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Thursday, 15 May 1924

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- I would have been content to continue the masterly reticence which I displayed in the early part of the discussion on this Bill but for the appeal the Minister (Mr. Stewart) made last- evening in concluding the second-reading debate. He then said something which seemed to me to be akin to an expression of deep regret that I had not thought fit to speak. It must therefore, be understood that this speech, short as it must necessarily be under the Standing. Orders, is in the nature of a contribution by special request. The Minister, looking over at me with that appearance of modified friendliness which lately has distinguished his attitude towards me, said that, evidently, I was bewildered about what should be my bearing towards this Bill. I was bewildered by nothing except the attitude of the Minister himself. I was bewildered by the fact that when we first heard him deliver an eloquent address on this subject, he was a whole-hearted opponent of the policy of Canberra. When next we heard him upon the subject, he spoke with a new and friendly concern for his position as a docile supporter of his erstwhile enemies over the Canberra project. My only concern now is to know what his attitude is likely to be during the Committee stage of the Bill. I hope I shall have no difficulty, Mr. Chairman, in convincing you that my remarks are not is the nature of a second-reading speech, but are peculiarly germane to the clause and the very important matter of the appointment of three Commissioners for the administration of the Territory. When many years ago- not so many years, after all, in the history of a nation - this Parliament was established, you, sir, were practically in your swaddling clothes. Nobody had thought of you associating with such signal success in the occupancy of the chair the qualities of ease and dignity. The great men who were then in this Parliament thought it an honour to be the chosen of the people. The dignity of their position added lustre to their reputations. You, sir, are no doubt beginning to wonder precisely in what way these remarks are germane to the clause. I will have no difficulty in showing you, and even, I believe, in getting a sense of their relevance into the understanding of the Minister. Times have changed,' or, as it is said in the classics - and said wisely - temporamutantur, though I must not speak a foreign language in this Chamber. When I listened to the debate on this subject last night I was pained to hear the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley), the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron), and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), taking a view of our Parliamentary positions and responsibilities calculated at least to remove that guid conceit of ourselves, which we certainly ought to have. A guid conceit of ourselves is a Scotch phrase, and I commend it to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), a distinguished and economical representative of his race. The honorable member for Oxley recommended that the administration of the Federal Capital Territory should be handed over to three Commissioners, and said that the main reason for doing so was that we as a Parliament, with the honorable and distinguished gentlemen who are now members of tho Cabinet, would be making roads and bridges in the Territory for ourselves. Without putting it in the harsh language which the honorable member evidently meant, he said that there would be at Canberra a venal and corrupt Parliament and a Government that could not be trusted to administer the Territory honestly in the interests of the whole people of Australia. The honorable member for Barker, as the most glowing testimonial he could give to himself, said, "If I thought for a single moment that this Bill was designed to create a position for a member of this Parliament or. for an ex-member of this Parliament, or for any politician, I should be wholeheartedly against it." While we on this side persist in the view that members of Parliament - at all events, of the Labour party - are as honest and consistent in their patriotism at least as are average gentlemen: outside this Parliament, it scorns to be the special practice of honorable members opposite, with their ears to the ground for what the press will say about them, to re-echo the statements of the press, that, being politicians, they are not to be trusted. Honorable members on this side do not share that view. If honorable members opposite, including you, sir, in your exalted position as honorable member for Oxley, the honorable member for Barker, and others, do take that view of the Government as administrators, arid of themselves as members, I meekly accept their judgment of their own character and capacity. They speak of what they know better than I do. But I do not propose to associate honorable members on this side of the House with any such opinion of members of Parliament in their representative capacity.

Mr Stewart - An excellent secondreading speech.

Mr BRENNAN - I call your attention, sir, to the fact that the Minister is reflecting upon you in a grossly improper way, when, if I may say so, you are discharging your duty so admirably.

The' TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley). - The honorable member must address himself to the clause.

Mr BRENNAN - I will do so. It is proposed that we should have a Commission of three members to administer the Federal Capital Territory, and this is the clause under which they are to be appointed. The honorable member for * Kooyong (Mr. Latham), in his learned, legal way, said that he would not be favorable to the appointment of an extra parliamentary commission having no Ministerial responsibility if this were a business proposal. Apparently, the management of the Federal Capital is not. a business proposition. When I heard the honorable member for Kooyong use these words I looked at the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to see if he required a stimulant. I wondered what would be the effect upon members of the Country party when they learned that, according to the honorable member for Kooyong, the Federal Capital was to bc run by three Commissioners on nonbusiness lines. They have accepted that. What would they not accept, I wonder, in their new position as members of the subservient wing of the Nationalist party?

They accepted it upon the grounds of economy ! We ave appointing these' Commissioners for economical reasons. We. are proposing to pay them salaries aggregating £7,000 a year in tho interests of economy ! Wo are to have new Commissioners, a new- Department, and a new branch of the Public Service, in the interests of economy! If that is so, I call upon the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) to discharge from the notice-paper that Bill of his which deals with the salaries of Honorable members, and I ask the Committee, iu .the interests of economy, to double the emoluments of honorable members. It is obvious that if we are to be efficient we must be adequately paid. Prom the arguments to which Ave have listened it follows logically that it is only by paying out further moneys oil round to all of us that we can secure efficiency and economy . I would ask the members of the party of economy what hole they can pick in that argument. This is the- clause upon which they should take action. In following the debate on the second reading, I heard encomiums passed upon the gentlemen who ore administering the Territory to-day. Even from this side, rare as such phenomenon is, I heard words of praise addressed to the Government for their success in administering the Federal Capital Territory. We are agreed that they are doing well. Ali! rarer than the most precious gems that have been yielded to longing mankind by reluctant mother earth is a good deed on the part of this Government! That being so, why have they taken away their one gem - the one bright spot which stood out upon the dark smudge of their sordid record? Why have they obliterated this one bright spot from the page of their dismal history? It was the only one. Having done one thing well, why should they seek to undo it? The Minister in his second-reading speech paid a glowing tribute to his officers. He said that we have a surveyor-general doing his work well. I know that it is true. He said we have an architect who is second to none in the world. We have a working staff operating industriously and successfully. We have a man at the head of the -great sewerage .undertaking in the- Capitals who is: 'almost;-' by ; his success, converting honorable members on this side to the contract system. All this the Government are doing in the Capital Territory, and because they are doing it, they would rob us of the fruits of the' only thing that they have successfully accomplished. They wish to make a change. Let it bc so. In the interests of economy let them pour out these extra thousands of pounds. Let them create a new Public Service, and show to Australia and. to tho world that they have not done anything successfully except that they have established uniformity in practice and policy. Let them remove from the statute-book any measure which- prevents us continuing to do well.. It is their funeral. I have said the few words which I was required to say, aud I trust that I have entirely satisfied the Minister. I have spoken words of wisdom. Ho one can deny that, and if they wish to go their own gait I oan only say, " Amen." Progress reported.

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