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Friday, 30 July 1920

Mr BELL - I protest . against the statements of certain honorable members who have alleged that Tasmania has received her share of the benefits arising from the expenditure of Federal money; they are under a misapprehension. It has been pointed out that Tasmania has been receiving £90,000 per annum. Honorable members know the circumstances in which it was agreed to pay that sum, and they know that there was no question of bargaining or of that amount being regarded as Tasmania's dole. Public money was paid to that State following upon careful inquiries. It was rightly held that Tasmania, owing to the leakage of Customs revenue due to so much of .her goods having come into the mainland first, was entitled to. an amount estimated to balance the annual leakage. When the island State entered the Federation she made no bargain. It has been submitted by certain honorable members, however, that a compact was made in the case of New South Wales. And, by' way of emphasizing that point, it has been stated that had it been realized that, twenty years later, New SouthWales' bargain would be repudiated, that State would not have come into the Federation. I have always taken the view that the Federal Capital compact came about largely because of the childish jealousy existing between the two leading cities of Australia. To-day, however, we are twenty years older. Melbourne and Sydney have grown ; the people of Australia have developed, and should have grown in wisdom. After another twenty years our jealousies should have altogether disappeared, and our outlook should have become truly Australian.

Mr Mahony - Where is Tasmania, anyhow ?

Mr Prowse - Is it a fact that it has been torpedoed?

Mr BELL - It is a striking commentary upon my own statements that, after twenty years of Federation, there should be members of the Commonwealth Parliament who find it. necessary to ask "Where is Tasmania?" I take it that they do not know. They must possess very little interest in Australia as a whole, even though they may claim to represent national, interests in this Chamber. The honorable member for. Bass (Mr. Jackson) has stated that if Tasmania had known as much twenty years ago as she does now, she probably would not have entered, the Federation. I do not say that; but, perhaps, if Tasmanians had been as keen as the representatives of some of the larger States, she might have driven some hard bargains.

Mr TuDOR - I do not think the other States would have agreed to Tasmania securing any hard bargains.

Mr BELL - Probably not, for the reason that they are more powerful. The threat that New South Wales might draw1 out of Federation if the Capital is not speedily built at Canberra is, of course, a joke. Despite the gibes so frequently heard concerning Tasmania, I am pleased that I represent a small State in the Federation. It is always the big fellow who has plenty of friends. The little fellow generally has to look to himself. I prefer the honour of fighting for the little fellow; and, although I may not be successful, 1 can at least do my best; and my best at this stage is to enter an emphatic protest against expenditure of money on the Federal Capital in the near future.

Honorable members will be pleased, no doubt, with the assurance of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that the Budget is to be brought down before the end of August. They will be still more pleased to learn, when the Budget is under review, that the Government have proposed various means for bringing about economy. I desire to refer particularly to the matter of 'the High Commissioner'sOffice. During my election campaign I announced that I stood for economy in all matters. It is hard for a private member to be able to place his finger on any specific item, and to say that expenditure can there be cut down. Here, however, is an item upon which economy can be effected without reduction of efficiency. Last week the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) presented some information concerning the cost of the High Commissioner's Office. The figures were rather startling. They would not have been so unpleasantly surprising had honorable members been satisfied that Australia was securing a beneficial return from the representation of the Commonwealth in Great Britain. When the Prime Minister made his statement a few weeks ago regarding the resignation of the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Watt) he remarked that the result of Mr. Watt's resignation was that Australia would be left absolutely without representation at certain highly important Conferences. If Australia has been left without representation the High Commissioner should now be on his way back to Australia, and a successor should be outward bound. I understand that there is at present a gentleman in England who is going into the matter- of the reconstruction of Australia House. Upon what lines his investigations are being conducted I do not know. But, when it can be said that Australia has been left without representation, although we have a High Commissioner in London, the Government should apply the lesson which it has learned ; it should appoint a young ' and vigorous man to take up the Commissioner's duties in London, and remodel the High Commissioner's Office along the lines of highest efficiency. I trust that, when the Budget is presented, it will be shown that there has been a great reduction in the cost of it, for I am of opinion that that would not retard the efficiency of our representation in the Old Country. Indeed, the expenditure could be very well cut down by half, without the High Commissioner - whoever he may be in the future - having any qualms concerning the' maintenance of the dignity of his position.

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