9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Clerk informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon. F. W. Bamford) took the chair at11 a.m and read prayers.
Use in America of Australian Exhibits.
– Has the Prime Minister received a cablegram from Mr. Mackinnon, Australian Commissioner in the United States of America, requesting that at the close of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley the Australian exhibits on view there should be forwarded to the United States of America and displayed in one of the principal American cities ?
– I have no knowledge of any such cablegram, and I do not think one has been received.
– I understand that a cablegram in the terms I have indicated has been received in Australia. If the Australian Commissioner in the United States of America makes representations to the Government, will the Government favorably consider the proposal?
– The matter will receive the fullest and most sympathetic consideration of the Government.
– Some time ago I asked the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) a question about the pensions drawn by soldiers of various ranks. He promised to have the information compiled. When can the House expect to receive it?
– I informed the honorable member, when he asked the question, that to obtain the information he desired would bo a long and very difficult process. His request is being carried out.
– Some time ago the Government appointed a Special Committee to deal with those cases of soldiers’ pensions which the ordinary Medical Board or Repatriation Commission could not handle. I understand that the Committee has not functioned, and that nothing has been done to make it function. Have the Government taken any steps to make it effective?
– The honorable member will rememberthat a discussion took place in this House upon the subject to which he has referred. The Government very much regret that the Committee has not functioned effectively, for it believes that it could do very useful work in the interests of soldiers. A certain attitude that has been adopted has rendered the work of the Committee nugatory. The Government sincerely hope that the honorable gentlemen concerned will reconsider their attitude, and will assist in trying to carry out what should be a most useful work.
– On that subject I desire to make a personal explanation. The Prime Minister is speaking under a misapprehension. The Committee that was appointed was called together by the Repatriation Department. It received no instructions from the Government as to what it was to inquire into. It was precluded from making any inquiry from returned soldiers, and I, as a member of it, refused to sit merely to examine the official documents of the Department.
Treatment of Special Constables
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement recently made in the press that the men who came to the rescue of the State of Victoria, and volunteered as special constables when some of the regular police mutinied, are now being prejudiced in their applications for other employment? Will he give an undertaking that any of these men applying for employment in the Commonwealth Public Service shall have their applications considered on their merits, and shall not in any way be prejudiced because they stood for law and order?
– A deputation waited upon my colleague the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) yesterday, and his reply was in conformity with the suggestions made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning). That reply was brought to my notice last night, and I said that I entirely concurred in it. I assure the House that applications by these men for employment in the Federal Government Service will be considered on their merits, and that the men will in no way be prejudiced by their action.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that a number of the men who came to the assistance of the Victorian Government in its hour of need, and restored law and order, have been dismissed from their employment by the State? Has he noticed that the State, following its usual practice, has thrown them out like dirty water, as soon as they had served its purpose ?
– I have not observed that the action mentioned by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) has been taken by the State Government, and I would not credit the statement that any such action has been taken.
Operations of Land Agents in England.
– The other day an advertisement from a British newspaper was brought under my notice. It made it apparent that a Sydney firm was still occupying portion of Australia House, and was advertising that it had for sale the only freehold land in the Federal Capital Territory and at Jervis Bay. Has the Prime Minister seen the papers relating to the matter? These, I understand, are in the possession of the Works and Railways Department. Will he take action to prevent that firm from further deceiving the British public?
– The action to which the honorable member refers has been brought under my notice, and I cabled definite instructions to the High Commissioner that he should make it quite clear that the firm referred to had no connexion with or authority from the Australian Government. I also sent instructions that no tenancy at Australia House should be permitted to any firm the nature of whose business might lead to the misunderstanding by the British public that the firm was connected with or authorized by the Australian Government.
– Has the Prime Minister made any inquiries in Australia with a view to ascertaining who are the Australian representatives of the company that is responsible for the advertisement? I would like to know the name of the firm, and the name of the individuals who represent it in Australia.
– The whole of the circumstances are still under examination. That about which we are most concerned is that even though people may be taking the most innocent action, the idea must not be conveyed to the British public that these private individuals are authorized by the Government, or are in any way working in co-operation with the Australian authorities,
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the request that has teen made by the dairy farmers of Queensland for legislation to give statutory recognition to a Federal organization of the dairying industry -
Will he supply honorable members with a copy of the draft Bill which was put before a Federal Conference of dairy men by the then Minister, Mr. Massy Greene, with a view to the Federal organization of the dairying industry?
Will the Minister consider how far that scheme may be adapted to meet the present request?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Steps are being taken to obtain the information asked for, and I shall have pleasure in furnishing it to the honorable member when it comes to hand.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will supply the following information : -
1 ) Total number of staff and others employed at Duntroon, Jervis Bay Naval College, Point Cook, and Flinders Base, respectively? (2)Total cost of the respective staffs up to end of financial year 1922-23?
Total cost of the respective staffs up to date for the present financial year, and the estimated cost to end of present financial year?
Total cost of the respective staffs for 1921-22?
– The information is being obtained, and the honorable member will be informed as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Plans for the erection of a new post-office building at Bulli are now in course of preparation, and the work will be proceeded with as early as practicable. Funds towards the cost of this work are available.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he has any message of cheer, hope, or relief for those grape-growers of South Australia who recently sold their grapes in the vineyard at the rate of 5 lbs. for1d.?
– The matter has been receiving very earnest consideration with a view to finding an effective means of placing the grape-growing industry on a satisfactory basis. As a step in this direction the duty on imported brandy has been increased by 5s. per gallon. The Tariff Board, which is investigating the question, is preparing a further report, which will be completed in a few days.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister; upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House the balance-sheet and statement of accounts showing the results of the wool tops agreement, dated 12th” March, 1920, between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited?
– The whole matter of these accounts is now under consideration. I shall look into the question and consider whether, without prejudice to any interests, the information asked for can be given.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House all the papers and correspondence relating to the claim made by the Central Wool Committee and B.A.W.R.A. in connexion with the agreement ‘between the Commonwealth Government and ‘the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited ?
– This matter, together with the matter referred to in the honorable member’s previous question on the same subject, is under consideration. I shall look into it with a view to seeing whether the information asked for can be supplied without prejudice to any. interest.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the number of immigrants admitted to Australia each year since 1020, and what is their respective nationality?
– The following statement gives the information asked for by the honorable member: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Filthy Railway Trucks
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether his attention has been drawn to the very serious complaints made by the Health Officer at Geelong, to the effect that wheat for shipment was being carried to the seaboard in filthy sheep and cattle trucks in which manure mixed with straw covered the floors of the trucks ?
– This is a question with which the proper State authority is primarily concerned, and it isunderstood that the necessary steps to remedy the defect mentioned have been taken.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the discussion which took place on 7th instant in connexion with the imposition of a dumping duty on British-made wire netting, will the Government take into early consideration the grave necessities of the pastoral and wheat-growing industries, and the advisability of limiting the operations of the Australian Industries Preservation Act so as not to include these items until Parliament otherwise directs?
– Any new evidence on the subject of the imposition of a dumping duty on British-made wire netting will be fully considered. In the meantime, the provisions of the Act must be enforced.
Debate resumed from 8th May (vide page 537), on motion by Mr. Stewart -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- In the debate upon the great folly to which the Bill relates there have been four speakers from the Government side, in addition to the Government Whip (Mr. Marr). All have been in opposition to rather than in favour of the measure. One of those speakers was an ex-Minister, another is Chairman of the Public Works Committee, and the other two are unbiased, in so far as they do not belong to the State in which the Federal Capital is situated. We have been told that tie Federal Capital will stimulate a national spirit and be a monument to the sagacity, wisdom, and foresight of the statesmen of the Commonwealth. But I have listened in vain to hear from the ardent advocates of Canberra any justification for the handing of control over to a Commission, or for continuing with the project in any way. It is the duty of those honorable members to inform the House and the taxpayers what they may expect from Canberra in years to come. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Federal Capital, but he did not tell us what benefits would eventually accrue from the building of such a city. He simply accused the opponents of the project of being antagonistic to New South Wales and lacking the Federal spirit. He did not endeavour to explain what sort of asset Canberra will be to Australia in the future. I expected that during this debate every honorable member who believes in the continuation of expenditure at Canberra would rise to explain and justify his vote, and show me that my vision is cramped, so that I fail to appreciate the potentialities of the future city. We are entitled to hear something substantial; it is not sufficient to put before us an ideal which may burst like a bubble because it cannot retain all the air that is pumped into it. I am afraid that the Federal city will be a greater “ dud “ in years to come than it is now. If that opinion is based on ignorance, the fault lies with those who, professing to know the benefits that will arise from the continuation of this project, fail to enlighten me. I have already dealt with the site, the water supply, and the sewerage. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) said that those who criticized the cottages constructed at
Canberra were simply looking for trouble. With a perfectly open mind I went to Canberra in search of evidence of the wisdom of those who had advocated the carrying out of this scheme. If I could be convinced that in the interests of Australia it is essential that a new Federal city should be established, I would be prepared to vote accordingly, and I would not care in which State the city was established, or what expenditure it involved, if the results it would ultimately yield justified its creation. When I entered the cottages I was astonished. I had visions of something big happening at Canberra, especially bearing in mind a previous visit when Mr. King O’Malley had organized a big ceremony and commemorated it by the issue of an album of photographs. I saw the foundation stone laid by the Prince of Wales in a hollow - why in a hollow, I do not know - and already a corner has been chipped off it by souvenir hunters. I was foolish enough to believe that the ideals of the people who conceived this city would yield something upon which posterity would look with commendation of the vision and foresight of the present generation. But all I saw was a village of brick and plaster - a whited sepulchre. Even the hostels are built of bricks, rough-casted on the outside.
– Do not call the city a whited sepulchre. We may have to go there.
– If the foolishness of some honorable members brings that fate upon them, it will serve them right. I am quite certain that none of the New South Wales members will live at Canberra; they will return to Sydney every week, and only the unfortunate members from other States will be left there to pay the high cost of living in the hostel.
– Possibly they will get a rebate of 25 per cent.!
– One gentleman stated that even honorable members would not be able to afford to live in the hostel that is being erected for their accommodation. Who will live in the hostel? I desire to know that, because this scheme must be worked out on a logical and business-like basis. Will the honorable member for Dalley let the general community know what benefit the general community will derive from the expenditure that is taking place in a barren waste, which a member of another place described as a wild, bleak, wind-swept area that would not support a bandicoot. That certainly was the appearance of the Territory when 1 first visited it; but I have been told that, as a result of the use of wire netting, the land has been converted into reasonably decent sheep country.
-The Territory will produce more than the whole of South Australia.
– I invite the honorable member to support that statement with statistics regarding production in the Federal Territory. I counted thirteen haystacks there, and I suppose that in another five years that number will be doubled. I do not know what the farmers are able to do with their hay. It is for honorable members who support the Canberra scheme to explain its virtue. If there were any evidence in favour of the creation of a Federal Capital in the interior I would support the project, because I am a believer in big things. We of to-day have not half the ideals of the Parliamentarians of the early fifties and sixties. The best buildings in South Australia were erected when that State was in its swaddling clothes. The biggest public works were carried out when our revenues were not half so great as they are to-day. A State Parliament House, built in marble, was conceived and commenced, but for the last 30 years one of the most valuable sites in Adelaide has remained a grass plot flanked on one side by the ragged unfinished wall of the first instalment of the building. We are not big enough to carry to completion the projects that an earlier generation commenced. When we look for some realization of the ideal of a Federal Capital city, something to attract the attention of the world, and arouse the pride of Australian patriots, we merely find a brick and roughcast hostel resembling the wigwam of a Red Indian. The structure has neither height nor design, and the interior walls are rough plastered. I remarked that surely the walls would be faced, but I was told that they were merely to be covered with kalsomine or some other distemper. The roofs are not more than 15 feet from the ground. I do not believe in temporary structures, because I am certain that this makeshift accommodation will never be completed or removed. The temporary structures that are being raised at Canberra will grin at us for many generations to come, because posterity will not persist in this folly. I would have been proud if, upon the occasion of my recent visit, I had seen any evidence of satisfactory development as compared with the state of the work when I was there on the memorable occasion to which 1 have referred, and I would have joined in the general chorus of approbation by advocates of the Capital city scheme. But I saw nothing to justify approval. I speak now of things as I saw them; I want the people to know the true position. I want to protect them, if possible, from any further consequences of this folly. I come now to an aspect of the city problem that touches me, as a Labour man, perhaps more closely than very many other members of this House; I refer to the ideals which I mentioned, a little while ago, concerning the housing accommodation for the workers and members of the Public Service who will be expected to live there. I am sorry to say there is evidence of the same kind of folly in that matter. The walls of the houses, which cost a great deal of money, are simply rough plastered without even being faced. The external walls are, of course, cavity walls, but I found that the bricks in the internal walls - and in this matter I have to thank the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who accompanied me on my visit, and who is a practical builder - are laid on edge, and consequently are only 3 inches thick. In no other city in the Commonwealth is this practice permitted. The frog of the brick, which it is essential to lay flat to ensure the stability of a wall, is sometimes on the outside, so that it has to be filled up with plaster. I invite the ex-Minister for “Works and Railways (Mr. Foster) to endorse what I am saying. I was particularly interested in the kitchens, where the housewife spends most of her time. I was astonished to find that, by out-stretching my two arms, I could almost touch the opposite walls, and that it would have been impossible to swing a cat by the tail withouthitting its head on all four walls.
And this, I impress upon honorable members, is in an up-to-date city! If I wanted to build a city that would be a model for the rest of the world I would allow no hovels within its boundaries. Now for the bathrooms. When the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) was speaking I inquired, by way of interjection, if he had noticed what reminded one of the old saying, “Brass knocker on the pig-stye door “ ? I was referring, of course, to the bathrooms, lt is true that there are fine enamel baths. That is all right. I want to see the people of Australia get the best that the world can produce. I have always regarded the bathroom as a place which it should be possible to wash down and keep clean, but the walls in the bathrooms of the dwelling houses already erected are, like the other rooms, finished in rough brick and kalsomined. The same remarks apply to the wash-houses. All I can say is that, if honorable members are satisfied with that, then they will be satisfied with anything. If the Canberraites in this House cannot make a better showing in this building of our Capital city, then they had better knock off, because they are not doing their job properly.
– Do you not think that what you are saying is a strong argument for the appointment of the Commission ?’
– I wish the honorable member would follow me. I think he has something in his mind as to .what ought to bo done there. I believe he is in favour of the appointment of one commissioner and the retention of the services of two other gentlemen in a capacity similar to that of the members of the present Advisory Committee. Seeing that this Advisory Committee has been responsible for so much of the work up to the present, is it likely that the proposed Commission will ‘ do any better ?
– The chances are that members of the Advisory Committee will be appointed to the Commission.
– Exactly. That is made clear by certain provisions of the Bill, which state that members of the Commission shall retain their Public Service rights. It is obvious, I think, that the Bill will make their positions more secure, and impose greater expenditure on the general taxpayer. Turning now to the workmen’s cottages, I am afraid that the area allowed for each dwelling is not so big as in some of the suburbs in the ether capital cities of the Commonwealth.
– They are fair-sized areas.
– Can the honorable member for Wakefield state the size ? Are the frontages 50 feet?
– Something like that.
– I am glad to have the ex-Minister’s assurance. I was unable, in the absence of fences, to judge the size of the allotments accurately. I bave no doubt that the buildings themselves are substantial, and properly built, as they have the best bricks there.
– But they are not laid properly.
– For the internal walls the bricks should be laid on the flat, not on edge. There is another point. Is Canberra going to be a brick-and-mortar city? Will there be no cut-stone buildings and no polished marble structures, such as is suggested by the foundation stones already laid in the city area?
– Would the honorable member support a proposal to erect cutstone buildings?
– For a capital city intended to be a pattern to the world, I certainly would. I would not “ spoil a ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.” If I had been in Adelaide, I would have made my protest against the action of the Works and Railways Department in erecting a brickundmortar structure alongside one of the most imposing cut-stone public buildings in that city. I would have endeavoured to secure the erection of a building more in consonance with the architectural features of the Adelaide Post Office. All the public buildings that have been erected in Adelaide in the later years of Commonwealth administration are an affront to the pioneers who loved their city, and beautified it with so many great buildings in cut stone. I invite the Minister (Mr. Stewart) to walk down King Williamstreet and look at the magnificent buildings on both sides of the street, from the Bank of New South Wales corner down to the National Bank, and across to the Bank of Adelaide.
– I remind the honorable member thai he is getting away from the subject before the House.
– I admit, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that -I am getting rather wide of the mark, but as other honorable members have wandered somewhat in the course of the debate, I thought I would be justified in endeavouring, by way of illustration, to prevent any further expenditure on this scheme at Canberra. I speak in the interests of the electors, who naturally expect us to justify expenditure on the city, and the appointment of the proposed Commission to carry on the work. With other- honorable members I do not believe in delegating the powers of this Parliament to any three men. We have had ample evidence in recent times of the folly of this course. Commissions, responsible only to the Minister controlling the Department, have been appointed, and frequently the Minister has been so overloaded with work that he has allowed the administration of the affairs entrusted to him to drift entirely into the hands of the three or four Commissioners. I am not prepared to approve of the continuation of this policy. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), in his references to the operations of the Shipping Board and other similar bodies, has demonstrated quite clearly that this Parliament has no right to delegate its powers. I strongly object to the proposal to vest the Commission with power to borrow annually money in such amounts as the Treasurer may approve. If there is to be any further borrowing in connexion with the Capital city it should be controlled by this Parliament, especially in view of the exorbitant rates of interest that are being charged at the present time. Our financial responsibilities will become greater with the development of the Capital, so it is essential that this Parliament should keep a tight hold over the borrowing powers of any authority, and give direction as to how the money shall be spent. It is an evidence of weakness on the part of the Government’ to suggest that the management of the city should be delegated to a Commission. The Bill proposes to make the three Commissioners all-powerful in every respect, and until we receive more satisfactory assurance on the whole purpose of the measure, I do not think that the House would be justified in passing it. I feel it is my duty to criticize the Bill as I have done. It is possible, of course, that advocates of the scheme may be able to show me that I am wrong. If they can do that, my remarks will certainly have been justified.
.- I have said on previous occasions that I thought the construction of the Capital City was being undertaken twenty years before its time. I have also said that for many years to come this would be a city of public servants. I agree with much of the criticism uttered by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), but I think the time for the consideration of the matter from his stand-point has passed. We must all recognize that a considerable amount of money has been spent on the site. Our purpose now should be to see that the work is continued on sound, economical lines. I believe there is a genuine desire on the part of all honorable members to do the best thing possible in this matter in the interest of the taxpayers. When the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) was speaking, he said that it was proposed to give the Commission adequate powers to develop and maintain a proper system of local government; powers also to levy rates and borrow money, and authority to take over the assets and liabilities of the Capital City. From what he said, it appears that it is intended to make the Commission a permanent body. That is what I object to. I fear that the appointment of a permanent Commission, whose members will draw salaries totalling £7,000 a. year, and who, no doubt, will eventually require a considerable staff, is going to be a very costly business. It is inevitable that a huge Department must be built up, and I quite agree with the criticism that has been levelled against the proposed Board on that account. Such a body is quite unnecessary, because the preliminary problems have been solved, and most of the great works necessary in the establishment of the Capital are well in hand. Take, for instance, the provision of water, sewers, lighting, and power. Such departmental officers as Colonel Owen, Mr. Hill, and Mr. Murdoch have clone very fine work indeed at Canberra, and the principal difficulties have already been overcome. I think, therefore, that we could safely trust the balance of the works, so far as is necessary, to such officers. Is it likely that the future citizens of Canberra will quietly submit to paying rates and taxes without having some representation on the proposed Board? No doubt the time will come when some local authority, such as a town or shire council, will be demanded by the residents, and if this were granted, there would certainly be a duplication of activities. I suggest that in place of this Bill Parliament should be asked to consider a local authority Bill, to give to the citizens of Canberra such representation as would tend to the smooth working of local government there. Commonwealth offices will be necessarily established, and it is proper that Ministers should have direct control of all the activities of the various Departments. I intend to vote for the second reading of the measure, hoping that in the Committee stage such alterations will be made as will at least reduce the personnel of the Board to not more than one member. I am not enthusiastic about even a one-member Board, and I shall oppose any attempt to have a Board of more than one. I believe that there is a genuine desire among honorable members generally to do the right thing, but it seems that the majority is not satisfied that the present Bill would be in the best interests of Canberra, or of sound and safe administration. I shall listen to’ the Minister’s reply with a good deal of interest. I should certainly be better pleased if the Government made up its mind to drop the proposal altogether.
– The crux of the Bill seems to be the proposal to appoint a chairman. When the debate began I felt satisfied that a Commission would be undesirable, but after listening to the greater part of the discussion I am convinced that the appointment of somebody that would have absolute jurisdiction over the Federal Capital area for a certain period is essential. The criticism generally has tended to prove that the whole cause of the Federal Capital muddle - for that is all one can call it - in the last five or six years, at any rate, has been the lack of some independent competent authority to supervise the expenditure. Last year I asked the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) certain questions about the amount of money spent at Canberra, and I intend to ask honorable members to consider this matter in a pounds, shillings, and pence light. The Minister informed me that the total expenditure on the Capital site up to 30th June, 1923, had been £1,542,164.
– Is that not apart from the purchase of land?
– Yes, exclusive of land acquisition. I have not yet visited the Capital site. That is a pleasure I shall reserve until ‘ Parliament goes there, if it happen to be my good fortune to be a member of it at that time. Those who have already visited the territory tell me that there is practically nothing above ground so far that could be regarded as creditable to a city. From the remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and others, one can only assume that most of the work done so far is more or less of a shoddy nature. This affords absolute proof that there has been a lack of some competent independent authority to see that the people’s money was wisely spent. I admit that it would not be a proper procedure to establish a Board unless it could be shown that it would justify its existence. I quite sympathize with the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and other honorable members opposite, for I consider that there are too many boards in Australia at present, but it seems to me that the crux of the question is whether the proposed body is likely to lead to the creation of another expensive Department. If it means appointing a large number of highly-paid civil servants, with all the ramifications which usually follow the establishment of such a Department, we shall be doing something that is totally opposed to the sentiments of the people to-day. There is a very simple way to avoid the formation of a new Department, and the most effective expedient is to limit the life of the proposed Commission. One of my great objections to the Bill is the fact that there is no limit fixed to the Commission’s term of office. I feel quite sure that if it is appointed as contemplated in the Bill, it will be an everlasting affair, because it will take root, and all sorts of political and local interests will grow up around it, with the result that it will be difficult, and almost impossible, to eradicate it, should we ever desire to do so.
– Is it not proposed as a permanent Commission?
– The Bill provides that one of the members shall be appointed for a term of five years, one for four years, and one for three years, and thereafter each appointment shall be for a term not exceeding three years. Evidently it is intended that the Commission shall be practically a permanent Board. To overcome the fear that I have expressed, the proper thing would be to limit definitely the life of the Commission. I suggest the period of three years, which is the term we understand that is to elapse before this Parliament goes to Canberra. I am quite satisfied, from the speeches I have heard, that there has been a tremendous waste of public money there, due largely to the lack of independent and competent jurisdiction, and if the present system continues there will be a further waste of public money. Unless we may presume that the age of miracles has arrived, in another four or five years, an additional half million will have been thrown away. If the proposed Commission succeeds in saving that amount, the expenditure proposed upon it will be more than justified. By limiting the life of the Commission we should know just what . it would cost, and it would be almost impossible for it to create a big new Department. Long before the period for which the Commission is appointed has elapsed it may be found that the whole idea is wrong, and we may desire to abandon it on the best terms possible. I offer that suggestion as an additional argument for definitely fixing the Commission’s life, and making it as short a period as possible. The Minister for Works and Railways informed me last year that, according to a statement by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee, issued on the 5th March, 1923, the estimated expenditure on all requirements for the completion of the Capital site up to the stage at which it would be available for the transfer of the Federal Parliament from Melbourne to Canberra, was £2,155,300, less the amount already spent during 1921-22 and 1922-23- £399,7S1making the total expenditure until the transfer of Parliament £1,755,519. “We can safely assume that that sum will be exceeded, and that at least £2,000,000 will be required to shift the Federal Parliament to its new home. I submit that when we consider the large amount of public money that the Board would have to handle the proposed expenditure upon it is not excessive. If the Board could save a sum at which only one-tenth has already been squandered, the expense would be justified. During this debate the Minister has not had altogether a fair deal. The idea has been disseminated that his object is to get rid of his own responsibility and thrust it upon a Board. One cannot blame a Minister for wishing to rid himself of such a heavy responsibility, because we know that it is too big a burden for one Minister to carry. I submit that the Minister has shown, by interjection, that he realizes that it is utterly impossible to do this work as Parliament desires without the creation of some competent authority to supervise it. “We know perfectly well that there are honorable members on both sides of the House who regard the transfer of Parliament to Canberra almost in the same way as they would look upon their elevation from earth to heaven. If they thought they were not going to the new Capital soon, it would be as disappointing as being forced to think that they were not going to a better land in the hereafter. I sympathize with them in that view. When I first entered this Chamber I was an absolute opponent of the Canberra proposal, and I had never heard more absolute nonsense than the remarks made at the time concerning the alleged public opinion of New South “Wales with respect to it. Many of the statements made about the burning enthusiasm of the people of New South Wales for the construction of the Federal Capital are moonshine, and that is putting it mildly.
– I suppose there is such a thing as becoming disgusted with the attitude of the people in the other States ?
– I represent a country constituency in New South Wales, and I have never had a single question asked of me by my constituents about the .construction of the Federal Capital. The agitation has been carried on prin cipally by a small but noisy minority. We know that a small section of the people can make a big noise, and if it keeps on making the noise long enough it will move mountains. The advocates of Canberra have achieved the miracle of removing a mountain by making a lot of noise. When I entered this House, I was opposed to the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra, but after hearing,, in this Chamber, the pathetic adjurations of members of all parties that we should adhere to the compact made with the people of New South Wales, I changed my mind. I felt that, in the face of SUCh reverence for the compact, I could not conscientiously oppose it. I remind honorable members, however, that other compacts have been made with the people of Australia. These may not have been made constitutionally, but they certainly have been made morally. One such was. that made with the people of South Australia for the construction of the NorthSouth Railway. I hope to deal fully with that question later on. I sincerely trust that when the question of honouring these* other compacts that have been made comes before us the honorable members who have been so keen about honouringthe Federal Capital compact will be consistent. If the House is not favorable, to the appointment of the proposed Commission, the Bill may just as well be thrown under the table. It . has been suggested that the clause which provides, for the appointment of the Commission could be negatived, and that some form of official control could be substituted. Our past experience of official control hasnot been satisfactory. I suggest to the. honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) and to other honorable members who axe ardent advocates of theCanberra scheme, that they are runninga serious risk of delaying the transference of the Parliament to Canberra by their opposition to the appointment ‘ of thisCommission. I believe that the honorable member for Dalley, the honorablemember for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley),, and the- honorable member for Darling(Mr. Blakeley), are sincere in their desire to establish the Parliament at Canberra as early as possible. But if they are returned’ as members of this House after the next election, and they find that it is not possible for the Parliament to meet at Canberra in accordance with the resolution which we have agreed to, they will have- only themselves to blame. Those honorable members appear to fear greatly the people of New South Wales on this issue. I suggest that the only way for us to get to Canberra expeditiously is to appoint this Commission.
– I thought that the honorable member said just now that the people of New South Wales were not interested in Canberra.
– The honorable members opposite, to whom I have referred, seem to fear the people of New South W ales on this issue. This House has decided that the next Parliament shall meet at Canberra. Having made such a decision, I consider that it is a pure waste of time to be talking about the waste of money that will be involved in giving effect to the decision. We should be bending our energies to the solution of the problem how to get to Canberra within the specified time. No stone should be left unturned to achieve that purpose.
– Why build up a new Department to do the Work, when it is already being done economically and well ?
– I do not want to establish a new Department, though I fear that that is what will happen if this Bill is passed. When once a new Department is established it is most difficult to abolish it. Honorable members on the opposite side say, when such a thing is suggested, “ No, we must not dismiss the public servants who have joined the Department. We must bear the expense.”
– Honorable members on this side of the Chamber do not wish to create a new Department.
– I am glad to hear that. It is an admirable attitude. It almost warrants me in placing a new faith in them. Iam pleased that they are stealing the Country party’s thunder, in this respect at any rate. I have made it clear that I, too, am opposed to the establishment ofa new Department, but I suggest that that can be avoided by appointing the Commission for a specified time. If we wish to get to Canberra in twogears, let us appoint the Commission for two years only. Let us say to them : “ Your job is to make it possible to transfer the Parliament to Canberra within two years “.
– But the work at Canberra is going on well now.
– I have not been to Canberra myself, but judging by the speeches I have heard in thisChamber from honorable members who have been there, it appears that nothing is being done well at Canberra. Honorable members who have visited the Federal Territory seem to be unanimous in that view. The only way in which we can get to Canberra within the next two or three years is by speeding up the work in the Territory. I am quite willing to go to Canberra, if I am fortunate enough to be a member of this House at the time when the transference is made but I do not wish to go there to live ina tent. One honorable member has said that the hostel is like a Red Indian’s wigwam. If that is so, it is no use asking honorable members who may have been used to a comparatively luxurious life tolive in it. We should not expect them to go to a wilderness, but should make the conditions reasonable. We need some authority that will speed up the work, and at the same time see that the country receives value for the money which is spent. Nothing has been said in this debate to prove that we are not justified in appointing this Commission. The only adverse argument has been that a new Department will be created. I have indicated how we may avoid the creation of such a Department. If the transference ofParliament to the Capital is delayed, we shall find the people in New South Wales who are burning with enthusiasm for the establishment of the Federal City, saying, “ Save us from our friends “. We must have a Commission of some kind. Objections have been made to the amount of salary which it is proposed to pay to the members of the Commission. The tendency in Australia is towards the payment of inadequate salaries. We say that we want the best service, and the best brains in the world, but we are only willing to pay small salaries. In Great Britain and the United States of America, salaries ranging from £10,000 to £15,000 a year are paid to men who have to carry out big works. The members of this proposed Commission will be required to handle millions of the people’s money, and if they do so in a way which will save wastage, I think the salaries provided will not be at all too generous. One honorable member has said that the salary which we propose to pay to the
Chairman of the Commission is greater than the salary received by the Prime Minister of Australia. That is an argument for increasing the salary of the Prime Minister. I think the salaries of honorable members should be increased also. The men who carry the heavy responsibilities of Australia are not sufficiently well paid. If our Prime Minister is underpaid, let us increase his salary. If we intend to build a Federal Capital - and apparently we are in earnest about the matter now - let us do it well, otherwise Australia will receive a very poor advertisement, as the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) has pointed out. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves, I am eager to get to Canberra at the earliest possible moment. When I become converted to a new view, I become enthusiastic for it, and to-day I am as anxious to get to Canberra as the most ardent Canberra advocate can possibly be, but I do not want to live in an Indian’s wigwam. The safest course for us to take to speed up the construction of the Capita] is to appoint a competent and independent Commission for a. limited period.
– And let us make the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) the Chairman.
– It has been suggested that the Government wish to appoint this Commission in order to find positions for political friends. I think that statement is a gross insult to the Government. I believe there is no intention whatever on the part of the Government to give these positions, which require expert knowledge, to political friends. I do not think the Government have the least intention of doing that, and I believe that men will be appointed to the Commission regardless of political opinions, and will render able service. If we are to undertake this work it should be done well, and, if not, the whole undertaking should be thrown aside. If the work is to proceed for years in a muddling way it will result in a gigantic failure, and will be a disgrace to all who have advocated it. If the money is wasted it will prove conclusively that we are not fit to assist in framing legislation for the government of the Commonwealth. The proper way in which to guard against the creation of another Department is to limit the life of the proposed Commission to two years, and I trust that will be done.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [12.17].- I desire to address myself to the main subject-matter of the Bill, which is the appointment of a Commission consisting of three members to supervise the construction of the Federal Capital. Many of the speakers who have discussed the Bill have dealt extensively with the construction of the Federal Capital, and their utterances were merely the opinions of dissatisfied individuals. The construction of the Capital has been decided upon very clearly and definitely by Parliament. That decision has been re-affirmed on numerous occasions as the result of divisions in this Parliament, and the last step in that direction was the carrying of a motion directing His Excellency the Governor-General to summon the meeting of the next Parliament at Canberra within a definite period. I therefore submit that all the arguments during this debate concerning the undesirableness of Canberra as a site for the Federal Capital, and the objection to its construction on the ground of expense, have been a waste of time. I listened last night to the speech of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), whose utterances proved conclusively that this measure has been framed to take the control of the Federal Capital out of the hands of this Parliament. He had the temerity to try to convince honorable members that, because it would vote the money necessary to continue the work of construction, Parliament would remain supreme. Money, of course, is a very important factor, and the Commission, if appointed, could not carry on its work without it. This Parliament, however, if it refused to grant the money required would be acting contrary to its previous decisions. Honorable members are well aware that when once the money is voted by Parliament the conditions under which men work, as well as the wages paid, will be for the decision of a few despots. What they say will be the law. We have definite knowledge ofwhat has happened in quite a number of cases in which public works are not under direct Parliamentary control. Even at Canberra industrial trouble has occurred, and on several occasionshas been threatened; but the Minister for
Works and Railways was able to bring the questions in dispute before this Parliament, which is the final authority. On one occasion the present Minister (Mr. Stewart) visited the Capital, and was instrumental in settling a dispute. If such a dispute had been in the hands of a Commission it would not have been settled for months, particularly if the members of the Commission were at all obstinate or hostile to the construction of the Capital. In such circumstances it would be” very easy for them to create difficulties and thus retard the work. It is ridiculous to say that Parliament will have absolute control merely because we vote the money on the Estimates. The honorable member for Parkes strongly supports the appointment of the Commission, perhaps because he has been singled out as one of its members. In spite of what the Minister and some of his supporters say, this Bill is a definite admission of the incapacity and incompetence of the Government and its Ministers. It is a definite falling down on the job, and if the work is too much for the two Ministers who control the two Departments concerned, it is time they were replaced by more competent men.
– We have repeatedly been complimented by honorable members opposite for the work which has been done.
– But the appointment of a Commission is an admission that it is too much for Ministers.
– Some of the honorable member’s supporters have said that the work is proceeding satisfactorily.
– I am speaking for myself, and assert that it is an admission of incompetence. The honorable member for Parkes said that at present the work was under the control of two Departments, and that in consequence difficulties arose. If such is the case, I do not think those opposing the Bill would object to provision being made in the Bill for the control of the Capital to be placed solely under the Department of Works and Railways. Why should the Home and Territories Department be concerned? I believe that the work has been divided between two Departments in the past at the instigation of Ministers hostile to the Federal Capital, who wished to cause friction and retard progress. If past Governments have made a stupid blunder by placing the work under two Ministerial heads, that is no justification for the appointment of three men who will be most autocratic in their administration. There is nothing whatever in this proposal to recommend it to honorable members or to those whom they represent. It is merely a means to create positions and duplicate departments. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) expressed the hope that the proposed Department would not be one that would expand, but I should like to know on what logical grounds ho bases that hope. He has only to refer to what has been done by Governments in the past, particularly since the termination of the war, to learn that every separate Department which has been established, and which we were informed would be only on a small scale, has grown most alarmingly.
– This would not grow if a definite period were fixed.
– The Minister is not prepared to do that. The honorable member for New England should get an undertaking to that effect from the Minister, and if it is not forthcoming he should vote against the Bill. The Prime Minister’s Department, which was established some time ago, has grown to an alarming extent, so much so that he, too, fell down on his job and appointed a Shipping Board. The Repatriation Department, until the war had nearly terminated, was under the control of the Pensions Branch, which handled the work effectively, but old-age and invalid pensions are now controlled by a separate Department, simply to create jobs for Ministers’ political supporters. We have been told that this Parliament will always have control over the work at Canberra, but I desire to give an illustration to show the House what is likely to happen under the Bill. The Shipping Board is composed of men who exercise autocratic control, and in consequence of their actions the men employed in the Shipping Branch have been brutally treated and compelled, as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) pointed out, to take holidays without pay. Prior to the appointment of the Board the men employed in the Shipping Branch received pay for the Christmas holidays, but since the change has been made this slight concession has been withdrawn. The members of the Board appear to be mating a deliberate attempt to create an industrial upheaval, and when questions are asked in the House concerning the action to be taken, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) informs us that the Board is supreme. That is the position in which the Minister for Works and Railways wishes to be in in connexion with Canberra.
– Are they not working under an award?
– When the award was drawn up the men did not know that the Special Service Squadron was likely to visit Australia and that they would be compelled to take a holiday. For a number of years men in the Shipping Branch have received holiday pay, and there is no valid reason why that practice should be departed from. In all probability, men who are hostile to the construction of the Capital will be appointed to the proposed Federal Capital Commission. They may deliberately attempt to create industrial trouble. I do not say that they will, because we do not know who are to be appointed. By giving this Board complete control too great and too dangerous a power is being placed iri their hands. I shall now touch on the question of expense. In this connexion, I cannot understand the action of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) in supporting the Bill. He belongs to a party which professes to be in favour of economy in administration. It was the parrot cry of “ economy “ that enabled some honorable members to obtain election to this House. Those same members are now prepared to support the creation of a Commission to cost,’ at first, £12.000 or £15,000 a year, and probably £30,000 or £40,000 a year within a short time.
– They might save that amount.
– We know definitely that they will waste it. At any rate, the Minister has given us no indication of any direction in which that amount will be saved. It is only “might.” The honorable member would not accept any business proposition ‘on that basis, but would require something more definite.
– The members of the Commission will be experts.
– We have no guarantee of that.
– They should be.
– That is true; but everything will be left to the decision of the Minister, once the Bill receives the approval of Parliament ; there might be no expert among the members of the Commission. There is no mention in the Bill of the personnel of the Commission. We are simply asked to sign a blank cheque and hand it to the Minister and his Government; but their record in the past does not justify such confidence being placed in them. Once this Bill is passed, Parliament will be absolutely at the mercy of Cabinet, as they will then be in a position to appoint, as Commissioners, whomsoever they desire. The men required to effectively carry out the necessary work at Canberra should be highly trained technical men, and ex,perts in building construction, engineering, and similar subjects. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) says that the attitude of hon- ‘ orable members on this side is an insult to the Government. Whether that is so or not, I am suspicious, because, judging by their actions in the past, it is reasonably certain that the Government will appoint political friends, or men whom they desire to remove from this Chamber, as members of the Commission.
– If you knew how far wrong you are, you would not talk in that manner.
– Tell us who the members of the Commission will be.
– I have not the remotest idea.
– Then the Bill should not have been introduced.
– We have no right, by selecting the men first, to anticipate what Parliament will do.
– That is a very good “ get-out.” The Minister known very well what can be passed through this House. His statement is all camouflage and humbug, as he knows how his supporters will vote. The Government Whip (Mr. Marr) could tell him in five minutes what measure would pass this House. The actions of the Government in the past give us reasonable grounds for suspicion regarding their intentions on this occasion, and I cannot help it if my remarks are interpreted as insults. When unnecessary legislation of this kind is introduced we are justified in believing that string ars being pulled. Until I know the names of the men who will constitute this Commission, 1 shall vote against the present proposal, as I doubt the capacity of the Government to do the right thing. A great deal has been said about the reports of the Finance and Works Committees - two bodies of men who, with the exception of one or two members, are hostile to Canberra. Possibly, the Victorian influence in the Cabinet is responsible for the appointments to those Committees. Members who desire to keep the spirit of the resolution asking that the GovernorGeneral should summon the first meeting of the next Parliament at Canberra should vote against, the appointment of this Commission. During all the years when there was a real bungle in connexion with Canberra there was no talk of the appointment of a Commission, but when all the difficult preliminary work has been accomplished, and the point has been reached when there is only clear sailing ahead, the Government contemplate taking action similar to that adopted in connexion with the Pensions Department, where, after all the hard work had been done, they provided a position at a big salary for one of their friends. The greatest difficulties in connexion with Canberra have been overcome.
– The troubles are only beginning.
– That is not so. The foundation of the city is well laid, and it is now only a matter of using commonsense and judgment, and the work will proceed satisfactorily. Yet this is the stage at which the Government proposes to appoint an expensive Commission. The action contemplated will not give one penny-worth of added value to the Federal Capital territory, nor will it enable Parliament to sit at Canberra one minute earlier.
.- I did not intend to speak on tin’s motion, but one or two points which should have consideration have been missed by previous speakers. At first, I was opposed to the building of a new capital in the bush. For years I hoped that better counsels would prevail, and that the people of New South Wales would agree to a variation of the compact entered into, even if it meant transferring the
Seat of Government to fdney I hoped, that the millions of money proposed to be spent on a Federal Capital would have been used to develop some of our ‘ vast unimproved and unpeopled territory,, but we have now progressed so far with the building of this capital that it isidle for us to talk of stopping. I donot understand the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister’) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), who, at this stage,, want to scrap all that has been done. To do- so would mean the loss of all the money that has been spent up to date. The compact entered into must be respected, and Parliament should see that the Federal Capital is completed in the most efficient and economical way. I believe in the appointment of a Commission, because the administration of Canberra will by that means be removed from political control. The great wasteof public money in connexion with Canberra has occurred under political control.! To attain success in business, efficiency and personal supervision are absolutely essential, and in the management of- the Federal Capital territory the controlling authority should be situated on the spot. At no time in. the past has that been the case. The present Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) has carried out his work well, but he now realizes that a change is desirable. The best means to that end is to appoint a capable business man to do the work - and that is practically what this Bill proposes. I shall support the Bill generally, but would prefer one Commissioner only, even if his salary were increased to £5,000 a year. The officers now stationed at Canberra could act with him on the Coinmission. I admit that there is room for difference of opinion regarding the number of Commissioners, but I believe there should be only one.
– There is also room for difference of opinion in regard to the salary to be paid to the Commissioners.
– Men of the type required are very bard to get, and good salaries must be paid to secure their services. I agree with the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) that this, ought not to be a permanent Commission. Parliament must at all times be in a position to terminate the. appointment on reasonable notice. Three years, I think, would be a reasonable term to fix. It has been said that the appointment of this Commission would mean the building up of a new Department. I contend that we would be doing nothing of the kind; we would simply be appointing a competent head to a Department which is already in existence.
– There are two Departments at present charged with the responsibility of carrying out the work.
– There are permanent and political heads in charge of those Departments now.
– Those who represent country districts know what the result has been in the past when city financial institutions have endeavoured to manage country properties. Although the heads of those institutions have been capable business men, and experts in their own line, they have not succeeded in managing successfully the country properties of which they have taken charge, first because they have not had the requisite practical knowledge, and secondly because they have not been on the spot to see the work carried out. The same thing, I believe, has happened at Canberra. If we want to have the work done in the best and the most economical way, we must put a competent man in charge who will always be on the spot. That is practically what the Bill proposes to do. I should like to see the Bill amended in Committee to provide for the appointment of only one Commissioner for a period of three years. I support the Bill mainly because it will remove the matter as far as possible from political control, and will result in the adoption of business methods in the building of the Capital city.
.- Having been connected with the movement for the establishment of the Capital city at Canberra practically from its inception, I know something of its history. At the beginning I belonged to a party which thought that the Federal scheme that was drawn up was a wrong one. We fought and voted against it. From the point of view of New South Wales, everything that has been done from the beginning of Federation to the present day has justified the stand which we took at that time. We stood then for the principle of unification and the subdivision of Australia into an equal number of States or local governing bodies.
– According to the latest reports, that scheme has failed in South Africa.
– I do not think so. I believe that the honorable member will find, as time goes on, that South Africa has profited by our mistakes. The Federationists of the time thought that the Capital city should be placed in the mother State of the group. New South Wales has since contributed to the Federation 43 per cent. of the total amount of taxation collected in the Commonwealth. At the first vote, New South Wales turned down the proposal to federate. The settlement of this sentimental question of the location of the Capital city was the thing that swayed the vote and brought that big State into an unequal federation. What has happened since then ? Something not provided for by the Constitution was proposed by South Australia. It was that the Commonwealth should take over the Northern Territory. Members from all the other States adopted the Australian view, and the Territory became a partof the Commonwealth. This has resulted in an annual loss of, roughly, £200,000. Honorable members do not hear the people or members from New South Wales complaining about that matter.
– It was as much in the interests of New South Wales as of any part of Australia.
– The honorable member may say so. Now South Australia wants the North-South Railway kept within the Territory. I agree with them. But many people hold the view that it would be better to take that line away from the fixed boundaries and divert it through Western Queensland. Western Australia came along and said that it would be a good thing to build the East- West Railway. We adopted that proposal. Yet, now, after 23 years, honorable members urge that Australia to-day cannot afford to erect a building or two in the Capital city. They must not forget that the Commonwealth paid for the EastWest Railway during the difficult period of the war. The Western Australian Government agreed at the time to widen their narrow-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, but it has not honored its agreement. Whenever a proposal relating to the Federal Capital city is debated in this’ House, excuses similar to those which we have heard during this debate are raised by some honorable members. The Bill merely embodies a certain proposal for the management of affairs in the Capital city, but honorable members have availed themselves of the opportunity to discuss the whole scheme, and to reiterate the mistakes that have been made in the past. Only a little while ago a vote was taken in this House, which affirmed that the first session of the next Parliament should be held in Canberra. Despite that fact, we still hear a wail from representatives of the southern and western States because the work is being proceeded with. In their own hearts they are opposed to going to Canberra, or anywhere else. Whether the location of the Capital city should have been at Dalgety, at the head of the Murray, or elsewhere, is quite beside the point. All these objections were raised when the present site was selected. Canberra was decided upon because the House desired to have the matter finalized. I am against this Bill, but my reasons are totally different from those that have been offered by honorable members who have so far spoken. I see no reason for the creation of a Board of this description. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) and exMinisters have praised the work of the men who have been charged with the construction of the Capital city. We have been told that one of those officers is the ablest man for this class of work in the whole of Australia. Despite the fact that those views are held, it is now proposed to pass what amounts to a vote of censure oh those officers, by appointing some one else to manage the business. We were told by the last speaker (Mr. Killen) that unless a salary of £3,000 or £4,000 a year is offered, it will not be possible to obtain the services of men who are best qualified for the work. That honorable member also wants to fix the term at. three years. What man in this or any other country who has a standing that would command such a salary would give up a position which he is at present occupying to take up this work for three years, no matter what the salary may be?
Sitting suspended from 1 to 3.15 p.m.
– It is futile to expect that by appointing the proposed Commission- we will advance the interests of the Federal Capital. Honorable members of the Country party have expressed a hope that it will not be necessary to continue men in the position of Commissioners to administer the Federal Capital Territory, at salaries running up to £3,000 a year, for more than two or three years. At the same time they quite inconsistently contend that men capable of administering the affairs of the Federal Capital of Australia are worth the salaries proposed to be given to the members of the Commission. They do not appear to see that their arguments are contradictory, because men drawing salaries of £3,000 a year in business or in private life will not throw up their positions or leave their businesses to accept positions on the proposed Commission for a term of only three years. I believe that the Bill, if carried, will lead only to a useless waste of money and a further complication of affairs at Canberra. It has been admitted that those who have been in control of affairs at Canberra up to the present time have carried out their work well. Those who have watched the building of the ground-work of the city are aware of the difficulties with which they have been faced from time to time. Some honorable members have directed attention to the enormous cost of the construction of buildings and other works at Canberra as compared with the cost of similar construction in other parts of Australia. They overlook the fact that the reason for this has been a want of continuity of operations. This has hampered everything that has had to be done at Canberra. Want of continuity of employment has prevented tradesmen going from other cities of Australia to undertake work there. We could not expect a bricklayer or any other tradesman to leave Sydney to go to Canberra if he knew that he would only obtain nine or twelve months’ employment there. Even though he might be offered a little more per day or week, he would not give up his regular employment in Sydney for temporary employment at Canberra. This is the reason why progress with works at Canberra has been so slow. We Have had a general criticism by honorable members who do not desire to see the federal Capital established. They have questioned the suitability of the place as a site for the Capital. I do not say that it is the best site that could be selected, or that the country comprised in the Federal Capital Territory is the best that can be found in Australia, but it certainly is not as it has been described by some honorable members who have referred to it. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) indulged in a general tirade of abuse of what he was pleased to refer to as, “ the bush Capital.” His speech showed how true it is that “ a little learning is a dangerous thing.” He told us that he stood on Mr Stromlo and viewed the scene from that eminence. He recalled to my mind a picture of Napoleon on a rock of St. Helena viewing the ocean. The honorable member described what he saw from the top of Mr Stromlo as an arid desert. But he followed that up by saying that the country he viewed would only carry one sheep to the acre. I wonder how many members of the House there are who would like to have afew thousand acres of country- in Australia that would carry a sheep to the acre.
– The Federal Territory country will not carry a sheep to the acre.
– The honorable member for Adelaide admitted that it would, and I am inclined to agree with him, but I have always been under the impression that country that will carry one sheep to the acre must be very good country indeed. I hope the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) will realize that the criticism of this measure from both sides of the House has been such that he will be well advised if he withdraws it. I hope that in the interests of the Federal Capital he will withdraw this proposal to take its administration out of the control of this Parliament and place it in the hands of three Commissioners. It is not fair to the officers who have carried out work there up to the present to replace them by others, as this Bill proposes. The Bill provides that preference shall be given to returned men, but no mere private will ever be considered in connexion with these positions. They will be given to some of the big military men who are so loth to leave off the khaki that they still wear it, even though the war has been over for five years. There is practically a direction in the Bill to make provision for some of these men. at high salaries, though they will not know nearly as well how to conduct affairs at the Capital as the men who have been in charge there up to the present time. Therehas been condemnation of the work done at Canberra by one or two speakers, and amongst them the honorable member for Adelaide, who, I understand, made two visits to the place within a period which might be. reckoned in months. The honorable member expected on his second visit to see trams running, streets formed, and important buildings erected.. This only shows how men who are entirely opposed to. a particular scheme will use the most trifling anguments to prevent its successful accomplishment. It is either right or wrong; that the Federal Capital should be built, and that the compact entered into under the Constitution should be honoured. The building of the Capital can be advanced by the voting of money by this Parliament to be spent by the men who are carrying out works there at the present time. It will not be promoted by replacing those men with a Commissionof new men, who will have to learn how to carry out the work which has been so well done in the past by those at present controlling affairs at Canberra. I am against this Bill because I feel that it will delay the building of the Capital. I am against it because I think it wilt create another expensive Department for the Commonwealth, and further because it proposes that the control of the Federal Capital city and its government shall be handed over by this Parliament to Commissioners. I say, in conclusion, that this measure is an insult to and a condemnation of the men who have been carrying out the works at Canberra so well, and who, it has been admitted by honorable members, from the Minister for Works and Railways down, are the most capable men that the Commonwealth could secure.
. -The selection of the Federal Capital site and the Federal Capital Territory has been settled by this House. The matter with which we are now concerned is the Bill submitted for the appointment of a Commission for the administration of the Territory and the Capital, excepting only the Parliament itself. Canberra is, or will be, after all, a city, and it might be useful to consider how other cities in Australia are managed and controlled. Let honorable members consider, for instance, the number of Boards which, in addition to the Municipal Council, wisdom has found it necessary to appoint for the management of the city of Melbourne and for the administration of the affairs of all the capital cities of the Commonwealth. We have, in addition, Water and Sewerage Boards, Tramway Boards, Harbour Boards, and bodies looking after the supply of electricity and gas. We bave also Vermin Boards and Road Boards. This is in order that direct attention may be given to these various services by permanent bodies free from political influence. I want honorable members to picture what will be likely to happen if some such non-political Board is not appointed to administer the ordinary affairs of the Federal Capital and Territory. We have to picture to ourselves 75 men working on political party lines agitating for this little taxpayer and that little taxpayer and bringing these individual cases before this Parliament. We had a spectacle of this only the day before yesterday, when an honorable member, manifestly for political purposes, urged the Prime Minister to invade the rights of a Board appointed by this Parliament.
– What Board does the honorable member refer to?
– I refer to the Commonwealth Shipping Board, which this Parliament found it necessary to establish in order to run its shipping on business lines. This Board gave a certain holiday to its employees in order to enable them to honour the visiting British Squadron. Day after day agitations on these lines have taken place in this House. This Parliament should be occupied in considering something more important than the domestic and individual affairs of civic life. I do not say that I am in favour of the Bill in toto. I want it to be taken into consideration in Committee so that we may collectively shape it. I do not wish to ensure perpetuity to the Commission. I disagree with some honorable members who say that the Commission should be appointed for two years only. Perhaps we could dispense with it for two years better than we could do with it for two years only. Work in connexion with the supervision of domestic arrangements will increase as the city progresses in the developmental stage. The administration of what is virtually a State cannot be attended to by a Parliament that assembles for about half the year. The Works Department has many duties to perform. It has the railways to look after, and has within itself what amount to other Departments. It has been suggested that that Department, which is already overburdened, should undertake all the civic and other administrative duties in a Territory which is equal in size to a small State. I should imagine that those who desire economy would approve of the expenditure of the salary of a Commissioner. One Commissioner may be sufficient. The Public Works Committee, by going into details of proposed works, has saved the people of Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds, and if we had a capable man- continually at the helm at Canberra, he would probably be able to save his salary a hundred times over. Regarded from that point of view the cost of his salary might be an economical expenditure of public money. Some very wise suggestions have been made during the debate, but I do not include among them the objections to creating a Department which will mete out equity to the citizens within the Capital Territory. I contend that some Department on the spot is necessary, for many matters will require attention, not only when Parliament is sitting, but all the year round. Without such a Department it will be impossible to give satisfaction to the residents. Looking at the duties the proposed Commission would have to perform, I believe that one capable man, with the assistance . of officers taken probably from existing Government Departments, could provide an efficient service. A great expenditure would not be involved, and I can see the possibility of a capable man running the Territory more satisfactorily than could a mixed Parliament representing all the States. I speak as one who has had con- siderable civic experience. It has been stated that a city council will be created. If there were some sort of municipal council at Canberra, appointed by the authority of this Parliament, it would deal only with the city area, but there are about 1,000 square miles of territory to administer. In each of the States of the Commonwealth, there are upper and lower houses of Parliament, municipal councils, road boards, and many other administrative bodies. It is not unreasonable to appoint one body to administer the Capital Territory. The Commission would perform more functions than any similar body in the Commonwealth. Holding these views, I intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill, so that it may go into Committee, and we may consider it, as wise legislators should, as a proposal for the better administration of the Federal State.
– I do not intend to say very much about this Bill, because I consider that the Government, if it had any redeeming feature left, would, in view of the overwhelming criticism against the Bill from all sides of the House, withdraw it. Hardly one word has been said in favour of the proposed Commission, and I cannot understand why, in those circumstances, the debate should proceed.
– The party whip has been cracked.
– As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) suggests, it is clearly apparent that honorable members on the Government side are quite satisfied that the Commission is unnecessary, but they are supporting the Bill solely because the party whip has been cracked. Like dumb, driven cattle, they have meekly agreed to support the Government in its present difficulty.
– They are afraid of a dissolution.
– No doubt the fear exists in the minds of members and supporters of the Government that a dissolution would result in the complete destruction of tie Government.I object to the Bill on the basic principle that this Parliament should have complete and sovereign control over the Federal Capital.
It proposes to surrender that sovereignty. In view of previous experiments with Boards and Commissions, particularly with the War Service Homes Commission, the history of which reeks with maladministration and scandal, the Government is by no means justified in appointing a Commission which may, perhaps, cause extravagance, and result in evil to the people of Australia. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, admitted that the work at Canberra is being carried on satisfactorily. Every honorable member who is an advocate or the Federal Capital will agree that the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), and also the Advisory Board, have done everything possible to facilitate its construction. “Under those circumstances, and in view of the Minister’s own statement, I am at a loss to understand why the Commission is considered necessary. Reading the Minister’s speech, I find that the only material reason advanced for its creation is the need to abolish the existing dual control of the Federal Territory by the Works and Railways Department and the Home and Territories Department. The removal of that dual control is to cost this country £7,000 a year.
– That is only the initial cost.
– That is so. That dual control, which is admittedly a curse, affects not only the Federal Capital Territory, but also various other Government Departments, including the Post Office. This evil could be obviated without the creation of a Commission.
– One Department should control Canberra.
– One Department should control the construction and the administration of the Federal Capital area. As Canberra will not be populated to any extent for a considerable time, the appointment of a Commission with plenary powers of taxation is hardly justified. Parliament should preserve the right of taxation and municipal control until the population justifies the granting of a degree of local government to the residents of that area. The initial work at the Federal Capital, including the water service and the sewerage systems, has been completed. Fourteen years after the commencement of the construction of the Capital, the Go- vernment suddenly decide to appoint a Commission to control its administration. There isno justification for such a proposal. The principal functions of this Commission would eventually be municipal control and taxation. It may ultimately be necessary to appoint such a Commission, but at present there is absolutely no need for it. The Minister himself stated that the manner in which the construction of the Capital and its administration were being carried out was quite satisfactory. I have few Words to say, as this subject has been flogged to death.
– It has been flogged, but not to death.
– Very nearly to death. The Minister should withdraw the Bill to prevent its emasculation, as Suggested by the Country party. Not one member of that party has said anything in favour of the measure. Some of them have suggested that the tenure of the Commission’s appointment should be two years; others that it should certainly be limited. Honorable members generally have directed criticism against the excessive and extravagant salaries that it is proposed to pay the three Commissioners. The Minister, therefore, should withdraw the Bill andsubmit it at a subsequent date in a modified form. Any proposal to appoint a Commission without any fixed tenure would be most unsatisfactory. The Government would be unable to obtain men of the capacity and ability required, even if the appointment were limited to two years; yet, if the appointment were made in excess of that period, it might happen that, in the event of a change of Government - which is quite probable in the near future - the authority of this Parliament could not, without payment of compensation to these officers, be exercised to alter the method of administration of the Federal Capital, as the Commissioners would be appointed for a term longer than that of Parliament itself.
.- While listening to the debate on the Bill yesterday and to-day, I recalled a very memorable speech by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell),on. the occasion of his notable conversion, which was starred in the press of this country. When all the arguments and logic of the Canberra supporters had failed, what converted the honorable member was the wonderful harmony that existed between the members of both sides when the subject of the Capital was before the House. I suggest to the honorable member that if he had listened attentively to the present debate he would have reverted to his former allegiance.There has been no harmony in this debate on the Federal Capital; rather, it has been one long series of contradictions. I have a profound sympathy for the Minister who introduced the Bill; a young, inexperienced, and innocent Minister, who probably is another notable convert on the question or Canberra. There has been only one speech, besides that of the Minister, in support of the Bill. The Government Whip was the only honorable member who gave his unqualified support to the measure. It is an awful fate to befall a Minister on his first attempt to introduce a Bill in this House.
– Will the honorable member’s sympathy extend so far as to induce him to make the second speech in favour of the Bill ?
– I should like to oblige the honorable member. I have spent my life trying to help the under dog, and if I could see one ray of light, one solid argument, justifying the appointment of the Commission, I should, in my sympathy, support the Bill. But I am unable to find one argument in favour of it. I looked carefully through the speech of the Minister to find a sound reason for this appointment and the huge expenditure it involves, and, I found none. I listened to the one supporting speech that gave unqualified approval to the Bill - a word-picture in rainbow colours of the things that will happen when the Federal- Capital is established. I hope the honorable member for Parkes is right, but when he descended from the realms of fancy to the realm of facts, he estimated that there would be 5,000 people in Canberra three years hence ! In the meantime, the Commonwealth would be spending £20,000 on the salaries of Commissioners. I do not propose to traverse the arguments as to whether a Federal Capital should or should not be built ; whatever be the merits or demerits of the proposal, the time for argument is past. But the history of the Federal Capital is the most petty and sordid in the political life of the country. I remember reading, as a youth, that when Federation was accomplished Australia would blossom as a nation, and we should be one people with one destiny. ‘ I recollect the men whom we regarded as statesmen picturing the future of a united country when InterState hamers and jealousies had been swept aside. Yet the very men who advocated Federation for the purpose of abolishing State jealousies were those who inserted in the Constitution a sordid and petty bargain regarding the place at which the Federal Parliament should meet. For that section in the Constitution I do not blame one State or another. One State required that the Capital must be established in New South Wales as a condition of its entering the Federation, and as a counter-blast other States said, “ If the Capital is to be in New South Wales, it shall not be in Sydney, at any rate.” The terms of that compact are a reflection upon the statesmanship of those men who brought about Federation. But all that discussion is ended. The Commonwealth is irrevocably committed to the establishment of a Federal Capital, whether or not the people as a whole- are pleased with the compact, and I wish that we could come together and agree upon a basis which would, enable us to make the best of the bargain, whether it be a good or a bad one. I suggest to the Minister - not as a captious critic of the Government upon this issue, which has always been removed from party considerations - that if he wishes to convert the people of Australia to a belief in the establishment of a Capital at Canberra he has made a bad start to achieve that end. I cannot see ona reason why a Commission should be appointed to do work that is already being well done by the heads of the Commonwealth Departments. The enthusiastic Canberraites are adopting a policy which will make the people say, “If you are commencing by wasting thousands of pounds per annum on something that is entirely unnecessary, you are going the right way to make the Federal Capital more unpopular amongst its opponents, and to turn even its supporters against it.” I agree with the suggestion that the Bill should be withdrawn. It is needless and useless. In his second-reading speech, the Minister (Mt. Stewart) said that the Advisory Committee was doing good work, and’ so satisfied’ is he with its work that he said, in effect, that even after the. new Commission is appointed he will not disband the Advisory Committee for son:©considerable time.
– I do not think the honorable member is quite fair in saying that I said that the Committee would be continued for a considerable time.
– The Minister’s actual words were that he would continue to accept the advice of the Advisory Committee until the new Commission was well established. The new Commission cannot be well established for some considerabletime, and we shall have the Advisory’ Committee and the new Commission working side by side, piling up the cost of ad-, ministering a Territory that is alreadycosting a lot of money and yielding a verysmall return. I do not expect the Federal ‘ Capital to return a revenue equal to the expenditure. The enthusiasts who predict that that will happen in the near future are very optimistic. I hope they are right. But I think they expect too much, from a Capital established under such: conditions. I expect Canberra to be a. losing proposition throughout the lifetime of the present members of this Parliament, and because of that our duty tobe economical is more imperative. I donot say that because of any desire to retard the progress of the Federal Capital. I agree with those who have said that the lack of continuity of policy has increased the cost of administration. Having visited Canberra on two occasions, I am convinced of that, but it is possible to have a continuous policy concurrently with sound and economic administration. To appoint a Commission such as is proposed before the Parliament House is even half constructed, or the foundations of the city are laid, is to merely create sinecures for three specially favoured- men-. I have acted on the Minister’s advice to read clause 14, which specifies the duties of the proposed- Commission., and I find that it is to control and manage Crown lands. That is already being done by thepermanent heads of Departments, and the initial stages of such work, are the most difficult. The Commission is to levy and’ collect rates upon land. Commonwealth officers are already collecting such rates; and agistment fees as are to be collected, and the initial stages of that work alsoare the most difficult. We have passed1 those stages without- the aid of any Commission, or even without having the head’s– of Departments resident at Canberra. But now, when the time is approaching for Parliament to sit at Canberra, and for the heads of Departments to be located there .permanently or for many months in the. year, .and for all the paraphernalia of government to be grouped there, we are told that .these duties can no longer be carried out without the aid of a Commission. That is one of the most preposterous suggestions that ever’ emanated from any .Government. The Commission is to control trams, roads, bridges, gas, electricity, water, and sewerage, destruction of vermin and noxious weeds, public health .and sanitation, and direct works and buildings. Those are the proper functions of the various Departments in existence to-day, which are already controlling work infinitely greater than any that is -likely to be d’one in the Federal Territory. The Minister told us, also, that the Commission will deal with land questions, “the construction of the city, and .take over the whole of the assets and liabilities of the Federal Capital. The control of those assets should not be delegated ito. any Commission; it is a responsibility “that belongs to this Parliament. “Yet ‘the Minister belongs to a party which before the. formation of the Composite Cabinet clamoured for, above all things, -the restoration of responsible government. Now that the Country party has representatives in the Cabinet, responsible government is thought to have been achieved, so that, apparently, responsible government means the inclusion of three -or four country members du the Ministry. The things that ha-ve occurred since the present Government took office are proof of more irresponsible government ‘than ever happened even under ‘the preceding Nationalist Ministry, and that is saying a good deal. I listened with attention to the honorable .member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), but he said not one word in support df the appoint.ment of a Commission. On the contrary, ‘he said, in effect, that he was absolutely opposed to such am appointment. But he added, “ I will vote for the second reading of the Bill, and we may improve it in Committee.” I say, with all due respect to the honorable member, that he -is not treating the House fairly when he adopts such an attitude. He is not approaching this measure free of party bias or as a member of Parlia- ment desirous of doing his duty.
I can understand ‘an honorable member saying, “ I disapprove of certain clauses in the Bill, but I shall vote for the second reading with the desire to have those clauses altered or deleted in Committee.”
– That is just about what I said.
– But I am pointing out to the honorable member that, if he is opposed to the appointment of a Commission, he is logically opposed to the whole Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. The appointment of Commissioners is the principle underlying this measure. An honorable member like the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), who declares that he is in favour of a Commission, but believes that there should be only one Commissioner, is entitled to rote for the second reading, and move an amendment in Committee to have one Commissioner instead of three. But the honorable member for Lilley is absolutely opposed to the appointment of any Commission.
– I do not think that I made that definite statement.
– I listened to the honorable member with the greatest of care. I ask him now whether he believes in the appointment of a Commission.
– I said definitely that I would vote against a Commission of three.
– The honorable member said definitely that he was against the appointment of a Commission, and at the end of his speech he recommended the Minister to withdraw tie Bill. What did he mean by making that suggestion ? If he believed in the appointment of one Commissioner, why did he ask the Minister to withdraw the Bill when, if he had the necessary numbers, he could have gained his end in Committee? The truth is that the whips have been cracked on the Government side. Honorable members of the Opposition have been asked to deal with the Bill as a nonparty measure, but the Government do not regard it -as a non-party question. Not having the numbers to pass the second reading last night, they put up their Whip to make a long speech in order to keep the debate going. In fact, the Government Whip was the only enthusiastic supporter of the Bill on the Government side. The speech of every other honorable member on that side was an apology for the measure.
– Let the honorable member give us his policy.
– I would wipe out the whole Bill. There is nothing about the administration of affairs in the Federal Territory that cannot be carried out in the ordinary departmental way just like any other public work or public department.
– Yet the administration of the Federal Territory has been strongly criticized by honorable members opposite.
– That fact does not prove that a Commission ought to be appointed to take control of affairs. It simply proves that the administration should be changed. Maladministration on the part of the Government controlling the officials who are administering affairs is not got rid of by forming a Commission. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and also, I believe, the honorable member for Lilley, were exercised in their minds as to whether the Commission was to be
A permanent one. The Minister has not said that it is to be of a temporary character, and when he replies, I do not anticipate that he will be so absurd as to declare that the Commission is to be a temporary one. If there is a scintilla of reason for the appointment of a Commission at the present time to carry on the necessary work, surely it is an argument for the appointment of a permanent Commission. Can we imagine the need for the appointment of a temporary Commission to deal with Crown lands or collect rates? Will the leasing of Crown lands or collecting of rates be a temporary proposition? Will the control of public buildings, tramways, and other public utilities be purely temporary? Every one knows that if this Commission is at all necessary, it must be a permanent body. The Minister might have put his supporters right when they were expressing their fears on this point, and he might have franklystated that, of course, it was to be a permanent Com mission to deal for all time with these matters at an expenditure of £7,000 per year for three Commissioners.
– The matters referred to by the honorable member might be dealt with later on by a local governing body.
– If that is so, they can be at the present time. The honorable member for Riverina, while logical in one portion of his speech, was most illogical in other portions of it. For instance, he said, “ We must get away from political control.”
– “As far as possible.”
– I wonder how the honorable member got into politics. Has he read the Bill? Did he listen to the Minister’s speech? The Minister emphasized one point most particularly. Anticipating arguments about the lack of parliamentary control and talk about doing away with responsible Government, he said that the Commission would be under the control of a Minister. If a Commission is under the control of a Minister, surely that is political control.
– It is, to some extent, of course.
– It is, absolutely. Does the honorable member know the meaning of “ political control “ ? I am not anxious to start a kindergarten in this Chamber as to the meaning of terms, and I credit the honorable member with knowing that if a Commission is placed under the control of a Minister, it is political control. What other form of political control can there be in a Department that is under the control of a Minister?
– The Minister will take very great care not to interfere with the men who will be appointed to the Commission.
– I assume that the wisdom which the honorable member appears to believe would be displayed by a Commission is displayed by the head of a Department, and that the work would be done equally well. Yet the honorable member says that if we had the head of a Department in charge at Canberra, there would . be political control ! The honorable member assumes that, under the control of a Commission, administration at Canberra would be removed into a pure and rarefied atmosphere.
– Then the powers would be defined.
– The powers of heads of Departments are defined in the same way as the powers of the Commissions are defined. If the administration of this proposed Commission is to be taken away from Parliament, which controls the Minister, we shall be creating an oligarchy in the very place where we are supposed to encourage the development of a new national spirit and the fostering of national ideals. The inconsistencies of his arguments are obvious. Even the Minister acknowledges that the purpose of the Bill is to get rid of dual control. At present, he says, we have the Minister for Home and Territories and the Minister for Works and Railways controlling activities in the city area. Surely, with all thegenius and combined wisdom of the great political parties it should be a simple matter to get rid of this dual control, and arrange for control by one Minister only. That should not be an impossibility.
– There should be no occasion to wait for the next Parliament to solve that difficulty.
– Of course not. We do not need the appointment of a Commission of three men to do work which has been performed quite satisfactorily, up to the present, by permanent heads of Departments. There is no occasion to superadd a Commission. But the honorable member for Riverina thinks he sees an argument in favour of this course. He says that we have two Departments in control, and that we want a Commission to take over their duties. Now, it is true that we have two Departments controlling different functions in connexion with the Federal Capital Territory, and I see nothing wrong with the arrangement. It has worked well elsewhere. In the Postal Department, for example, we have a Minister controlling the postal affairs, and another Minister responsible for the building of post-offices and other necessary buildings. As a matter of fact, this supposedly dual control is really a concentration of effort by the respective Departments to discharge certain important functions. I believe this leads to efficiency in administration. The system has been evolved as a result of many years of parliamentary experience.
– And we cannot get away from it.
– As the honorable member for East Sydney suggests, I do not see how we can get away from it. The responsible Minister always acts on the advice of his departmental experts, and there is complete and effective control by the consultation of Ministers in Cabinet. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of loose talk on this subject in order to justify the passage of the Bill, which, as has been said, has been introduced merely for the purpose of creating fancy billets at the expense of the people. I do not like to mention things that might be suggested, but this measure does suggest that the Government are doing a lot for their political friends and the heads of the organizations that stand behind them. Big business and big interests right throughout the length and breadth of this country have benefited more in the few months that this Government have been in office than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth.
– Now, the honorable member is spoiling his speech.
– On more than one occasion I have been able to prove what I say, and on some future occasion I shall probably ram this argument home.
– The honorable member cannot prove anything.
– I repeat that I can prove all my charges in this House. I proved my allegations in regard to one of the most scandalous propositions ever put before Parliament, namely, the proposal to hand back £1,300,000 of taxation to a handful of big pastoralists. I proved also the iniquity of selling for £155,000the Geelong Woollen Mills, which the manager of another mill told me only recently could not be replaced under £700,000. Many other charges have been made against this Government. The Bill is an extravagant proposal to create three billets for three men; but,says the honorable member for Riverina, the Commission will be over and above all. It will comprise men firmly fixed in tenure, one for three years, one for four years, and one for five years, all free from political control. No one will have the right to interferewith them. These are the men to whom we are to hand over the control of members of the Public Service whose duties will require their residence in Canberra. I shall probably have something to say on this aspect of the question when the Bill is in Committee. Turning now to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), I find that he was not so wholeheartedly in support of the Bill. He :said he did not believe in it absolutely, but he was very enthusiastic about the main principle, and in his enthusiasm he «aid that if we could get good men to carry on the work they would save their salaries a hundred times over. I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable member, but 1 invite honorable members to pay particular attention to what tEat statement means. It means that these three men, who are to be appointed at a salary of £7,000 a year, will be able to discover so :much waste as the result of maladministration that they will save this country £700,000 a year.
– The honorable member knows that he is misinterpreting my statement. I was referring to the Public Works Committee, and I pointed out that the Committee’ had claimed that, as the result of its inquiries, it had saved the country over £100,000; and I added that the Commission might be able to save a similar amount over such a vast territory.
– A hundred times over was the term used by the honorable member. What the honorable member has just now said confirms my statement. He declared that the members of the Commission would save their salaries, in all probability, a hundred times over. That means that £700,000 per annun is likely to be saved by the appointment of the Commission. In what way may this huge sum be saved? Is there waste as the result of inefficient administration in the Department controlled by the Minister for Works and Railways or the Department of Home and Territories? What other interpretation can be placed on the remarks made by the honorable member for Forrest? I suggest that if there is any truth in his statement, that if it is not a wild attempt to support an obviously objectionable measure, he should urge an immediate inquiry into the waste and extravagance of the two Departments concerned.
– I believe in the expert Administration of any business.
– The honorable member did not mean what he said at all. He was simply looking for an argument to justify his support of the Bill. There may be many faults in the administration of the present Government, but I do not believe there is any evidence of waste by the Works and Railways Department in the work now being carried out at Canberra, or by the Department controlling the administration of the Capital City. I visited the place, and I saw the works in progress under the control of the Minister in charge of the Bill (Mr. Stewart). I do not agree with much of the criticism of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), but I know a little about the cost of tunnelling and driving through rock. The day labour involved in putting in the sewer at Canberra represents as cheap a job as a great deal of tlie contract work done in pre-war times, when wages were lower than now. The cost of the tunnel is a credit to the foreman, the men concerned, and the whole management. When the Minister gives a final report on that phase of the work, I think it will be a complete answer to the comments of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) regarding the cost of day labour.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has inspected the tunnel ?
– Yes. I went down two shafts, and I was delighted to see the modern drilling machines in operation. Through having water continuously playing on the “face,” the dust problem was almost solved. Naturally, the men were much more contented than would be the case if the old system, under which they were constantly surrounded by a cloud of dust, were still in vogue. I could see no evidence of wasteful expenditure, but I should certainly like to have a tenminutes chat with the man who suggested making cuttings through the beautiful hills at Canberra, instead of allowing the roads to rise over the undulations. The cutting away of banks in order to obtain a road on a dead level has done much to interfere with the natural beauty of the scenery. If I had any criticism to offer, it would not be on the score of extravagance, but because of the design of certain cottages. Walking in at the back door, ohe immediately trips’ over’ the washing copper that is situated in what is supposed to be a vestibule, and the entrance to the kitchen is the front door of the house. The old-fashioned four-roomed cottage was. superior to- some of these dwellings. On tha other hand, I admit that, a number of the: designs- are- very creditable. I cannot agree with the honorable member for Corio- (Me. Lister), as. to the- COSt of construction. Some of the cottages are being erected at a lower figure, so, I am given to understand, than that at which they could be. built in. the. city of Melbourne.
– And with very fine bricks, too-.
– The best bricks I have seen. I was disappointed to notice bricks placed on edge. Whilst- that method might save money in one respect, rough-casting, was adopted, and that would probably make the work just as costly’ as if the bricks had been laid, on the flat. I do not think there is any style of building more attractive than nicely laid and well tuckpointed bricks. Rough-cast is usually employed for the purpose of camouflaging, a house when if is not built of brick. I claim that the proposed Commission would be unable to save the amount of its salary. Its position would be a sinecure, and unless it displaced some of the officials already engaged1, its1 appointment would represent a waste of money. Under clause 13, the permanent employees, who are now under the Public Service Act, would be transferred to the absolute control of the three Commissioners, who would be autocrats. This procedure would rob those public servants of all the protection they ‘now enjoy under the Act. The clause provides that the Commissioners may appoint such officers as they think necessary. This means picking and choosing its officers, and such a system is quite contrary to our present conception of fair play. In no public Department have any three men the right to exercise the patronage that arises from giving such autocratic power to a few individuals. Owing to> the impersonal way in which the Public Service- Act is now administered, protection of the Government servant is assured, and there is a guarantee of good service to the public. Even if a Commission were necessary, this particular clause would be a blot upon it. The Public Service Act was specially introduced to eliminate .outside influence and patronage in connexion with appointments. I regret that the
Government has brought down a measure of this description at. the outset of its administration. The Bill will not help to eliminate the regrettable jealousy over thesite of the Federal Capital. The public feeling is that Commissioners are not required to. control revenues, as small as. those likely to be obtained from the: Federal Capital. Territory. If one takes: the trouble to discover the number of Boards, and Commissions, that have been appointed in the last six years or so, he will find the list to be most formidable. One wonders how the affairs of this country were administered before their appointment, if they are now a necessary governmental adjunct. We have, armies of these men, and we should take care that the number is not increased. I am not concerned about the thousand’s of public servants, because if they are doing necessary work their employment is warranted, but if Parliament places on the backs- of the people the burden of maintaining a great army of highly-paid officials, with; salaries of £2,000 and. £3,000 per annum, it will be found to be a load that the community is unable to bear.
.- The action of the Government in present ing; this Bill to- the House merits the strongest criticism of all honorable members. Already members of all partieshave keenly criticized1 the proposals of the Bill, and especially the proposal to create another Commission for the purpose of administering and controlling the Federal Capital Territory. It is strange that honorable members who came into this House to conduct an economy campaign are so intensely eager to hang- yet another millstone around the necks of the unfortunate taxpayers by incurring an unnecessary expense of £7,000 a year by appointing this Commission. Since my entry into this Chamber in 1917, I have seen bureaucracy grow and flourish to an astounding- degree. A man who is friendly, or has rendered some service, to the Government,, or- who is defeated at the elections, must be found a position - and a position is found for him. This Government and that which immediately preceded it have provided many positions for their supporters. Once such a man is appointed to a prominent position, the process begins of developing a Department. First of all, a Secretary must be appointed, and then a motor car must be found for this potential bureaucrat. Later on he must have an office, and then a messenger. In a little while the expense attached to the original appointment has been very largely increased. This seems to be an age in which Governments feel that they are entitled to evade their responsibilities. The proposal in this Bill amounts to an evasion of governmental responsibility. If we agree to the appointment of this Commission it will not be long before the Commissioners will have their own offices and motor cars and their own staff of experts. The staff now working at Canberra will be disbanded, and the officers will be sent back to their respective States. Although £7,000 is stated to be the cost of this Commission, our experience of previous Commissions tells us that the expenditure will be more than £10,000 a year in a very few* years. From time to time the officers of the Works and Railways Department and the Home and Territories Department have been subjected to severe criticism. I myself have felt it necessary to criticize certain of their actions^. Quite recently I had to call attention to the extraordinary conduct of the Public Works Department in respect of the building of a post office at Warren. In that case the Commonwealth was robbed by the contractor. I have had occasion to criticize the work at Canberra of the officers of both the Works and Railways Department and the Home and Territories Department. Generally speaking, however, it must be admitted that their work has been excellent. While one may go to Canberra and criticize the road construction methods - and there is much room for criticism in that respect - one has to admit” that in a general way the work of the officers has been first class. I believe that the roads trouble should not be laid at the door of the officers. A person who was in charge there for a little while carried out an extraordinary design, which involved cutting away hills which were really only slight undulations instead of taking the roads over the hills. Unsightly cuttings have been made which disfigure the landscape, and ultimately may have to be filled in. I believe that that work was done against the advice of the officers in control. Very often a public officer has to suffer for the sins of a Minister or of a Government. We know that things have been done at Canberra by Ministerial instruction which have been against the advice of the officers in charge. In such cases the officers concerned have no opportunity to reply to criticism. To a large extent the mistakes which have been made in the Federal Territory must be charged against other than the Commonwealth officers. We have men at Canberra whom- it is a pleasure to meet. One cannot come into contact with them without realizing that they are thoroughly capable. Mr. Murdoch, the chief architect, is one of the foremost men in his profession in the Commonwealth, if not in the world. One cannot look at his work without freely acknowledging that this is so. Though he may have made some mistakes in designing certain cottages, his work, taken as a whole, has been of a very high order. Colonel Owen, the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Works, is giving splendid service, and the same may be said of Mr. Hill, the Engineer. Under the control of the Advisory Committee and Mr. Goodwin, the Surveyor-General, the development of the Capital city in the last four years has been rapid and sane. Mistakes have been made, of course. They must inevitably be made when large sums of money are spent in laying the foundations of a city. Taken on the whole, however, the work at Canberra has been remarkably free from mistakes. One could direct attention to some instances, but they are of only minor importance, and the extra expense involved is of no great consequence.
– That is an unusual experience in the beginning of large undertakings.
– It is. One can go to the different cities in Australia and witness works being carried out by private enterprise in which great mistakes have been made. Reference has been made to money wasted in connexion with governmental undertakings, but during the time I have been a member of the Public Works Committee I have seen throughout Australia mistakes in work3 carried on by private enterprise which are much greater than any that can be attributed to any departmental work. If such mistakes had been made in connexion with governmental activities, a wholesale dismissal of the departmental officers responsible would have beeL made. The unnecessary expenditure of huge sums of money in consequence of muddling on the part of private enterprise convinces me more than ever that those associated with it have a good deal to learn from Government undertakings. The building of the Parliament House at Canberra, the construction of the cottages, and the sewerage scheme are practically all being carried out by day labour, and. I do not think the work could be done cheaper and more efficiently by private enterprise than is being done by the Government.
– And the proposed Board will interfere with efficient day labour.
– I intend to deal with that later. One honorable member more strongly opposed to the Capital than to the Commission, referred to the extraordinary holes made in the ground in carrying out the sewerage work. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented: -
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Rules of Court- Statutory Rules 1924, No. 66.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired at Garden Vale East, Victoria, for Postal purposes.
Meteorological Service - Report by the Commonwealth Meteorologist for the year 1922-23.
Twenty -third Anniversary of this Commonwealth Parliament. - Advances for Wire Netting Supplies.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn, .
I think I should make some reference to a fact which, I am sure, is not in the minds of most honorable members, and that is that to-day is the 23rd anniversary of the birth of the Commonwealth Parliament. As we happen to be sitting to-day, I think you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as one of the original members of the House, would desire that we should make some allusion to what is, in many senses, an historic occasion. The Commonwealth Parliament has had many birthdays, and although it has not been usual to refer to them annually,
I do not think I am creating a bad precedent to-day. As you, sir, happen to be in the Chair, I desire to offer you our congratulations upon your long and uninterrupted period of service, and also to offer our felicitations to the other honorable members who were with you when the Parliament first met. They are now, unfortunately, very few in number. Many of the old familiar faces are gone, and many who rendered incomparable service to the Commonwealth have departed for ever. The few who still remain are you, sir, the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), the honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. C. McDonald), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe), who was an original member of the Senate. The Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom) was a member of the first Parliament, but was not a member when the Parliament first met. We also have with us still the Clerk of the House (Mr. Gale), who has been with us since the inception of Federation, and who has rendered long and faithful service.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– On this occasion, I think it is the wish of all honorable members that we should offer our congratulations to the original members, and we should, I think, felicitate ourselves on our own political birthday, and wish ourselves many happy returns of the day.
– I do not wish to detain honorable members for any time, but there is a matter of considerable importance which I wish to bring before the House. I refer to the Commonwealth grant of £200,000 which was made last year to the various States - with the exception of the Northern Territory, to which an amount of £50,000 was allotted - for the supply of wire netting. This scheme has practically broken down as far as most of the States are concerned, with the exception, perhaps, of Queensland. The whole scheme has proved unworkable. I do not say that it is the fault of the Federal authorities ; rather is it the fault of this Parliament in handing over the administration of the scheme to the State authorities. From various questions asked, it is clear that that is the case so far as New South Wales is concerned. Similar conditions exist in Western Australia. Ir. neither of these States has any of the money allotted yet been expended. The Minister informed me yesterday that, although this money was voted last year, no applications have been received, from the New South Wales Government. Thi sum of £62,300, which is available for the use of settlers in New South Wales, is lying idle, not one penny of which can be utilized owing to. the obduracy of the authorities in that State, who have no desire to see the Federal scheme come to fruition while their own scheme is in operation. I direct attention to a paragraph contained in a letter received from the Secretary of the Inverell Pasture3 Protection Board, dated 56h M’ay, 1924, which reads -
From correspondence between the Minister for Lands and the Board, it would appear some hitch has arisen between the State and Federal authorities, and until the difficulties are overcome the State authorities will not forward any application forms. It is not necessary for me to point out the considerable inconvenience being caused the settlers in this district through the neglect to have the whole scheme Dualized and the majority of the persons who made application in the first place do not know whether to proceed with another application through the Board in the usual way or await developments in connexion wilh the Federal Government’s proposal. If it is not intended to proceed with the scheme further, this Board considers it the bounden duty of the authorities responsible to say so, and not humbug the settlers any further.
No less than 150 applications have been placed with the Inverell Pastures Protection Board. There are scores of Pastures Protection Boards, and in this instance 350 applications have been submitted, not one of which has been forwarded to the Federal authorities. The Minister informed U3 yesterday that no applications had yet been received from New South Wales, although a sum of over £60,000 is available for that purpose.
– I have sent in about ten myself.
– The settlers of New South . Wales should be informed without further delay whether the Federal scheme is to operate or not, and this House should know why the scheme has broken down. I shall read a short statement given me .by the Minister for
Trade and Customs last year in answer to a question -
A letter has been received from the Premier of New South Wales, in -which it is stated that, owing to the fact that under the State scheme of New South Wales, interest at the rate of 0 per cent, is charged, while the Federal scheme provides for advances free of interest, it was desired to restrict the Federal advance to returned soldier applicants. Nothing is known of any statement with regard to the class of netting. The Federal regulations state plainly that the netting to be supplied must be rabbit-proof or dog-proof netting.
If the Federal Ministry considers that this money should be devoted exclusively to soldier settlers, I have no doubt that such a proposal would meet with the approval of the taxpayers of the various States, but as things are at present, the money made available is lying idle, and many bona fide settlers are being humbugged. I suggest that the Federal Ministry should definitely inform the Government of New South Wales that all applications in hand must be forwarded without further delay to the Federal Government. There* is no reason why those . applications should not be forwarded, because any loss will be borne by the Federal Government; the State Governments stand to .incur no loss whatever. The question of security will be determined by the Pastures Protection Board of New South Wales, towhich body all applications must be made, but if any of the settlers default, the loss will be borne by the Federal Government. The New South Wales Government should not be allowed to keep this money lying idle, and thus hold up a very useful scheme for the benefit of the land-holders in that State.
– For some inscrutable reason only one of the States - Queensland - has up to date forwarded any application for advances in connexion with wire netting. There must be some misunderstanding in New South Wales in respect to this matter. To-morrow I have an appointment with the Government of that State, and I shall then endeavour to reach some finality with regard to this matter, so that the applications which have been made may be sent along, and the settlersin that State he given the advantage of the Federal grant. The Federal Government have the money, andare prepared to hand it over. It is a curious fact that in five out of the six States the position is the same.
– Evidently there is some condition requiring the States to accept responsibility in respect to these advances, which they do not desire to shoulder.
– I have written to the various State . Governments in connexion with this matter, and, as I have indicated, shall personally discuss it with the New South Wales Government to-morrow.
– Will the Minister also ascertain the reason for the Victorian Government not forwarding any applications ?
– I shall do that with pleasure, and hope to report something satisfactory within the next fortnight.
.- I thank the Right Honorable the Prime Minister very sincerely for his kind references to myself and the other members of this Parliament who first sat here on the 9th May, 1901. I remember well the first meeting of the Federal Parliament, and may say, in passing, that the weather of late is similar to that which we then experienced. I recollect that, during May and June, 1901, we scarcely saw the sun for about six weeks.
– A good argument for Canberra.
– I am afraid climatic conditions will be worse at Canberra. Many of those with whom I wasassociated in the first Federal Parliament - fine men like James Page, E. L. Batchelor, Gregor McGregor, and others, as well as the Honorable William Henry Groom, father of the present AttorneyGeneral - have since passed away, andI quake in my shoes when I consider my own age. I trust that the old gentleman with the scythe will be more merciful to the members of this Parliament than in the past. I once heard SirJoseph Cook, when referring to the many deaths which had occurred among members of this Legislature, describe Parliament as a “slaughterhouse.” It certainly deserved that appellation, but for some time past we fortunately have been rather free from loss through death. I again thank the Prime Minister forhis very kind remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.57 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240509_reps_9_106/>.