9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MAXWELL presented a petition signed by 40,000 electors of Victoria praying for action to terminate the Condominium under which the New Hebrides are controlled by Great Britain and France, and their transference to the sole control of the British Empire.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether hewill make a statement giving particulars of the new agreement concerning immigration, and an estimate of the cost anticipated in connexion therewith?
– There is yet no agreement. Negotiations which commenced when I first arrived in Great Britain in last October have been continued ever since. As soon as finality is reached I will, of course, make a statement to the House, giving the fullest details, including the financial expenditure involved.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether finality has yet been reached in negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government for the distribution of wire netting in that State?
– I had a consultation with the New South Wales Minister for Lands last Saturday in Sydney. I hopeduring thecourse of the week to be able to announce that some agreement on the subject has been arrived at.
Agreement with Ellerman and Bucknall Steamship Company.
– Will the Prime Minister make a statement regarding the agreement that has been made with the Ellerman and Bucknall Steamship Company to take over the Java and Singapore branch of the Commonwealth Government Shipping Line’s business? Are the firm’s steamers registered in an Australian port, and if not, is the White Australia policy likely to be disregarded in the manning of its ships?
– I remind the honorable member that the purpose of questions without notice is to obtain information on matters so urgent that the delay involved in putting the questions on the notice-paper cannot be allowed to take place. I suggest to the honorable member that as his question can be equally well dealt with to-morrow, he should put it on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has formulated new regulations to control wireless broadcasting? If so, when will information on the subject be given to the House?
– No finalityhas yet been reached in the efforts to overcome what is a very real difficulty in the broadcasting of wireless. As soon as possible an announcement on the subject will be made to the House.
Treatment of Sailors
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the published statements of brutal treatment of members of the Australian Navy have been brought under his notice ? If so, will he institute an inquiry into the matter by persons who are not naval officers.
– No such statements have been brought under my notice.
– I desire to address a very important and equally urgent question to the Prime Minister. I gave notice of it last week, but the Government required some time to consider it. I again ask whether the Government is prepared to send officials from the Commonwealth Statistician’s office, and industrial advisers, with the delegates from Australia to the International Labour Conference to be held in the near future at Geneva?
– I feel sure that the honorable member knows that I am always anxious to answer questions which are both urgent and important. The request made by him has been considered by the Government, which has decided that it cannot send official representatives with the delegates. In conformity with the practice of the past, however, the Government officials will be at the service of the delegates before they leave for Great Britain, the staff of Australia House will be available to them when they are overseas, and members of that staff will accompany them to Geneva.
Operations of Land Agents
– Will the Prime Minister request the High Commissioner to furnish the names of the land agents at Australia House who are offering to sell freehold land at Canberra ? Will he also have an investigation made in Australia with a view to ascertaining the names of the members of the syndicate which is exploiting the British public ?
– The name of the tenant of Australia House is known to the Government, and is available here. I shall be only too pleased to ascertain it for the honorable member. There is no evidence in the possession of the Government that there has been any improper conduct. Certain representations which were made in Great Britain appeared to have the authority of the Australian Government behind them. That was the circumstance to which the Government took exception, and it issued a statement in Great Britain denying responsibility, and gave instructions that no opportunity for similar advertising should be given to any one in the future.
– A few days ago I asked the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) a question about the cost of administration and the total number on the staffs employed at the Duntroon and Jervis Bay Colleges, the Point Cook Flying School, and the Henderson Base Training School. I was informed that the information would be supplied at a later date. My question has disappeared from the notice-paper, although no information has yet been given to me. Am I to assume that its disappearance is au intimation that the matter has been dealt with finally ?
– I hope to be able to make the information available to the honorable member to-morrow.
– May I request, Mr. Speaker, that the question, until it is answered, be restored to its place on the notice-paper ?
– If the honorable member will consult the Clerk his request will be granted.
– Last week I asked the Prime Minister to place upon the table of the House the file of papers relating to the claim made by the Central Wool Committee and Bawra, against the Commonwealth Government, under the contract made in March, 1920, with the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company Limited. Seeing that the dispute was settled six months ago, will he place the correspondence on the table of the House for the information of honorable members ?
– The relations between the Colonial Combing, Spinning and Weaving Company, the Commonwealth Government, and the Central Wool Committee are such, as I pointed out last week, that I am not prepared to lay the papers on the table until I have had an opportunity of fully considering whether the publication of the facts will injure the interests of any one. As soon as I have had an opportunity of considering that aspect of the matter I shall, if possible, make the papers available.
– I have been informed that a reconstruction of the Ministry will shortly take place. On the completion of that reconstruction will the Prime Minister give the House the reasons for changing the personnel of the Ministry and announce the policy of the new Ministry ?
– The honorable member has addressed several questions to me which show that be takes great interest in the question, whether there is to be a reconstruction of the Ministry. I can assure him that there is no foundation for any of the rumours to which he has referred, and in any case I would notbe able to invite his assistance, as I am sure that would be objected to from his own side of the House.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that traders between Australia and the United States of America incur considerable additional cost through having to effect all exchanges through London ? Will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to make arrangements whereby such exchanges may be adjusted directly between America and Australia?
– It is impossible by a mere answer to a question to indicate what can or cannot be done in regard to such an important suggestion as the honorable member has made. The course open to the honorable member is to express his views upon the motion relating to exchange, of which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Pratten) has given notice. That motion will afford an opportunity to exhaustively examine the whole subject.
– Having regard to the intimation by the Minister for Works and Railways that he will visit South Australia to confer with the State Government in regard to the proposal to construct a railway from Port Augusta to Hay, will the Minister consider the advisability of also visiting Port Pirie to investigate the possibility of including that port in the route of the propdsed line?
– I believe that a press report did state that I propose to visit South Australia officially and confer with the State Government, but no such announcement had been authorized by me. It is possible that I may visit South Australia in the near future in connexion with the East-West railway, but no conference with the State Government in regard to the construction of any railway has been arranged.
– Last week the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) asked me whether it was a fact that a cleaner was to be appointed to the staff of the House of Representatives, and that the selected applicant was an ex-special constable of the Victorian Police Force. My reply was that at the moment I was not aware of the facts, but would make inquiries and acquaint the honorable member later with the result. I have since received, through the Clerk, the following memorandum from the Serjeant-at-Arms: -
With reference to the attached inquiry, addressed to Mr. Speaker in the House by Mr. Blakeley yesterday, the question of filling the vacancy on the cleaners’ staff has not yet been considered by Mr. Speaker, norhas any recommendation in regard to the matter been submitted to him.
I have been through the applications for the position, and find that one of the applicants (a returned soldier) in a letter headed “ C/o Police Station, Sandringham,” stated “… I have been stationed here since the outbreak of riots and police strike. . . . “
I merely desire to add two brief comments for the information of the House. It is the invariable custom in the Department of the House of Representatives to appoint returned soldiers to all vacancies, and I propose to continue that custom.
– Other things being equal.
– Of course; in accordance with the law and practice of the Commonwealth. If the question of the honorable member for Darling suggests, as I think it does, that a man who has been a special constable, whether a returned soldier or not, should not be allowed to work in the Parliament buildings, I wish to make it clear that that doctrine, will find no acceptance while I occupy the chair.
Honorablexx Members. - Hear, hear!
– You, sir, will not be in the chair very much longer to give effect to that doctrine.
– That remark is offensive, and must be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. I should have said that the Government will not be in power very long to appoint a Speaker with such sentiments.
– The honorable member for Darling should know that a. Speaker is appointed for the duration of a Parliament.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (a) It has been known for many years that the tubers of dahlias contain a starch known as inulin. This starch is easily hydrolysed by weak acids, and is entirely converted into a sugar - laevulose. In 1875 the use of both laevulose and inulin was advocated by Bouchardat as forms of carbo-hydrate assimilable by diabetics, and lie recommended laevulose for sweetening purposes, and inulinrich vegetables for the diabetic diet; (b) no information is at present available of the new formula or process; (c) no, but during the past eighteen months or so an attempt has been made by Joslin at the New England Deaconess Hospital, United States of America, to utilize clinically laevulose and inulin. He remarks that the question of the usefulness of laevulose and inulin “ is of such interest that we shall continue our studies in New England Deaconess Hospital, and we hope that other investigators will also become attracted by this complicated problem; (d) it has been found that the quantity of laevulose can be added to the diabetic diet without sugar appearing in the urine. The diabetic patient, however, cannot take unlimited quantities of laevulose, and it would not be true to say thatinulin, can be administered in unlimited quantities. Inulin is very irregularly absorbed from the intestine, but very beneficial results have followed its administration in the diabetic diet.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Appointment of H. E. Taylor
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will place on the table of the Library all the papers in connexion with the appointment of Mr. H. F. Taylor to the Land Tax Department?
– As this case is at present under the consideration of. the Public Service Board, and as the relative papers contain information which is regarded as confidential, it is not considered desirable that the honorable member’s request should be complied with. If, however, the honorable member desires information on any particular question, I shall be glad to supply it to him, if possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Such information as is obtainable is being collected.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount paid by the Commonwealth to ship-owners for the use of vessels from the month of August, 1914, to the end of the year 1919, showing the amount paid to each company for each vessel separately ?
– The preparation of an accurate statement ofthe information asked for will entail considerable expense, and much time. I shall, however, endeavour to comply with the honorable member’s request.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether he will give favorable consideration to the question of discharging deserters from the Navy who served in the recent war, similar to what was done in connexion with those who deserted from the Australian Infantry Force?
– The conditions of service of the two Forces are different. The Navy was a Permanent Force before the war, and still continues; while the Australian Imperial Force was organized after declaration of war, and is now disbanded. Naval deserters must continue to be dealt with under Naval Regulations. If the honorable member has any special case in mind, I am prepared to give it careful consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Matters such as that referred to by the honorable member are not within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government, and it is not proposed to take action in the manner suggested.
– On the 8th May the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked the following question : -
Will he assist in the establishment of an industry for the manufacture of power alcohol -
I arn now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
– On the 8th May,the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Certificates were issued in Melbourne and Port Adelaide in connexion with shipments of flour consigned to South Africa per s.s. City of Singapore, the prices given being £11 and £10 15s., respectively.
– On the 8th May the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) asked the following questions : -
I am now in a, position to furnish the honorable member withthe following replies : -
Bill received from Senate, and (on motion of Mr. Atkinson) read a first time:
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 9. of 1924 - Australian Postal Linemen’s Union.
Nos. 10, 11, and 12 of 1924- Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 13 of 1924 - Australian Letter Carriers’ Association.
Nos. 14, 15, and16 of 1924-Australian Letters Carriers’ Association and Federated PublicService Assistants’ Association.
No. 17 of 1924- Australian Postal Assistants’ Union, Australian Letter Carriers’ Association, and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 67.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1924 - No. 10- Aboriginals.
Public Service Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 52.
Debate resumed from 9th May (vide page 569), on motion of Mr. Stewart -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
.- When this debate was adjourned on our last day of sitting, I was referring to certain criticisms which honorable members had made of the work at Canberra. It was stated that huge tunnels had been made at Canberra for sewerage purposes in excess of the requirements of the city. If the honorable member who made those remarks would consider the sewerage facilities in various cities of Australia, he would conclude that the provision being made at Canberra is quite modest. In Sydney, to my knowledge, there are four places with sewerage tunnels twice as large as the one at Canberra to which objection has been made. Criticism of a more or less sneering nature has been made of the engineers who were foolish enough, it was said, to take water down a shaft underneath the Mumimbidgee, and have it pumped out of another shaft on the other side of the river to provide the town with a water supply. Personally, I think that that was the wisest thing to do. Many people believe that if a pipe had been taken across the river it would have been in frequent danger of being broken by wreckage coming down the river in flood time. Complaint has also been made of the amount of money spent on the storage of water for use at Canberra. In having made the provision that has been made, the officers have taken only reasonable precautions. Such precautions are taken in most cities which have the necessary money and the foresight. Unfortunately, Sydney, which is the largest city in the southern hemisphere, has not a satisfactory water supply. For six months in the year restrictions are placed upon the use of water there. It is to be hoped that Canberra will never be in that unhappy position. Several other capital cities, and quite a number of provincial towns in Australia have only a limited water supply, which necessitates the authorities placing restrictions upon the use of water in the summer time. I consider that the proposal to appoint a Commission, under the conditions set out in this Bill, is an attempt on the part of the Government to evade its responsibilities. The present Government, probably more than any of its predecessors, has been guilty of attempting to evade its responsibilities. It is always trying, in one way or another, to make its job easier, and to hand over its troubles and worries to some other body. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) will merit severe censure if this Commission is appointed, because he is attempting to pilot the proposal through the House. If the present methodof controlling the Federal Capital Territory is not economical, the Minister for Works and Railways is at fault, and must bear the responsibility. If, on the other hand, the work is being done well by the present staff under the Advisory Committee, the appointment of this proposed Commission is quite unnecessary. This Commission will cost, in its first years, not less than £9,000 to £10,000 a year. The Minister has told us that it will be economical for us to appoint it. He, however, has made only a bald statement to that effect. Honorable members must face the position that it will be necessary for the Commission to save more than £10,000 a year in building bridges and culverts, in levying and collecting rates and taxes on the land, and in carrying on municipal government generally at Canberra before it will lessenthe expenditure there by a single penny. I would like to hear what the Minister has to say on this aspect of the subject. Some honorable members have already mentioned that if we determine to appoint this Commission it will be necessary to remove certain public officers from the control of the Public Service Commissioners, and place them under the control of this Commission. I believe that to do such a thing would be bad. I have had occasion to criticize adversely the Public Service Board, principally because the Government, under whose control it is for the time being, is Tory, Conservative, and anti-Labour, and “ stands for reducing wages and lengthening the hours of work. So long as the Public Service Board continues “to give effect to such a policy I shall criticize it. If a Labour Government were in power, the Public Service Board would not be able to act as it has done under the regime of the present anti-Labour Government. While honorable members on this side of the House have had good reason to criticize some of the actions of the Public Service Commissioners, that Commission is doing great service to the people of Australia. “Without such a Commission our Public Service would be chaotic. The present conditions are bad enough, but with the removal of more officers from their control matters would become worse. In the Northern Territory the policy of removing public officers from the control of the Commissioners has resulted in chaos, incompetence, and other undesirable features. The same thing could easily take place at Canberra. The powers of the proposed Commission are too great to be taken away from this House and handed to any man. For instance, the Commission would have power to levy and collect taxes. Can the Minister inform the House whether taxes arc being levied and collected properly at present? If not, what is the reason? And if the Commissions are not to levy and collect taxes, who will do it? Will such taxes be collected by the officers now performing the work? Again, is the work of constructing culverts, bridges, and levees being done satisfactorily at present? If there are no grounds for complaint with the present administration, why hand the work over to a Commission? Even if so handed over, would not the work still be done by the men at present carrying it out? If the public utilities at Canberra are not being carried out satisfactorily at present, what is the reason; and if there is no complaint respecting the present administration why the desire to change? Under a Commission not one bridge or culvert would be built, or one pound in taxes levied or collected, in any manner different from the present practice.
– Oh, yes, there would be. That is where the honorable member is making a mistake.
– The Minister has said that certain work is not being carried out satisfactorily. If that is so, he and his fellow Ministers are responsible. I do not want the Minister to ‘make statements of a “ cock-shy “ character in orderto bolster up his case. Under the present system this House exercises some control over the money expended at Canberra. If it is proposed to spend £1,000,000, or £3,000,000, there, every member of this House should have the right to vote for or against such expenditure as his conscience dictates. Probably no one in this House is more enthusiastic respecting the progress and development of Canberra, than myself, yet I would not vote for any measure to take from members of this House the right to criticize any matter affecting the Federal Capital Territory.
– The country sent the honorable member here with that responsibility.
– By this Bill, the’ right of members to discuss the expenditure of huge sums of money at Canberra is completely and definitely taken from them. I resent anything which would take power from this House and delegate it to irresponsible people. I do not use the word “ irresponsible “ in a derogatory sense; but the proposed Commission would not bo responsible tothe taxpayers. If the Commissioner or Commissioners should desire to raise £5,000,000 or £10,000,000 on loan, this House need not be consulted. One man, and one man alone - the Treasurer - is to be consulted. I am not prepared to trust either the Commissioners or the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in the floating of loans for thi3 particular work. Now, responsibility rests first with the Minister, then with the Government, and in the third place with this House. This great responsibility should not be removed from this Chamber. It is proposed that a book value shall be placed on all liabilities, and that the development of Canberra shall proceed on thoroughly business-like lines. With that I am in agreement to a certain extent, but there is a difference between taking over, say, the Postal Department as a going concern and the administration of Canberra in its early stages. The Postal Department can be treated as a business concern, but to administer Canberra strictly from a business point of view would be harmful to its progress and development. We might obtain men whose aim would be to produce a balance-sheet showing a profit during their lifetime, but that would not be in the best interests of the city. In order to attain that result, rents and taxes in excess of what was justified might be levied. The Commissioners might be obsessed with the desire- to make their expenditure from the beginning come as nearly as possible within the amount of the revenue received; but I consider that for ten or fifteen years the revenue of Canberra should not approximate the expenditure. It will be time enough 50 or100 years hence to expect profits from Canberra. To so administer that territory that it will show a profit in the next twenty years would not be in the best interests of the city. If this Bill is passed, the sale of land which is to take place in October next will not be subject to control by this House, but will be in the hands of the Commissioners. The fixing of rentals will also be in the hands of the Commissioners.
– Will the Commission have power to fix appraisements ?
– Full and complete power. The Commissioners might fix upon a sum that would prevent people froira buying land, and thus retard the growth of the Capital. There could be no such danger if that power were exercised by the Minister, who would be subject to criticism in this House. I am quite in earnest when I say that the outlook of the members of the proposed Commission might be such as would retard development. There is, of course, tagged to the Bill the usual power to make regulations, against which I have protested on many occasions. There is so much involved in the issue now before the House, so much affecting the development and prosperity of the Federal Capital, that the Bill should be complete in every detail. If, at any time, further powers are required by the Commission, every proposed extension of. them should be placed before this House, in the shape of an amendment of the Act, and be open to criticism by honorable members. That can be done. We do not know what regulations may be made. It is possible that, in his desire to evade responsibility by shifting it on to other shoulders, the Minister may bring down regulations conferring on the Commission greater powers even than are asked for in this measure. At present we have an Advisory Committee at Canberra. Honorable members, I am sure, will concur that it would be difficult to find fault with the work that- is being done there. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Austin Chapman), who is very intimately associated with the Capital, has admitted that good work is being done, and that everything is proceeding satisfactorily and economically.
– I do not think so.
– Well, I make the statement definitely.
– We differ in our opinions on that matter.
– The members of the Advisory Committee are doing their work well. It would not be done’ half so efficiently or economically by private enterprise, which, when it had its chance, fell down on the job.
– I am satisfied that no contractor would put in that tunnel for the same price.
– Take the sewerage scheme as a case in point. Gangs employed under the day-labour system are cutting through rock at a lower price than was asked by contractors.
– Cheaper than contract work before the war.
– The work is being well done, but in my judgment the wages paid are too low. The workmen are certainly being paid some 2s. to 3s. per day less than is paid for similar work in Melbourne, Sydney, and other capital cities of the Commonwealth, and their conditions of employment could and should be very much improved. They certainly would be improved under a Labour Government. I am not prepared to trust the Commission with complete power in this respect.
– The Commission would have to pay award rates.
– To a certain extent, yes.
– The workmen have their own award rates in Canberra.
– They have their own industrial tribunal, but under this Bill the Commissioners will have authority to inaugurate any industrial system they desire. There is another matter that deserves consideration; I refer to the conditions under which those who are doing the pioneering work in the Federal Capital have to live. For the first five years their housing conditions will not be at all convenient.
– Do you mean dating from now?
– I do. Circumstances associated with the development of the Capital will render it necessary for workmen and officials to live in boardiug-houses or hostels. In other words, they will be obliged, in many instances, to keep two homes going. Therefore, they should receive special consideration. The present practice is to write down 25 per cent. of the rental value of the houses occupied by them. I am not at all sure that if the Commission were given complete authority, occupants of houses at Canberra would not be compelled to pay a higher rent than was charged even in Melbourne or Sydney, where they might have been living prior to their transfer.
– Surely, if it were found necessary, restrictions could be placed upon the powers of the Commission at any time.
– That could be done by an amendment of the Act, but, as the honorable member for Fawkner must realize, to amend an Act often takes a great deal of time. If the Commission, with the desire to make a good business proposition of Canberra, begins to look for avenues whence revenue may be derived, it will probably raise the rentals of its houses. This will no doubt mean hardship to the people at present renting them. We are building cottages at Canberra, and I agree with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), that many of them are not satisfactory. I do not like their design, and the workmanship in some is bad. But speaking generally, there is good material and workmanship in them, and they have been built at a reasonable cost. I am not so blind that I am unable to see faults of design in some of- them, although some of the de signs are the work of a man whom I hold in very high esteem. Some are badly built, but this applies only to cottages built by contract. In the cottages built by day labour, the workmanship, material, and everything else are quite good. I do not think we are justified in incurring an expenditure cf £10,000 a year in the creation of a Commission to govern Canberra. No evidence was or can be given of inefficiency, waste or lack of proper administration at Canberra at the present time.
– With roads at £5,300 permile.
– Has the honorable member seen the road to which he refers?
– I have been on it.
– If such a road were built on the Blue Mountains, or in Gippsland, it would probably cost more. I admit that the honorable member can point to certain things at Canberra which do not meet with any one’s approval, but, generally speaking, the work there has been carried out efficiently. Neither the Minister nor any other speaker has proved inefficiency, waste, or incapacity at Canberra. I am not prepared to hand a responsibility which should be borne by the Government, the Minister, and this House to a Commission. I am not prepared to permit the borrowing of large sums of money by a Commission without the right of this House to review such transactions. I believe that to do so would be unwise, and that the Government proposal would be costly, and would lead to inefficiency, whilst the present staff now operating at Canberra are very likely to be the men who would be chosen by a Commission to carry out works there.
.- I am very glad that the Government has seen fit to introduce this Bill for the creation of a Commission to administer affairs at Canberra. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) sees nothing but harm in the Bill He objects that responsibility should be taken out of the hands of. this House and placed on the shoulders of three Commissioners. Personally, I think that it would be a great pity were the responsibility for the administration of Canberra to remain with this House. Upon the transference of the Seat of Government to Canberra we should, if the responsibility remained with this House, be called upon to legislate very largely on matters pertaining to ourselves. The construction of roads, instead of being considered in their relation to the progress of Canberra, might be considered in their relation to our own personal convenience. On the other hand, a Commission would be in a position to regard’ every work at Canberra in its relation to the city as a whole. For that reason, if for no other, government by commission is in my view the ideal form of government for Canberra. The charter of the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, was granted in 1802. From that date until 1878, many methods” of administration were tried. In 1802, a Mayor was appointed, first of all by the President of the United States of America. In 1812, the Mayor was elected by the people of the District of Columbia. In 1871, a form of government, consisting of a governor, a works board, a board of health, and other boards was ado.pted. None of these methods proved satisfactory, and in 1874, three Commissioners in whom were vested the entire control of the city were appointed. In 1878, four years after the appointment of the Commission, that form of ‘ government was found to be so satisfactory that it was made permanent. Since that time, 46 years have elapsed, and not oue word of complaint is raised to-day in Washington against the commission form of government. The Commissioners number three, of whom two must be residents of the District. The third is selected, and must be an officer of the engineering corps of the United States Army. The people of Washington, as honorable members will know, have uo say in the government of the District, they have no vote for Congress, they have no representative in either the Senate or the House of Representatives, nor are they given a vote for the Electoral College that brings about the election of a President of the United States of America.
– Does the honorable member agree with that?
– I do. It is unfortunate that the people of Washington should be denied these privileges, but in view of the fact that Congress is located in their very midst their denial of these privileges is the lesser of two evils. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) and others have criticized the construc tion of Canberra on the ground of expense. The fact that so much money has been and will be expended at Canberra is only another reason why wo should secure the services of three men who will carry out in an able manner the work to be done there.
– How does the honorable member know that they will be able men?
– It rests with those responsible for their appointment to see that they are able men. I am glad that the salaries proposed for them are on a scale which should permit of able men being secured. Might I say at this juncture that in my view the salaries paid to men in the employ of the Commonwealth Government, and who have done excellent service for this country, are really a reflection on the Commonwealth. The subject at present under discussion brings to my mind the case of Mr. Murdoch, the Government Architect. He is a man whose work will stand comparison with the work of architects all over the world. He has erected monuments to his capacity in all the capital cities of Australia, and in London itself. It is a great pity that we should pay this man and others associated with him such miserable salaries as we do pay them. Were they engaged in private practice they could increase their present incomes many times. The fact that they derive their greatest satisfaction from the works with which they are associated is the reason why they remain in the Commonwealth Service, and we are able to avail ourselves of their services. Melbourne is a city of which any people might well be proud. It was laid out in an excellent manner, but even Melbourne is today suffering from certain disadvantages. If those who planned this city could replan it to-day many things which they did would not be done, and many things which they omitted to do would be carried out. In Canberra we have a city in the making. It is true that a comprehensive plan had been prepared, and that the Advisory Committee and Government Departments responsible for carrying out works there are working to that plan, but it is essential that the policy of development should be continuous, and continuity of policy can only be secured under the Commission form of government. If we are to be dependent for work at Canberra upon a Ministry, no matter from what political party it may be selected, we shall have no assurance that a continuous works policy will he carried out there. It is for these reasons I support the Government on ‘ this measure. I am firmly convinced that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth and of Canberra itself, the Federal Capital Territory should be placed under a Commission. It behoves those responsible for the appointment of the Commission to see that the men appointed will be worthy of the positions they will hold, and will possess the training and ability necessary to enable them to carry out the work of building Canberra in the way it should be built.
.- When the vote for expenditure on Canberra was last before this House, I voted against it, because I believed that at the time we were not in a financial position to undertake it, considering our war and other indebtedness. I approach the consideration of this Bill with mixed feelings. Only twelve wise men voted against the last proposal for expenditure at Canberra, and Ave are now asked to vote for further expenditure there. Those who committed themselves and the country to expenditure at Canberra for the building of a temporary House of Parliament are now called upon to devise the best means of giving effect to their vote. In my opinion, the only way in which that can be done is by the appointment of a Commissioner. I would not appoint more than one. I think that one Commissioner should be ample, because, in my view, the development of the Federal Territory is a wild-cat proposition. I doubt whether the whole area of 900 square miles would carry one rabbit to the acre. I do not know how in the name of conscience honorable members expect to build a city on country so barren. Political gas will never make a city. Sydney is a splendid city which would be a suitable place in which to conduct our deliberations, and there are other places in which we could carry on the business of the country without incurring all the liability which is proposed in connexion with Canberra. I know that we are legally and morally bound by the constitutional agreement; but why should we be bound to those optimists who have gone, who seemed to think that the country around Canberra might be made productive, and to blossom as the rose? Why should future generations in Australia be penalized because of the optimism of those people? To my mind optimism means merely a mad man dreaming. There should be something tangible at the bottom of it, but there is nothing tangible at the bottom of Canberra. If the representatives of New South Wales in this House expressed the opinion of their constituents, they would rise in their places and sal that the undertaking is not worth while. It will be a millstone round the necks of the taxpayers for all time. If a plebiscite of the electors of New South Wales were taken, I feel certain that a two-thirds majority would even now declare against the scheme. Canberra will be a “ white elephant.” We are spending money hand over fist, for no tangible return. There is nothing to warrant it. Imagine building three-roomed houses for £1,100 each. These will need a return of £88 a year in order to pay the necessary expenses connected therewith. . The proposal to write down the cost by 25 per cent, will only add to . the burden which the taxpayers will have to bear in order that some people may live at Canberra. Canberra can never be a big city. The land surrounding it is too poor. I cannot understand why we should continue with the scheme. A majority of the members of this House decided in favour of it, however, and I feel that we must make the best of a bad job. I believe that a Commissioner is necessary to carry on the work, if it must be carried oh, and I feel compelled to vote for the second reading of the Bill. When it is in Committee, I shall move in the direction of providing for one, instead of three, Commissioners.
.- The speeches half favorable to this Bill that .have been delivered ought to be preserved in the archives of the Federal Parliament when it is moved to Canberra. With the exception of the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), and the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), I am not aware that a single member has supported the Bill unconditionally. During my fourteen years’ experience in this House, I have not known a Bill to be so roundly and soundly condemned without being withdrawn.
– Do not the speeches referred to look like support under pressure?
Mr.FENTON. - Yes. The Government is trying to save its face because it placed in the Governor-General’s speech a paragraph stating that it intended to put the Federal Capital under the control of a Commission. Having made a promise in that way, the Government regards it as unalterable, like the laws of the Medes and Persians. It feels that it must proceed even in the teeth of opposition. When the electors read the speeches of those who have agreed, conditionally, to support the Bill, they will want to know more about their attitude. The honorable members for New England (Mr. Thompson) and Corio (Mr. Lister) are labouring under, I will not say a delusion, but at least a misapprehension. They have brought into prominence the mistakes made at Canberra, and have omitted to say anything about what has been done successfully. It is well known to many of us that in the initial stages of the construction of the Capital, there were many irritating differences between officials. It is of no use to mince matters. There were differences with largely imaginary causes between the designer and others. Mr. Griffin’s design, however, is being carried out faithfully by all who have applied themselves to the task. The differences that occurred in the early stages were largely, if not wholly, responsible for the mistakes of which complaint is now made. There were times when certain people were allowed to have almost their own way. The Minister of the day allowed it, and big blunders occurred one after the other. There is now a different state of affairs. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), who has visited the Territory, must admit that never before has work there been carried out so satisfactorily. Certain people have been placed in responsible positions, and are working under the direction of the Minister, the Government, and Parliament. That happy and beneficial condition will be changed if the Bill is passed. I understand that the Bill will be considerably altered in Committee. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt), and a number of others, have agreed to vote for the second reading on condition that the number of Commissioners to be appointed be reduced to one. If that alteration be not made, the Government should suffer defeat on the third reading. Other honorable members have laid down other conditions. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) made a certain stipulation. So many conditions have been laid down during the debate that it is difficult to gauge the minds of the half-hearted supporters of the Bill. I find it difficult to imagine what will happen in Committee, and at the third-reading stage. In the interests of the taxpayers, in the interests of Canberra, and in the interests of economy, it would be wise to withdraw the Bill. It has met with such lukewarm support that it will emerge from the Committee stage a mere skeleton of its original form. The Minister would be well advised to announce his. intention to withdraw the Bill. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), if he had his hat on in the House, would throw it into the air upon hearing that announcement. Why incur further expense in altering administrative arrangements which are giving entire satisfaction? I was very pleased to hear the testimony of the honorable memberfor Fremantle (Mr. Watson), because he. occupies a free and independent positionin this House. He went to Canberra, looked at the works there, consulted officials and workmen, and returned abundantly satisfied that the best was. being done in the circumstances. Sosatisfied is he that he will vote against the second reading of the Bill, because he believes in leaving well alone. I join with those who have preceded me in condemning the Bill, because it will hand over too much power to the Commission. Under clause 14, the power of the Commission will be practically unlimited. The Minister may say that the Government or. Parliament can retain certain powersunder regulations which will be issued, but in the face of clause 14, it would seem that the Commission will be allpowerful. The Commission will not be under the Public Service Act. It will be able to establish a large Department, and appoint any one it likes. The honorable member for Oxley waxed eloquent about the qualifications of the Chief Architect of the Commonwealth. I have never heard any one, either inside or outside this House, say other than that Mr. Murdoch is one of the best servants the Commonwealth has.
– He may be good, but he has never won a competition in his life, and he helped to ruin Mr. Griffin, who won the competition for the design of Canberra
– I do not like making comparisons between individuals, but I say that, notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Griffin won that competition, he cannot be compared for general architectural work with Mr. Murdoch. At Australia House Mr. Murdoch found some of the leading London architects carrying out work which was capable of great improvement. He was able to suggest alterations which resulted in more floor space and a better building architecturally than would have been provided if the original design had been adhered to. The mistakes that have been made, and the money that has been wasted at Canberra, occurred largely under the hand of Mr. Griffin. The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has provoked that statement. I have tried to be generous, and I give Mr. Griffin every credit for his design. The officers whom he has assailed have striven to carry out that design. Some minor alterations will have to be made, and rightly so. Let honorable members look at some of the cuttings made at Canberra. On whose authority was that work done ? On whose authority were avenues spoiled by a cutting? Who erected bridges that were washed away ? I do not wish to go further into these matters, beyond saying that, if there has been waste at Canberra, it has occurred in those periods when certain people were given carte blanche to carry on the work. They have not occurred since Colonel Owen and other officers have been in responsible positions there. The Minister gave the best of all reasons why the Bill should not be passed when he testified to the fact that never before had the work been carried on so satisfactorily. Where, then, is the necessity for wasting £7,000 a year ? I know the Minister is prepared to give way on the question of the number of Commissioners. He has virtually promised that he will allow considerable amendments in Committee. ‘ Otherwise, apparently, the Bill would not get past the second reading. I am surprised that a man with a practical mind like that of. the
Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) should introduce such a Bill. I suppose he has told himself that he was not responsible for the paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech, and that if he had had an opportunity he might have struck it out. The House has spent several days discussing this Bill, and is still wasting time on it. Even if the Bill is passed it will not give the results which the Minister expects: When moving the second reading of the Bill, the Minister had a splendid opportunity of displaying that eloquence which sometimes characterizes his speeches, but he made only a few perfunctory remarks and clearly showed that he was half-hearted in this matter. He has’ since told honorable members that they may amend the Bill in this way and that, and there is a prospect that eventually he will not recognize the measure he introduced. The proposed Commission will have power to establish a big Department.
– There is a big Department at Canberra now.
– Two Departments are operating there, but in five minutes Cabinet could place the whole control of the Territory under the Department of Works and Railways, augmented by a few officers from the Department of Home and Territories, to carry out special duties. The contention that a Commission must be established in order to abolish dual control is so much “ bosh.” The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) referred to the Chief Architect (Mr. Murdoch). The Commission will have power to say that Mir. Murdoch, despite all his qualifications, must stand aside, and a new staff may be appointed to . carry out the work that is already being well done by existing officers. There is no limitation upon the’ power of the Commission to add to the number of persons receiving pay from the Commonwealth. The Commission can appoint whom it likes, how it likes, and when it likes.
– That is one of the strongest features of the Bill; it permits of independence.
– We have had experience of independent control in the past, and found it extremely costly. The Public Service of Victoria has been under the control of Commissioners since the early eighties, and we have learnt to appreciate the advantage of that system- over the old method of political patronage. Departmental patronage is even worse, and this Bill proposes to establish a Department that can distribute its patronage far and wide without any curb by a Public Service Board or other authority. One of the first acts of the Commission will beto comfortably house itself, with an expensive suite of offices and a staff for each Commissioner. Thus a new Department will be created at the expense of the taxpayers. Under the present system, not even the Prime Minister can appoint a man to the Public Service without the approval of the Public Service Board; but the Commission will be independent of the Board, the Minister, and Parliament. Government supporters may be prepared to establish such a body with unlimited powers, but they will not get the support of those honorable members who believe in a properly conducted Public Service. If the proposed Commission were the only body of its kind there might be less opposition to it; but Boards, Commissions, and Committees in charge of administrative functions are almost innumerable. The present Government has established a reputation for “ boarding out “ its responsibilities. Within the last few days members who have asked why certain things have been done have been told by the Prime Minister that Parliament created a Board with certain powers, and responsibility rests with that body, and not with Ministers. If a Commission is placed in charge of Canberra, honorable members will get the same reply when they endeavour to place responsibility upon Ministers. The control of the Federal Capital should be in the hands of the Minister for Works and Railways, whose Department should be strengthened by officers borrowed from the Home and Territories Department.
– For how long should they be borrowed.
– Indefinitely ; so long as there was work for them to do. Surely works at the Federal Capital will be carried out by the Department of Works and Railways. Or does the Minister think that the Commission will appoint a new staff of engineers and architects, and set aside all the officers of the Works and Railways Department? Certainly if the Commission chooses to adopt that policy the Government will have no power to prevent it. The Minister in charge of the Bill belongs to the so-called “economy party,” but apparently he thinks that the Commonwealth has money to burn.
– It is because I belong to the “economy party” that I am introducing this proposal to prevent overlapping and duplication.
– Have we reached such a pass that Cabinet cannot say whether one or two Departments should attend to a job? A resolution of Cabinet could abolish dual control immediately, and make one Minister responsible for all work in the Territory. The appointment of a Commission to achieve that result is like using a steam hammer to crack a nut. The party to which I belong, and some other honorable members, will vote against the second reading.
– The Opposition has decided to make this a party measure?
– Individual members of the Opposition may vote as they please; no decision has been arrived at by the party, but I believe that all the members on this side will vote against the proposed extravagance, and endeavour to preserve a proper conduct of affairs at Canberra. I opposed the proposal to establish the Federal Capital at Canberra so long as I saw a chance of my opposition being effective, butI must bow to the overwhelming decision of this Parliament. I have always thought that the section inserted in the Constitution regarding the State in which the Federal Capital should be established gives effect to a sordid bargain.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the present Government should repudiate the bargain?
– At no time have I suggested that the Capital site should be filched from New South Wales, but better sites than Canberra are to be found in that great State. I recollect that when the first vote towards the establishment of the Federal Capital was submitted to the House by the Fisher Government some Ministerial supporters opposed the measure all night, but the weight of numbers was against us. I believe that if the present arrangements at Canberra are allowed to continue, the Federal Parliament will be able to meet there at the end of 1925, or the beginning of 1926. When that time comes, Parliament, being on the spot, will be better able to determine what should be done to provide for the future control and management of the Territory. Many of the powers set out in this Bill should not be vested in any Commission. Clause 14, for instance, deals purely with local government matters. If we agree to the appointment of a Commission, it can only be a temporary body. In that circumstance, why not allow the present satisfactory arrangement to continue until a little more development has occurred ? I dare say that the Minister for Works and Railways will tell us that the first sale of Canberra leaseholds for business and other purposes will be held in October of this year, and that that will necessitate the appointment of some kind of Commission.
– Will the land in the Federal Capital Territory grow wheat?
– In Duntroon valley I saw one of the finest hay crops in stook that I have seen in my life. I admit that that is a select spot. The development of the Capital Territory is proceeding so satisfactorily at present that I can see no reason why we should interfere. If Parliament decides upon a Commission it is quite probable that a new man cf strong personality will be appointed. If he is a man with any brains he will undoubtedly have new ideas, and will attempt to introducethem. That will mean delay in the development, for present plans will have to be altered. Are honorable members prepared for that? Honorable members must remember, also, that the salaries of the Commissioners will be only a proportion of the full expense involved in appointing this Commission. As a former public servant, I know that no matter how great may be the desire for economy on the part of men who may be appointed to such positions as these, they will have a staff” around them in a very little while. The salary of the Commissioners will be only the initial cost of the Commission. A strong Commissioner will probably say, “ I think John Jones is a splendid architect, and if I have him with me I shall get on well.” John Jones will, therefore, be appointed to the staff. Another Commissioner may say, “ Tom Sullivan is an excellent engineer; he is the man I must have.” Tom Sullivan, therefore, is appointed, and so the thing goes on. The Minister cannot prevent the appointment of a large staff. If he should say, “ You must not appoint these men,” the Commissioners could reply, “ You have handed over to usthe power to appoint our own staff, and we intend to do it. We shall carry out the work as we wish, and not as you wish. We have undertaken responsibility, and we claim the right to choose our own officers.”I warn the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) that there will be no Public Service Board to prevent this Commission from appointing a large staff. The Commissioners will be influenced by their own sweet will, and no honorable member cf this House will be able to make any effective criticism of the expenses that may be incurred. I can see a big Department growing up which will be independent of this House, and of the Public Service Board. I guarantee that if this Commission is appointed we shall hear complaints in this House within twelve months about its work, and the Commissioners will be able to laugh at those who complain. They will be able to say, “ You gave us the power, and you have no right to interfere with us. We are in control. You mind your own business.”
– Does the honorable member seriously suggest that any responsible Commission would talk like that?
– The Government propose to give the Commission such powers as would enable them to adopt such an attitude. Dangerous power will be given to the Commission if the proposals of this Bill are agreed to. What will the electors say to us if we pass this measure? I can imagine them saying, “Did you, Fenton, and Stewart, in a time of sanity, hand over such great powers to a Commission that they can defy Parliament and the Public Service Board? If you did so, you failed to realize the responsibility that was placed in your hands when you were elected.” I do not remember any Bill which proposed to vest such great powers in an outside body. I cannot get away from the fact that the development of the Territory is proceeding so satisfactorily that we have no justification whatever for considering such a measure as this. When I visited the Federal Capital Territory years ago with the then Minister for Home Aif airs (Mr. King O’Malley), rabbits overran the country. The area, from a grazing point of view, was absolutely valueless. A large expenditure on wire netting was made, and to-day reasonable rents are being collected for leases of parts of the Territory. One or two officers have been able to do all that is necessary to arrange the leases and collect the rents. Does the Minister for Works and Railways suggest that, because it is proposed to sell 200 or 300 leases a Commission must be appointed ? Practically the only duty which this Commission will have, other than the duties which are at present being discharged by the body responsible for the administration of Canberra, will be the selling of these leases and the collection of the rents. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) may lay the flattering unction to his soul that by taking the administration of Canberra out of the hands of Parliament, and putting it in the hands of an independent body, he will be saving public money. My experience prevents me from imagining any such thing. If this Commission is. appointed, we shall have to face the .expenditure of £7,000 a year in salaries, plus the cost of a suite of nice offices, and a large staff of officers. I have endeavoured to look at this measure from every stand-point, and I have failed to find any reason whatever for its introduction. Even when honorable members on this side of the chamber read in the Governor-General’s speech the paragraph which forecasted this Bill, they did not believe that the Government would have the audacity to introduce it. Still, it is here, and I am afraid that the whip ‘has been cracked, and the second reading will be. agreed to. What kind of a Bill will emerge from the Committee stage, no honorable member can say; but I think that it will be such a miserable fragment of the Bill now before us that the Minister for Works and Railways will realize how unsatisfactory it must be, and ask honorable members to vote against the third reading. I hope that common sense will prevail. I have no doubt whatever that the party whips have been cracked, otherwise the Bill would have been withdrawn, and we should not be wasting our time discussing it. In some way supporters of the composite Ministry have been cajoled into voting for the second reading. They have been given an undertaking that certain amendments will be made. Even before the measure was introduced, it was known that there would be strong opposition to it, and had a vote been taken on the Bill a few days ago it would have been defeated. The position became so acute that the Government Whip (Mr. Marr) found it necessary to deliver a “ stone-walling “ speech. I heard that speech, and I have “since analyzed it. I have come to the conclusion that it contains the best reasons we have had for voting against the measure. I do hod know what arrangement has been made with the two sections supporting this composite Ministry. I dare say that the Minister for Works and Railways went to his group, and said, “We stated in the GovernorGeneral’s speech that this Bill would be introduced. If you will agree to the second reading, we will agree to amendments. Let us pass the second reading, and you can do as you like with it in Committee. We must get some kind of a Bill through.” I suppose, also, that the Government Whip went to the section of the Ministry with which he is associated, and said something of a similar nature. If that is to be the system by which responsible government is to be carried on in this Parliament, and honorable members are to be cajoled into agreeing to the second readings of measures with which they heartily and absolutely disagree, things have reached a pretty pass. I felt that it was necessary for me to indicate my views on the matter, because the time does not seem very far distant when we shall be meeting, not in the salubrious atmosphere of Melbourne, but in the rarer atmosphere of Canberra. Mistakes have been made at Canberra, but I assure the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), and other honorable members who hold his views, that if we agree to the appointment of this Commission we shall make another mistake.
– I have always been opposed to the whole thing, lock, stock, and barrel.
– The only conclusion one could reach after listening to the speech of the Minister for Works and Railways, is that the work at Canberra is going ahead satisfactorily. In that circumstance I, as one who desires to prevent the spending of the taxpayers’ money in unnecessary ways, felt that I must protest against this Bill. The Federal Capital will cost enough under the most favorable conditions, and we are not entitled to incur unnecessary expense.
– lt will cost a lot more if we allow things to go on as at present.
– I think that the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is quite wrong. The Minister informed us in his second-reading speech that never in the history of the construction of the Federal Capital had things progressed so satisfactorily as under the present regime. . That also is the testimony of honorable members who are opposed to the Canberra proposition altogether. I cannot resist reminding the honorable member for Riverina that this satisfactory state of affairs is the result of day labour. If we had allowed the contractor to come in, the work would not have been in anything^ like the same pleasing condition. I shall have exceptional pleasure in voting against the second reading of this Bill, because 1 believe that in so doing I shall be conserving the interests of the taxpayers aud doing the best. thing for Australia. I would much rather, however, that the Minister for Works and Railways would withdraw the measure. That would be the most satisfactory thing he could do. It would please honorable members of every party.
.- My attitude to the construction of the Federal Capital is the same now as it always has been. I consider’ that, in view of the heavy debt which Australia is carrying, and the trying experiences through which we have recently passed, the building of the Federal Capital is a national calamity. This Parliament should not have permitted the squandering of the taxpayers’ money upon it. However, Parliament has agreed that the work shall go on, and the time for effective opposition has passed. In view of all the circumstances, I heartily and strongly support the appointment of the Commission as proposed in this Bill. I feel that such a body will have just a little of that independent spirit which has been so characteristic of the builders of Australia. They will be able to do better work and save a considerable sum of money. ‘ I hope the Minister will not give way to the request to cut down the number of Commissioners. Our experience of “ one-man shows “ in the past proves’ that there is safety in numbers. But while I favour a Commission of three, I suggest that one only should be a permanent officer, and for that position weshould obtain the very best man available. The other two members should be paid fees for each sitting of the Commission. The experience of Washington, in theUnited States of America, referred to by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), is a lesson that we may well read, learn, and inwardly digest. Washington was at first controlled by a Commission, but afterwards a municipal council was appointed to administer the affairs of the city. Finally, there wasa Commission appointed, and that system of control is in operation there at present. That method is likely to prove a success here also. ‘ A Commission would not weaken the power of theMinister in any direction. Its memberswould be responsible to the Minister, who would have power to veto the whole of itsrecommendations. No one would ask a. Minister to deal with the whole of the details in connexion with the administration of the city of Melbourne - questions concerning roads, drains, sewerage, lighting, rates, and a thousand and one other matters - and it requires but very littleconsideration to convince us that the administration of Canberra would be much’ safer in the hands of a Commission. Reference has been made to wire-pulling; there is very much less danger of that under a Commission than under the present system. At Morwell we have in charge a man who has done excellent work, which we all greatly appreciate. That ‘work could not have been carried out so well if Sir John Monash had been subject to control by a Minister. InVictoria we have also the Roads Board Commission, a body which has done excellent work. There is also the Shipping Board, which I feel sure will be a vast improvement on the old regime. We have in these Boards strong precedents for the appointment of a Commission to administer the Federal Capital Territory. In the eight years since 1915, during which the Public Works Committee has functioned, there has been a saving in connexion with Canberra alone of £689,722. That shows the value of investigation by a Committee of this nature. The proposed expenditure on a storage and regulating reservoir was £100,000. The Public Works Committee reported against that altogether, and saved the whole amount. The expenditure recommended by the Committee in connexion with railways at Canberra was £280,000, a saving of £98,972 on the estimate of £378,972. For dams for ornamental waters an expenditure of £912,421 was proposed. This amount the Committee reduced to £472,421, a saving of £440,000. The estimate for the construction of the hostel was £98,750, which the Committee recommended should he reduced to £62,000, a difference of £36,750. For the erection of an officers’ hostel the expenditure proposed was £39,000. The recommendation of the Committee represents a saving of £14,000 on that amount. The jurisdiction of the Public Works Committee is confined to works estimated to cost over £25,000. Many works have been effected at Canberra, the estimated cost of which was less than the sum mentioned, and one can easily imagine what an enormous saving might have been effected in these works also. I agree with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) that the cost of the buildings at Canberra has been altogether too great. An independent Commission, free to act without waiting for a ruling from the Minister or Cabinet, might have saved a great deal of that cost. It is not improbable .that a strike will result from the excessive cost of these buildings, and that a reduction of rent will be asked for. If that should occur, there will be no alternative but to grant the reduction or increase the wages of the workmen. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) referred to the value of the land in the Federal Capital Territory. The honorable member may be an excellent judge of coal, but he requires some experience in following the plough and garnering the results of his labour before he is a good judge of land. Canberra comprises approximately 900 square miles of territory. About one-third only of that area is fair land, worth probably £5 per acre. Another third is poor land - second class. The remaining jone-third comprises a tract of poor land covered with hills, not worth what it would cost to kill the rabbits on it, which I would not take as a gift. The 900 square miles, as a whole, is as poor an area as could be found almost anywhere in New South Wales or Victoria, that is, cutting out the mountains.
– That is a very risky statement to make.
– It is a very true statement. I understand that two members of this House proposed to establish a cherry plantation at Canberra, but when they sought advice they found that cherries would not grow there. Two other friends of mine contemplated establishing a milk-round at Canberra in their spare time, but when they considered that the bricklayers’ award of 28s. per day might be .applied to the dairymen, the project fell through. They considered it would be as well to hand over the cows as to pay that. Some others proposed to take up vinegrowing, but they afterwards discovered that grapes would not ripen at Canberra. And so it goes on. If Parliament were meeting there now, the moment the House rose I would catch the first train home. And if there was a flying machine I would take that in order to get away more quickly. Those persons - Ministers included - who speak so glowingly of Canberra, will take the earliest opportunity to get back to their snug homes in the capital cities of the various States. They will only remain at Canberra while compelled to do so, and the Commonwealth offices in Sydney will be in reality the centre of government in the future.
– I thought the honorable member was supporting the Bill.
– I am supporting it to a far greater extent than is the honorable member. The measure has my support, because I believe that this Commission would save thousands of pounds. If it is appointed we shall not again hear of the wash-away of three bridges, or of bungling in respect to the buildings, nor will we find a whole hill cut away in order to construct a street. If papers showing the losses caused through the bungling and worse which has occurred in the past were placed on the table of this House, they would be such an eye-opener to tho taxpayers of this country that they ifould feel as disgusted with Canberra as is the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford). .1 agree with the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) that to pump water so many miles for the future Capital of Australia is a grave reflection on the capacity of the members of previous Governments.. It passes my comprehension that a scheme to provide both power and water could not have been devised. However, I feel that we are only beating the air, and that now we have to get down to “tin tacks.” I intend to support the major portion of the Bill. Some slight amendments may be necessary, but I hope that the Minister will see to it that the Government have reasonable representation on the Commission, because I feel sure that under wise administration it will be possible to save this country many thousands of pounds, especially if, subsequently, we have on the Treasury bench a Ministry not so solicitous as the present Government in the matter of public expenditure. The Bill is deserving of support in that it will secure the control of the purse, and, I hope, prevent extravagance at Canberra.
– 1 was rather surprised to hear honorable members, returned to this Parliament as the exponents of economy, make the startling announcement that they intended to support this proposal to create a Commission of three men who may receive £7,000 a year in salaries. It has been said that if you put a Government official in a room with a typewriter, it will not be long before he has gathered a Department around him. Probably, the gentleman whom it is intended to bring into the ‘ service of the Commonwealth will not prove an exception. The honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Cook), and other honorable members opposite, criticized the Capital city proposal instead of the Bill. Metaphorically speaking, they have been flogging a dead horse. The question of establishing the Federal Capital at Canberra was decided many years ago. Opposition to the proposal is now, in the main, confined to Victorian members, because the fulfilment of this obligation means that some .measure of convenience, which the Victorian members have enjoyed for over twenty years, will be given to New South Wales. At present, Victorian business men and members living in Melbourne are able to jump on a tram and in a very short time reach the Parliament House, or to approach Ministers on departmental business, whereas New South Wales business men and members from other States are obliged to make a long journey, at considerable expense to themselves, to interview Ministers, or to carry out their legislative duties. Victorian members object to the Seat of Government being transferred to New South Wales territory simply because they are hostile to the removal of the Capital from Melbourne. They would like to see it remain in this city for all time. From their point of view one can understand, and perhaps admire, the stand which they take; but that is not a legitimate reason why the Seat of Government should not be moved to Canberra. Practically, every member in this and the last Parliament who objected to work being carried on at Canberra had not visited the Federal Capital. It is remarkable that, when any of them did, upon their return they admitted that hitherto they had been misled in regard to the suitability of the site and the value of the land adjacent to the Capital. There is no necessity to wastes time reviewing the arguments that have been brought against the establishment of the Capital City at Canberra. It is admitted that the Seat of Government should be removed from the dominating influence of any of the State capitals. We have all heard honorable members express opinions in this House, indicating that their vote would be given in a certain direction, and, after they had read the criticism in the Melbourne press next morning, we have known them to entirely reverse their attitude. There is no occasion now to traverse the reason why we, should legislate in a capital entirely free of State influence. Certain honorable members have said that there is no occasion to establish a Federal capital at all, or to spend any money on such a project.’ According to conservative ideas, such as they espouse, there is no need to do anything. If they had lived in the stone age there would have been no progress: Their ideas in progress and- prosperity are governed entirely by the surplus at the disposal of a Government, or by their own individual bank balances. Anything that makes for progress, or the betterment of the conditions of the people would certainly be objected to by them if it involved public expenditure. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) directed attention to the wages paid to the workmen . at Canberra. I guarantee that if he were one of them he would demand the wages paid to bricklayers there, and from what we know of him, we can rest assured that he would drive a’ hard bargain - harder perhaps than any man there. I am at a loss to understand what his remarks under this head had to do with the Bill now before the House. I imagine that any expenditure which may be incurred by the Advisory Committee must also be incurred by the Commission, if the work is to go on. The Commission will not Le able to prevent necessary expenditure. For myself, I can say that, taking all things into consideration, we are getting good value for the money expended at Canberra, and that we are creating an asset that will be of great value to the Commonwealth. Whatever the Commission may be able to do in regard to finance may be done by the Minister. Matters are proceeding smoothly and satisfactorily. There are probably fewer labour disputes at Canberra than in connexion with any other similar undertaking in Australia. Every one who’ has visited the place is, I think, satisfied with the work that is being done there. Admittedly, the officers of the Department have experienced great difficulty in getting men to work and live continuously under ‘the conditions inseparable from the establishment of a new city. Therefore, it is to their credit that the work has been carried on so well up to the present. Of course, there has been criticism of the workmen, but it has emanated from men whose opinion carries no weight with me, because all their lives they have been against the interests of the workers, and they are never satisfied. Men of their class, even when they could get workmen for less than 15s. a week, were discontented, and affected to believe that the men were not so good as in the days gone by. As long as life lasts, we shall have these people, who are never satisfied. Consequently their criticism concerning the progress of work at Canberra loses much of its force. They suggest that it is a city of foundation stones. We all know ‘that, but for the war, Canberra would have been the Seat of Government many years ago. Unfortunately, many people are only too prone to criticize anything that is attempted by th-3 Government. In this case,, they suggest that, because work at the Federal Capital has been held up for various reasons, the proposition itself is. inherently bad. I do not agree with them. I believe that Canberra will be a model city for the world. Although other capital cities of the Commonwealth have progressed wonderfully, their general layout is not such as one might reasonably expect in a country like Australia. The honorable member for Indi also has had something to say concerning the quality of the land in the Federal Territory. Hetold us that it would not grow cherries. I saw some good orchard lands there, and I was both surprised and delighted at the excellence and variety of the fruit that is grown there. The fact that the land will not grow on© particular kind of fruit is no reason why the entire Territory should be condemned as unproductive. My opinion of the land at Canberra, formed after a lifetime of experience of land, is that there is no- better mountainous land in any part of Australia where the climate is similar.
– What is the sheepcarrying capacity of the country?
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. R. Cook) says it is second-class country. The sheepcarrying capacity of any country depends largely upon the regularity of the rainfall. In favorable seasons.it is almost impossible to overstock some country in my electorate, whilst in bad seasons it will practically carry no stock. There is no doubt that’ the Canberra country is excellent wool-growing country. Land in the vicinity of the Federal Territory has grown some of the highest-priced wool sold in Australia. It is sound country for sheep, and the results of the nursery established by the Federal Government show that it is first-class orchard land. The Queanbeyan district possesses country upon which the banks will advance as much money per acre as they will on any other land in Australia. It is one of the soundest districts in Australia. I do not say that it is like the heavy-carrying country of the black soil plains or the volcanic country of the New England
Ranges, but it is certainly not the worthless country which the honorable member for Indi invited honorable members to believe.
– I never said anything of the sort. I classified the land.
– The honorable member said that he would not take some of it at a gift.
– That is so.
– I can only say that land-holders in the Queanbeyan district, who know the Canberra country, do not agree with the honorable member, because when any land is available there is always a number of applicants for it.
– For the skulls of the hills ?
– The skulls of the hills are not typical of the rest of the country. What acreage does the honorable member think is comprised in the skulls of the hills around Canberra? The honorable member talks of the establishment of the Federal Capital at Canberra as a national calamity. I do not agree with him, but I think that if the whole of the members of this House were men of his calibre, it would be a national calamity. His observations concerning the Federal Capital were entirely wide of the mark. The question which is before us now is whether a Commission is necessary for the building and administration of Canberra. In my opinion it is not. The powers proposed to be given to the Commission could bo vested in the Minister for Works and Railways, who would be responsible to this Parliament.I am prepared to accept responsibility for any vote I give in connexion with Canberra. It is to be noted that Victorian members of the Labour party do not show the hostility to Canberra which is shown by Victorian members of other political parties in this House. They realize that we must comply with the terms of the Constitution, and they support the building of Canberra. Honorable members should remember that there are many millions of pounds locked up in Canberra, and anything that will hinder the construction of the city will only delay the return from that money, whilst we will have to go on paying high rates for expensive offices in Melbourne. I do not approve of the creation of independent commissions with a right to spend public money. We should not make any commission independent of this Parliament. In a couple of years’ time we. shall be meeting at Canberra, and then the eyes of the 111 members of the Parliament will be turned upon everything that is done there. It may be that the whole of the members will be in agreement in regard to the construction of a certain work, but the Commission, if appointed under this Bill, will be able to snap its fingers at us and say that it was deliberately made independent of Parliament, and will not carry out the work. We had some experience of this kind in the administration of Railways Commissioners who have been made independent of Parliament. I have lived for some time in one of the most inconvenient portions of the back country of New South Wales, and I know that it is because the New South Wales Railways Commissioners are independent of the State Parliament that that district has been given so little consideration. If one of these independent commissioners proves to be a bad administrator he can only be removed after compensation has been given to him for loss of salary for the remainder of the term for which he was appointed. The average life of this Parliament is less than three years, and anything ‘we do we should be prepared to stand by. Houorable members on thisside have sufficient confidence in the men they appoint as Ministers, but honorable members opposite apparently do not possess the same confidence in their Ministers. The people elect their representatives to this House, and if the dominating political party elects Ministers to carry on the government of the country it should have sufficient confidence in them’ to believe that they will carry out their work properly. I do not think we shall do better by appointing outsiders to administer Canberra than by making the Government carry its rightful responsibility in this connexion. Commissions appointed by Governments, representing the party opposite, have proved unsatisfactory. The War Service Homes Commission is an example of an independent commission that cost this country thousands of pounds, and squandered the people’s money. If these independent commissions involve the country in enormous loss we have to vote the money in this House to make it good. If we accept responsibility for voting public moneywe should carry the responsibility for the work upon which it is spent. We should also consider what will be the position of those who will reside at Canberra.. It is entirely wrong to give to an independent commission the power to levy and collect taxes upon people in the Federal Capital Territory, because we shall not be in a position to remove the commissioners if they are guilty of maladministration, or spend money unwisely. Clause 14 of the Bill proposes to give to the Commission power to levy and collect rates upon lands in the territory alienated from the Crown, and lands held under lease from the Crown. If I acquire a block of land in the Territory, and builda house upon it, I shall be levied upon for rates by the Commission, and if I am not satisfied with its administration I shall not be in a position to get it altered. This means taxation without representation, which always leads to trouble. The Minister for Works and Railways should tell us who are to bc the Commissioners appointed under the Bill.
– I do not know.
– We are asked to hand over very wide powers to commissioners, and we do not know who they are to be. Are they friends of the Government who must be placated? Are they gentlemen who will have pull or influence with any party? Will they be appointed becausethey are good supporters of the Nationalist or Country parties? Will they secure appointment merely because they are men who have held high military rank?
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should select the Commissioners before we pass the Bill.
– We should not be asked to vote blindly. It would clear the atmosphere considerably if the Minister could indicate who are to be the Commissioners.
– Was that course followed when the Commonwealth Bank Bill was being passed?
– Those who passed the Commonwealth Bank Bill secured for the management of the Bank a man who every one admits was the best man the Government could have found for the job.
– Was the practice which the honorable member suggests followed on that occasion.
– The trouble is that in the appointment of Commissions the party opposite appears to secure the worst, and not the best men.
– The honorable member should be an optimist for once.
– We cannot be optimistic concerning persons appointed to Commissions by the present Government, because we have had so many disappointments in the past. It would be fair if Parliament having passed this Bill were asked to appoint the Commissioners. Let this Parliament decide by open vote who should be the Commissioners, and let each honorable member carry the responsibility for his vote. Honorable members opposite are assuming that they are going to be satisfied with the Commissioners who will be appointed under this Bill, but I do not assume anything of the kind. If we are to be guided by past experience, we can assume that the Commission proposed by this Bill will do many things we do not want it to do, and will refuse to do many things which, obviously, should be done. We have a Water and Sewerage Board in Sydney, and, yet, as the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) pointed out, Sydney is practically a waterless city for four or five months in the year.
– Sydney people speak of the Board as the “ No Water Board.”
– The Board is popularly known in Sydney as the “ No Water Board.” If we consider that certain roads should be constructed at Canberra, and their construction is obviously necessary, the members of the Commission being made independent of Parliament will be in a position to ignore us, and say that they will not construct those roads. I strongly object to passing a Bill to make provision for an independent Commission to levy rates and taxes upon people who will not have power to remove the members of the Commission. It is a monstrous proposal, and members of this Parliament, if they agree to it, will have to meet much adverse criticism from residents of the Capital Territory. We are assured by the Minister that we can do what we like with the Bill when it is in Committee.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– Then I assume that the Minister will stand by the proposal that the Commission shall levy rates and taxes. Such a proposal departs from the avowed principles of honorable members opposite, who say that they want adequate control of the public purse strings. Parliament cannot have proper control if it allows an outside body to levy rates and taxes. On that ground alone the Bill stands condemned. I speak from the stand-point of a layman, but no doubt legal members will be able to find more faults in the Bill. If it is necessary to have an independent Commission to control or overlook the work of officers, it would be’ very easy, as soon as Parliament sits at Canberra, or even now, to nominate gentlemen from the Parliament with as much experience as those who will be appointed to the Commission, to act in an honorary capacity. An honorary commission could be appointed to assist and advise the Minister. Satisfactory appointments could be made from the 111 members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are men from all walks of life in this Parliament, and many of them would be only too glad to assist tho Government in building the Capital wisely. That being so, I fail to see why we should create a new Department, which will cost £7,000 per annum for the salaries of the Commissioners alone, and probably £20,000 or £30,000 per annum eventually for their Department. The Minister may say that he docs not think it will.
– I would not say so, for it is costing that amount now.
– Seven thousand pounds, at least, will be added to the present cost if we pass the Bill. It will not be possible to wipe out the old Departments, for the Minister must have some staff there. I cannot see the necessity for overloading the Territory with administrative Departments. The population in the first three years will probably not amount to more than 5,000 or 6,000 people. In that period it will cost £21,000 for the salaries of the Commissioners, or over £3 per head of the population. It is said that the Commissioners will be only part-time officers. I am quite certain that they will find enough work to employ themselves during their whole time. If the Minister feels that he must have assistance to build the Capital, he should adopt my suggestion and appoint an honorary Commission. The building of Canberra is not a party matter. There are members on both sides of the House who are in favour of building the Capital and of removing Parliament from Melbourne at the earliest possible moment. The Minister might at least give consideration to my proposal. It would- reduce expenditure. He could ask us to nominate gentlemen to assist him. I cannot understand why he has brought forward this Bill unless, he feels that the responsibility he now carries is too great for him. He stated that he had every confidence in his officers. He can give to the Commission no power that he does not already possess. Parliament would give any power to the Minister that it would give to the Commission. We shall have to pay for the Commission’s failures, and I am certain that it will make failures. I have every confidence in the present administrative officers. The workmen who are there are rendering every possible help in building the Capital efficiently. Every one is satisfied with what is being done. Members on this side of the House wish to give every assistance, but in view of the heavy taxation imposed on the people, there is no justification for the appointment of a paid Commission. Honorable members who sit in the corner came into this Parliament ostensibly to reduce expenditure. It is difficult to reconcile their pre-election promises with their attitude on this Bill. If there were any general dissatisfaction with the administration, or any glaring evidence of maladministration, one could understand the need for the Bill. The Minister has had no general complaint from members of this Parliament regarding his administration of the Capital Territory. We have been completely satisfied with him and his officers. We feel that he has honestly endeavoured to do his best. The implied condemnation has come entirely from his own supporters. That implied condemnation is one of the severest strictures that could be made upon him. I would have thought that he would have been up in arms, and would have refused to introduce the Bill. I would have expected him to say, -“-I am competent to carry on this work myself.” Were I in his position I would certainly have to consider the question of my resignation. He must have lost faith in himself.
– He knows that he cannot administer Canberra from Melbourne.
– But he says he has complete confidence in his officers. Honorable members on the Government side who have announced their intention to support the Bill have said that the work may not require the services of fulltime Commissioners. That being so, the Minister should be able to do the job. What is wrong with the officers who have been doing the work ? If a man be brought from outside, and if he be a “world beater,” such as he is expected to be, he will probably upset the present arrangements and make things uncomfortable for the men who are there. He will, perhaps, desire to introduce his own pals. Under the Bill the present employees of the Government will lose the protection of the Public Service Act. A Commissioner could, if he liked, pretend that the men were unsatisfactory and discharge them. One can readily imagine that these so-called “strong men “ who will compose the Commission may have many pals who will want jobs. If necessary, the Commissioners may not hesitate to get rid of men who are occupying the jobs that are wanted for their friends. I do not say that they will do so, but it is a possibility. Since the war we have been endeavouring to get back to parliamentary control of the public purse. The Bill will take that control away and hand it over to a so-called independent - or should I say impudent? - Commission. The Commission will probably mistake impudence for independence. Parliament should retain full control of the public purse. I am surprised that honorable members of the Corner party are blindly following the Government and departing from the professed principles upon which they were elected. In the last Government they said that Parliamentary control of the public purse had disappeared, and that was their chief objection to the Hughes administration. They are now violating that principle by supporting this Bill. Up to date the Government has done very little but go into recess. If it could go into recess next week it would do so, because while,,. Parliament is sitting, they are afraid that accidents may happen. One of the first measures introduced by the Government is this Bill, which proposes to take away the power of Parliament to control the public purse. The effect of the Bill may “ be the same as that of other Bills which have been passed hurriedly. The only thing we did not foresee in connexion with the other Bills was the enormous amount of bungling and expense that they would create. Members on this! side of the House are enthusiastic supporters of Canberra.
– What about Mr. Yates ?
– The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) voiced some helpful criticism the other day. We can afford to pass over his jovialities. I feel confident that he looks at the matter from the same point of view as certain Victorian members. When he is in Melbourne he is within a day’s travel of his electorate. If Parliament is moved to Canberra he will have to spend two days in the train, as Brisbane members do now, to travel to or from his electorate.
– The views expressed by the members of the Opposition may differ, but their votes will not. .
– The Federal Capital is a non-party question, and the honorable member for Adelaide is free to vote as he pleases. Will the Minister say that he will not crack the party whip over his followers in the corner ? Rumour says that he has already done so. Honorable members on this side of the House are prepared to accept responsibility for expenditure upon the Federal Capital. If, after the next election, a Labour Ministry is in office, it will not seek to throw its financial responsibili ty upon the shoulders of an independent Commission. Mr. King’ O’Malley, when Minister for Home and Territories, never asked that’ his powers be delegated ; he was prepared to meet the obligations devolving on his office. One is bound to assume that honorable members opposite fear that a Labour Ministry may soon be in control of the reins of government, and they seek, by means of the proposed Commission, to prevent the possibility of a sympathetic administration df the Federal Capital expenditure. Even if I represented a State other than New South Wales, I would still’ be- an enthusiastic supporter of Canberra. The sentiments of honorable members of this Parliament should be broad and national; but we are hearing too much of the parish pump, and the narrow parochial view. Although we on this side desire Canberra to be speedily developed into a living reality, we are not prepared to wastefully expend public money by the creation of a Commission for which there is no justification. When the Minister seeks the suffrages of the electors, he tells them that he is competent to fill any position in Parliament, and I have no doubt that he thinks he would be an excellent Prime Minister. Yet he baulks at the first hurdle of Ministerial responsibility, and tries to throw his obligations in regard to Canberra on to the shoulders of an independent body. Members of the Labour party contend that the control of public expenditure should remain with Parliament.
– There have been many departures from that.
– There is no reason why we should be hide-bound by precedent. If we have made mistakes in the past it is possible to mend our way3, even at this late hour. Honorable members in the Ministerial corner boasted that one purpose of their party was to restore parliamentary control of the purse, yet, by nearly every vote, they take the public purse away from the control of Parliament. They should show more confidence in themselves and their Ministers, and retain the financial reins in their own hands. If I heard of waste at Canberra, I would be one of the first to condemn those responsible, hut what will be the use of criticizing and condemning -a Commission after it has been appointed for a definite term of years? Even if we discharged the Commissioners, we probably should have to compensate them and take the risk of costly litigation. Some honorable members profess to be in favour of one Commissioner, but others say that there is safety in numbers. If we should appoint three Commissioners, why not appoint ten, or a dozen, or even 75? Today there is a direct connexion through Ministers and the Parliament between the taxpayers who find the money and the officials who expend it. But when control is handed over to a Commission, Ministers will disclaim all power and re sponsibility, and the parliamentary representatives of the people will have to go cap in hand to the Commission to get anything done. If a Commission must be appointed, let the Minister be chairman of it. I believe that he can obtain gratuitously the advice of the best architectural and engineering brains in New South Wales. In a couple of years, the whole Parliament will be at Canberra, and the Minister will be constantly on the job to see that the work is being carried out satisfactorily. In view of that fact,- it is difficult to comprehend why the Government proposes to take from Parliament the control of public’ expenditure in the Federal Capital. Honorable members on this side of the House will oppose the Bill at every stage. Apart from the objection to the surrender of the control of the purse, we feel that the rights of the future residents of the Capital City should be preserved, and that there should not be a radical departure from the accepted principle of representative government - “ No taxation without representation.” Members are the trustees of the public estate, and they should be more careful in handling the people’s money than in handling their own. No man would place the expenditure of his own funds beyond his control in the way that some honorable members are proposing to place the expenditure of the public money beyond the control of the people’s trustees. I am surprised that so-called business men should thus throw business principles to the wind. Some honorable members are so blinded by party prejudice that they are not prepared to do what is right in the interests of the people by retaining to this Parliament full control over public expenditure at Canberra.
.- Having just returned from the salubrious climate of the future garden city of Canberra to a city which has not seen the sun shine for several days, I support with pleasure the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) seemed to be apprehensive that the measure would prejudice in some way the rights of public servants. As an old public servant,- 1 have studied his remarks, and consulted the clauses of the Bill, and my own judgment having been fortified *‘by the assur- ances of the Minister, I feel confident that the existing and accruing rights of any public servant who may be transferred will be fully protected by clause 13. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) stressed the desirability of retaining parliamentary control of the purse. So far as a layman can judge, that is done by clause 20, which gives the Treasurer control over the Commission’s borrowings, and clause 22 provides that the Commission’s estimates of expenditure shall be subject to Ministerial approval. Reference was made to the political control of the railways in New South Wales. It is a coincidence that the man who was responsible for removing the railways of that State from political control was “ the father of Federation,” Sir Henry Parkes. He saw the utter impracticability of trying to run the big business concerns of the country without expert management. It cannot be said that the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales are not responsible to the Parliament, for they are. Their Estimates have to be submitted to the State Parliament, and the Parliament has control of the railway policy of the State.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the control of the New South Wales railways ?
– We have had a good deal of success with them. Mr. Eddy was the first Commissioner appointed free of political control, and he did fina work. I do not say that the Railways Commissioners have entirely satisfied the people of New South Wales. One reason why they have not done so is that they are still subject to a good deal of political influence, and are compelled to give effect to policies with which they do not altogether agree. Something may be said in favour of the remarks of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) respecting the desirableness of giving a measure of local control to the residents of Canberra. We are a selfgoverning people, and perhaps in years to come the people who reside in the Federal Capital territory will agitate for, and obtain, a measure of local government, but in the meantime we shall have had the advantage of years of control by this Commission. It is quite natural that the Government cannot ‘give . the .names of those who will be appointed to this Com mission. I do not think it is desirable that the merits or demerits of those who apply should be discussed in this House. It is quite evident, however, that no member of this Chamber will be an appointee. I speak for myself, and, I think, for other honorable members, when I say that I do not think any one of us possesses the technical knowledge or the training which the Minister for Works and Railways will look for in the men who will be appointed to the Commission. I cannot agree with the argument that- Parliament will lose control of the Territory by appointing this Commission. I believe that we shall still retain a good measure of control. Something has been said about the personnel of certain Commissions which have been appointed in the past. I point out to honorable members that in appointing a Public Service Board the Government selected two gentlemen who had been members of the Commonwealth Service, and another gentleman who possessed great organizing ability. I believe that it is possible to secure men of the right type for the proposed Canberra Commission. The Government may be trusted to select the right men. Some of the criticisms of the work at Canberra made by honorable members during this debate have been, to my mind, unwarranted. I regret that those honorable members are not present, for in that case I should reply to them much more severely than I can do in their absence.
– It is quite fair to refer to the remarks of honorable members even though they may not be present.
– I do not feel that I can deal with the matter, as I would like to deal with it in their presence. One honorable member remarked this afternoon that the country in the Federal Capital territory would not support a rabbit to the acre. I have reliable evidence that there are more than a quarter of a million sheep in that territory at present. That is a little over ‘a sheep to the acre. I am informed that some of this country, which not long ago was overrun with rabbits, has carried two sheep to the acre recently. Practical men like the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) will agree that that is very good. I am glad that returned soldiers who have been settled in the Federal Capital Territo>ry are doing well. The soldier settlement there is a credit to the Administration, and to the soldier?, and it is also a capital testimony to the value of the country. Not long ago one could hardly kick the rabbits out of the way as one walked along, but the Administration has now practically banished rabbits. No doubt, the expense of doing so was great, but it was well worth while. I regret that the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) should have criticized so adversely the designs of the workmen’s cottages, and the methods by which they are being constructed. I have considerable respect for that honorable member’s powers of observation and sarcastic wit, as well as a particular respect for his sense of humour, but I think he was not justified in making the remarks that he did about the workmen’s ‘cottages. In company with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron), I went very carefully into the facts of the case, and I have come to the conclusion that the workers in the Federal Territory are being treated better than those in any other part of the Commonwealth. Of course, things are not absolutely perfect. A class of cottage has been constructed which is intended as temporary, but even those structures are much to be preferred to tents. Many of the workers in occupation of those cottages would have been living in tents anywhere else. The accommodation is superior to that which is provided in many -towns. For three rooms, with electric light, bath, sanitation, and water service, 4s. 6d. a week is charged, which is only ls. 6d. a room. I think in no part of the Commonwealth do the workers get such good treatment as that. A fine type of cottage is being erected for the tradesmen. It was said by one honorable member that the rooms are so small that one could not swing a cat in them. Like a character of Dickens, I think that there is no need to swing a cat, nor can that be intended in the rooms referred to; but those tradesmen’s cottages have every reasonable convenience. They are a credit to the Administration. Like the honorable member for Gwydir and the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I congratulate two of our leading public servants, who went to Canberra, and have been working there at much personal sacrifice. I have no doubt that they are actuated by the spirit of true patriotism in placing their knowledge and ability at the service’ ‘of tlie Commonwealth. In order, however, that there may be continuity of policy in developing the Federal City, and that the authorities may not be at the beck and call of a bare majority of Parliament, or subject to the whim of a Min.,ister, I consider that we shall be wise to appoint a Commission at this stage. The tendency will be for the work to increase year by year in the Federal City, and I think we shall be assisting Parliament and the Minister responsible by agreeing to the appointment of this Commission r The Commission will.-.find that an excellent start has been made. We have begun to build in the right way. Electric power has been provided, an adequate sewerage service is being installed, and the water supply will be plentiful. I consider that the Administration has shown commendable foresight in purchasing large quantities of seasoned timber. The price paid was much lower than that which obtains at present. I doubt very much whether such seasoned timber could he secured now. Fine progress has been made with the erection of the provisional Parliament House. I was much pleased with the workshop that had been built. The bricks that are being produced are better than those produced anywhere else in Australia. What I saw satisfied me that the design of Mr. Griffin is a grand one, and I look forward to seeing at Canberra such a garden city as we all desire. Certain remarks have been made about whited sepulchres, but honorable members will realize that had the city been built solely of red brick the effect would have been monotonous. The white plaster, to which objection has been taken, relieves the monotony, and produces a good effect. I consider that the time has arrived when the Federal Parliament should be removed from Victorian parochial influence, and the petty spirit of State jealousy. I am sure that honorable members who constitute the Federal Parliament at Canberra will do their work under conditions which will make for much better results than are possible under the present regime. The surroundings of the city are beautiful, and the removal of the Parliament to the Federal Capital will make possible the development of those high national aims which the last generation of Australian statesmen desired should be the result of Federation. Some honorable, members may object that these remarks are too sentimental, but we need some sentiment in our national affairs. There would be no Labour party in Australian politics to-day if it were not for sentiment. Governments need experience, and, of course, they must be careful about expenditure, but they need also some sentiment behind them. Every nation worth its salt has had its flag, its national institutions, and its national ideals, and I think that the removal of the Federal Parliament from Melbourne to Canberra will tend to create such an Australian national sentiment as we desire.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I intend to support the second reading of the Bill. Continuity in respect to the work is required, as by that means greater efficiency will be obtained. The powers of the Minister and of Parliament in relation to the expenditure of public money should be conserved, and the home of the National Parliament should not be in the control of a purely local body. The expense entailed in the appointment of a Commission to control such a huge undertaking will not be too great if the Government are able to obtain the services of the right gentlemen.
– Then you are in favour of having three Commissioners?
– I did not say that. In the past, similar Commissions have, justified their existence, and I see no reason why this proposed Commission should not do the same.
.- Had it not been for the remark of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) that he, in company with myself, had visited the Federal Territory, I would not have spoken on this Bill. Probably no other member of this House was more opposed to Canberra and the expenditure of large sums of money there than I was when first elected to this Parliament. I did not believe that this was the time when Australia could stand the expenditure of such huge sums of money. But when this Bill came before us, I thought it advisable to acquaint myself with the conditions at Canberra, and to that end visited the Territory. When honorable members who have opposed the
Bill stated that huge sums of money had been wasted oh the Capital site, I thought that many of those statements were arguments in favour of the Commission, because if blunders, such as were mentioned, had been made from time to time, when the work was under. Ministerial control, it appeared to me that that was a good reason why there should be a change.
– A change of Government would be most effective.
– Canberra is a very different place from what I anticipated, and different also from the very sombre description given by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook). During my stay there the climatic conditions were much superior to those of Melbourne. We had sunshine during the day, with slight frosts at night. But the question before us now is whether we shall save money by the appointment of this Commission. So far as I have been able to gather, the expenditure on Canberra to date has been approximately £2,000,000. It is absurd to say that the end of things has been reached because the foundations of Parliament House are in, and the walls under construction; and the hostel, the sewers, and the electric light and power-house well on the way towards completion. The work is practically still only in the initial stages, and a great deal more money must be spent before Canberra will be what the Federal Capital of Australia should be. I have had to alter my views regarding the Federal. Capital; and can no longer subscribe to the view that further money should not be expended there. Up to date we have received little or no revenue from the expenditure of £2,000,000 at Canberra. In order that that expenditure may not be in vain, and that revenue may be received, it will be necessary to expend further sums of money. By that means only will Canberra be made self-supporting, and an asset to the Commonwealth. I am amazed that honorable members opposite should bring forward arguments that may have the effect of curtailing the present activities there, as the expenditure which has already been incurred, and that which will continue until the Capital is practically completed, benefit the working men of Australia. This great public undertaking will have the effect of bringing people to Australia.
– Do younot think that everything is satisfactory at Canberra at present ?
– I would like to pay a tribute to the gentlemen in charge of the works at Canberra. So far as I was capable of judging, there was no evidence of the waste of which we have heard. Every man with whom I came in contact was enthusiastic about his work, and is putting his whole heart and soul into it. In that respect I could find no fault whatever.
– Then why interfere with such satisfactory service?
– Improvement is always possible. For many years Canberra will be different from other cities, in that its population will comprise parliamentarians, civil servants, and those whom a capital city naturally attracts. We cannot have Parliament turned into a glorified municipal council, to deal with the complaint of every person who wants a gutter constructed; a deviation of the traffic, or the parish pump placed nearer his dwelling, which would be the case if this Commission were not appointed.
– There is no necessity to build up a huge Department, costing £50,000 a year.
– I do not thinkthat will occur. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was drawing largely on his imagination when he spoke of the evils to be feared from the appointment of this Commission. For the next six years building construction at Canberra will continue; I doubt whether the city will be finished in that time. During those six years it would be the duty of the Commission to supervise the work of construction. Their duties for the following six years would be more administrative. Until I visited Canberra I had no knowledge that the Territory was capable of carrying such a large number of stock, or of producing what it does. I was amazed to see the advance which has taken place in the experimental works, especially with respect to afforestation and the growth of fruit trees.
– The country will carry more sheep than that about Wangaratta.
– I was informed by a stock inspector that block after block inthe Federal Capital Territory would carry two sheep to the acre.
– One sheep to the acre is its outside carrying capacity.
– I was astounded to see the condition of the stock in the Territory, and was agreeably surprised with the condition of things there generally. I do not say that the Bill is perfect in every detail.
– But you will swallow it.
– No ; I am not prepared to swallow anything with which I am not in agreement. The appointment of this Commission will be in the interests of economy. It will be the duty of the Commission to protect the taxpayers of Australia from unnecessary expenditure. Therefore, it is essential that the best men should be appointed. I should like to pay a tribute to the members of the Advisory Committee for the manner in which the work has been carried out up to the present. As to the personnel of the Commission, many honorable members have stated their opposition to the appointment of three men. I am opposed to the appointment of only one Commissioner. I do not believe in a benevolent autocracy. I am confident that the Minister will do the right thing in the matter of the appointments. If I thought that the Bill had been introduced to ensure the appointment of persons formerly connected with this House in some way, I would not support it. I am sure that the Ministry will do the right thing, and that the men to be appointed will enjoy the confidence of the people. Formerly I was opposed to expenditure at Canberra, but I have visited the Federal Capital, and I realize now that it would be a serious mistake to place any obstacles in the way of establishing the Seat of Government there. We have spent too much money to go back, and I am prepared to justify my position before my electors.
– What did the honorable member say at Mount Gambier ?
– I am not afraid to repeat what I said at Mount Gambier. I realize that as we have incurred an expenditure of about £2,000,000 at Canberrawe must go onwith the work. The site is agood one, and,when railway facilities are provided it will be a model city, where a true Australian sentiment will he created. Works of considerable magnitude have already been carried out there. I had an opportunity of inspecting the sewerage work. Notwithstanding all that has been said by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), I am satisfied that everything is being done in a thoroughly workmanlike manner. I have never seen a finer body of workmen anywhere.
– That is not what some of your friends say.
– Well, I am responsible only to my constituents for any statement that I make in this House. There are some things which I should like to see altered. Upon the occasion of my visitI was very disappointed with theconditions under which workmen and their families were living at the Molonglo Camp, but when I had an opportunity of going over the whole city area and had ascertained what steps were being taken by the officers to make the workmen as comfortable as possible I was satisfied that the conditions at the compound would be improved as soon as possible. I should be glad if the Minister would introduce a scheme similar to the South Australian advances for homes proposal, under which workmen could, for an initial payment of £25, obtain a 99 years’ lease of property upon which the Government could build houses for them. This would make for. the stabilization of social conditions at Canberra. The workmen’s cottages already erected compare favorably with cottages in other capital cities of the Commonwealth, and the rentals are probably lower. I have indicated my position on this measure, and therefore have no intention of further detaining honorable members. I intend to vote for the second reading.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. D. Cameron) has furnished the very best of reasons why the second reading of the Bill should not be carried. He has informed us that he visited the Federal Capital and found glorious sunshine and efficiency on every hand.
– Everything in the garden was lovely !
– As my honorable friend from East Sydney has just said, the honorable member for
Barker, upon his visit to Canberra, found that everything in the garden was lovely. He told us that he inspected the sewerage works and could find no fault with that scheme. His opinion, generally speaking, is not endorsed by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), but I am not sure that the latter spoke from first-hand knowledge.
– Yes, I did.
– The honorable member for Barker has assured us that he did not accept any hearsay evidence as to the position at Canberra, but that he went there and was amazed at the amount of work in progress. But before he sat down he intimated - rather to the surprise of honorable members who had been listening to his speech - that he intended to support a Bill which seeks to bring about a change in the existing order of things. Evidently the Ministerial whip has been cracking over his head. Notwithstanding that he has no complaint to make as to the manner in which the work of building the Capital is proceeding, he is prepared to allow some one else to do his thinking for him. It is an amazing position for the honorable member to be in.
– Evidently the honorable member speaks feelingly about the cracking of the whip. He must have felt it himself.
– The Minister, before he has anything to say about the cracking of the whip on this side of the House, should wait for the vote on the second reading of the Bill. It has been said that members on this side are treating the Bill as a non-party measure. Apparently, Ministerial supporters regard it as a strictly party matter, and intend to vote accordingly. Although the honorable member far Barker said many things with which I do not agree, he expressed certain views which coincide with my own. He admitted that the work must go on. This is not in accordance with the opinion of the honorable member for Echuca. (Mr. Hill), who said the other day that it should be stopped at once, although I have a suspicion that when the division bells ring he will meekly follow the Ministerial lead, and register his vote for the second reading. I was once one of those who thought, with him, that the estabishment of a Federal Capital at Canberra was a mistake. I do not think so now. 1 urged that the Federal Capital should be in Sydney, thus avoiding unnecessary expenditure at Canberra. I realize now that the day has long since passed for any objection to be urged against the establishment of the Seat of Government at Canberra. Already there has been an expenditure of between £2,000,000 and £2,500,000 on essential work there, and unless that money is to be absolutely lost, and this country made the poorer as a result, the work must go on. I was a member of the Public Works Committee that visited the Capital City site about two1 years ago, and saw then the result of work having been discontinued and taken up again. Expenditure to the amount of thousands of pounds had to be incurred in re-commencing work that had been dropped temporarily. Notwithstanding that he belongs to a party that professes to stand for economy, the honorable member for Echuca, if he had his way, would involve -this country in infinitely greater expenditure by putting a stop to works now in hand. It is a pity that some of the people who listened to the honorable member on the hustings could not have been here the other day, when a member of the Country party moved the adjournment of the House to tickle the ears of the electors on the subject of a dumping duty on wire netting. Members of the. Country party watched the clock with great anxiety to see that that motion was not brought to a vote, although the only way in which they could have served their supporters was to let the Government know that they meant what they said by carrying the motion for the adjournment.
– Order !
– I hoped to connect .these remarks with the Bill before us, because I proposed to say that the insincerity of honorable members in the corner on the subject of the antidumping duty on wire netting was no greater than their insincerity in regard to this measure. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) says he is in favour of a one-man commission, but’ I venture to say that when, next month or next year, the Government come forward with the Bill they have threatened to introduce for the appointment of a Board to manage the Commonwealth Bank, the honorable member will stand up to tell us the virtues of appointing a Board of three. To-day, according to the honorable member, a commission of three men is all wrong, but a one-man commission is all right. When the ex-Prime Minister was in charge of the Government the Leader of the Country party used to denounce him for transferring to others responsibility which he should have accepted himself. The only other thing for which the honorable gentleman stood was the bringing about of economy in the Government Departments. The proposal now before the House is a violation of the two principles of economy and Government responsibility for which the honorable gentleman and his supporters said they stood. Some honorable members opposite say that they intend to vote for this Bill because they believe it will bring about economy.
– Hear, hear!
– If the honorable member proposes to vote for the Bill on that ground he should tell the House how the present system has failed, and should show that wasteful expenditure has occurred under it. I am going to be fair, and admit that the present Minister for Works and Railways has grappled well with the work at Canberra. I believe that work has been going on there in a highly satisfactory manner. Any one who visited Canberra twelve months or two years ago and visited it again last week, must admit that immense strides have been made in the building of the city. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) admits that he will vote for this measure to bring about economy that is not practised at Canberra now. The, honorable member’s whole speech was a contradiction of that statement. Even those who. are not enamoured of the place are in a position at least to say, “ Leave well enough alone. If everything is going on satisfactorily at the present time, why alter existing arrangements? “ The honorable member for Barker says there is nothing wrong with the existing arrangements, but he is still prepared’ to vote for the appointment of a Commission of three men, though he does not know who they are to be. He says that he is prepared to trust the Minister for Works and Railways, but if he votes for this measure that will indicate that he does not trust the Minister. The fact is -that honorable members opposite have had the whip cracked over their heads, and they will vote in any way that seems necessary to keep the present Government in power. The question is whether the responsibility of the Government in this matter should be transferred to a commission. At present the Minister for Works and Railways is responsible to Parliament for the work done at Canberra, and the Government now desire to shift their responsibility. If anything goes wrong at Canberra or in connexion with the Commonwealth Rank, for instance, the Government desire to be in a position to say that it is not their fault, but the fault of the Commission or Board appointed. If ever there was a glutton for Boards it is the present Government. Strange to say, they are composed largely of members who previously were always talking from the Corner about the restoration of responsible government. They have out-heroded Herod in the appointment of Boards and the shifting of responsibility from the Government. I have before me a list of over 30 Boards, and I find that more of these were appointed since the Composite Government came into power than were appointed by any previous Government in the same time. I need not go through the list, but honorable members will remember the Tariff Board, the Public Service Board, the Note Issue Board, the Shipping Board, the War Service Homes Commission, and the promised Commonwealth Bank Board. The present Government have appointed so many Boards that they will go down to history as “ The Wooden Government.” Some one suggests that the name should be “ The Wooden -headed Government,” but I would not limit the description to their heads only. I will say that, if they receive’ that appellation from the people of this country, they will have richly deserved it. Whenever we have reached a stage in connexion with our great institutions such as that which we have reached in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank, the attitude of the Government is to adopt a course which will enable it, should anything go wrong, -to shelter themselves behind a Board. Nothing is more ridiculous in the contention of honorable members opposite who support this proposal than the statement that they do so in the interests of economy. The Whip of the other side predicted that in three years Canberra would have a population of 5,000. It is proposed under the Bill to pay the Commission £7,000 a year. In the threeyears that will absorb £21,000. Every one knows, and the Minister has admitted it, that the Commission will surround itself with a staff. In the course of three years we shall have at Canberra a huge Department costing the country anything from £50,000 to £100,000 a year to administer the affairs of a population of 5,000. Yet honorable members opposite bell us that they are prepared to pass this Bill in the interests of economy. I warn the honorable member for Riverina that he is likely to place himself in a most invidious position, and will find it difficult to reconcile the vote he will give on this measure with a vote he will be called upon to give later on. He say3 that in this case he stands for a one-man Commission, but when the Government, if they ever do, bring forward their proposal in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank, he will be called upon to vote for a Board of three men to manage the Bank. We are told that everything is not all right with the Commonwealth Bank, that there has been too much pf the one-man control, and the manager has become an autocrat. I hope that the Government will not have the numbers to enabie them to appoint a Board for the management of the Federal Territory, but if they have I hope that they wilt propose, not a Board of one man, but a Board of three men, which will allow for some divergence of opinion.
– Who are the members of the Canberra Commission likely to be?
– I presume that the Minister in charge of the Bill will reply to the honorable member’s question by saying that, if he. gave us the information, he could , not expect honorable members on his own side to vote with him for this Bill.
– Of course he could.
– Perhaps my honorable friend is right, and that the Minister’s confidence in those behind him would not be misplaced; but there can be no doubt that, if he took the: House and the people into his confidence, and said who the members of the Commission are to be, he would make matters easier for his supporters. Quite a number of honorable members opposite have made up their minds that they -will vote for the Bill, whoever the appointees may be. That is a dismal state of affairs. At all events, the Minister should be able to show to the House that the present system has failed. Every honorable member who declares himself in favour of the Bill should be able to show, that the present system has failed. The- majority of them have shown that it has succeeded. Five out of six. of them have thrown bouquets at the present Administration. First, they should be able to show that the Administration has failed, secondly, that they are actuated by a sincere desire for economy, and thirdly, they should insist upon knowing the names of the three lucky men whom the Minister intends to appoint to these positions. The Bill throws to the .winds two principles formerly held by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and those who sit with him. in the corner. The first of those principles, the restoration of responsible government, was a war cry of the Country party at the last election, and the need for economy was a second war cry. The Bill violates both those principles.
.- Like some other honorable members I regard the selection of Canberra as an unfortunate incident in the history of the Commonwealth. At the same time I have to recognize that a great deal pf work has been done there, and I would regard it as foolish, and rather irresponsible, to vote against all Canberra proposals, having regard to the fact - for I believe it to be a fact - that the considered judgment of this’ Parliament is that the constructionof Canberra should proceed, and that, in spite of deficiencies that appear obvious to me, it should be the Capital of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, I . regard it as my duty to do what I can to assist in making the’ administration of the Territory efficient. Because I believe that the time has arrived for defining administrative duties and responsibilities at Canberra, I am prepared to support the second reading of the Bill. The Bill aims at putting the Administration under a single head with definite duties* It proposes to do that upon a considered scheme, and it is time it was done. Therefore, I am prepared to support a Bill which ‘provides a statutory scheme to that end, and. defines the duties of the Administration. At the same time I look for some changes which I hope will be made in the Bill in Committee. In the first place, I am unable to realize the necessity for appointing three men at salaries as large as those proposed. It would be wise and sound to appoint one man, who would be charged with the principal responsibility for the administration of the Territory, but I have not been convinced that there is need for the appointment of a Commission of three, with salaries ranging up to the maximum mentioned in the Bill. I, therefore, hope that when the Bill is in Committee the Government will accept an amendment that will limit the Commission to one person: Further than that, I agree with many speakers who have preceded me that it is a very important matter to preserve parliamentary control over the expenditure of public money. For such expenditure, Parliament is responsible, to the people, and I hope the Government will accept an amendment which will make it clear that the Minister will be responsible to this House for what the Commission may do. It would be dangerous to set up a Commission ‘ with powers which may be exercised without any responsibility resting upon the Government. We have seen some of the ill effects of that in the past. We saw it in the operations of the War Service Homes Commission. It was generally understood, although it is- a matter for doubt whether it- was so, that the Commission had all the power, and the Minister had no control. It would be unwise to set up at Canberra a Commission which would be beyond the control of this House. I- draw a distinction between business and governmental matters. Where, as in the case of the Commonwealth Bank, it is a matter of banking business ; or, as in the case of the Commonwealth Shipping Line, it is a matter of shipping business, interference by this House is undesirable. I do not regard members of this House as being qualified by their . political positions to interfere in the details of such concerns. Where the Commonwealth is for any reason engaged in a business or semibusiness undertaking, there is ample justification for setting up a Commission free from political control. The administration of Canberra is distinct, however, from these business- undertakings. It is a governmental, or political matter. It is impossible to set up there a municipal council’ to do the things which have to be done. It is impossible to have a representative body to discharge- those administrative duties which the occupation of the Territory requires. If a Commission were set up quite independent of this House, there would be ho control by the representatives of the people in such matters as taxation. That would be ah undesirable state of affairs. Having regard to the nature of the things that have to be done at Canberra, it should be made quite clear in the Bill that the Commission, or the individual performing the duties assigned to the Commission in the Bill, should be subject to the control of the Minister, so that there may be a definite responsibility of the Ministry to this House. I do not fear that the adoption of such a course would lead to Parliament becoming merely a “ roads and bridges “ Parliament. The extent to which details are brought before Parliament will depend upon members themselves; but whatever, may be the form of control accepted for Canberra, there will always be the possibility of members raising matters of detail. Even if the Bill be passed in its present form, it will be possible for members to discuss on the Estimates matters of detail. Consequently I find myself unable to agree that the setting up of an independent Commission would prevent matters of detail being discussed in the House. I hope the Government will see its way to provide expressly in the Bill that there shall be that parliamentary control which some speakers have suggested can be exercised in connexion with the Estimates. If the control can be exercised on the occasion of the consideration of the annual Estimates, there is reason to include in the Bill a provision requiring that the Commission shall exercise its functions subject to the control of the Minister. For the reasons I have given, I propose to support the second reading of the Bill, and I hope that the amendments to which- I have referred, and which I regard as important, will be made by the House’ when the Bill is in Committee
.- I fail to understand the need for hurry in this matter. Is it not a fact that this
House has accepted the idea that Parliament will be moved to Canberra, possibly within two years? Why, then, not let matters Continue as they are? When we are there, each member can be an inspector of the work in progress. What would be more sensible than to decide, after we are on the spot, whether it is necessary to appoint a Commission? The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) referred to municipal government. I believe that municipal government is likely to be much more just and economical than a Commission of one man who, for a term’ of years, would be virtually a dictator. Most honorable members, if they study the history of Canberra, will be able, if they desire to be critical, to find innumerable matters that they can criticize severely. If . the Commissioner were appointed subject to recall I would agree, after we get to Canberra, to his appointment. By having the right to recall their Commissioners, 457 cities of the “United States of America have eliminated graft, which is another name for swindling, robbery, and jobbery. Let us see what the cost of moving Parliament to Canberra should be. I hold in my hand a statement of the cost of ‘ the temporary Parliament House erected by the Victorian State Government when they honoured the Commonwealth Government by lending to it free of rent the magnificent edifice we now occupy. They never imagined that we would occupy it so long as we have. Any member who desires to do’ so can visit the Victorian Parliament House and see how it is arranged and equipped. The building we are in cannot compare with it for comfort. I say that without fear of contradiction by any man who has examined the facts. That building was furnished at a cost of only £15,505. The benches are upholstered identically with those in this chamber. The fittings are similar, the difference being that ours are less comfortable. The Exhibition Building, of which the State Parliament is a part, cost £280,000 in 1881. ‘ Allowing one-fifth of that sum for the parliamentary accommodation, and adding that to the cost of furnishing, there is a total of £71,505. The Victorian Parliament has better and more commodious accommodation for members than we have. We have very poor accommodation for friends of members who are invited to dine here. It is astonishing how hard the old canard dies that we are fed in Parliament House at the expense of the country. We have to pay a fair price for our meals, and if we ask a friend to dine with us we may have to sit out on the balcony in the Queen’s Hall, and be almost frozen. In the State House, on the other hand, there is a commodious dining-room, where all the members of Parliament and their friends can sit down. I mention these facts to show that an expenditure of £240,000 upon a temporary building at Canberra is excessive.
– That is only an estimate.
– Yes, and too frequently estimates are very much exceeded. Why is the Government showing such haste in this matter? Is the National party getting into such a parlous state that it does not know where it is? I quote from the Australian Jewish Herald of the 8th May, 1924-
Munich. - Refusal to worship Jesus Christ because he is a Jew, and rejection of Christianity because it is of Jewish origin are being advocated by the National party, the most anti-Semitic political faction in German public life.
The electors in South Australia and Western Australia have . recently given judgment against the Nationalists, and even in Tasmania the Labour party, although in a minority in the State Parliament, has been installed in office in order to bring about honest government. In Queensland also, where the average wages are higher and the cost of living lower than elsewhere in Australia, a Labour Government is in power. In regard to Victoria, has not that mighty organ, the Age, in three consecutive leading articles held up the National Government to contumely and contempt for proposing to give larger representation to broad acres than to the cities? Do not the brains of a community gravitate to the cities? Do not the highest men in science, literature, and art graduate in the cities? Yet the Victorian Nationalist Government has the impudence to rate men in the country and city respectively in the proportion of 100 to 40.
– Surely the honorable member doesnot connect those remarks with the Bill.
– By indicating the proclivities of the National party, and stressing the fact that it does not know what it is doing, I am suggesting a reason why the Commonwealth Government is proposing to create another Commission. Canberra has a sad history. There has been nothing but deception, conspiracy, and unfair dealing from its inception. Over a century ago L’Enfant, whose architectural genius illuminated the world, died broken-hearted through injustice caused by those who interfered with his plans for the building of the city of Washington. Even within the last ten years, Sullivan, the architect of a new monument to be erected in Washington, based his design on the original scheme of L’Enfant. Another great American, W. B. Griffin, if he had not had a heart of. steel, would have been killed by the unjust oppositionto his proposals. When the competition for the lay-out of the Capital City was held, the best architectural brains of the world were represented by the splendid designs which illumined the walls of Government House, and the first prize was awarded to the plan of Griffin. But five departmental officers issued what was known as “ the composite plan,” which purported to embody the best features of each design. The brains of one architect were picked for this feature, and of another architect for that feature, until an absolute abortion was evolved. That composite plan has been held up to the opprobrium of the world by every architectural journal. As a result of a petition to the then Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook), signed by 150 Australian architects, that abominable plan was withdrawn, and Sir Joseph Cook, to his lasting honour, brought Mr. Griffin to Australia to carry out the construction of the Federal Capital. Mr. Griffin asked for the assistance of an officer while he returned to America to wind up his affairs. That officer was subject to espionage by others in the Public Service, the times of his coming and going were noted, and the head of the Patents Office reported him for being absent without leave. He was actually working all through his holidays, and the only way in which the then Honorary Minister in charge of the Federal Capital construction (Mr. W. H. Kelly), could acknowledge his services was by including in the Estimates a bonus of £50. The names of the 150 architectural petitioners were published by that genius, the only man I have met in Australia who might be called an “Admirable Crichton,” Major George Taylor, of Sydney, who is now in England. He it was who discovered that the splendid monoliths in the Senate Chamber, and the eight stone columns in this chamber, have been actually hidden under a coat of colour. That infamy was perpetrated long ago, but I mention its discovery as instancing the thoroughness of Major Taylor in everything he does. He has written of the sad history of Canberra in his magazine, Building, a splendid technical periodical that is equal to any published in other parts of the world. Just as the beautiful monoliths in the Senate were covered by paint, so were the cracks in the Keen’s cement in the Queen’s Hall filled in. One honorable old worker, who would not pass that defective work, was dismissed. The second story of the Melbourne Law Courts provides another instance of bad workmanship. Every stone on that story has a mark of decay the size of a shilling or half-crown. The sample stone, which weighed 5 cwt., and could not be carried offin a vest pocket; was stolen, and the contractoroffered a reward of £50, in addition to the Government reward of £500, for its recovery. It was not found, and the stones in the second story of the building are like the spotted dogs that used to follow carriages. That was an example of contract work. I have no desire to mention names, and, after all, the matter is ended so far as Mr. Griffin is concerned, because it was made impossible for him as an honorable man to remain in the position offered to him ; but I claim that every architect in Australia should have had an opportunity to submit a design for a building that was to cost £240,000. The task of designing the provisional Parliament House should not have been entrusted to one man who has never won a competition. He may be a great genius, but to-day the test is by examination. It is true that in the medical and surgical professions an examination does not always reveal who is the best man, but, generally speaking, the examination test is the best guide we have. Therefore, as an Australian lovingAustralia I maintain that every architect outside the Department of Works and Railways should have had a chance to submita design for this building, the plans of which have not been exhibited to honorable members. One design submitted before the competition for the permanent structure closed would have impressed honorable members if they had seen it, but I suppose it has been secreted in the cellars along with all the other designs sent in. What was the composite plan ? It could be compared with what would result from taking a splendid study by Tom Roberts or Heysen, two of our big Australian artists, and asking a class of students to improve it, or getting a class of students to alter one of the great pictures we are endeavouring to buy in Great Britain for an Australian art gallery. However, I am thankful that Colonel Owen and Mr. Bingie have assured me that it is their intention to carry out, as far as they possibly can, the splendid design of Mr. Griffin. I only wish to God they could have been as kind a little while ago, but perhaps it is best to forgive those who show repentance for wrongs done. The splendid book written by Major George Taylor, bound in red and sent to honorable members who were in Parliament at the time, contained the name of every important architect and engineering architect in Australia, who signed a petition of protest again3t that- abomination, the composite plan. I trust that honorable members will follow my example and keep that production in their libraries as a sacred book. In order to do justice to Mr. Griffin and to re-establish the name of Mr. Brilliant, against whom remarks as unjust as they were unfair have been made, I quote now from the No. 1 Report of Mr. Blacket, the Royal Commissioner appointed to inquire into matters in connexion with work at the Federal Capital. Mr. Blacket said, on page 45 of his report- 166. … In one of the questions put to Mr. Brilliant in examination. Colonel Owen did seem to concede the correctness of Mr. Brilliant’s evidence. (34024.) This question was - “ Did I not ask you to play the game and stick by the officers that you have worked with for years?” These words may have been inadvertently used, but they are an admission of the accuracy of the substance of the evidence given by Mr. Brilliant, for that evidence goes to show that Colonel Owen’s effort in conversation was to persuade Mr. Brilliant to work with the officers, rather than to work with Mr. Griffin and the Minister in opposition to them. 167. But I doubt whether I should be right in thinking that Colonel Owen had been actuated during 1914 and 1915 with the same animosity against Mr. Griffin that he did, I believe, betray and display at those interviews. The immediate cause and, as I think, the main, if not the entire, cause of the animosity at the time of those interviews, was the slight that had been put upon the professional men by their being placed under the orders of a nonprofessional officer. I do not desire it to be thought that I wish in this to depreciate Mr. Brilliant or his qualifications. On the contrary, I look upon him as being one of the ablest and most efficient officers of the Territory, and tully competent to discharge any of the duties imposed upon him.
Honorable members who look at the design of the new Parliament House may think that the building is too squat, but how much more squat would it have appeared but for the splendid efforts of the Public Works Committee, which added another story to it, and thus improved its appearance. Mr. Blacket’s report continues -
Mr. Griffinreinstated in Authority. 168. The history of this whole matter requires statement of the further fact that on 15th November, 1915, the Honorable King O’Malley, in an attempt to end all questions of conflict between Mr. Griffin and other officers, wrote a minute stating his “ desire to give immediate effect to Mr. Griffin’s agreement,” and that he “ would be glad if Mr. Griffin would be good enough to furnish him, with the least avoidable delay, with his recommendations for carrying out such intention.” On the same date the Minister directed a minute to be forwarded to all chief officers of theDepartment in the following terms: -
All officers of the Department are hereby required to furnish any information and assistance desired by the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction. It is my desire to eliminate all methods and forms of red tape in this regard, with a view to facilitating the progress ofthe city. The Director must be furnished with immediate acknowledgment of his requests, stating the steps being taken to comply with them. (Exhibit “B10.”) 169. In Schedule No. 3, issued on 1st December, 1915, the following paragraph occurs: - ‘
Under his contract Mr. Griffin was constituted Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction, and no operations or matters in connexion with that City can be initiated withouthis advice having been obtained thereon.
In his findings Mr. Blacket said - 170. Upon all the evidence, and particulaly upon that which has been stated or referred to in this report, I find that the reasons way Mr. Griffin between 18th October, 1913, anl 15th November, 1915, performed no substantial part of his duties under his contract with the Commonwealth are as stated in four of the five charges advanced in his behalf, viz., charges 1, 2, 3, and 5, and are as under : -
In fairness to Colonel Owen, I thinkI should read the final finding. It is as follows : - 171. As to the fourth charge - “ That in order to prevent Mr. Griffin’s design from being carried out wilfully false estimates of its cost were given;”
I find that it wholly fails, and that no such false estimates were made.
Having drawn attention to those findings I shall leave the name of Mr. Griffin. Sufficient for him is the honour which he has won among architects of the world. Every publication which deals with architecture has lauded that great man, and has held up to scorn and loathing the action of Australia with respect to the architectural designs that she called for prior to the outbreak of the great war. I do not blame this Government for what happened in that connexion. They had nothing to do with it, but, on the other hand, have tried to make amends for the fault of previous Governments. I deeply regret that the solemn engagement of Australia with architects throughout the civilized world was vilely broken. Probably it is impossible to make full amends to the architects concerned, but I believe that if the Minister for Works asked this House to reimburse those who expended their time and money in work for the Commonwealth he would find that honorable members would be not only just but generous. I shall vote against this Bill lock, stock, and barrel. I hope that the Government will take advice even from the Opposition, and withdraw the measure. Let us wait until Parliament has been transferred to Canberra. Honorable members can then see for themselves what the needs of the situation really are. If a Commission be appointed I hope power to recall will be vested in the ratepayers, who will reside at Canberra. That will prevent any suspicion of graft, bribery or corruption.
– Howcould that be done?
– I suggest to the Minister for Trade and Customs that Australia could follow the example of the 457 cities in the United States of America to which I have referred.
– Does the honorable member think that the Minister for Trade and Customs will be one of the Commissioners ?
– I hope for his own good and for the length of days and long life that I wishhim that he may not be. If he should be appointed I trust that the memory of his many years of service in this House will stimulate him to be a straight and honest Commissioner, who will do his duty to the country that I believe he loves as muchas I do.
.- I am in entire accord with the provisions of this Bill. The time has come in the history of Canberra when the administration should be removed from political influences. I have listened carefully to the debate on the measure. Some of the opposition to it has undoubtedly been opposition to Canberra. An important consideration with me is that if we agree to the proposals of the
Bill the control of the Federal Capital Territory will be removed from the danger of political patronage. That is greatly in favour of the Bill. I do not, as a rule, approve of independent Commissions, but I think we shall be wise fo appoint one in this case.’ The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) said to-day that if the Government gave to a Commission the powers set out in this Bill the Commission would be enabled to make any sort of extravagant appointments that it liked. I do not think that any Commission would act in such a way. On the other hand, however, a weakkneed Minister might be led to make political appointments. The danger from that quarter is much greater than the danger of a Commissioner abusing his powers. Although the work at Canberra has been carried out satisfactorily, I appreciate the action of the Ministerfor Works in introducing this Bill. If we do not agree to the appointment of the proposed Commission we shall find, in a few years time, that honorable members of this Parliament will be obliged to take over the duties of aldermen. That is not desirable. It is strange that, although I have travelled over a large portion of New South Wales, and have lived for three years within 40 miles of Canberra, I had never actually visited the site of the Capitaluntil last year. Like the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron), who has just returned from the Federal Capital, I was more than surprised with the progress made. I do not think that history records an instance in which such trouble has been taken in laying out a city. We have realized from the outset that it was to be a great city, and in that respect Canberra is almost unique. Provision has been made for an adequate water supply, and the sewerage system is almost complete. I trust that three Commissioners will be appointed, because such extensive powers as are proposed should not be placed in the hands of one man. The Bill provides that two Commissioners, under the Chief Commissioner,may be paid salaries or fees, but this is a matter which can better be discussed in Committee. I support the Bill, and trust the Government will adhere to their intention to appoint three Commissioners.
– I listened to the debate with a great deal of attention, and , perhaps I may say, patience-
– And amusement.
– Yes, particularly when hearingthe criticisms from the Opposition benches. I also followed, with a good deal of interest, the comments made by honorable members on this side of the Chamber. Many of the arguments adduced were really irrelevant to the Bill, as they resuscitated the old, old question as to the wisdom of constructing a capital city at all, which most of us considered was settled long ago. When the Government took office we were confronted with the following facts: - (1) That there is a definite obligation to build a capital city in New South Wales. Whether it was right that that obligation should have been entered into I am not going to discuss now. The undertaking had been given, and is binding upon this Parliament. The next fact was (2) That the site had been selected and definitely fixed. That is also binding upon this Parliament. The next was (3) That the Kew South Wales Government had handed over the area selected, and the Commonwealth Government had assumed control. The next point was (4) That extensive works had been started. Some of them hadbeen completed, but most of them were in course of construction. From these no return was being received, and that could not be expected until the city was occupied. In addressing myself, particularly to those who have dealt with the proposal from an economic standpoint, and have deplored what they term wasteful expenditure, I may mention that the amount expended on such works, exclusive of the land - because from the amount spent in the resumption of land we are getting some return - was, approximately, £1,800,000 at the time we took office. The rate of interest at 5 per cent, represented an annual dead loss in interest alone, quite apart from depreciation, of £90,000. The Government were therefore faced with three alternatives. The first was to adopt the course advocated by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) of, to use their own words, “ cutting our losses and scrapping the whole proposal.” The second alternative was to adopt the policy of procrastination, as advocated by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), and the third was to proceed forthwith to carry out the work of establishing the Seat of Government at Canberra. To give effect to the first alternative, and to scrap the whole undertaking, would mean repudiation, and the repudiation of statutory obligations is not the policy of this Government. The second alternative would be to support those who say that we shall go. there some day, but the time is not yet ripe. That would have meant a policy of delay, and a lack of continuity in constructional work. That, more than any other factor I know of, is responsible for any waste which may have occurred. The practice of successive Governments of placing on the Estimates a sum of money which it was hoped would be sufficient to placate ardent Canberraites, and at the same time sufficiently small to satisfy those who were opposed to Canberra, is one that cannot be commended. The third alternative of building the city forthwith is the one which has been adopted by the Government, both in the interests of economy and in the desire to carry out the obligations of Parliament. Since the advent of the present Government, honorable members from both sides have stated that the work is proceeding satisfactorily. Honorable members opposite have adopted the rather unusual practice of endeavouring to defeat the Bill by throwing bouquets at the Minister, because of results, he has achieved at. Canberra. They have also paid a very high tribute to the principal officers of the Department of Works and Railways, and I am very glad to know that the enthusiasm and ability which have been displayed by these men have not been overlooked.
– Does the Minister deny it?
– He endorses it.
– I endorse it. The whole of the criticism so far has missed the point that, while the work has. been satisfactory to date, it has only been carried out with great inconvenience to the Public Works Department. It has placed a tremendous strain upon Mr. Murdoch and other officers whose names have been mentioned. Those men, who are in the position to know the true state of affairs, all agree that the ‘ existing machinery can no longer cope with the situation. The argument has also been advanced that the contemplated change will mean additional expense and the appointment of unnecessary officers. In that connexion, I desire to say that practically no additional expense will be incurred by the change. A saving of at least the amount involved in the salaries of the Commissioners will be made, as they will take over the duties of officers and others at present engaged. The salaries of the Director-General of “Works, and the Commonwealth Surveyor-General, and the expenses of the Advisory Committee at present reach £5,000 per annum; while several officers in ‘ Melbourne, including Mr. Murdoch, devote much . of their time- to Canberra matters. There is also the considerable time occupied in . travelling to and from Canberra to be considered.- The eloquent references to the huge staff which will ‘ be created at Canberra emanated chiefly from the Opposition. Apart from those engaged in constructional wor.k, the existing staff at Canberra belonging to the Home and Territories, and the Works and Railways Departments, totals 97, while the approximate cost is £32,000 per annum.
– What will become of those officers?
– The greater part of the staff will automatically be taken over by the proposed Commission.
– Are they all busy on Canberra work now? 1
– Yes. During the debate it has been’ frequently stated that the appointment of this Commission would take the whole control of Canberra out of the hands of Parliament. I am rather surprised that that statement should have been so frequently made when copies of the Bill were available for honorable members to read. The picturesque suggestion that the Commission will hurl defiance at the Parliament of this country has no foundation in reason. Let me draw attention to the control exercised by Parliament, by the Minister, and -by the Executive over the Commission. The objection that might rightly be raised is, not that there is insufficient control, but that there is too much control, and too much hampering of the Commission. The Commissioners must submit annually for approval their estimates of receipts and expenditure. Without such approval no expenditure may be incurred. They must also submit to the Minister quarterly reports showing receipts and expenditure, the general condition of the works, and particulars of appointments and removals of officers. All such reports, documents, and information as the Minister requires shall at any time be furnished bv the Commission. In addition, the Minister’s written consent is necessary for the disposal of land for public works, buildings, or various public utilities. Ministerial approval is also required for the construction of works and buildings for the Commonwealth.
– Does that eliminate the Home and Territories Department?
– No. The Minister referred to in the Bill is the Minister for Home and Territories.
– Will the Minister be good enough to say which Minister will control the Commission. Will it be the Minister for Home and Territories, or the Minister for Works and Railways?
– The Minister will be the Minister for Home and Territories. The Minister for Works and Railways will be eliminated.
– That means that this House will have no control.
– I have mentioned the control over the Commission by the Minister. Let me new deal with the con- trol by the Executive. The powers of the Commissioners are subject to any Ordinance under the Seat of Government Administration Act 1910. Certain Commonwealth works may be exempted from the control of the Commissioners by an Order in Council. The GovernorGeneral must approve of by-laws, and he may also make regulations more accurately defining the powers of the Commission. We now come to the question of control by Parliament. The Commission must conserve the approved city plan. That plan cannot be altered without the consent of Parliament. The works and buildings in the Territory are to be subject to the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1921, and all the accounts of receipts and expenditure are to be subject to the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913-1920. Provision is also made for the disallowance of by-laws within thirty days after they are laid before both Houses. The books and accounts of the Commission are to be subject to inspection and audit by the AuditorGeneral, and the annual report of the Commission on its operations must be laid before both Houses. I repeat that the question which might rightly be asked, is not whether we are exercising too little control over the Commission, but whether we are interfering too much. Objection has also been raised to the appointment of a Commission on the ground that the works at Canberra are nearly all completed, leaving little or nothing for the Commission to do.
– Most of the big works are completed.
– Honorable members seem to have missed the point that the problems to date have been problems of construction. From an administrative point of view, those problems have been comparatively simple. We are throwing open the land on the 1st October. The advent of private enterprise will bring in its train complex problems of control - municipal government, and the like - that should certainly not be the problem of the Works Department, as has been suggested. The matter raised by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) when he quoted the Washington experience, is one which I think honorable members on both sides can well pause to consider. We have Washington’s experience to-day. I know of no case parallel with Canberra, except that of Washington. What has been Washington’s experience? Washington passed through the same stage of evolution that we are passing through at Canberra to-day. The authorities there were faced with the initial problems of construction, and then the problem of control. They adopted various means for dealing with the matter. Until 1802 they had three Commissioners. They then took the control of construction out of the hands of Commissioners and appointed a Superintendent ofConstruction. He continued in charge until 1817, when he was replaced by one Commissioner, who controlled construction until 1857. After having tried various means of control and different forms of government, including the municipal council, in 1878 all services connected with construction and administration were vested in three Commissioners, and that has been found to be eminently satisfactory. That is the form of control that exists at Washington to-day.
– Does the Minister mean to infer that never in the future will this Parliament establish municipal government within the Federal Capital area?
– I am not discussing that aspect of the matter at the moment; the problems of the future are for the future’s decision. We cannot at present accurately gauge the growth of Canberra, nor can we tell what problems we may have to deal with in the future. What we are trying to do is to deal with the problems of the moment, and evolve the best system possible for the economical government of the future Capital. It is not in Washington alone that the commission form of government has proved successful;the practice is growing throughout the United States of America. In nearly 500 cities of importance throughout the United States of America that form of government has been instituted, and has been found to work satisfactorily. Many writers have stated thatgreat improvements have followed the appointment of a Commission, that it has caused political partisanshipto disappear, and has reduced the cost of government. I desire to deal also with the contention raised during the debate that the Government contemplates the making of political appointments to these Commissions. Honorable members of the Opposition, and particularly the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) have, with a recklessness that, in my opinion, is rather inconsistent with the responsible bearing of a public man, not only accused the Government of proposing to adopt this questionable procedure and deliberately creating highly-paid positions in order to get rid of what he pleases to term discontented supporters of the Government, but have actually gone so far as to mention on the floor of this House the name of one honorable member. It was one of the most irresponsible statements that I have heard since I have been in this Parliament; No political appointments to these positions are contemplated by the Government. We have been twitted with having taken but of the control of honorable members of this House all matters that vitally affect their welfare at Canberra. I shudder to think what would happen if we did not take out of the hands of members of Parliament the control of matters of domestic detail. What would be the position if every detail that cropped up in the administration of Canberra had to the thrashed out on the floor of this House?’ Imagine the position that would then arise if, for instance, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) were served with an assessment notice relating to his private residence at Canberra that he considered conflicted with his ideas of justice. We should have on the floor of this Chamber a debate such as one almost shudders to contemplate. If .everything at the hospital were not satisfactory, would the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) sit still and allow that state of affairs to continue ? Parliament House would becomean absolute bear garden. That is probably what would happen if every detail connected with the work at, and the control of, Canberra, were left in the hands of the Minister.
– The Prime Minister is trying to imagine how it was he made the honorable gentleman a Minister.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has been given many opportunities to speak, but he has not availed himself of them. He is probably a little bewildered at the stand taken by honorable members opposite. Being, himself in doubt, he has at least been discreet enough to say nothing. I can quite understand opposition to a Bill on general lines, but we have heard opposition to this Bill expressed by honorable members opposite for totally different reasons. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) opposes the Bill because he is opposed .to any proposal for the development of Canberra. Other honorable members, on the contrary, oppose it because, they say, it will block development at Canberra.
– Government members support it without giving any reason.
– The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), is a little bewildered at the fact that some of his colleagues are heading north and others heading south. He decided to act upon the precept, “ He that holdeth his peace is counted wise,” and he has said nothing at all. Left to direct departmental control, the problem of Canberra development would be at the mercy of every political breeze that blew. Canberra has been too long the political Cinderella of this country.
– Will it ever be anything else ?
– I believe it will. I believe that this Bill will safeguard the interests of the taxpayers. We decided not to wait until the existing administrative machinery broke down before we brought in a measure to cope with the situation. We realized that the existing machinery could no longer be effective, and therefore we took the steps’ necessary to prevent the breakdown which otherwise would have been inevitable. We cannot afford to have the cream of our Works and Railways Department concentrated at Canberra. If we continue with the present policy, we shall be obliged to secure the services, of other officers to do their work in various parts of the Commonwealth. It is absolutely essential that we should have continuity of policy, in regard both to construction and administration, at Canberra. This cannot be ensured with the existing machinery. I submit that opposition to the Bill that was not irrelevant - and a great deal was irrelevant - was due entirely to a misconception on the part of honorable members as to the purpose of the measure. The administrative machinery which we propose to set up will, we anticipate, prevent wasteful expenditure, and ensure safe, sound, and economical control. These are the reasons which actuated the Government in bringing in this Bill. I appeal, therefore, to honorable members to vote for the second reading.
– What do you propose to do in Committee)
– I make no promises as to what may happen in Committee. I can, however, give honorable members an assurance that .the Government are anxious to make the Bill as efficient an instrument of control as possible, and that if honorable members .from’ either side of the House submit proposals to improve it, they will receive the earnest consideration of the Government. This assurance I gave in my second-reading speech, and I now repeat it. We are not prepared to -scrap any provisions of the Bill in order to ensure its second reading, but we are anxious to meet honorable members’ objections. The motives behind the introduction of the Bill were not, as has been suggested, motives of extravagance, but rather of economy. I emphasize that if the existing machinery cannot efficiently carry on the developmental work at Canberra, new machinery must be created. I repeat that the existing arrangements will inevitably lead to extravagance due to the overlapping of authority. Under the present dual administration by the Works and Railways Department and the Home and Territories Department, we have had very great difficulty in preventing extravagance that is almost unavoidable with two Departments trying to do one job. I appeal once more to honorable members to vote for the second reading. I again assure them that the measure is absolutely essential to the good government and the future development of the Capital. I also repeat my assurance that any amendments that may be considered necessary to improve the measure will receive every consideration in Committee.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time- put. The House divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
House adjourned at 10.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240514_reps_9_106/>.