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Wednesday, 24 May 1939


Mr PRICE (BOOTHBY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The trouble was that the bank was not using the local stone.


Mr PERKINS - I do not know whether that was so or not. Tenders for the new Sydney building closed with the Director-General of Works, in Sydney, on the 15th March. The specifications called for alternative tenders for a building faced with terra cotta and a building faced with stone. Eleven formal tenders were received for a terra cotta faced structure, and the prices ranged from £410,776 to £448,367 5s. 5d. All of these tenderers submitted alternative prices for a stone-faced structure," the prices for which ranged from £409,325 to £448,230 15s. 5d. On the 9th April, the Director-General of Works, supporting the opinion of the Chief Commonwealth Architect, recommended to the Minister for Works that the lowest tender for a terra-cotta faced building, which was that of H. G. Whittle and Sons Proprietary Limited, be accepted. The amount was £410,776. As funds had not actually been made available for the work, th6 Treasury was requested to make an amount of £450,000 available to cover "the amount of the tender, and to provide for subsidiary services not included in the main contract specification. On the 18th April, the then Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) notified the Director-General that he had carefully examined the recommendation, together with the list of tenders, and had noted that the lowest tender for Hawkesbury stone facing was £1;451 less than the lowest tender for terra-cotta facing. The Minister stated that as he was definitely of the opinion that the stone facing would be more substantial and a more satisfactory job, he had approved of the acceptance of the tender of John Grant and Sons Limited, the amount being £409,325. He added that he had discussed the matter with the then PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Archie Cameron), who had concurred in his decision. Towards the end of April, the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Harrison) wrote to Senator Foll, the new Minister for the Interior, requesting that the recommendation of the Director-General ofWorks and the Chief Architect in favour of terra-cotta treatment be adopted.


Mr Beasley - What was the date of that letter?


Mr PERKINS - I have not the exact date, but it must have been very near the end of April. I have no doubt the. Postmaster-General will be able to supply it. On the 2nd May, the Treasury advised that the Assistant Treasurer had approved of the proposal to incur a liability of £450,000 for financing the building project. On the same date, the Minister for the Interior replied to the PostmasterGeneral supporting the views expressed by his predecessor that Hawkesbury stone facing should be used. Following further representations by the PostmasterGeneral, whose officers will ultimately occupy the building, and having in view the fact that on the 20th March, the Director-General of Works and the architect who had designed the building had definitely recommended that the tender of H. G. Whittle and Sons Proprietary Limited for £410,776 for a building with granite and terra-cotta facing be accepted, the Minister for the Interior approved of the acceptance of the lowest tender. The successful tenderer was notified of this acceptance on the 19 th April.


Mr Beasley - What was the recommendation ?


Mr PERKINS -For terra-cotta facing.


Mr Beasley - For what reason?


Mr PERKINS - Because the archi tectwho designed the building favoured- terra-cotta facing, as also did the DirectorGeneral of Works and the PostmasterGeneral. The recommendation was made accordingly.


Mr Beasley - The Minister is making out a pretty weak case.


Mr PERKINS - The Minister for the Interior departed from the original decision and approved of the facing of the building with terra cotta. He, however, is not altogether the sole authority in this matter. His department is merely carrying out the work for another department which should have some authority to override his decision. In this case, the PostmasterGeneral should be able to override the authority of the Minister for the Interior. I want it to be understood that my remarks in connexion with this matter are quite impersonal. The honorable member for Calare has said that 90 per cent. of the buildings in Sydney are faced with stone. I agree that that is so,but no buildings have been erected recently in Pitt-street or Georgestreet in the immediate vicinity of the new post office building, and most of those newly erected in Martin-place are faced with terra cotta. All modern buildings are faced with terra cotta, and the fact that 90 per cent. of the buildings in Sydney are faced with stone does not mean that all modern buildings must also be stonefaced.


Mr Green - But this building will clash with the old post office alongside.


Mr PERKINS - I am not debating that point. The simple fact of this matter is that the decision of the Government architect and the Director-General of Works in the first instance was overridden by the then Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby).


Mr Beasley - This matter should be inquired into by a committee of the House.


Mr PERKINS - There is no suggestion that anything underhand has been done in connexion with this matter. In the first place, when tenders were called arrangements were made for the submission of alternative tenders covering the two types of facing. In this case the difference between the tenders for the two types of facing amounted to only £1,451, which is very small in comparison with the total cost of approximately £400,000. Thu Government architect and the Director General of Works recommended terracotta facing to the then Minister, hut he was guided merely by the possible saving of £1,451. Although there has been a change in the ministerial head of the Works Department, the officers of that department have not altered their views in regard to the facing of the building. The same architect and the same DirectorGeneral of Works still remain in office and they say that the new building should be faced with terra cotta. I can quite understand that the former Minister for Works naturally feels a Little hurt that a decision he recommended while he was in office has been overriden by his successor.


Mr Thorby - I did not recommend. J finalized the matter.


Mr PERKINS - The matter is not finalized until the contract, has been signed. I see no room for suspicion in regard to this matter, and I am merely stating the case for the Department of the. Interior on behalf of the Minister for the Interior, who is not a member of this chamber.







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