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Wednesday, 29 June 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I understand that the amounts provided for salaries and contingencies in the High Commissioner's office are on the basis of previous expenditure, but will they cover the whole of the payments in connexion with the High Commissioner's office, not only in London, but also in Paris? Further, is the Minister aware that considerable dissatisfaction is expressed regarding Australia's representation in Paris through the branch of the High Commissioner's office established there? I have had communications from people who have visited that office, and am informed by them that the provision for Australia there is not merely inade quate, but of such a character as seriously to reflect upon this country. One. item referred to by a correspondent was the non-provision of a London Directory and an Australian Directory. I am informed that the only directories available' in the branch were several-years old, and that, on attention being drawn to the fact by my correspondent on more than one occasion, he was informed by the officer in charge that he was absolutely afraid to ask the London office for a more uptodate Directory, because of the reception which a request of that kind had met with when it was made some months previously.

The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was in France not long ago. I wonder if he took the opportunity to see this office in Paris. If he did, he probably saw how inadequately it was provided. If it is necessary for us to establish trade relations with continental people, Paris is the centre from the continental point of view where most of the exchange is done, and any representation we have there ought to be appropriate, or we should have none at all. My information has come, not from one, but from several correspondents, and from Australians who have gone to France since the war to visit the battlefields. Ordinarily, they would not have gone to France on business; but, having gone there, they have called at the office of the High Commissioner in Paris, only to be astounded at the most inadequate representation of Australia that obtains there, and the very few opportunities there are even for Australians to get from that office information regarding Australian activities on the, other side of the world. If that office is inaptly and inappropriately equipped, it is time the Government woke up to the fact, and either disestablish it, or make it more in keeping with the dignity and position of the Commonwealth. In the years to come a much larger number of Australians will go to France than ever went before, because of the hallowed associations that some of the fields of France have for the relatives of those who fell there in the great war. When those people are passing through Paris, if they know the Commonwealth has an office there, they will call at it .for information or advice. I earnestly hope that the Government, mindful of these facts, will see that whatever branch of the High Commissioner's Office is established in the French capital is suitable and serviceable.

SenatorE. D. MILLEN (New South

Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [6.27]. - The divisions now under discussion do not cover the amount for which the Commonwealth Government is responsible in connexion with the office to which Senator Keating has referred, but his remarks are just as pertinent here as they would be elsewhere. I had an opportunity to visit the office,and must admit, with a considerable amount of regret, that I largely indorse what Senator Keating has said. The representation of Australia in Paris is not nearly on a sufficiently pronounced scale. The gentleman who is there, probably, does as well, and perhaps even better, thau he might be expected to do with the facilities provided for him. If it is worth our having representation in Paris at all - as I think it is - it is worth having it done properly. I do not blame the High Commissioner. The gentleman in Paris, who is an Australian by birth, is allowed quite a modest amount per year for his office and other expenses. I think it is about £500 a year.If Australia wants effective representation on the Continent, she can give up all idea of getting it for £500 a year. I would almost go so far as to say that, unless we are prepared to make that office effective, we might as well close it. At present all it does, and all it can do effectively, is, in the case of Australian and other travellersj to furnish the little information that they require; but to say that it is a trade centre in the interests of Australia is to misuse terms. I cannot indicate to the Senate any definite action which the Government have in view, but the reorganization of the office is under consideration. I hope at no distant date to be able to tell the Senate what the Government have decided. I am sure that the majority of the people of Australia would say that this is a thing that ought to be done, and I hope the Government will do it, and I am certain that as soon as they do there will be a howl against increasing the cost of government. In Australia, as in any other country, we cannot have omelettes without breaking eggs, and if Australia is worth advertising and pushing, as she is, we must incur the necessary expense, and take the ordinary business risks in order to do it.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Divisions 25 to 33 (Department of tha Treasury), £92,880.

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