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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

Mr MCGRATH (Ballarat) .- I should not have spoken had it not been for the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Lyons). From what he has said I am satisfied that he does not know very much about the activities of the Public Works Committee. In his efforts to belittle that committee, he could not have used a worse illustration than that of the Postal Department. At one time I was a member of the committee, and I know that in its investigations it saved this country many thousands of pounds, particularly in respect of automatic telephone exchanges. Goodness knows what it would have cost the Postal Department in respect of the dehumidifying plant at these exchanges, had it not been for the investigations of the committee. Some of the officials of the department have been obsolete for a very long time. In Sydney these officials submitted an estimate of about £30,000 in respect of the installation of new mail handling appliances. The committee was severe in its criticism of the proposal. That work has since cost about £150,000 and it is not finished yet. Had the departmental project been put in hand it would have cost at least £500,000.

Mr Lyons - The committee has always accepted the estimate of the Postal Department.

Mr McGRATH - It has not. I admit that apart from automatic telephone exchanges, not one work reported upon by the committee during the past five years has been put in hand.

Mr Coleman - What about aerod romes ?

Mr McGRATH - One aerodrome was started, but I do not know whether it has been finished. No money is at present available to carry out works, but I am satisfied that so soon as we return to normal times the committee's activities will increase. I do not think that it should be abolished. There is no better body of men than the Public Works Committee, and in its investigations in the past it has saved this country over £1,000,000.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Does the honorable member wish to change the personnel ?

Mr McGRATH - I do not wish to change anything just at present.

Mr Marr - Not the Government?

Mr McGRATH - That is another question. I am prepared to support the bill, with a reduction in the number of members on the committee.

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