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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

Mr BOWDEN (Nepean) .- I regret to have to listen to the remarks of the previous speaker concerning the Federal Capital. I think the time has come when this House should decide once for all to complete the construction of the Capital and hasten to meet in Parliament there.

Mr Jowett - What about deciding once for all to stop the whole thing ?

Mr BOWDEN - That should have been done years ago before this Parliament was formed. But seeing that the various States, including ' Victoria - from which the greater part of the present opposition- to Canberra emanates - agreed that the Capital should be constructed in New South Wales, it is fair now to ask that the terms of that promise shall be honoured. After twenty years one begins to doubt whether the promise was made in earnest. About eight years were occupied in deciding upon the site of the Federal Capital, and from that period to this the subject has been bandied about and every conceivable excuse for delay has been seized upon. Nevertheless, much preliminary work has been done. A good deal of money has been sunk at Canberra.

Mr Jowett - That is a good word.

Mr BOWDEN - I mean to say, invested. And, by the way, if the Commonwealth were to allow private individuals to build the Capital, I. am sure the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would be among the first to spend some of his wealth in purchasing shares in such a profitable investment.

Mr Jowett - The honorable member should not impute unworthy motives.

Mr BOWDEN - I do not; I merely imply a compliment to the honorable member's business acumen. At any rate, I hope that when the honorary treasurer of the Empire Parliamentary Association gives his next dinner that function will be held at Canberra. I do not think New South Wales has been treated at all fairly in the matter of the Federal Capital.

Mr Jowett - We want the Federal Capital in Sydney.

Mr BOWDEN -Representatives of New South Wales are not anxious for that. The Constitution is quite emphatic upon the point. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who represents a Western Australian constituency, will, no doubt, recollect that a former distinguished representative of another Western Australian division - I refer to the late Lord Forrest - pleaded hard that, a certain promise having been made to Western Australia contingent upon her coming into the Federation, that promise should be made good by the Federal Parliament authorizing the construction of the transcontinental railway. Such an undertaking, however, was not part and parcel of the Federal Constitution. Yet this Parliament honoured that which Mr. Deakin had said was a promise. In the interests of the Commonwealth, the Canberra project should be brought to fruition. The Constitution provided that New South Wales should furnish a grant of land upon which to lay out the site of the Federal Capital. New South Wales granted, not merely the 100 square miles implied in her bargain, but 900 square miles.

Mr Poynton - It is news to me that New South Wales gave 900 square miles.

Mr Tudor - All that New South Wales gave was the Crown land within that area.

Mr BOWDEN - All she was required to give was an area of not less than 100 square miles. New South Wales presented the Commonwealth with all the Crown lands on an area of 900 square miles; and then she furnished a port so that the Federal Capital should not be dependent on Sydney. Further, she gave to the Commonwealth rights in respect to the railway running from Canberra to Jervis Bay. Next, the point was raised that there was no power supply for the Federal Capital, whereupon the New South Wales Government signified its willingness to allow the Commonwealth to utilize the waters of the Snowy River to that end. The latest argument for delay is that there is no money available. In reply to that, New South Wales will find the money if the Federal authorities cannot do so. All the preliminary work at Canberra has been done. A water supply has been provided ; the electric power is there; brick-works have been established; roads have been made ; a railway has been constructed into the territory; administrative buildings have been reared; and it is time now to go ahead with the completion of the great design. I might say that while the Federal authorities have provided office and residential buildings for administrative officers and clerks, they have so far furnished no residences of any kind for the working men engaged in the Territory. Numbers of them are still living in the bag " humpies " which were put together ten years ago or more.

Mr Bamford - What are those men doing there?

Mr BOWDEN - The employees at Duntroon are all provided for there. They do not all live at Duntroon, for there is not accommodation for all of them. Some are required to trudge 4 or 5 miles from the Military College site to the former German internment camp, in order to secure accommodation. The men in the powerhouse, the maintenance men on the roads, and other workers are living in bag humpies or in anything they can manage to run up. Some of their dwellings are built out of kerosene tins. Anything is good enough for the worker; but most elaborate residences have been provided for the administrator and the administrative officers.

I wish also to refer to a matter in connexion with the administration of the old-age pensions. If a man Or woman in receipt of an old-age pension is obliged to go into a benevolent institution, 13s. out of the pension of 15s. per week is paid to the State Government, the odd 2s. going to the pensioner for pocket money, being spent mostly on tobacco in the case of the man, or on such comforts as tea, peppermints, and a little tobacco in the case of the woman. However, 2s. payments are so small that the Department often allows them to accumulate from month to month. Sometimes it is five or six months before a. payment is made. In one case one old anam had his payments postponed so long that- he ultimately drew £2 or £2 6s. at one time. Another serious matter is the fact that inmates of these institutions who cannot get out because they have no homes to. go to, so that they may qualify for the payment of the old-age pension, do not receive the allowance of 2s. per week. .

Mr Bayley - The honorable member is referring to those people who went to the institutions prior to the passage of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.

Mr BOWDEN - No. It applies to «dl inmates who had not the pension before they entered the institution. If a person applies for an old-age pension, he is often told that it cannot be granted to him because he will be better cared for by entering the institution. Where persons already in an institution can go to some place where they can board while qualifying for the old-age pension, it is the general practice for the application forms to be filled up im the institution, and then the inmates go outside for about s month and get their applications granted. Subsequently they return to the homes, and are able to draw the allowance of 2s. per week. Those who have no quarters outside the institutions where they can board pending an application for a pension, and inmates of hospitals who cannot get out of the institutions because of infirmities, do not get this assistance from the Federal Government.

Mr Poynton - Do we do anything to prevent the States from giving these people the 2s. 1

Mr Bayley - But why should the amount be paid to some and not to others ?

Mr BOWDEN - Under the present system only some old persons in these institutions draw the allowance of 2s. ; others do not.

Mr Poynton - According to the honorable member's statement they are getting it fraudulently by leaving the institutions for a week or two, and then returning to them.

Mr BOWDEN - If a magistrate appointed by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose grants their applications for pensions they are entitled to the allowance. To persons who are bedridden in an institution an allowance of ls. or 2s. per week is of very great importance. Because of the diseases from which they suffer they frequently require the attention of other inmates, and the allowance enables them to pay for this attention. Without the allowance they very often have to go without the attention. Inmates are certainly provided with three meals a day, but they get none of those little comforts, such as tea or tobacco, if they are not able to purchase them. Those patients who draw the allowance of 2s. per week can do this, but others can get nothing, and they feel it an injustice. They cannot grasp why there should be this difference between one inmate and another. Both are inmates of the same institution, yet one draws 2s. per week from the Commonwealth, and the other draws nothing. In my opinion, they ought all to be placed on the same footing. Even if we are not paying the States the 13s. for those inmates who do not draw the 2s. per week, I. think we ought to make these old men and women this small allowance, which would go such a long way towards comforting them in their last days.

Now that the war is over, I think that the time has arrived when the Public Trustee should be instructed to wind up the matters intrusted , to him, and pay the men who are entitled to the money he has in hand for them.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - Do you refer to the money of aliens?

Mr BOWDEN - Yes. At the outbreak of war we took the property of all aliens, and administered it.' We have now released these aliens from internment, and some of them have left Australia, but others have been permitted' to remain here. I can see no reason for keeping their money in trust any longer. They have been put off from month to month, but there seems to me to be no reason why the Commonwealth should not wind these matters up.

As the Randwick rifle range has now become too small for rifle competitions, the Government have decided that the Anzac Rifle Range at Liverpool shall be the main rifle range for New South Wales, and the National Rifle Association of that State will hold a big meeting there in October nest. With the exception of the Bisley meeting, it is the largest held in the Empire. Teams from all the States and from New Zealand, Great Britain, and probably Canada, will compete, but unless work upon the range is put in hand at once it will not be ready for the meeting, and great confusion will arise. I urge the Minister to expedite the work so that the range will be ready in time for the meeting.

Dr.EARLE PAGE (Cowper) T5.34]. - I shall take this opportunity of bringing forward some proposals which will show that the vote we gave last week, and which I trust we shall give again this week, in regard to the allowance to members of this Parliament, ' was justified by reason of the . savings that they effect in the Commonwealth's expenditure. For a moment or two I wish to direct attention to the control of the expenditure and revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department, the biggest revenueearning activity controlled by the Commonwealth. Now that eleven months of the year have gone, it is hopeless to expect any reduction of expenditure on these Estimates or alteration of any of the items, but I trust to be able to put forward some suggestions in regard to the preparation of the Estimates for next year which will be fruitful of increased revenue for the Commonwealth. The history of every Postal Department throughout the world is that increased . facilities have resulted in a proportionate increase in revenue. By increasing the services to the public, we multiply the facilities to the people, and a greater volume of business is created. For instance, when it cost 2s. 6d., and, later, ls., to send a letter through the post, very few persons posted letters, but when Mr. Rowland Hill se- cured the adoption of twopenny postage the volume of correspondence increased enormously, and the Post Office" became a profitable institution. The same sort of tiling is happening in regard to the postoffices throughout Australia. The figures quoted by Mr. Webster in the report of the Postal Department for the year ended 31st December, 1919, show that, during the nineteen years of Federal control, each extension of facilities has led to an increase in the profits earned by the Department. At the . outset, I protest against the policy which, during this year, has caused the closing in one State alone of nearly 300 allowance post-offices-.

Mr JAMES PAGE (MARANOA, QUEENSLAND) - That policy is to be altered for the next financial year.

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