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Friday, 29 June 1906

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It waa from a majority of the Premiers. The names are given subsequently in the papers of the States, which constituted the majority referred to, and they were, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria. Thev all agreed to that, and the decision was communicated to the Imperial authorities. There is amongst the papers a Telegram from Mr. Chamberlain, acknowledging the receipt of the telegram I have read, and in connexion with it. The first GovernorGeneral left for Australia with instructions in accordance with that decision. It was under these conditions that the occupation of two houses was arranged for, and as has been admitted, the two States who provide those houses, have been liberal, at any rate, to the Commonwealth. Having secured that arrangement, they have sought to make it as economical as' possible to the Commonwealth. I therefore think that there is something more than mere utility or necessity to be considered. This arrangement has been made, and it should be carried out, until either of the States interested foregoes its claim, or the Federal Capital is established, and the Governor-General's residence is fixed there. So much for the reason why two Government Houses are kept up.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - They are asking for a five years' lease now,, under a new arrangement.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Personally, I shall be very glad if the Minister is able to make arrangements bv which the lease- proposed can be terminated in a shorter period.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - They should recognise that the original term has expired.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the term of the first arrangement, with regard to the leasing of the Government Houses, but that does not affect the undertaking agreed to. The honorable member is referring only to the agreement with respect to the leasing of these particular buildings.

Mr Skene - The Bill provides that the term of the lease is not to exceed five years.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so; but the honorable member for Capricornia appears to be under the impression that the leases of certain buildings having expired, the arrangement with respect to the residence of the Governor-General in Victoria and New South Wales has also expired.

Mr DAVID THOMSON (CAPRICORNIA, QUEENSLAND) - We are asked to make a new arrangement now.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is. only with respect to the leases of particular buildings. It has nothing to do with the undertaking that the Governor-General should spend the recess, or part of it, in Sydney. That arrangement has not terminated, and nothing we do should terminate it, until the Federal Capital is established.

Of course, the original leases of particular buildings have terminated, and the Minister is in this measure dealing with the renewal Of those leases. I shall be very pleased if he can make arrangements under which, if desirable, these leases may be terminable upon notice before the expiration of five years. Even though that were arranged, we could scarcely expect the Capital to be selected this session.

Mr Tudor - We have selected it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should have said that it would not be erected and completed, as the honorable member knows it would have to be if the GovernorGeneral is to reside there. We can scarcely expect that the Governor-General will have his permanent residence established in the Federal Capital in less than five years.

Mr Fowler - I (have seen a township run up in two months.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am afraid that if the honorable member had to occupy the parliamentary buildings in that town, he would complain that, he was obliged to occupy ian unsanitary , unwholesome, and altogether uninhabitable place. I know something of the cost of upkeep of these houses, and can support the Minister in what he has said. It is quite true that the lowest estimate, cutting everything to the bone, was given by a previous Government as to the ordinary outlay in maintaining these Government Houses.

Mr Groom - In 1902.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was in 1902, before we had much experience, and £5.500 was named as the amount. That, of course, did not include exceptional expenditure, such as the painting of the houses all over, which must be done at intervals. The regular expense of upkeep was estimated at £5,500 a year. Of course, honorable members are aware that that amount has teen considerably exceeded. When I occupied the position of Minister of Home Affairs, I recognised that .the expenditure should, if possible, be kept down to the estimate of probable outlay that' had been supplied. With the assistance of the officers of the Department, I endeavoured to keep down the expenditure on these Government Houses, with the result that it was reduced to, I think, about £5,800

Mr Groom - In 1894-5, the expenditure was £5,800. This year we hone that we will have succeeded in cutting it down to £5,5°°-

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was brought down to something very near the estimate, with the object of submitting a vote of £5,500 for the following year, and I think the Estimates were so prepared. The Minister says that he is following that course, and hopes, apart from exceptional outlay, to bring down the expenditure to £5,500. How, then, can the Federal Parliament be charged with extravagance if it maintains the two Government Houses with that expenditure? What do we find is the cost of maintaining the States Government Houses? In New South Wales there are two Government Houses provided for the State Governor, one in the country and the other in the citY of Svdney, at a cost of £12,368.

Mr Frazer - Still, according to the honorable member for Cowper, they pay only £500 a year for rent.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The rent does not include the expenses of upkeep. They maintain the ground and premises themselves.

Mr Bamford - Is there any real necessity for having a residence for the GovernorGeneral in Svdney? The agreement of the Premiers is not binding upon us.

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