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Friday, 19 May 1939

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - I am interested in the proposal to refer this matter to the Public Works Committee. I have no deep and abiding faith in the judgment of that committee because I recall the extraordinary report which it furnished to me last year, when I was Acting Minister for Health, in connexion with the construction of a hospital in Canberra. If that report can be taken as a fair average of its work, this House will shortly be obliged to give serious consideration to the question as to whether this committee should be continued. That report was a most extraordinary document. There was a minority report-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I cannot allow a discussion on a report other than one which concerns the proposal now before the House.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Might I say, Mr. Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) raised the whole question of defence works in this debate.

Mr SPEAKER - And I informed the honorable gentleman that in doing so he was discussing something outside the scope of the measure. It must be clear to honorable members that a discussion cannot be allowed in this debate on reports other than the report concerning the specific proposal under consideration.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If you rule, Mr. Speaker, that this debate must be absolutely limited to a discussion on this specific proposal only, I am to be debarred from giving reasons why the course suggested by the Minister should not be taken - reasons with which I am very familiar. I submit very respectfully that the limit which you have placed on this debate, Mr. Speaker, precludes effective discussion of proposals recommended by the Public Works Committee.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member will realize that if a discussion be allowed on the report of the Public Works Committee dealing with the construction of a hospital in Canberra, other members will desire to discuss that proposal and to give reasons why they think that the committee's conclusions in respect of that work were good or bad. Such latitude cannot possibly be allowed on this motion.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I can only 3ay then that from my experience of the work of this committee the Government should further consider the wisdom of submitting works of that kind for investigation to that body. I am not prepared to support the expenditure of £120,000 on this proposal as recommended by that committee.

Sir Frederick Stewart - It is only about half of that amount- £67,000.

Mr Frost - Why does the honorable member wish to misrepresent the committee? He said that a minority report was submitted in connexion with the Canberra hospital proposal. No minority report was made on that proposal.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - There was a minority report; it was signed by the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and Boothby (Mr. Price). The whole question of expenditure of money on public works requires very deep and earnest consideration. As the result of my experience of the Public Works Committee last year, I am not prepared to accept with enthusiasm any recommendation made by that body. If the latitude of this debate permitted me to do so, I should be only too ready to go thoroughly into my reasons for making that statement, and also to analyse the method by which so-called savings were arrived at, in the very notorious instance which I mentioned. No saving was effected at all.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! . The honorable member is clearly defying the ruling of the Chair. I cannot permit the honorable member to deal with any report other than that concerning the proposal now before the Chair.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - In those circumstances I can only say that the Government would be .well advised to give further consideration to this matter before committing Parliament to any further expenditure in this direction. The Public Works Committee visited Darwin last year. I have not gone into its report on this proposal. It stands' to reason that no honorable member can study every report which comes before this chamber. I repeat that the Government would be "well advised to postpone this matter until a little more light has been thrown upon the subject. After my experience of the Public Works Committee, I am not prepared to give a carte blanche agreement to a proposal submitted by that body.

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