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Wednesday, 29 June 1938

Mr HARRISON - He is in charge of the Department. He said to-day that what had occurred would not occur again while he was Minister. If he is not responsible, who is ?

Mr Barnard - The Minister is in charge of the department, but he is not responsible for what previous Ministers did.

Mr HARRISON - I understood that the contract for the work at the high school was let after the honorable member took charge of the Department of the Interior. If that is not so, we must blame his predecessor, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). We must, as a matter of fact, link the three of them, the honorable member for Indi, the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable member for Parkes, all of whom have in recent times administered the Department of the Interior. Whoever was the particular Minister responsible is not the point ; the fact remains that the work on the high school was started before the consent of Parliament was obtained. All thatwe have received from the Minister is an assurance that what has been complained of willnot occur again. He further has said that, in order to prevent a possible recurrence of such incidents, a committee has been appointed to advise the Minister on matters appertaining to the development of the city. The Minister had previously announced the personnel of the proposed committee. I suggest, with all due deference, that the appointment of this committee, while it is undoubtedly necessary, is somewhat belated, and possibly no appointment would ever have been considered but for the activities of the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr), who directed attention to the departure from the city plan in respect of the high school and the Institute of Anatomy. This action, no doubt, awakened in the minds of members of the Cabinet a desire to forestall any violent public reaction with regard to these departures from the city plan. I do not know whether it is proposed to give this committee any security of tenure. If it is not, the committee may be allowed to carry on for a short while only, and then,when all the noise has died down, it will gracefully retire, while the officials, who took upon their shoulders theresponsibility of varying thecity plan without due authority, will carry on as before.

Mr McEwen - I assure the honorable member that the committee will be appointed under an ordinance, and will have security of tenure.

Mr HARRISON - The Minister for the Interior, who is virtually a lord mayor of Canberra, might consider it advisable to take up his residence in the city, the better to make himself au fait with the problems associated with its administration and development. He would find it easier to do this if he were in the city duringhis leisure time, as well as during official hours. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey), as we know, proposes to do this very thing, and if it is desirable in his case, it is, I suggest, even more desirable in the ease of the Minister for the Interior.

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