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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - I propose to place before the House a rejoinderto the statement made by the honorable the Minister for

Home Affairs (Mr. Blakeley) in answer to matters concerning the hog farm at Canberra which I raised when the Estimates were under discussion.

The reply of the Minister to statements made by me in this House on 29th July, 1931, concerning the Canberra hog farm is not satisfactory, and, in my opinion, was intended to whitewash one of his officers. The Minister stated that he personally investigated the charges made by me, and decided that, on the whole, the allegations were either a distortion of facts or untruths. I now wish to repeat every statement I made as true, and demand an impartial tribunal, such as I originally asked for, to go into the whole mattter. If the Minister wishes to protect himself, as well as those officers he wishes to shield, he will grant this request without further delay.

I.   can quite understand the Minister wiping aside the whole of the revelations concerning Dennis, lessee of the first government hog farm, because he has left the Territory and " plucked fowls fell jio talcs." My narrative concerning him includes about 25 definite allegations, none of which he found to be correct, which may be taken to mean that Dennis never had a pig farm here; was never in trouble with the officials over the property, pigs or garbage; indeed, that such a man never existed, except as one who may have lived to praise and adore the Administration for everything done bv it for those permitted to pass through its domain. I shall, therefore, concentrate 011 the living man, Coles. lie is here, his pig fai'm is here, and, what is more to the point, the whole of the statements made by me are provable by official documents.

Let us examine a few of these : the first communication sent by Mr. Brackenreg to Mr. Coles in March, 1928, set out that the Commission wished him to continue on Dennis's farm until a new piggery was established. Will the Minister deny the truth of that statement? The first letter sent by Colonel P. Owen, and which Mr. Brackenreg confirmed at the first conversation with Coles, sets out that the proposed new city abattoirs would be established forthwith on the adjoining Tot, and that the town water supply would be extended to it. Further, that if the water on the pig farm failed, the water at the abattoirs next door would bc available. ' Will the Minister say whether that statement is true or untrue? Again, I stated (1) that the hog farm was to have started on the basis of 500 hogs, and to have been developed to a maximum capacity of 1,500, and (2)_ that the estimated cost of improvements were officially given at £4,33S. I also quoted in detail the official memoranda dealing with these aspects of the farm. Will the Minister state whether those statements were distortions of fact ov untruths? The next, statement is that Mr. Coles was assured that the whole of the work would be carried out promptly by day labour, and he was asked to pay a deposit of £120, based on the assurance that that sum would cover the whole of the costs involved on his farm. Will the Minister deny that this assurance was given by Mr. Brackenreg, or that after nearly two years' delay more than double the amount of the original estimated cost was incurred on the farm, and that the work still remains to-day in an incomplete and unsatisfactory condition?

I set out in my list of complaints that Mr. Coles was given in writing three definite dates, which were given on three different occasions, on which he could begin occupation of the farm, and that he ordered stock and made arrangements to take possession of the farm accordingly; hut on each occasion found that the Administration had fooled him, thereby inflicting on him irreparable loss as well as inconvenience. Will the Minister say whether these statements were correct, and that the official documents which are extant to prove the statements are just mere fakes intended to injure his subordinate officers? Will the Minister deny that the final order of stud stock amounting to 50 head in all were put up for public auction by the vendors from whom Mr. Coles had originally purchased the stock, and that he had to proceed to Melbourne and pay up to £40 per head for hogs he had originally agreed to purchase for £8 each, and that this increased cost was wholly due to the misrepresentations made as to the date on which the farm would be available for occupation ? Will the Minister deny that under the original lease Mr. Coles was guaranteed all edible garbage from 30 official houses and institutions at Canberra, of which less than half exist to-day, and that, by taking over the collection of garbage on this understanding, Mr. Coles saved the Commission approximately £2,000 per year ?

In my statement I. made it clear that the water supply, as originally intended, was to provide sufficient water for a minimum of 500 pigs, but at no time since Mr. Coles has occupied the farm has this supply warranted keeping that number. Indeed, there have been periods in which the water supply has totally failed. Will the Minister state whether it is true or untrue that in 1930 several pedigree sows in pig died from thirst at the farm; and that, in reply to Mr. Coles' request for town water, he was informed " it has nothing to do with the Commission ; it is your pigeon"? Further, whether it is true or untrue that Mr. Coles consulted the police with a view to having proceedings taken against the Commission for cruelty to dumb animals before that body moved in the direction of re-adjusting his pump to obtain a small supply of water still in the water hole? Concerning the reliability of the water supply of the farm, will the Minister state whether it is true or false that, when the supply gave out last year, Mr. Coles was asked by the commission to pay £6 a week for 1,000 gallons a day for over four weeks for water required by his famished herd? Will he go further, and deny that since these complaints were made, he has had to consult the Health Department with a view to securing it's help towards mitigating the continued cruelty to dumb animals, caused by the failure of the administration to provide water, as well as to ensure proper hygienic conditions being provided at the farm? Will the Minister deny that the store pigs which contracted pneumonia through faulty shelters, and had to be destroyed, arrived from Victoria with a clean bill of health from both the Victorian and New South Wales authorities?

There are many other questions that I would like to ask the Minister, all of which are based on statements made in my report, and all of which are absolutely supported by documentary evi- dence, but why proceed further in this respect? The Minister, while stating that my allegations were distortions of facts, or untruths, has, by his own admissions, demonstrated that everything set out by me was just, fair and true. If this were not so, how comes it that Mr. Coles has been relieved of all rent payments, and that this fact is now paraded as a great act of clemency by the department? Did the Minister have any such scruples when he evicted Creasy from his farm, or has he shown the same amount of consideration towards any one in the Territory not considered persona grata by his subordinates? Is it not his policy to demand justice from all crown tenants unless the official claim could no longer be upheld or substantiated? Is it a fact that, since I made the complaint, Mr. Coles has been handed his registration certificate for the farm, and this notwithstanding the fact that it is not in accordance with the Health Department's conditions? When my complaints were made, and my fair demand for an inquiry insisted upon, the farm was short of water, and the administration was again haggling about repairing the pump or accepting any responsibility for providing a minimum supply of water. Mr. Coles was asked to pay £10 in advance before any one would be authorized to touch the work, and, although all my statements are claimed to be either distortions of facts or untruths, the engineer has been rushed out, and the pump placed in service once more. And what of the pump? The Minister must know that it was one never sold by Buzacott's to perform the duties imposed upon it. It is not suitable for the work, and within the last few weeks the manufacturers of the pump have inspected it, and given a written certificate that it is altogether unsuitable for the work it is called upon to do, and is likely to break down at any moment. Yet, on every occasion it broke down before, Mr. Coles' objections were met by the statement that it did so entirely as a result of his negligence.

Although the Minister indulges in heroics, and exhibits a keen desire to shield an officer, who is known to be responsible for most of the troubles that followed the attempt to establish a government hog farm in the Territory, he does not do Mr. Coles the justice of pointing out that his service in daily collecting the edible garbage of the city has saved the administration, not the few hundred pounds which, he says, has now been returned to Mr. Coles as an act of grace, but thousands of pounds that would have had to be paid to any contractor rendering similar efficient service. In conclusion, I wish to state that I stand by every statement I have made. All of them are true, and all are based on official documents. They point to the fact that a public inquiry is long overdue in regard to the treatment of the lessee of the Canberra pig farm. That being so, I insist that the Minister accede to my urgent request, and have the whole matter investigated by a tribunal independent of his department, or of any one who can be influenced by his officers. The Minister will then have an opportunity, if he desires it, of himself producing the documentary evidence, stated to be in the departmental papers, in support of tributes paid to the subordinate officer he is so anxious to defend. As a matter of fact, such evidence cannot be produced, because it docs not exist.

Mr.Scullin. - Who signed that statement?

Mr BEASLEY - I am presenting it, not necessarily signed, for the purpose of counteracting the statement made by the Minister regarding the information supplied by me during the discussion on the Estimates.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Who makes all the allegations in the statement that the honorable member has read?

Mr BEASLEY - I am replying to the statement made by the Minister, which was, no doubt, prepared by the departmental officer. I ask that my charges be inquired into, in order to see whether they are true or otherwise. The Minister said that they were untrue, and it is for him to prove it.

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