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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator GRANT (Tasmania) .- For the maintenance of establishments for the Governor-General the sum of £14,800 is set down, that being an increase of £3,000 over the vote for last year. Of the amount set down for this year, £1,500 is for caretakers' and miscellaneous expenditure - an increase of £350 over the £1,150 provided for 1935-36, and a total of £4,900 is provided for the maintenance of house and grounds, or £1,500 more than the vote last year. I understand that during the year a residence. for the Governor-General has been provided in Sydney, and there have been reports that the Government- intends to provide another residence in Melbourne. I hope that the reports are not correct, and that Parliament will not be asked to vote another large sum next year for that purpose. The Estimates also provide for an expenditure of £5,277, being the " amount payable to the State Government of Victoria for lease of the building in Melbourne previously occupied by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral ". I should like to know for how many years we have to continue the payment of this large amount, which, I take it, is in the nature of compensation for the cancellation of the lease. I am sure Parliament would not agree to the renting of another house in Melbourne for the use of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.

Senator Collings - Do not be too sure about that; the Government is actually doing, it.

Senator GRANT - I should like to have an assurance from the Leader of the Senate that such is not the intention, because I understand that an assurance given in the House of Representatives that Admiralty House, Sydney, would not be converted for the use of the Governor-General without the consent of Parliament was not honoured. I should also like an explanation from the Minister why the provision for the establishments of the Governor-General has had to be increased this year.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [9.46]. - In reply to the question by Senator Hardy, as to why rentals this year exceed the provision made last year by £3,222, I inform him that it is mainly as a result of the transfer of the Pensions Branch of the Treasury from Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, to rented premises. This transfer was necessitated by the extension of defence activities. The bulk of the rentals is for office accommodation, the occupancy of which is, in most cases, of a temporary character, and in respect of which the Government would not be justified in erecting new buildings. There are many hundreds of such offices scattered throughout the Commonwealth.

As regards the expenditure on the GovernorGeneral's establishments, for which £5,277 is provided under item 8, this item covers a payment to the State Government of Victoria of an annual amount agreed upon as compensation for the surrender of the unexpired portion of the ten-years' lease of the building formerly occupied by the Governor-General in Melbourne. That amount must be provided in order to honour the agreement.

Senator Grant - For how many years has it to be paid; what is the balance?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.For the unexpired portion of the contract. The total amount of compensation is £42,S65, and payment at the rate of £5,277 per annum will be made until the agreement expires on the 31st December, 1938. The reason why the other items exceed the expenditure provided last year is that it has been found necessary to make provision for the maintenance and upkeep of Admiralty House, which is being reconditioned for occupancy by the Governor-General.

Senator Grant - At what cost?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.At the cost set down in the Estimates.

Senator Grant - But the reconditioning cost £20,000.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.The expenditure included in this schedule is for the maintenance and upkeep of Admiralty House.

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