9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (fit. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 ; p.m., and read prayers.
Notice of Motion No. 6, Mr. Makin (Disallowance of Statutory Rule No. 177 of 1923), withdrawn.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in a published statement that the Government propose to appoint the Right Honorahle W. M. Hughes to the position about to be vacated by Mr. Donald Mackinnon, Commonwealth Commissioner in America?
– I can assure the honorable member that the Government will take the House entirely into their confidence as soon as any decision on the matter is arrived at.
– Owing to the National Government being the most important utility in Australia, will the Prime Minister state, for the information of the people, what progress, if any, has been made in . the reconstruction of the Ministry? Is it a fact that the honorable member for Swan (Mr. ‘Gregory) is to be. Minister for Trade and . Customs, in the place of the present Minister, Mr. Austin Chapman?
– I feel sure that the honorable member is asking, not a flippant, but a serious question, and is, therefore, entitled to an answer. I can assure him that, when there is any alteration in the Ministry, an announcement on the subject will be duly made.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the estimated surplus of £10,000,000 at the close of the present financial year, he will have the income-tax exemption raised to £300 per annum and an additional £50 exemption given in respect of each child dependent on the taxpayer?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question, quite obviously, will depend on the financial position of the Commonwealth as disclosed when the Estimates are in and the financial statement for the year is being prepared. In any case, the honorable member must know that the policy of the Government would not be announced in answer to a question.
Mr. GREGORY, as Chairman, presented the report of the Public Works Committee, together with Minutes of Evidence and plan, relating to the proposed erection of additional block of seamen’s barracks at Flinders Naval Depot.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has any recent information from which an optimist might conclude that the Marconi Company have facilities for the construction of reciprocal wireless stations in Great Britain?
– There is no information on the subject that I can give to the House at the moment. Cable communications upon it have been taking place between the Australian and the British Governments for some time. As soon as it is possible to make a definite announcement on the subject I will take the opportunity to do so.
allegedappointmentofex-special Constable as Cleaner.
– I wish, Mr. Speaker, to put a question to yourself without notice. Is it a fact that a cleaner is to be appointed to this House, and that the man is one of the ex-specials of the Victorian Police Force?
– I am not aware of the facts relating to the matter to which the. honorable member refers, but I shall make inquiries, and acquaint him, later, of the result.
– I ask the Minister for Works and Railways whether he has any information to give the House in reference to the construction of the Port Augusta-Hay railway?
– The reply to the honorable member is “ No.”
– I wish to obtain from the Attorney-General some information about an. old friend. Is he prepared to tell the House what has become of the Kidman and Mayoh shipbuilding contract? Was it sunk with the Australia the other day? I should like to know what is the position in regard to the whole matter.
– The case, at present, is subject to a reserved decision of the High Court. When that decision has been given, I shall communicate it to the honorable member.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
(a) Sydney, £385,000; Melbourne, £405,000; (b) No; (c) Adelaide has an extra 6-inch gun, and the arrangement of the boilers is different. 3 and 4. When accounts are finalized it is expected that the cost of the Fordsdale for material, labour, and other expenses of Cockatoo Island will be £821,000. The estimate for the Ferndale, on a similar basis, is £790,000. In addition, there are charges estimated at £37,500 and £25,000 respectively for administrative and general expenses of the Ship Construction Branch in Melbourne from 1st July, 1919. I may state that most of the material for these vessels was purchased when prices were at their greatest height. The cost of each of the vessels would be about £100,000 loss if materials were purchased to-day.
Mr.FORDE asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the apparent inadequacy of the present rate of invalid and old-age pensions, and the consequent hardships that it is feared will he suffered by the old and infirm during the coming winter, will the Government have the rate increased immediately?
– The rate of invalid and old-age pensions was increased in September last, from 15s. to 17s.6d. per week. The Act was also liberalized in other directions. The additional cost involved was approximately £1,500,000 per annum . The Government is awaiting the report of the National Insurance Commission on the whole questionof provision for old age and invalidity.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. A final award has not yet been delivered by the arbitrators, and the proceedings have been delayed owing to the unfortunate illness of Mr.. H. W. Bryant, K.G., one of the three arbitrators. 3.A definite date cannot be stated. Before an award may be made the arbitrators are required, in accordance with the judgment of the Victorian Full Court, to state a case on a point of law for determination by the Court. According to press reports, Mr. Bryant is now convalescent, and, in consequence, it is expected that the case will be stated by the arbitrators and dealt with by the Court in the very early future.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice - 1.In view of the continued: and continual delays by reason of which the wheat farmers in Western Australia, and possibly other States, are unable to obtain the wire netting promised by the Commonwealth Government, will he explain the present position so that unjust blame should not bo placed upon the Government?
– At the end of September last,, copies of the Advances to Settlers Act and draft copies of the regulations were forwarded to the Premier of each State, who was asked to advise if his State desired to participate in the advantages provided by the Act. Affirmative replies were received from all States except South Australia, which State advised that it did not desire to participate. At the end of November, further advice regarding the regulations was sent to the various States desiring to participate, and each State
Premier was informed of the amount allotted to his State for the purchase of netting under the Act. The amounts allotted to the various States were - New South Wales, £62,302; Victoria, £40,632; Queensland, £42,438; Western Australia,. £43,340; Tasmania, £11,288; Northern Territory, £50,000. On 3rd January, supplies of forms of application and copies of extracts from the regulations were forwarded to the various State Premiers. Subsequently requests were received from the various States concerned for a further supply of application forms, and these were supplied. Up to date, Queensland is the only State Government which has submitted applications received for supplies of netting under the Act. A large number of applications have been dealt with from this State. The Premiers of the other States have been requested to expedite submission of applications received, but, so far, they have not done so.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is Being obtained and the honorable member’s questions will be replied to as soon as possible.
Leagueof Nations Convention
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice - 1.. What action has been taken by the Government to give effect to the decisions of the Convention instituted by the League of Nations on the “ Traffic in Women and Children”?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Copies of the Convention and other relevant documents, as well as various resolutions, have been forwarded to all State Governments in order that the requirements, and provisions be complied with and enforced.
The Commonwealth Government has appointed a Central Authority in accordance with the requirements of Article 1 of the Agreement of 1904.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice - 1.(a) What is the total amount passed by Parliament for the purpose of wiping off excess costs on war service homes; and (b) What is the total amount allocated to date for such purpose ?
– The answers to. the honorable member’s: questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home andTerritories, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will lay upon the table of the Library the file dealing with the Canberra Hospital?
– If the honorable member will make it convenient to call at the office of the Department of Health, the Minister will be pleased to afford him facilities for perusing the papers there.
Effect on Immigration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Caseof Mr. J. Mortby - Transferred Officers in New SouthWales.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether a definite decision will be given at an early date to the request made last September for the promotions due in the case of J. Mortby, an officer of the Taxation Department, Adelaide?
– The Public Service Board has given a decision that it is unable to approve of Mr. Mortby’s promotion at the present time.
asked the Treasurer. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Does he propose to make a reply to the statements made by Mr. E. S. Little,ex-Trade Commissioner for China, with respect to his summitry dismissal?
– The statements will be replied to in due course.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be supplied.
Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Statistical and Industrial Advisers to Representatives
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will arrange for statistical and industrial advisers to accompany the representatives of the Commonwealth to the International Labour Conference which has been summoned by the League of Nations to meet at an early date at Geneva?
– The matter will receive consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it correct, as stated, (a) that a Canadian expert in Sydney has bought 25,000 gallons of Australian wines, for export to Canada;
Whether the Government proposes to take any action to induce the United States Government to permit of this consignment passing through American ports to its Canadian destination, or adopt any course that will prevent the probable loss of this market for Australian wines ?
– I would refer the honorable member to the statement made by me i n. the Chamber in reply to a similar question asked by him yesterday.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Government has refused to co-operate with the State Governments of New South Wales and Queensland in the cattle-tick eradication campaign ?
– No. The Commonwealth Government has already announced its willingness to co-operate with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, provided the work is carried out on a national basis.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained.
Mr.C. RILEY asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the question asked on the 3rd April last by the honorable member for Cook, viz.: - “What was the total cost of the motor garage’ built at King-lane, Balmain, for the use of Mr. J. J. King-Salter, late general manager at Cockatoo Island, Sydney “ - Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to supply the desired information ?
– There is no record of the cost of the construction of a motor garage for Mr. J. J. King-Salter having been charged to the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Tariff Board,before recommending a dumping duty on rabbit and dog-proof wire netting imported into Australia, made inquiries from authentic sources of the quantities manufactured in Britain, and the percentage of same used for home consumption?
– The information will be supplied.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions . are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7. I have no information on these matters, 5, 6, 9, and 10. I have no information on these matters. I could only obtain itby inquiring from the directors of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited; but that company is a trading corporation, and, except where the public interest seems to require it, it is not expedient that Ministers should be the medium for asking for information about particular transactions of the company.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether, when the plans and specifications for the cruisers proposed to be built by the Government are being prepared, he will make provision for proper sleeping and eating accommodation for the ratings, eliminating the present insanitary custom of having men sleeping in their dining-rooms?
– The designers of the cruisers can be relied upon to make the best possible provision, having regard to the space at their disposal.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he assist in the establishment of an industry for the manufacture of power alcohol -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s ques- . tions are as follow: -
The following papers were presented:–
Customs Act- Proclamation (dated 18th April, 1924) prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of Medical Opium, &c.
Excise Act- Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1924, No. 57.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Lower Mitch am, S.A.- For Postal purposes. Tuggeranong, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Quarantine Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 49.
Notices of motion postponed.
Orders of the Day “ No. 1 Hansard - Authorization of Publication “ and “ No. 2, Destitute Allowance “ adjourned.
Order of the Day (motion by Mr. O’Keefe) called on -
That a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the necessity for the Commonwealth Government making provision for an adequate direct shipping service between Melbourne and Hobart.
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
.- I prefer that the motion shall be dealt with now. May I explain the position? This subject was discussed on several occasions early in the session. I put quite a number of facts, or what I believe to be facts, before honorable members to support my contention that a Select Committee should be appointed. The debate was then adjourned until a week or so later on a motion by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman).
– I point out to the honorable member for Denison that no debate, strictly so called, can take place on this motion of adjournment. As the honorable member is the mover of the principal motion he may briefly give reasons why the debate on it should not be adjourned, but the House cannot now debate the question itself.
– My reasons for wishing the question to be decided one way or the other are very simple, and should be quite plain to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman). When I moved the motion I gave the Minister a lot of information, and he and the Government have had ample time and opportunity to decide whether the proposed Committee should be appointed. The matter is one of urgent necessity. There is no doubt about the urgency of it, and I cannot understand why the Minister is not prepared to state his reasons for or against the appointment of the Committee. At least he should explain why he desires the debate to be adjourned. I would prefer a vote to be taken on it. If the debate is not adjourned I assume that I shall have the usual right of reply. I would like your ruling on that point. Mr. Speaker.
– Provided the honorable member has not traversed the merits of the question in his speech on the motion for the adjournment, he will still have the right to reply.
Question - That the debate be adjourned - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The Contract System
Debate resumed from 19th July(vide page 1350, volume 104), on motion by Mr. Killen -
That in the opinion of this House all Government work should, as far as possible, be carried out by contract..
– As I addressed myself at some length to this issue when last the question was before the House, I have no intention now of delaying honorable members. I feel, however, that I must say it is absolutely essential, in a House like this, elected as it is by the people of the Commonwealth, that honorable members should take an intelligent interestin the progress of events, and have a clear understanding of the manner in which important public works are carried out in this country. Unfortunately, it appears that, even at this late hour of the day, it is necessary for the voice of the missionary to be heard amongst those who live politically in the dark ages, to do what is possible to educate them to the advantages of a properly organized system for the carrying out of Government works. I have no hesitation in saying that whenever those who are regarded as authorities in this matter - men not necessarily of the same political colour as myself or other honorable members on this side of the House - have been asked which method - day labour under proper supervision or contract - is the better for the carrying out of public works, they have stated that the balance of expert opinion was in favour of the day-labour system. In view of this testimony from the most highly-qualified engineers and contractors in the Commonwealth, I cannot conceive how any honorable member can attempt to justify the contract system. It has been tried certainly, but in connexion with the bulk of our public works, even in the constituency represented by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen), the responsible authorities have had to resort to the day-labour system. The most important public body in Victoria - I refer to the Metropolitan Board of Works - approves of this method. The Board consists, for the most part, of men representing municipal councils throughout the metropolitan area, and in recent times it has carried out public works involving the expenditure of considerable sums of money. I believe that on many occasions when tenders have been altogether too high - I do not suggest collusion between,contractors - on the advice of its engineers the Board has carried out the works by day labour, which is now its recognised system. As far as I have been able to gather, this is proving most satisfactory. The pace at which work is being carried on is as good, if . not better than under the contract system, and the Board’s experts are thoroughly satisfied with the quality of the work that is being done. I state these facts to show that one of the most important public bodies in the Commonwealth has, after a long experience of the contract system, reverted to day labour. If the contract system is the best, as the honorable member for Riverina would have the people of the Commonwealth believe, it is strange that he does not advocate its adoption for practically every class of work.
– I advocate its adoption whenever that is possible.
– Would the honorable member apply it to his own household? Would he apply it to the Public Service of the Commonwealth?
– If possible, yes.
– Would he apply it to our banking institutions?
– It is not possible.
– Does the honorable member believe then that the day-labour system should be adopted only in connexion with certain works? Does he say that it could not be applied to clerical work ?
– If it could, by all means adopt it.
– If the honorable member were to seriously suggest its adoption in our banking institutions he would be laughed out of the Board Boom. In this matter I need not appeal to the Minister, for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), who represents a district where, I suppose, more railway construction has been done with day labour than in any other part of Victoria.
-I suppose there are not many agitators there.
– The honorable member himself was an agitator. That is the reason for his presence in this House. Practically all railway construction in Victoria for the past 25 years has been carried out with day labour. Proposed new railways are referred to the Railways Standing Committee for investigation and report. That body calls witnesses to give evidence as to the prospects of the proposed lines, obtains estimates from responsible engineers, and then the work is carried out by the Railways Commissioners under the day-labour system, v/’A the result that the taxpayers of Victoria are better off to :the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds than they would have been had the work been done under contract.
– D.on’t you believe it.
– I do believe it. I judge by results. Except for a week or a fortnight perhaps, Labour has not been in power in Victoria; the State -has always been under so-called Nationalist Governments. Yet so convinced are they of the superiority of day labour construction that they never think of calling for tenders for the building of any railway, whether it be in the level Mallee country or in districts which present great engineering difficulties: In the district in which I live the Railway ‘Commissioners went to considerable trouble to provide equipment and accommodation for their workmen in order that a comparatively small line might be constructed by day labour.
– The same policy is followed by the Electricity Commission and the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission.
– That is so; they, too, carry out all their works by day labour. The Electricity Commissioners are a live body of men. They have had to contend against serious difficulties .and a big risein the prices of materials, as a result of which the scheme they control is costing slightly more than was anticipated when it was authorized by Parliament, but when it is in full operation and all the initial difficulties have been overcome, the people of Victoria will be grateful to the State Parliament and to the constructing engineers. Throughout Victoria great sums of money have been saved by the construction of railway lines by day labour. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) interjected sarcastically about the EastWest railway. I am confident that if that line had been built bv contractors the cost to .the Commonwealth would have been considerably more than it was, and the results would not have been as good. If the honorable member has any practical knowledge, and will compare works carried out under the contract and day labour systems respectively he will agree that day labour, under strict supervision, gives the best results. A workman who is being paid a reasonable daily wage has no reason for scamping bis job. In the final analysis the contract system is. only day labour plus the ‘Contractor and his profits.
– -‘Sometimes there areno profits.
– That is so, but contractors do not develop into wonderfully rich men as a result of losses. I do not say that every .contract is profitable, but I know of many contractors in Victoria who have been very successful. A contractor who knows his business surrounds himself with a first class staff of men, and Swanson Brothers, Shillabeer, and others owe their success to the fact that, they have paid their men a little more than other contractors were willing to pay, because they knew that it T>aid them to keep good men about them.
– And they got value for what they paid.
– Except where theprofiteer is operating, there are few circumstances in which .one does not get value for what .he pays. Visitors from other parts of the world testify that the Australian workman is the best in the world. I well remember the testimony to that effect given by Mr. Delprat, of the Broken HilT Proprietary Company, who is in no sense a Labour sympathiser. He was giving evidence before the Works Committee in regard to the Newcastle steel works, an enterprise by which every man in this community, whether he be labourer, farmer, or manufacturer, should loyally stand. I knew that for a number of years Hoskins Bros, had been carrying on the same class of work, the construction of railway rails, and I said to Mr. Delprat, “You have started great works, in which you are employing thousands of men, and the works are proceeding most satisfactorily. How have you managed?” He replied, “ We had, of course, to import a few leading hands, but beyond these all .employed in the works .are Australians.” I mentioned that the industry must be practically new to most of them, and he said, “ Yes, but there is not a more adaptable nor a better workman in the world than the Australian workman.” That is the testimony of a man who has had experience of workmen in the United States of America and in Europe.
– That is, when he tries.
– I might say that the honorable member is a very good workman when he tries, and how would he like it.
– I am always a trier.
– That is the honorable member’s opinion; but others may think differently. Why should honorable members cast a slur upon the Australian workman? Are we going to say that because in this country there are a few black-hearted criminals, all the people are criminals? Are we to say that because there are a few wasters amongst both employers and employees they are typical of Australian employers and workmen ?
– No one said that.
– I have spoken to British and American workmen who have worked beside the Australian workman, and their opinion has been that the Australian workman works too fast for them altogether. No one can deny the merits of the Australian workman who thinks for a moment of the work done by the hornyhanded pioneers of Australia and by the handful of people in .this great continent. The man who would stand up in this Parliament and say that Australian workmen have not done a fair thing would be, not only a libeller of his fellow men, but a libeller of his country. All the great works in Australia, are the handiwork of the Australian workmen. The great works and buildings that have been carried out in Australia are a magnificent testimony to the industry and a great monument to the skill of the Australian workman. We hear in this House sometimes sneers at the expense of the Australian workman, but there is not a man in the Country party corner or on the Ministerial benches who, on the platform when electioneering, would say .that the Australian workman ls not worth his salt. Yet some say that sort of thing here.
– No, they do not. No one has made any such assertion.
– We judge men by their actions as well as their words. Many of us on this side have had to work hard for a crust. I am not here to defend the waster, no matter in what line of life he may be employed. I have never stood up for the waster, and never shall. If honorable members oppo? site are going to search for wasters, I can take them to a place where they will find them. They will not be found amongst the workers, but amongst the men who are riding on the backs of the producers; I refer to the middlemen, who are taking what they are not entitled to from the pockets of the producers, and not to the workmen who are doing something to make the farm of the farmer better, and the run of the Australian squatter better. Where would the Australian sheep-grower be were it not for the shearer, and where would the Australian farmer be were it not for the labourer on his land ? Where would the contractor in this country be were it not for the expert Australian workmen he is able to employ ? Let us be fair to the workmen of Australia, whatever our brand of politics. I say that the workmen of Australia are the best workmen in the world. I will stand to that on any platform and in any country. It is of no use for the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) to attempt to protest and apologize now. He put this motion on the paper,’ and he must stand by it. The people of Riverina will judge him, and I know that there are some splendid stalwarts in that district. I do not wish to say anything that may be regarded as offensive, but I must protest when I find a man standing up and. in a half-hearted way, trying to make out that the day-labour system is bad, and that Australian workmen are not good workmen unless they are driven all the time. I believe that the great bulk of the workmen of Australia will work well whether under the eye of the overseer or boss, or when the boss is a hundred miles away. Many of us in this House know what it is to work for wages, and also to employ men. I have known what it was to pay men to- do work for me, and, speaking from my own experience, I say that very few workmen will take down an employer: The Australian workmen are not only as honest, but I believe even more honest, than workmen in any other part of the world. We have had considerable experience of the construction of railway engines in this country. In this connexion w.e had a somewhat sad experience recently, when it was proposed to send out of Australia for railway engines when we have our own workmen here able to construct them. That was a scandalous proposal, and I am sure the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) does not stand for that kind of thing. We have here the material and skilled labour* for the manufacture of railway requirements. I can refer honorable members to what has been done under the Railways Commissioners in Victoria. I am speaking now, perhaps, of what occurred a few years ago, but we know that the thousands of workmen employed at the Newport Railway Workshops have done magnificent work. They have constructed railway engines at a cost £1,000 less per engine than the Baldwin Company of America could have constructed them for, and did better work. They have constructed all the girders required for our electric railways. All this work was done by day labour, and more cheaply and better than some of the work done under the contract system. I trust that, if this motion comes to a vote, the House will rise to the occasion. The motion proposes that the contract system shall be adopted for all Government work, and if it is passed, and the Minister for Works and Railways receives a tender for works, he may feel himself bound by the resolution of the House. Now his officers may advise him that tenders are too high, and on that account he may refuse to accept them, but, if we pass a motion of this kind, he may feel himself bound by the vote of this House, and the passing of this motion will practically tie his hands. He may then say, “ The House, by resolution, has told me that I must insist upon the adoption of the contract system.”
– Only where practicable.
– It is true that the words “ as far as possible “ appear in the motion, but surely we do not desire to tie the hands of the Minister for Works and Railways in any way. When I had to do with tenders I know that it was always the practice in advertising to use the words, “ The lowest or any tender not necessarily accepted.” I have frequently voted for the acceptance of a higher tender than the lowest ‘ because I knew the contractor putting in the higher tender would do better work. I knew that he knew more about the work and would give a better job than the lowest tenderer, and that although the institution I represented might have to pay- a few more pounds for. the job, it would be getting a better class of work than it would get from the lowest tenderer. I am sure’ that the Minister for Works and Railways is in a position to say, from his own observation and experience, that work carried out by day labour is to be preferred to work carried out by contract labour, and that it is carried out as expeditiously as well as more efficiently. Under the contract system, if the clerk of works or the architect is not on the job, it is not uncommon for workmen to be told that defective work will do, and to have such work covered up. Some of the worst experiences we have had in connexion with war service homes construction resulted from the’ contract system. There are contractors who, to-day, ought to be in gaol, without the option of a fine, for the work that they did in the construction of war service homes. Yet I believe that some of these men have had the unblushing audacity to demand from the Government more money under their contracts. The names of those contractors should stink in the nostrils of the people of Australia, and particularly of the members of this House. From our experience of them we should be wary about adopting the contract system, in the future. If there is any work which should be carefully carried out surely it is work done for the men who did their best in the time of crisis to serve Australia. In connexion with war service homes construction scores of pages of sworn evidence are filled with references to contractors who tried to dip their hands into the pockets, not only of the taxpayers and the Government, but of the returned soldiers. These revelations warn me that we should keep clear of the bulk of contractors. I do not say that all contractors are alike, because I know that there are some who carry out their work faithfully and well, but one may say that the better class of work is that done by day labour. I can give a concrete instance in support of this statement, and it is that there has not been one yard of railway constructed in Victoria within the last 30 years by contract labour.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Stewart) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st August, 1923 (vide page 3178, volume 105), on motion by Mr. Parker Moloney -
That the Acting Speaker’s ruling - That it was not competent for one honorable member to move. That the honorable the Treasurer “ be no longer heard,” after another member had previously moved a similar motion which was voted on - be disagreed with.
– I am satisfied that the ruling of the Acting Speaker on the occasion referred to in my notice of motion was wrong, but as so long a time has elapsed since it was given, I ask that the motion be discharged. I therefore move -
That the Order of the Day be discharged.
– It is scarcely proper for the honorable member to attempt to decide this matter, and then ask for the discharge of his motion. Had the debate continued, I would have had a few words to say on it.
– I hope that the honorable member for Hume has not deprived you, Mr. Speaker, of an opportunity to address the House.
– It is very difficult to deprive a Speaker of that opportunity.
Motion agreed to; Order of the Day discharged.
Debate resumed from 3rd April (vide page 309), on motion by Mr. Stewart -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- The object of this Bill is to create a Commission to supervise the construction work at the Federal Capital. It is difficult to understand why this particular work should be placed under a Commission, as the Minister himself has said that the present arrangements are satisfactory, and that the Advisory Committee which now operates there is doing good work. One reason given for the change was that there is now dual control. It was pointed out that two Departments are operating in the Federal Territory, and that a change is desirable. I do not advocate dual control, but it is not a sufficient reason for creating a Commis sion to administer the Federal Territory. I see no legitimate reason why the administration of the Federal Capital should not be placed under the control of one Department - whichever is the most suitable. It has, however, been decided otherwise by Ministers. But to do what they propose will add to the cost of government in this country. It is proposed to create positions for three men, each of whom will be paid a good salary, in addition to travelling expenses. The President of the Commissionis to receive £3,000 per annum and expenses, and each of the other Commissioners £2,000 and expenses. To-day only two members of the Advisory Committee are paid officials; the others receive expenses only. The cost of the Advisory Committee is a mere bagatelle in comparison with thatof the proposed Commission. The Minister admits that the Committee is doing excellent work, and took to himself credit for the progress which has been made in the construction of the various buildings and other works at Canberra. If everything has been progressing so satisfactorily, what is the reason for this contemplated change ? Ever since the commencement of the war we have been getting away from responsible government. While the war was in progress such action was understandable, but the Government appears to have forgotten that it is time we were returning to normal conditions. The control which it is proposed to give to this Commission should be retained by this House. I shall probably be told that control will not be taken from Parliament. But, like many other measures, this Bill gives power to make regulations, and, although provision is made for such regulations to be laid on the table of this House, and for objection to them to be taken within 30 days of presentation, honorable members know that very often little notice is taken of them. Consequently, administration is left entirely in the hands of the Board or Commission which frames the regulations. While the Government retain control, matters which honorable members consider should be ventilated can be brought up in this House, and the persons concerned can be dealt with if necessary, and first-hand knowledge of matters pertaining to the Federal Territory can be obtained. I am opposed to this Commission, because the time has arrived when, except in special cases, we should no longer delegate our powers to such bodies. I do not know whether the Government desires to pass over its authority and responsibility to Boards ian d Commissions in order to escape criticism .because of its composite nature. It is probable that in the present Ministry, composed as it is of members of two parties, many difficulties present themselves, and that in order to take the line of least ‘resistance, it has been decided to adopt this course in connexion with the Federal Territory. The ratepayers of this country will not long be satisfied with the present state of affairs in connexion with many of our undertakings. The Advisory Committee is composed of able and competent men - Messrs. Sulman, de Burgh, Ross, Goodwin, and Colonel Owen. If these men have given satisfaction at a low cost, why increase the expenses of. government by appointing a Commission? .If excellent work is being done - and the Minister says that greater progress has been made during the last twelve months than previously - why is it that this Bill is suddenly placed before us ? The salaries of the three Commissioners will total £7,000, and the revenue t to be administered by them will probably not exceed £20,000 or £30,000. Either tone of the two Departments now controlling the Federal Territory would be competent to deal with that area.
– Especially if it had its officers on the spot.
– Let us compare the cost of this Commission with that of some -that are controlling the big undertakings of the States. The Chief Railways Commissioner and two other Commissioners of the New South Wales railways receive between them £6,000. Are the duties of this proposed Commission anything to be compared with those of the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales, who have to deal with an annual revenue of £19,000,000, and administer a big network of railways, as well as the State’s tramways ;system? rt would appear that it is proposed to pay excessive salaries for the administration of the Federal Capital Territory. Again, let us take the Metropolitan Board of Water and Sewerage in Sydney. Its president, who- holds an important position, carrying great responsibilities, receives £1,200, and six other members each receive £250 a year. That makes
– And this Government calls itself Australian.
– The members of the Public Service have cause for com- plaint. The men who are to be transerred to the Commission will lose their rights under the Public Service Act. I am aware that ‘there is a clause in the Bill which provides that at a later period all their rights will b© restored to them, but when they are taken over by this Commission they will cease to be under the protection of the Public Service Commissioners. The public servants prefer to remain as they are, with their present rights. Under this Bill, authority ia given to the Commission to employ people from outside the Public Service I have no objection to ‘that if suitable men cannot be found in the Service, but it is not fair that the public servants should be placed under the Commission if that means a loss of the rights in respect to arbitration and .other matters which have accrued to them during a .period of years. I have here a long letter which sets out a number of the grievances of public servants. ‘ It shows plainly that they are alarmed at the action of the Government in. taking away their rights from time to time. Many of them suffered considerably when the re-arrangement of the Taxation Departments took place, as they were paid off, and had to leave the Service.
If there- is amy service in -which we must nave loyalty, it is the Public Service. We should do nothing to- cause discontent in it. Our public servants should bo shown that if they do- their work successfully, they may attain , to the highest positions the Service holds. Because this Bill tends ,y interfere with the rights, cif public servants, it is most objectionable to me. I am opposed to> the appointment of the proposed Commission also because I believe it to be absolutely unnecessary. We are being asked to vest this- body with very large; powers, comparable with those possessed by the Melbourne City Council and the Sydney City Council. There is no justification for doing it. The time has arrived for us to cease, delegating the powers of Parliament to. outside bodies. Governments should fee prepared to accept the full responsibility of office. They should be obliged to administer the legislation passed by Parliament, and they should accept responsibility for mistakes. We have had too many blunders by recent Commissions to justify the appointment of another one. The War Service Homes Commission is an illustration in point. Simply because Parliament placed too much power in the hands of two or three individuals, h lost control of that most important work of prodding homes for oar soldiers. It is idle to say that Parliament hat control of these Commissions. When once they are appointed, Parliament has very little authority over them. Even Ministers are not able to obtain the information that honorable members desire to procure. Parliament is appointed to look after the interests of the people, anc! it should do so. I object to th» proposal to appoint this Commission, because I believe it would be an unwarrantable expense. In these days, we should economise i:u every possible direction. Will the appointment of this Commission, result in economy ?
– The Minister did not prove that in his second-reading speech.
– That is se-. He told us hba* the present Advisory Committee is giving every satisfaction. The gentlemen on that Committee, other than the permanent officers- of the Public Service, are giving their services for their bare out-of-pocket expenses-. Seeing that they are doing their work so satisfac torily, and that such excellent headway has been made erith the construction of the Capital in th« ‘last twelve months, we should not interfere with the present arrangement. The Minister may say that dual control- is inadvisable. If that be so, let us put the work in the hands of one Department. There should not be two> heads to anything. Better administration is always secured when one Department is in control. That Department should be aa.-swera.ble to’ the Miti’ister, and the Minister to Parliament. We are getting away from that position. Theoretically, these Commissions are under the control of Ministers ,» but actually they have very little authority over them. The “War Service Homes Commission was subject to’ much more parliamentary control than the proposed Federal’ Capital Commission would be, and the- doings of that Commission are too recent for us to need reminding of the blunders audi waste which- resulted from, their work. Large numbers of returned soldiers are suffering in consequence of its maladministration, and though some of them have been in occupation of their homes for years they cannot get a settlement of their accounts with the Commission. It is not in the best interests of the Federal Capital for us to appoint a Commission. The existing arrangement is quite satisfactory, and it should be allowed to continue. We shall obtain no additional revenue by appointing this Commission, but it is quite possible that additional expenditure will be incurred. A larger staff will, no doubt, be appointed, for experience has proved that immediately a new Department is established- it begins to grow, and the amount placed on the Estimates each year for its maintenance always increases. Like the snowball, these new Departments grow as they go along. In view of our huge war debt, to which we cannot shut our eyes, we should be very careful not to incur unnecessary expense. If we aire not careful we shall be overwhelmed by our debts. ‘ Who can say what would be the result to Auster a* Iia of a succession of bad seasons?
– Why not abandon the Federal Capital project altogether?
– If the honorable member for Echuca could show ma an honorable way of escaping from the compact that was entered into, I would perhaps support him in trying, to get away from it. But the Constitution provides for the establishment of a Federal Capital. Personally, I was never favorable to it. I have always thought, and still think, that one of the existing capitals would be quite suitable as a seat for the Federal Government. However, the framers of the Constitution provided for the construction of a Federal Capital city, and the people agreed to it. Therefore, we have to carry out the project. Still that is no justification for wasting money on it.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– We must conserve the people’s interests. I hope that the House will not agree ‘to the appointment of this Commission.
– And I hope that it will not be made a party question.
– There is no reason why it should be made a party question. It does not concern any particular party, but it does seriously concern Australia and her Parliament. There should be no party significance in the proposal. I trust that honorable members will vote on it according to their convictions. If they are opposed to the appointment of the Commission let them say so. If the Government learnthat a majority of the House is against the chief proposal in this Bill they will probably withdraw the measure. I hope that it will not be pushed on with in the face of strong opposition, and that the Government will not decide to make it a vital issue. It is marvellous what happens when the whips crack in such circumstances.
– Is the honorable member speaking from his experience?
– We, on this side of the House, have never had any experience of that description. But nothing would please us better than for honorable members opposite to make up their minds to go to the country. There is little doubt about what the country would do. I object to the appointment of this Commission, because it will take too much power out of the hands of this Parliament, which should control the Federal Territory. It is idle to say that we shall have control after the appointment of a Commission. After our recent experiences we should not be led astray by any such contention. The Government should not be able to shelter itself behind a Commission. The policy of appointing Commissions of this nature is spelling disaster to the country. Parliament should not be the subordinate body; it should be supreme.
– Surely the honorable gentleman does not contend that Parliament will give up its powers if it agrees to this Bill.
– I shall make my position very clear. I contend that if we create this Commission we, as a Parliament, shall count for very little. The statement that these Commissions are responsible to the Minister means next to nothing. That story is about played out. The War Service Homes Commission provides us with an apt illustration of what will happen if we agree to this measure. That Commission, although in much closer touch with Parliament than this proposed Commission would be, made a huge bungle of the business it had to handle, and the country has paid very dearly for its. mistakes. Yet Parliament has not been able to place its hands on the culprits. I trust that honorable members will notshirk the responsibility of expressing their convictions on this measure. I believe that the construction of the Capital is proceeding satisfactorily, and that the present arrangement should continue. The appointment of this Commission will involve the country in much greater expenditure than is necessary. Considering that we shall be required to make a heavy outlay in the Federal Territory, and shall receive only a small income from it, I think that we are not entitled to incur the expenditure which would result from the passing of this measure.
– While I congratulate the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) on the work he has done in developing the Federal Territory, and while I admire the energy he has displayed in his administration of the Territory, I cannot agree with his proposals in this Bill. I congratulate the Government upon having found the money to make possible the recent development of the Federal Territory. I think the work they . have done there is a monument to their credit. In fact, I am so satisfied with the present administration there that I hesitate to alter it. Some of the ablest officers in the Commonwealth Service are engaged in the developmental work there. Mr. Murdoch, the architect, is one of the ablest and most unassuming men in his profession in the Commonwealth. He is not getting anything like the salary which it is proposed shall be paid to these Commissioners. I think he is very much underpaid. He. is wrapped up in his work, and is giving his whole heart to it. The same may be said of Colonel Owen, who is an enthusiast. He has organized the work in such a way that he will be able to comply with the request to complete the construction of the provisional Parliament House within the specified time. Shall we obtain better administration and better work if we appoint a Commission, as suggested in this Bill ? I cannot see that we are justified in expecting such a result. It is proposed to pay the chairman of the Commission a salary of £3,000 a year. That is more than the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth receives.
– And he would supersede men who -have done good work.
– I do not think there is any necessity to appoint three men to administer the Territory. The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is responsible for much greater public expenditure than will be incurred in the Federal Territory, and his time is occupied from morning to night. His position is a worrying one. Yet we are content to pay him less than it is proposed to pay the chairman of this Commission. It is not fair. Then consider the work done by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart). He has to look after works in all the States. He has to inquire into the construction of railways, telephone exchanges, and other buildings. He does not receive as high a salary as is proposed for the ordinary members of the Commission. There is no justification for the appointment of three men, one at £3,000 a year, and the other two at £2,000 a year each, to supervise work at Canberra. There is another aspect of the of the question that merits consideration. The Commission, as soon as it comes into existence, will create a staff of its own. There will be secretaries, typists, clerks of works, and numerous other subordinate officials. They will constitute a small parliament in Canberra, and will usurp the functions of the National Parliament. It i3 proposed to give the Commission wide powers. It will be allowed to float loans for building purposes without consulting Parliament. Reports on the matter will no doubt be tabled by the Minister, and that will be the end of it. There will be no obligation on the Commission to submit to Parliament designs for buildings. The designs for proposed works are now referred to the Public Works Committee, which investigates them, takesevidence, and makes recommendations to Parliament. Is Parliament willing to re~ linquish its power in that regard? It should insist upon retaining a tight hold on all expenditure, and supervising all .designs. We are asked to hand that power over to a Commission. The Commission should consist of capable men, but however capable they might be, they would not be more capable than the members of the Advisory Committee. I am acquainted with Mr. Ross, who is one of the ablest architects in Sydney. He stands head and shoulders above other men in his profession, and enjoys the utmost confidence of the people of that State. He is a member of the Advisory Committee, and gives his services for a nominal sum. It would be impossible to find a man more qualified for the position. I understand that the Government has already decided UPOn a land ordinance. It has determined the conditions upon which people may lease laud. The ordinance will be issued on a certain date, and by the time the Commissioners can be appointed, the spade work will have been done by the Government. The water supply system is complete, and ample for quite a large city. The sewerage works are almost complete, and light and power are available. Brick-works are in existence, and 70 or 80 houses have been finished. A hostel to accommodate members of Parliament will be ready in three or four months, and another hostel is in course of erection. The roof of Parliament House will be in place by October next. All the large works have been done by the Government and officials of the Works Department, and it is now late in the day to propose the establishment of a Commission. The works to be undertaken in, the future will not be so big as Parliament House or the hostel. I cannot see what the Commission will have to do. All the work at Canberra should be transferred to one Department, and I would be satisfied to hand it to the Works and Railways Department. With the staff now in that Department, the work could be done satisfactorily. It is expected that the next Parliament will assemble at Canberra. Judging by the progress already made, this Parliament should be able to meet there. Surely, with Parliament meeting at Canberra, and the Minister with his headquarters there, it would be easier than it is now for Parliament and the Minister to supervise construction works. I urge honorable members to hesitate .before agreeing to the appointment of the Commission. I have no axe to grind in ‘the matter. I am stating ray. candid opinion. Parliament should hold the Minister .responsible for the progress of works. He should be under our supervision, and the designs for all buildings should be placed upon the table of the House for .our inspection. If the Commission is appointed it will be supreme, and the practice of referring proposed works to the Public Works Committee will be discontinued.
– That is not proposed.
– The Commission could dodge the previsions of the Act by doing work in sections costing not more than £25,000 each.
– That is so. The Commission could build a block of cottages costing £22,000, and then another block of the same value without reference to the Public Works Committee. I do not say that the Minister would deliberately evade the Act, but a Commission might do so. I do not know the conditions under which the Commission would borrow money. I do not know whether it would decide to gc, abroad or borrow locally. When there is some population in Canberra, the Government can make provision for municipal government. I hope ‘the Government will not insist upon the passage of the Bill. Work at Canberra has been progressing very we’ll. The present position is satisfactory to all concerned, and no money is being wasted.
,- On a number of occasions I have defined my attitude towards .the expenditure of public .money at Canberra. Members generally know exactly where I stand in that matter. It is strange for me to sit here and listen to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) advocating economy at Canberra, particularly in view of the present position there. There have been many debates upon the wisdom or .otherwise of commencing or continuing the work, but this is about the first utterance I have heard from the other side of the House in opposition to the Government expending money on that questionable undertaking. The Minister, with the enthusiasm which one would naturally expect from a recent convert, has unlimited confidence in the ‘future of this celestial city and its surroundings. H<e went there, and, apparently, was so impressed with what he saw that he came back an ardent advocate of the early construction of the city.
– That is not so. It is a popular belief, but the truth is that I have never opposed the construction of Canberra.
– I was certainly under the impression that the Minister once opposed, at least for the present, the expenditure of money at Canberra. I ,do not wish to do him an injustice.
– There is .no harm in his being converted.
– I recognise, in more ways than one, that there was a necessity for his conversion. I cannot support the expenditure of another penny in this Territory, especially in view of the sections of the report recently ‘furnished bv the Public Accounts Committee. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition were illuminating. He referred to the proposal to pay to three members of the proposed Commission very “high salaries. I remember that, when the ‘Minister was introducing the Bill, I interjected that it was proposed bo pay ‘the Chairman .of the Commission a higher salary than that received by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I cannot .conceive why we should do such a t’hing, especially when we consider the manifold duties and responsibilities of the Leader of this Government. No man, no matter haw able, is entitled to a salary larger than that paid to the political head of this country for the time being. With the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I take exception to the creation of the Commission. One man, if an appointment is necessary, could adequately .discharge its duties. If he needed advice on matters with which he was not conversant, he could do as sis done at present, and pay for the advice of those who are competent to ‘give it. We are not justified, in view of- the enormous debt this country is carrying, in continuing -to spend money at .Canberra. When the proposal to establish a Federal Capital passed this House, there was not the sane objection to. it as there is to-day. We were then living in times of peace, and there was no thought in the mind of any one that we would be involved within a few years in a war which would saddle this community with a debt of between £350,000,000 and £400,000,000. The present condition of Australia does not warrant the spending of money on . Canberra. I wish to make it quite clear that I am not opposed’ to carrying out the terms of the agreement ; but, in view of our financial position, it should not be prosecuted further until we have relieved ourselves of many of the responsibilities and obligations imposed upon us by the war. If the Commission is to be appointed, I should certainly like to know its’ personnel. If, as was suggested by a previous speaker, a certain gentleman is to be appointed, the House should be informed of the fact. I know nothing to that gentleman’s detriment. I understand that he is an exceptionally fine officer, but the Government is not justified in creating a position and appointing be it a man who is already in the service of the Commonwealth at a salary of about £1,200 a year. We have evidence on every hand of extravagance on the part of those who have been responsible for what has been done at Canberra up to the present. I find, from the fourth report of the Public Accounts Committee, that a four-roomed house constructed under the most favorable conditions, much of the material being readily available, costs from £955 to £1,076, and thata five-roomed house costs from £1,318 to £1,435. These figures disclose that building costs in Canberra, under the day labour system which the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.Fenton) eulogized so much this afternoon, are excessive.
– Be careful about your facts.
– My facts are properly stated. There is a very fine brick works in Canberra, turning out, probably, the best bricks in Australia. This is not necessarily to the credit of the management, because quality is largely a question of material available. The price of the bricks is £41s. per 1,000 at the kiln - a pretty heavy charge compared with quotations for bricks at other centres throughout Australia.
– Not if you take quality into consideration.
– Quality should not enter, into the question, at all, because the material is readily available at Canberra.In view of all the facts, I emphasize that we are not justified in continuing the present policy in connexion with Canberra. If some of those who axe controlling affairs now axe to be appointed to . this Commission, then the House should not pass the Bill, especially in view of the fact that it is pro- . posed largely to increase the salaries now being paid to these gentlemen.
– What does the honorable member suggest we should do?
– Close down all work there for the present.
– Until when?
– Until we are in a position to defray the cost of building the Capitall without throwing too heavy a strain upon the financial resources of the Commonwealth. We ought to set our house in order before we attempt to build another house. The proposed Commission, according to the Bill, will be comprised of gentlemen possessing, an extraordinarily wide range of ability. They will be expected to have a special knowledge of architecture, engineering, construction, town planning, finance, and general administration. It is hardly possible to expect to find all these qualifications possessed by three individual’s. But they will have duties imposed upon them requiring other qualifications as well. They will be responsible for land settlement, with all its attendant difficulties, and for the development of a system of local government. Surely it is too much to expect to get all these qualifications in any three men. I am somewhat astonished at the optimism of the Minister (Mr. Stewart), and of many of my honorable friends, particularly the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman). Experience teaches us that, no matter how lofty a man’s ideals may be, he very rarely attains to them. I believe that will be our experience with regard to Canberra. I have been there. Honorable members used to twit me with the fact that, although I spoke on Government proposals concerning the Capital city, I had not visited the site. I have -put myself right in that matter.
– Did you visit the hospital ?’
– I did, and I can say that if all the other Government activities at Canberra were as efficiently and economically managed as the hospital is, there would probably not be so much objection to the Government proposals now. Another objection in connexion with the cost of the residences is that the Government have written off 25 per cent. of the rentals that should properly be charged to the occupants. According to the report of the Public Accounts Committee the average weakly rental for one of the fiveroomed houses which cost £1,435, is 28s. 8d. per week after allowing for a rebate of 25 per cent. interest on the capital cost, while the rental of a. four -roomed house, on the same basis, is 21s. 9d. The people of the Commonwealth have to foot the bill for the difference. I have been assured thatit would be possible to construct concrete houses of four and five rooms for, approximately, £700 each, as compared with £1,435 for some of the five-roomed brick houses already erected. If concrete construction were adopted, and houses could be built for the sum mentioned, there would be a certain reduction, naturally, in the rental of the homes, and no necessity to saddle the Commonwealth with the burden of 25 per cent. unpaid interest on capital.
– When I was in charge I did all I possibly could to get a quotation for concrete construction, but without success.
– If the honorable member will peruse the report of the Committee he will find that an offer was made by a reputable contractor to build houses for about £700 each. I suppose honorable members know, but the public generally are not conversant with the fact, that the cost of building material in Canberra is 25 per cent. above Sydney prices.
– Who said that?
– The information is in the report to which I have referred. It is also stated that the cost of labour in Canberra is 5 per cent. above Sydney rates.
– That is the report of an anti-Canberra Committee. Surely the honorable member knows that?
– I am merely stating facts set out in the report. The honorable member may, if he chooses, disprove them. This House is not justified in proceeding further with work at Canberra under the conditions of to-day.
– Or any other day.
– The honorable member does me an injustice. I am not opposed to the construction of the Federal Capital when this country can reasonably carry the financial load it will involve. But the present burden of the Commonwealth should not be increased in the way that this Bill proposes. Honorable members opposite are continually urging the claims of the working man.
– Is there anything wrong in that?
– No, but, unfortunately, those honorable members charge members on this side of the House with being opposed to giving the working man a fair deal. Most of us have had to work in the past quite as hard as have honorable members opposite. I worked as a navvy for 8s. a day on the railways in Queensland, until I thought I could better myself by becoming a sub-contractor. It is unfair of members of the Opposition to claim that they alone are desirous of doing justice to the working man; but if they are sincere in their professions, here is an opportunity to do something for the worker. We say that the cost of the cottages at Canberra is excessive, and if it is reduced the working men will benefit. Recently the statement appeared in the press that as a special inducement to go to the Federal Territory bricklayers were being offered 27s. 6d. a day, wet or fine, busy or idle, and residence at a rental of 12s. 6d. per week.
-Is the honorable member aware that wages for bricklayers at Canberra are 2s. and 3s. a day lower than in Sydney?
– I was not aware of that, but I do know that wages in the Federal Territory are not governed by the award of the New South Wales Court.
– Where did the honorable member get the figures which he has quoted?
– I read them in one of the newspapers. If the Attorney-General can refute them, so much the better.
– The press stated, also, that each member was to be provided with a house, secretary, and typist.
– I have an idea that those members who do go to that wonderful haven of rest at Canberra will not be- able, without pecuniary assistance from the Government, to avail themselves of the palatial hostel that is being built for them if, collectively, the occupants of the establishment are expected to pay interest on its capital cost.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! It is impossible to conduct debate under these conditions, and I must ask honorable members to refrain from further interjections.
– Members of the Opposition have no justification for saying that they alone are interested in the working man, but the Government has no right to increase wages at Canberra for the purpose of enticing men from the capital cities. That policy must directly or indirectly materially increase the cost of construction elsewhere. The Public Account Committee said, on page 15 of its report upon Canberra housing -
Having regard to the circumstances under which officers are at present stationed at Canberra, the Committee recognises that some concession should be made. As indicated in the communication from the Minister, the decision authorizing the rebate of 25 per cent. of the annual rental value of the cottages was based upon a consideration of the increased costs of construction at Canberra, and on the fact that most of the tenants are officers or employees not in receipt of large incomes. The Works officers are hoping for some reduction in costs, but it is problematical, and even if achieved would be negligible in its effect on rental value.
I cannot vote for the creation of the proposed Commission, and I hope that the Bill will be defeated.
.- The speech to which wo have just listened is merely a repetition of that opposition to Canberra which many of us thought was effectively squelched a few months ago by an overwhelming vote of this House. The honorable member for Corio (Mr Lister) has treated us to a resurrection of allthe old arguments against the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. The most significant partof the honorable member’s remarks was his reference to the suggestion made by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) that Mr. Murdoch, one of the most efficient officers in the Commonwealth Service, should be appointed to the proposed Commission. The honorable member for Corio said thatsuch an appointment would be outrageous. His attitude betrays the intention of the Government and others who are support ing this Bill. I shall not vote forthe appointment of the Commission, because I am satisfied that this is merely a move to block the steady construction of the Federal Capital. Those who are opposed to Canberra have in mind the appointment of a Commission composed of antiCanberraites, instead of men who would work effectively to consummate the Capital project. Mr. Murdoch has shown by his past work that he has the interests of the Federal Capital at heart. His effective labours entitle him to a. seat upon the Commission.
– I do not think so. He should be paid twice his present salary, and retained La the position he now occupies. As Government Architect he is invaluable.
– I am not in favour of the appointment of a Commission. I think that Colonel Owen, Mr. Murdoch, and Mr. Hill, with the assistance of the Advisory Committee, are quite capable of efficiently carrying on the work of construction. Since they have beenin charge, they have given splendid results. The influence of the enemies of Canberra can be detected in this Bill. It is an open secret that the Government contemplates appointing to the Chairmanship of the Commission one of the most bitter opponentsof Canberra in this Parliament, namely, the present Chairman of the Public Works Committee, Mr. Gregory. That honorable member has been a thorn in the side of the Government, and has shown recently that he is prepared to kick over the traces, and create dissension in the Corner. So the Government desires to placate him with the Chairmanship of the Commission, and at the same time mollify those members in the Corner who are so rabidly opposed to Canberra by giving them, through such an appointment, a guarantee that the construction of the Federal Capital will be effectively blocked. Thus the Government will be able to remove from the House a severe and dangerous critic, and the Corner party will be gratified with the prospect of effective expenditure at Canberra being discontinued.
– I envy the honorable member his fertile imagination.
– I regret exceedingly that what I am saying is no mere figment of the imagination. If the intention of the Government is not as I have stated, let the Minister announce the names of those whom the Government does intend to appoint to the Commission. As one who has always been consistent in the advocacy of Canberra, I want to be assured that it is friends of Canberra who are going to be put upon the proposed Commission. I shall give no vote to bring into being a Commission which will hand the destinies of Canberra over to a man like the honorable member for Swan. I want to be assured that the administration of the Federal Capital will be in the hands of men who will see that the work there is carried out expeditiously and properly. I take another objection to this measure, and it is that it proposes the appointment of a new Board. It proposes the appointment of a Commission to take the complete control of Canberra out of the hands of this Parliament. It will be of no use if they support this measure for those who believe in the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra as soon as possible to complain of delays and obstructions placed in the way of the completion of the Capital. They will be met with the reply with which I was met yesterday when I complained of the action of the Commonwealth Shipping Board in robbing workmen of a day’s. pay for a day off, which they, were compelled to take to- welcome the; visiting British squadron. The Prime Minister told, me that the Government had no- power in the matter ; that it was absolutely in the hands of the Shipping Board, and the Government had no say. So it will be if this measure is carried. The Commission it proposesto create will be the sole authority to decide what works shall goon at Canberra, and what shall not, and what is of more, importance still, to decide the rata of progress at the Federal Capital. I am not prepared to take the risk: of the. establishment of such a Commission. Well may the honorable member foar Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) smite. I know that he is chuckling with glee at the chance he sees of thisCom- mission being brought into’ being, knowing that it. will effectively squelch Canberra, and he will be able, as he desires, to remain in Melbourne.
– No; I was better informed the last time I dealt with Canberra. I gave in then, and I do not go back on what I said.
– Well, if the honorable member supports Canberra. I do not know what will happen next. This measure represents a serious departure from constitutional practice. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has said, Board after Board is being appointed, and scarcely a single Department of the Public Service is being administered by a responsible Minister. If that is to be the policy of the Commonwealth, why have Ministers or a Parliament at all? If that is to be our policy, let a Board be appointed to administer the whole of the affairs of the Commonwealth. The essential principle of British parliamentary ‘institutions is that the people by their votes shall send representatives to Parliament to administer the affairs of the country, and that these men shall be responsible to the people. That is the foundation of our British parliamentary system.. Yet we find that it is being undermined day after day by the appointment of these Boards and Commissions’. I strongly object to this Bill, not only on these general principles but because I doubt the sincerity of the Commission to be appointed. I believe that it is being brought into existence purely for the purpose of spragging the wheels of progress at Canberra. I hope that the friends of Canberra, who desire to see progress there, will politely pass this Bill out. We are all satisfied with the way in which work has been progressing at Canberra during the last twelve months. Why alter the present system ? I read very carefully the speech of the Minister for Works and Railways in proposing the second reading of this Bill, but I am still waiting for some reason for the establishment of the proposed Commission.
– To find billets for a few of the Government’s friends.
– It is openly said that the honorable member for Swan, is tobe appointed chairman of the Commission for the purpose of killing Canberra.
– Is the honorable member sure that the honorable’ member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is. not to be the chairman of the Commission ?
– That honor able member, is. an ardent advocate and fighter’ for Canberra, and it was whispered that he was to be Chairman of the Commission, but that was merely to throw dust in the eyes of honorable members. It was to. blind them to the- real- intention. The real idea is to appoint to. the chairmanship of the Commission a strong opponent of Canberra, to stop the progress of work there. I hope that the friends of Canberra will realize that they cannot expect support in this matter from honorable members who, in season and out of season have strongly opposed the completion of the Federal Capital. But we do look for and expect the support of honorable members who represent constituencies in New South Wales. We expect that they will refrain from giving any vote which would in any way jeopardise the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra. Let me say that honorable members representing New South Wales constituencies will be asked very serious questions by the people of that State if they vote to bring into being a Commission that will stop the progress of work there. In the first place they will have to convince the people of that State that work has not been going on satisfactorily at Canberra for some time past. They will have to say what is their complaint against the condition of affairs at Canberra at the present time. If there were anything to complain of, I suppose I would be one of the first to raise my voice on the subject in this Chamber. But I am perfectly satisfied with the progress of work there at present, and I do not want to see the existing system for the administration of the Federal Capital altered. When the friends of Canberra are satisfied with the way the work is going on there at present, I immediately become suspicious about a proposed alteration in administration. I want to know what is behind this proposal. I believe that political motives are behind it. It is to get the honorable member for Swan out of the way and placate members of the Corner party so that the Government may remain on the Treasury bench in security.
– There are only two or three for whom the Government must find jobs.
– When the honorable member f or Swan takes up the position of Chairman of the Canberra Commission, the chairmanship of the Public Works Committee will become vacant, and that will be a job for another member of the Corner party. This move is not in the interests of the progress of Canberra, but merely to conciliate the two divergent sections of the. so-called Composite party opposite.
I can see no other purpose for this measure. The members of the party in the Corner prate of economy. What does this measure mean? It means not only the expenditure of £7,000 a year in salaries for the proposed Commissioners, but also the establishment of a huge department. Let honorable members consider for a moment what this proposal involves. The control of works at Canberra is to be taken away from the Works and Railways Department, and this means the building up of another big staff of advisers and employees. Before we know where we are the cost will run into thousands of pounds per annum for the staff that will be required to do the work which is being so effectively and well done by the Works and Railways Department to-day. How can members of the Country party continue to prate of economy if they support such a measure as this? If the measure will not involve the creation of a new staff at Canberra, where is the need for the proposed Commission at all ? The department in existence to-day is doing the work and there is no need for the Commission. Let honorable members in the Corner who prate of economy answer this contention.- The people of Australia and not only of New South Wales, and especially the people of the country districts, will ask members of the Country party some pertinent questions on this matter. They will want to know later on when Estimates are submitted to cover the expenditure for the new department, what attitude they adopted when they found that thousands of pounds of additional expenditure per annum was being proposed for the creation of a new department at Canberra. The people of Australia will put the acid test upon those honorable members and upon the Minister for Works and Railways who is one of the Composite party. They will ask these men to put into practice their mouthing of economy and to explain the necessity for the creation of another huge department to do work which is now being well done by an existing department. The Bill provides that the employees and officers of the Commission shall not be subject- to the Public Service Act. It- is perfectly clear from this that it is the intention to bring into being a big army of employees as an administrative staff at Canberra. If that were not so, why provide that the Public Service Act shall not apply to the staff. of the Commission? The whole thing is a. sinister move intended to kill Canberra by loading it up with expense that the place cannot carry. It is playing into the hands of the opponents of Canberra. No man can challenge my honesty as an ad.vocate of Canberra, and as a supporter of that place in season and out of season, I say that this is a dangerous proposal, and one which will do more to kill Canberra than anything else I know of. The Minister has to show the House and the country exactly what the cost of the proposed Commission will be. Further, he has to tell us whom he proposes to appoint to the Commission. I conclude with the expression of the hope that all the friends of Canberra will stand by it in this particular matter, and will not be deluded by this sinister move on the part of the opponents of Canberra to prevent the establishment of the Federal Capital there.
.- I am not now as favorable to the appointment of a Commission to take charge of the construction of Canberra as I formerly was. The idea is not a new one. The proposal was first brought forward by Sir joseph Cook in 1913, and if his Government had been returned to power at the elections in 1914 a Commission would have been constituted almost immediately afterwards to take over the responsibility of administering the Federal Territory quite free from interference by Parliament; except of course that Parliament would always have a certain amount of control by reason of its obligation to find- the necessary money. That Commission was to have been intrusted with the task of financing and supervising the work of construction. However, I am not now anxious for the appointment of a Commission, because such a body ought to have been constituted before the Commonwealth was committed to the expenditure in which it is now involved. As a matter of fact, this Parliament is already committed to almost all the expenditure that will cover the initial stages of the development of the Capital, say, for the next 20 years. I am also opposed to the appointment of three highly paid Commissioners, because the work of supervising the development of the Capital for the next 20 years will not be sufficiently great to justify paying a chairman a salary of £3,000 a year, and two other Commissioners salaries of £2,000 a year each. Such appointments would involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure for supervision equal to that which is incurred in the control of some of the big State railway services, with a capital of over £40,000,000. I have intimated to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) my views upon this point, because I am anxious that my attitude shall not be misunderstood. Unless I can get an absolute assurance that three Commissioners will not be appointed at the high salaries proposed, I ‘ shall vigorously oppose the Bill, and endeavour to influence every one else to put it on one side. The length to which I would go would be to support the appointment of a permanent chairman, and that I could not do with a great deal of enthusiasm; and I would have him appointed for a period of not more than five years, with, subject to review, a further period of five years. The Government that did not provide an absolutely efficient chairman would find the appointment a millstone around its neck for all time. As a matter of fact, the success of such Commissions as this depends entirely upon their personnel. If an antediluvian Commissioner is appointed, who has never had vision and is never likely to have it, the choice will be bad, and the Commission is not likely to be a success. However, it is quite possible the Government may get a gentleman of the highest financial experience, and with great organizing capacity! Those two qualifications are absolutely indispensable. Such a man would probably save the country a great deal of money. The only assistance he would require for the work in view would be two Commissioners paid by fees whose services would not be required more than two days, and possibly not more than one day, a week. One of the reasons why I favour the appointment of a Commission on the lines I have suggested is that the building of the Capital should be removed entirely from parliamentary influence, and from the possibility of the policy of construction being dragged this way and that way every year through political changes. There should be continuity of- operation and continuity of supervising responsibility. I have no desire to mention names, but there are two gentlemen on the Federal Capital Advisory Committee to-day, representing the architectural and engineering professions, who have done most excellent work in their respective spheres. “With a good Chairman and with exceptionally good representatives of these professions assisting him, we should have all that is required, and certainly all that is justified. To provide for more would be to incur a shocking waste of money. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) has spoken about the cost of the work at Canberra. While it is perfectly true that the cost of the work there is high, it is relatively not higher than that of work in almost all the big cities of the Commonwealth. I object, however, to the mad rush to make provision for Parliament meeting at Canberra at the end of this Parliament, if it runs its full term. It is causing a shocking addition to the cost of the work. Moreover, under existing conditions no Government in Australia, in order to gain perhaps eighteen months, is justified in rushing work of this kind, to the detriment of enterprises all over Australia, which cannot develop their factories, through inability to get skilled labour. HereI wish to refer to the recommendation appearing in the report of the Public Accounts Committee upon Canberra housing, in regard to the writing down of the cost of certain buildings at Canberra. While I was Minister, I declared that the cost involved in building houses at Canberra could never be passed on to the public servants who would be obliged to occupy them, and that, therefore, every care should be exercised in the construction of that class of buildings. It would be unreasonable to transfer public servants from Melbourne to Canberra and insist upon them occupying houses at rentals for all time based on abnormal cost of construction. Therefore. I worried the officers of the Public Works Department to reduce the cost of the buildings required for workers and officers who, whether they liked it or not, would be obliged to go to Canberra when Parliament was transferred there. I quite agree with the recommendation that the cost of these buildings should be written down by 25 per cent., but only urgently-needed houses to be provided. The Commonwealth officers transferred to Canberra should not be made to suffer for the peculiarly unfavourable conditions of the moment.
– Would not the proper method be to fix the rent at so much per cent, and then make a special allowance to the officers?
– In view of the heavy responsibilities due to the war, I do not like the idea of rushing thebuilding of Canberra, which is not an undertaking of utility. To do this hampers every enterprise in the country that is crying out for men to increase the size of its factories and is unable to get them. If the Government were determined to increase the pace, they should have gone to the Old World, or somewhere else, and brought house-builders into the Commonwealth. If they had brought in 10,000such artisan’s, these would have been absorbed by the different States. In fact, they would have been taken from the ships’ sides and paid more than the average award rates. The excessive cost of building at Canberra has been entirely due to the scarcity of skilled labour, and not to the fact that the men there have been going slow as compared with those in the capital cities. The number of bricks laid per day at Canberra compares favorably with the number laid in the big cities of Australia.
– How many bricks . are laid at Canberra?
-From 450 to 550 a day.
– Half a day’s work!
– I think the average rate is 500.
– They are not loafers.
– No; but formerly bricklayers laid 1,000 bricks a dayor half the money they now earn.
– Under different conditions.
– To-day in Australia people who want new buildings erected are offering men shillings a day over the award rates. At Canberra, shillings more than the award rate were paid because of the scarcity of labour. The contractors are not getting the extra money. The difficulty at Canberra and elsewhere is to get contractors to take work. It is a well-known fact that for a very long time past some of the leading contractors in Sydney have not been contracting except on a percentage basis. They will not take the risks. While we are rushing this thing, the cost is being increased, the burden of which must be carried for all time. When these matters were submitted to the Public Works
Standing Committee I understand that the Committee recommended the construction of a portion of the hostel.
– One-half of the main building.
– That was the intention of the Government of the day, but I noticed in the press recently that this Government have determined to proceed with the construction of the entire hostel. I ask the Minister if that is correct?
– That is so.
– These things should not be done until considered by Parliament. If Parliament is given an opportunity to discuss this question I shall oppose it tooth and nail. It is not fair, particularly in view of the fact that skilled labour cannot be obtained to construct the necessary buildings for the administrative staff. If sufficient labour cannot be obtained at a fair cost, for us to proceed further is unjust to the taxpayers of this country, and exceeding our responsibility. There is no justification for doubling the provision at the hostel. It would have been infinitely better, and it would have given the people of Australia greater confidence in the administration, if the recommendations of the Public Works Standing Committee had been adopted. That Committee has done magnificent work during the last few years, and has saved this country a large amount of money which otherwise would have been wasted. I do not want to put any impediment in the way, but I urge the Government and those who control the public purse in these times of stress - a stress which may be largely increased in the years before us - to move slowly.
– What a change since you were Minister!
– No. When I was Minister I was just as careful in the spending of a shilling as if it had been my own money, and a man who would act otherwise is not worth his salt. I appeal to the Government not to listen to this appeal to rush matters. It is supposed to come from Sydney, but I do not believe that it comes from any considerable portion of the people there:
– You have been a great advocate of Canberra.
– Unless I have an assurance that there will not be more than, one permanent paid officer on this Board, I shall, in Committee, move to strike out that portion of the clause which provides for two other paid members of the Commission.
.- This Bill might very well have been entitled “ A Bill to recognise the incapacity of two Federal Departments - the Works and Railways and the Home and Territories Departments.” Up to the present the two Departments mentioned have been doing the work which under this Bill a Commission is to be appointed to perform. Some people consider that the work has been done satisfactorily, but I make no comment on that. The Minister seems to consider that these Departments cannot carry on the work any longer, and that it is necessary to appoint a most expensive Commission. The public of Australia would be justified in saying that if these Departments are not more capable than is indicated by the action of the Government, it would be as well if a Bill were brought in to abolish them altogether. The control of the Federal Territory is their work, and the work of the Minister controlling them, but it is to be shirked by both. That is a strange condition of affairs. The reason given for the change is that because of dual control the work can not be efficiently carried out. It is remarkable that aCommission to cost £7,000 or £8,000 per annum is necessary to harmonize the work of these two Departments. I object to the appointment of the Commission, on the ground of expense; the work could, and should, be done by the Departments which have been carrying it out up to the present time. I also object to the appointment of the Commission on the ground that it is taking’ from Parliament the control of its affairs. It is ail very well to say that the Commission will be responsible to the Minister, but experience has taught us that when Commissions are appointed,and wide powers are given to their members, very little satisfaction can be obtained by members in this House in respect to the matters under’ their control. Time after time members have asked, questions, onlytobe be informed by the Minister in charge that he has little or no power, as the. control is vested entirely in a Commission or’ Board. The same thing will occur in regard to the affairs of Canberra, and this
House will have very little control over -the Commission. No matter how incompetent its members might be, not even an adverse vote carried by both Houses of Parliament could remove the Commissioners from office. That is a very serious position. The Bill leaves it entirely to the Minister to suspend one or more of the Commissioners or Deputy Commissioners, but if .he did not feel disposed to .take such .action, not even a vote of both Houses could accomplish it. I take exception, also, to the clause winch provides that the officers of the Commission shall be taken from the control of the Public Service Board. Some years ago £he Government went to the expense of appointing a Royal Commission. In his report, the Commissioner (Mr. McLachlan.) advised that all the officers employed by the Commonwealth Government should be placed under one control so far as promotion and transfer were concerned. His advice was followed by the Government, and the system has acted very well. But now a Commission is proposed which will undertake very important work, and will employ a great number of officers, but for some reason not yet made known to us, the Government proposes to remove its staff entirely from the control of the Public Service Board. Such a proposal is not fair to either the public servants who would be placed under the Commission or those remaining under the Public Service Board. Those of us who have had experience of. Public Service matters know that on many occasions prior to the appointment of the Public Service Board promotion went, not by merit, bub ‘according to social or political influence. Public servants generally have been satisfied with the system of promotion and transfer at present in operation. What is the reason for the introduction df this pernicious practice in connexion with this important Commission ? Once they are taken over by the Commission, public servants will not have the protection which they now enjoy, as the present system of control insures to them a reasonable chance of promotion by merit. The moment that control is taken away, the old insidious favoritism will creep in, because these things are inseparable from human nature. The man with social or political influence will receive promotion under the Commission which the majority may consider he does not deserve. Does the Minister think that the Commissioners, in addition to being experts in administering the Federal Territory, will be experts in the management of public servants; or does he anticipate., as suggested by the honorable member for Dalley (Mar. Mahony), the appointment of another Public Service Board wider the Commission to manage the public servants who will be taken over ? The public servants consider this a matter of great importance. If the Minister intends to proceed with this Bill, I ask him to give this subject careful consideration. The public servants who go to Canberra should .he allowed to remain under the Public Service Board. Why should not the protection .that they now enjoy remain with them when at that city? I see no reason why the powers <of promotion, appointment, transfer, punishment for neglect of duty, and so on, should be given to the members of this Commission, unless to emphasize its importance. I hope the Minister will seriously - consider that matter. A great deal of difficulty may arise if this is done, because it is .contemplated that, after the work .of the Commission is completed, a great number of the public servants at Canberra will be re-transferred to the different Departments, and .be again under the Public Service Board. The Minister will surely admit nhat, because -of undue influence, certain public servants may, under. the Commission, rise to high positions to which, perhaps, their merit will not :entitle them.
– Practically all the staff required is now at ‘Canberra.
– Every member of the -staff at present at Canberra has the protection of the Public Service Board system. If the honorable member will look at the Bill, he will see ‘that officers are to ‘be removed from that system and placed entirely under the control of (this Commission. Existing and accruing rights are -to be preserved, but these officers will be dissatisfied if- they are taken from the control of the Public Service Board; in fact, some of them have expressed to me their dissatisfaction with this proposal. When interrupted by the honorable member for Wakefield, I was suggesting that trouble may arise when officers are re-transferred, .as, owing to some undue influence - and we know these things do happen under the best Commissions - some officers will rise to positions not entirely by merit. When they arelater re-transferred to the Public Service system, they will expect positions similarly paid, and, perhaps, will have sufficient influence to obtain them. This will give rise to a great deal of dissatisfaction. I am sure that no one understands the reason for this great departure from our ordinary Public Service system. The officers at Canberra will be the only set of Commonwealth servants placed under outside control.
– There are others.
– Even if there are others, it is still a most remarkable departure to remove civil servants from this control.
– There are the officers of the Commonwealth Bank and of the War Service Homes Department.
– Officers of the Commonwealth Bank are not, and never have been, ordinary public servants.
– The employees of the Commonwealth railways are outside the Public Service Board.
– And the employees of the Wireless Branch.
– Mr. McLachlan, when appointed by the Government as a Royal Commissioner, recommended that there should be uniformity throughout the Public Service. Why should a Government which condemns dual control now introduce a Bill bringing dual control into the Public Service ? Honorable members opposite talk about the abolition of dual control in the interests of economy, and advance that as an excuse for this Bill. I ask the Minister not to rob the public servants of their rights. I refer not to the right of superannuation, nor to that of protection by the Public Service Board in the matter of transfer and promotion.
.- I regret very much that I was absent when the’ honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) was addressing the Chamber, I am given to understand that my name was mentioned in connexion with an appointment to the Commission. I do not know for what object this was done, but, of course, there is no doubt that if one throws mud some of it is bound to stick. If, by throwing mud at the Government, the public can be induced to believe that it is desired to give public appointments to members of this House, the honorable member responsible must take the blame. Let me point out to the honorable member that this Bill specifically prescribes that, if practicable, these appointments shall be given to returned soldiers; they are to have preference. I was considerably over the age of enlistment during the war, and therefore I could not come within the cate-. gory of returned soldiers. I do not know whether my honorable friend can make the same excuse for not being one. At any rate, I hardly think that his reference tome was fair. Let me say at once that Iam not a candidate for a position on the Commission. After perusing the Bill I really cannot see any necessity for the appointment of a Commission. I hope that, if the House approves of the appointment of the Commission, it will also agree to some slight amendments to the Bill so as not to take away the powers of Parliament to the extent that is proposed. A very firm attitude is now being takenby many honorable members concerning the expenditure at Canberra, and I cannot see that this has anything to do with the Bill. We should -fight on that score when the House is considering the Estimates and the proposed expenditure at Canberra. - I have opposed all along the expenditure of money there. I feel that it is a grave error on the part of this Parliament to sanction, it, particularly when we are bearing a heavy war debt. But this Parliament decided that matter, and I am always prepared to accept Its decisions.
– There was no hesitation in building the trans-continental railway during the war.
– I believe that that railway was commenced long before the war. I have always protested against Parliament whittling away its powers. We should, as far as possible, conserve the powers of this Parliament in almost every instance. We have a Ministry in power, and we should at all times be able to place before it our complaints concerning extravagance or maladministration. I am always ready to submit to any decision of Parliament, but I am not prepared to hand over powers - as was done in connexion with the building of the soldiers’ homes - to a Commission, thereby making no Minister responsible for maladministration. In the case of the War Service Homes, we know that hundreds of thousands of pounds were wasted in making huge purchases, and no Minister was responsible. ‘If the Commission had not been in existence we could have laid the blame upon the Minister himself. We should not give away the powers of Parliament unless it can clearly be shown that we are to gain by it. It is many years since operations were started at Canberra. The water supply there is now completed, and the mains are being laid through the streets. From an engineering point of view, that work is finished. The main sewer is in the course of construction, and nearly completed. No Commission is needed to deal with future house connexions or with the water supply for the town. Most of the work is well in hand. Parliament House, when completed, will last at least 25 years. Applications are being called for competitions for the design of the main administrative building. The staff required for the constructional work has been obtained from the Works Department. If the three Commissioners are appointed, the additional staff will mean a heavy expenditure. We have now the staff necessary to carry out all the work required in the near future. The Minister has in his Department men competent to deal with finance and other matters. The Public Works Committee strongly urged that outside architects should, if possible, be induced to compete in designs for the buildings. That has been done with the consent and approval of the Chief Architect of the Commonwealth. We know perfectly well that if the building of the city had been left in the hands of one man there would have been a uniform design throughout. Even although I have opposed the expenditure of money at Canberra, I hope that whatever we do will be a source of pride when eventually the seat of Government is moved there. Not one member of this House can say a word against my work as Chairman of the Public Works Committee. I have done nothing to thwart the wishes of Parliament in any investigation made by the Committee. Our workhas been honest, and we have always desired to carry out the duties that Parliament imposes upon us. What work warranting the appointment of a special Commission, taking great powers from this Parliament, is required at Canberra in the near future? Not only will the Commission have power over the Treasury ; but in this Bill it is given power to borrow any sum of money that it chooses; it may be £100,000 or £5,000,000. All they have to do to borrow the money is to get the consent of the Treasurer of the day. Parliament will not be asked to express any opinion on the proposed expenditure.
– The Treasurer is the Parliament.
– The Treasurer is not the Parliament. I am not reflecting upon the Treasurer, but in time to come there may be in power a Treasurer imbued with the idea that it will be a good thing to spend large sums of money for artificial lakes and other such works at Canberra. Parliament may not consider that these works should be carried out. Yet it will have’ no opportunity of saying so, and the Treasurer of the day will be able to give authority to borrow money for any public works without consulting Parliament.
Mr.Foster. - He would not remain Treasurer for very long, if he did.
– Caii the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) point to anythingin this Bill which would compel the Treasurer to submit proposals for the borrowing of money to Parliament?
– There is the Treasurer’s responsibility to Parliament.
– Nothingin this Bill obliges the Treasurer to consult Parliament.
– The Treasurer would say that he had full power to do as he liked.
– That is the position. This proposed Commission would have very wide powers. It would be able to employ whom it liked, pay what it liked, and even dispense with the ordinary Public Service tests. I do not think Parliament would do right to vest it with such powers. We have not done so with other Commissions. The Railways Commissioners have wide powers, but those powers are clearly defined, and the Treasurer is not able to consent to them borrowing money as they like. Probably the powers conferred upon the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works are somewhat comparable with the powers it is proposed to place in the hands of the Federal Capital Commission. I do not agree that the proposed Commission should have such powers, for Parliament will always be here to express its will, and to say what works should and what should not be done. Parliament should retain full power over the Territory. I am surprised to notice that this proposed Commission is to be given full civic authority. People will be invited to, build their homes in the Federal city, but, if we agree to this Bill they will be given no rights. Business people will establish themselves there, but they will have no say about what rates shall be paid. This Commission is to declare the rate. The residents of the Federal Capital will have no right of appeal to anybody except the Commission, and the Commission will be able to impose such water, sewerage, and town rates as it pleases.
– We are to be the tenants and they are to be the landlord.
– Why not ask the Government to withdraw the Bill ?
– I intend to vote against the second reading. I know that the Minister forWorks. (Mr. Stewart) wishes to have a workable measure, ana if the second reading be agreed to, no doubt he will take notice of* the views that are expressed by honorable members during the Committee stage. I have not heard a. single argument this afternoon in favour of the appointment of the Commission.
– Every speaker has been against the Bill.
– Recently a graph was published in the Australasian, and also in the Industrial Australian, which showed how great had been the increase in the cost of government - both Federal and State - in Australia. In viewof the position which faces us in that respect, I think we should create no new positions unless ample reasons are. given for doing so. It would not be fair to the taxpayer. I do not think the Government wish to make an appointment on this Commission merely to find a job for some one.
– We are accused of wanting to appoint this Commission to give you a job.
– I think the honorable member who made that remark was joking, but such jokes are not fair when names are mentioned in connexion with them. It is not the first time such statements have been made respecting me. Such remarks may create the impression that honorable members do their work in this Parliament merely for the purpose of seeking some position in the Public Service. It may even be said that I am making myself nasty to get a job. I shall not be a candidate for a position on this Commission. I much prefer to enjoy myself as a member of this House. I understand that the Minister is not making this a party measure, but is treating it as a machinery Bill. I trust thathonorable members on this side of the Chamber will not vote for it simply because the Government have introduced it. The House should be shown clearly that the appointment of this Commission would result in economy and better administration at Canberra. That has not been shown so far. In. fact, the indications are that the work in the Federal territory will proceed in the future as it has done in the past in some respects. The Bill specifically provides that, big public works shall be referred to the Public Works Committee, and that the Public Accounts Committee shall examine the accounts. It also provides that officers of the Works and Railways Department shall be employed where that can be done. What big public works will require attention in the next few years? I do not think it is the intention of the Government to go on, at present, with the artificial lakes which are part of Mr. Griffin’s scheme; They need not be made for years to come. The report of the Public Works Committee on the railway connexion, will be placed before Parliament as soon as it is printed. The heavy work in connexion, with water supply, sewerage, and the establishment of a power plant has been done. Really, I can see nothing which will require the appointment of specialists. I think it would be advisable to place the Canberra work in the control of one Department, with a special officer to deal with land matters. Dual control means trouble and delay, and friction results. Single control is much to be preferred. I think the appointment of a Commission could be allowed to remain in abeyance until its absolute necessity was established.
– As long as I have been a member of this House I have been against the practice of whittling’ away the powers of Parliament by the appointment of Commissions. Parliament is elected by the people, and it should be supreme. I can see no justification for placing the work at Canberra in the hands of a Commission. Good progress has been made, recently, in developing the Federal territory. The officers engaged in the work are doing very well. They arecompetent men, and have a grand conception of what the Federal city should be. Why, then, should a Commission be appointed? The Government have given us no adequate reasons for appointing the Commission, and I am sure that the Commissions we have had in the past have been nothing to be proud of. They have prevented, rather than promoted, progress. Parliament has not been supreme, and Ministers have escaped from their responsibilities. Before I entered this House I gave a good deal of study to the subject of parliamentary government. I was convinced in those days that government should be by Parliament and notby Commissions, and I am more than ever convinced to-day that that is the right policy. We have only to look at the work of recent Commissions to see what a mistaken policy it is to hand over our powers to such bodies. Their maladministration is a great barrier to progress. Let honorable members bring to their minds the Cockatoo Island Commission. To think of the personnel of that Commission makes one shudder. Sir William Clarkson is one of its members, and he is the gentleman who wrote some very bitter reports about Cockatoo Island. He was always opposed to the Government doing construction work there, and he wrote a most condemnatory report of the place. Yet he was appointed a Commissioner. In the last few days we have heard the Prime Minister remark, “ The Commission has charge of the work and I cannot accept responsibility for it. Wehave also a. Naval Board and a Military Board there. During the last few weeks the Public Accounts Committee has been conducting an investigation into the expenditure incurred at the Naval College at Jervis Bay and the Duntroon Military College. We have been informed in the most definite manner that no reduction in the expenditure at these two establishments is advisable, and that if it were contemplated it could only be done on the recommendation of those Boards. Then the members of the Note Issue Board are representatives of the largestcommercial interests in Australia, and if an honorable member seeks information from the Government in connexion with the note issue, he is told that that Department is under the controlof a Board which was appointed by a previousGovernment, and concerning it we know very little - a position not justified. On the retirement of Mr. McLachlan, the ex-Public Service Commissioner, who efficiently controlledthe Comm on wealth Public Service, which is regarded as one of the finest in the world, a Public Service Board was created, the Chairman of which is a military officer receiving a salary of £3,000 a year, while the other two members each receive £2,000 a year. Notwithstanding the expense involved in controlling the Public Service under the existing Board, two SubCommissioners or Inspectors have recently been appointed to help them to do their work. The Chairman of the Board is a very able military officer, but the environment in which he has worked for years renders him unsuitable for the important positionhe now occupies in connexion with our civil life. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) stressed the point that whenonce Commissioners are appointed it is difficult to say where the expenditure is likely to end. Many years ago, I was a member of a deputation which waited upon the late Sit Henry Parkes concerning the appointment of a Commission on technical education. After I had expressed my views, he said, “ Well, West, you know if I appoint a Board or Commission, every member of it will want a secretary, a clerk, and a messenger, and the expenditure will be much larger than you anticipate. “ He also said during the course of the interview, “ Do not fritter away the power of Parliament which should have absolute control over all expenditure.” I have never forgotten those words. Since the last Labour Government went out of office, numerous Boards and Commissions . have been appointed, and the power of Parliament has been frittered away by its successors. Are the Government placing the responsibility of administration in the hands of Boards and Commissions because they are afraid that a Labour Government will soon be returned to power? It is cruel and unjust of honorable members to shirk their responsibility.
– They are providing jobs for their “ pals.”
– That has already been mentioned. I intend to take every possible step to prevent extravagant and unjustifiable expenditure in connexion with the appointment of Boards over which Parliament has no control. Even if administration were cheaper under a system of Boards, I would be opposed to the principle. Parliament is responsible for the taxation imposed, and, therefore, should control all expenditure. Do honorable members overlook the fact that they are sent here by their constituents to assist in controlling expenditure ? If the people in New South Wales - I cannot speak for the other States - had the opportunity they would dispense with the Railways Commissioners, and allow the railways to be controlled by a Minister. The action of the Government in appointing a resident Director of Works at Canberra was first suggested by the Public Accounts Committee. Colonel Owen is a capable and enthusiastic officer, and is in every way qualified to carry out the important work which he is now undertaking.
Sittingsuspended from 6.30 to8p.m.
– -The abrogation of the rights of Parliament is bad enough, but there is a further objection that commissions do not carry out their work efficiently. They do not act in accordance with the. wishes of Parliament. Members on this side of- the House have never been in favour of handing over the destinies of Australia to a Commission. Take, for instance, the War Service Homes Commission. No member of this House, nor of the public, can contradict me when I say that I have as good a knowledge of the maladministration of the War Service Homes Commission as has any man. I have had an exceptionally favorable opportunity to gather information on that subject, and I have exercised my abilities, and used my knowledge as a contractor and journeyman, just as freely as if it had been a business of my own. I, and I think other members of the Public Accounts Committee, have come to the conclusion that, had the War Service Homes administration not been placed under the control of a Commission, but had been in the hands of the Works and Railways Department, greater efficiency would have been secured. The staff of the Department could have been enlarged, and certain men could have been promoted to fill the new positions. We ought to encourage the promotion of men in Government Departments, rather than appoint outsiders to fill important positions. A boy entering a Government Department should have opportunities of promotion. If he is willing to make himself efficient in the Service, the highest positions should be open to him. The best positions should not be reserved for those who are born with silver spoons in their mouths. Members of this House are not fully alive to the danger of handing over the work of the country to Commissions. I have been forced by my knowledge of Commissions to the conclusion that they are a dangerous obstacle to the progress of Australia. I am satisfied that if a change of Government takes place the incoming Government will have to consider very seriously whether it will allow these abominations to continue. I hope that it will abolish them and return to a sane system of government. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), in his criticisms of the work of public servants, only half stated the facts. That was a dangerous thing for him to do. I advise him that when he wants to make a statement he should get possession of all the facts, and not attempt to manipulate them for his purpose. Itis a very serious thing for a member of this House to cast a reflection upon public servants, who have no opportunity to reply. Personally, I shall defend them against every attack made unjustly upon them. I should be unworthy of my position if I did mot. Honorable members will remember that a past Government decided to build Canberra on modern townplanning lines. Designs were called for all over the world, and it was intended that Canberra should be a city second to none for beauty and utility. That action greatly increased the cost, but future generations will commend that Government for its courage and breadth of view. The State of Victoria has at Morwell undertaken a large scheme for the supply of electrical energy. Members of the Public Accounts Committee recently . inspected the works, which are under the direction of Sir John Monash, with a view to seeing whether they could glean any information which would be of assistance in connexion with the development of Canberra. We were told that it was a very costly scheme. The people of Victoria do notknow what it will cost.
Although the expenditure ;.s heavy, benefits will be derived from it in the future. I shall endeavour to explain the facts regarding the cost of houses. Honorable members should obtain correct information on such matters. The Public Accounts Committee has dealt with this subject in its report, which states -
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on (Public Works, while recently considering the question of the erection of an officers’ hostel at Canberra, drew attention to the fact that at present the Commonwealth receives ih rental for these dwellings 25 per cent, less than the estimated annual value, plus rates and taxes. The decision authorizing this reduction was based upon a consideration of the increased costs of construction at Canberra, and of the fact that most of the tenants are officers or employees who are not in receipt of large incomes.
The Government should have been the sole constructing authority, and the method of construction should have been day labour. One paragraph of the report justifies me in the conclusions I have drawn from my own personal experience. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) says the cost of the construction of houses is excessive. It is only those who know nothing ‘if the facts who talk such gibberish, but their statements do not appeal to any man who knows anything of the subject. The paragraph to which I refer says -
The necessity for a definite and continuous programme of building construction was emphasized more than once during the course of the Committee’s inquiry, and specific cases were brought under notice where competent bricklayers and other tradesmen, after completing a particular job, had to be put off because further work was not available. Such men, on leaving the Territory, would naturally prejudice others against accepting employment there.
The Government has already mau?, a move in the right direction. As the result of the observations of the Committee when it made an inspection prior to the preparation of the report, I believe the Chairman, when he returned to Melbourne, very rightly made certain recommendations to the Minister of “Works, and a residential Director of Works was appointed. That was all that was required, and it is in accordance with constitutional government. The Director of Works is subject to the control of the Minister, who can advise him of the wishes of Parliament. A Commission, on the other hand, would be beyond Parliament, mid would be capable of doing a lot of damage. I am satisfied that the appointment of an expensive Commission is absolutely unnecessary.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) showed that he had not read the report intelligently. He is opposed to the transfer of the Federal Parliament to Canberra, and, as a biased man always does, he regards the matter in the wrong light. The report states -
It was explained to the Committee that as the development of the Federal Capital proceeded it was realized that the cottages being erected by the Government, and made available for the officers stationed there, were not strictly quarters for which a charge of 10 per cent, on salary was reasonable, and it was desired that some better return be secured to the Commonwealth on its outlay. At the same time, it was recognised that officers whose duties took them to Canberra in the pioneering stages should not be placed at any financial disadvantage as compared with those residing in the capital cities.
Does the honorable member for Corio disagree with that? He endeavoured to create the impression that officers of the Crown residing in the Capital City were being given a 25 per cent, advantage. Under the heading, “Committee’s Observations and Recommendations.” the report states -
The establishment of Canberra as the Federal Capital of the Australian Commonwealth, planned as a garden city, has afforded an exceptional opportunity for the exercise of foresight in the provision of those services which are essential to modern convenience and comfort. Road-making, water supply, sewerage, storm-water drainage, electric power and lighting, and other services are being provided ahead of settlement, and are being designed to meet the ultimate need of a modern city, although in the first decade actual requirements may be but a fractional part of the completed project. In approaching the question of a basis for assessing rentals at Canberra, the Committee has had to keep this aspect in mind. It is obviously impossible, and would be quite unfair, to expect a small. initial population - the majority of whom would be public servants compulsorily residing at the Seat of Government - to carry the burden.
Did the honorable member for Corio read that portion of the report? I am quite sure ne did not read a line of it. Further on the report states -
The Committee is of opinion that residential accommodation at the Federal Capital, whether in cottages or in hostels, should he maintained on a strictly commercial basis.
The business members of. this House surely cannot object to that. The report continues -
On the other hand, officers employed at Canberra during the initial stages; of its. development should, not be expected to suffer pecuniary loss by reason of their compulsory transfer to the Seat of Government; and’ the Committee recommends that a scale of allowances be instituted which will compensate them for any such disability.
The reason for that recommendation was that the. Committee thought that officers should not be penalized because of the necessity for transferring them from their present location to theFederal Capital. The honorable member for Corio did not read that portion of the report, otherwise he. would not have said, that officers at Canberra were privileged to the extent of 25 per cent., which the taxpayers had. to pay. Before any honorable member makes a statement he should have some knowledge of the facts, and should not draw entirely upon his imagination. The following portion of the report is very interesting -
The assessment of rentals involves the question of rates for water supply, sewerage, &c. At first sight the capital cost of these works appears out of all proportion to the. population to be served, hut, as already stated, the main engineering works have been installed with a large ultimate population in view. It is not to be expected, therefore, that the small initial population should pay the interest and sinking fund charges on such outlay. Some loss is inevitable in the initial stages of a scheme of this magnitude designed many years in advance. The Committee is of opinion that, so far as the early residents of the Capital are concerned, they should bear only a pro rata charge calculated on the basis of the population for which the respective engineering works have been schemed. The annual loss on the services, would thus decrease in proportion to the increase of settlement.
That recommendation was really the outcome of the examination of witnesses, not only in the Federal Capital area, but also in various municipalities. I feel confident that in the future it will be agreed that we adopted a very broad and sensible view. This afternoon the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) informed honorable members that it was not necessary on this Bill to deal with certain items of expenditure, because further opportunity would be afforded when the Estimates were being considered. If we are to have a spectacle similar to that witnessed when last year’s Estimates were under consideration, there will be very little opportunity for any honorable member to discuss a number of items. My feelings ran very high during that 24 hours in which something like 66 divisions were takenon various items of the Estimates. I felt that the circumstances attendant on the passingof those Estimates warranted everything which.I said and did. Had it not been for my leader (Mr. Charlton), I should have taken action which would have left a greater and more lasting impression. The best way in which to attract attention is to do, something, even though it be detrimental to one’s self, which will be reported by the press. Such action by me, at that time, I feel sure, would have proved of value, not only to the electors of East Sydney, but to the people ofAustralia generally. I fear that opportunity will not be afforded to honorable members to discuss fully the different items of the Estimates while this Government is in office’. In the course of my work on the Committee of Public Accounts I have visited the Naval College and other institutions, and the officers there have pointed out to me-
– Order ! That matteris not covered by the Bill.
– I was merely replying to a statement that was made by the honorable member for Swan.
– A brief referenceof that nature is allowable, but the debate must be relevant to the Bill.
– The honorable . member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) knows as well as I do the struggle of honorable members on this side to ascertain the cost of the works at Canberra. We were denied that information. I now point out to the honorable member for Swan, and to other honorable members, that I am taking the fullest advantage of this opportunity to discuss the matter, because I fear that a similar attitude will be adopted by the Government when we come to deal with the next Budget. It is the duty of every honorable member to impress upon the Government and their supporters the fact that the public are opposed to the appointment of a Commission with such wide powers as would be conferred by this Bill. Frequently, in reply to questions on important subjects, honorable members are informed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) that the matters are under the control of a Board, and that, therefore, he can give no information concerning them. If such enormous powers as are proposed under the Bill are conferred upon the Commission, honorable members who subsequently desire to be enlightened concerning affairs at Canberra will be told by the Government that they must shut their eyes, open their mouths, and swallow whatever is given them. The Commonwealth Director of Works (Colonel Owen) is a most efficient officer, and is quite able to undertake the responsibility of supervising the constructional work. After the exhaustive inquiry made by the Public Accounts Committee the Government should have no doubt upon the matter. Colonel Owen has given faithful and assiduous service. I should advise the Government to increase his emolument, and place him in charge of the whole of the works. Does any honorable member support the action of the Shipping Board in. granting Christmas holiday pay to all the permanent officers at Cockatoo Island Dockyard when the labourers in the yard were not granted one day’s pay? That is the sort of thing one may expect from administration by a Board. It means class distinction all along the line, and the “ bottom dog “ is not recognised as having the rights of an ordinary human being. I do not think the Prime Minister will have the temerity to admit in this House that he is in favour of such a distinction being made. No member of the Ministry would have the courage to support such a course of action. When the responsibility has been thrust upon a Board, Ministers are glad to brush the matter aside as no concern of theirs. I am afraid that what I have said will be lost on the Government. Members of the Corner party are afraid to take action in connexion with the proposed Commission, and Ministers themselves are nervous lest the members of that party bring them to book. If only the press of Australia would rally to the cause of the people most telling articles could be published pointing out the fallacy of government by Boards. Every responsible newspaper in « Australia knows that administration by this means isa delusion and a snare. The literary staffs of the newspapers of Australia include men of high calibre and honour, and I hope that they will render service to the people as a whole by vigorously protesting against this method of administration.
– Amongst the first words uttered this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was the statement that he hoped the Bill would be discussed in a non-party spirit. I should share his wish with greater confidence were I not aware of the fact that the party opposite has already made up its mind to vote solidly against the Bill.
-. - That is not so.
– We shall see when the numbers go up. Honorable members seem to be concerned about handing over the control of the Federal Capital Territory to a Board instead of adhering to the present arrangement of dual control by Departments with conflicting interests. I listened to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and I concluded that his argument was entirely in favour of the constitution of a Commission such as is suggested by the Government. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) stated that he wished to praise the action of the Government in expediting the work at Canberra. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) made a similar assertion, and I give both honorable members praise for rendering credit where it is due. If the Government has earned the praise of honorable members opposite, Ministers can surely be trusted to consummate the work that has been so well begun. Operations at the Federal Capital are progressing, and honorable members who have not recently visited Canberra would be amazed at the strides made in all classes of work. Sewer construction has been so far advanced that the main tunnel is almost completed. The water supply is ready in most places for connexion to the houses in course of construction or to be built, and the electric light service is available. Soon there will be notices to send out and rates to be collected. Is the administration of the various departments at Canberra to be transferred to Melbourne?
– Should we pay a man £3,000 a year to superintend that work?
– Yes, if he can do the job thoroughly. In Sir John Monash
Victoria has a splendid public officer, and the salary paid him is not high for the work done. A salary of £10,000 a year would not be too much for a similar official at Canberra. The history of the development of Washington is on all fours with that of Canberra, even to the dismissal of the engineer whose design for the construction of the Capital was accepted. In course of time, the Parliament of the United States of America was asked to agree to a motion similar to that passed in this House last session, stipulating that the Parliament should meet at the new Capital within a certain time. It was found that a Commission was required to administer affairs at Washington, and for similar reasons it will be impossible to administer the Federal Capital Territory from Melbourne. Centralization in administration is one of the curses of the Commonwealth to-day. An even greater curse is the dual control by the Departments now operating at Canberra. A glaring example of the circumlocution entailed by this control recently came under my notice. A new post-office was required, and a particular design was suggested. The Home and Territories Department purchased the land and submitted the design; but the Works and Railways Department immediately announced that it had its own architects to design such buildings. One Department said to the other, “ We know the class of office you want. This is our design, and you must accept it.”
– Yet the honorable member desires to create another Department.
– No. I maintain that the present conflict of authority can be overcome by the appointment of a Commission that could deal with such matters on the spot. Why should every Government work throughout the Commonwealth be referred to the central administration ? If we have trained officers who cannot be trusted, they should be dismissed. I have nothing but praise for Mr. Goodwin. He has done good work, and I hope that such officers will remain at Canberra to help consummate the present plan ; but there should be some authority at the Federal Capital with power to administer the law. We are dependent, at present, upon New South Wales for the maintenance of law and order there. The Commonwealth is dependent upon the State Departments of
New South Wales for police and educational services. Certainly the teacher at present stationed at Canberra is a credit to the Education Department, and the school is as good as any other State school in Australia. But there are many matters of administration which require quick decision upon the spot. I know of a man living in a Government cottage on the Yass-road whose gate came off its hinges, but he. was not allowed to touch it. He had to refer the matter of its repair to the Department of Home and Territories. A local administrator would be able to deal with this and with many other matters on the spot without any of the red tape incidental to dual and centralized control. There are members on’ all sides of the House who have worked hard to consummate the Canberra project, but upon this proposal to appoint a Commission we hold different opinions. And it is well that it should be so, for there would be no progress if we all thought alike. This Parliament is just as big or little as its members and the people of Australia choose to make it. I hope it will always be animated by national ideals, and that it will look at every question with a proper regard for the welfare of the nation as a whole. It is not desirable to bring the Commonwealth Parliament down to the level of a shire council, that attends to roads and bridges, but that must be the effect of bringing all pettifogging details of Canberra administration into this Chamber for discussion. I admit that the time has not arrived for the appointment of three permanent Commissioners, but there should be a permanent Chairman devoting the whole of his time to the administration, of the Capital, and assisted by part-time Commissioners who would be paid fees for their services.
– That proposal is more dangerous than that contained in the Bill.
– I do not think it is. The honorable member admitted that the Advisory Committee is an excellent body. I agree with him.
– Then why alter the system ?
– Because this Parliament has resolved to meet at Canberra within a definite time, and there is need for the speeding-up of construction and administration. Washington is still controlled by a Commission. To-day there are probably npt more than 150 permanent residents at Canberra, but the time -will soon arrive for the creation of an elective municipal authority to control the city. In the meantime a Commission is necessary to administer municipal affairs and the ordinances of the Territory. We all have complained because land ordinances have not been issued, and the land has not been thrown open for selection. I believe the Government were wise in deferring selection. I understand that there will be an obligation on the purchaser of a block of land to commence building within twelve months. It would not have been fair to have allowed selection twelve months ago and compelled the leaseholder to build when there was no population in the city. The Government proposes to auction the leases at an early date, and who will administer the ordinances governing them? Are honorable members satisfied that existing Departments, which already have their hands pretty full of work throughout the Commonwealth, can yet find time to attend to the details of territory administration? Surely a Commission is needed until such time as the population of Canberra is large enough to elect a municipal body. All supporters of Canberra hope that there, will be a big population there at an early date. I expect that there will be 5,000 people permanently residing at Canberra within three years.
– The honorable member is very sanguine.
– That expectation is based upon the report of the Advisory Committee. To the honorable’ member for Corio (Mr. Lister) and others who think as he does Canberra is like a red rag te a bull; they are opposed to everything connected with it. That attitude is not fair. I give due credit to those honorable members who were opposed on principle to the creation of a Federal Capital. If I had been a member of the Federal Convention that drafted the Constitution, or of the earlier Parliaments that had to choose a site for the Federal Capital, I would have favoured the selection of some large town or city, and converted it into a Federal Capital rather than create a new city in an unpopulated area. But we have an obliga tion to carry out the compacts that have been made by those who preceded us.
– - No time limit is specified for the creation of the Federal Capital.
– We have heard that argument too often. The honorable member is for ever saying that the time is not yet ripe. There is’ no time like the present. If a thing has to be done, do it now. The creation of the Federal Capital is like the standardization of railway gauges in that the longer it is left the more costly it will be. Our obligations have to be faced. What is the use of shilly-shallying and throwing upon the shoulders of posterity a responsibility that belongs to us? Every member of this National Parliament should take a personal pride in making the Federal Capital the finest city in Australia. It is a project for the service of not only the present generation but of posterity also. This Parliament calls for men of vision. Members who have not vision are wasting their own time and that of their constituents. Let us take the broad Australian point of view. Although I represent a Sydney constituency I recognise that the men who are tilling the soil are the backbone of the country. We are all trying to help the men upon the soil to establish themselves, and by their production make the country more wealthy. Let us help along the Federal Capital scheme in the same national spirit. No city in the world started under such favorable conditions as Canberra. What other city in Australia had electric light, water power, sewerage, and roads provided in advance of settlement? Those services are in existence at Canberra, and some authority is required for the levying of taxation, the collection of revenue, and the control of expenditure. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) expressed a fear that if a Commission were appointed those public servants who were transferred to its control would lose some of the benefits of the Public Service Act, but a clause of the Bill definitely provides that they shall retain all existing and accrued rights. Apart from that, more Departments and employees of the Commonwealth Government are outside the Public Service Act and regulations than are inside.
– That is wrong.
– I do not think it is. I would hold controlling officers responsible for the successful conduct of their Departments, and if a man failed I would sack him and appoint another mau who would make the Department a success. At the present time a Public Service Commission controls all appointments, promotions, and reductions in the Service. . But the person most fitted to judge the worth or worthlessness of an officer is his departmental head. Unfortunately in the service there is dual control and triple control. I do not blame the officers for the faults that are inherent in the existing system. Years ago I was a member of the Public Service; I do not regret the experience, but I shall take care that nobody over whom I have authority shall ever enter the Service. Whilst the public servant is not exactly a slave, it is a fact that the system destroys his initiative. A man’s spirit is stifled by red tape before he has been in the Service twelve months. That is the curse of the system. We have an opportunity of removing that curse from the administration of Canberra by placing in charge men to whom Parliament can say, “ You are expected to make a success of this project. Build a city worthy of Australia, and Parliament will .see that your work is recognised.” Of course, Parliament will retain control, for every year the Commissioners will have to submit their estimates and reports to this House. We shall have a perfect right to discuss how they, shall raise and expend money. The Shipping Board, to which reference has been made, is on a footing entirely different from that of the proposed Commission. Certain assets were handed over to the Board, and it was told to make the Commonwealth shipping enterprise pay or it would be wiped out. The Federal Capital Commission will still be under the control of the Treasurer, it will still be supervised by the AuditorGeneral, and it will have to submit reports and estimates to Parliament every year.
– It will require a great many officers to do all that.
– If I were a betting man, I should be prepared to lay five to one that as a result of co-ordination of work, the proposed Commission could reduce the staff at Canberra by 25 per cent. The Commissioner’s staff will be able to deal with questions on the spot and at once, and matters will not require to be sent from one Department to another as at present. I firmly believe that the appointment of the proposed
Commission will lead to a reduction in the staff at Canberra. A good deal has been said in comparing day labour with contract labour, and as I believe in giving credit where credit is due, I am bound to say that work carried out at Canberra by day labour has been done in excellent fashion, and more cheaply than it would have been done by contract. There is in charge of the sewer channel at Canberra an excellent man named Dillon. He completed the first part of the channel, and then the late Government decided to call for tenders for the second section. The man in charge of the day-labour workers on the job asked to be allowed to submit a price for the second section. That was denied him because he could not be financed, ‘but I believe the Minister . for Works and Railways (Mr . Stewart) will confirm the statement that his estimated price for -carrying out the second part of the work was £28,000 lower than the lowest tender submitted for it. He was given the job, and has saved the Department about £30,000. Some of the work done by day labour at Canberra stands to -the credit of those who did it. There are no better bricks made in Australia than those which are produced at Canberra. Mr. Griffin’s plans required the removal of a certain hill. It would have cost a great deal to remove the hill, but the Department concerned established the Canberra brick works close to the> hill, and proceeded to make bricks out of material removed from it. The exMinister for Works and Railways, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), referred to the cost ‘ of the carriage of coal to Canberra. Newcastle coal costs, at Canberra, probably more than it costs at Melbourne, because it has to be carried there by rail, and the rail carriage of coal is very expensive. We have a power house at Canberra which is a monument to the people who built it. It supplies power and light to the neighbouring town of Queanbeyan. When our employees go into their houses at Canberra they will find sewerage, light, and water services provided for them. I have only one fault to find with the houses that have been erected there, and it is that they have been built too closely upon an English design, and insufficient verandah space has been provided for. Any one who would find fault with the workmanship put into the buildings must go to Canberra with a view to looking for faults. I believe that the appointment of a Commission, or a Commissioner, to administer Canberra will be a step in the right direction. If we do not appoint a Commission it will be imperative to give those who are now administering the Federal Territory more power than they at present possess. When one visits Canberra and stands on the top, of Camp Hill or Kurrajong, and looks around the Territory, he looks into the future. If he does not possess a national outlook or broad vision he should not be assisting in the building of the city. If a visitor goes to the cemetery he will find that an old lady was buried there 64 years ago, and on her tombstone are the words : “ Here we have no abiding city, but we seek one to come.” Those words are prophetic of the city that Canberra will yet be. The obligation is upon us, as representatives of the people of Australia, to visualize the city to come at Canberra and to build there, not for today, but for all time. We hope that continuous employment offering at Canberra will lead to settlement, and that will be promoted by the appointment of the proposed Commission. I have nothing to say against Melbourne as the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. I have said before, and repeat now, that if the Seat of Government had been established in Sydney, that probably would have been attended with worse results than have followed its establishment in Melbourne. I say this, because there are bigger financial and commercial interests in Sydney than there are here. This is proved by the fact that between 50 and 60 per cent. of our taxation revenue is derived from New South Wales ; 48 per cent of the taxation on land and 46½ per cent. of the income tax comes from that State. These figures speak for themselves, but I hope that in New South Wales we have learned to look upon Australia as our land and not only New South Wales. We look at Commonwealth matters with broad vision. I hope that we shall all view Canberra in the same way, and will assist to make the Federal Capital a city worthy of the people of Australia.
– Let us develop our country first.
– The honorable member’s argument is like that of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), who says that the time is not yet ripe for Canberra.
Let me inform honorable members that at the present time we are paying £28,000 a year in rent for Central Administration offices in Melbourne. If we capitalized that £28,000 and put -the money into buildings at Canberra, honorable members would see how much we should have over for administrative offices. By letting land at from1s. to 4s. per acre at present we are receiving a revenue of over £30,000 a year from the Federal Capital Territory. What is the revenue from the Territory going to be when we sell leases of land there by auction? I am reminded of a statement made by the late Sir Denison Miller, whom I consulted on this question. He said, “ Let the Government give me the Canberra Territory for 20 years, and I will build them a Parliament House costing £2,000,000, put up the houses they require, present them with all necessary administrative offices, and at the same time I will make a very good dividend for the bank and will hand the territory back to the Government in 20 years’ time.” If we are getting a revenue of £30,000 from the Federal Capital Territory to-day when nothing is being done to develop it, how much may we not expect to get when we do develop it? I believe we shall get such prices for leases of land there that we shall be able to pay more than interest, working expenses, and depreciation on buildings and machinery.
– Where will the money come from ?
– From “ uncle.” I think it is cheaper to live on the money of other people than on one’s own. The man who wipes off the debt on his home when he could do better by putting his money into his business is a fool. I do not believe that this Bill will deprive Parliament of any of its power. If I thought it would I should not vote for it. The Commission, which will really be a Commonwealth Department, will be obliged to refer everything to Parliament. Do we now control the expenditure in the Post Office? No. Not 1 per cent. of honorable members understand the Estimates upon which they vote.
– Let the honorable member speak for himself.
– I am speaking for myself as well as for others. We look at the figures, but we do not know what they refer to. As a matter of fact we take a broad view. We know that the Departments are controlled by officers whom -we can trust, and we approve of the figures they have prepared for us. It is true that questions are raised and grievances are aired upon various items of expenditure, but because we rely upon those who are administering the Departments to spend the money wisely we pass the proposed votes. Why cannot we trust this Commission in the same way ?
– Why cannot we trust (he present control ? What is wrong with it?
– The present control is lacking in that it cannot administer municipal laws. In the near future there will be a municipal council at Canberra, but the number of permanent residents - about 200 - there now is hardly sufficient for us to set up such a body. In addition to the permanent residents there is a floating population of about 1,000 men who are engaged on sewerage and lighting work, and for whom there is no proper accommodation. If I were a family man, with my home in Melbourne, I would very soon be “fed up” with life in general if I took employment at Canberra. The best side of life is home life, and, therefore, we ought to make the conditions of the working men at Canberra as happy and contented as possible.
– Does the honorable member suggest that’ the Commission will do that?
– I do.
– The honorable member is a wonderful optimist.
– Sir John Monash has shown what good work the Commission could do at Canberra. He did not go to Parliament to ask for authority to build 600 houses at Morwell. He set to work at once and built them.
– Why cannot a Commonwealth Minister do the same?
– Because of the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. The Minister is compelled to ask Parliament to refer to the Public Works Committee any work estimated to cost more than £20,000, and after that body has spent a couple of months in discussing the pros and cons of the proposal, and in visiting the site of the proposed work, it recommends Parliament to do- and Parliament approves of - exactly what the Government in the first place proposed to do.
– The honorable member is advancing a strong argument against depriving Parliament of its control.
– I am not. I have just pointed out that the Commission will have to submit to Parliament their estimates of income and expenditure. They will be obliged to show how they can get the revenue, and how they propose to spend it. If Parliament does not agree to any item in the Commission’s estimates of expenditure, that item can be wiped out, and if it does not approve of the proposal of the Commission to levy a rate of 2½d. in the £1 upon the residents of Canberra for municipal government purposes, it will have the power to veto the proposal. There are honorable members who know more about municipal government than I do. They know very well the functions carried out by State Parliaments. I hope that the Federal Parliament will never become a roads and bridges, abattoirs, and sewers Parliament. “Yet a body capable of dealing with such matters is essential at Canberra. A few weeks ago I saw some of the roads and bridges built in the Federal Territory. They ave worthy of the Department that has built them, but all these things must be administered. A Commission levying rates and taxes, and carrying out its duties on the spot, would prove as successful in its operations as the Commonwealth Bank has under the unfettered control of the Governor of the Bank. The man working at Canberra could lay his grievances before a Commisioner living on the spot, and have them removed at once. The man requiring repairs to his house could have them carried out immediately. I trust that honorable members will look upon this question in a nonparty spirit. If they do so, I am satisfied that they will vote for. the Bill. I believe this Commission will be the best thing for Canberra, but I do not think it is necessary at this juncture to appoint three Commissioners. If one man only was appointed, I would not object, so long as he was a good man, if his salary was £5,000, or even £7,000 a year. The Bill provides for £3,000, but we can deal with the question of salary in Committee. Whether ‘ the other two Commissioners should be permanent officers or only part-time Commissioners is also a matter for the Committee to decide.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) stated that this had been made a party measure. That is not so, however, as we have already had strong speeches from members of his own party in opposition to the Bill; and if little rumours which are circulating are correct, we may have two or three others from that side of the House voicing the same opinion as was expressed by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister). I am opposed to this measure, as I believe that Parliament should retain to the fullest extent all its existing powers. Some of us remember the magnificent ‘ oratory to which we listened on the occasion of the laying of the first foundation stone at Canberra. It was then predicted that the new Capital City would be a model for all Australia, and even the whole world. If Canberra is to be such a model city, Parliament should exercise the fullest control over it. Instead of retaining that control, we are asked to hand over to this Commission very drastic powers. We have only to. look at sub-clause 2 of clause 5, which reads -
The Commission shall be a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal, and may acquire, hold, and dispose of real and personal property, and shall be capable of suing and being sued - to see that. That clause shows the powers which this Parliament - the elected representatives of the people of Australia - is asked voluntarily to hand over to a Commission. It is all very well for the Minister to say that Parliament will retain very great powers, but we shall find that many things will be done by the Commission with which Parliament might not agree, but concerning which it will be absolutely powerless, because it will be too late to alter what has been done. The argument that this business could be better handled by a Commission reminds’ us of some of the Commissions which have been appointed by this Parliament in the past. Some of us have bitter recollections of the enormous blunders made by the War Service Homes Commission in the earlier days of its existence; we meet with them every day. When individual members are consulted by returned soldiers who want some concession in respect to their homes, and bring the cases before the Government, we are told that already the War Service Homes Commission has been too costly a creation, and that too great a sum of money has been spent. We know that the enormous losses which were incurred were due to the War Service Homes being originally under the War Service Homes Commission instead of Parliament retaining greater control over them. Our experience of .many of the Commissions appointed by the Federal
Parliament within the last few years is not such as to create in us a desire for the appointment of other Commissions with wide powers. In the teeth of considerable opposition, I have at all times in my own State supported the building of a Federal Capital. Outside of New South Wales the people of Australia are not so keen on the building of the Federal Capital as are those resident in the Mother State. That is only natural; but I have always maintained that Parliament shall observe the condition laid down when we entered into Federation, namely, that a capital city should be established in New South Wales. I have had great difficulty in making the electors of Tasmania understand the necessity for this new capital. I was in this Parliament when the first measure for the creation of a new capita’ city for Australia was introduced, and had I considered my individual opinion only I would have voted against it, as I did not think it necessary then. T do not know that it is really necessary now, but we must honour the compact made with New South Wales; and on every occasion that the question has come before Parliament I have voted in that direction. I shall have still greater difficulty in making the electors in my State understand the reason for the expenditure of another £7,000 a year on this Commission. To me, the creation cf this Commission, of which the Chairman is tq get £3,000 a year, and two other members £2,000 each, is an absolute waste of public money.
– The three Commissioners will only be the departmental heads.
– If one Commissioner only is appointed, he will probably be given a larger salary, although it may not cost the full £7,000; but such Commissioner would still only be a head, and there would still have to be experts, and other officers and employees, in the various departments, the same as if there was no Commission at all. I cannot understand why this work cannot go on as at present for at least another two or. three years.
– We shall be there long before that; we shall be there next year.
– There is no necessity for Parliament to delegate this power to any Commission for at least two or three years. The work could go on just as quickly, efficiently, and cheaply under the control of the heads of the present Departments. If the Government does not consider the “Works and Railways Department should have control, or if the interests of two Departments clash, what is to prevent the whole of the work being placed under’ the control of the Home and Territories Department, _ and the expert official heads of that Department being in charge of the work as in the early days of Canberra? I consider that years will elapse before the necessity for the appointment of this Commission .arises; that necessity does not exist at present. I do not oppose the measure on party grounds, as, from my point of view, this is not a party measure at all. The. whole of my actions respecting Canberra for a number of years have shown that, while the great majority of electors in Tasmania have always opposed the expenditure of even £1 on the desert city, or the bush capital, as it is called, I have continually tried to impress upon them the necessity for honouring the compact with New South Wales. I should certainly vote for the Bil] if I thought that the creation of this Commission would facilitate the carrying out of that compact. As it will not, I do not feel inclined to vote for the second reading of the Bill. I wish to point out that, although clause 10 purports to protect the Government from maladministration on the -part of the Commission, the proposed safeguard is entirely insufficient. Sub-clause 2 of clause 10 reads -
If a Commissioner, or an Acting Commissioner, becomes in any way concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Commission, or in any way participates, or claims to be entitled to participate, . in the profit thereof, or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom, otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons, he shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
There is no safeguard in the clause to prevent any member of the Commission from furthering his own interests at the expense of the Commonwealth. It may be possible that, in an incorporated company consisting of, say, 26 persons, a Commissioner may hold nine-tenths of the shares. The clause is inserted palpably to prevent any member of the Commission from enriching himself at the expense of the general taxpayer ; but it will at least require alteration, as, in its present form, it is no safeguard against corruption, such as that which the majority of people allege occurred in the early stages of the administration of the War Service Homes Department. I honestly believe that the appointment of the Commission will have no effect on the progress of the work at Canberra, and that the expenditure of £7,000 for the salaries of three Commissioners will be money wasted. There are thousands of returned soldiers in Australia to-day who are claiming assistance from the Government. Many of these men, through no fault of their own, are derelicts. The Government contend that the state of the finances will not permit them to assist these men to any great extent; therefore, we have to look very carefully into proposals such as this, -under which £7,000 per annum will be practically thrown away. In any case, a few heads of Departments will benefit by the expenditure. As has been interjected during this debate, when this Department is created it will grow to an enormous extent, just as many other Commonwealth Departments have done.
.- I wish to inform the House that I have been to Canberra, and, incidentally, that I have returned with a few impressions and a very bad cold. The cold I intend, if possible, to keep to myself, and the few impressions I shall endeavour to convey to the members of the House, if my limited vocabulary will permit .’me to do so. First of all, I wish to express my appreciation of the services being rendered to Australia by those in charge “of the operations at Canberra. I was under the impression, from what I had heard from very many sources, that the go-slow policy was being adopted at that city, that there was not very much enthusiasm shown on the part of the workers, and that, as a matter of fact, it was a general “ take-down.” Quite the opposite is the case. I believe the directors of the operations at Canberra are unitedly and enthusiastically working to carry out their duties in the interests of Australia. I. was delighted with the enthusiasm displayed by the foremen. Although not an eavesdropper or a spy, I watched and spoke to the men at work, and found that every one of them was honestly trying to do
Iris duty by the Parliament and the people of Australia. That being so, 1 cannot see the necessity for the appointment of the Commission. I know that some people see- visions. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) said that I lacked a broad vision. I am not old enough, I suppose, to have a wide vision, but probably when I am older my vision will expand; but at present I cannot visualize with the honorable member. The appointment of the Commission seems to me to be absolutely unnecessary and dangerous. Appointing a Board or Commission is very much like getting into debt. It is a very pleasant operation up to a point; but the getting rid of a Board, like getting rid of a debt, is often unpleasantly difficult; and possibly the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) may find it so in the near future. There is another analogy between the appointment of a Board and getting into debt - both have great aptitude for throwing out a bay window here and a buttress there, an extension here and an extension there, and before long they assume very serious proportions. At present there is no necessity to appoint a Commission to carry out the operations at Canberra. I wish to pay a ‘ tribute to the Minister. I found that the utmost good-feeling prevailed among all the people at Canberra. I did not hear one man speak a derogatory word respecting another man, and I saw a good deal of the people while I was there. The directors were delighted with the foremen, and the foremen were delighted with their workers. It is a great tiling to find men pleased with their “ bosses.” The work is being carried on effectively. I feel that it is only just to the Minister for Works and Railways to congratulate him upon his administration. He is not a friend of mine. I do not think that he and I altogether harmonize, but that shall not prevent me from paying my tribute to his work at Canberra. I have methods of investigation of my own. I walked round a good deal during my stay in the Territory. As a matter of fact, I am usually rather om fail with workmen, possibly because I was once a worker myself. Perhaps it would be better for the country if I were still one. It was a pleasure to find such a spirit of hearty co-operation. Everybody seemed to be pleased with, and to have confidence in, the Minister. They believed that lie wished to give them a fair deal, and they said,’ “ We want to give him a fair deal in return.” Respecting the day-labour system, my experience has been that under good control men will do more by the day-labour system than they will do by the contract system. I do not care whether the leader of the men be called a Minister, a foreman, or a director. If he is the right man lie will get good work out of the men. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said today that the contract system was simply the day-labour system, plus the contractor’s profits, and I believe, in some instances that that is so. It is a great thing that the directors of the work at Canberra have confidence in the Minister. It is a still greater thing that the foremen have confidence in the directors. The greatest thing of all is that the workers have confidence in the foremen. I am opposed to the appointment of this Commission, because I think it is quite unnecessary, and is an altogether useless expense. It may kill the enthusiasm at present being displayed. The work is being carried on more economically than would be possible under a Commission. The suggestion that the officers at present in control should be given a little more power may be wise. Perhaps it would be advisable to give them the status of Commissioners, and appoint a Chairman with some financial ability to guide the destinies of the Federal Territory. That might relieve the Minister for Works and Railways of a good deal of detail work. But I am positive that it would not be in the best interests of Australia to create a Commission with the powers set out in this Bill. Therefore, I shall vote against the measure. I had nothing to do with making the compact to build the Federal City, but no one would be more loth than I to break such a compact. Unquestionably a compact was made with New South Wales at the foundation of Federation that the Seat of Government should be in New South Wales, but not less than 100 miles from Sydney. We must honour the compact. I do hot think, however, that there is any obligation upon us to build an ornate city. Though I was so delighted with the surroundings and work °at Canberra ‘the whole thing seemed to me to be the wild phantasy of a disordered dream. That is my set opinion, and I shall require good reasons for altering it. One cannot help admitting that the surroundings and design of the city are delightful. It might well be called the city of a thousand hills, for ranges of mountains and hills surround it. The climate is good and the situation beautiful. The productive capacity of the Territory is limited to sheep-raising. Very little of the land is suitable for agriculture. The Territory cannot produce new wealth for Australia, and the Australian people may as well realise that at once. It may be true, as the honorable member for Parkes has said, that we shall get back from the Territory, by way of city rentals, all the money that we spend upon it, but we shall never get new wealth from it. _ The country cannot produce new wealth. All that we can expect is to obtain from the lease of the land and in other ways some return of the large expenditure that has been incurred. A remarkably fine water service has been provided, and the sewerage scheme is excellent. I know a little about that class of work; and I think the Minister for Works and Railways has placed the very best man possible in charge of that department. I knew him years ago on the Kalgoorlie goldfields. He is earnest, capable, and enthusiastic, and I think he has done his work at Canberra at a wonderfully low cost. In view, however, of our enormous national debt I do not think that Ave should have embarked upon the construction of a wonder city such as we are told this Will be. Who can deny that Australia is labouring under an enormous national debt - a greater debt than the British national debt before the Avar?
– It is a mere bagatelle.
– The honorable member would not think so if he had to pay it. Our national debt is more than onethird larger than the British national debt before the war.
– What has that to do with the Bill?
– It has a bearing on it, because we have to meet our liabilities sooner or later. Our country is largely undeveloped, and our railway systems need standardizing. If
Australia were invaded avc could not expeditiously move our troops from one part of the Commonwealth to another, owing to tlie different gauges in use in the various States, and in these circumstances the expenditure of large sums of money at the Federal Capital is premature. In discussing this matter Avith some of my more able confreres, I was informed that the establishment of a Federal Capital would be the means of creating a national spirit. Heaven only knows Ave need it badly enough, and the creation of such a spirit may be the means of developing our potential wealth. When inspecting the Federal Capital, I was reminded of a person named Jim McGregor. Jim had been left, either as a legacy or for some meritorious services performed, a large tract of undeveloped land which. he never troubled to fence, clear, or cultivate. The first thing he did Avas to erect a mansion in the centre of the property, in which he entertained his friends most lavishly. He borrowed money on the title to construct the house, and tried, so far as was possible, to create the impression that all was well. He certainly created the impression that he was a man of some importance, because as little “ kids “ we were told to call him “Mr.” McGregor, and not “ Jim.” It was not long, however, before the mortgagee foreclosed, and Jim spent the rest of his days in tramping from one hotel to another living on counter lunches. Canberra resembles the house which McGregor built, in that it is quite unnecessary to expend on a Federal Capital large sums of money which could be wisely expended in other directions.” If the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra W111 be the means of creating a national spirit, and prevent the representatives of the people from calling each other bad names, and put an end to party bickering, I shall support its construction. But Ave do not Avant an ornate building in ideal surroundings to create a national spirit. In another 100 years, when Canberra may be a city, the largest portion of Australia’s population will be in Queensland or Western Australia. It is deplorable to think that the people of New South Wales would not enter the Federation until it was decided that the Federal Capital should be in that State. Victoria fought hard for the Seat ‘of
Government to be in Melbourne, and the people of New South Wales firmly stipulated that it should be in their State. Can that be regarded as an exhibition of a national spirit? The erection of the Capital is at present being carried out in the most expeditious way, and there is no need for the appointment of a Board of Commissioners. If I can be persuaded that if the Seat of Government is transferred as is suggested, a national Australian sentiment will be created in such a way that we will be able to rise to the occasion, shoulder our responsibilities, and dispense with party bickering, I shall be one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the project.
.- I can quite understand, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) has said, that one has to have a “ vision “ to appreciate the value of the Capital city. That may be all right to those who have had a vision, but it is all they have had. We are informed that a broad national outlook or a broad national spirit will generate or develop, but I should like to know in what way it is to generate. We should deal with this matter as practical Australians. The honorable member for Dalley(Mr. Mahony) stated that the Bill is part and parcel of the Government’s scheme to kill the Federal Capital, and invited those who are opposed to the Capital to openly declare themselves “ anti-Canberraites.” I am not likely to be one if there is any one who can logically and reasonably tell me what good Canberra is going to be to Australia.
– It will save many a long train journey.
– What benefit will it be to the people of Australia? Let us get down to tin tacks and common sense.
– The same amount of money would have built the North-South railway.
– That is a common-sense interjection. A compact was entered into with the State I represent to do something for the benefit of Australia, and to protect it against invasion. What can the Federal Capital, on its proposed site, ever be ? It will be an exotic growth. I stood on Mount Stromlo a few weeks ago. I went, there at the invitation of those who thought I was talking from want of knowledge. I first visited Canberra, however, when General Bridges was buried, and I stayed there a week. I saw little to impress me. I was told previously that I did not know what I was talking about, and that if I could see Canberra again I would change my opinion. I have seen it again. I have noted the development that has taken place. I have seen this mighty city of little humpies and “ wigwams.” They have there a building which they call a hostel. In the village from which I camein England the boys used to put their knuckles on the edge of the gutter, and were declared clever if they could fire an alley over the little country “pub.” It would be almost as easy to fire an alley across the hostel at Canberra. We are told that the city of Canberra is being. built by men who arc big and broad-minded, and have visions. There is no doubt that they have “ visions.” Posterity will want to know how they applied those visions, and where they got them, They did not get them from common sense. I am prepared to make that assertion. I ask any one to go to Canberra with me and show me where there is any justification for the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money. Some people say we must “honour the compact.” Why should we be governed by the dead hand of the past, by the petty little State ideas of those who were in power when Federation was consummated, I do not mind the Federal Capital being in New South Wales if we can create a broad, national spirit in New South Welshmen. If I give them a capital, . I want a quid pro quo for the taxpayers, who will have topay for it. In that regard we must consider the circumstances of the selection of the site. Can any one show me a more awkward site for a capital ? When I stood on Mount Stromlo with the Minister for Defence, I asked him to view the contour of the country. It consists oflittle hillocks surrounded by big mountains, some rising 6,000 feet above the sea level. I said to him, “ Show me where the revenue can come from to finance a Capital City here. If you can show me that this place will pay for the money already spent, I will admit that I know nothing about it.” He could not do it. No man in this House can tell me where the revenue can be obtained in the Capital
Territory to maintain the projected city. It is nonsense to say it will te obtained from land values. The reason given by the Minister for the high cost of bricks at Canberra is that the cost of coal is excessive owing to the cost of transport. In the light of that statement, Canberra can never - be a manufacturing town. Rural industries will be its sole support. Every town and city in Australia to-day is living upon the productivity of the State in which it is situated. The prosperity of any town is dependent upon the prosperity of its hinterland. There are the mining towns which rise and flourish, and become large cities while they produce the wealth that sustains them. As soon as the source of that wealth is exhausted they wilt and die, unless, as in the case of Ballarat and Bendigo, there is agricultural country surrounding them. In Silverton, near Broken Hill, large buildings .can be bought to-day, but no one will- buy them because there is no use for them. I was in Coolgardie some time ‘ ago, and saw large buildings - hotels, banks, and other structures - from which everything useful, including the iron roofs and wooden rafters, had been removed. This condition of affairs had been reached because the industry that formerly kept the town going had wilted and died. The town is no longer there. Those facts prove that every town is maintained by the productivity of the country around it. I ask” the’ Minister and any other enthusiastic supporter of Canberra, “What will keep Canberra going? Is there any possibility of mining development? Is there any possibility of trade filtering through to Jervis Bay from any portion of New South Wales not provided for by Sydney? Is there any possibility of Canberra becoming a commercial or manufacturing centre?” It cannot be said that Canberra will be an important centre because we take Parliament there and transport administrative offices and officers. The result of that may be that we will have there a few boarders, who will survive as long as the people in the other
States pay for their upkeep. In other words, Canberra will be a Commonwealth country residence, and very few people have a country residence and support it by revenues from the same district. In Adelaide people go to Mount Lofty for country residences. The productive parts of that district are occupied by market gardeners, .and their produce goes not to the country residences but to the city. That is what we shall have at Canberra. No one- knows how this city will grow. I suggest that it can only grow from the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money, which must be drawn from revenues derived from the productivity of other portions of the continent. I am of opinion that Parliament should not give’ away the power and responsibility that rest upon it. We should “ carry our own baby,” which we have brought into existence in the shape and form of this city in the making. Some honorable members have spoken of the great progress made there. I was somewhat astonished, in view of all that had been said, to find that after so many years the city had not progressed to a greater extent. Judging by the progress made up to date, it will be very many years before Canberra is anything like a city. It will not in our time be equal to .a decent suburb of one of the capital cities of the Commonwealth. The object of my remarks is to try to get members of Parliament to recognise their responsibilities to the people of Australia, and to stop filling them up with the idea of developing a big city. The sooner we get the taxpayers to realize the waste off money that, is taking place, and wake them up to the fact that they are tied down by enactments made years ago, which are not justified to-day, and set about revoking what has been done, the better it will be for all. In that way we would be doing the honest thing by the electors who “ return us to this House. It is easy to go on the hustings and speak to the uninitiated electors of the high ideals of a capital city, but it is by no means fair that support should be obtained in that way. If the capital city had been placed in a situation that could be justified, it would, perhaps, not be possible to level so many complaints against it to-day. If any honorable member can justify it I shall be pleased to hear him. Where is the wisdom and common sense in putting the city where it is ? Provision has been made for water supply, sewerage, and electric light. Let us consider .-the water supply first. Can any honorable member justify what has been done there? They have put a” dam across the Cotter River, just above the junction with the Mumimbidgee. The water, having been dammed up, is taken half-a-mile through an immense hill, then under the Mumimbidgee, and finally is pumped to the top of Mount Stromlo, whence it is reticulated through the Capital City area. No doubt it is a marvellous engineering feat, but would have been entirely unnecessary if a suitable site had been selected. Of course, it may be said that there is only one lift, but for how long 1
– For ever.
– Yes, for ever. That answer exactly sums up the position. I could admire the statesmanship of a man like the late Lord Forrest, who put through a scheme for the supply of water as an essential commodity to the city of Kalgoorlie, but I cannot understand the reason for pumping water for ever to a reservoir on top of a hill at the Capital City before the City itself can be reticulated. There were at least a dozen other places in Now South Wales where the Capital City could have been built just as well as at Canberra, and the available water supply used for power purposes. Of course, this could have been done also at Canberra, if they had taken the dam wall up another 100 feet.
– That ought to have been done.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who is an ex-Minister, admits that a mistake was made, because if the height of the dam had been increased, as had been suggested, it would have been possible, by means of powerful turbines, to create sufficient power for the City itself. That has not been done, and now high prices have to he paid for coal for the power-house. Whenever any one talks about cutting the loss and stopping further expenditure of public money on Canberra one is looked on as a “Little Stater “ - a man without vision or a national outlook. The real truth is that the electors, who sent us here, do not know the extent to which money is being wasted at Canberra. I have no desire to criticize the general lay-out of the city. It may bc all right, but when I was there the section of the Molonglo River, forming part of the artificial lakes scheme, was a series of little billabongs, and there was about as much water in them as one sees during the summer in the River
Torrens in Adelaide, when the sluice gates are opened for cleansing purposes. There we have also a dam and an artificial lake, and lately the authorities have been pumping away deposits of silt known as Cohen’s Island and Frank Moulden Peninsula, names given to these deposits of silt because civic fathers of that name allowed them to appear in the river. I feel sure that the same problems will present themselves in an aggravated form in connexion with the ornamental lake scheme at Canberra. In my opinion, the whole scheme is something in the nature of a bad dream, and the sooner we get rid of it the better for the people of Australia. Turning now to the sewerage system, I admit that the engineers have carried out a big job. There is no doubt that they have provided for posterity. The system is big enough to deal with the sewerage of almost any city in Australia. The main sewer is 5 ft. 6 in. high. I went down it. It is egg-shaped. Everything is up-to-date. All that is wanting is enough water to flush it. Heaven only knows what will happen if it is flushed frequently; I. am afraid the reservoir will be emptied. I cannot see any justification for that expenditure. I went down one of the sewer tunnels for about 200 yards. On the rock face side they have simply cemented the sides of the rock, but on the alluvial side the sewer is all timbered up, and the cement has been put over the timber. It is a costly job, but what is a million when you hare got a good sewerage system ?
– They could not draw the timbers.
– I know that. I went down one sewer from one end to the other, and I saw the whole work. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without’ request.
Bill received from the Senate, and (cn motion by Mr. Bruck), read a first time.
House adjourned nt 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240508_reps_9_106/>.