10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to know from the Prime Minister if the arbitration judges have yet been appointed under the provisions of the now Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– No; but I hope to be in a position at an early date to make an announcement on the matter.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that retailers in Perth and Fremantle refuse to sell sugar under the conditions laid down in the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the sugar-growers for the distribution of supplies, and ask him if something can be done to prevent the people of Western Australia from being under a greater disadvantage than that under which they now suffer owing to their remoteness from the source of supply?
– Under the revised agreement sugar was to be made available at the same price in all the principal ports of the Commonwealth. Under the’ old agreement, that arrangement applied to supplies at Fremantle only, but the concession was made that the people of Perth could have their supplies at exactly the same” price as that charged in the other capital cities. Difficulty, however, arose owing to the fact that the grocers in Western Australia will not fall in with the arrangement which is in force in all the other States, and consequently the concession, which had been given, not for their benefit, but for that of the public, was withdrawn. I am not quite clear as to the actual position at the moment, but I shall have it inquired into.
Franchise for Residents
– I have received a communication from a number of men who are employed at Canberra, asking if there is any possibility of their having votes at the forthcoming referendum?
– There are grave difficulties in the way, because the Electoral Act states definitely what persons are, and what persons are not, entitled to vote. The extension of the franchise to the residents of the Federal Capital Territory will receive early consideration by this Parliament.
– In view of the need for establishing a laboratory at Broken Hill for the investigation, prevention, and cure of industrial diseases, will the Minister for Health take early steps to bring about the establishment of such a laboratory as is outlined in the scheme recommended by the Royal Commission on Health’?
– On the 21st July, there will be a conference with the State Ministers of Health, when the whole of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Health will be considered.
– Many complaints have reached me from news agents who have recently purchased businesses in which part of the consideration was, I understand, the fact that associated with those businesses, were licences for the sale of postage stamps on commission. I should like to know from the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that in all such cases his department has refused to allow the incoming purchaser any commission upon the sale of stamps, although it is willing to permit an existing news agent to continue the sale of stamps on thesame premises on commission?
– The department has never regarded a licence to sell postage stamps as a transferable right. Although manylicences have been terminated, in cases in which it is recognized that the convenience of the public requires that any particular news agent should have a licence to sell stamps on commission, the department has continued them.
– Some time ago the Minister for Trade and Customs stated that imported pictures would be censored on the advertisements associated with them. I wish, therefore, to direct attention to the fact that there is displayed in Bourke-street, Melbourne, today, an advertisement of a picture called “Hell’s 400,” which depicts three scantily-dressed ladies, one of whom is wielding a pick axe, another shovelling gold, and the third shovelling coal on to a motor car. Will the Minister ask the chief censor what, in his opinion, will be the effect of such an advertisement on the public mind ?
– I shallbring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– Some time ago, the Department for Home and Territories commenced, about 30 miles from Alice Springs, some buildings for the housing of half-castes, but they have remained unfinished for a long while, and from present appearances I should say will not be ready for occupation for some years. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories be good enough to tell me what steps are being taken to’ improve the arrangements for the care of half-caste children in the Alice Springs district?
– The honorable member gave me notice of his question, and I was therefore able to obtain the following statement from the department: -
The Commonwealth Government is fully alive to the seriousness of the half-caste problem in the Northern Territory, and is taking all possible steps to provide for the care, maintenance, and training of the half-caste children under its control.
In Darwin the female children have been segregated and are separately housed under the control of a matron, who trains them in needlework and other useful domestic arts, whilst a regular teacher of the Education Department is entrusted with their general education.
Consideration is being given to the possibility of arranging for the care of these children to be undertaken by one of the missionary organizations operating in the north.
In Central Australia the half-caste children under Government control are accommodated in a building at Alice Springs known as the Bungalow.
The Government recognizes that this building is unsuitable, and that the site on which it is located is an undesirable one.The position was viewed with so much concern that, in 1923, arrangements were made for Sir Baldwin Spencer to visit Central Australia and investigate the problem on behalf of the Government.
In the report subsequently furnished by Sir Baldwin Spencer he commented very favorably on the management of the Bungalow at Alice Springs, and stated that the children were happy and contented. He pointed out, however, that the site of the institution was most unsuitable, and that while the Bungalow remained in its present situation it would not be possible to do more for the children than was then being done.
In this connexion it should be explained that whilst the Bungalow is close to the local hotel, it is also immediately opposite the local police station, and is under the personal supervision of the police sergeant, whilst the children are under the immediate care of a competent white matron and three half-caste assistants.
Sir Baldwin Spencer recommended that a new site should be selected at some distance from the overland route, or from any projected railway or stock route.
Following upon Sir Baldwin Spencer’s report, the Government made an unsuccessful endeavour to induce some suitable religious body to take over the care of the half-caste children in Central Australia. The Premier of South Australia was thereupon asked whether his Government had a suitable institution which could take charge of the female halfcastes, but he advised that no such institution was available.
The only course remaining to theGovernment was to proceed with the erection of suitable buildings in a desirable locality, and, after careful consideration had been given to several sites, it was finally decided to proceed with the erection of an up-to-date homo at Jay Creek, about 20 miles from Alice Springs, and well away from the main overland track.
In June, 1925, instructions were issued fox the erection of a home in the locality mentioned, under the supervision of Sergeant Scott. A site was acquired, and the work of construction was put in hand without delay. A quantity of material was delivered on the site and construction was actuallycommenced, but progress was greatly retarded by the recent disastrous drought. Difficulty was also experienced in obtaining local supplies of timber, which had to be transported some 40 miles; whilst trouble was encountered with the tradesmen. In December last it became necessary to relieve Sergeant Scott owing to illness; and, as it was impossible to proceed whilst drought conditions prevailed, the tradesmen were paid off and building operations were suspended.
The suspension of construction work continued owing to boring operations having given rise to doubt as to whether adequate water supplies could be obtained for the home when erected, and with a view to resolving this doubt further boring tests are now being urgently proceeded with.
As soon as a sufficiency of water supplies is assured, the construction of the buildings will be recommenced, and every effort will be made to bring the work to a speedy conclusion.
In the meantime, negotiations are in progress with one of the best known and most successful missionary bodies in Australia to take over the buildings, when completed, and to conduct the institution on behalf of the Government. It is confidently anticipated that these negotiations will shortly result in an arrangement satisfactory to all parties.
– I understand that a recent conference in Sydney decided to ask the Government to appoint a royal commission to report upon wireless royalties, copyrights, patent rights, and broadcasting fees. Will the Prime Minister indicate the attitude of the Government to that proposal?
– Amongst other matters a shorter wave length, royalties upon patents, copyright, and the administrative charge deducted by the department from the listening-in licences, are now receiving the consideration of the Government. It is not intended to appoint a royal commission - at any rate, not before the present investigation is completed.
Agreement with Victorian Savings Bank.
Mr.FENTON asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
Whether it is true, as reported, that owing to a lack of harmony between the War Service Homes Commission and the State Savings Bank authorities the latter have intimated that they do not intend to renew the agreement?
Is it a fact that this disagreement is owing to the action of an officer of the War Service Homes Commission?
Will this disagreement in any way interfere with the erection of War Service Homes ?
Is it the intention to make arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank to carry out this work in the future?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sale to the Imperial Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In the agreement and appendices attached thereto made on the 31st day of March, 1921, between His Majesty’s Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, and in the agreement and appendices attached thereto made on the 1st of April, 1921, between the Commonwealth Government and British Australian WoolRealization Association Limited, both agreements having been executed for and on behalf of the Commonwealth by the then Prime Minister (the Bight Hon. W. M. Hughes, P.C.), all matters between the Governments respecting Imperial wool contracts were concluded. Furthermore, as litigation in connexion with wool contracts has not yet been brought to an end, beyond supplying the foregoing general information, answers cannot be given to a series of questions relating to matters which are still sub judice.
Proposed Reciprocal Agreement with New Zealand.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether anything has been done to finalize the proposed reciprocal agreement with New Zealand relating to old-age and invalid pensions ?
– In June, 1924, in reply to a similar question, I informed the honorable member that the negotiations begun some years ago had fallen through. These negotiations have not since been revived.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether it has been brought to notice that the . appearance of Commonwealth postage stamps is frequently impaired owing to the perforations being out of register with the coloured portion of the stamps; and whether the Postmaster-General will take steps to prevent such imperfect stamps being accepted from the printer ?
– No. The printer, who has been consulted, states that continuous care is exercised to secure perfect registration of the perforations, and while, perhaps, not always successful, owing to mechanical difficulties, he claims that the postage stamps of the Commonwealth bear favorable comparison in this respect with those issued in other countries. The printer is shortly to install new perforating machinery, and this should eliminate any imperfections which may at present be taking place.
Number of Boys Trained and in Training.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Sale of Vessels
– On the 7th July last, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked the following question : -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
Erriba, Emita, Dromana, Dinoga, Delungra. These vessels were sold recently to Viscount Inchcape. In view of the possibility of offers being made for the ships remaining for sale, it is not considered advisable to divulge the price.
Booral, Boorara, Bulla, Carina
Dismissal of Returned Soldiers
– On the 6th July, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to give the following replies : -
Dismissal of Returned Soldiers
– On the 30th June, the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) asked a question regarding the number of returned soldiers whose contracts had been terminated by the Expropriation Board in New Guinea.
Advice has been received from the chair man of the Expropriation Boardthat the dismissals of returned soldiers by that authority during the six months ended the 30th June, 1926, numbered fifteen, and a similarnumber of returned soldiers had resigned to take over plantations, either as owners or managers. The departmental file relating to the matter will be made available to the honorable member if he so desires.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act. - Land acquired at Yerongpilly, Queensland - For War Service Homes purposes.
Public Service Act. - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 87.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations : - Establishment of an Automatic Telephone Exchange at Hobart, Tasmania.
This proposal was explained to the House on the 26th March, when it was referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report.
– What is the estimated expenditure ?
– The total estimated expenditure is £161,118. The matter has already been reported on by the Public Works Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz. : - The erection of Commonwealth Offices, Sydney.
In 1921 the Public Works Committee recommended to Parliament the erection of a modern office building in Sydney to accommodate and concentrate branches of Federal Departments occupying rented premises in separated localities. As the site contemplated at that time could not be acquired on favorable terms, a new and more suitable site in Phillip-street, near Hunter-street, was purchased at a later date for £25,000. this site, which is returning fair interest upon its cost, carried certain leases which it was inexpedient to determine at the date of its purchase, and as the transfer of tax collection to the State rendered the erection of a building less urgent, the work was postponed. But the necessity for the building has now become more acute. This is due chiefly to the Customs House building at Circular Quay being now entirely required by the Trade and Customs Department, and to the consequent necessary displacement of branches of other departments at present located in that building. Another factor pointing to early need for the proposed new building is the general unsuitability and high rents of some of the rented offices. The existing leases of half of the acquired site can now be conveniently determined, and the proposal is to proceed with erection of half of the building as a first section of the complete work. The estimated cost of this section is £92,000. I lay the plans of the proposed building on the table.
– I should like a little more information on this matter. Why should the committee be requested to report on the construction of only half the building? If there is a big demand for office accommodation in Sydney it should be a good proposition to complete the building at once. Every one who has had anything to do with the building trade knows what the construction of only half a building means. The first section of the work is done, and some years afterwards the whole building is again disturbed while additions or alterations are made to it.
– I also should like the Public Works Committee to be asked to report upon the advisableness or otherwise of completing the building.
– Under this motion it would be quite competent for it to recommend that the building should be completed if it considered that course the better one.
– I know that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was chairman of the Public Works Committee for a number of years, and has a good knowledge of its powers, but I have a lively recollection of him ruling on a number of occasions while I was a member of the committee that it could not go outside the scope of its reference. I trust that the Minister will refer the whole broad question to the committee. If he will give me an assurance’ that he intends to do so, I shall not offer any objection to the motion.
.- -I assure the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that under the terms of this motion the. Public Works Committee could, if it so desired, recommend that the whole building should be proceeded with, that only part of it should be put in band at present, or that the whole proposal should be rejected. The committee would submit a recommendation to the House in accordance with the evidence submitted to it. Honorable members know very well what was done in regard to the building of Parliament House at Canberra. At first, it was proposed to construct only one story, but it was learned that, that would not provide anything . like sufficient accommodation, and the plans were altered.
– But that was done under an unlimited reference.
– Assuming that the question of constructing a railway to a point on the edge of a desert or 10 miles from anywhere, so to speak, were submitted to the committee, and it came to the conclusion that it would be advisable to carry the line on 10 miles further or more, it could make a recommendation to that effect. Similar action could be taken in connexion with this proposal.
.- If the. committee is to inquire into the construction of only one half of the proposed building it is useless for the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to suggest that it can, if it thinks fit, recommend the construction of the whole building. The Public Works Committee can investigate only those matters referred to it by Parliament, and in this instance could not recommend the construction of the whole building. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I recommended that a certain investigation be carried out by that body, but I was informed that no inquiry could be made as a matter of policy was involved.
– This is a Parliamentary Committee, and is not under any obligation to the Government.
– The honorable member for Swan should realize that apart from the members’ of the Public Works Committee and the officers of the Department of Works and Railways, there are others who know something concerning building construction. Some reasons should be given for proposing to erect only one half of the structure, particularly in view of the fact that Sydney is rapidly developing, and the whole of the building will possibly be required at an early date. The Taxation Department is, I understand, to occupy one portion of the structure, and as there will doubtless be an early demand for the remainder, I trust the Government will refer the construction of the whole building to the committee. As stated by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) additional expense will be incurred if concrete pillars and floors are constructed and a portion of the building roofed, and it is subsequently found that the roofing has to be removed and additional floors added.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension.
– If the honorable member for East Sydney is wrong in his contention the Minister should give the House further information.
– If the Minister supplies the House with further details concerning the proposal, perhaps there will be no objection to the motion.
– While it is generally admitted that it is necessary to provide more accommodation for Commonwealth departments in Sydney, the Government should proceed cautiously in considering the construction of a new building on the proposed site in Phillip-street. , It is generally known in Sydney that there is a likelihood in the near future of Elizabethstreet being continued towards Circular Quay, and if that work is undertaken construction on the proposed site will, to a large extent, be interfered with. Before a decision is reached the whole matter should receive further attention. I know of no better site for the proposed build ing than that suggested, but I am merely directing attention to the situation which exists.
– The land has already been purchased.
– Yes; but the Sydney City Council is about to make certain resumptions.
– But that will not affect this block.
– I understand it will. Although three different plans have been submitted to the Sydney City Council, I do not think one has yet been approved. If Elizabeth-street is extended in a certain direction, the site will be affected.
– The site of the proposed building is on the other side of Phillipstreet.
– I understand it is some distance down ; but the extension suggested will alter the whole aspect of Phillip-street. I understand from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), an ex-chairman of the Public Works Committee, that that question will receive the consideration of the Committee.
– I am not asking the House to agree to the construction of Commonwealth offices in Sydney, but have simply moved that the desirability of undertaking such a work be referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. For the information of the House, I produce a front elevation plan of the building, from which it will be seen that it is not proposed to construct the lower stories on the whole frontage and to add additional stories at a later stage, but merely to construct the building for the full height on one-half of the frontage. The buildings on one portion of the site are at present returning a fair rate of interest to the Commonwealth, and a new building on the remainderof the frontage will provide all the accommodation at present required. The total cost of the building on one-half of the frontage is estimated at £92,000.
– If this motion is carried, will the Public Works Committee be prevented from recommending the construction of a building on the whole frontage ?
– I should say not.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Paterson) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the export of canned fruits, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– (By leave. ) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure, which relates to the export of canned fruit, is to enable those engaged in the production and the canning of fruit to control the exporting and marketing of their exportable surplus. The bill is almost identical in every respect with the legislation passed towards the end of 1924 in relation to dairy produce and dried fruits, which has been more than justified. The Export Control Boards, established under that legislation, have done remarkably good work. Before proceeding to explain the bill, I desire briefly to show the advantage which that legislation has been to the primary producers generally, and that an extension of the principle to the canned fruits industry will also be of advantage to it. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board, in conjunction with its London agency, sold the whole of the 1925 surplus pack of sultanas, currants and raisins, amounting to 23,258 tons, at a price which could not have been realized under the previous unorganized condition of the dried fruits industry. It was also instrumental in obtaining a considerable reduction in overseas freights, representing a saving of about £30,000 per annum to Australian fruit-growers. That was prior to the general reduction of freights which has recently been announced. The Dairy Produce Export Control Board, established under a measure similar to this, has also done a great deal for the dairying industry. It has succeeded in obtaining a substantial reduction in marine assurance which has not only saved the producers of butter and cheese about £20,000 per annum on that part of their produce which they export, but has also meant an indirect saving of approximately £30,000 per annum in connexion with the dairy produce consumed locally. I point out that any reduction of the expenses of exporting is reflected in the local market. During the past six months, the Dairy Produce Export Control Board has been successful in regulating supplies on the London market, according to the capacity of that market to absorb them. Previously large quantities of dairy produce from Australia and New Zealand frequently arrived in England during the months of January and February of each year, with the inevitable result that a slump occurred. That has now to a great extent been overcome. I was very interested recently in a graph showing the fluctuations in the price of dairy produce during the first six months of the board’s operations, and for the same period of the previous year. The graph for the period prior to the establishment in London of an agency of the Dairy Export Control Board, was like a series of mountain peaks and valleys; ‘whereas for the six months just ended, when the marketing was under the control of the board, there were slight fluctuations only ; in no case did they exceed l1/2d. per lb., although previously they were as much as 4d. or 5d. per lb.
– That was the result of manipulating the market.
– The board has not only prevented the market from being manipulated, but it has also enabled the Australian producers to obtain a greater share of the market than was’ the case previously. This bill, which is similar to the two acts to which I have referred, has been asked for by the Australian Fruit-canners Association, which includes not only the co-operative fruit canneries, but also the proprietary canneries and the Leeton State-owned canneries of New South Wales. The growers of the principal fruits to be canned have supported their request. The bill is designed to deal with apricots, clingstone peaches, and pears, those being the three principal fruits which are canned and exported.
– Does it cover pineapples?
– It is not intended to include Queensland pineapples at present, for the reason that the local market has, up to the present time, been capable of absorbing the whole of the pineapple pack. Nevertheless, the door has been left open to enable pineapples to be included so soon as the Queensland pineapple-growers reach the stage when they desire to export. Until that stage has been reached, they are not particularly interested in an export control board.
– Will the bill deal with canned apples?
– No ; but, as I have said, it leaves the door open for the inclusion of other fruits which may be prescribed.
– Will that mean another board?
– No. The canned fruits industry is not only a primary but also a secondary industry. Just as the production of cream is regarded as a- primary industry, and its manufacture into butter a secondary industry, so the canning of fruit may be regarded as a secondary industry supporting the primary industry of fruitgrowing. Four States - Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania - are mainly concerned with this bill. The bulk of the production is, of course, in the irrigated areas.
– -Does the Government accept the responsibility of selling the fruit?
– No. Of the fruit produced in the four States mentioned, Victoria grows 53 per cent., New South Wales 32 per cent., South Australia 8 per cent., and Tasmania 7 per cent. During recent years the production has increased considerably, chiefly on account of the areas given over to the production of fruits in connexion with the soldier settlement schemes of New South Wales and Victoria. In 1921-22 Australia produced 14,431 tons of fruit; in 1924-25 that production had increased to 26,278 tons, or nearly double that of three years previously.
– Was that on soldier settlements alone?
– No. In 1921-22, 1,140,000 dozen 30-oz. tins of fruit were canned in Australia; by 1924-25 that number had increased to 2,500,000 dozen tins. The local consumption of canned fruits in Australia prior to 1923 was about one tin per head of the population per annum. In 1923 the Government decided to wind up the then existing socalled canned fruits pool, and to inaugurate an advertising campaign throughout Australia with the object of increasing the local consumption of canned fruit. That campaign was so successful that the local consumption of canned fruits increased to three tins per head of the population per annum.
– Was that increase not largely due to the lower price charged ?
– The lower price may have assisted; but the greater consumption was chiefly due to the campaign undertaken. Despite that increased local consumption, however, there is still an exportable surplus amounting to about 30 per cent, of the total production. For that surplus Great Britain is our best customer. During 1922, Australia disposed of 450,000 dozen tins of canned fruit to Great Britain, and, in 1925, 850,000 dozen tins. The possibilities ot the British market can be gauged from the fact that the imports into that country of canned fruit represent about 4,000,000 dozen tins per annum. Australia’s contribution to that total last year, although practically double what it was three years previously, was still only about 20 per cent, of the total importation of canned fruits into Britain, the remaining 80 per cent, coming chiefly from California. It is expected that, as the result of the preference being given to us by Great Britain, and also of the advertising campaign which is about to commence in the Old Country, Australia will each year obtain an increasing proportion of her canned fruit business. New Zealand takes about two-thirds of her requirements from Australia, although we have only a 5 per cent, preference. Since the reciprocal treaty between Australia and Canada has been entered into, small consignments have been sent to that country, so that it will be seen that there are outlets for this trade in other parts of the world than Great Britain. The Commonwealth Government has rendered great assistance to the industry, but the results have been well worth the outlay. One might say that the industry has undergone three stages of development since the war. From 1920 to 1923 there was a pool, under which the Commonwealth Government of the day purchased the whole of the processed fruit from the growers at a stated price, and accepted responsibility for its distribution and sale. That was a very bad arrangement. It is generally found that when a Government does work of this nature it is not done so well as when the industry itself undertakes it. In 1923, the Government, which had recently come into office, decided to abolish the original so-called pool, and make the growers and canners responsible for the sale of their own products, granting them a bounty on their production and export sufficient to enable them to overcome their difficulties and to place them on a sound footing. During the 1923-24 season they became responsible for the sale of their own products, and the Government paid a bounty, first, upon the whole of the production - on the number of tins produced- on the condition that the canners paid a fair price to the growers; and, in addition to that, the Government granted another small bounty on the export. That may be regarded as the second stage in the development of the industry. Since then it has been in a much sounder position than previously. In 1924-25 and 1925-26 it was no longer necessary to pay a bounty on the production. All that was required was the payment of a small bounty, which could, perhaps, be regarded as a freight subsidy on export. No bounty has been paid on fruit sold for local consumption. That assistance has sufficed to enable the Australian canner to meet the very fierce competition from California. By means of the assistance given during the past year, the canners have sold practically the whole of the surplus to one large distributor in the United Kingdom, who is a multiple shop-owner. Australian-canned fruits can thus be placed on the table of the consumer in Great Britain direct through the medium of those establishments, with as few intermediate profits as possible. This hill affects 22 canneries, twelve of which are in Victoria, four in New South Wales, two in Tasmania, and four in South Australia. Of these, seventeen are proprietary establishments, four are co-operative, and one, in New South Wales, is a Governmentowned cannery. The small numbers are misleading, in so far as the co-operative canneries conduct operations on a very large scale. Last year, 62 per cent. of the total pack was dealt with by the cooperative factories, including the Government cannery at Leeton, New South Wales, which for the purpose of representation on the board to be established under this bill, regards itself as belonging to the cooperative group.
– Has the Minister taken into account what is occurring in Canada in consequence of our reciprocal treaties?
– I cannot discuss that matter at the present stage. The co-operative group has also dealt with 81 per cent. of the export. Three years ago, the co-operative canneries, including that at Leeton, handled considerably less than half the total pack.
– Does the bill interfere in any way with the State cannery in New South Wales?
– No; the State cannery has signified its desire for this legislation, just as have the cooperative and proprietary canneries, and it has associated itself with the Fruitgrowers Association, which has asked for the bill. I had the pleasure, a year or so ago, of inspecting the canneries in the electorate of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill). There are large co-operative canneries at Shepparton and Kyabram, and during the past year a third one has been established at Ardmona, in the same division. A year ago the site of the latter cannery was bare ground, but on it to-day a large establishment with modem plant is in operation. This year 3,000,000 tins of fruit have been processed at this cannery. I notice that one enthusiastic morning newspaper declared that 3,000,000 “tons” had been dealt with. Obviously, either the reporter or the compositor was responsible for this error. Honorable members will be gratified to know that the export pack this year is of a higher quality than has been previously produced in Australia. This good result has been brought about by the rigid system of inspection now in force. It must be realized that, apart from the small preference, this industry has to compete practically on even terms with overseas manufacturers, who are very keen competitors; and it is necessary rigidly to inspect the export and see that no fruit that might damage the high reputation of the Australian article is sent abroad.
– Can the Minister give me any assurance regarding the labelling of the product?
– I have seen the labels used by the various factories, and they appear to me to be all that could he desired. I think that whatever difficulties may have been experienced in the past in that respect have been overcome. I may mention, in passing, that the annual value of the canned fruits dealt with in this way is at least £1,000,000. The growers and employees - and I am not including their wives and dependants - number in the vicinity of 5,000. A large number of workers are employed in the canneries - it is mostly female labour - and very good wages are paid. The industry is capable of further expansion, since there is an enormous market overseas for the product. This bill provides, as did the other two similar bills to which I have referred, for a poll of owners of canneries to determine approval or otherwise of the proposal embodied in the bill. The definition of a cannery under the bill will exclude only establishments that dealwith less than 100 tons of fruit a year. The number of these is small, and they have very little interest in the export trade. The control of export and overseas marketing will be in the hands of a board of three. In the export control measures previously introduced in this House a larger personnel than is contemplated in this case was provided. Both the co-operative organizations and the primary producers have agreed that the board shall consist of three persons, one representing the co-operative interests, including the Leeton cannery, one representing the proprietary interests, and one nominated by the GovernorGeneral.
– What about the grower ?
– The grower will be directly represented through the cooperative interests. The co-operative canneries provide more than one-half of the output, and as the votes will be given not in relation to the number of canneries, but to the volume of the output, the growers will be directly represented through their co-operative cannery representative. The scheme will be financed by a method similar to that adopted in the other two bills, that is to say, by a levy on the fruit packed for export. Provision is made in another bill, which is associated with this one, for a levy of 3d. on each dozen 30-oz. tins exported, which is equivalent to1/4d. per tin. That amount may be reduced but not increased by regulation. On a conservative estimate, the levy will yield about £10,000 per annum. Obviously, that sum is very much larger than will be required to finance a small control board of this description, but it is intended that part of the money shall be included in the fund for advertising purposes. A smaller levy than 3d. per dozen tins may be made, especially in the event of the quantity exported next season being large. The kernel of the bill is clause 13-
For the purpose of enabling the board effectively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian canned fruits, the Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the export from the Commonwealth of any canned fruits except in accordance with a licence issued by the Minister subject to such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation to the Minister by the board.
That is exactly the principle which has been adopted in the case of the Dairy Produce Control Board and the Dried Fruits Control Board, which have already been successful.
– Have they paid their way ?
– They have more than paid their way. Reports from those boards will be received during this month and laid on the table of the House. The board may either export the canned fruits or permit others to export them under licence, the conditions of which will be prescribed by the board. The bill does not compel the producers to export any proportion of their product. They themselves will decide whether they will sell on the local market or abroad; but the board will have control, either directly or by licence, of all canned fruit exported.
– They may starve the local market, and so put up prices here.
– It is impossible for any board to increase the prices of goods exported.
– If an excessive quantity is exported, the local consumers will suffer.
– There is no likelihood of over-exportation taking place. The constitution of the board will enable it to take advantage of the Rural Credits Act, under which the Commonwealth Bank can make advances on the security of goods under the control of the board.
– What provision is made for the opportunities that exist for trade with China, Japan, and other parts of the Far East ?
– The board will have control of all produce sent overseas, no matter to what destination.
– Provision is made for the appointment of a London agency of the board. Is it proposed also to appoint agencies in the Far East ?
– It is proposed to appoint an agency in London because, for some time to come, the bulk of the trade will be with London. Business is done with New Zealand and Canada, and possibly a little with the East, but until our trade with the East grows to an extent to justify the expense of an agency, it is not proposed to appoint one.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Parker Moloney) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 9th July, vide page 4031) :
Clause 3 -
After section forty-eight of the principal act, the following heading and section are inserted: - “ Pensions of Justices. “48a. - (1.) Where a justice of the High Court has served in that office for not less than fifteen years, he shall, on retiring, be entitled to an annual pension at the rate of one-half ofhis salary. “ (2.) If a justice of the High Court retires on permanent disability or infirmity, he shall, if he has served in that office for not less than five years, be entitled, on retiring, to an annual pension at the rate of twenty one-hundredths of his salary and at the additional rate of three one-hundredths of his salary for each complete year of his service after the expiration of the said five years to the date of his retirement, but so that the rate of his pension shall not exceed one-half of his salary. “ (3.) The pensions of the justices of the High Court shall be charged on and paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. “ (4.) They shall grow due from day to day, but shall be payable monthly.”.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) has given notice of an amendment of this clause, but owing to his departure for England, he is not able to submit it. At his request I move it on his behalf. It reads -
That after the word “ entitled,” proposed new sub-section 1, the following words be inserted: - “ subject to the next following sub-section.
If this is agreed to I shall move the following further amendments on behalf of the honorable member -
That the following new sub-section be inserted: - “ (1a.) In the case of a justice who retires after attaining the age of seventy years, the annual pension to which he is entitled shall be at a rate less than the rate specified in the last preceding sub-section by one-tenth for each year or part of a year of his age, in excess of seventy years, at the time of his retirement:
Provided that in the case of a justice who at the commencement of this act is more than seventy years of age, the annual pension to which he is entitled on retirement shall be at a rate less than the rate’ specified in the last preceding sub-section by one-tenth for each year or part of a year, after one year from the commencement of this act, that elapses before his retirement.”
That after the word “ infirmity,” proposed new sub-section 2,. the following words be inserted : - “ before reaching the age of seventy years.”
On this occasion I am like the author who writes in the preface of his book that anything of merit in it should’ be attributed to his friends, and that any errors should be debited to him. Any merits there may be in this amendment belongs to the honorable member for Macquarie, and any defects in the presentation of it are attributable to me. The principle underlying this amendment was discussed on a bill that was recently before the Chamber. I do not propose to repeat what I said on that occasion, but I wish to refer to one objection that was raised by the Prime Minister to an argument which I put forward, and which was supported by a large number of honorable members on both sides. The right honorable gentleman said that the amendment then moved, which was very similar to that which I am now submitting, was an attempt to evade the terms of the Constitution. I quite recognize that that was not intended to be in any way objectionable, but I say, most definitely and distinctly, that there is no attempt in this proposal to evade the terms of the Constitution. The effect of it is that, if a justice of the High Court does not retire at the age of 70 years, his pension will not be as large as it would have been had he so retired. As a matter of fact, his pension would decrease by 10 per cent. for every year that he remained on the bench after reaching the age of 70, so that, if he did not retire until he reached the age of 80 years, he would have no pension to draw.
Of course, in the meantime, he would have drawn as salary double the amount he would have drawn as pension. There is a proviso to avoid any injustice being done to those occupants of the High Court bench who are now over 70 years of age.
Mr.Watt. - How many of them are there ?
– I have not looked up the ages of the justices of the High Court, but I believe that several of them are now over 70 years of age. However, I have not considered this question in the light of its effect on the present occupants of the bench. I cordially agree with the honorable member who, on the amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, dealt with earlier in the session, first put forward the proposal embodied in my amendment. Although the Prime Minister said that it was an attempt to evade the terms of the Constitution, I contend that it is quite clear to any one who looks at the matter fairly that my amendment has no such intent or effect. The statement of the right honorable gentleman on the previous occasion came to me as a surprise. I had not had an opportunity to consider it, but, now that I have been able to give it some consideration, it seems to me that the Government, if it intends to oppose my amendment, must put forward a better argument to defeat it. The amendment in no sense seeks to evade the Constitution. At present we have no provision for pensions for our High Court judges. The bill now before us provides for these pensions, I imagine, for two reasons - first of all for the benefit of the justices themselves when they reach old age, and, secondly, for the benefit of the community at large, that is to say, to render it unnecessary for the justices to remain on the bench too long. Briefly, the bill is to improve the position of the justices of the High Court; and surely it is competent, without any suggestion of evading the provisions of the Constitution, for this Parliament to decide the terms and conditions upon which those justices shall receive pensions ; surely it is competent for it to provide that the pension which a justice may receive on his retirement at 70 years of age shallbe larger than that which he will receive if he chooses to retire at the age of, say, 77. The intention of the bill, I repeat, is to benefit the High Court justices, and, I think, clearly to give some advantage to the public, and there is no intention in my amendment to do any injury to the justices. In no possible circumstances under this bill could the position of the justices be made any worse than it is under the principal act. I was anxious to deal with this matter, not only to refute the argument put forward by the Government that the amendment would seek to evade the terms of the Constitution, but also to make it clear that in submitting it I do not agree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) and other honorable members opposite, that the justices of the High Court should not receive pensions. I see no reason why the justices of the High Court should be put in any worse position than the judges of the Supreme Courts of the various States. Is it fair that justices of the High Court should not receive as high a salary as judges sitting in Supreme Courts whose decisions they are called upon to review ?
– But it is necessary for the honorable member to justify the payment of pensions to all judges.
– If the system of paying pensions to the Supreme Court judges of the State is in existence, as we know it is in New South Wales, surely it is fair to take that fact into consideration and see that the justices of the High Court are put in at least as good a position as that of judges whose decisions they may have to override. The Commonwealth High Court justices should be at least as well paid as the State Supreme Court justices. Their discomforts are far greater. They have to leave their own States and travel all over Australia; they have to submit to a great deal of discomfort which State judges are not called upon to face.
– They are paid for that.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that the justices of the High Court should be put in a worse position financially than that of State judges. If the State judges in New South Wales are receiving the same salary as justices of the High Court, and are entitled to pensions similar to those provided in this bill, surely it is reasonable for the Federal body to be in at least the same position as a State judicial body. Personally, I think that the Federal body should be in a better position than a State body. Some honorable members would not pay any pension. I think we would need to pay higher salaries to make amends for depriving the justices of the High Court of the right to retire on pensions.
– In every other country, particularly in America and England, the justices of the central court are better paid than the judges of a State or provincial court.
– That should be the case here. Except in cases where there is a right of appeal to the Privy Council, our High Court is the last court of appeal in Australia. It is the tribunal to which we are likely to draw the men with the greatest ability from every part of Australia, and they should be treated accordingly. A good deal has been made of the salary at present paid, but it does not compare very favorably with salaries paid not only to business men, but also to leading men in the Public Service in different parts of Australia. I think the Commonwealth has good reason to be proud of its High Court. It started off with a very notable trio - Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton, and Mr. R. E. O’Connor - and, as mover of the amendment, I think I ought to say it has, throughout the history of the Commonwealth, been a credit to the country over which it has ruled judicially. I believe that every honorable member and the great majority of the people of the country will agree that, in ability, probity and independence - so independent has it been at times that it has reversed its own judgments - it has exhibited the best qualities to be expected of a judiciary. I commend my amendment to the committee as one which, without conferring any hardship, will remove any inducement for a justice of the High Court to stay on the bench after his best days have passed.
has presented his case for the amendment, if I may be allowed to say so, in a most fair and reasonable manner, and placed his arguments before the committee in a very persuasive way. The substance of his amendment is an indication from Parliament that the justices of the High Court ought to retire at the age of 70, and he proposes to provide something in the nature of what is considered to be a pecuniary inducement for the purpose of bringing about that object. On the amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill it was argued that an amendment proposed in terms corresponding to this amounted to an evasion of the Constitution. The only point then sought to be established was that the Constitution, as interpreted by the High Court, provides that judges shall hold office for life, whereas the amendment was based on the view, that they should not hold office for life, but on the other hand should retire at 70 years of age. I do not suggest for a moment that there are not weighty arguments in favour of fixing the retiring age at 70 years.
– It should be done.
– And it may be done if the Constitution is revised, but at present the Constitution, as interpreted by the High Court, provides that judges shall hold office for life. It is an interpretation we must accept. It is not worth arguing about. We have a definite decision on the point, given, as I have already said, after all the existing judges had already been appointed for life, so that their decision did not affect their tenure in any respect. Therefore, with the Constitution declaring that the justices of the High Court shall hold office for life, and that they may not b’e removed except in a particular way, is it really consistent with the idea underlying the Constitution to insert in an Act of Parliament a provision the object of which is admittedly to procure their retirement at a fixed age ?
– The amendment is not an attempt to procure their retirement.
– Substantially, the honorable member’s proposal is to offer an inducement to the judges to retire at 70 years rather than at a later age. The Constitution provides that a judge of the High Court may be removed by resolution of Parliament only for proved misbehaviour or incapacity. The amendment proposes to achieve indirectly a result that could not be achieved directly. So far as I can see, the amendment is not unconstitutional, because it does not provide for either the removal of a judge or the reduction of his remuneration during his continuance in office, but it is designed to avoid the constitutional provision by making it relatively unprofitable for a judge to remain in office after 70 years of age. A similar amendment proposed on the Arbitration Bill was defeated. That bill has now received the approval of both branches of the Legislature, and accordingly judges of the Arbitration Court will, by the decision of Parliament, have pension rights unrestricted by any conditions relating to a reduction if retirement does not take place until after 70 years of age. It would be embarrassing, to say the least, to attach to the pensions for High Court judges provisions which do not apply to judges of a highly important, but nevertheless, subordinate tribunal.
– “We could amend the Arbitration Act.
– -The legislation providing pensions for Arbitration Court judges is now Law, and can be amended only by legislation introduced in a future session. The mover of the amendment was very careful not to reflect upon existing judges, but he has proposed that those who are over 70 years of age - and several of them are - shall have one year in which to elect to retire on a full pension; if they do not so elect, their pensions will be reduced at the rate of one-tenth per annum. That proviso, if enacted, would be a very clear indication to the gentlemen concerned that this Parliament thought they should retire. The Constitution provides a direct method of dealing with judges who are guilty of misbehaviour or who show incapacity.
– There is no suggestion of incapacity on the part of the existing judges.
– But the proviso to the amendment is an invitation to certain gentlemen on the Bench to retire within a year on a full pension, or be penalized in respect of their pension rights. Such a grave step should not be taken lightly by this committee. For the reasons I have stated, the Government cannot accept the amendment, but leaves honorable members free to vote upon it in their own discretion.
.- The amendment is not likely to be effective. A judge who is given the option of remaining on the Bench for another ten years, during which he would draw £35,000 in salary, and retiring upon a pension which in ten years would amount to only £17,500, is almost certain to reject the latter alternative. I am not particularly in favour of putting pressure upon judges to retire at 70 years of age. Much older men have functioned with remarkable success on the Bench, and their accumulated experience and mature judgment have proved of great value to the community. The only consideration that would induce me to vote for the amendment is that judges should not remain too long on the Bench. Like Parliament, the Bench should reflect the advance of public thought. The present High Court takes a much broader view of the Constitution than did the original Bench, which comprised Sir Samuel Griffith, Sir Edmund Barton, and Mr. Justice O’Connor. If it becomes customary for judges to retire at 70 years of age, the Bench will be vitalized and brought up to date from time to time by the appointment of younger jurists, whose judgment will not be warped by conservative prejudices. With a court taking an advanced and liberal view of the Constitution, this Parliament would have greater power to legislate in the interests of the people. I am not in sympathy with the payment of pensions to high officials. The pensions paid to judges and the parliamentary officials in the United Kingdom amount almost to a scandal. Large pensions are provided for persons who give only 12 months or two years’ service to the country. A Chancellor of the British Exchequer, for instance, retired after very short service with a pension of £10,000 a year. I believe that the Australian people will repudiate this principle at the first opportunity. State judges do not receive such high salaries as High Court judges. The provision of a pension will have very little effect upon our securing the services of the best men for our High Court bench, for many privileges fall to the lot of judges. They get free railway passes.
– Does any one imagine that that is much of an advantage to them ? It gives them no more pleasure to travel round the country than it does honorable members who have to do it.
– Nevertheless, the free pass is a privilege. Then, the wives of judges hold a high social position. However good a man’s standing may be in the legal profession, he would need to be friendly with the Attorney-General for the time being in order to secure an appointment to the High Court bench. I repeat the’ suggestion that I made some little time ago, that when vacancies occur on the Bench applications for the position should be invited from persons qualified to fill them. For my own part, I would rather have a man of good general knowledge and sound commonsense to deal with constitutional points than the best lawyer in Australia, if he had not the other two qualifications.
.- In discussing this bill, honorable members of the Labour party have stressed the point, as they did in dealing with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, that they are opposed to treating judges differently from other public servants. We favour the provision of pensions on a contributory basis. But having been defeated in our attempt to include a provision of that character, we must face the situation as it is. Undoubtedly there is something to be said in favour of the Government’s stand that judges should not be obliged to make big sacrifices in the public interests; but I agree with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) that if we wish them to retire on reaching 70 years of age we should increase the inducement to retire by providing that for every year they remain on the Bench after they reach that age less pension shall be payable to them. I cannot see that such a provision would reflect on the personal integrity of the judges at present on the Bench. I believe that if this Parliament had the power, it would fix 70 years as the age of retirement, but asit has not the power, it is proper for it to take this means of inducing the judges to retire on reaching that age, or soon afterwards. The amendment cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered to be drastic, and I intend to vote for it.
– The object of the Government is undoubtedly to induce judges to retire on reaching the age of 70 years, and in view of that, I can see nothing unfair in the amendment of the honorable member for Boothby, which provides that the pension payable shall be reduced for every year that a judge remains in office after reaching that age. There is nothing hostile to the judges in the amendment.
– I did not suggest that there was.
– I like the honorable member for Boothby, have a high regard for the present judges, and I can see nothing in the amendment that could be objectionable to them. Judges know when they are not in a position capably to carry out their duties, and there would be nothing undignified in their acknowledging it, and retiring on a pension. I intend to support the amendment, and consider that I shall be acting quite logically in so doing,
– The amendment has been dealt with altogether too much as though it contained drastic provisions, when there is really nothing drastic in it. By no possible chance, it appears to me, could it have the effect of forcing any judge off the High Court bench. Its object is purely and simply to provide that the pension payable to a judge on retirement shall be on a lower scale each year that he remains on the Bench after he reaches the age of 70 years. That appears to me to be quite fair. If a judge retired at 70 years he would naturally have longer to live than a judge who retired at 79 years, while if a judge remained on the bench for several years after reaching the age of 70 years he would receive more than a judge who retired at 70 years, and so would not need such a large pension. The Attorney-General argued that this matter had already been decided this session when we were dealing with another bill, but I point out that it was defeated on that occasion by only one vote in a committee of 55. Even had it been decided by 25 votes, I should not have felt myself in the least debarred from testing the full committee upon it, although I admit that it is substantially the same point.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Duncan-Hughes’) be agreed to - put The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Duncan-Hughes) agreed to -
That the following new sub-section be added: - “ (1a.) In the case of a justice who retires after attaining the age of 70 years, the annual pension to which he is entitled shall be at a rate less than the rate specified in the last preceding sub-section by one-tenth for each year or part of a year of his age, in excess of 70 years, at” the time of his retirement:
Provided that in the case of a justice who at the commencement of this act is more than 70 years of age, the annual pension to which he is entitled on retirement shall be at a rate less than the rate specified in the last preceding sub-section by one- tenth for each year or part of a year, after one year from the commencement of this act, that elapses before his retirement.”
That after the word “ infirmity” the words “ before reaching the age of 70 years, “ be inserted.
– I move -
That after sub-section (2) of proposed new section 49a the following new sub-section be added: - “ (2a.) Where a justice of the High Court has, prior to his appointment, served in any other judicial office under the Commonwealth, pension shall not be payable to him except in pursuance of this act, but the term of his prior service shall, for the purposes of this section, be added to, and be deemed to be part of, his service as a justice of the High Court.”
This section, which corresponds with that already inserted in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, provides that Commonwealth service in a judicial capacity shall be calculated in determining the period of service, and also ensures that a judge entitled to a pension under this act shall not receive a pension under any other act.
– Is judicial service in a State taken into consideration?
– No; there would be great difficulty in giving effect to such a proposal.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments, and report, by leave, adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The hill provides for certain amendments of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act of 1924, which provided for the appointment of a Federal Capital Commission to control and manage the affairs of the Territory of the Seat of Government, and generally prescribed the powers and functions to be exercised by the commission. The principal act was assented to on the 19th July, 1924, and the commission, which was appointed in due course, assumed its responsibilities on the 1st January, 1925. After eighteen months’ experience of the operation of the act, it has been found necessary to make certain amendments for the more efficient working of the commission; the improvement of the machinery set up for the management of the Federal Capital Territory ; and for a clarification of the commission’s position in relation to certain of its activities. The amendments proposed are largely of a formal character, and do not introduce any important new principle. One of the most important alterations is for the purpose of authorizing the commission to erect and dispose of residences and other improvements on leaseholds,both for cash and on extended terms of payment.
This power is, of course, necessary in connexion with the .housing of public servants, many of whom will, it is hoped, purchase their own homes instead of renting dwellings. A paper was recently tabled in the House, setting out the conditions under which public servants were to be transferred to Canberra, including the proposals of the Government in relation to the taking over of houses in Melbourne, and the purchase by public servants of homes at Canberra either through the Commonwealth Bank or through the commission. It is, therefore, necessary to provide that the ‘commission shall have power to erect dwellings and sell them to public servants on extended terms.
– The commission ha3 not power to purchase residences in Melbourne ?
– No. I merely mentioned that the proposals of the Government in regard to the acquisition of houses in Melbourne were outlined in the paper which was tabled in the House. The bill, as I have said, gives the commission power to erect dwellings at Canberra, and to sell them to public servants on extended terms. This involves consequential amendments to the section relating to the commission’s revenue, to provide that any moneys received by the commission as interest or repayment of advances may be regarded as part of the commission’s revenue as prescribed. At present, if the commission derives any revenue in the form of repayments or interest, it must be paid into Consolidated Revenue; but, under the proposed amendment, it will be able to use the money to meet interest and other charges on buildings which it has erected.
– Does the commission propose to make a profit?
– No. There has been a difficulty in relation to the lands to be vested in the commission. The existing act prescribes that lands on which utilities and services are provided, and lands contiguous thereto, may be vested in the commission by the GovernorGeneral. As the services include roads, water supply mains, . sewerage mains, electric mains, parks, depots, and other utilities of a municipal character, it is both difficult and costly to provide for detailed surveys in order to delimit all the lands on which such services are provided. It would be .simpler to vest the whole .of the city area in the commission. This bill so provides. At present it has authority to manage and control, in the name of the Commonwealth, all the lands in the Territory, including the city lands, and to receive revenue therefrom. Under the existing legislation, should the commission lay an electric light main or other service, the land affected must be surveyed before the Governor-General can vest it in the commission. The Government thinks that the whole of the city area should be vested in the commmission in order to reduce expenditure.
– “Would that do away with the Government’s control of the commission in regard to those lands 1
– In order to avoid duplication, the Government thinks it wise to vest all the city lands in the commission ?
– But has not the commission got all the land now?
– No. It acts as agent for the Commonwealth : it does not control the land. The Government wants the commission to control the city area, concerning which it is practically in the position of a municipal council. The proposed alteration would involve no essential change, but it would simplify the commission’s work, and permit it to carry out in its own name what it now. does for the Commonwealth. The vesting of the city area lands in the commission will not make any change in the tenure, or affect the Tights of any lessee, as it is proposed that the commission, in leasing such lands in its own name instead of in the name of the Commonwealth, shall comply with the provisions of the ordinances already in force. The existing act gives the commission power to borrow moneys, subject to a resolution by both Houses of Parliament and to the Treasurer’s approval of the terms.
– Must the commission refer to the Public Works Committee any proposal estimated to cost £25,000 or over?
– Yes. The principal act is not altered in that respect. The existing legislation does not permit of the commission utilizing the existing machinery of the Treasury for raising loans. For the Federal Capital Commission to go on the market independently for loan moneys would be costly, and would involve duplication. Moreover, that procedure would increase the number of borrowing authorities, which it is considered should be discouraged. It will be remembered that steps have already been taken to attain more uniform action between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the borrowing of moneys. The proposal now made would fit- in with that policy. The alterations which will be submitted for consideration will authorize the commission to arrange with the Treasurer to include its requirements in Commonwealth loans. In this respect the act will be brought into conformity with the Northern Australia Act recently passed by Parliament. The commission will still be able to arrange with the Commonwealth Bank, or other similar instructions, for small loans for purposes for which it is not advisable to obtain a large loan by arrangement with the Treasurer.
– Has the commission power to borrow money without the approval of Parliament ?
– No. It is intended to limit that power in the same way that the commission to administer Northern Australia will be limited.
– Is power being taken from the commission ?
– The commission at present has power to raise loans, but it is proposed that its loan requirements shall be obtained by the Treasury as part of -the loans floated by the Commonwealth. It is also suggested that the commission shall, from the commencement, make a contribution to a sinking ,fund in respect of all loans which are raised in that way. It is also necessary for a clearer definition to be made in respect to the commission’s liability. The existing act provides that the sites allotted for Parliament House and the residence of the Governor-General are not to be vested in the commission. The commission is consequently unable to earn any interest by way of rent or other charges, on the sums expended upon the construction of those buildings.
– Why has that provision been limited to those two buildings. Why are not the residences for the President of the Senate, Mr. Speaker, and the Prime Minister also included^
– No residence for either the President or Mr. Speaker has yet been proceeded with. It is only equitable that the Commonwealth should meet the cost of constructing Parliament House and the Governor-General’s residence, because the commission would have no means of recouping itself if it were to be held liable for the expenditure. It is, therefore, proposed to exempt from the commission’s liability all expenditure incurred on Parliament House prior to the act coming into force, and to provide for all expenditure incurred since that date on Parliament House and the residence of the Governor-General to be defrayed by the Commonwealth. With the exception of these two buildings, the commission will be responsible for providing all buildings and services required by the Government in the Federal Capital Territory, subject to a reasonable arrangement as regards charges by way of rent and for services rendered. Other amendments proposed are chiefly matters of detail. They include the alteration of the title of the chairman of the commission to “ chief commissioner “ in order to avoid confusion with chairmen of local boards and committees in the Territory; provision for convening meetings, so that in cases of difficulty or deadlock the Minister may direct meetings to be held; investing the chief commissioner with the functions of a permanent head under the Public Service Act in respect to permanent public service officers; empowering the commission to make by-laws having immediate operation in case of urgency, subject to possible disallowance by the Governor-General or by Parliament; and making clear the commission’s position in relation to leases granted by the Commonwealth, in order that it may take action in its own name, if necessary, for the recovery of rent or other moneys. At the present time, the commission cannot sue for and recover any money that may be owing by lessees. The Government contends that, to avoid circumlocution, the commission should have the additional powers proposed to be granted to it under the bill.
– Why take control from the department in regard to the leasing of land?
– -The existing ordinances will remain in force.
– Yes. No alteration can be made regarding them, unless by resolution of Parliament. The amendments, if agreed to, will assist the commission in’ its work, increase its efficiency, and define its position in relation to certain administrative difficulties which have become apparent as a result of practical experience. They are all in conformity with the policy already laid down by Parliament in respect to the Federal Capital Territory. No vital alteration of the provisions of the principal act is proposed. The bill is really one for the committee stage, and when we are discussing it clause by clause I shall explain its objects in detail.
.- While I agree with the Minister (Mr. Marr) that this is largely a committee bill, on one or two aspects of it I should like further information. We know that the work being carried out at Canberra will involve a very large public expenditure; and it is questionable whether the people, if they had an opportunity to vote upon the matter, would approve of it.
Mr.lister. - If a referendum of the people were taken, the proposal would be defeated.
– I am satisfied that if the people were given an opportunity, even at this late hour, of deciding whether or not the Seat of Government should be removed to Canberra, they would emphatically vote “No.” We should be very careful what powers we vest in the commission, since, to all intents and purposes, it will be the ruler of the Territory. It has already done certain things that make me doubt the wisdom of granting it any extra powers. The Minister avoided giving any satisfactory explanation of clause 8, which is the main provision of the bill. Under the existing act, the commission’s powers include “the construction and maintenance of all works and buildings required for the purposes of the commission.” That provision, however, gave no power to the commission to build homes for members of the Public Service, because the bill proposes to add to the commission’s powers “ the construction of buildings for use as, or in connexion with, residences in the Territory.” Yet we find that the commission has let a contract for the building of 300 houses, which involves an expenditure of about £500,000. I contend that the com mission has done an illegal thing. Section 14, sub-section 4, of the principal act provides -
The provisions of the Commonwealth Public
Works Committee Act 1913-1921 shall apply in relation to works and buildings proposed to be constructed by the commission in like manner as they apply in relation to public works proposed to be constructed by the Commonwealth.
Even if the contract had been referred to the Public Works Committee, I claim that the commission had no power to enter into it. Evidently it has seen the error of its ways, and now realizes that it has no power under the act to undertake the construction of residences.
– If that is not the meaning of the bill, I cannot interpret plain English. Even had the additional, power now sought been held by the commission, it should have referred the contract for the 300 houses to the Public Works Commitee. Although I have not been long connected with that committee I, like all honorable members, realize that it is doing excellent work in the interests of the public. A house that could be built in Victoria for about £800, will cost £2,300 at Canberra. In South Australia, better houses than those being constructed at Canberra have been built for £700 each.
– The cost of homes at Canberra is certainly “hot.”
– Undoubtedly. What little I have learnt of the operations of the commission has made me suspicious of it. Not long ago, the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), was informed that tiles were to be used in roofing the houses at Canberra. It was subsequently discovered that one member of the commission was interested in a slate quarry, and then it was announced that slates were to be used instead of tiles. When the honorable member asked a question in the House on this matter, he was distinctly informed that tiles were to be used ; but the commission asked a director of one of the tile combines in Sydney to furnish a report as to whether any alterations were necessary in connexion with the manufacture of tiles at Canberra. One naturally becomes suspicious when one hears of such actions as that.
– Does the honorable member say that since a member of the commission has become interested in a slate quarry it has been decided to use slates instead of tiles?
– Yes; according to the Hansard report of a speech by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini).
– That is not the case.
– Of course, if a resident wants tiles he can have them.
– It was definitely stated in the first place that slates would not be used. Later on, a quarry changed ownership, and slates were substituted for tiles. The large architectural fees paid for designing and supervising the construction of the administrative building - although I do not blame the commission for it - shows that unless a careful watch is kept over the work at Canberra, there will be great extravagance. The late Government called for designs for this building, and that of Mr. Jones, an architect of Sydney, was accepted. For his work as architect, he is to be paid the ordinary fee, and since the cost of the work will amount to £800,000, he will be paid £38,000. The Government ought to have its own architect for a building of this nature.
– The chief architect, Mr. Murdoch, is an able man-.
– He is also a good Australian, and he would take care that Australian material, as far as possible, was used. I strongly protest against the action of the commission in letting a contract for 300 houses, when it had no authority to do so. The Minister, in moving the second reading of the bill, admitted that the commission had no power to do this. These houses will, it is understood, cost much more than their real value, and they are to be built by contract. Although the total cost will be approximately £500,000, the commission claimed that it was unnecessary to refer the proposal to the Public Works Committee. It took advantage of the technical point that each house would cost not more than £2,300 ; but the Public Works Committee Act provides that before any work the cost of which is estimated to exceed £25,000 is undertaken, it shall be investigated and reported upon by the committee. With a number of matters to which the Minister has referred, I shall deal in detail in committee. It is pro posed to give the commission power to allow park lands to be used by golf, tennis, and cricket clubs. It must not be forgotten that only a short time ago, there was a proposal at Canberra to form one large club, embracing all these pastimes, that would be very exclusive in its membership, and would benefit only the wealthy few. Knowing this, I am very chary of giving the commission any further powers. Surely we are not going to raise the commission above Parliament. Something should be left for the Parliament to do. If the contract has been let illegally, a full explanation of the occurrence ought to be furnished on behalf of the Ministry, and honorable members ought not to treat the irregularity lightly. If the commissioners have done that, they are not fit for their positions. I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the following words, “ this bill be _ postponed pending an inquiry into the action of the commissioners in letting a contract for the building of 300 houses involving the expenditure of £500,000 in Canberra.”
.- The statements made by the honorable mem-, ber for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) are serious, and most certainly call for investigation. Clause 8, which is the main clause of the bill, has not been explained by the Minister. The purpose of it is to extend the powers of the commission, and one of the proposed new powers is for “ The construction of buildings for use as, or in connexion with, residences in the Territory.” The assumption is that the commission does not now possess that power. If the commission has exercised a power that it does not legally possess, why has it done so ? That is the’ first question that emerges from this discussion. In the original act the commission was given power for “ the construction and maintenance of all works and buildings required for the purpose of the commission.”
– Has the honorable member considered paragraph ; of subsection 1 of section- 14 of the act?
– That paragraph gives the commisison power, subject to the approval of the Minister, for “ the construction of all works and buildings required by the Commonwealth in the Territory except works exempted by order in council from the operation of this paragraph.” Does the honorable member suggest that that gives the commission power to erect residences for public servants?
– Yes, subject to the approval of the Governor in Council.
– Then what is the purpose of this new power?
– To enable the commission to collect and retain rents and instalments.
– If, as has been suggested, the commission already has power under paragraphj to construct buildings on behalf of the Commonwealth, then why is the construction of buildings included as a new power in paragraphka? What is the sense of contending that, although the commission has power to construct buildings, it is necessary to include in the bill power to construct buildings?
– Paragraphj refers to buildings required by the Commonwealth. The new power contained in paragraph ka relates to buildings required by public servants.
– And for what kind of buildings was the contract let?
– For buildings required by public servants.
– The Minister has completely answered the question which the honorable member for Ballarat and I have been asking. If the commission does not possess the power tobuild residences for public servants–
– That is very debatable, and the Government desires, by passing this bill, to make the matter quite clear.
– The existing powers of the commission do not include the power to construct residences for public servants, and yet the commission has let a contract for 300 houses at a cost of £500,000. Even if we assume that the commission has the power under the original act to construct these residences, there still remains the charge made by the honorable member for Ballarat that the conditions applicable to all public works should have been observed. One of those conditions is that if a work exceeds £25,000 in cost the proposal to construct it must be referred to the Public Works Committee.
– It is not proposed to alter that provision.
– The charge made by the honorable member for Ballarat is that that provision has not been observed by the commission. We have not heard one word from the Government in refutation of that charge.
– Why should it be mentioned if it does not arise under the bill ?
– Because it is proposed to make the operation of this clause retrospective to the commencement of the principal act. That is not proposed to he done for nothing, but to validate everything the commission has done. There is, as the Minister admits, a grave doubt in his mind as to whether the commission has the power to let contracts for residences, and to remove that doubt this clause has been inserted in the bill, and has been made retrospective to the date of the appointment of the commission. What is the purpose of making the clause retrospective unless it is to validate something that has been done irregularly?
– The whole bill has been made retrospective.
– Which suggests that much has been done without authority. The honorable member for Ballarat is justified in saying that before the powers of the commission are enlarged the contract that has been let should be investigated, with a view to ascertaining why it was not submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation. That is an eminently reasonable proposition. The argument seems to he in favour of the contention that the commission has not the power to erect residences. Paragraph j gives power to construct works and buildings required by the Commonwealth. That, surely, does not include public servants’ residences. The power conferred by paragraph k is the power to construct and maintain all works and buildings required for the purposes of the commission. There are limitations in both those paragraphs. One limitation is that the works and buildings must be “required by the Commonwealth,” and the other is that they must be “ required for the purposes of the commission.” The proposed new paragraph lea confers a power which was not included in the principal act. If the commission does not possess that power, on what authority did it let the contract for the erection of residences for public servants at a cost of £500,000, and why did it let the contract without submitting the proposal to the Public Works Committee? That is one of the most serious charges made against this commission since its appointment, and one that should be investigated before the House extends the commission’s powers.
.- This is not the simple little bill that the Minister would have us believe it is. In the first place, it is proposed to vest in the commission the city area, with the exception of the sites of Parliament House and the Governor-General’s residence. I do not remember why this was not done at first, instead of retaining the area in the name of the Minister, and making a specific provision which any one could see would involve a great deal of expense and additional work. The Honorary Minister has explained that, under the present system, all reticulation work for electric lighting, sewerage, and water supply are vested in the commission by the GovernorGeneral’s proclamation, and that wherever a main is laid, whether above or below ground, a survey has first to be made of the particular area covered by the main before that can be done. The Government asks us to avoid all this unnecessary work by passing this bill, but what has happened must have been patent when the original act was passed. I have looked at that act, and I cannot see why what is now proposed to be done was not done in the first instance. The Government must have had some very good reason for retaining control, and inserting the provision requiring the granting by the Governor-General of the lands necessary to. cover the works and other operations of the commission. Some explanation needs to be given for the proposed change other than the fact that the present system is cumbersome, costly, and unwieldy, and involves a great deal of work, because this must have been patent from the first. Personally, I can see no great harm in vesting the whole of the city area in the commission. At present all the leases in the Territory, inside and outside the city area, must bear the signature of the Minister, and all arrangements are made by the commission in the name of the Minister. If this bill is passed, the land will be vested in the chief commissioner, and the seal of the commission will be all that is necessary for the granting of a lease. It will not be necessary to have constant references to the Minister, and, incidentally, the Minister will not have the control which he now possesses. I think one of the reasons for the appointment of the commission was that things could be better done by a commission on the spot than by a Minister in Melbourne. Consequently, I am in agreement with the alteration proposed; but what I am not satisfied about is why the need is apparent now, and was not apparent when the original act was passed.
– The Government had not then the experience of the working of the system.
– It did not require very much experience to realize that, when a service had to be vested in the commission, it would need a proper survey and description before a proclamation could he made. That it would be an expensive and cumbersome process could easily have been forecast. The bill proposes to vest the city area in the commission. To all intents and purposes, the commission, and not the Government, will be the lessors, and will be in a position to collect what rents are due. As to the commission proceeding with the building of 300 houses at a cost of half a million without reference to the Public Works Committee, it is, no doubt, the duty of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) to point out what has occurred, but I doubt whether the investigation he proposes would carry us very far. We already know that, at the request of the Government, a contract for cottages, involving an expenditure of £500,000, has been entered into under the powers conferred upon the commission by sub-section j of section 14 of the principal act which provides that the commission shall have power to undertake, “ subject to the approval of the Minister, the construction of all works and buildings required by the Commonwealth in the Territory, except works exempted by order in council from the operation of this paragraph.” Under that power, and at the request of the Minister for the time being, in order to make preparation for the transfer of the Seat of Government, a beginning was made with the erection of cottages. A contract was let, and apparently, because not one of the cottages would cost more than £25,000, the department, very wrongly, I think, came to the conclusion that the matter need not be referred to the Public Works Committee, although the total expenditure involved was about £500,000. I think the department put a very strained interpretation on the law, which the sub-section I have read will not support.
– At any rate, it is against the spirit of the law.
– Nevertheless, the fact should not be lost sight of that the department was confronted with the necessity for making this immediate provision, and the reference to the committee would have involved great delay. As it is, the houses will be ready in time for the transfer to the Seat of Government. It is against the spirit of the law, but the fact remains that at the request of the Government the commission entered into this contract, and nothing we do not already know can be revealed by any inquiry. Taking sub-sections j and k of section 14 of the principal act together, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has raised the question as to whether section j, which deals with buildings required by the Commonwealth; does not mean buildings required by the Commonwealth for its own purpose, seeing that sub-section k provides for “ the construction and maintenance of all works and buildings required for the purposes of the commission.” At any rate, as the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) has already said, there is some doubt as to whether the two sub-sections are broad enough to cover the erection of cottages.
– Surely buildings required by the commission are buildings required by the Commonwealth.
– Buildings required by the commission would probably be offices and similar structures required by the commission itself for carrying on its own work. On the other hand, the power of the commission, subject to the approval of the Minister, to construct all works and buildings required by the Commonwealth has been given a very wide interpretation, and has been taken to include anything the Commonwealth requires to be built at Canberra. Under that interpretation of its power the commission, at the request of the Minister for the time being, has entered into this contract because it was necessary to make immediate provision for accommodation for the civil servants before the transfer of the Seat of Government. It is quite possible that, in the haste of preparation for the transfer, matters were not scanned as closely as they ought to have been. Another great obstacle has arisen in the working of the principal act. Although the act may give the commission power to build these cottages, the commission has no power to retain for its own purpose the rents derived from letting them. It may spend money and be debited with the total cost of the cottages, but the instalments and the interest paid by their occupiers have to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue. They are not credited against the big debit created by the commission in the erection of the cottages.
– That is merely a matter of book-keeping, which can easilybe arranged.
– Under the principal act it cannot easily he arranged. That is the difficulty which thebill is intended to overcome by very properly allowing the commission to collect rents and interest instalments and charge them against its capital expenditure. Power is given to the commission to do all these things in its own name. Previously everything had to be done in the name of the Minister for the time being, involving all the circumlocution referred to by the Honorary Minister. This hill removes that difficulty. It sets aside all possibility of doubt that the commission is given power to erect these cottages and collect the rents for them. There is also the retrospective power referred to by the honorable member for Yarra. The commission took over the whole debt of the Commonwealth in regard to Canberra. It is responsible for that debt, and that debt includes all the originally erected residences at the civic centre, the power-house, and other localities where houses had been built prior to the commission coming into existence, and also the buildings at Acton. As the law stands at present, it has no power to receive rents and use them as an offset against the capital charge with which it is saddled. In regard to the final supervision exercized by the Government, the restrictions that were in the original act still remain, and everything must be done by ordinance. Every ordinance must pass through the hands of a Minister and Cabinet before it is approved. Afterwards it must he laid on the table of Parliament, and any honorable member can move to disallow it. All of the restrictions still remain as they were in the original act, and Parliament’s control over the commission is still the same as was intended in the first instance. It controls all the ordinances under which the commission acts. I do not see any objection to the bill, except that it does not go far enough. It proposes to hand over to the commission all lands in the city area. The other portion of the territory will continue to be managed by the commission for the Minister, and the revenue therefrom will be paid into the consolidated revenue fund. If the commission is to function satisfactorily, all lands in the territory should be vested in it, and I am confident that later another amending bill will be introduced for that purpose. Why the Government should take two bites at a cherry I do not know. It would have been better advised if it had asked Parliament to vest all Federal territory lands in the commission, Parliament retaining control by its authority to disallow any ordinances after they were laid upon the Table.
.- The members of the Public Works Committee have no cause to be grateful to the honorable member for Ballarat, who is a member of the committee, for the amendment he has proposed. Some months ago, without any prior reference to the Public Works Committee, tenders were called for the erection of a large group of houses at Canberra. I do not desire to excuse whoever was responsible for that omission, but I am convinced that the commission was not to blame. If anybody was culpable, it was the Department of Home and Territories. About six or eights weeks ago the committee drew the attention of the Department of Home and Territories to the breach of the Public Works Committee Act, and a formal acknowledg ment of the letter was received. Only today the secretary of the committee received a reply in which it is admitted that a breach of the act occurred. This letter, together with the opinion of the Crown Solicitor, is not yet officially before the committee, and therefore, I think the honorable member for Ballarat would have been well advised to have deferred bringing the matter before the House until the committee had had an opportunity to consider the communication, and to express its views thereon. The department’s oversight can hardly be excused. Section 15 of the Public; Works Committee Act provides -
No public work of any kind whatsoever: . . . . the estimated cost of completing which exceeds £25,000, and whether such work is a continuation, completion, repair, reconstruction, extension, or a new work, shall be commenced unless sanctioned as in this section provided.
Probably the department took the erroneous view that the houses were so many separate jobs, and that it would not be necessary to refer them to the committee ; but it made the mistake of calling for tenders for 300 houses in one contract, involving a very large expenditure. I do not think that there has been any deliberate lack of courtesy or an attempt to evade the PublicWorks Committee Act. Unfortunate happenings of this kind will occur from time to time, but the department should have had a better understanding of its responsibility. The fact is generally recognized that the committee has done very effective work in the checking of departmental proposals and estimates, and has saved to the Commonwealth a very large amount of money. This is the first occasion within my knowledge that it has been ignored in respect of a work that should have been referred to it. The honorable member for Ballarat was wrong in attempting to make political capital out of the employment of the architect of the permanent administrative building.
– It is very serious.
– When the facts are known, the matter is not so serious as it looks. In 1924 competitive designs were invited for a permanent administrative building at Canberra, and certain conditions were laid down for the guidance of the assessors appointed to adjudicate upon the designs. Amongst other things, it was provided that the successful competitor should receive a premium in accordance with the assessors’ award, and should become the architect for the building unless, in the opinion of the assessors, after consultation with the Government and the Federal Council of the Australian Institute of Architects, there was some valid objection to his employment in that capacity. Altogether, about 94 architects submitted designs, and Mr. Jones, the successful architect, had a right to expect that he would be employed as the supervising architect. Clause 36 of the conditions of the competition provided -
An agreement to be entered into between the Government and the selected- architect (or architects) shall provide for his (or their) execution of all services connected with the work which are usual and in accordance with these conditions and the rules and regulations of the Federal Council of the Australian Institutes of Architects, and the terms of remuneration will be in accordance with such rules and regulations.
The competition was instituted at the urgent request of honorable members of this House. I do not think there is a better architect in Australia than Mr. Murdoch, the present Commonwealth Director of Works, but his architectural work is so much in evidence in public buildings throughout the Commonwealth, that it was thought desirable in connexion with the designing of buildings at Canberra to introduce some new ideas and variation in style. The honorable member for Ballarat led the House to suppose that Mr. Jones was being paid £39,000 practically for a trifling service, but that is not the case. Mr. Jones, in 1924, had to make the necessary inquiries and submit the necessary drawings and specifications in compliance with the conditions governing the competition. Then he had to appear before the Public Works Committee on numerous occasions to explain the details. If the matter stopped there, I confess that a remuneration of £39,000 would be extravagant, but he has the great hulk of his work still to do.. He will be fully occupied for the next four or five years in supervising the erection of the building,, and. he will also need to provide a staff of men to watch the details of the work. In all the circumstances, it is hardly fair to criticize Mr. Jones.
– I was criticizing, not him, but the department which made such silly conditions.
– I do not admit that the conditions were silly. Mr. Jones will give about six years’ work in return for his remuneration. It must be remembered that architects of his standing are able to command big money in all the capital cities.
– Does the £39,000 include travelling allowances?
– It includes all costs of complete professional supervision at the rate of 6 per cent. on the capital cost of the building. The original estimate of the cost of the building was about £430,000; but the latest estimate is that it will cost about half as much again. I understand that 6 per cent. is the recognized charge of the Institute of Architects.
– For a job of this magnitude ?
– The Government could have got the work done for a great deal less if it had had sufficient brains.
– The payment is in accordance with the conditions of the competition, from which no selfrespecting government would depart.
– I listened with interest to the remarks made by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Marr) in introducing this bill. The commission has done satisfactory work so far.
– At a price.
– I have nothing to complain about in respect to it. But the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act should have been observed. The blame for their non-observance must be placed at the door of the Government, and not the commission, for the commission, I understand, acted as it did at the request of the Government.
– Which acted . under duress of the Canberra-ites in this Parliament.
– The commission was instructed to provide accommodation at Canberra by a certain date for so many public servants, and it endeavoured to do so. If it had wished to evade the provisions of the Public, Works Committee Act, it could easily have done so by letting a contract for, say, at dozen houses to one contractor, another for a dozen more to a different contractor, and so on. Had it done that, none of the contracts would have exceeded £25,000.
– That it did not do so is additional evidence that it did not attempt to evade the act.
– I blame the Home and Territories Department, and not the commission, for whatever evasion there has been. The honorable member for Ballarat complained of the design of some of the cottages that are being erected. In my opinion, there would have been much less ground for complaint on that score had the matter been properly investigated by the Public “Works Committee. I have inspected some of the cottages that have been erected, and have found that they are not by any means as convenient as they might be. Many of them, as a matter of fact, are quite unsuitable for Canberra conditions. The kitchenettes are very small in some cases, and there is not nearly enough verandah space.
– And they are too low in the roof.
– That is so. Altogether the position would have been much better had the matter been referred to the Public Works Committee. I agree that Parliament House and the residences of the Governor-General and the Prime Minister should not be under the control of the commission, for they will always be unremunerative, and it would not be fair to saddle the commission with them. In my opinion, it would be fair also to relieve the commission of the burden of the water supply and sewers. We should not expect it to manage works which will always, or at least for many years, be unremunerative. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) referred to the roofs of the cottages that are being erected at Canberra. Any one who has visited the city must admit that the red-tiled roofs present a monotonous appearance. It would be highly desirable for the commission to use slates for some of the roofs.
– A cheap shingle roof is all that some of the cottages have.
– I disagree with the policy of roofing cottages with shingles, for shingles are dangerous in many ways. Seeing that one of the finest slate quarries in the world is situate near Goulburn, I think it quite reasonable that the commission should use slates. The Goulburn slates, some of which I have examined, are equal to anything in the world.
– Slates do not stand hailstorms. I have seen many slates broken by hail.
– They must have been poor slates.
– And big hail. In the Old Country where they have real hail storms, slates are used practically universally. A slate roof would be cheaper than a tile roof in the long run, for the timber would not need to be so heavy.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– My chief objection to the bill is that it validates the action of the commission in arranging for the erection of 300 houses without observing the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, which provides that all public works the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000 shall be investigated and reported upon by the committee. If we are assured by the Government that in future the provisions of that act will be complied with, there will, I think, be little opposition to the measure. The commission has let a contract for the construction of 300 houses at a total cost of, approximately, £500,000 without any investigation whatever being undertaken by the Public Works Committee. Public Works Committees have been the means of saving the country hundreds of thousands of pounds, and I have the greatest faith in their recommendations. If the construction of houses at Canberra had been referred to the committee we should have some idea of the style of cottages to be erected, the estimated cost, and all the necessary details.
– What is the contract price of the 300 houses proposed to be constructed?
– No detailed information is available; but it is in the vicinity of £500,000. The Government should see that commissions appointed by Parliament do not in any way usurp the power of Parliament, particularly in matters of expenditure as has been done in this instance. In this case I believe the commission has acted on the advice of the Government, which realized that, as houses had to be provided quickly for the large number of public servants to be transferred, the work would have to be expedited. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) referred to the construction of the permanent administrative offices at Canberra at an estimated cost of £800,000, for which competitive designs were invited. Mr. G. Sydney Jones, a Sydney architect, was the successful competitor, and for supervising construction he is to receive £38,000.
– The building is only estimated to cost £800,000.
– Yes; and the ultimate cost may be £1,000,000. If the Government had called for competitive designs for the Parliament House at Canberra, and the architect of the accepted design had been remunerated on a similar basis, heavy and unnecessary expenditure would have been incurred. In that case, however, the Government which has a splendid staff at its disposal, adopted a common-sense view, and referred the design of the Commonwealth Director-General ofWorks, Mr. Murdoch, to the Public Works Committee, and, with slight modifications, it was accepted. Mr. Murdoch designed Australia House in London, and many other prominent Commonwealth buildings, and. his work is generally admitted to be of a very high standard. In Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Hill the Commonwealth have very fine officers, whose services should be utilized instead of calling for competitive designs, thus involving heavy expenditure in architects’ fees.
– That is what I am complaining of.
– Yes. The Public Works Committee, which I believe recommended that competitive designs be invited for the permanent administrative offices, is largely to blame, but I should like to know why the Department of Works and Railways did not submit a design.
– The architect of the successful design in such a competition usually supervises the work of construction.
– Yes, but if the department had submitted a design, and it had been accepted, the architect’s fees would have been saved. The administrative building at Canberra is the first permanent public building to be erected, and it should be the policy of the commission to utilize the services of the experts at its disposal in connexion with future construction. It is proposed to relieve the commission of the expense of constructing Parliament House, the remodelling of the Governor-General’s residence, . and the erection of the Prime Minister’s official residence, as. these buildings will not return any revenue. The Government should also relieve the commission of the heavy cost of the sewerage and water supply systems.
– The commission will charge water and sewerage rates.
– Yes, but the revenue of £61,000 obtained is so small that it should not be put in comparison with the expense incurred, because it makes it appear excessive. If the commission were relieved of those costs, it could possibly show a profit on the other works.
– The whole thing has been a great mistake.
– From the Victorian viewpoint.
– The honorable member is only now finding it out.
– No. The honorable member for Fawkner will change his opinion when he finds that in that healthy climate years have been added to his life. I trust everything will be done to assist the commission - I believe this measure will help - to develop the territory, hut, at the same time, the Government should see that in future all work undertaken in the Federal Capital Territory, the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000, are investigated by the Public Works Committee.
– A good deal could be said in support of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) . I Was rather surprised to learn that up to the present the commission has not observed the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act, which provides that all Commonwealth works, the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000, shall be investigated and reported upon by that committee. I do not think it was ever intended that the Federal Capital Commission should be above Parliament, and if the Public
Works Committee Act has not been observed, the commission should be informed at the earliest possible moment of its provisions. In the Federal Capital Territory, the cost of the houses appear to be extraordinarily high, even after making due allowance for the remoteness of Canberra from Sydney, and the difference in the cost of building materials. It is generally recognized that the cost of building at Canberra is far in excess of what was anticipated.
– Who is responsible for that?
– I do not know where the responsibility lies. The cost of labour is probably higher, but that alone would not account for the difference. Material is also more expensive, and the cost of transport from Sydney to Queanbeyan and from Queanbeyan to Canberra is heavy.
– The bricks of which the houses are built are made on the spot.
– Although there is no transhipment of goods, both State and Commonwealth railway charges have to be met.
– Probably the climate of Canberra militates against energetic action.
– The honorable member must have been misinformed regarding Canberra’s climate, because its effect would be in the opposite direction. It has been stated that the cost of bricks has contributed to the high cost of building at Canberra.
– The House is entitled to know the reason for the excessive cost of building there. So far, the Minister has given us no explanation.
– Considering that the material necessary for making the bricks is available at Canberra, their high price is difficult to understand. Sir John Harrison told me some time ago that the commissioners intended to erect two additional brick kilns, in the hope that increased production and improved methods of manufacture would reduce the cost of bricks. I confess to a feeling of great disappointment, not only regarding the price of bricks, but also because good bricks are quite unnecessarily covered with rough-cast. I could understand rough-cast being used to cover inferior bricks or poor workmanship, but Can berra bricks are probably equal to the best in the world, and, if they are well laid, it is not necessary to cover them with roughcast to hide either inferior material or workmanship. On the contrary, the rough-cast’ attracts and retains moisture, dust and cobwebs, and gets discoloured quickly. There is nothing to justify its use, unless it may be thought that the dark background of hills requires buildings of a light colour. Nevertheless, I cannot see that any advantage is gained by not using the bricks in their natural state. Monotony of tone can be relieved by the liberal use of trees of varied and bright foliage. I consider that, in addition to Parliament House and residences for the Governor-General and the Prime Minister, the cost of the residences to be erected for the President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker should be charged not to the commission but to the Government.
– The full capital cost of houses for public servants should not be charged to them.
– There is a good deal in the contention of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) regarding the initial charges for water and other public utilities. These services should be charged against the Government. The branch services, when they become a source of revenue to the commission, should be charged against the commission; but the main water supply and sewerage services and other public utilities should be debited to the Government. While I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney that it is desirable that the officers of the various departments should be allowed to submit designs and estimates for buildings at Canberra, I contend that national public buildings such as the permanent Parliament House, and others that will be erected there, should be open to a wider sphere of competition than the Public Service of the Commonwealth.
– The departmental officers should be permitted to compete.
– I understood the honorable member to say that they should be responsible for the designs. Buildings like the permanent Parliament House should, in my opinion, be open to competition throughout the world.
– The men who will be responsible for that building are not yet born.
– Possibly not, for its erection; but there are many living architects equal to the task of designing the edifice. I do not desire my remarks to be construed as detracting in any way from the capabilities of the very fine officers we have in our Public Service.
– Mr Murdoch is equal to the best architects of the world.
– I think that he is. Moreover, he would be the last man to desire to exclude outside competition, because of his confidence in his ability to compete with the world’s architects.
– Would it not be well for buildings at Canberra to conform to an Australian style of architecture?
– That could be arranged for when designs were invited. While I believe that the bill is on right lines, I consider that the attention of the commission should be called to the fact that every proposal estimated to exceed £25,000 must be submitted to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report before the work is proceeded with.
.- I should not have spoken had it not been for the attack of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) on the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). The honorable member for Ballarat, in submitting his amendment, was performing a public duty. I intend to support his amendment. I take exception to the new paragraphs,ka, kb, andkc, proposed to be inserted in sub-section 1 of section 14 of the principal act; - (ka) the construction of buildings for use as, or in connexion with, residences in the Territory; (kb) the disposal, upon such conditions as the commission determines, to lessees of land in the Territory, of residences and other improvements erected or made by the commission on that land; (kc) the advancing, upon such conditions as the commission determines, to lessees of land in the Territory, of money for the purpose of building or other developmental work on that land;
This is a matter which affects not only the Public Works Committee; it is of public interest. In its issue of the 8th July last, the Melbourne Age condemned the Government for having introduced a bill to override the provisions of the Public Works Act. Some time ago, when it was known that this legislation would be introduced, the honorable member for Ballarat agreed to look into the matter to which he has referred to-day. Before moving his amendment, he intimated to the chairman of the Public Works Committee that he intended to do so, believing that, by so doing, he was discharging a public duty. I take it that honorable members are entitled to discuss the various matters brought before them in measures submitted by the Government. If members must remain silent because they are members of committees which are interested in the matters brought before this House, I predict that it will be difficult in the future to find members willing to act as members of those committees. If the honorable member for Ballarat had not introduced the subject with which he dealt, the probability is that another honorable member would have done so. His membership of the Public Works Committee should not preclude him from speaking in the way he did. In the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) expressed the same view as that of the honorable member; and the honorable member for Lilley, who is the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, sought a few weeks ago to move the adjournment of the House in order to make a similar protest. The inquiries conducted by that committee have saved Australia large sums of money, and during the short time that the honorable member for Ballarat and I have been members of it, we have realized more than ever previously that it is essential that the committee should keep a watchful eye over public works estimated to cost over £25,000. The attack made upon the honorable member for Ballarat this afternoon by the honorable member for Lilley was unjustified. He divulged a great deal more concerning the proceedings of the committee than did the honorable member for Ballarat. While the latter merely discussed the matter in general terms, the honorable member for Lilley traced the history of the committee’s protest. If any honorable member stated facts that perhaps should not have been disclosed, it was the chairman of the committee himself. I admit that he would have been justified in protesting against the provision in the bill to validate the mistake made by the Federal Capital Commission some time ago. The honorable member for Lilley stated this afternoon that the committee protested in the first instance against the letting of the contract for the 300 houses until it had investigated the proposal. When the committee’s letter asking the Attorney-General’s Department for an opinion as to the authority on which the commission had acted, was under consideration, the present bill was prepared. Evidently it was known that a provision of the Public Works Committee Act had been contravened. In common with other honorable members, I have had an opportunity of inspecting the houses that have been built at Canberra. We have been told that the average cost is about £2,000. I have also seen the houses erected in South Australia under the Advances for Homes Act introduced by the Gunn Government about two years ago. The cost of these houses is only £700 each, and repayment of the principal is spread over a period of about 40 years, a weekly payment of approximately 18s. providing both interest and principal, although the rent charged for houses of a similar type in Adelaide is as high as 35s. a week. The point I wish to make is that the houses erected in Adelaide at a cost of £700 are better than those built at Canberra at a cost of £2,000. I agree with the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) that the bricks manufactured at Canberra are of high quality, and should not be covered by rough-cast cement. It is no exaggeration to say that, standing in one position, one could look through parts of the walls before the rough-cast plaster had been applied. The builders knew perfectly well that once the brickwork, however badly constructed, was covered by the rough-cast, the public servant would not be aware of the fact that he was living in a “jerry-built” house. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr: E. Riley”) referred to the roofing of these premises, and by way of interjection I remarked that neither slates nor tiles were being used in many cases, but that shingles were being employed. Any honorable member who has noticed the class of shingles in use will agree that they will probably not last more than two or three years. They have been imported from America. Speaking from memory, I should say that they are about 1 foot long, 7 inches wides, and not more than a quarter of an inch thick, tapering off to a thin edge. The wood is straight in the grain and similar to Oregon. One could break it up in one’s fingers in pieces a quarter of an inch in width.
– That would be red pine.
– Possibly so. It is the softest wood imaginable. The house of which I took particular notice was one of five exceptionally small rooms, and the pantry could not accommodate two persons comfortably at one time. We were informed that houses of this type would cost about £2,000.
– How many are being roofed with those shingles?
– About a dozen.
– Facts of this kind have prompted the honorable member for Ballarat to submit his amendment. It is necessary in the interests of the public that the provision of the Public Works Act, that works . estimated to cost over £25,000 should be investigated and reported upon by the committee. When the North Australia Bill was before the House, honorable members protested against a proposal that works costing over that sum should be carried out without reference to the committee. The fear was expressed that such a provision would be the thin end of the wedge to enable important public works to be carried out from time to time without the necessary safeguard of preliminary inquiry by the committee. If the commission has nothing to hide, why should there be any objection to having such works investigated by the committee ? Surely the erection of 300 houses at a cost of approximately £500,000 is a sufficiently important matter to warrant inquiry by the committee. Why, when the committee sought an opinion from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department as to the legality nf the commission’s act, was this bill hurriedly brought . before Parliament? Honorable members, irrespective of the side they take in politics, should insist on the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act being observed. The facts emphasized by the honorable member for Ballarat are within the knowledge of every honorable- member, because of the criticisms that have appeared in the press and the speeches that were delivered in the Senate when the bill was introduced.
.- 1 feel it my duty to address myself briefly to this measure. A number of its provisions are equitable, and it is imperative that the commission should have the authority sought: but I trust that in committee certain amendments will be made. Much has been said about the poor quality and excessive cost of the houses at Canberra. I agree with those statements, but with whom does the fault lie? Does it not lie with this House? Have honorable members not evinced a mad desire to reach Canberra in an unreasonably short time?
– Wake up!
– The honorable member is waking up now, but it is too late to prevent these excessive costs. Many civil servants transferred to Canberra will have to pay £600 more for their houses than some are worth, because honorable members were not willing to delay the transfer to Canberra for a reasonable time. The ‘ Seat of Governnent ought not to be transferred for at least two years, so that the preparations can be made without the expensive haste that is now taking place. Members of the Opposition, as well as members on this side of the House, must accept responsibility for the high cost of building. It is a pity that the contract for the 300 bouses was not submitted for investigation by the Public Works Committee. An act of parliament has been violated, and the reason for violating it was the demand of honorable members that the Parliament should be transferred to Canberra within an unreasonably short time. There was not time to submit the proposal to the committee. If the commission is allowed sufficient time in which to carry out the work, it ought to be able to construct houses as cheaply as they can be constructed in any other large centre in Australia. It is doing business on a wholesale scale, and can purchase hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of materials at a time. But the rush to Canberra has created such a demand for builders that the cost of building has been increased, not only there, but also in Sydney. The best tradesmen can go to Canberra and demand their own price. In the course of time, when there is a collapse of the artificial conditions now created, honorable members will wonder what has happened. The extra cost imposed upon public servants has been brought about by this House. I do not blame the commission, which. has done the best it could do in difficult circumstances. Some honorable members favour saddling the long-suffering taxpayer with the cost of Parliament House, and the Prime Minister’s and Speaker’s residences, and the sewerage and water services at Canberra for a period. Why should we not saddle him with the whole burden and make a complete job of it? In any case, we shall have to saddle him with a considerable increase in the salaries of public servants, to enable them to pay the excessive cost of houses in Canberra; or, alternatively, we must write off £500 or £600 from the capital cost of some of the houses. I am inclined to think that it would be wiser to wipe off the excessive capital cost, which is the price of the breakneck speed at which we are travelling.
– I am not surprised at the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), who adopted his customary “ yes-no “ attitude. He first condemned the Government for erecting the cottages illegally, but said that the violation of the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act was justified because of the breakneck speed of the work. If the honorable member stands for anything he stands for private enterprise as opposed to State socialism; but he condemns these cottages, built under the system of private enterprise. He told us very eloquently that they were ramshackle place’s, that their cost was excessive, and that it would be impossible for public servants on their present salaries to live in them. We do not. hear one word from him in condemnation of the system of private enterprise under which they were built; but if a government department had built them, he would have denounced it roundly. This discussion demonstrates, if it has demonstrated anything, the necessity for a searching investigation into the circumstances surrounding the letting of this contract. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) said that it was, at least, suspicious; I would go farther, and say that it is rather smellful. It is amazing that hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money can be spent in direct violation of an act of parliament, although the procedure is condemned, not only by members of the Opposition, hut also by supporters of the Government. An immediate inquiry should be held. We want to know why the commission evaded its responsibilities under the act, and why it did not provide for proper supervision of the work. Are private contractors to be allowed to appropriate hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in return for defective work? The honorable member for Grey has told us that the roofing of some of these houses is shoddy shingling imported from America. This Parliament stands for the encouragement of Australian industries; and if the commission evaded the Public Works Committee Act in order to indulge in a policy opposed to the protection of Australian industries, a searching inquiry should be made into its motives. There is a tendency to evade inquiries by committees appointed1 by this Parliament. The Public Works Committee is charged with the duty of protecting the public revenue. Will honorable members stand quietly “by- and allow the Government to throw the act under the table, and say “At our own whim, we shall do what we like, and allow the commission to carry on any work we think fit.” We have learned from the chairman of the Public Works Committee that the committee protested by letter against the action of the Government. Honorable members ought to be told what were the committee’s grounds of protest. Was it a protest against the class of work being carried out at Canberra, or against the illegality of the action of the Government in allowing the commission to enter into a contract to have certain work done without first referring it to the committee? The House is entitled to an explanation. Can the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) tell me what reply has been furnished to. his letter of protest? Or is the Public Works Committee prepared to smother things up on behalf of the Government ? Are we to have some more secret work like that done by the Public
Accounts Committee last week, when, instead of furnishing a report to Parliament., it secretly supplied the Prime Minister and other Ministers with the result of its investigations, leaving Parliament and the public unaware of what had been done? We ought to have an inquiry to find out who has been responsible for this illegal action on the part of the commission, as well as for the shoddy work done in the houses at Canberra, and for the importation of the shoddy material which has been used in the construction of those houses. I wholeheartedly support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and I hope that honorable members will see that work at Canberra is carried out in a proper legal way, and that if it is to be done by private contractors, it will be properly supervised, so that the contractors may not rob the taxpayers of Australia.
.- The bill contains many amendments which I hope will do a great deal of good; but I think that by moving his amendment the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has been a little indiscreet. As a member of the Public Works Committee, he knew perfectly well that the chairman of the committee (Mr. Mackay), voicing the views of every member of the committee, had communicated to the Department of Homo and Territories the protest of the committee against the action of the Federal Capital Commission in calling for tenders for the construction of these cottages, and he, should have waited until a reply had been received and. considered bythe committee before taking action in this House.
– But in the meantime this bill wouldbe passed.
– It seems to me that the honorable member has brought the matter up in the House for advertising purposes. There is no doubt the Public Works Committee takes the greatest interest in its investigations into the works that come before it. Already by its careful study of the evidence it has called it has been the means of saving hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Commonwealth. In one instance alone it has saved no less than £58,000. I quite agree that the Federal Capital
Commission has. overstepped its bounds in calling for tenders for these cottages without referring the work to the Public “Works Committee. As a matter of fact, the committee knew nothing about the contract until it saw in the press the announcement that tenders had been accepted. It took the matter up immediately, and, as I have already pointed out, the chairman, with the consent of every member of the committee, communicated a protest, to the Minister for Home and Territories. A great deal has been said about the cost of building at Canberra. Every one with common sense will admit that houses cannot be built as cheaply at an isolated spot as they can be built in more populous localities. But the isolation of Canberra is not the real cause of the high cost of building there. Many of the cottages have been built by day-work, and much of the work has been done by men who are not tradesmen, although they are paid 25s. and 30s. a day. The brickworks at Canberra turn out the .finest bricks I have ever seen in Australia; but the bricklayers are not doing half a day’s work for the money they receive. It is a. scandal. A good man can lay 1,000 bricks a day on a 9-in. wall, 1,200 bricks a day on. a 14-in. wall, and 1,500 bricks a day on an 18-in. wall; but the men at Canberra are instructed by the Trades Hall in Sydney not to lay more than 350 bricks a day. To-day, by the adoption of this policy» brick-work costs nine times as much as it cost twenty years ago. In the circumstances it is not surprising that the cost of building is so high. The Minister for Home and Territories, in a communication in reply to a letter I read in the house a week or so ago, told me that the commission has entered into an arrangement with the Sydney Trades Hall to supply labour for Canberra, and out of the hundreds supplied by that Trades Hall there are only 26 of the original men left. It is quite clear that men who are not tradesmen have been sent to Canberra. The commission has been to all the expense of bringing these men to the Federal Territory, only to find that they are unable to do the work. It is not to be wondered at that there is, in the buildings there, the “ shoddy “ work referred to by some honorable members. While the Government and the commission are entirely in the hands of the Sydney Trades Hall, we shall always get that class of work. The good men are kept to do the work in Sydney; the rubbish are sent to Canberra. The letter which I read in the House a few weeks ago was from a Hobart man, a first-class plasterer who, because he did not go. through the Sydney Trades Hall, was not allowed to work on a job at Canberra.. He told me, in his letter, that men who are working on government jobs in the Territory, go into Queanbeyan on Friday night and take contracts which they carry out on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week they take good care that they do not work too hard for the Government but they work mighty hard when they are. working for themselves on contracts in Queanbeyan. Being a practical man and an employer of labour for many years, I am quite competent to speak of the class of work which any one can see being done at Canberra. A man who can furnish a cart drawn by a brokendown racehorse is paid £2 a day, and in that cart he can be seen any day conveying about a barrow-load of dirt for half a mile. He is, actually, not doing 10s. worth of work, but is paid £2 a day for it. Is it any wonder that the houses are costing so much money? While that class of labour is employed, while the men adopt go-slow tactics, and while the commission is tied to the Trades Hall in Sydney, the buildings at Canberra will cost a jot of money, and their cost will fall very heavily, indeed, on the public servants who will buy homes there. The sooner some alteration takes place the better. I hope that the bill will go far enough to provide for better conditions than now exist in the Federal Capital Territory.
.- I have pleasure in supporting the proposal that the failure to refer the Canberra, houses to the Public Works Committee should be investigated. Regardless of the side of the House on which they sit, honorable members should be jealous of the privileges of Parliament, and quick to resent any violation of the law providing for a full inquiry into all proposals for public works estimated to cost more than £25,000. For three years I was a member of the Public
Works Committee, and the more experience I had of its operations, the more convinced was I that it fully justified its existence, and should continue to function without hindrance or limitation. The 300 cottages at Canberra should have been referred to the committee. This is not the first occasion on which it has been ignored. Prior to my joining the committee, it had approved of the first portion of No. 1 hostel, now known as the Hotel Canberra, hut before that job had been completed the Government proceeded with the construction of an extra wing at a cost considerably in excess of £25,000. That was unquestionably a violation of the Public Works Committee Act, although it might be pleaded in extenuation that as the right wing was only a duplication of the left wing which had already been approved, a further reference to the committee wouldbe superfluous. In connexion with the Canberra houses, either the commission or the Minister has blundered. The Government should frankly tell the House who, if anybody, authorized the commission to call for tenders for the construction of 300 cottages. Even a most cursory perusal of the Public Works Committee Act would convince one of the illegality of letting such a contract without first referring the proposal to the committee. Those ministerial supporters who are endeavouring to cloud the issue and cloak somebody should have more regard for the laws of this Parliament and the positions they occupy as custodians of the public purse. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) reproved the honorable member for Ballarat, and said, in effect, that a member of the Works Committee should not discuss in this House matters that are under consideration by the committee. That is carrying etiquette to a ridiculous extreme. Election to one of the standing committees does not gag a member in this chamber. Things will have reached a pretty pass when members of standing committees cannot speak in this House as their duty to their constituents dictates. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for Ballarat discussed the Canberra cottages with me in the party room about five weeks ago, and frequently since then the matter has been the subject of conversation amongst honorable members. The honorable member for Lilley as chairman of the Public Works Committee should be foremost in jealously guarding the rights and privileges of that most useful body.
– So he is.
– That is not so; both he and the honorable member for Franklin should be supporting the honorable member for Ballarat.
– The honorable member for Ballarat should not have brought this matter into the House.
– Does not the honorable member accept my word that five weeks ago I privately discussed these cottages with the honorable member for Ballarat? The statement that the honorable member for Ballarat made improper use of information that came to him as a member of the Public Works Committee is entirely unwarranted. The honorable member for Franklin, in a spirit that is alien to this age and this country, has once again attacked the workers. He heatedly denounced the Trades Hall, but forgot to suggest that the hand of Moscow is interfering with the progress of Canberra. From time to time the honorable member repeats a speech which apparently he learned when he first contested the Franklin electorate. I can imagine him telling the electors how the Trades Hall is ruining the country. At least, five times during the last three months he has made the same speech about the bricklayers who are hounded down by Trades Hall agitators, and are forbidden to lay more than 300 bricks a day.
– The statement is not true.
– Of course it is not.
– It is true.
– The honorable member makes himself absurd by repeating such statements.
– It is like the statement he made regarding the tenders for the Grafton to South Brisbane railway, in respect of which he was given the lie direct by the Minister for Works.
– The honorable member claims to be a judge of a fair day’s work. Where did he get his knowledge? He can have had no practical experience, or he would not make such ridiculous statements. Invariably the men who continually traduce the workers are those who never did an honest day’s work.
– Order ! The honorable member must address himself to the bill.
– The man who does no work is always the critic of the workers. Investigate the lives of the men who defame the workers, and they will be found tobe either sweaters, or drones living on the labour of somebody else. “They toil not, neither do they spin.” The honorable member for Franklin took exception to the Trades Hall being asked to supply labour for Canberra. Thank God, labour cannot be got except through the Trades Halls, and it is a good thing for the workers, the employers, and the country generally that the Trades Halls and the Political Labour party have been able, despite the united resistance of the wealthy classes, to establish a fair basic wage and good working conditions. The honorable member for Franklin belongs to that class whom we have to continually fight in order to retain those advantages.
– I have never been opposed to the payment of good wages.
– The honorable member has never made a speech in favour of the workers, and his mentality is such that he never will.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the subject before the Chair the character of the honorable member for Franklin, or the Seat of Government Bill?
– The honorable member for Darling is legitimately criticizing the attitude of the honorable member for Franklin; but I suggest to him that the exclusion of personalities would be in the interest of sound debate.
– Obviously the workers who have been libelled by the honorable member for Franklin cannot be heard in this chamber, and, as a representative of the working classes, it is my duty and privilege to refute some of the lies which are told about them. If words were bricks, the honorable member for Franklin would lay a lot. With that summary of his character I leave him.
A fifth-rate clerk would know that the construction of 300 homes at Canberra should have been referred to the Public Works Committee, and the Government should frankly tell the House whether the Minister or the commission is responsible for the omission to refer it. The members of the Public Works Committee, whose first duty is to the House and the country, should not allow that body to be ignored and attacked as it has been.
– A portion of my electorate is close to Canberra, many of the workers at Canberra are my constituents, . and I feel it is my duty to defend the commission, the contractors, and the workers against the attacks that have been made upon them. When the Federal Capital Commission was first appointed, some doubt as to its success was expressed, but, living hear Canberra, I know that the general opinion in the district is that the commission has proved a pronounced success. Of course, it is criticized, and, on my last visit to the district, I was told of several directions in which it was alleged to be wasting money. An investigation of such charges, however, convinces one that less money is being wasted now than under the former regime. I do not reflect upon any previous administration; such mistakes as were made were inevitable when the centre of control was so far from the seat of operations. The commission had to accept responsibility for the sins of the past, and take over Canberra as it found it. The consensus of opinion is that it is handling the job well. In regard to the houses that are being built there, I agree with other honorable members that this House is as much to blame as is the commission for some of the faults of which complaint has been made. Shortly after my election to this Chamber, I attended a meeting in Sydney of New South Wales representatives, at which a deputation was appointed to wait upon the Prime Minister and urge that the work at Canberra should he expedited so that Parliament might meet there on the 26th January next. The Government recently decided that the date of the first meeting at Canberra should be postponed until the 9th May, and, in order that the city might be ready by even that date, construction had to he hastened. Before
Parliament can meet at Canberra, accommodation must be found for the officers. Had the housing been referred to the Public Works Committee, it could only have reported in favour of the step which the commission has taken, namely, that contracts for the construction of a large group of houses should be let as soon as possible. So nothing has been lost by the omission to refer the houses to the committee. A serious charge has been made against the commission, and it should be investigated by the Government. It is not my intention to support the amendment, because I have no desire to delay the work at the Federal Capital. The honorable member for Dalley, (Mr. Mahony) made some caustic remarks regarding the work being done at Canberra, but the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) was more severe. He said that some of the work was shoddy. Having seen the buildings at Canberra, I cannot agree that the work in them is shoddy. The general complaint is that the buildings are unnecessarily strong, and could be less elaborate without affecting their stability. The charge that the work is shoddy is a reflection on the commission, the contractors, and the workmen. I disagree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), regarding the workmen engaged in erecting buildings in Canberra. In my opinion, they comprise some of the best workmen in Australia. Many of the men are known to me, they having gone from various centres in my electorate to work there. I cannot believe that their transfer to Canberra has caused them to adopt “ goslow “ tactics.I cannot see how the cost of building in Sydney has increased in consequence of good workmen having left Sydney for Canberra. The work being undertaken at Canberra does not compare with many of the big jobs in Sydney. The activity in the building trades at Canberra has, however, affected the towns in the surrounding districts. Builders from various country centres have accepted contracts at Canberra for the erection of a small number of cottages, with the result that building activities are practically at a standstill in the neighbouring towns; but I cannot believe that they have descended to building shoddy houses at Canberra.
Mr.scullin.- Is it a fact thatin some of the houses the partitions are made of bricks set on edge ?
– I believe that is correct.
– That would not be tolerated in Melbourne.
– Different people have different ideas regarding the construction of houses; some object to the buildings being finished in rough-cast, saying that it tends to monotony, that it adds to the glare in the summer time; others object to so many red-tiled roofs; still others to shingled roofs. Personally, I object to so much imported timber being used in the Federal Capital. In the South Coast district of New South Wales there are large quantities of suitable hardwood, which could be used. At Berrima I saw some of this timber after it had been in use for nearly 100 years, and it was still good. The commission would be well advised to use the local timber.
– Is pine timber available in the district?
– Very little. Timber of that nature would have to be obtained elsewhere. I agree that money received as rent for the buildings which were erected before the constitution of the commission, and which under existing legislation must be paid to the Treasury, should be paid to the commission. I hope that the bill will be passed, because I believe that the commission has done good work, and that its powers should be extended. Nevertheless, I feel that the Government should investigate the charges that shoddy workmanship and materials have gone into some of the buildings.
.- I should not have spoken had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), who said that he spoke as a contractor. He may be a contractor, but he is not a mechanic, or he would not have spoken as he has done to-night. This debate has resulted from the action of the commission in accepting tenders for the construction of buildings estimated to cost about £500,000 without the proposal having first been referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. I believe that that action on the part of the commission was due to its having received instructions to proceed with certain works.
Reference has been made to the quality of the workmanship in some of the buildings at Canberra. I say, without fear of successful contradiction, that the workmanship in the buildings there will compare favorably with that in any other part of the world. With the possible exception of the bricks made by the New South Wales State brick works, Canberra bricks are equal to any in Australia. The honorable member for Franklin never tires of abusing those who have to work for their living. He spoke of the number of bricks laid in a day. I point out to him in this connexion that cottages are very different from larger buildings.- Cottage walls are usually built with a cavity, which means, that two separate walls, each 4$ inches in thickness, have to be built, and ties placed between them every second or third course. Moreover, window and door openings and struck brickwork require great care. The honorable member said that 1,000 bricks should be laid by a man in a day of eight hours. That would necessitate more than two bricks being laid every minute. That is impossible when building a cavity wall, where allowance has to be made for windows and doors. It might be possible on a big building with walls 18 inches thick with struck joints on one side only, and with the centre bricks merely grouted in: but it is not possible when building cottages. Because of the difficulty of getting contractors to undertake cottage construction, the Government should have, erected these cottages. Many contractors when giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee have stated that cottages do not pay them, and that they lose money on Government contracts. The honorable member for Franklin also referred to the action of the commission in getting the Sydney Trades Hall to send workmen to Canberra. None but the best tradesmen are sent there. I know that the secretary of the Plasterers’ Union visited Canberra, and that he has -done his best to get men to go there. Competent tradesmen, whose wives and children live in Sydney, cannot be expected to leave their employment in the city to go to Canberra, even to receive 30s. or £2 a week more. When I was working at my trade I should not have done so, because it would have paid me better to lose one day a week in the city than to go to the country. I sympathize with the commissioners, because of the difficulty experienced in getting qualified workmen at Canberra. There is no necessity for first-class artisans in Sydney or Melbourne to be unemployed, and the only persons who are out of work there are casual labourers, who have not any particular trade. As honorable members are aware, the Public Works Committee Act provides that all works the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000 shall be referred to the committee for investigation and report; but, in this instance, the commission, at the instigation, I believe, of the Government, evaded the law. A Public Works Committee and a Public Accounts Committee, which are responsible only to Parliament, have been appointed with the object of supplying Parliament with information of public importance, and in this instance the Public Works Committee could have given this House valuable information, lt is surprising to find that the Government has assisted in breaking the law, particularly as the composition of the House is such that, if it were considered imperative that certain works should be undertaken without inquiry by the committee, approval would, I believe, have been readily given. The rights of Parliament should be jealously guarded by every honorable member, and I trust that in future such action will not be countenanced. J£ the law is to be broken, expenditure involving £1,000,000, or even £2,000,000, may be incurred without investigation. The ventilation of this matter has enabled members of the Opposition to express their strong disapproval of the action of the Government, and I trust that the discussion which has ensued will prevent a recurrence of the mistake.
.- About three weeks ago, I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) if, in view of the heavy cost of constructing cottages at Canberra, the Government would appoint a committee, or some similar body, to make a comparison between the cost of the cottages being erected at Canberra and those being built in Adelaide under the Thousand Homes Scheme at a cost of £750 each. For the last four or five years it has -repeatedly been stated that the cost of the buildings erected departmentally was excessive, and the cottages now being built are costing more than they should. The Public Works Committee recommended that the services of some outsidepersonbe obtained, not only to institute a comparison between the cost of houses at Canberra and elsewhere, but also to consider the desirability of a change in the style of architecture. The Chief Commonwealth Architect was quite agreeable to the proposal, and said that he thought the idea a good one. The Federal Capital Commission, as honorable members are aware, is an independent body, which has absolute control of affairs in the Federal Capital Territory, subject to the act of Parliament under which it operates. The evasion of the act is the responsibility of the commission, and not of the Government. The commission has made a mistake, but there is no doubt that it was under the impression that in building a number of cottages, the individual contracts for which were for less than £25,000, it need not comply with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. In that it was wrong, and the mistake will have to be rectified.
Mr.Scullin. - Does the honorable member think that the ‘commission had power under the act to accept that contract?
– In doing what it has done it has exceeded its statutory powers. Reference has been made to the use of slates and shingles for roofing purposes; hut I understand that slates were used because the owner of the house preferred them, and shingles were used at the request of the architect, who was anxious to show that they produced an entirely satisfactory effect. Before any bitter declamation is made against the commission or its officers, further inquiry should be made. As the commission was extremely desirous of providing the necessary accommodation for the public servants to be transferred to Canberra, prompt action had to be taken in constructing homes. During the last three or four years, the Public Works Committee has kept the Government well advised concerning the necessity of expediting the construction of cottages. But there has been too much anxiety to transfer the Seat of Government to Canberra. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have urged that Parliament should meet there this year, or early next year, but I know that it would be impossible for it to do so in any degree of comfort until next June or July. The commission, in pushing on with this work, considered that it was meeting our wishes.
– But was the commission responsible for over-riding the act?
– In my opinion, it made the mistake of assuming that it had the right to let separate contracts for cottages without giving any consideration to the total amount involved; but the Public Works Committee Act makes it quite clear that any work that will ultimately cost more than £25,000 must be referred to the committee. The mistake that has been made should be rectified. Costs are altogether too high at Canberra. I cannot understand why bricks are so dear there, for one of the most up-to-date kilns in the world is operating there with a magnificent shale deposit right alongside it. Bricks ought to) be obtainable there as reasonably as anywhere in Australia, and the commission ought to be able to purchase its requirements as advantageously as building contractors anywhere else, for it has the credit of the Commonwealth behind it. An investigation should be made into costs generally there. Living is much dearer than it should be. I suppose not a single person in the Federal Capital Territory is growing his own vegetables. When the Public Works Committee visited the city all the vegetables that were being used at the hostel were imported.
– Even members of Parliament have to be imported.
– Some members of Parliament have been altogether too anxious to get there, and the haste is a good deal responsible for the high costs that prevail. Seeing that we have such a huge war debt to shoulder, we should have been content to remain in Melbourne for the next ten or twenty years.
– Which is nearer to Western Australia - Melbourne or Canberra ?
– Honorable members know that I have been opposed to a hasty move to Canberra ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, although I do not like living in Melbourne; the climate here does not agree with me. But I have no desire to see the taxpayer despoiled. However, we have gone too far to withdraw, and we should make an effort to get to Canberra next year. In ‘ my opinion the Government would be well advised to appoint a commission to visit Adelaide to inquire into the cost and type of cottages being erected there under the Thousand Homes scheme. The splendid scheme in operation there is well worthy of examination. I understand that a right-of-way runs behind every block, and that the water supply, sewerage, and mains of every description run from the right-of-way into the blocks, so that footpaths would need to be broken up only when surface drainage was necessary. I am sorry that some of the provisions of this bill are to be retrospective. I object to retrospective legislation. I regret, also, that it is proposed to give the commission power to make regulations which will become effective before submission to the GovernorGeneral in Council. Power to make regulations should be granted to the commission only under the ordinary condition that the regulations must be approved by the Attorney-General’s Department and gazetted before becoming effective. I hope that I shall not throw a bombshell among honorable members, but I trust that something will be ‘ included in the ‘bill to determine definitely whether Canberra is to be a licensed or an unlicensed area. We should not shirk our responsibility in this direction. When a bill somewhat similar to this was before Parliament in 1909 an honorable member- moved a motion to provide that no spirituous liquors should be sold at Canberra, that no licences should be granted there, and that no alcoholic liquors should be manufactured in the Federal Capital Territory. Mr. Mauger, on behalf of the temperance bodies, opposed the motion, and said that it was preferable that power to issue ordinances in connexion with the matter should rest with the Government. I disagree with that. I also disagree with the suggestion that this is a matter for the Canberra residents to determine. It is an Australian question, and this Parliament should decide it. 1 submit that, as this bill deals with the administration of the Federal Capital Territory, it would be quite in order for us to set out in it our liquor policy there. I am quite prepared to take full responsibility for anything I may say or do in connexion with this question. As a member of the House Committee and chairman of the Public Works Committee, I had. something to do with providing a bar in the provisional parliament house. We have had six or seven years’ experience of the present ordinance, and I consider that we should not allow the existing conditions to continue. A few people in Queanbeyan have made fortunes through this dry ordinance ; and large quantities of liquor have been surreptitiously sent into the Territory. In my opinion this Parliament should at once determine its policy in connexion with this matter. I favour granting licences to the government hostels, but not to ordinary hotels. Parliament should not attempt to evade this issue, but should settle it. Every honorable member has had dozens of letters and pamphlets from people of all shades of opinion on the liquor question. I am not prepared to shirk my responsibility in a matter that should be settled once and for all.
.- Personally, I am alarmed at the extra cost of building that the nation will have to bear in the construction of the new capital. We are now being provided with progressive examples of increased costs that were never expected. The high price of the houses at Canberra, of course, is largely due to the adoption of a programme of rapid construction. Whenever a government lays down a programme of huge expenditure within a limited time, the economic and financial position is disturbed to such an extent that costs are forced up to an inordinate degree. The agitation that has commenced among the public servants who must go to Canberra will never ‘ cease until the cost of housing has been reduced to a figure proportionate tq their salaries and wages. I cannot let this bill pass without expressing the opinion that the Government must now face the responsibility of either increasing their allowances or writing down the value of their houses to a reasonable sum. I am not advocating the adoption of either course at the present moment; but I regret that the expenditure of huge amounts of public money, and the dislocation of ordinary economic conditions consequent upon the adoption of a rushed programme, has inflated building costs to such a serious extent as has been indicated. This is due to calling suddenly upon a great army of men to do work in a short time that ought to be spread over a considerable period. The matter cannot be allowed to remain as it stands. The problem will be much more difficult to deal with than it now is, if the Seat of Government is removed to Canberra without our having properly adjusted matters between the public servants and the Government that requires their attendance at the new capital. I hope that the Minister has some definite statement to make regarding the Government’s proposals. It cannot suddenly call upon a great body of public servants to incur the high capital cost of housing at Canberra, and expect them to break up their present homes, unless it is prepared either to give them an allowance to compensate them for the increased cost of living at Canberra, or to write down the cost of houses there to a reasonable figure. I regard it as a criminal waste to spend public money and write down the value of the asset immediately it has been created. But whatever may be the conditions that the Government, through the Federal Capital Commission, has created, the fact remains that the cost of building is much higher at Canberra than elsewhere. In ordinary circumstances this would not be the case, since the only additional cost should be the extra railway freight on materials required. We should not, by reason of having created a special tribunal at Canberra for the regulation of wages and conditions there, set up a standard of wages higher than those obtaining in any other part of Australia.
– Frequently the wages paid in Canberra are lower than those in Victoria.
– I have been informed recently by a representative of the commission that it has to pay higher rates for labour at Canberra than are charged in both Melbourne and Sydney.
– I think that that is the position.
– The honorable member will never again see low wages paid in Australia.
– I am not discussing, that aspect of the matter, but am merely dealing with the comparative costs of labour at Canberra and in other parts of the Commonwealth. I am not specially pleading on behalf of the public servants; I am merely drawing the Government’s attention to the position that it has created. Many members of the Service are unable to make the large capital outlay that housing at Canberra will involve. The proposed weekly rental is beyond their means, and the Government must face the situation sooner or later.
– The sooner the better.
– Yes. If it does not do so it will have hundreds of dissatisfied public servants to deal with when they are resident at Canberra and Parliament is sitting there. I know that representations have been made to the Government by the Public Service, and Ministers have no doubt had time to consider the matter.
– The bill has evoked discussion along lines that one did not contemplate. The advisability of the Seat of Government being transferred to Canberra, and the wisdom of selecting it as the site of the new capital, has been discussed ; but the time has long passed when that matter need be considered at all. Rightly or wrongly, this Parliament is faced with the position that it must provide for the establishment of the Seat of Government at the site selected by a previous Parliament. The work of preparing for the transfer has been proceeding for years. During the debate several honorable members have stated that huge sums of money have been figuratively thrown into the sink - that millions have been wasted. My reply to that statement is that it shows how little they know about the matter before the House and about the return that is being received to-day, and’ that will be received in the near future, from the money that has been, and will be, expended. Statements such as those about wasted millions and excessive grants of public funds, that we have heard in this chamber, have been made also in the press of Melbourne and the other capital cities.
The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) was the first to say in this debate that many millions of pounds had been wasted, and that, if the people had an opportunity to vote on the question of transferring the capital to Canberra, they would vote against the transfer. It is questionable that they would do so. I have said, and I now say again, that the people in Melbourne imagine that, when they climb the post office tower, they can see the whole of Australia. That is the parochial view of the people and the press of Melbourne; but I am glad that there are persons in Australia, and honorable members in this House, who take a broader view than that. Those criticisms prove that the selection of Canberra was wise. The same influences that are at work in this city would probably be intensified if the capital were now in Sydney. Several honorable members said that cottages could be built in South Australia for £700 or £800. I have seen houses which the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), when he was Minister for Works and Railways, had built at Canberra at a cost of £300 each. When considering price one must also consider quality. Sixty cottages which will cost from £1,600 to £2,200 each, are being built to designs drawn by . a Melbourne firm of architects, which won the competition for house designs, ‘and if any honorable member can build a cottage in Sydney equal to the £2,200 cottages in Canberra, at the same price, I will buy it from him. I know the cost of labour and building materials in Sydney, and it is not a penny less than at Canberra. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) said that money was being wasted in shoddy cottages with shoddy roofs, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) said the Government was wasting £500,000 on a contract for 300 cottages. No contract has been let for 300 cottages, and, therefore, £500,000 is not being wasted. The hon,orable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) complained that some of the cottages were roofed with shingles. In the whole of the Territory there are only six cottages with shingle roofs, and in those instances the architects asked that shingles should be used to introduce variety.
– But has a contract been let for 300 houses?
– No, and it is not proposed to let one. I could take those honorable members who have complained of shingle roofs to Sydney, and prove to them that they would have to pay more in that city for a shingle than for a tile or slate roof. I do not defend the use of imported shingles. Regarding the statements about the use of slates from a quarry of which one of the commissioners was a director, the facts are that One cottage was covered with slates,’ because the occupant asked for slates, and one member of the commission who happened to be a director of the slate quarry from which the slates had to be obtained immediately resigned from that position. Honorable members have made unfair allegations, probably because they are not aware of all the facts. It has been said that the commission should have built these cottages more cheaply; but no one is more anxious than the commission to build cheaply. Every one who has been to Canberra knows the enthusiasm with which the commission is carrying out its task, and its anxiety to receive suggestions that may result in cheaper construction. The comparison between Adelaide, where there are facilities for obtaining cheap timber and other building materials, and Canberra, is not fair. The honorable member for Swan said that Canberra ought to be producing the ‘ cheapest bricks in Australia, because there is an uptodate plant there, and the necessary materials are close at hand. The commission is doing that. It is producing probably the best class of brick in Australia. I know of only one brick that can be compared with the Canberra brick, and that is produced by the Thornleigh Brick Works, New South Wales. The brick works at Canberra, like many other Government undertakings, were loaded at the outset with heavy overhead charges. One could eat one’s meals in that brick yard. But when private companies undertake brickmaking, they erect a sheet metal building, with as cheap a framework as ‘possible. At Canberra, a previous Government erected a building of stout timbers, in a location where there should have been a good natural draught. The chimney, however, was kept low, and £10,000 was spent to install a system of forced draught to make the kilns burn properly. These are the overhead charges that the commission and the present Government have to carry. Recently, there were 11,000,000 bricks at grass at Canberra, but, to-day, they are gone. The commission proposes to duplicate the plant, but it will not repeat the foolish action taken previously by erecting a huge building .at unnecessary cost. It should be our ambition to try to find tenderers to build cottages at the wonderful prices referred to by honorable members. If that could be done, the ‘commission would be very pleased. The honorable member for Ballarat referred to the architect’s fee of £38,000 for the administrative block, but the present Government, which is blamed for that, had nothing to do with it. A former Public Works Committee recommended that competitive designs should be called for that building, and this House, rightly or wrongly - I suggest rightly - adopted the report, and the Government advertised for competitive designs. We’ cannot have too many brains at work in evolving designs for buildings. As the committee recommended the scheme, and the House approved of it, the Government can be relieved of blame.
– Did the Public Works Committee recommend the rate of payment ?
– That is determined by the Architects Association.’ The architects have their union, and there is a union rate of pay of 6 per cent, for plans, specifications, and supervision, and no architect will do work for less. Even my honorable friend, as a trade unionist, would not work for less than the union rate of pay. I can point out in Sydney and Melbourne many huge buildings on the cost of which architects are drawing 6 per cent. The architects for the new Government Savings Bank in Sydney, which is costing £750,000, will draw about the same amount as is to be paid to Mr. Jones, who won the competition for the design for the first permanent administrative building at Canberra. But Mr. Jones will not pocket the whole of the £38,000. He will find it necessary to employ persons not only’ to assist him in the preparation of his drawings, but also to supervise the mixing of concrete, the class of material employed in the work of construction, and so forth. He may make £10,000 for himself, but surely honorable members will not contend that that is not a fair return for a man who has won a competition among the architects of Australia. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) declared that the Government was getting away with thousands of pounds, and had evaded the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. The Government has done nothing of the sort: I shall state the whole position, and leave it to honorable members to decide whether the action taken by the Government has been within the provisions of that act. . At the outset, I may say that Ministers agree with the view taken by the Public works Committee. In its report On the proposal to erect hostels at Canberra the Public Works Committee recommended the Government to push on with the building of cottages as speedily as possible. Rightly or wrongly, honorable members on all sides were urging the Government to push on with the work of getting to Canberra as speedily as possible. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has said that the Government should give earnest consideration to the question of transferring public servants. As a matter of fact, Ministers have had this matter in hand- for years past. Subcommittees of Cabinet have dealt with the question, and the Canberra Commission has evolved a scheme for the transferring of officers from Melbourne to Canberra. I came into the Government imagining, like a lot of honorable members do, that with a wave of a wand one could transfer the - officers to their new quarters at Canberra, but I was very speedily awakened to a realization of the difficulties of the position. By inquiries as to bow many officers are to be transferred this year, next year, and so on, over a period of five years, the commission arrived at the number of houses required this year, next year, and so on, for five years. It then told the Government that if it was decided to open Parliament at Canberra on the 26th January next, it would be an exceedingly difficult task to accommodate the public officers who would have to be transferred by that time, but that if the opening of Parliament was postponed until the 9th May it could accommodate so many officers. When the Prime Minister made his statement that Parliament would not open at Canberra until the 9th May, it was because if an earlier date had been decided upon, it would have been impossible to provide accommodation for the public officers who would require to be in the Territory before Parliament sat there. The commission informed the Government that in any circumstances it would be necessary to build 500 or 600 cottages. Through all these negotiations the Government has been in close touch with the public servant. Inquiries have been made to ascertain if officers to he transferred are married or single, or if they desire to build for themselves or to finance the building of homes through banks or other institutions or through the commission. Every public servant who is liable to be transferred has been asked whether he is living in his own house, and, according to the statement tabled the other day, the Government is willing to take over the Melbourne house of any officer liable to be transferred. A special valuator will place a value on the officer’s house, the officer will be given a month in which to decide whether he will accept that value or otherwise, and if he does the Government will take over his house and all the responsibilities attaching to it. The officer’s equity in the place will be transferred to his credit in the books of the commission or of any financial institution that will be building for him at Canberra.
– Will the Minister tell us about these contracts ?
– These cottages had to be built to accommodate the public officers on their transfer to Canberra, and, as the commission was very anxious to get on with the work, particularly in view of the recommendation of the Public Works Committee that the Government should push on with the building of cottages, it called for tenders for 100, 200, and 300 cottages. But it did not accept tenders for 100, 200 or 300 cottages. It accepted tenders for individual cottages. There is no desire on the part of the Government or the commission toevade any responsibility. The commission accepted the tenders of three tenderers, but these tenderers have not been advised as to how many cottages the commission will give them to build. The commission invited them to submit plans and specifications of various types of houses, but reserved to itself the right to select so many of each type. It has given some of the tenderers authority to go ahead with the erection of so many cottages, but it has not told them how many they are to build. It told one man to build a dozen. It said that it was not certain of its position under the Seat of Government Administration Act, or whether the building of these cottages would be regarded as one work or a number of works. Furthermore, it was not anxious to evade the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act.
– In the case of the contractor who was given a dozen cottages to build, did he submit a price for twelve houses’ on the understanding that he would be given other cottages to build?
– I have explained that the commission called for tenders for 100, 200, and 300 cottages, and accepted the tenders of three different contractors at a flat rate per cottage.
Mr.scullin.-For 100 cottages in each contract?
– No. The commission called for prices for cottages, and the number of cottages given to the contractor to build might run to 100.
– Does the Minister mean that the commission got a price per cottage, and the contractor might he called upon to build one cottage or 100 cottages?
– No; the contractor most likely assumed that the full contract would he, at least, 100 cottages.
Mr.scullin. - Were the tenders called for on that assumption?
– Tenders were called for 100, 200, and 300 cottages. The tenderers were asked to submit prices and designs, and the commission has accepted the tenders of three different men. It has selected, say, twelve cottages of one design, twelve of another design, six of still another design, and six of, perhaps, another design. Then it has given authoritory to the contractors to go ahead, but the contractors are to be paid at the rate of so much per cottage. The commission is not adopting this method to evade the act. It asked the Government whether the building of these cottages is one work or a number of works, and whether the whole matter should be referred to the Public Works Committee. Almost at the same time the Chairman of the Public Works Committee wrote to the Government asking whether it was a fact that certain works were to be carried out without reference to the committee. The Government has submitted the whole matter to the Attorney-General for an opinion. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bounty on Seed Cotton.
Motion (by Mr. Gibson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr. FORDE (Capricornia [10.40].- I desire to bring under the notice of all the Cabinet Ministers some telegrams I have received from cotton-growers and representative farmers’ organizations in Queensland in regard to the proposed Commonwealth bounty on seed cotton. The first is from Mr. Detjen, secretary of the Milman branch of the local Producers’ Association in Central Queensland.
Instructed by Milman - branch, Queensland Producers’ Association, request you make strong effort get Commonwealth Government table in Parliament Tariff Board report and recommendation on cotton bounty. Further, make every effort in Parliament that Tariff Board recommendation for 2d. per lb. bounty on cotton for ten years be given effect to. This association emphatically protests against Federal Cabinet overriding Tariff Board recommendations by decision to recommend Parliament to grant bounty of only lid. per lb. for five years. - Detjen, secretary, Milman, via Rockhampton, Queensland.
Mr. Detjen is a very efficient practical farmer, and the organization he represents contains a large number of cottongrowers. The next telegram is. from Mr. T. Ritchie, secretary of the Central Queensland District Council of Agriculture -
District council disappointed Commonwealth decision cotton bounty. Appreciate you strongly urge for Tariff Board report to be tabled in House, and, further, strenuously support Tariff Board’s recommendation for payment of 2d. Go your hardest ! - Ritchie.
The District Council of Agriculture in Central Queensland represents thousands of primary producers, the majority of whom are growers of cotton. Another telegram is from Mr. J. Bourke, secretary of the Maryborough District Council of Agriculture -
Cotton growers amazed Government’s announcement pay .bounty lid. Burnett council agriculture requests your support Tariff Board’s recommendation. - J. BouRKE, secretary.
The Government has announced that it intends to introduce at an early date a bill to provide for the payment of a bounty of ld. per lb.« on seed cotton. As I understand that the bill has not yet been drafted, there is yet ample opportunity for the Government to reconsider the matter .and grant to the cotton-growers the ‘bounty of 2d. a lb. for which they have asked, and which has been recommended by the Tariff Board. When speaking upon the motion of the Minister for Trade and Customs that the report of the Tariff Board be printed, I had not had an opportunity of reading that report. I have since obtained a copy of it, and after studying it I am more than ever convinced that the board’s conclusions were based upon the reliable evidence of practical men. The board is a fair and impartial body, comprising Mr. George Hudson, Mr. Herbert Brookes, Mr. David Masterton, and Mr. George Leitch. Two of those gentlemen are practical business men, who thoroughly understand the economic effect of their recommendation. Mr. Masterton represents the primary producers, and was appointed at the instigation of the Country party. The board recommended (1) that a bounty be granted in respect of seed cotton grown in Australia, (2) that the bounty be for a period of ten years from the- date of coming into operation of the Bounty Act, (3) that during the first six years the bounty be at the rate of 2d. per lb. The board took evidence from practical men like Mr. R. J. Webster, Murgon; Mr. J. E. Harding, Dalma Scrub; Mr. Jos. Koets, Alma Creek, and Mr. C. H. Frederick, Byrnestown, and also from representatives of the BritishAustralian cotton-growing Association, and, according to its own report, the recommendation of 2d. per lb. was made “ after a careful review of all- the evidence tendered at the public inquiries, and as a result of exhaustive investigations made.” “When I discussed this matter on a previous occasion, the Minister for Trade and Customs introduced a personal element, and took me to task for urging at that time the payment of a bounty of 2d. per lb. ; but I should be recreant to my duty to the cotton-growers of Central Queensland if I did not take every opportunity to urge that the Government’s decision be reconsidered before it ib expressed in a bill.
.- I do not desire the people of Australia to believe that the honorable member for Capricornia is the only member of this House who is interested in the cotton-growers of Queensland. Less than an hour ago the honorable member discussed with me a deputation of members from Queensland, that is to wait upon the Prime Minister to ask him to consider the opinions of the growers, but the honorable member said not a word about that in his speech, nor did he give the slightest indication that anybody but himself is concerned in the fate of the cotton-growing industry. He is endeavouring to obtain a political advantage, and is more than justifying the statement made concerning him by the Minister for Trade and Customs a few days ago. By resorting to these tactics, the honorable member is not “ playing cricket,” ner is he helping to create an atmosphere in this Parliament that would be helpful to the interests of the Queensland producers or to the favourable consideration of their just claims. All the Queensland members on this side of the House made strong representations to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade and Customs while the Tariff Board’s report was under consideration, and on many occasions since. It is the desire of all the Queensland representatives that the Government should reconsider the bounty it proposes to recommend to Parliament, and that for the first few years, at any rate, the rate should be 2d. per lb. I have a speech prepared in support of .this proposal, but I do not intend to deal with the matter at length to-night on the motion for the adjournment of the House. My only object in rising is to let the House and the people know that the Queensland repre- sentatives on the Ministerial Bide .have a more sincere interest in the primary producers engaged in the cotton-growing industry than has the honorable member for Capricornia, and- our efforts to assist this primary industry are more likely to meet with success than are the tactics employed by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260713_reps_10_114/>.