have something, that is worthy of attention to offer.
– And we might employ lecturers.
-Undoubtedly. Ailthat we need to do is to notify the world’ of our resources, and we cannot do that by. the erection of a building in the back waters of the Strand. The Treasurer hasno knowledge of these matters, and apparently Captain Collins has none. Thereis no necessity to hesitate between the conflict of opinion. Certain facts speak trumpet-tongued. One is that the LondonCounty Council has not been able to leasethis land at the price at which it has beenoffered to us. There are in London thousands of business men who will not have it at that price, and any one who knows London is aware that for business purposesthe side of the Strand on which this siteabuts is not one-tenth as valuable as theother. In the circumstances, I shall voteagainst the item.
.- I approve of the proposal that we should* secure a site, for the offices of the High?
Commissioner whom we propose to send to London, and I quite agree that it should be in a prominent business part of the city. But I think that this proposal, beyond being somewhat insidious, is one of the most unbusinesslike that we have ever had before us. I would ask honorable members to note the form in which it has been submitted. It is proposed to vote £1,000, not as a deposit upon the lease of the land, but towards the construction of “ a building.” By agreeing to the item, we shall practically authorize, not only a start being made with the erection of a suitable building, but the leasing of the area of land which the Acting Prime Minister has suggested we should acquire. I hope that the Committee will not be beguiled into voting for this item, because of the smallness of the amount, since the mere £1,000 that we are asked to pass, is no criterion of what would be the effect of an affirmative vote. It will mean, in the first instance, the authorization of the leasing of 200 feet in an important part of London, at an annual rental of at least £7,500. We shall enter into that obligation for ninety-nine years. This annual obligation, if capitalized, would represent £250,000. We shall also authorize the Government, because of the form in which the matter has been brought before us, to enter into a contract for a building of the kind suggested, in such grandiloquent terms, by the Acting Prime Minister as likely to be creditable to Australia. What does that mean? We are told by the honorable gentleman to-day that this building will cost £60,000. In yesterday’s issue of one of the Melbourne daily newspapers appeared a calculation made by a Commonwealth officer- and I take it that the officer in question is Colonel Owen - that the building will cost £150,000. Then we are told that the plans published yesterday in the press are that of a building that would cost £200,000 to construct. I appeal to those who saw that reproduction to say whether it is not a building of the plainest possible character. In these circumstances, we shall, by affirming this vote, have in prospect an annual expenditure equal to a capitalized sum of £250,000 - since we shall undertake an obligation to pay £7.500 per annum for ninety-nine years -and an actual capital expenditure upon the building of either £60,000, £150,000, or £200,000. The Acting Prime Minister does not seem to be able to tell the
Committee definitely whether the building to be erected will cost £60,000 or £200,000. One naturally asks, first of all, why we should incur this total expenditure of nearly half-a-million ? I take no exception to our having in London a representative of Australia. It is notable, however, that we have managed, for seven years, to do without a High Commissioner without suffering any great inconvenience. We have found it necessary so far only to send to London an official receiving a few hundreds a year to do what work was necessary for the Commonwealth. But even admitting that it is necessary to have a High Commissioner in London, the Committee ought to ask itself what is the expenditure required to afford a suitable business habitation for him. The Acting Prime Minister has talked to-day as if it were possible to combine in the one building a residence for the High Commissioner, an exhibition of the products of Australia, and a business office, in which the work of the Commonwealth might be carried out. My knowledge of London is not very recent, but I have kept myself up-to-date in regard to any changes in the nature arid character of its streets, and I do not hesitate to say that to attempt to provide the High Commissioner with a private residence in the Strand would be just about as reasonable as would be the building of a residence for the GovernorGeneral half way down George-street, Sydney or Lonsdale-street, Melbourne. Therefore, the site is quite out of the Question for the purposes of a residence. Everybody knows that if the High Commissioner is to exercise in London those social functions which some people think he should do, his house will be one at which a great many callers will pay their compliments to him and his wife from time to time. The Strand is a crowded thoroughfare, full of commerce, full of business,full of merchandise, and to suppose that a building in the Strand would be suitable for the residence of a High Commissioner is to show an absolute want of knowledge of the fitness of things with regard to the streets of London. The next question is the suitability of the site for exhibiting Australian products. I do not think this House has yet made up its mind that the Commonwealth is to usurp the functions of the States by taking upon itself that work. Each of the States is to-day doing its best to arrange for an exhibition in its Agent-General’s office in London of its own particular products. It would be ridiculous for the Commonwealth to attempt to duplicate that work. Certainly the Commonwealth has not shown a disposition yet to take action in that direction. If you put that out of the way as premature, although it may not be ultimately adverse to the wishes of the House, you reduce the needs of the Commonwealth in London in the immediate future to the office work of a High Commissioner. What is that work? For seven years we have done without any representative at all. It is quite true that if by-and-by, the debts are transferred from the States to the Commonwealth, and if the Commonwealth stock issued in place of the States stock is inscribed and so managed that the holders of it may from time to time re-inscribe it in order to make it more marketable, we shall then want a number of officials in the Commonwealth London office. But at present we seem to be as far off the transference of the States debts to the Commonwealth as we were” seven years ago. Consequently, looking at this proposal from a purely business point of view, we have no immediate need in London of anything more than a suite of offices in which to accommodate a representative. Even if we appointed a High Commissioner, all that we should want within the next two or three years would be worthy office accommodation to enable him to do the work of the Commonwealth. I quite agree with the honorable member for West Sydney that we shall not promote immigration to Australia by fine buildings. Those who imagine that by the construction of a fine six-story building in London we shall attract attention in England, might similarly think that by the addition of one starto the firmament we could attract all eyes to one particular part of the sky. London is full of fine buildings, many of them twelve stories high and more, and the idea that we should attract immigrants from all parts of Great Britain by having in London a fine six-story building costing £150,000 is an absurdity. There are other ways of attracting immigrants. The most effective isby advertisements and by employing lecturers, or by offering a small premium to those who would make it their business to go through England and secure the most suitable immigrants, according to our wishes, to be brought to Australia. Where does that leave us in criticising this as a business proposal ? The honorable member who is acting as Prime Minister told us in very glowing language what a splendid site this is, but the honorable member for West Sydney, who was in London quite as recently, tells us that the side of the road upon which it is proposed to secure this land does not have one pedestrian to twenty who pass on the other side, and that for a great many years the land has been unoccupied, becausethe London County Council have opened up there a new wide thoroughfare, which is practically untenanted at the present time.
– The reason of that was that there was some doubt as to the probable width of the street.
– At any rate the honorable member for West Sydney very much impressed me with his recent experience of the thoroughfare. It appears that the London County Council have lately embarked on extensive changes in the streets of London, taken down largeareas of buildings, and made these great thoroughfares in the expectation that the public would rush to occupy them. But the public do not appear to have done so. Now this site is put before us, and we are asked to approve of a proposal to lease a 200-feet frontage, when two of the three reasons advanced in support of it show it to be absolutely unsuitable for this particular purpose. I am sure that no honorable member thinks for a moment that it is possible to occupy it for a High Commissioner’s residence. No one will hesitate to say that it is quite premature to think of building there a place for exhibiting Australian products, when we know that the States themselves are all at work in that direction.
– What the States are doing is most absurd.
– Of course the Acting Prime Minister thinks the States absurd.
– I did not say that the States were absurd. They have no place in which to make proper exhibits.
– The States will not be influenced by the honorable member’s opinions. Does any one think that Mr. Bent is likely to be influenced in his intentions because the Acting Prime Minister thinks that the States are acting foolishly? We have to look facts in the face. If the people of the States have made up their minds to exhibit their minerals and produce in London under the auspices of their own Agents-General, it would not only be foolish for us to duplicate the work, but it would be an attempt to usurp the functions of the States in making their resources known in London, For what purpose, then, do we require all this frontage of 200 feet? We are told that it is stipulated in the proposed agreement that the building shall be six stories high. Consequently, as the honorable member for Dalley pointed out, we should be forced to erect a building with a frontage of 200 feet, a depth of 65 feet, and six stories in height. That would be an enormous area of building for which we should have no immediate use.
– Talk sense !
– One honorable member said we could let portion of the building.
– Why does not the honorable member try to understand something about it?
– It is very well for the Acting Prime Minister to tell me that I and others know nothing about the subject.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it.
– Everybody will be forced to the conclusion from the honorable member’s statements that he himself knows nothing about it. I have spent more years in London than the Acting Prime Minister has spent months.
– And know less.
– I know’ London from, end to end. . I have also spent as many years in business as the honorable member has spent, months.
– And failed all the time.
– I shall not reply to insulting remarks. The question of one’s success in life is not measured by the number of times one can get into office. I am quite content to leave a question of comparison to unbiased onlookers. The Committee should deal with this proposal on business lines. It is verv clear that the honorable member for South Sydney practically disapproves of it. He thinks that we are putting the cart before the horse, that we ought to have a High Commissioner in London first, and find out what his duties are to be before we think of building a palatial residence. The honorable member for West Sydney has also quite disillusioned the Committee as to the suitability of the site. The Acting Prime
Minister says that the States will probably join with the Commonwealth in occupying, the one building.” I submit that before we build upon that supposition we ought to . open up communications with the different States with a view to ascertain whether or not they will co-operate with us in the occupation of the great structure which it is proposed to erect. Before we embark upon this enterprise which means committing ourselves for a century to a capitalized rent of £250,000 and to the erection of a building which, according to a Federal officer, will cost anything from £60,000 to £150,000 or £200,000, we ought to know what we are going to do with it. Honorable members will do well to recollect that if we are to maintain our non-borrowing policy this expenditure must come out of revenue. If the Federal officer’s estimate of £150,000 - the cost of the building - be correct, we shall have to spend that amount out of revenue. In other words, we shall have to raise ,£600,000 additional revenue in order to obtain the necessary money with which to erect this building. If we do not approve of the proposal submitted to us to-day it does not mean that we are negativing it for all time, but rather that we think the present proposal premature. The honorable member for South Sydney has said that it is “ putting the cart before the horse.” We ought to have a more business-like statement presented than that which has been put before us by the Acting Prime’ Minister. I do not like this extraordinary state of things under which Captain Collins tells us that we ought to approach the London County Council through a Mr; Burr. I do not know who Mr. Burr is. I do not know whether he is an architect or a property broker. But everybody knows that the County Council is one of the regularly managed organizations of London, and there can be no doubt that it has a secretary and plenty of assistant secretaries who would “do business directly with an officer of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that a great corporation of that sort is not likely to have half-a-dozen prices for its land. I am sure that much smaller corporations would conduct their business- upon more definite lines than that. The London County Council has a price for the leasing of this land, and Captain Collins is able to approach the secretary of that body in order to get it under offer from him or to close with the Council’s offer. I have never before heard of a state of things in London which required one to approach a large corporation like the County Council through a third party. The introduction of a third party means extra expenditure, and we do not want a repetition of our experience of negotiations recently conducted by the Government in connexion with one or two large transactions. We desire to do’ direct business, and we want to be assured that we get what we purchase at what is called the “ groundfloor price.” We do not want the middleman to be introduced. Even if the Government have authority to do so they ought not to authorize any person in London to act in this matter unless they are perfectly satisfied that he is closing the bargain for them directly with the body from whom they are purchasing.
– Is the honorable member in favour of doing away with the middleman ?
– Certainly not, but I object to paying him commission.
– After listening to the remarks of the Acting Prime Minister in reference to the erection of a six-story building in London, and after learning that it is not proposed to let any portion of that building, I am almost sorry that I offered the suggestion which I made in this House several years ago. To me as a business-man, it is ridiculous to talk about erecting a large building in London for the Commonwealth alone. When I first suggested that Commonwealth offices should be erected in that city, I dwelt upon’ the absolute necessity for establishing great cellars in which Australian liquid products could be stored during periods when business in London was congested. Upon that occasionI pointed out that the first floor might be let to banks or to great business institutions. Some years ago many life insurance companies could scarcely find suitable office accommodation in London. All the leading insurance offices now doing business in Australia - the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Mutual National Life Assurance Society, and the National Mutual Life Assurance Society - are doing business in London. They require offices there, and they should be prepared to rent them from the Commonwealth.
– Not upstairs offices.
– Yes, upstairs offices in buildings which are fitted with elevators. The honorable member is still living mentally in the dark ages. The day has passed when the fact that offices are situated upstairs is regarded as being a. disadvantage. Nowadays all large buildings are fitted with express elevators. Tome it is ridiculous to talk about erecting a building of six stories in London. In this connexion, I would ask the Acting Prime
Minister whether he returned to Australia by way of New York, and, if so, did he see the buildings of twenty and thirty stories there? Has he seen the “ Flatiron “ in New York? I know that it is difficult to lift people above their immediate surroundings. Smallness in environment means smallness in everything. When I first presented the idea of erecting Commonwealth offices in London to this House a good deal of sneering was indulged in. But experience is a good teacher, because it is absolutely impossible for the student to run away from the school. That is the reason why I, as an experienced businessman - a man who has done’ business not merely in the Commonwealth, but in New York, Chicago, and London - realized what the Australian people required. Ever though some persons may travel and have their eyes opened, they have not the power of learning from observation what are their own requirements, and that is the reason why they remain in the rut. I shall not vote for this proposal if it is not to be a business one. I will not vote to commit the people of the Commonwealth to an annual expenditure of £7,500 for ninetynine years unless the building which we erect is going to produce a revenue, and unless the High Commissioner is to have his offices absolutely free of rental. Upon a previous occasion I pointed out that the various States Governments were paying from £7,000 to £10,000 as rental for offices in London. When a visitor from the Commonwealth arrives in that city he has to procure a cab, a microscope, and a map in order to find the present offices of the States’ Agents-General. In Western Kansas, we had a “ dug-out “ for the rats, and the London offices of the different Australian States have been run upon similar lines. When one enters them, what does one find? A clerk is in attendance. When one inquires about Australia, he is handed a manual to read - a manual from which he can learn absolutely nothing.
– But that was bef oreCaptain Collins was appointed.
– In London every American representative is assisting his country to do business, and the same remark is applicable to every Canadian re- . presentative. But unfortunately England is a country of caste. I am sorry for it. The servant of the duke will not mingle with the servant of the lord, and the lord’s servant will not mingle with somebody else’s servant. In the same way, Captain Collins cannot talk to the duke, and has to go from step to step to do his business. Ihave had experience in London. It is not a bad place if one has plenty of money, but it is a hell of a place without money.
– Order !
– A few business men ought to be invited to lay out a plan. I have the greatest respect for civil servants. They are very fine men, in fact, nice men to talk to, but, unfortunately, they have not had to battle in order to keep a business going. As a rule, they get theirpayon a Saturday night, and hand it over to the wife, who is really the business head of the family. Take the position when I came out here many years ago to do business. I think every one will admit that I have been fairly successful. I am an all-round business man ; and everything I have touched has been a success. When I came out here, what was my difficulty? I had to persuade person after person that the Equitable Life Insurance Company had sufficient assets to meet its liabilities. But the moment a building was erected in Sydney and Melbourne, I experienced no more difficulty in that respect. There was a tangible asset - something against which they could run their heads if they liked, and from that moment they believed in the stability of the Company. Now Governments are precisely like individuals, and in London Governments must advertise. It was all very fine for the honorable member for Dalley to say, “ We are not going to advertise like Yankees.” Why do we loiter? Why do the Yankees lead the world to-day in almost everything, even in novels ? It is because they agree with the great ancient philosopher of Ireland, who said that most persons think with their stomachs.I am beginning to believe that a. number of Australians are thinking with their digestive organs, and not with their brains. It grieves me to hear the unpatriotic members Sitting in Opposition opposing the erection of this building in London. They set themselves up as patriotic, as Britishers, as the upholders of the Empire, and yet they oppose a proposal to spend a penny on this building. They say, “ Put it off until next year,” when I suppose they would still pursue that policy. I want to see the building erected in my time.
– The honorable member for West Sydney is opposing this proposal.
– What have I to do with his opposition?
– Why is the honorable member blaming us for opposing it ?
-The honorable member for West Sydney has just returned from London, where, probably, he got tainted with ideas of caste and rank. In my opinion, the Commonwealth building in London should be from twelve to fifteen stories high. The day of little things has gone by. Little ideas must pass away. We are a continental people, and want a continental building. Let honorable members think of the immense space above the sixth story bringing in rents. I look at this proposal from a financial stand-point, as well as from an advertising stand-point. ‘
– The London County Council cannot let their properties in the same neighbourhood.
– If what my honorable friend says is true, I do not want the building to be erected there, but when I was in London the Strand was the Broadway. I saw people passing throughby the thousands, but it. is many years since I paid my visit, and the position may be changed now. The Government ought not to rush this project. I am prepared to vote for the proposal on the understanding that the building will not be erected according to the ideas of civil servants, but that architects in Australia will be consulted.
– Why rush it at all?
– We must secure the ground.
– There is any quantity of ground to be obtained.
– There has been vacant ground there for twenty years.
– This site has been vacant for sevenyears.
– I admit all that. I want an Australian architect to design the building, and the Government to agree that it shall not be for a High Commissioner alone. I desire every Australian who may be doing business in England to be able to go to the building and secure an office, if vacant. My ambition is to have what may he described as an Australia in London. I want every Australian, when he arrives in London, to be able to keep one eye set on the Star of Australia, so to speak, . just as when a man comes from Texas he heads for the Texas Building in New York. At the end of the ninety-nine years’ lease, Australia will have a population of 100,000,000 or 200,000,000, and London a population of 30,000,000 or 40,000,000. This building ground will then be worth annually, not thousands, but many thousands more than it is worth to-day. Under the contract, will the London County Council pay the Commonwealth for the building at the end of the term?
Colonel Foxton. - No; it will become the property of the London County Council.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister if that is so.
– That is the common law of England.
– Why should not the show-rooms be on the twelfth, or top, story, instead of on the ground floor?
-Because people would not go up to look at them.
– If the honorable member visited the Masonic Hall in Chicago, he would find it to be a building twenty-two stones high, equipped with lifts which are crowded all day, some of which run express from top to bottom, taking passengers up and down at lightninglike speed. The day has gone by when men will refuse to go upstairs to do business. Nowadays, men fight, not with shot and shell and bullets, but with sovereigns, bank cheques, and credits. We have done away with fighting with bullets; you can get any rooster to do that; the other game is one in which brains are required. I hope that the Treasurer will promise that, before anything is done in connexion with the erection of a building after the securing of this site, business men will be consulted as to the design.
– Parliament will be asked to approve of it.
– I agree with the honorable member for Parkes that it would be nonsensical to house the High Commissioner there, an unsound business proposition. Why should we take up floor space which could be leased at a high rental, to provide an official with a residence in the centre of London when, he would prefer a much cheaper house at Croydon or some other outlying suburb?
– Why not insist upon getting the land at the price the Premier of Victoria is to pay for his piece, viz., 13s. 6d. a foot?
– That is the price asked for only a portion of the frontage, which, towards the other end, is more valuable.
– The Premier of Victoria has secured a corner position.
– His land is not so valuable as that at the other end of the site.
– The building to be erected should be so arranged that Australian merchants, exporters, and business men may have their head-quarters there and store goods.
– Does the honorable member suggest a bond or a free store?
– I suggest that there should be a bond in the basement. Nowadays, when you start to build, you try to get every ounce of silver and gold out of the investment. We do not want to take on a proposition which, after deducting ground rent, rates, and taxes, paying interest, and providing a sinking fund for the liquidation of money borrowed, will not give us a big profit. Does the Committee think that the business men of New York have built the great edifices which are to be found in that city merely that they may be looked at? They have built them to get rents from them.
– We are being asked to agree to the acquisition of a site before any scheme for its utilization has been placed before us.
-That is quite true. But, unfortunately, with Governments, where all do business, no one does business. One could pick out the men who do the business in this Committee. Had I been running this affair, I should have accepted the site and allowed membersof Parliament to fight out the matter afterwards. When a proposition recommends itself to a business man as a good one, he should adopt it, leaving it to be fought cut by others afterwards. Now we have one making one proposal and another a different proposal. But all laws are the result of compromise with stipulations. If there were no compromise, there would be no finishing. But £60,000 will not pay for the erection of a suitable building. I would sooner not build in the great city of London, which is the centre of the earth and the highway of the universe, if I could get only £60,000 to spend. That amount would not pay for the foundations of a suitable building. We ought to construct the building of steel and concrete. Buildings twenty stories high made of those materials withstood the San Francisco earthquake and fire.
– We shall need a building which will withstand the mortgagee.
– I would not have a mortgage.
– How would the honorable member get the money to pay for the erection of such a building as he suggests? .
– If I were Treasurer I could get it before to-morrow morning, and so arrange that the building would not cost the Commonwealth a penny. There is no trouble about money if you know how to grab it.
– The honorable member ought to be Treasurer.
– Unfortunately I am not Treasurer. We should provide space for an Australian restaurant where only Australian products would be sold. Everything in the building should be Australian.
– Australian stone, timber, lime and sand.
– Lastyear, when I was speaking on this subject, the honorable member for Dalley suggested that we should have a statue of the right honorable the leader of the Opposition on top. I do not believe in that. I hope that the Acting Prime Minister will give Parliament an opportunity to say whether £60,000 or £250,000 is to be spent on the building. The principles which nowadays govern the erection of buildings by private persons should be applied in this case, and there should be plenty of space to let. We should let the ground floor, because it will be of no use to us. Of course, if a man requires only a necktie or a collar, he goes into premises on the ground floor; but the man with a cheque in his pocket, who comes in to do millions of pounds’ worth of business, is always ready to go upstairs. This building should make one of Australia’s best assets, and such as every Australian, wherever he came from, would take a pride in, and would head for. Where do they go now?
– To the bankers.
– That is the position. In my day you got lost every twenty minutes in the narrow streets of London, and they were opening up Victoriastreet. That is many years ago. Now, I am told, there are many beautiful streets, so that you can find your way about. Previously London was like Boston, where, if you get lost, you have to employ detectives to find you, and to take you home.
– Was the honorable member a teetotaller in Boston?
– I have been a teetotaller for many years. The drink proposition does not appeal to me. There is nothing in it for a business man. I ask the Prime Minister to say that if we agree to this vote, he will give honorable members a subsequent opportunity to express an opinion as to whether this building shall be six stories high or twelve stories high, if such a building can be erected in London. We do not desire to. lose the advantage of the space we secure. There would be no trouble in letting space in London. I ask the Prime Minister also whether he is prepared to expend not £60,000 but £250,000 on this building?
– The honorable member frightens me.
– What would! £250,000 be for the erection of a Commonwealth building?
– I tell the honorable member what I have already told the Committee, that before any plan is accepted it will be submitted to the House.
– Let me add; to what I have already said, that this building, if erected, will be not for present use only but for all time.
– What nonsense; we should lose it at the end of 99 years.
– That is not correct.
– Let the honorable member look at the memorandum.
– I admit that we are buying a lease, but we could make our own terms.
– It is impossible to. buy freehold in London.
– Scotch leases fall in in 99. years, but the buildings do not fall in with them.
– The pointI wish to make in connexion with the proposed long lease is that we can make our own terms. Land is leased in America for ninetynine years, but there is provision made for special buildings, and for a reappraisement at the end of the lease, or for the purchase of the improvements at a valuation.
– The honorable member should remember that this matter will have to be closed by cable not later than the day after to-morrow.
– That is with respect only to the ground rent. It would be easy to send a cable to London concerning the conditions to which I have referred. If I were in the position of the Acting Prime Minister, I should send a cable saying that we are prepared to take the land on certain conditions.
– That would be tantamount to saying that we are not prepared to take it at all.
– The London County Council can dispose of the land to other people if we let it go.
– If they will not consider reasonable terms, we should not do business with them. To reason with unreasonable people is like administering medicine to dead people. However, I do not wish to stand here talking all night on the subject; there is nothing in it.
– The speech of the honorable member for Darwin was certainly very eloquent, but it is shorn of its splendour when it is recognised that the proposal submitted by the Government is that we should build on a. lease and that our building would become the property of the London County Council when the lease expired.
– I am opposed to that.
– I complain of the inadequacy of the information supplied to the Committee. The honorable member for Angas drew attention to a point with respect to a charge of 4s. in the £1, and the Acting Prime Minister could not tell the Committee what it meant.
– I did tell the Committee, but the honorable member is so
– I admit that when it comes to a question of a. deal the Acting Prime Minister has the best of me. If any man in business submitted a proposition to his principal in a firm in the way in which the honorable gentleman has submitted this matter to the Committee, he would be reminded that he was being paid to serve his master. The Acting Prime Minister does not appear to be possessed of sufficient common sense to understand his position. He has submitted to the Committee a proposal about which he knows absolutely nothing. He has not been able to give honorable members one-half the information on the subject that other honorable members who have been in London have been able to supply. The honorable gentleman so failed to make it clear that he was proposing the purchase of a leasehold that an honorable member possessing the business intelligence indicated by the last speech to which we have listened was unable to understand the position.
– I did understand it. I said that it might be reappraised at the end of ninety-nine years.
– No business has yet been introduced into this House by the Government in a satisfactory manner. No one will say that the Tariff was introduced in a commendable manner, or that the Bounties Bill, or the Quarantine Bill were submitted as they ought to have been. Yet all these measures involve additional expenditure by the Commonwealth.
– Why did not the honorable member vote against the Bounties Bill?
– I helped to reduce the expenditure under it by over £100,000. I may be called pessimistic, but I am content to be so called. . We are now again being asked to enter upon an important undertaking without sufficient knowledge. I am satisfied that the majority of the citizens of the Commonwealth are agreed that this is no time to authorize heavy additional expenditure, ‘which I am credibly informed will amount to between £400,000 and £500,000.
– The people must be taxed to the extent of , £2,000,000 to get that amount of money.
– I am not dealing with that phase of the question. The financial necessities of the Commonwealth have been impressed uponthe Government ever since Parliament met, yet we have had no financial statement from the Treasurer. We have had a new Tariff introduced, and with what result? It involves immense cost to the people and immense confusion.
– I think I am justified in trying to connect the point 1 am making now with improper expenditure on the part of the Government.
– Order ! The honorable member must not enter upon a discussion of the Tariff.
– I am not discussing the Tariff, but referring to. the fact that we -are deriving revenue under the Tariff .at, a cost ten times greater than the. unfortunate taxpayers should be asked to bear.
– Order ! The honorable member must not pursue that line of argument.
– Surely the question of the way in which the money required is to be raised is the all-important question? If the Government propose the expenditure of £400,000 or £500,000, I am entitled to direct attention to the- manner in which the Commonwealth revenue is now being collected. I have no wish to transgress the Standing Orders, but I desire to point out that a principle is being followed in the collection of revenue which is so harassing to the people that it is likely to lead to very great difficulty in getting revenue from them in the future. The cost of collecting revenue under our present system is enormous, and the confusion that exists is really dreadful. Men cannot get their stuff away within from three to six weeks. All this arises from the pure cussedness of one man, because that is what it amounts to. I have made up my mind to vote against this proposal not because I do not think that some measure of representation of the Commonwealth in London is necessary. I believe that it is necessary that the Commonwealth should be represented there, but this proposal has been introduced in such a .way, and at such a time, that, in my opinion, no member of the Committee is justified in voting for it. I hope there will be a division on the question, when, after the explanation I have made, I shall be found voting against the proposed vote.
.- I should like to say a few words on this question. From two or three points of view I hold the opinion very strongly that the Commonwealth ought to be represented in London. One reason is that when one is in London and sees the magnificent show that Canada is making there. he must be impressed with the view that we ought to do something in the same direction, and that before very long. The AgentsGeneral of the States ought to be brought together, and housed in one building, be fore they get further rooted in their present positions. But I am sorry to say that, in my opinion, we are on the eve of bad times again.
– I do not think so.
– I know a good deal of the conditions in the country all over Australia; and, I regret that I can fully indorse the opinion that if we do not have rain very shortly we shall have bad times.
– There will be plenty of rain within forty -eight hours.
– I am glad to hear that. . But a further fact is that we seem to be getting to the end of our tether financially, . seeing that we have only £103,000 left of our portion of the Customs and Excise revenue. That is another fact sufficient to make one pause. Until the Acting Prime Minister made his explanation I was inclined to support this item ; but when he tells us that he proposes to erect, on 190 odd feet of land, a building which is to cost only ^60,000, I must say that, in my opinion, the scheme has not been well considered. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to obtain an extension of the option, and, in the meantime, to submit a well-considered scheme - to place before us a business proposal which we shall be prepared to support. As I have remarked, there is much to be said in favour of the proposed site, which is one of the best in London ; and I am Very much in favour of our taking a position alongside’ Canada, with the view to attracting immigrants. But to ask us to vote this large sum quite in the dark-
– An unknown sum.
– Quite so; to ask us to vote such a sum is to place too great a strain upon honorable members.
– Let the Acting Prime Minister ask for an extension of the option.
– Yes ;- and I think the Acting Prime Minister will find that this piece of ground will .not run away. If the honorable gentleman desires to make a business bargain he will take the view I have presented. There is no doubt that rates and taxes in the old country are increasing by leaps and bounds. The extraordinary action of the Progressive Party in the London County Council is making the rates in that city almost unbearable. Business enterprises are being removed from London wholesale, and a great number of business men may leave that city.
– Business men will never leave London.
– Anybody who has studied the last balance-sheet of the London County Council must have seen there a most striking figure. What the London County Council call their “ remunerative undertaking,” namely, the river steamboat service, has resulted in an annual loss of £52,000, or £1,000 weekly. This makes one feel that if we agree to pay rent for these Commonwealth offices for ninetynine years, there may be an increase in the rating to an extent more than the Commonwealth can bear, or, at any rate, more than the Commonwealth would be justified in bearing. In making the bargain, it ought to be stipulated that the London County Council shall pay any extra taxation; and 1 ask the Acting Prime Minister to think this matter over. We are all anxious that the Commonwealth shall be properly represented in England, but we require a thoroughly thought-out scheme, so that we may intelligently cast our votes.
.–The remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner appear to me rather singular. The honorable member admits that there is need for a building in London, so that the States of Australia may be represented under one roof, and. further, that the proposed site is a good one. But the honorable member goes on to say that the London County Council, which manages the affairs of the great city exceedingly well, has issued a balance-sheet which shows that it has carried on one of its enterprises at a loss. The inference is that there is a danger of London disappearing.
– It is quite possible. Business men are leaving London in numbers.
– Then, from patriotic motives alone - taking the cue from honorable members in the Opposition corner - it is the duty of Australia to go to the rescue of the Imperial city. From that high stand-point, especially if we desire to have a building representative of Australia, surely the great Imperial idea, of which we have heard so much, will influence honorable members. I quite agree with the criticism that this proposal has been introduced without even the Minister being in possession of all the facts. For instance, I hear a number of honorable members saying that at the end of the ninety-nine years the London County Council will claim the land with all the improvements.
– I can find nothing in the printed matter which entitles us to draw that inference.
– That is the common law.
– That may or may not be so. The common law in England, Scotland, and Ireland has recently been altered greatly by Statute law, and now improvements on leased land are assessed, and at the end of the term have to be paid for by the landlords, whether public bodies or private persons.
– In the case of agricultural holdings, perhaps.
– Yes, in Scotland.
– Honorable members may be better informed than I am on the matter.
– Is the honorable member speaking of Scotland or England ?
– I am speaking of Scotland and Ireland, and, in some instances, of England. What I say is that this is a matter on which there should be no doubt ; all the facts should have been. ascertained and stated to honorable members. If the London County Council is. issuing leases of the kind suggested by honorable members, that Council is not the radical body it is represented to be.
– We do not know whether the municipal rates are 6s., 7s., or 10s. in the pound.
– If the London County Council has bought up a portion of the city of London, and is leasing the ground, it is departing .from what I consider sound business principles, if it* claims the improvements at the end of the term. A continuance of the lease at a higher ground rent might be granted, but the lessees ought to be paid for any improvements they may have made. However, we cannot alter the conditions prescribed by the London County Council, who will, determine what it considers a fair price. Our business is to ascertain the whole of the facts, and then decide whether or not the bargain is good enough. Notwithstanding what has been said by the honorable member for West Sydney, I think the proposed site ‘ is a good one in every respect ; but before we enter into an expenditure- amounting to about £250,000, we ought tohave a great deal more information than we possess at present.
– In voting for this item, we commit ourselves practically to the erection of a building.
– No, I shall not commit myself to any further expenditure by voting this £1,000.
– At any rate, this Committee will be committed to the larger expenditure.
– I shall vote for the expenditure of £1,000 as a direction to the Government that, in the opinion of the Committee, it is advisable for the Commonwealth, at the earliest possible date, to have in London a suitable building representative of Commonwealth’s interests.
– On this particular site?
– Then what follows ? Shall we not be bound to carry out the work of erecting a building?
– I go further. The Acting Prime Minister has stated clearly and distinctly that, as regards himself, if the amount of money demanded is higher than, I think, 14s. per superficial foot, he will not conclude the agreement without first consulting Parliament.
– I do not think the Acting Prime Minister said that.
– I said that if the price asked was unduly higher than that paid bv the Victorian Government, I would do as the honorable member for Wide Bay has indicated.
– That is an important statement. It does not enable the Executive to agree to any condition that it thinks fit. I do not see that it is necessary for the subsequent arrangements to be subject to the control of Parliament. The Executive must take some risk and exercise some responsibility. But, before the matter is finally decided. Parliament should examine the plans, and have the fullest information.
– I have said that I will submit the plans to Parliament before I take any action.
– The matter comes to this - first of all. is the time ripe for the Commonwealth to have an establishment in London to represent its interests? If that question be decided in the affirmative, the second question arises - is this site suitable? I think that both propositions must be answered in the affirmative. .That being so, I am prepared to support the vote for £1,000 as an indication to the Government that they can proceed; but I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not commit myself to an expenditure amounting to such a large sum as £250,000.
– The honorable member does so by voting for the £1,000. He knows that.
– The honorable member for Indi is not youthful, but he is impetuous. I say that we can build as we please after we have voted the £I,000
– We shall have to build as the London County Council pleases.
– If honorable members look at “the plans, they will see that the London County Council, wise in their day and generation, have divided the land into certain lots. The Commonwealth Government will not have the whole of those lots, unless they act as they ought not to do, and bind themselves absolutely without consulting Parliament to take the land, and put up a building of which the London County Council approve. It is, however, quite right that the Council should have authority to determine what kind of building should be erected. Every decent selfgoverning municipal authority exercises such control.
– The Sydney City Council does it, and so does the City. Council of Melbourne.
– -Quite right, too. What sort of authority would it be that did not exercise control over the sort of buildings to be erected in the principal streets under its jurisdiction?
– If the honorable member looks at the Estimates, he will see that the vote is “ towards the construction of a building.” . That commits us to the construction.
– The words in the schedule are in conflict with what the Minister has just said.
– The matter had to be put in that way, because I could not provide for it on these Estimates in any other fashion. But the vote does not commit us to anything except getting the land.
– It is just as. well that that assurance has been elicited. The statement of the Acting Prime Minister is that he asks for this vote only to ascertain whether Parliament will grant power to negotiate and determine the subsequent matters. . .
– lt commits us to the whole scheme.
– It does nothing of the kind. Honorable members are not going to commit themselves.
– We want to ascertain the facts.
– The honorable member has had the facts from the Opposition, and not from the Ministerial side.
– We are getting close to business. The Acting Prime Minister assures us that he was not able to bring the subject before us in any other way than this.
– Not in these Estimates.
– But he has also said quite clearly that he desires a vote for the £1,000 only as a guarantee of good faith, that Parliament authorizes the Government to negotiate, and within certain limitations to determine that this shall be the site. He tells us that he will subsequently come to Parliament, and ask for authority to construct the necessary building. I wish to say, further, in regard to such a building as we shall have to construct that, if the law is that the building will fall to the. London County Council at the end of ninety-nine years, I am one of those who say that the cost should not be sustained absolutely out of revenue. I think that if we erect a building that is1 going to last for such a length of time, it should be construction out of loan funds, with a sinking fund sufficient to meet the whole of the subsequent payments, together with the obligations that , will accrue at the end of the ninety-nine years. That plan would be both business-like and sensible. One of the great reasons why this Parliament has taken the very proper, wise and necessary ‘ course of stopping loan expenditure has been to prevent what has taken place for many years1 in Australia on the ‘part of the States, namely, reckless and unnecessary expenditure out of -loan money.
– On ephemeral things.
– Yes ; loan money has even been spent for the purchase of ammunition; ‘ But this is not such a case. So far as I am concerned, 1 1 shall heartily support the vote as an indication that the Government may very well accept it, -as showing that Parliament regards the site as suitable for ‘providing for ‘the representation of Australia in Lon- don. I trust that Australian interests will in the future be better looked after than has been the case in the past. Only this afternoon I had a . conversation with a gentleman who previously lived for a long time in Australia, and has returned from Great Britain after a residence of nine years there. I asked him how Australia is regarded by the people of Great Britain. He said, “ They do not know anything about it.”
– Quite true.
– I know it is quite true ; but how untrue were the statements that in regard to the six hatters the whole of the people of Great Britain were up in arms against the Federal Parliament ! Personally, I think that it is Impossible to expect the people of Great Britain, concerned as they are with the actions of all the nations in the world, to concentrate their attention on Australia’. There is a revolution almost every week in some country or other in which British interests are involved. We cannot, therefore, expect s Australia to receive the whole of the attention of the British people. I trust that the vote will be agreed to, though I consider that we ought to have fuller and more exact information as to the details.’ At present, however, we shall be agreeing to the vote as an earnest of our desire that the Government shall proceed to secure the site.
Colonel FOXTON (Brisbane) [6.183.- I wish to give my reasons for the vote that I intend to give, but, before doing so, it is just as well that I should make some reference to what will happen at theend of the ninety-nine years, the period for which the Government proposes to lease the land. The honorable member for Wide Bay and the honorable member for Darwin both seemed to be of opinion that if the land is to fall in to the London County Council at the end of the ninety-nine years, steps should at least be taken to secure that the Commonwealth shall receive compensation for the improvements made. The honorable member for Wide Bay has instanced certain Statutes in Ireland and Scotland, which insure that improvements shall become the property of the tenant, who shall receive their value at the expiration, of his lease. But unless I am very much mistaken, that legislation applies entirely to agricultural holdings. I am not aware of any such legislation which is applicable to city or town property. The honorable member for Wide Bay has pointed out as an indication that the buildings will not fall to the lessors at the end of the term that there is nothing in the, memorandum to indicate that there is not to be a re-assessment at the end of the term. That is the whole point, for if one desires to impose special conditions as to what is to become of a building at the end of the term for which the land on which it is erected is leased, ohe must have those conditions in black and white. In their absence the buildings fall in to the lessor as a matter of law. Having regard to the fact that no freehold will be granted, I think that both the honorable member for Wide Bay and the honorable member for Darwin will find that by voting for the item they will vote for something to which they are absolutely opposed.
– - No ; I do not object if the facts are understood.
Colonel FOXTON.- Neither the honorable member for Wide Bay nor the honorable member for Darwin has moved an amendment providing that the lease should be entered into only in the event of a proposition for a renewal being entertained. We know that the London County Council will not part with the property for one hour longer than ninety-nine years.
– All I said was that if we entered into a ninety-nine years’ lease at the end of which period the buildings would fall in, we should have a sinking fund to liquidate the whole amount in that time. I made that point quite clear.
Colonel FOXTON.- I beg the honorable member’s pardon if I misunderstood him. We must face this proposition as one -which involves a ninety-nine years’ lease, -and the loss of the Commonwealth buildings, whatever they may cost, at the end of that period. Such are well-known “terms in London. We all know the enormous revenues derived by the Duke of Westminster, the Duke of Bedford, and other great landlords from property in the immediate vicinity of this site. Under similar leases the buildings have fallen in and have enormously increased the gigantic revenues of these noblemen.
– It is too true.
Colonel FOXTON.- Quite so. When I heard this proposal mooted and listened to the first intimation given in regard to it by the Acting Prime Minister, I felt it was one that I should be glad to support.
– On general lines, I suppose the’ honorable member would support it at the present time ?
Colonel FOXTON. - This proposal that we should have, as graphically described by the honorable member for Darwin, a Commonwealth building in London appeals to one’s patriotism. But businessmen perhaps look at business matters from different view points, 1 and notwithstanding the glowing picture drawn for us by the honorable member for Darwin we must view this matter from a strictly business standpoint. We have to consider, as the honorable member for Wide Bay said, whether the time has actually arrived for launching upon a scheme of this sort,- and secondly, whether, assuming that we do not seize this opportunity, we shall not have later on another opportunity to secure an equally eligible site. I am one of those who believe that if we do not take this site, it will not be difficult, certainly not impossible, to obtain an equally good, if not a better, site for such a stupendous rental as is proposed. For a ground rental varying from not less than ,£7,500 to .£10,000 per annum, we could command a very good site anywhere. I cannot believe that it is not possible to obtain an equally good site. I was very much impressed with the remarks made by the right honorable member for Swan. He has had practical experience in the old country, and he has expressed the opinion that it would be impossible for us, at the site in question, to carry out what is certainly one of the most important branches of Commonwealth business - the inscription of stock, by which we should make a saving of something like £30,000 per annum.. Such a saving would not be immediately effected, but it would possibly be made in the course of time, as’ the States debts were taken over. As to the question of whether or not we have yet arrived at a point at which it is desirable to launch upon a scheme of this sort, I am at one with those who have, said that Ave are putting the cart before the horse, or, in other words, that we are providing the cage before we have caught our bird. Are we ready to appoint a High Commissioner? What would a High Commissioner have to do if he were appointed now, or even one or two years hence ? It may be said that it is very desirable that we should have in London a Commonwealth building in connexion with our immigration scheme. If I thought that it would be a really potent factor in attracting immigrants to this country, I should not hesitate to vote for the item; but in Queensland, as I have had occasion to point out, we have done more in the direction of encouraging immigration than has any other State, and we have always found that lecturers, provided with caravans, going amongst the people whom we wish to attract to Australia, are infinitely more effective than anything that could be done inthe city of London.
– That is how Canada secures her immigrants.
Colonel FOXTON. - That is so. Canada has had for years, and still has a very large staff working in a direction that justifies her proposal to erect a fine building in London. It will be used to house the staff which she has not only in London and the United Kingdom generally, but throughout Europe. If we are to take any portion of this site, then I hold that we should lease the whole frontage. If we were to lease only a small frontage, our building, as an honorable member has said, would look mean and contemptible when compared with the palace which Canada is going to erect. Indeed, if we are to have such a building, it would be better that it should not be in the vicinity of the Canadian offices, so that odious comparisons might not be drawn. If the item be agreed to, I hope that the Government will acquire the whole frontage, from the corner which has been secured by Victoria, to the corner nearest the city in order that we may appear to be, at all events, nearly the equal of Canada.
Sitting suspended from 6.30. to 7.45 p.m.
Colonel FOXTON. - Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I expressed the hope that if this vote was agreed to we should acquire the whole of the frontage right up to the corner nearest to the city, for the reason that if we did not the Commonwealth building would be completely overshadowed by that which it is intended to erect for Canada. I find, in the weekly edition of the London Times, of 26th July, reference to the fact that aFrench syndicate has acquired the whole of the central block fronting both the Strand and Aldwych, and that the Canadian Government had acquired from them the Strand frontage. It is stated that the intention of the French syndicate is to have in the centre of the Aldwych frontage a magnificent building for the purpose of an exposition of French industries, with, on either side, places of entertainment presumably on French lines. I do not know whether that would be an advantage to this site or not from the Commonwealth point of view. I find that the frontage of the Canadian building is to be 413 feet. The
Times states -
The Strand building - referring to the Canadian building - will have a frontage to that thoroughfare of 413 feet, and of 176 feet to each of the side streets. The cost of the Strand, or, as it may be called,the Canadian block is estimated at £400,000.
I presume that means the building -
The Canadian buildings will be designed by Messrs. A. Marshall, Mackenzie, and Son, who are the architects of the Waldorf Hotel, Aldwych, which is now approaching completion.
That is a great hotel, which has been erected on the other side of Aldwych. Consequently, with a Canadian building occupying no less than 413 feet of frontage to the Strand, and costing £400,000, it will be conceded that if we were to have anything less than the whole of the available frontage to the Strand for Commonwealth purposes, our building would be completely eclipsed, and it would be better for us to go elsewhere. If there is to be an arrangement such as is proposed, that this should be a Commonwealth building, used by the Commonwealth and all of the States individually, it would be better for us, even although we might have to sacrifice this opportunity of acquiring such a site - if that can be called a sacrifice - and go elsewhere, to ascertain from each of the States if they would be willing to fall in with the proposition and make this building their head-quarters, before we commit this Parliament to any such proposal as that which is now foreshadowed. We have indications that some of the States are inclined to do otherwise. From a purely business point of view, it would be essentially desirable to enter into such an arrangement with the States, or otherwise the Commonwealth might find . itself saddled for many years to come with a huge building which it could not occupy effectively and completely without subletting, and sub-letting is to be deprecated. The Commonwealth, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Darwin said, would not be consulting its own dignity by erecting buildings merely for the purpose of sub-letting to tenants, even although, as foreshadowed those tenants might be Australian corporations and financial institutions.I believe that an equally good, if not better, Site for many purposes, especially for the inscription of stock, could be found for the Same amount of rental as it is proposed to pay. by . way of ground rent for this site. It has been mentioned that, a considerable area, including the area submitted to us, has been vacant for some years. I believe that that is strictly correct. I believe, also, that a considerable proportion Of the frontage of Kingsway - the great new thoroughfare, which has been created by the London County Council, and which, in some respects, offers more desirable sites than this - is still unoccupied. I was informed by a gentleman who had recently been in London - possibly the Acting Prime Minister will correct me if I am wrong - that about eight months ago a number of tents had actually been erected at the instance of the King for the temporary housing of the London poor in Kingsway. It must also be borne in mind that, in the matter of mere advertising, which is a perfectly legitimate undertaking for the Commonwealth, it will be necessary at all times to work iri with the States. I am informed that Queensland proposes to spend duringthe next twelve or eighteen months something like .£20,000 in’ making- a display of its resources at the pending Anglo-French Exhibition. ‘ Whatever steps the Commonwealth may take for the purpose of advertising Australia as a whole, it will always be found that those States which most need immigration for the filling up of their great empty, spaces will exert themselves in this way” independently of the Commonwealth,, in order’ to direct to their shores a stream of ‘ immigration– which we all hope to see coming to Australia.’ I have, with others, to complain- of the lack of information with regard to this transaction. We know that the rental, if the whole frontage is taken, will be approximately £10,000 a year. If one may judge by other instances of leases taken “in other portions of London not far distant from this, the charges by way of rate’s will also be a considerable item. The only charge from which the Commonwealth will in. this instance be exempt is that referred to’ by the honorable member for Angas and described in the contract between -the London County Council and Victoria as the Landlord’s Property Tax.Some friends of mine, who took a lease of residential ‘ property some distance to the -.west- of this site in London, found that - the rates for which they were liable ‘ as occu-piers amounted to 40 per cent, of the rent: they had agreed to pay. . ;
– The rates in West Ham* are as high as 12s. in the
Colonel FOXTON. - That is in theEast End of London. It can be easily understood that the £10,000 which we shall have to pay in the form of rental will belargely supplemented by outgoings in the: shape of ‘rates and taxes. I do not desireto occupy the time of the Committee at any greater length. I merely wish to give my reasons for voting against the item. I donot understand why it is necessary to approach the London County Council through* Mr. Burr.
– He is the architect of the London County Council.
Colonel FOXTON.- I do not seethat fact stated anywhere. It has been saidthat he is in some way connected with theLondon County Council.
– The memorandum simply states that he is an architect.
Colonel FOXTON. - If he is .con,nected with the London County Council, I. think that the Commonwealth ought to hav¬hing whatever to do with him. If .the proposed site is to be obtained only by approaching that body through one of their own employes - if the Commonwealth is . to. be committed to the payment of commission! to Mr. -Burr for procuring the consent of the London- County Council to the.. proposal, of the Acting Prime Minister - it is very bad- business which* we ought not to touch aV all.’ For, these reasons, I,” am reluctantlyobliged to vote against the. proposal, . becauseI feel that if not at once, at any rate in. the ‘future, a necessity will arise for th’eerection of some such building in Londonas a centre round which Australians in theOld Country may gravitate. Having regard to what I consider to be the prematurenature of- the proposal, I shall vote against it.
– - I understand that the Government are practically asking the Committee to votethe sum of .£1,000 to enable them to open up negotiations for the acquisition of a sitefor Commonwealth offices in London.
– For the construction of a. building.
– The money is tobe devoted to the acquisition of a site. . If we authorize the proposed expenditure weshall be committing the Government to nothing. Every business.man in the world &as: to. accept a business risk, and ‘ surely <the Government and people of the Com.monwealth are prepared to incur a risk. If there was one inducement held out to the -electors of Australia to accept the Federal Constitutional was the promise that under Federation a High Commissioner would be appointed to safeguard Australian interests at Home and that Commonwealth offices would be established in London. Seeing -that the Government have made no move in that direction during the past seven years, ^surely when they submit a proposal of this kind honorable members’ will support them. We talk a great deal about the necessity for securing a large population. But what is calculated to attract population to our shores if it is not the appointment of a High Commissioner to act in our interests in ‘London and to draw attention to our wonderful- resources”? It is the bounden dutv of everybody who desires to attract population to support the proposal to establish ‘Commonwealth offices in London so “that we may make a miniature exhibition there of the products of Australia. Let us “bring all the Agents-General under the one roof. I am quite sure that the States Governments will agree to the adoption of that course, because it will mean a saving to them. The establishment of Commonwealth offices in London will do more to attract population to our shores - as it has done in the case of Canada - than anything else, which we can do or which the States indi’ vidually can do.
– Does the honorable member favour the erection of a building in London equal to that which Canada proposes to erect ?
-If I did, the expenditure would constitute one of the best investments that the Commonwealth could undertake. If the Government, with the approval of this Parliament, secure the proposed ‘ site, and we are thereby committed to an expenditure o’f £1 00, 000 annually, that money will be well spent. What is Australia to-day? It is a great, -dreary, empty place, lacking that population which is essential to national greatness. .Shall we ever become a nation if we continue to stagnate as we are doing at present? It is now proposed to empower the Government to enter into negotiations with -the London County Council - to submit an offer 1 for the leasing of a suitable site - an -offer which must’ be approved by this Par:liament. Is not that so?
– Hear, hear 1
– But .is it. so? ‘
– The Acting Prime Minister says definitely . that it is so.
– And he said so to-night when he was speaking.
– I say that the proposal is a business one. Every person connected with business has to undertake a certain risk, and we must be prepared to take a risk in connexion with this matter. To my mind, there is no better site , available in the heart of London to-day. The Acting. Prime Minister has said that it is necessary for us to make an offer immediately. I think it is wise that he should make an offer with the consent of this Parliament immediately. The site is not one which is likely to remain vacant for a considerable time.
– It has been vacant for seven years.
– To my own knowledge, that is not so. I saw the last building removed from it eighteen months ago. We can do no better work for Australia than we can accomplish by appointing a High Commissioner and establishing Commonwealth offices in London. At the same time we ought to make these offices sufficiently large to be selfsupporting. We shall need to erect a building of at least six or seven stories - the largest buildings in London range only from seven to twelve stories - and we shall then be able to let the uppermost stories for offices. We might enter into a business arrangement with the States, under which they would be afforded an opportunity to display their produce there. They would be perfectly ‘ prepared to subscribe to such an arrangement, because it would result in a saving to them, and permit them to have separate courts, and to make a good exhibition of their products, just as Canada is doing at the present time. No Government could submit a more practical proposal than that under consideration. We are simply asked to empower them to spend £1,000 to enter into negotiations with the London County Council to obtain a particular, site, which will subsequently have to be approved by Parliament. ,
– Hear, hear !
– Surely it is’ no risk for the Commonwealth to expend the sum of £1,000, so long as the proposal does not commit .us to a larger expenditure
– This proposal, if carried, will commit us to . an expenditure of £200,000.
– We have the word of the Acting Prime Minister that it will not. It might just as reasonably be urged that in” authorizing the expenditure for survey of £20,000 upon what is sometimes called the “ desert “ railway, we have committed ourselves to the construction of that railway.
– It is a totally different thing.
– It is not. In that case, we voted £20,000 for the survey of the line, and in the present instance, we are authorizing the Government to make an offer to the London County Council, subject to the approval of Parliament. I shall support the Government proposal because I thoroughly believe iri it. When we voted for Federation we expected that the Commonwealth Government would do what is now proposed. But I thought that it would have been done five years ago. If the proposal be carried - and I hope it will be - I trust that the appointment of a High Commissioner, and the establishment of temporary offices for the Commonwealth, will not be delayed. We require such offices, if population is to be attracted to our shores. When the permanent buildings have. been completed in one of the highways of commerce in London, the High Commissioner will be able to move into them, and possibly we may then be able to arrange with the various States Governments to provide their Agents-General with accommodation under the same roof.
– Mr. Bent has already verbally agreed to take accommodation there.
- Mr. Bent is an ardent Federationist - despite all that may be said to the contrary - and naturally he believes in doing what is suggested. In the past, the Government have not set a good example, but now that they are doing so honorable .members should support them, because the time is ripe for this undertaking. Delay will be detrimental to the interests and progress of Australia. I approve of the proposal, but I want an assurance from the Acting Prime Minister that its acceptance will not commit the Commonwealth to an enormous expenditure. I would have preferred the Government to come down with a proposal to spend ,£200,000 on the erection of a building which would be an emporium for the display of Australian produce of all kinds. I would have supported such a proposal just as heartily as I approve df that now before us. I hope that it will be viewed by honorable members in the same way as it will, I think, be regarded by every primary producer and taxpayer. In London,we want to attract attention to what we are capable of producing here. By following the example of Canada, we shall get our money recouped fourfold. Each new settler will share our prosperity, and will share also the burden of our taxation, whilst at the same time assisting us to make Australia one of the finest parts of the British Empire.
– I was in England at the same time as the last speaker, and I do not believe that there is in London a better site than that suggested for the erection of public offices for Australia. I am very pleased to learn that the Government intend to negotiate for a lease of the site. It is all very well for some honorable members to talk about the Commonwealth negotiating with the States. I do not think that the Government need or should negotiate with them. My view is that we should give the States free offices in this building, because the people of Australia will pay the rent, lt will be of no use to the Commonwealth unless the offices of the States are located there. It will be all the same to the people of Australia whether the money comes out of the one pocket or the other, because it will be provided by them. I advise the Government to secure the site if it can be obtained at a reasonable price, to erect a large Australian building, and to allot to each State sufficient accommodation for its use. We ought not to ask the States to pay any rent, because that would mean only a book entry. I do not believe that the Government tan get a better site in London for their purpose, and therefore I intend to vote for the item.
.- I have listened very attentively to all the speakers on this subject, and I suppose that most of us have arrived at the conclusion that at the end of the proposed lease this land would revert to the lessor. That point, I presume, is settled.
– 1, do not think it is.
– I noticed a difficulty in the minds of .the honorable mem- bers for Darwin and Wide Bay with reference to that point, but it must be clear that at the end of the ninety-nine years’ lease the land would revert to the lessor ?
– I have not come to that conclusion yet.
– During the past” few years, Bedford-square, Russell-square, Longacre, and Covent Garden Market, which are immediately behind this block, reverted to the lessor at the end of a ninety-nine years’ lease.
– Who was the lessor? .
– The Duke of Bedford.
– Yes; but he is not the London County Council,
– No, but the Commonwealth will make the same terms with the London County Council as the lessors of those lands made with the Duke of Bedford. If that point has not been established, then we are groping in the dark, and that is a reason why we should delay. It has been made manifest, I think, by various speakers, that the capitalization pf the ground rent of £10,000 a year during the period of ninety-nine years, and possibly an expenditure of £200,000 more, will entail an annual cost of about £16,000, irrespective of not less than 6s. 8d. in the £1 for rates to the London County Council, so that probably £20,000 a year will represent the cost of this building, regardless of the fact that we shall have to find a High Commissioner, and to pay his salary and expenses. We have lost sight of the condition which ought to be precedent to a vote of this kind, and that is whether or not we intend to haw a High Commissioner. That has not been settled by this House, and even if it is favoured by the Parliament as a whole, it will not be given effect to for some time to come. What position shall we be in if, after having arranged for the acquisition of a site, a High Commissioner is not appointed? 0n that subject I find myself, in company with a large number of honorable members who have spoken to-day, very much at sea. I should like the Government to lay upon the table, as a condition precedent to the consideration of the question, a precis of the various matters which, during the past five, or even twenty, years have been . referred to the Colonial Office by the States Governments. I contend that, so far as the re cords of the Commonwealth are concerned, there can be no immediate necessity shown for the appointment of a High Commissioner. From time to time there may be communications with the Colonial Office from whomsoever mav be acting as AgentGeneral, but we know that for a long while the Imperial Conference has been the medium through which the wishes of the Commonwealth have been conveyed to Lord Elgin and his predecessors at the Colonial Office. There has been no matter of great importance referred to the Colonial Office during the past five years, and whatever matters may have been referred have been settled by correspondence or by a representative who has gone home for a special occasion. Before we talk of appointing a High Commissioner and spending money on a piece of land in London, with the probability of involving the Commonwealth in a large annual outlay, we should be furnished bv the Government with a full statement of their intentions. I could quite understand a proposal of this kind coming from the Government after we had decided whether or not there should be - a High Commissioner. I am sorry to find that there is amongst honorable members generally an impression that the High Commissioner will render the Commonwealth great and good service. I should like to know what has been done by Mr. Reeves, of New Zealand, Mr. Coghlan, of New South Wales, and the ‘ other AgentsGeneral. I had two years experience as an Agent-General in London, and I can inform honorable members that the duties of an Agent-General are very small indeed. So far, there have been no matters necessitating the expenditure of £10,000 or £15,000, or £20,000 by the Commonwealth. If honorable members think that a High Commissioner will act as an immigration agent, or that the States will lease offices from the Commonwealth, or in other ways share the expense of a Commonwealth establishment in London,” they are making a great mistake. South Australia has already buildings of its own in Bishopsgate-street. near the Bank pf England, where she inscribes her own stock. Until the Commonwealth has work like that to do, there will be practically little employment for a High Commissioner. But the ‘ States are not likely, for many years to come, to delegate to the Commonwealth the business of floating loans on their behalf. I protest against the proposed expenditure as premature* Before making- such a proposal, the Government should have submitted to Parliament a scheme for the appointment of a High Commissioner, letting us know what duties he would perform, and what his establishment in London would cost. Our people rely too much on Governments to do things for them; they could do much better for themselves. The appointment of commercial agents is,”” to my mind, a great mistake. None of the commercial agents or Agents-General in London can be pointed to as having, done any great amount of good in introducing Australian products to the notice of English buyers.
– What about Sir Horace Tozer, the Queensland Agent-General ? I understand that he hawks about vegetables, carrying them under his arm, and proclaiming loudly that they were grown on the Darling Downs.
– No doubt Sir Horace Tozer supplies reports to his Government, as I supplied reports to the Tasmanian Government, and as Mr. Coghlan does to the New South Wales Government, but the only useful work done in London is performed by the Agent-‘General of South Australia, who, under an arrangement made by Mr. Playford, inscribes South Australian stock at a cost of less than £100 per £1,000,000 borrowed, while many of the other States pay £600.
– Tasmania has paid at that rate.
– It must have been long ago.
– It was not. Many of the other States have paid £300, £400, and .£500 quite recently. When the Commonwealth borrows in London, there will be work for a High Commissioner to do there ; but,_ until then, as business men, we ought not to enter upon an expenditure such as is proposed.
.- I cannot allow the item to pass without entering my protest against the proposal which has been put before the Committee. In mv opinion, it is most unbusiness-like. In being asked to agree to an arrangement of this kind, we should be told why the money is to be spent, and what our liabilities will be in respect to ground rental and rates and taxes’. I have been told that the London County Council, is almost depopulating the rateable district within its jurisdiction, ar.d that a reason why it cannot let the land which the Acting Prime Minister wishes the Commonwealth to lease is that, the rental and rates are too high. I know the situation of the proposed site, a narrowstrip in the heart of the city. It is absurd to speak of erecting there a building; ‘which will cost only £60,000. I know buildings near by whose foundations cost £45,000, and, according to the Times, theestimate for the building which Canada proposes to erect is £400,000. It is well known that the rates and taxes within this, area are just about equal to the ground rents.
– They are about 37 per cent.
– We are told that, the ground rent of the proposed site will probably be £9,500. That would be enough to pay for the rental of a building.
– Only a small mind? would make that statement.
– I do not say that wecould get for £10,000 a year a building’ in which we could store every one’s wine1 and vegetables, and pay for hawking them-‘ about London ; but I do not think that itis the duty of the Commonwealth to undertake such a tiddly- winking,’ costermonger sort of business. When we have a High Commissioner, it will be his duty to at- tend chiefly to the political and financial’ business of Australia. We do not need a site where we can place a lot of cellars. If that were the object in view, we could not get a more unsuitable situation than that’ proposed.
– That remark showsthe honorable member’s ignorance.
– Is the honorable member in order?
– The honorable member for Grampians must withdraw his statement if exception is taken to it.
– If the honorable, member takes exception to attention being; drawn to his ignorance, I withdraw my remark, and say that, in my opinion, heis speaking without knowledge of his< subject.
– I think that the honorable member’s conduct is hardly parliamentary. I was born in England, and*know that part of London in which .theproposed site is. He speaks of ignorance, but I have been astounded at the ignorancewhich has been displayed by many mem-‘ bers of the Committee, who have stated’ that they did not know that . a building.- erected subject to a ninety-nine years’ lease eventually reverts to the owners of the land.
– The honorable member having objected to an allusion to his ignorance, is hardly in order in accusing other honorable members of ignorance.
– I spoke of ignorance of the practice in this respect. Then we have been told that a building can be erected in London for£60,000, and that is another statement which astonished me. it could not be erected in Collins-street for the money. I point out, also, that a block -of land with a frontage of 200 feet by a depth of 60 odd feet, is about the most expensive kind of block that could be selected. It would be all frontage and no depth. If the land had a frontage of 60 feet, with a depth of 200 feet, a suitable building might be erected for the cost of the’ frontage. L hope that if we are to have a Commonwealth building in London it will be one that will do credit to Australia. I have no objection to the erection of such a building there, but I object to the selectionfor the purpose of a. strip of land thatis all frontage. That would only advertise our ignorance of such matters. If honorable members dare to back up the Government in spending £250,000-
– The country will approve of it.
– The country will not approve of it. Such a proposal will only create further dissatisfaction ‘ among the States when we should be doing all we can to unite the States and the Commonwealth. This is not a business proposition. We have no proof that the States authorities will agree to take any part of the proposed building, and yet the proposal is to erect a building which the States authorities must use. I am in hope that when the Commonwealth High Commissioner is appointed the States Agents-General will be dispensed with, and there will then be no need for a separate building for each of the representatives of the different States. There might be representativesof the States working under the High Commissioner, but they should not occupy the position occupied by States Agents-General at the present time. The High Commissioner, when appointed, should represent all Australia, and should do so with the consent and approval of the States. I consider this amost unbusinesslike proposal It should never have been submitted in this form. If a reasonable proposal is made for the erection of a Commonwealth building on a suitable block of land, I shall be prepared to vote for it.
– Where does the honorable member think the site selected should be?
– If we desire a site for a Commonwealth building in England I suppose we can get it there. The mere fact that the Minister took a hurried trip to England should not be sufficient to bind the Commonwealth to such a transaction as this. We may yet hear that a gold brick was sold to some one, in accordance with the practice followed in America. It is idle for honorable members to say that, in carrying the proposed vote, we shall not be committed to a very much greater expenditure. We shall find if we get this land that we shall have to build upon it, and we shall be bound to the whole scheme. For what do we require this block of land if it is not to build upon it, and for what are we asked to vote this £1,000 if it is not to secure the block of land? I repeat that the proposal has not been properly submitted to the Committee.
.- I must plead ignorance in connexion with this matter, because I think I know as little about it as does the Acting Prime Minister himself ; and that is saying a great deal. I presume that the honorable member for Grampians; is a keen business man,and I have been surprised to hear him say that this is a business proposition.
– That only shows the honorable member’s ignorance.
– I confess that I require a little enlightenment. I hope I shall get it before I sit down, but I shall not look to the honorable member for Maranoa for it. This is a proposal involving a large expenditure of money and at the same time great responsibility. It is ridiculous to argue that if we pass this vote we shallnot be committed to the expenditure of a very large sum of money. It is impossible that any member of the Committee should’ believe that the passing of this vote will commit us to the expenditure of only £1,000. What is proposed is thatwe should make a contract with the London County Council, and having made the contract we may be quite sure that we shallbe bound toerecta building that will meet with their approval and that will have to be a very expensive building. We are being asked by a spendthrift Government to agree; to this vote “without sufficient information. It is only to-day that the memorandumto which reference has already been made was placed in the hands of honorable members. It contains a certain amount of information, but honorable members have had no time to inquire into details regarding the proposed vote.
– The only information afforded by the memorandum is that Captain Collins is unable to conduct a simple negotiation and must leave the matter to a local architect.
– That is one of the things to which’ I particularly object. We have already had examples of the blundering of the present Government.
– I invite the honorable member to name one matter in which the Government have blundered !
– I can refer the honorable member to the blundering of the Government in connexion with the mail subsidy. I would remind the honorable member for Grampians that if a child starts to run before he has become strong enough he will go bandy.
– We must have population.
– Before we spend this money ?
– We are going to endeavour to attract population.
– I shall come to that later on. I confess that I am not a business man, but ‘if I were going to buy a property and build a house I should consult a valuator and see what he had to say about it.
– The honorable member would first of all sit down and count the cost.
– If I were an honest man I should do so, and should know whether I had the money to spend. I should get a valuation of any property that I proposed to buy, but we have no evidence of any valuation of the property which the Government propose tobuy in London having been obtained other than that of the vendors of the property. We know something of the work of the “ gobetweens “ in connexion with the mail contract, and I understand that the architect who it is suggested should be the gobetween in this case is a London man, about whom we know nothing, but that it is said he is a servant of the London County Council, from whom we are buying the land. From the expression on theface of the
Government Whip I assume that the Government have the numbers to carry this proposal. I am very much afraid also that honorable members in the Labour Corner are going to support it.
– The honorable member should look after himself and not mind honorable members in the Labour Corner.
– I can tell those honorable members that if they vote for this proposal they will be voting directly against their principles. They never talk of encouraging immigration. The fact is, they do not desire immigration and are doing; their test to keep immigrants out.
– What is the honorable member doing to populate the country ?
– I am doing my best. What I wish to point out is, that one of the main arguments put forward by the Government in favour of the proposal is that the new building will be useful in the way of encouraging immigration to Australia. Further, I have looked at the plan, and I see that Canada proposes to spend £400,000 on a magnificent building which will take up the whole of the centre of the large crescent, while Australia, which is a greater country than Canada, and is rapidly out-running the Dominion, merely proposes to occupy one of the small blocks on the corner. That is an arrangement to which I object. I object to Australia being overshadowed in this way in London. I suppose I know London as well as the honorable member for Grampians, or, perhaps, any honorable member in the Chamber; and this is not the site I should have chosen for a building of the character suitable for the Commonwealth. I would not have the Australian buildings overshadowed by the Canadian buildings, or by the French buildings immediately behind, nor would’ I have them situated in the theatre centre. What has France done in connexion with her proposed building? What would any sensible man do who desired to make a successful commercial” speculation of any such structure? Surely there would bean endeavour to make the buildings pay for themselves. France, for instance, proposes to have an exhibition surrounded with cafes, cafe chantants, and shops, all with the objectof assisting the project financially. There is no such proposal on the part of Australia ; we do not seem to have any heads for business. We propose to throw open ‘ the whole of the- front of our building, and there have an exhibition, I suppose, of hogsheads of wine in one window and other produce in another. All the frontage will be thrown open free to the States for this purpose, while the rest of the building, I presume, will be used for Commonwealth offices, and as a residence for the High Commissioner. No rent will be gathered from any source ; and this I regard as a foolish business proposal. Then, what guarantee have we that the States will fall into line with the Commonwealth? Is it likely that the States, through their representatives, can be brought side by side without1 arousing jealousy, or without each endeavouring to advertise itself at the expense of the others ? Sufficient information in regard to the project has not been placed before us ; and for that reason, and also because the Commonwealth is faced with very large financial responsibilities, and, as a young- nation, we are not prepared to launch out on buildings in the way proposed, I intend to vote against the item.
– In listening to the discussion, I have come to one conclusion, and I should like to know whether it is justified. When the honorable member for Grampians was speaking he was very strong in pointing out that we were not committing ourselves definitely to any building or any complete proposal. Moreover, the honorable member was very emphatic in the statement that whatever was proposed by the Government would be subject to further confirmation by Parliament. That sentiment, I understand, is cheered almost to the echo by Ministers; and, if that be so, can there be anything wrong, I wonder, in making the intention clear in the vote we are asked to pass?
– If the honorable member desires me to make the matter clear I can repeat what I have said twice before.
– If the understanding I have indicated is clear in the minds of Ministers, the statements which have been made to the House on behalf of the Government are altogether misleading. The item reads, “ Towards construction ot a building in the Strand,” and so on.
– I gave the reason why the item is worded in that way.
– If the’ understanding I have indicated is all .the Government contemplate, the phraseology of the item is altogether wrong. I now under stand that all the Prime Minister is asking for is authority to negotiate for this site.
– That is all.
– As the Acting Prime Minister asks for authority to negotiate for this site, it seems to me that the phraseology of the item ought to be altered so as to make it read - “ Towards the purchase of a site in the Strand, London, for Commonwealth offices, provided that the terms and conditions of such contract be first submitted to this House.”
.- I thought I had made thematter quite clear, but, in view of the remarks of several honorable members, and. of what has just been said by the honorable member for Parramatta, there appears to be an erroneous impression in the Committee. Let me again state exactly what the intention of the Government is. Refore doing that, however, I desire to show the reason why this item appears in the Works Estimates. An item originally appeared - and, in fact, still appears - in the Estimates-in-Chief in connexion with this matter, but I gave instructions for it to be placed in the Works Estimates, as I desired to have the decision of the House regarding it as soon as possible. When the Works Estimates had been laid on the table, and I was going through them, I noticed that the item did not appear, and I asked the officers of the Department the reason. I was told1 that these were Works’ Estimates, whereas the item in the EstimatesinChief, as it appears on page 16, is “ Rent, telegrams, stationery, travelling and incidental expenses, £3,200.” Included in that sum was £2,000 .for rent, as the intention of the Government was, if necessary, to rent a certain portion of the land. When I discovered that the item did not appear in the Works Estimates, and that the only means by which it could be inserted was by bringing down a fresh message, I requested the Secretary to the Treasury to take the necessary steps ; and the item was submitted as “ Additional Estimates,” in order that honorable members might know exactly what I desired to do. That is the explanation of the appearance of the item in the Works Estimates. I hone it is sufficient to show honorable members exactly how the item comes into this schedule. I did not consider that I had authority to proceed with the negotiations until I had consulted Parliament. Consequently, there have been no negotiations with the London. County Council in the true sense of the term. On Thursday the second extension of time expires.
– The Government can get another extension for six months or six years if they like.
– The honorable member is sarcastic on every question. The London County Council will not in the meantime place the property under offer in the sense of allowing us to ask the lowest rent that they will take. I conceive that the reason is’ they do not desire to submit the property at a low rent, which would injure their interests in relation to the remainder of the land.
– That is highly probable.
– But they have asked me to make an offer. I did not feel justified in making one until I had brought the subject before Parliament. If this vote is agreed to, as I hope it will be. I shall make an offer. The amount that I shall offer will be about the same as Mr.
– 13s. 6d. per foot.
– It will not be precisely the same, because the property with which we are concerned is much more valuable.
– I presume that the Minister will not agree to the maximum, 18s. per foot?
– I certainly would not agree to 18s. If the London County Council accept the offer that I make, honorable members must expect that I shall close with it.
– Then the Government will have to build.
– No. As I have said before, the terms as to building are that if the London County Council accept the offer which the Government make, the subject will be again brought before Parliament. The offer will be within a reasonable degree of the amount for which a site has been sold to the Victorian Government.
– Fix it at the same price.
– No; the property with which we are concerned is worth more. If our offer is accepted, nothing more will be done until we arrange for the preparation of plans for the building. The plans can be prepared by competition,” or in’ some other way. I favour the com petitive method myself. When the plans are prepared, nothing further will be done until they are submitted to Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman is building now. He is building castles in the air !
– I have not incurred any responsibility. Some honorable members advised me to take the responsibility of securing the property, but I would not do so without consulting Parliament.
– Mr. Bent did.
- Mr. Bent did, but. I felt that I should be acting justly by honorable members in consulting them as I have done. This vote will not pledge Parliament to anything except an authorization to the Government to acquire the piece of land which they want.
– What are the Government going to do with the land when they have It?
– There is no doubt that we shall, have to pay no rent for twelve months.
– What is the £1,000 wanted for?
– Probably it will not be used at all, because I hope by the time I require any money for plans the Estimates-in-Chief will be before Parliament, and upon them there will be an item for rent. That is the money that will be used, and not the £1,000 now to. be voted. But I desired to ascertain the. feeling of honorable members, and therefore I have pursued this course. The Secretary to the Treasury assured me that the only way in which I could elicit an expression of opinion was by. putting down a small sum for works. I do not think that this money will be used at all, but the amount set down on the EstimatesinChief for rent will be used if any rent is required to be paid. The item will be for rent, stationery, and other incidental expenses. In consequence of what has been said by the honorable member for Grampians and the acting leader of the Opposition, I repeat that this vote does not pledge either honorable members or the Government to anything more than making an offer for the land required.
– Does the Minister say that he will make an offer for a perpetual lease ?
-I am not a lawyer. I do not know what the terms usually are regarding a renewal on the termination of a ninety-nine years’ lease, but I shall at once - probably to-morrow - cable to London .for information > on the subject.
– Has not the Acting Prime Minister already told us that he cannot get this land and build upon it except the London County Council approves of the plans ?
– That is a proper thing to do. The honorable member in New South Wales himself helped to pass a law that no building should be erected in Martin’s Place except the Government architect approved of the plans.
– Then if this proposal is passed, the Government will be committed to erect such a ‘building as the London County Council approves of?
– We shall . be committed to nothing of the kind. ‘ We shall simply be committed to the purchase of the land, with the condition that any building that is erected must be approved by the architect of the London County Council.
– Is it not imperative that the land shall be built on?
– I obtained a loan of a copy of the usual lease only to-day, and have not read it carefully. But honorable members can rest assured that before I make any offer I shall know exactly what- the terms are regarding the building, and shall also assure myself as to the conditions that will apply at the expiration of the ninety-nine years.
– We shall be committing ourselves.
– The honorable member has been trying to burke the whole scheme. He has been ear-wigging every honorable member he could meet, to induce them not to give the votes they intended to give.’
– The honorable gentleman has been doing the same.
Sir - WILLIAM LYNE.- I have done nothing of the sort. I shall simply make an offer at about the same rate as has been paid by the Premier of. Victoria. If the London County Council wants very much more than that, I shall bring’ the matter before Parliament before any acceptance is made. ‘Nor shall I agree to any plans until the subject -has been brought before Parliament again. I did not consider that I had authority to negotiate ‘ until I had - consulted Parliament.’ ‘ The. moment
I receive authority I shall commence to negotiate with the London County Council. The Council will know that I. have the authority that I have been asking for. Up to the present, my hands have .been tied, and I could not negotiate in any true sense of the term.
– Will the honorable gentleman negotiate for a perpetual lease ?
– My own opinion is that there should be a condition either for a re-appraisement .at the end of ninety-nine years or for a renewal.
– The honorable gentleman will not get those terms.
– I shall find out, and do my best.
– The more one hears of these explanations, the greater the muddle appears to be. Here we are tied up in Committee with an item which is covered by a GovernorGeneral’s message, and the phraseology of which may not be altered. The phraseology itself is entirely misleading. It does not indicate the object of the vote. On the contrary, there is in it a contradiction of the very object that we are supposed to have in view. I do not know “why the honorable gentleman should have taken this course when there was a simple one open to him.
– What is it?
– To withdraw the item-
– I shall not.
– To withdraw the item, and to submit to the Committee a. proposition clearly showing what the honorable member has in contemplation.
– Whatever happens I shall take a vote on this item. If honorable members do not like to believe me, I cannot help it.
– It is a matter not of believing the honorable member, but ot doing our business in a right or a wrong way. I submit that the Treasurer is proposing a wrong way of proceeding with this business. _ Sir William Lyne. - I say that it is the right way.
– Then it is a matter for the Committee to decide. It cannot be right to ask the” Committee to vote a sum for a building when a building is not in immediate contemplation. ‘ ‘ In order to secure the passing of the proposed vote, the Treasurer tells the Committee that he will not erect any building till he has further consulted the House, when, as a matter of fact, all that is in contemplation is negotiations for a site, with, a distinct understanding that all plans and pro- iposals for dealing further with that site are to be specially submitted to the Parliament. How can it be said that that is’ the proper procedure? If the honorable member desired to obtain from the Committee authority to negotiate for the site, why did he not come down with a specific motion, which did not involve the voting of any sum ? Of what use will this £1,000 be? It will be of no service for the purpose of paying the rental of the land. In the original Estimates a sum of ,£2,000 was provided for rent. The Acting Prime Minister has removed from those Estimates an item or’ £1,000 and has submitted a special Estimate in respect thereof. We were told forsooth, that the money was to go towards the construction of a building in the Strand, London. The Acting Prime Minister now tells us that he is not going to put a brick in the building till he has further consulted the House. His phraseology is misleading.
– I have explained why the proposal was brought forward in this way.
– Quite so, but that is only an argument against the item being included in ordinary Works and Buildings Estimates. Why should it not have been treated as a separate item, and brought down in the shape of a motion not covered by a message from the Governor - General, which limits the terminology and therefore cannot, be altered. I am not now permitted in Committee to propose to amend the terminology of the proposed vote. All that I can now do is to submit an addendum, since the honorable member intends to press the proposed vote to a division.
– The lease itself will compel compliance with certain building conditions.
– That- is quite clear. The Acting Prime Minister has already told us that one of the stipulations in any contract of the kind is that the building to be erected shall be approved by the architect to the London County Council, and shall be such as in the judgment of the London County Council will add to the architectural beauty of the Strand. The hon.:orable member therefore sets out, knowing full well that in negotiating for a site he has also to negotiate, as to the type of building to be erected on that site. It is idle for him to say that he is going to do nothing but negotiate for a- site; that he will not put a brick in the building till he has consulted Parliament. It is true that he will consult Parliament, but he will do it in this way : he will submit to Parliament a type of building which has already been agreed upon between his negotiator in London and the architect’ to the London County Council, and it will be for Parliament to accept or reject it. That is what we now understand, and we have been engaged the whole night in endeavouring to arrive at that understanding.
– I mentioned it at the very outset.
– I suggest to the Acting Prime Minister that it would be very much better to withdraw this Estimate altogether, and to come down with a specific motion asking for the authority - and an open authority - of Parliament to negotiate. I do not think we ought to tie his hands, if he is to negotiate, except to the extent of asking him to consult Parliament before he concludes any agreement which will bind the Commonwealth to expenditure in this matter. That is all I propose in moving
That after the word “ offices,” the words “ provided that, the terms and conditions of any contract be first submitted to Parliament,” be inserted.
– Then the honorable member is not prepared to take the assurance of the Acting Prime Minister ?
– We are not prepared to accept the addendum. The honorable member may take my assurance of that.
.- The Acting Prime Minister has very wisely informed us that he is not a lawyer.
– Neither is the honorable member.
– I am sure that no one who has had any experience of his administration, either in the Parliament or out of it, would ever suspect him of any legal learning. The honorable gentleman has over and over again demonstrated to everybody who has heard him that he lacks the first element in the qualifications of a lawyer, and that is logic. He has allowed his temper to get the better of him to-night, and I think he has placed his
Government in a very humiliating position. They are now vacillating between altering their own proposal and submitting to an amendment from the Opposition, which at first they were determined, in most lion-like fashion, to resist. The honorable member has tried to placate the Committee by telling them that this £1,000 will be used only for the purpose of purchasing a leasehold site. “The item itself has no reference to a leasehold or a freehold, but merely sets forth that £1,000 is to be provided as a contribution towards the cost of erecting “ a building.” Every one can see that this is not mere innocence on the part of the honorable member, but a deliberate attempt to conceal the real object of the proposal. The Acting Prime Minister has proposed that the Committee shall vote £1,000 for a building which cannot possibly be erected until the Commonwealth secures a site. I have no doubt that the honorable gentleman, in failing to credit the Committee with as much acumen as it possesses, imagined that if honorable members were induced to vote £1,000 towards the building, they would impliedly authorize him to enter into a very considerable contract, representing a capital value of £250,000, without any further direction from the House. He does riot seem to’ display a knowledge of the elements of commerce, when he says that the Committee may rest assured that “he will do nothing more than make an offer.
– He has not said that. He has said that he will enter into a contract provided that the price does not greatly exceed the price paid by Mr. Bent for the Victorian site.
– No; the honorable member said that he would make an offer. I wish to show that the making of an offer will involve the making of a contract.
– He expressly said so.
– I understood him to say that he would make an offer for the land. In the event of his doing so, it will be open to the London County Council to at once accept it- The lowest estimate of £7,500 per annum in respect of ground rental is equal, at 3 per cent., to a capital value of £250,000. The honorable member does not seem to realize that if he makes this offer, and it is accepted by the London County Council, the Commonwealth will be liable to all the conditions of the County Council’s leases. He him self told us this afternoon that one of those conditions is that a six-story building shall be erected upon the leasehold, such building to be approved by the Council’s architect. That involves us in the value of the building. The Commonwealth’s own- officer, Colonel Owen, as has been pointed out this afternoon, has estimated that a building of the plainest description, as illustrated in the Argus, will cost £150,000. Consequently, this simple vote of £1,000 resolves itself into the offer of a rental which represents a capitalized amount of £250,000, and an- obligation to spend a further £150,000, so that, although the item as submitted to us on the Estimates appears so innocent, it means an obligation of at least £400,000 on the part of the Commonwealth. If the theory or doctrine of having no more loans is fol: lowed in the Commonwealth we shall have
Lo raise at least four times that amount in order to pay the cost out of revenue.
– We might reduce the surplus which is at present given to the States.
– It was announced recently that that surplus has now come down to a little over £100,000, so that if we spend £150,000 on a building, taking the middle estimate, and not the highest estimate of £200,000, we shall have spent more than the £100,000 the moment we enter upon the contract.
– We need not spend it all in one year.
– I know that we need not, but the moment we have committed ourselves to the contract, we shall have to erect a building within five years.
– I said the full rent was not due for five years. I did not say anything about the building having to be erected in that time.
– I am very glad that the Committee has come round to ‘the view, as it apparently has, after a great deal of discussion, that the whole matter has been put before it in a verycomplicated and bungling manner. Whether that was intentional or not, I leave to the conscience of the Acting Prime Minister. But if he is willing that this vote of £1,006 shall be taken as a contribution towards the purchase of a site, and that the question of the building shall be submitted to us at a subsequent date - not, as the acting leader of the Opposition said, after a -contract has been entered into,” simply to submit the plans to us in order to let us see them - if it is understood that before a contract for building is entered into, we, as a House representing the people, shall have the right of approving or disapproving of it, there can be no objection. I think, however, that the Committee are entitled to more. They are entitled to a statement from the Acting Prime Minister as to how far he is prepared to go in making the offer. Why should we ‘ authorize the Acting Prime Minister-
– We cannot take the responsibility of that. The responsibility must still remain with the Government.
– I quite recognise the distinction between legislation and administration, but the Acting Prime Minister has stated that the prices vary from 13s. to 18s. a foot. He might tell us what his first offer is to be.
– I said twice tonight that it would be the same as Mr. Bent gave.
– If we understand that the honorable gentleman’s offer will be the amount which Mr. Thomas Bent has given for the land for Victoria, and no more, then we know what we are doing. We shall then have the satisfaction of knowing that, even if the Commonwealth is committed to the purchase of the lease for a term of ninety-nine years, we shall have an opportunity of expressing our opinion before the building is contracted for. Then, if the price asked for the building is so high that we do not feel inclined to embark upon the contract, it will be open to us to say “No; we will not build at that price, and we can dispose of the lease.” We should then only lose the difference, if there is a loss at all, between the price we gave for the lease and the price for which we have to sell it. One of the most important facts omitted from die Ministerial statement was that under the conditions laid down by the County Council the lessees are liable to pay all rates and .taxes upon the land. Rates and taxes upon municipal properties in England have actually reached 14s. in the £ upon the rental.
– That is confiscation.
– It may be, but I assure the honorable member that they have reached that sum in certain municipalities in England. Even if the municipal taxes’ upon this land come to half that sum, we shall be paying not 13s. a square foot, but 7s. every year in addition, which would amount to £1 a foot. If it is made quiteclear that we shall not be committing ourselves to any contract for the building, and. that the Acting Prime Minister is going tomake an offer not to exceed the amount paid by Mr. Bent for the land for the State of Victoria, I shall be satisfied to vote for the item.
– It has been quite refreshing to hear the speech of the honorable member for Parkes, from his bombastic start to his humble climb-down. First of all he hurled, defiance at the Acting Prime Minister.
– The Government aregoing back on their own motion now.
– It is’ thehonorable member who has gone back on. himself. There seems to be remarkable unanimity on the other side amongst a little coterie, who held a very different opinion* on Friday last. At the beginning of his speech’ the honorable member for Parkescharged the Acting Prime Minister with trying to deceive the Committee. On Friday, when the Acting Prime Minister broached the question, he received assurances from? all quarters of the Chamber that if he gave further particulars it would beall right. Honorable members then recognised with him that it was time this Commonwealth was represented in London,, and that we ought to make a start in some way with that work. The Acting PrimeMinister at once consented, at the request of the honorable member for Flinders or the honorable member for Parramatta, tobring down particulars to-day. He has doneso, submitted the plans, and given all the information in his power. He has said tothe Committee,. “ Give me some right tonegotiate. I will tell you the terms on. which I will negotiate. I cannot give you: the exact figures.” We all know as business men that it is not wise in these transactions to state the exact figures. The Acting Prime Minister asked the Committee toallow him to negotiate on practically thesame terms - a little, more or less according, to the site and other conditions - as the Premier of Victoria had already negotiated and* settled on. Those terms have been admitted by the press, which looks into matters of this kind very keenly, to constitute an excellent bargain, and we have been told* that Mr. Bent can make a profit at anytime.
– That does not apply to the building proposed bv the Government. “
– I do not wish to remind the honorable member of things which he said in this House, or he would not be so merry. I am not dealing with the slanders which he uttered on certain people of this country. What amused me about the speech of the honorable member for Parkes was that when he was reminded of what had been said by the honorable member for .Flinders, who put a reasonable and fair construction on the proposal, he at once climbed down and said that that altered the case altogether. It was most interesting to see the honorable member turn around so suddenly. The Acting Prime Minister has not attempted to practice any deception. As a matter of fact he has given the Committee all the information possible.
– The trouble is that the Government seem to have a penchant for doing things in the wrong way
– In whatever way the Government attempt to do anything, the honorable member, as acting leader of the Opposition, says that they are doing it the wrong way. He is like the honorable member for Brisbane, who agreed that there should be some centre in London where Australians can gather, and to which we can point with pride and pleasure as indicating that we have some standing in England, but added that the proposal was premature and that the time was not now. That is like the stand taken by the honorable member for Denison, who wants to be quite sure first of all that there will be a High Commissioner. The honorable member said that he was surprised and sorry to find that there was a large majority in the House in favour of appointing a High Commissioner, and then went on to compare the duties which that official will have to perform: with, those which he had to perform when Agent-General for the little State of . Tasmania. I do not wish to labour the question, but I think honorable members are convinced that we ought to have a High Commissioner in London, and to establish him in good quarters. I am quite in accord with the honorable member for Grampians, when he says that it is immaterial whether or not the States agree to fall into line with us immediately. While there may be a little friction at the outset, it must always be remembered - as he has pointed out - that the people have to pay. It is only a question of bookkeeping after all.
– Upon the same line of reasoning the Commonwealth might pay all the States debts.
– As a matter of fact, the people have to pay those debts. Although our proposal may result in the States and the Commonwealth contending against each other for a time, we all know what will be the end. It is a matter for mutual arrangement, and in the end the two authorities must work together. What is to be gained by waiting till we get all the States of the same mind? The common-sense of the people must prevail. Mr. Bent - although he has made his own arrangements - has exhibited sound common-sense in this matter. He has said to the Acting Prime Minister, “ Here is my agreement. I think that I have made a pretty good bargain, but if you can get Australia properly represented in London I am prepared to join with you.”
– To what extent?
– The honorable member inquires “ To what extent “ ? In reply, I ask him whether the Government have no responsibilities. Are Ministers to come down here, and put forward every little . detail ?
-This is’ another “ stump “ speech.
– The honorable member says that the Government will bind Parliament to this, that, and the other. At any rate, we know what will be the consequences if we commit Parliament to something to which we ought not to commit it.
– What does” Mr. Bent say ?
– I regret that in connexion with a matter of this kind certain’ honorable members have endeavoured - and with some measure of success - to introduce party considerations. There is a wonderful unanimity in certain quarters. In my opinion the Acting Prime Minister has given all the information that it is possible to afford the Committee. He has given it not once, but twice, and thrice. Nobody in this country knows better than he does the responsibility which’ he’ is accepting. If honorable members’ believe that we ought not to be represented in London, that we ought not to have- ‘ any Australian offices there, but that we should continue to lack proper recognition, it’ is logical for them to vote against this proposal. But to drag in party considerations for the sake of securing a little advantage-
– It is parochial sentiment, that is all.
– I believe, as does the honorable member, that the proposal should be dealt with from a business stand-point. If honorable members do not want a business proposition it is their duty to vote against it. I should not have risen but for the deliberate statement of the honorable member for Parkes, that the Acting Prime Minister has attempted to deceive the Committee in bringing this proposal before it.
– I think that the speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs is much more likely to retard the progress of this proposal than to accelerate it. In fact, it has gone far towards removing the conciliatory effect of the words uttered by his leader a few minutes ago. I, for one, believe that we ought to accept the definite assurances which have just been given by the Acting Prime Minister. The fact that we have been at cross purposes for a good portion of the evening is, to some extent, due to the manner in which this matter has been brought before the Committee. We are asked to do something definite - to agree to a proposal to erect Commonwealth offices in London. That is what this_ item means. I do not want the Acting Prime Minister to interject for a moment - as he is ready to do - because 1 am prepared to accept his assurances. But I wish to make quite clear exactly how far what we are now asked to sanction will bind the Committee. The Minister of Trade and Customs has spoken in rather lofty terms of the responsibility of the Government. I ‘believe that every Government should accept the full measure of their responsibility, and if the Ministry believe that this site is the best available, that it is necessary to choose it - if thev have a definite policy regarding what is to be done with it, as to the functions which are to be discharged by, and as to the appointment of, a High Commissioner - thev would have been perfectly within their rights if they had entered into an arrangement without first consulting Parliament. However, I am not going to argue that pOint. I -simply desire to make clear, from mv own point of view, the extent to which the Government are committing us. This proposal, I take it, merely commits us to two things - first, to a statement by the Committee that it is desirable to establish Commonwealth offices in London, and, secondly, to a declaration that a particular portion of the Strand offers a suitable site for their erection. I am prepared to go so far as that, but I am not prepared to go an inch further.
– What about purchasing the land?
– I am prepared to go as far as I have indicated, provided that the site can be obtained upon fair business terms. But the idea of asking the Committee, upon the information placed before it, to sanction any particular offer made by the Government - irrespective of whether it be for a lease of the land at 13s., 15s., or 18s. per foot - in the absence of the slightest knowledge of its value, of the amount of rates which will be .imposed upon it, of the rentals that we shall obtain from offices - in short, without any knowledge of the considerations which an ordinary business man would have in his mind -is utterly unreasonable. If that is what is intended to be conveyed by this proposal I utterly repudiate it. I am prepared - upon trie assurance of. the Acting PrimeMinister - to assent to the proposal that it is desirable to establish Commonwealth offices, in London, and that the site in the Strand is a suitable one for the purpose if it can be obtained upon fair business terms. I gather that from what the Acting Prime Minister has said-
– If the honorable member wants to bind me to that he is wrong. I said that 1 would make an offer.
– I understand that. The honorable gentleman says that he will make an offer, and if it is accepted the contract will be a binding one. But we shall not be precluded - after that contract has been made - from criticising it from every point of - view when it comes, before Parliament.
– What will be the use of criticising it after the contract has-, been concluded ?
– A Government must accept responsibility for every contract into which it enters as an Executiveact.
– The honorablemember might say ‘the same thing in con’nexion with the mail contract.
– This contract will stand in precisely the same position as every other contract entered into by the Government as an Executive act. They enter into such undertakings at the ordinary constitutional risks. That is what I understood from the Acting Prime Minister.
– The honorable member is quite right.
– On that assumption there cannot be very much difference of opinion in the Chamber at the present time. We do not sign a blank cheque on that definite statement.
– In that case what is the use of the Government coming here at all? ‘
– I think it would have been wiser and bolder if the Government had decided to exercise to the fullest extent their responsibility. If they believe in the suitability of the site they ought to have taken that course.
– What sort of a time would I have had if I had done so?
– If the honorable gentleman had exercised the responsibility of his position, and obtained the site on terms such as I believe are reasonable, I, for one, would have cordially supported him. This is too important a matter to be made the butt of party warfare. I rose merely for the purpose of making it clear, that in acceding to the request of the Minister after his explanation, to pass the item, we simply say that if he can make a suitable bargain with the London County Council, we sanction his procuring a site for offices in London.
.- I thoroughly agree with the remark of the honorable member for Flinders that this is far too serious a matter to be made the butt of party warfare.
– Who has made it the butt of party warfare?
– Honorable members on the other side.
– The honorable member is only working up a party cry.
Mr.WISE. - It is only since honorable members have learned that the numbers are against them that they have come round in their views. To-day a number of charges have been made against the Acting Prime Minister which are perfectly disgraceful, and quite unjustifiable.
– Is it in order, sir, for an honorable member to. accuse honorable members on this side of making disgraceful charges?
– The honorable member was not in order in making that remark.
– I hardly know what language can be used here, sir, if I cannot describe the charges which have been made against the Acting Prime Minister as disgraceful. I do not dispute your ruling for a moment. I withdraw the remark, but I am afraid to use any word if I cannot use the word “disgraceful.”
– What are the “ disgraceful “ charges?
– The charges are utterly incorrect. Several times to-day the Acting Prime Minister has stated what he has just mentioned in reply to the honorable member for Flinders. It has been made to appear that within the last hour he has said something which he did not say before. He made the same statement earlier in the day. and on Friday, when the feeling in the Chamber was very different, and it had not been decided to make this proposal the butt of party warfare, the honorable gentleman said -
I desired to submit this proposal to honorable membersas early as possible, because the time has nearly expired during which I have the option from the London County Council for the purchase of this site in the Strand. I did not care to undertake the responsibility of making any arrangement until I had consulted with honorable members.
– This vote commits us to the site?
– That is the object of the vote.
– And to the building?
– No, it does not commit us to the building.
– The words used are “ Towards the construction of a building.”
– But before the building is decided upon, I shall submit plans to the House, andgive some information as to the amount of money that will be required. At present the desire is to secure the site. The price must be arranged with the County Council, and I had, practically, an offer of the site at 13s. a foot before I left London. However, since then there have been further applications, and a little higher price may now be demanded.
– It is only fair, however, to state that the basis of that statement was a maximum annual payment of £2,700.
– That is the reason which the Acting Prime Minister gave on
Friday for the vote. At the very beginning be said that there was no intention tocom- mit honorable members to the building.
– Is that the statement which he has made to-night?
– I do not know in what respect the statement he made to-night differs from that statement.
– There is a great difference between them.
– The only difference is that the statement of to-night is more elaborate than the statement of Friday. But honorable members are now satisfied with the proposal because they know the numbers are up.
-Who is satisfied withit?
-Honorable members have to be satisfied.
– The honorable member will see presently whether we are satisfied or not.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland concluded his speech with a statement that we have to be satisfied with the proposal. This afternoon I objected to the word “ party “ being used. During the debate the leader of the Labour Party and the honorable member for West Sydney, who support the Government invariably, were the strongest opponents ofthe proposal. The former said that he was opposed to it owing to the absence of proper information. Honorable members on this side took up exactly the same position, but when we speak in that strain it is called party warfare. I have been -watching the Minister of Trade and Customs very closely of late. I havediscovered that no man can fight as valiantly ashe does, can exhibit such a stiff upper lip as he does, when he knows that the numbers are up. He is a real study in politics. Within the last two months he has developed a new character, and one which I appreciate. He will not venture upon a fight until he knows that it is safe. As soon as he learns that it is safe we receive from him, not only a defence of a principle, but an attack upon us. He is always very brave when he has the numbers behind him. If we carry the item, and it is not party warfare, we shall insult not only ourselves, but the GovernorGeneral, who recommends an appropriation of £1,000 -
Towards construction of a building in the Strand, London, forCommonwealth offices.
We are now told that we shall be voting not for that proposal, but for something else. If ever a farce was played in poli- tical life it is being played to-night. The leader of the Government, who realizes that it is a mistake, was merely asked by the. acting leader of the Opposition to withdraw the item, and bring down another proposal. Sometimes more courage is shown by a . man in admitting a mistake than in forcing a proposal through a Chamber by mere numbers. Surely it will not be entered upon our records that the members of this Committee voted £1,000 ostensibly for one purpose, but actually for another purpose ? The Government have blundered ; the Acting Prime Minister has muddled the business. This afternoon I said I was not in a position to say whether this is the best or most suitable site. Honorable members who have been in London declare that it is a very good site. I was not cavilling at that but at the action of the Acting Prime Minister in saying that he intends to erect a building at a cost of £60,000, and then telling us that it is to be erected for the purpose of advertising the Commonwealth, and that Canada will have a building, erected at a cost of . £400, 000, practically nextdoor to our building. I opposed the item, because it will be simply a waste of money, and. what is more, I wanted to know how the Government intended to raise the necessary funds, assuming that this is the best way in which to advertise the Commonwealth. Does the honorable member for Gippsland mean to say that every honorable member who opposes the item does so for party purposes? Even supporters of the Government have opposed it. The honorable member for West Sydney has told us that he lived in the district for twenty years, and that a more unsuitable site could not be selected in London. He. is not an opponent of the Government, but. one of its strongest supporters. In my opinion, we could spend money better at the present time than in erecting a building such as is proposed. The Minister has had to make several speeches in order to explain his intentions. In the first instance, he gave us practically no. information, merely exhibiting three diagrams, and leaving us to choose that which attracted us most. At halfpast 6 o’clock, the Government would have been defeated if a division had then been taken in regard to the proposal, but now, owing to the information which has been drawn from the Minister, the position is different. In the first place, he brought the matter before the Committee merely as a compliment, but now he says that he will not do anything definite without the consent of Parliament. The bringing forward of this proposal has been merely an attempt to ascertain the feeling of honorable members. The honorable gentleman is glad to have to support the wide-awake Premier of Victoria, who, though less agile, has been able to run rings round him. Mr. Bent, with his eyes open, picked up a site at 13s. 6d. a square foot, and the Acting Prime Minister says ‘that he will keep as close to that figure as he can. But, earlier in the afternoon, he told us. that Captain Collins could not get what we wanted for less than 18s. a foot. The honorable member for Gippsland talks about party warfare; but he did’ not get up and defend the Ministry this afternoon when the item was in danger. It was only after he had received an assurance from the Whip that the position had been saved, that this courageous friend of the Government was brave enough to tell the Committee, “You will have to take it. The numbers are up.” Why did he not support the proposal earlier?
– I could not get in a word edgeways earlier in the evening.
– The honorable member would not get in himself. In my opinion, £60,000 -will be wasted if no return is gained from its ‘ expenditure.’ while £250,000 will be properly spent if its expenditure produces good results. But the Government has not told us how it is going to raise the money which will be required, and we have only about £100,000 to spare for extra expenditure. The Acting Prime Minister says that there is a mistake about the message. If so, why cannot he withdraw it, and substitute another? He says that he will do nothing until he has submitted his intentions to Parliament, and all the deputy leader of the Opposition wishes to do is to put that undertaking into words.
– I : shall not allow a division to be taken on this question until I have entered my protest against the. proposed expenditure. The Acting Prime Minister has made’ so many conflicting statements, “ that the Committee do not know the ‘true -position of affairs. He has told’ us that- the passing of ‘the item will- not. render us liable for- the’ cost of ‘ erecting buildings-, on . the proposed site’; but the-* Minister. ; of ; Trade .:and, Customs ‘ has allowed me to look at a copy of the agreement signed by the Victorian AgentGeneral on behalf of the Premier of this State, and I find that it is therein distinctly set out that within three calendar months of its signing the lessee shall submit to the Council for approval plans and elevations,’ and shall within four months after approver! plans and specifications have been signed by the architect commence the erection of thebuilding agreed upon. If he does not fulfil, this term of the agreement, he is to be liableto forfeit a certain sum. My eyes havebeen opened in regard to this matter as they never were before. I can hardly believe that .a man could use such involved languageas has been used by the Acting Prime Minister in explaining his intentions. I, for one, have been distinctly misled by him,, and at the present moment do not understand the position.
.- As I spoke against the item earlier in theevening, I wish to say a word or two more, now that the proposal has assumed a definiteshape. It is now understood’ that we are authorizing the Government to expend’ £1,000 in negotiating for the purchase of a very desirable site for Commonwealth’ offices in London. That I thoroughly approve of. I do not need to go into thedetails of the proposal, because they havebeen thoroughly threshed out; but the Acting Prime Minister having given a definite assurance that nothing will be done without parliamentary approval, I hope . that thedeputy leader of the Opposition will withdraw his amendment.
Mr.- Joseph Cook. - We have no definiteassurance.
– We have the Minister’s statements recorded in Hansard, which, is ‘quite enough for me. Parliamentary Government would cease if we could not accept a statement of that kind. I thinkthat it would be. a pity to press the amendment, and I hope the honorable gentlemanwill withdraw it.
.- I have listened attentively to the speeches of the Acting Prime Minister, the deputy leader of the Opposition, and the honorablemember for Flinders, and it seems to ‘me that if we give the Government authority to make a definite offer for this land, and’ the offer is accepted, the Commonwealth will be bound to lease it, and to build uponit. “ The honorable member for Flinders; stated that we are not giving the Government a blank cheque, but I’ think that that’- is what we are doing. Of course, we are throwing responsibility on the Administra-‘ tion, but that does not do away with our own responsibility. It seems to me that there is everything to recommend the amendment,- which merely provides that before absolutely binding the Commonwealth to a certain expenditure in connexion with a certain site in London, the Government shall make an offer which shall be subject to the ratification of Parliament. That is in accordance with a very common practice. My difficulty in the matter is that no businesslike proposition has been submitted to the Committee. We should have had before us a report drawn up by a qualified and practical man, giving particulars as to the value of the surrounding land, the kind of building the London County Council would expect us to erect, the possibilities there would be of letting portions of the building, and the revenue that might be so derived. I have not spoken from a party point of view, or because I am opposed to the establishment of Commonwealth offices in London. On the contrary, I think that that isi absolutely necessary, but. as a representative of the peop’le, and as a business man, I feel that the Government have not supplied the Committee with information which would warrant us in giving them the free hand in the matter for which thev ask. I shall therefore ha ve to oppose the vote.
.- I think this proposal is premature. We should appoint “ a High Commissioner to represent the Commonwealth in London before we arrange for the building he is to occupy. In the next place, I think that until the difficulty arising under the ‘Braddon section of the Constitution is satisfactorily met, it would be folly ito proceed with any proposal involving a large expenditure of money, since to provide for an expenditure of £250,000 in connexion with the proposed site, we should require to raise four times that amount through the Customs House.
– Not if the amount, were raised by loan,.
– Such an interjection coming from the Labour corner really astonishes me. I thought that members of the Labour Party were as strongly opposed to the “inauguration of a loan policy by the Commonwealth, as to anything connected with Commonwealth politics. When this matter was first referred to I thought that it was one’ of urgency, and thai the
Acting Prime Minister had only until Thursday next to decide as to this site. I understood that if it was not decided to take this land by that time, the opportunity to secure one of the best sites in the metropolis of the world would be gone for ever. I have listened attentively to the debate, and on the subject of the value of the proposed site no speech impressed me so much as’ that of the honorable member for West Sydney. The honorable member declared that he had lived in London for twenty years, and when lately revisiting that city, he found the circumstances connected with the locality of the proposed site had ‘ remained practically unchanged from what they were in his boyhood. He further stated that for one person who passes on the side of the thoroughfare on which the proposed site is situated, from twenty to one hundred pass on the other side. When the time is ripe, I should like to see a great Commonwealth building erected in London, in which the States might each have separate offices, for which they would pay a proportion of the rent charged by the London County Council. I think the building should be one from which we might expect to receive considerable revenue, sufficient in excess of that received from the States to cover the balance payable to the London County Council, and also to provide a sinking fund to meet the co?t of the building, so that when the lease had run out, the money expended by the Commonwealth would- have been returned. That is what, as business people, we should try to do. Apart from that consideration, we should have a very fine building in London, because our great rival in the immigration market, Canada, is erecting a palatial structure which will serve as a. symbol of her riches and prosperity. If the Commonwealth is to be a business rival of Canada’ in London, we must have a building and equipment which will rival that of our sister Dominion. If we are to do justice to the Commonwealth in this matter, and it is agreed that the. site proposed is a satisfactory site, we should secure as much of the land as possible, and erect a building which, in addition to providing office requirements for the representative of Victoria, in the first place, and subsequently of the other States, would return a revenue, be a credit to the Commonwealth, arid be built with some regard .to the- time during which it is to remain the property of the Commonwealth. ‘ To .spend only £66,000 on such a building would be to throw money away. We should deal with the matter on a business basis, and make provision for a revenue from our investment which will recoup our outlay. At the present time, although somewhat reluctantly, I am compelled to oppose the vote.
– This matter has not yet been made quite clear. If it is made clear, I shall have all the pleasure in the world in withdrawing my amendment. I should like to understand, from the Acting Prime Minister, what he means by making an offer for the site to the London County Council. It is clearly stated in the memorandum circulated amongst honorable members, that the honorable gentleman, when in London, had an interview with the valuer of the London County Council, and received information as to the building conditions, terms of lease, &c. As to the building conditions not one word has been vouchsafed by the Acting Prime Minister ; and at this moment we are in complete ignorance on the point. Yet we are told that the matter has been made perfectly clear. We must remember that this site is not all that is in question, but that we are practically deciding also as to the building. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance for us to know to what building conditions we are likely to commit ourselves in giving this wide power to the Minister to negotiate. The memorandum goes on to state -
The Council have laid down stringent regulations as to the class of buildings which may be erected in this neighbourhood -
What are the regulations? They may be stringent or lenient ; but we have not been told one word about them. This much, however, is made clear in the memorandum the intention is to make it architecturally one of the finest parts of the whole of London.
– With £60,000 !
– It is ridiculous ! To erect a building which will assist in making the Strand architecturally one of the finest parts of London means a huge expenditure. I understand that all these leases have building covenants attached ; and I take it, therefore, that before any offer will be received by the London County Council, those building conditions will be stipulated. Is that not so?
– I do not want to fix myself, as it were, technically, so that the honorable member may say afterwards that I have not done exactly as I said I would. I shall find out what the building conditions are, very likely tomorrow. At any rate, I shall try to do so ; but they will be ordinary building conditions.
– Do I understand the Acting Prime Minister to say that, after he has submitted his offer, which I understand will not be a definite offer-
– Yes, it will.
– But it will be subject to the making of a contract?
– Then, before the contract is finally decided on and settled, do I understand that the whole matter will be submitted to honorable members ?
– I will not promise that.
– The Acting Prime Minister will not promise that the contract will be submitted to honorable members.
– The contract will be submitted to honorable members, inasmuch as it will be laid on the table. I do not know that I shall move its confirmation, but it will be laid on the table. However, I am not a schoolboy to be catechized as to whether I shall do this or that.
– Is it not becoming clear that the honorable member has been playing a trick on honorable members in bringing down this proposal ?
– That is not fair.
– It is not unfair, I think. The Acting Prime Minister said that he Came to us for authority to negotiate, and now he tells us he will make an offer.
– I said that at the time.
– And, further, the Acting Prime Minister says that he will not consult us as to the terms and conditions.
– I did not say anything of the kind; I said I would lay the terms and conditions on the table of the House.
– Yes, after the contract is settled.
-I did not say that.
– TheActing Prime Minister might as well have completed the business without consulting the Parliament at all. I wish honorable members to be very clear that the Acting Prime Minister is going to submit nothing to Parliament until the contract is finally settled.
– I did not say so.
– The Acting Prime Minister has said so now.
– I have not said so.
– What does the Acting Prime Minister say he will do?
– I have nothing further to say.
– I am anxious to know the exact position. Very well, my amendment will stand.
.- A simple business process would be to adjourn the discussion until to-morrow,, the Acting Prime Minister in the meantime to cable to the London County Council, and get an offer for the land, together with the building conditions. We should then know what we are doing, and not, in the dark, commit the country to an expenditure of £500,000. There is not the slightest doubt that the purchase of the site involves the erection of a building; and it will be no use later to tell the Government that they have neglected their duty. What would the Government care? They have been told so a hundred times ; but with the support they have in the corner they are allpowerful.
.-I certainly understood on Friday that the desire of the Acting Prime Minister was to be placed in possession of £1,000 in order to secure the option or right to negotiate for a lease of a site in what I regard as a most desirable part of London. We have heard all sorts of conflicting statements to-day, many of which I consider are at entire variance with our estimate of the position on Friday. A few moments ago I understood the Acting Prime Minister to say that he wanted this money more as an expression of opinion that honorable members are favorable to the erection in London of Common wealth offices to be known as the Australian Buildings, and to the purchase for that purpose of a site on reasonable terms. I believe that such an option or purchase, if secured, can cause no financial loss to the Government ; but, if. the Acting Prime Minister imagines that I am. prepared to vote for this expenditure, with the prospect of placing in the hands of the Government, responsible or irresponsible as they may regard themselves to honorable members, the huge expenditure which has been mentioned, he is quite mistaken. I should like it to be understood that by this vote to-night we. express our concurrence in the desirability of securing a domicile for the High Commissioner, who, I hope, will be appointed at no distant date ; but it has not yet been made clear as to how far we are committing ourselves to the building that may be erected. The acquiring of a leasehold from, the owner, pure and simple, is an operation which will involve very little if any, expense; but we may be committedto a character of building quite unsuitable for subsequent purchasers.
– I have informed honorable members four times that I shall accept no building conditions until honorable members have had an opportunity of considering the matter.
– But the answers of the Acting Prime Minister to the honorable member f or Parramatta rather stultify his assurances.
– Thank you !
– I have risen simply to make it clear that so far as I am personally concerned, the responsibility rests with the Government. I fear that they will not obtain a lease from the London County Council which does not also involve a building contract. Is the Acting Prime Minister prepared to say that he will not enter into any contract if there is a building condition attached to it? That is the whole matter in a nutshell. If we can secure this site at a price somewhat similar to that paid by Mr. Bent we need not fear the risk, because if Parliament afterwards decided not to go on with the business it would be possible to sell the lease at a very small loss, if any. But if there is to be a building condition attached to the lease it is quite another matter. If the Acting Prime Minister will tell me that he adheres to the assurance that this vote is intended simply to enable him to secure a prior right to a building lease, I shall vote for it. Will he give me that assurance?
– I am not going to make any other statement, except that I adhere to what I have said in reply to the honorable member for Grampians and the honorable member forFlinders.
– They are not the whole Opposition corner.
– A new leader ! Why does not the honorable member put the Government out? .
– I would do so tomorrow if I could.
– It is recognised that this should be a non-party question. Surely if there is any matter upon which we can vote without respect of party it is this, in connexion with which we simply desire to make a reasonable, rational, and proper bargain.
’. - I should not have spoken except for the remarks of the honorable member for Indi, who never rises without attacking the members of the party to which I belong. If I entertained the enmity against, any man in this House that the honorable member entertains towards us, I would get out of Parliament quick and lively. The honorable member seems to be unable to speak on any question’ without abusing some of us.
– He cannot help it.
– I suppose not. With regard to the “push” in the Opposition corner, I am reminded of what was once said by a member of the Queensland Parliament concerning the Defence Forces of that State. He said that the forces consisted of all officers and no privates. That is exactly the position of the Opposition corner - they are all officers. Each member is a leader in himself. The honorable member for Indi has had the assurance to say that, if he could, he would put the Government out to-morrow. If he could put them out, Mr. Chairman ! I have no .doubt, however, that he would put himself out before he was able to put this Government out. As regards’ the acquisition of a site in London for the purpose of advertising the Commonwealth, I venture to say that if one landed at Tilbury and inquired where the offices of the AgentsGeneral for the Australian . States were, not one cockney in a dozen would be able to give an answer. To erect a noble building for advertising purposes would, in my opinion, be simply throwing money away. I lived in London for a year or two, and know the site in question as well as I know where this House stands. From a business point of view, it- is undoubtedly one of the best sites that could be secured. The Strand was always one of the prin cipal thoroughfares in London. In fact it is one of the sights of London. As to. there having been no alteration for twenty years, let me say that I do not suppose that there has been any part of London* that has been so much improved. Wherethe Law Courts now stand in the Strand,. Temple Bar used to be. There was a narrow street with a church standing in the middle of the road, the Strand running towards the city, to the right of it, and Holywellstreet, the book row, to the left. The whole of the buildings in the vicinity have been pulled down, with the exception of the two churches, St. Clement Danes and St.. Mary’s in the Strand. They still stand! in the centre. There is now a broad road1 running right from the Strand to Holborn, and where there used to be a crowd of rookeries running through Longacre, St.. Giles and Seven Dials - simply a collection of narrow lanes - there is now a fine broad thoroughfare. . We have been- told that there are no business places in the vicinity of the site in question, but, as a matter of fact, all the principal theatres are quiteclose. On the south side-r-the part of the Strand leading to Charing Cross - are- the offices of the illustrated newspapers, some very fine shops, and the road leading to Waterloo Station. Some ‘ of the oldest businesses in London are to be found there. Only a day or two ago I was looking at the London directory, and found that there are still some of the firms that were- there, when- -I was% a- boy. I do not cavil at the site, but I fear the conditions. If we are to erect a building costing £250,000 on land of which we have only a ninety-nine years lease, and at the end of that time the building, is to become; the property of the .lessors, then, I- think we might make a better bargain.
.- I rise only to deal with the point raised by the honorable member for Kooyong. I wish. the Committee to clearly understand that if. the proposed vote be- agreed to, and the Acting Prime Minister enters into a contract with the London’ County Council, weshall be committed to a building lease.
– There -is no ques- - tion about that.
– We are told that thebuilding lease contemplated will be a stringent one ; that under it the Government will , have to conform to the wishes, not of this Parliament, but of the London-
County Council. Even if the Acting Prime Minister submits the plans to Parliament, we shall not have the determination of the class of building to be erected. That is a question which will be determined by the architect to the London County Council. The building must be of a certain character.
-It must not be unsightly ; and no one wants it to be.
– Quite so. But it must also be a six-story structure, and such as to commend itself to the architect to the London County Council.
– The land is so valuable, that one would not think of erecting on it a building of less than six stories. Even in Post-office Place, Sydney, eight or nine story buildings are being erected.
– I wish merely to emphasize the point that by agreeing to the proposed vote, we shall bind ourselves to a building lease, and to erect a building, not in accordance with our own designs, but according to plans approved by the London County Council.
– Building plans of this character have to be approved in almost every part of the civilized world.
– I would also remind the Committee that under the agreement made between Mr. Bent, on behalf of Victoria, and the London County Council, the plans of the proposed building have to be submitted to the architect to the London County Council within three months and that within four months from their being approved the construction of the building must be entered upon.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority …. …11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the proposed vote be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I voted in the last division for the ayes under a misapprehension. I had intended to vote on the other side. I did not hear the question put, or I should have crossed the floor.
Department of Defence
Division 8 (New special defence provision), £342,000, less £125,950, which may not be expended during the year.
Item 1. Harbor and Coastal Defences, £250,000
– I desire to know from the Acting Prime Minister what his intentions are with regard to this new departure in naval policy. I suggested on Friday that the matter should be allowed to stand over until a full and explicit declaration was made to the Committee of the “hew naval policy of the Government. I added that it might very well be left over for consideration until the general Estimates were proceeded with.
– With regard to the item “ Harbor and coastal defences, £256,000,” the particulars which the Prime Minister wishes to give to the House are not quite ready. I do not therefore propose to proceed with that item, and the Prime Min”ister will bring it . up in a special Bill.
– Then it will be deleted from these Estimates?
-It will not be moved. I hope I have’ done the right thing ‘ this time. I wish to emphasize the fact that the Prime Minister is not quite ready at the present moment with some details which he wishes to obtain before he makes his explanation to the House. The course I am taking now is in accord with his wishes. I hope that at the earliest date, when he has the full particulars available, he will be able to take charge of the matter in the House himself, and to give full particulars of the attitude of the Government in regard to the question of defence. As honorable members are aware, this particular item has reference to our coastal defences, that is to say, the building of torpedo boats and small craft, such as gunboats and submarines. The matter, of course, will involve considerable .negotiation, and when the Prime Minister is able to give honor able members information in regard to it - which I hope he will be in a position to do before very long - it will be given fully. I said to-night that the Prime Minister intended - and I believe that it is still his intention - to be present at the sitting of the House to-morrow. I do not think that he proposes to do any active work lest bad results should follow. But he is very anxious to be back amongst honorable members preparatory to taking that active part in our deliberations which he has always taken.
– Move the omission of the item.
– I do not think there is any necessity to do that. The Committee will not be asked to pass it. With regard to the items “ Small Arms Factory, £32,000,” “ Cordite Factory, £10,000,” and “ Guns, Lights and Emplacements for Fixed Defences, £50,000,” an explanation will be made by the Minister of Defence, which I hope will be satisfactory to honorable members.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister to consent to an adjournment of the debate. We are now about to consider items which involve two distinctly new departures.
– We have the Tariff to consider yet.
– I do not think that the Government regard the passing of the Tariff as a matter of urgency, seeing that they propose to interrupt its consideration with other business.
– According to the Opposition, there is not much urgency about passing it.
– The honorable member is at liberty to say anything that he chooses, irrespective of whether it be correct or incorrect. I venture to say that there was a great deal less talk from honorable members from this side of the Chamber who were opposed to the last item than from honorable members upon the other side.
– That is not correct. The honorable, member himself spoke upon four occasions. It seemed like forty, but it was only four.
– Is the honorable member taking possession of the Chamber again? He is like a dancing doll. I suggest that it is time to adjourn.
It is nearly11 o’clock, and the consideration of the items with which it is proposed to proceed will occupy some time.
. -I trust that the Committee will make an effort to deal with the remaining items of these Estimates to-night. In every newspaper to-day, as well as in private letters that we receive, particularly from business persons, we are being assured that the Tariff is an urgent matter. I agree that it is, and that we ought to do something to get it out of hand.
– Will the Government go on with the Tariff when these items are disposed of?
– The honorable member must know that there is another very important measure awaiting consideration - I refer to the Judiciary Bill.
– It is very important, but it is not urgent.
– Is it as important as is the Tariff?
– I think that it is. We do not want to have too many authorities deciding questions which may arise under the Constitution. The proposal to establish Commonwealth offices in London has been discussed at inordinate length, and the fact that it isnow half-past 10 o’clock affords no reason why we should not dispose of the remaining items of these Estimates to-night.
– It is now twenty minutes to 11 o’clock, so that the honorable member is as inaccurate as usual.
– The honorable member is in a beastly state of exactitude, seeing that he wishes to pull me up for the sake of a discrepancy of ten minutes.
– The honorable member has not been present in the Chamber throughout the entire sitting.
– I listened to the droning of the Opposition until I was sick of It, and had to retire.
– The honorable member made a speech against the proposal of the Government, and then voted for it.
– I obtained information in respect of it which was quite satisfactory to me.
– At any rate, the speech of the honorable member caused me to oppose it.
– The items relating to the establishment of “a small arms factory, a cordite factory,’ and to guns, lights, and emplacements, involve a total expenditure of £92,000. They are items upon which there can be practically no disagreement.
– The honorable member must not think that..
– Every honorable member upon the opposite side of the Chamber, who has any responsibility, has complained’ that we have no small arms or cordite factory in Australia, and honorable members upon this side of the Chamber entertain a similar view. But now that action is proposed to be taken to remedy the existing state of things-
-Every honorable member upon this side of the Chamber has the same measure of responsibility.
– I should be very sorry to think that the honorable member has the same measure of responsibility as have-. some other honorable members. It would be a bad thing for Australia if he had. There is every reason why we should proceed with the consideration of the items to which I have referred to-night.
– As item 1 is not being proceeded with, I shall now put item 2.
Item a - Small Arms Factory, £32,000.
– It would be unreasonable to ask any honorable member to vote for a proposal to establish a small arms factory in Australia, “in the absence of a Ministerial statement of the position.. I shall endeavour to be as brief as possible, taking it for granted that every honorable member is in favour of the principle involved in. the Government proposal. If any honorable member should afterwards desire fuller information on any point, I shall be glad to give it. I presume I need not enter into the question of whether Australia could obtain rifles in time of war. The probability is that at such a time we could not purchase them anywhere. When arms were wanted during the Boer War firms of great repute refused to sell arms of any description to Great Britain.
– Who were they?
– Krupp was one, and it went further than that. At that time Great Britain was not able to supply arms and munitions for her own forces. If war were to break out to-morrow we should probably not be able to purchase arms, and if we were we should have to run the gauntlet to get them to Australia. Some (honorable members may ask : Why can we mot lay in a stock of rifles in time of peace? It would appear to be feasible to save this expenditure if that could be done. But if honorable members will recollect for a moment that a rifle costs £5 7s., and that to lay in 100,000 rifles would mean an expenditure of over £500,000, it must be obvious to them that an alteration in the type of rifle would land’ us in the loss of that sum, which would be sufficient to build more than half a dozen rifle factories. A rifle factory does not become so certainly and rapidly obsolete. A large storage of rifles may become obsolete very rapidly. The Committee is asked to vote £32,000, which is approximately one-half of the cost of a rifle factory. That will provide an up-to-date factory, which will be able to turn out not only rifles, but cadet rifles, bayonets, revolvers, and everything of that description.
– Who is the authority for the cost?
– I have two local and two English estimates. I can give the names if necessary.
– What will be the output of the factory?
– I shall tell the honorable member in a moment or two. The estimate of £65,000 does not include the cost of the building in Australia, but in our climate we can put up a good building with an iron roof for a few thousand pounds.
– Is not the cost of the building included in that estimate ?
– No; it covers only the machinery, plant, power, and everything of that kind.
– What a silly estimate to submit ! Why not include the total cost in the vote?
– I would say that the building should cost about , £10,000.
– Why not ask the Committee to vote the whole of the money ?
– I am only asking for onehalf of the cost of the plant now. That amount is ample for this year’s expenditure.
– Does not the Minister propose to erect the plant at once ?
– In the open air?
– I consider that if the plant is running within eighteen months or two years, we shall have done very well. T.he balance of the money required will be voted next year.
– This is not a complete estimate. It is silly and ignorant to present the matter in this way.
– Fault can be found with everything which a person does. I have stated that the estimated cost of the plant and machinery is £65,000, and of the building probably £10,000, making a total of £75,000.
– Why did not the Minister state that the money is required for machinery and plant instead of for a small arms factory? When a man proposes to establish a factory, he is supposed to provide a building.
– If honorable members will look at the bottom of the page they will see that the total cost of the factory is estimated at £65,000.
– A plant cannot be called a factory.
– According to the footnote, the “ small arms factory “ is to cost £65,000.
– If it be desired to make the amount £75,000, I shall offer no objection ; but I cannot utilize the money this year.
– The point is, will’ any portion of this vote of £.32,000 be used in connexion with the building?
– No. My idea is to let a contract for the whole of the plant. I am informed that it will take fifteen or eighteen months to prepare the plant. Next year will be time enough for me to ask honorable members to vote the balance of the money.
– It is a ridiculous way of submitting the proposal.
– I am sure that no honorable member who is finding fault with my method will trouble very much whether the building is to cost £10,000 or £50,000 ; he will vote the money.
– If it is to cost £1,000 or £100,000, the Committee should be asked to make provision for the erection of a complete factory.
– If my honorable friend knew the difficulties which beset the matter, I think he would be a little more lenient in his observations.
– The Minister can shake up his officers. This is an unfair way in which to submit the proposal.
– This is not a matter which can be done in a day. The building should be decided upon after the site is chosen.
– Does this estimate come from Colonel Stanley, late Chief of Ordnance ?
– I do not think that he would dream of giving an estimate for the details of a rifle factory, because that is the work of specialists. The honorable member for South Sydney inquired about the output of the rifle factory. With an eight hours shift, it would produce fifty rifles a day, and the plant will be equal, working three shifts, to the production of 150 complete rifles a day. I estimate that 15,000 or 16,000 rifles per annum ought to be sufficient for us in time of peace. With a possible daily output of 150 rifles, the factory would give us material help in time of war.
– We would make almost as many in one year as we would need.
– In view of the expansion of the military rifle clubs and the cadet systems, I hope that for many years we shall be requiring 16,000 rifles a year.
– Running full time, the factorv would turn out 45,000 rifles a vear.
– Working three shifts a day. it would, approximately.
– Our forces are supposed to be fairly well armed now.
– Our supply of uptodate rifles is 55,000. When the vote for this year has been passed, and the order executed, we shall have between 60,000 and 70,000 rifles, and there are 21,000 single loaders in stock. Australia should not be satisfied with about 60,000 rifles. An imported rifle costs £5 7s. Allowing for Australian wages and conditions, a rifle should be produced in Australia at a cheaper price than has been paid for the imported one. No community is selfsupporting if it simply puts together parts of articles which it imports. So effort has been made to ascertain whether not only the machinery to make the rifles would be complete, but whether Australia at the present time can furnish the steel and the wood. I am pleased to be able to say that there will be no trouble in regard to the wood. The question has been tested, and a statement has been made by the War authorities in England that at least three kinds of Australian wood are satisfactory; and doubtless the number could, be extended. Further investigations are in progress. I cannot speak so definitely as to the steel required ; but we all believe that it will not be long before we shall be able to make rifles from steel manufactured in Australia. However, the importation of steel is not quite so important as honorable members might think, because the total value of the, material in a rifle is only about us. 3d. The question of cost in regard to the establishment of a factory is not one that troubles me, because £10,000 or £[20,000, more or less, does .not matter - we have to make the rifles here whatever the cost; and they can be made quite as cheaply, in fact, I believe more so. than they can be imported. I shall not deal with the question of the site of the factory at present, but before any steps are taken honorable members will be consulted. Honorable members will realize how difficult it is, in these times of State jealousy, to steer clear of complications ‘we would gladly avoid. The factory must be situated in the best place for Australia, irrespective of party obligations or political purposes to be served. Every member, of course, would like to have the factory situated in his own State or electorate.
– I am satisfied that the people of Queensland would say that Lithgow is the best place.
– The question of site is an important one, and I should like honorable members to consider whether it would not be possible to adopt the procedure followed in Victoria and New South Wales in regard to railway construction, and have a Committee appointed composed of halfadozen men in whom we have perfect confidence.
Colonel Foxton. - Are not the Government half-a-dozen men in whom we have perfect confidence?
– That may be; but the selection of a site for the factory is a serious matter ; and I shall make a statement later on, and take honorable members fully into my confidence. I only mention the matter tentatively at present, and assure honorable members that no steps will be taken without their being informed.
– Where does the Minister suggest that the site should be?
– My desire is that honorable members should discuss the question.
– Decide on -the principle first, and discuss the question of site afterwards.
– That is the course which it is proposed to take.
– Do 1 understand the Minister to suggest that a Committee of the House should be appointed to make inquiries ?
– Any course may be adopted that will give the best results. A Minister has power to do much, but the controlling body is Parliament, and I look for the assistance of honorable members. It was the honorable member for Parkes who, I believe, aided in passing the Bill in the New South Wales Parliament appointing a Public Works Committee to assist the Government of that State.
– I do not think that, as a Minister, I ever proposed to shunt my responsibility.
– The honorable member, to my knowledge, when a member of the New South Wales Ministry, passed dozens of railways projects, in respect of each of which the Government utilized the Public Works Committee.
– That was a Standing Committee for the purpose of examining into railway proposals.
– First of all, I take it that honorable members are agreed as to the desirability of establishing a. small arms factorv ; and, whether the cost be £60,000 or £80,000 does not matter, because the factory has to be established.
– If we vote the money, how soon will the Government start operations ?
– I should say that if the factory be opened within eighteen months or two years we shall have done well.
– But when will the Government begin to expend the money?
– The honorable member for Barrier was referring to the making of rifles. I should think that a commencement with orders for machinery would be made within a couple of months.
– Before the site has been selected?
– The question of site does not affect the ordering of machinery. Any estimate in regard to the building should be delayed until the site has been chosen.
.- The Government are to be commended for taking some definite business-like steps in this matter, though in regard to their method of presenting the item in the Estimates they are to be condemned. The item is “ Small arms factory, £32,000,” whereas we are now told that the cost will be £65,000.
– With £10,000 added for a building.
– The estimate should have appeared- as one for a complete factorv to produce small arms.
– The estimates for the machinery vary from £49,000 to £65,000.
– Nothing preserves the harmony of procedure more than to present all proposals in the clearest possible way. But for the explanation I should have thought that the £65,000 was for the complete equipment of a small arms factory. I agree entirely with the policy of the Government, because it is high time we had a factory of the kind under Commonwealth supervision and control. The honorable member for Maranoa and others have consistently advocated the establishment of a small arms factory for our own preservation and the protection of the public revenue. We are now told by the Minister of Defence that, by the establishment of a factory, we shall not only get more up-to-date weapons, but will procure them more cheaply than we could import them. My own opinion is that we ought also to manufacture many of our heavier guns at the earliest moment. Credit should be given to those honorable members who earlier in the history of this Parliament persistently advocated the establishment of not only a small arms factory, but other factories for the production of articles necessary to the public welfare. I object to. the Minister’s statement that it will be eighteen months before anything is done.
– No ; I said before rifles are made.
– I take it that before any rifles are made there will be a roof over the factory, and there should, therefore, have been an estimate submitted of the probable cost of the building.
– And the site in view, also.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. What we have to consider is whether it is net essential and urgent that there should be a small arms factory established in the Commonwealth. We have had enough of provincial considerations as to where public money should be expended.
– That is not the question at all.
– Honorable members should try to remember that this is an Australian Parliament, and that the local manufacture of arms is necessary for the protection of Australia. It is not a question of spending a particular amount of money in a particular Commonwealth electorate.
– Is that the only consideration that enters into the selection of the site?
– The selection of the site is a purely Executive matter, for which the Government should be called to account by the Opposition if they make an error. I commend the Government for taking the initial step in this matter, and my only complaint is that they have not submitted a complete scheme.
– I would like to ask the Minister to inform the Committee as to whether any difficulty is likely to arise in connexion with patent rights in the manufacture of rifles. The existence of German or French patents might preclude the manufacture of certain rifles in the Commonwealth.
– The Minister might, in answering the question, mention the class of rifle proposed to be made.
– The proposal at present is that the rifle manufactured shall be the up-to-date English rifle. No such difficulty as that suggested, by the honorable member for Parkes is likely to arise. The matter obtruded itself some time ago, and, on making inquiries at that time from the Imperial authorities, and also from manufacturers, we were informed that there would be no difficulty of the kind suggested.
– That might be so in respect of a particular rifle.
– I am talking of the present up-to-date short rifle. Half these rifles, approximately, are made by the Imperial Government and one-half by outside contractors. The matter referred to has been inquired into, and we are informed that such a difficulty as has been suggested is not likely to arise.
– The Minister will recollect that . the patent for the Brennan torpedo became very valuable, and the British Government purchased it for something like £150,000 or £200,000. I am supposing a case in which some great innovation is introduced in the construction of rifles by some French or German inventor, and I should like to know whether there would be any legal difficulty which might prevent the adoption of such an innovation in the manufacture of our rifles.
– My reply can only be with respect to existing conditions. With regard to anything that may happen subsequently we must take our chance; but, as things are at present, no difficulty is likely to arise in connexion with patent rights in the manufacture of rifles.
– I appreciate the humour of the honorable member for Franklin in saying that honorable members of the Labour Party speak in one way and vote in another. What troubles the honorable member is that we vote straight every time. If there is one thing about which I am more pleased than another it is to see this vote included in this year’s Estimates.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.’]
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
It has been said outside that the House adjourns too early at night, and that business should be proceeded with in order that we may begin the consideration of the Tariff. I can only say that the Government are very anxious that certain business shall be dealt with promptly in. order that we may get to the Tariff. I should have been very glad if the Government could have carried the vote for the establishment of a small arms factory to-night.
– Honorable members on the Government side have done all the talking on the vote.
– As honorable members opposite had begun to direct attention to the state of the Committee, I did not care to run the risk of a count-out. In the circumstances, the responsibility for our not proceeding further to-night must lie with the Opposition.
– The last statement made by the Acting Prime Minister is as unfair and unjust as any that has ever been made in this Chamber. Since the Government announced their intention to proceed with the vote for the small arms and ammunition factory no word has been said on this side. All the talking has been on the Ministerial side of the Chamber. For the Acting. Prime Minister to say now that the responsibility for not passing this item must rest on members of the Opposition is as unfair as his statements generally are.
– When the Opposition Whip called attention to the state of the Committee, it was time to report progress.
.-As there seems to be a determination to keep honorable members here to unreasonable hours at night, I wish to know whether it would not be possible to improve the ventilation of the Chamber.
– The whole building should be blown up.
– During the whole, or the greater part, of the sitting, the atmosphere has been abominable, its foulness being distinctly noticeable when one enters it after having been ‘in the outer air for a short time. It is cruel to ask us to breathe such an atmosphere for hours at a stretch.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Personally, I find that if I remain in the Chamber for a couple of hours continuously, I suffer from violent headaches, and several other honorable members have complained to me of similar ill effects.
– Prior to this session, complaints about the bad state of the air in this Chamber were very frequent, but, just before the meeting of Parliament, very considerable alterations were made, and tests which have been applied by the placing of thermometers in different parts of it show that until to-night the new system has worked admirably. If anything has gone wrong this evening, it is beyond my knowledge and experience, but I shall know tomorrow morning whether there has been any failure. I am sure that it is the desire of all the members of the House Committee to do everything possible for the convenience of honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19070924_reps_3_39/>.