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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
Page: 0

Senator CHATAWAY (Queensland) . - I wish to direct attention to the question of the rentals which the Commonwealth is paying for offices in the various States. Quite recently, on the motion of Senator Sayers, a very useful return was laid on the table of the Senate, showing the amount paid in rentals in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. These rentals total £19,407 - a very considerable sum. If we add to it the amounts which are paid in Hobart, Adelaide, .and Perth-

Senator Guthrie - Nothing is paid in Adelaide.

Senator CHATAWAY - If we add to the £^9,407, which I have mentioned, the rentals which are paid for Commonwealth offices in other cities, the total sum would lie sufficient to pay interest upon .£750,000, which might be expended very profitably in erecting buildings of our own at the Seat of Government. At present the Commonwealth appears to be paying some very curious rentals. For instance, in the Rialto, Collins-street, Melbourne, it pays £500 for the Statistician's office, which, when I visited it on the last occasion, consisted of only two rooms. In the same building £300 is being paid for a postoffice, and another £400 for the Census office, making £1,200 rental in all. The rents paid in Melbourne aggregate £^9,917, those in Sydney £8,353, and those in Brisbane £r,i37- Although Melbourne and Sydney may be regarded as about equal in size, I find that whereas in the former city the* Commonwealth pays only £i,2gi for postal stores, stables, &c, it expends no less than £4,438 in that connexion in the latter city, or about four times as much. For instance, it pays £250 a year rental for a post-office at the railway station, Sydney, £675 for a parcels post-office and stables in Castlereagh-street, £575 for a money -order office, £260 for a post-office in George-street west, .£479 for a postal store at 170 Clarence-street, and £500 for another postal store at 97 Clarence-street.

Senator McGregor - The material cannot be put in the street.

Senator CHATAWAY - I do not suppose that the Vice-President of the Executive Council has ever even considered this matter. I do not say that the present Government are to blame for the existing condition of affairs. But it appears to me that there is the germ of a very considerable scandal in the excessive rentals which the Commonwealth is paying. I do not intend to delay the passing of this Bill, as I am anxious to proceed with the business with which we are expected to deal within the next month or six weeks. I may suggest to the Government that, as there is so much work to do this session, they should initiate some of their measures in the Senate. We might drop, for the time being, the Navigation Bill.

Senator Lynch - Why?

Senator CHATAWAY - Because the Prime Minister has stated that it cannot be passed this session.

Senator McGregor - The Bill can be put through the Senate this session.

Senator CHATAWAY - Why should we not deal with Bills that can be passed by Parliament this session? The Government would be wisely advised if they appointed a Cabinet or Departmental Committee to look into the question of the rents paid by the Commonwealth, to see whether the most extraordinary figures that I have read from this return - especially those relating to the Post and Telegraph Department - are correct; and, if so, whether some remedy cannot be applied by which we might avoid the enormous expense now incurred.

Senator de Largie - Are the big landlords of Sydney " taking down " the. Commonwealth Government?

Senator CHATAWAY - Quite likely. I never knew a little landlord, or a big landlord either, who would not " take you down," if he got the chance. I am not an apologist for landlords. It is easy enough from these figures to draw the inference that Sydney is robbing the Commonwealth, while Melbourne is treating us uncommonly well. That appears to be especially the case in relation to the Post and Telegraph Department. I again ask the Government to look into the matter, and see if something cannot be done to remedy a position under which we are paying such an enormous sum in rents, that it would surely be advantageous to erect buildings for ourselves.

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