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Wednesday, 28 July 1920

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) . - This is a Bill which is likely to lead to considerable expenditure at a time when every Treasurer in Australia is crying out about the shortage of money necessary for carrying on the ordinary works of development; and if we agree to this clause, which contains the various parts into which the measure is divided, we practically assent to the whole of the principles of the Bill. Under Part III., which sets out the powers and functions of the Director, quite a number of subDepartments may be established which will naturally lead to increased expenditure from which, in my opinion, very little benefit will accrue to the people of Australia, and which will simply mean the duplication of expenditure already undertaken by the States. Nothing can be done by the Commonwealth that is not already being carried out by the various States. If it be necessary to engage the services of an eminent scientific expert to carry on research work on lines not at present attempted by the States, surely the States and the Commonwealth can combine to secure his services without the creation of a new and totally unnecessary Department for the purpose. It may be claimed that the will of the Minister will find expression in any action taken by the Director of the Institute. While there may be an odd Minister here and there who is prepared to withstand his officers, and determine how the Department of which he is the nominal head shall be conducted, for the most part the heads of the Departments practically control their Ministers. In any case there are so many other tasks which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will have to undertake besides the administration of this measure that he will be able to pay very little attention to what the Director of the Institute will be doing, and, therefore, will simply initial the recommendations brought to him by the Director. In this way expenditure will heap up. No doubt, at first, on the Director's appointment, the Minister will lay down very emphatically the necessity for having the Institute run on economical lines. He will say, "We want efficiency and economy combined," and naturall' the Director will assent to that proposition, but there will be a very different tale when he commences his operations, and very soon he will be saying to the Minister, " My recommendations must be carried into effect if I am to be held responsible for the proper administration of the Institute." If honorable members peruse the powers and functions of the Director as set out in detail in Part III., they will readily come to the conclusion that this

Institute will not only be a big Department in itself, but may comprise quite a number of sub-Departments which can only be carried on by considerable expenditure. We are asked to incur this expenditure at a time when we have many heavy financial responsibilities facing us. 'Honorable members ought to hesitate before they give the Government the power to establish new Departments. There is a sort of an apologyin the Bill to the effect that in order to avoid overlapping with the States, everything to be done by this Institute must be carried out in cooperation with the State Institutes ; but I have yet to learn of any man appointed to a new position who has not immediately set out to magnify it, and make it more and more expensive. I shall not have it said of me that I sought to prevent any manfrom coming to the Commonwealth who might, through being possessedof ability not possessed by any person here, be able to enlighten us on various matters and carry out work that would eventually prove beneficial to the people of Australia; but I hold that the Commonwealth's part in bringing out such an expert ought to be confined to providing his salary. He could easily carry on his work in connexion with universities, technical schools, and schools of mines in the various States. All the machinery and appliances necessary are available to enable him to commence his work. There is no need for the Commonwealth to establish a new Department for the purpose. I am not preaching economy for economy's sake. The cry of economy is a horse one can ride to death. To economy on some lines I am totally opposed. Here, however, we have the opportunity of preventing the establishment of an expensive Department ; but, unfortunately, a majority of honorable members seem prepared to indorse this expenditure without regard to the limit to which it may go. I am not opposing the Bill for opposition's sake. In various forms this measure has been before us on several occasions, and I have always opposed it on the ground that it would lead to the duplication, and even triplication, of expenditure already undertaken by the States. Can we justify establishing a seventh Department to supplement six State. Departments already doing the work it would undertake? To attempt to do so in the face of the liabilities confronting us is next door to criminal. It will be useless when the Estimates come down from year to year for any honorable member then to say, " I did not think this Institute was going to cost this sum of money," and move for the reduction of the item as a protest against such expenditure. At the initial stage we ought to be able to nip it in the bud. Those honorable members who vote for theBill must accept the responsibility of setting up a new Department, which, according to Part III., may possibly embrace at least seven sub-departments. I hope we shall be able to take a broad national view of the matter ; and, in dealing with each clause, I trust honorable members willsee just how far the States have gone in doing the work which the Commonwealth is now seeking to embark upon. We should allow the States to proceed on the lines they have already followed, while promising them every assistance; and, if that is done, I am sure it will lead to the gratification of the people as a whole.

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