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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - It is unfortunate that the return which the Minister of Defence has just quoted is not available to all honorable senators.

Senator Findley - It was laid upon the table yesterday.

Senator MILLEN - Probably it was. I am not blaming the .Minister, who has sufficient sins of his own to answer for without oblidging me to put upon his shoulders the sins of others. It is absolutely impossible to arrive at a definite conclusion as to the merits of the day-labour and contract systems from a perusal of any document such as the Minister has just read-

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Senator McColl arrived at a conclusion before he got the information.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Russell may persuade himself that no one in the Senate has a right to ask Ministers for any information of which he does not approve,, but the Opposition decline to accept such, a position.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - I referred to an assertion made by Senator McColl at a public, meeting

Senator MILLEN - I would suggest to Senator Russell, in view of recent events, that he should pay a little more attention to statements made by himself at public meetings. * Whatever the individual opinions of honorable senators may be asto the two rival systems of carrying out Government works, no one will believe that the matter can be settled by a comparison of this kind.

Senator McGregor - Why was the return asked for, then?

Senator MILLEN - For the purpose of getting information, of course. But no one should expect, when asking for information from a Government like this, which is championing a particular system, that he will get anything which will enable him to attack that system. If he does, he has more confidence in the Government than I have.

Senator Gardiner - It is more reliable information than " The man on the job story.

Senator MILLEN - I have felt confidence in the Government in this respect : that there would be no hope with their assistance of getting down to bedrock in regard to the matter to which the honorable senator refers ; and my confidence has not been abused.

Senator Long - Does the honorable member suggest that the figures supplied' are not correct?

Senator MILLEN - No, but 1 am pointing out how easy it is to give an appearance of supplying information whilst at the same time suppressing some. The Minister of Defence has read out figures to show the estimated cost of the building in question exclusive of certain items. The figures he gave do not represent the total cost at all, because the whole thing was; subject to certain items which were ex- cluded. Throughout the whole thing we had " excluding this," " excluding that," and "excluding the other." I have no doubt that honorable senators opposite will go round and tell people that this return shows that the actual cost has exceeded the estimate by only £3,000. But they have cut out a lot of items.

Senator Long - For furniture, does the honorable senator mean?

Senator MILLEN - No, not for furniture. The Minister gave us the estimated

Cost, excluding various essentials.

Senator Givens - The strong-room is not a part of the building.

Senator Pearce - I gave the total cost of the building, exclusive of the cost of supplying the triple Treasury. But that was not included in the original estimate atall.

Senator MILLEN - That is the point. 1 want to know whether this thing was or was not included. When a Department puts forward an estimate of the cost of a building its estimate ought to cover everything.

Senator Pearce - The Department could not give an estimate of the cost of the Treasury safe, because information could not be obtained in Melbourne. It had to be obtained from Great Britain.

Senator MILLEN - When they put forward an estimate of £27,000 we assumed that they made provision for everything.

Senator Pearce - That makes it all the better for day labour.

Senator MILLEN - I am not arguing about day labour, but I say that a return of this kind does not help us a bit.

Senator Rae - That is the honorable senator's trouble - that the return does not help him !

Senator MILLEN - Ministers and their supporters can take whatever comfort they like from this return. 1 do not believe that any question put by any honorable senator on this side, or by any one else, will ever be successful in obtaining from this Government, which is championing a particular system, information which will enable that system to be attacked.

Senator Barker - Does the honorable senator suggest that the Department would furnish whatever information it liked?

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