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Thursday, 22 August 1912

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) - I have listened very carefully to the long discussion on this item. My complaint is that, except by asking for a return, we have no means of knowing the estimated cost of any work included in these Estimates. It is impossible for any honorable senator to bear in mind all the votes towards the cost of a building, which have been passed. It is utterly impossible when a Bill is brought forward on Friday to search the records of the Department for years to find out how much a particular building has cost up to date.

Senator Pearce - Is there a case where you Fia ve asked for. information, and it has not been supplied ?

Senator SAYERS - If the information were available here, it would shorten the consideration of the Estimates to a large extent. I maintain that it should be available now. I do not know why Senator McColl asked for a return regarding the construction of the Treasury building. I have no objection to day labour so long as bond fide work is done for the money. If you have a good man, and he cannot get as good work out of the hands as a contractor could, he should be dismissed. Senator Givens knows the place from which I come, and is aware that I have been there for forty years. T have never been in favour of contract labour there. I do not think that many men have a better record than that. My desire is to see that the money is spent to the best advantage of the country. I wish to know if proper estimates of the cost of public works have been made. Senator Long, who has been the manager of a mine, knows that if he had gone to the directors for permission to put in a 200-feet level, they would have immediately asked for an estimate of the cost, and that if he had exceeded the estimate by very much, he would have been "hauled over the coals." Instead of dealing with a small sum we are dealing with millions, and in the dark, too. I do not care whether the Government go on with contract or day-labour, so long as they get a fair return for the taxpayers. If you have good men I prefer day-labour every time, but unless there is a proper system of supervision you will not get a fair return. Sufficient information regarding the Treasury Building in Melbourne has not been supplied to us. In his speech the Minister of Defence said something about .£56,000 for the building, but I notice that it has got down to £33,000.

Senator Pearce - That is for a new wing.

Senator SAYERS -The whole thing has got so mixed up that no honorable senator can find out what is correct. Our whole contention has been that we have not been furnished with a proper estimate of the cost of the building. We are now told that a certain portion has cost £33,000. But I want the Committee to see if that is a fair thing. Senator Givens said that there were certain matters to which I referred ; that things were costing a good deal more now than they did when the estimate for this building was framed. The Minister referred to a contract in Adelaide which cost 20 per cent, above the estimated cost of this building, but he did not Say a word to the effect that the prices of things had gone up as Senator Givens did.

Senator Givens - The report referred to the increased cost of material since the original estimate for this building was made.

Senator SAYERS - I have not seen the report.

Senator Givens - You heard the report read as I did.

Senator SAYERS - Yes; but the report is too long for me to remember. The Minister of Defence compares the cost of the Treasury Building with that of some building for which tenders have been called in Adelaide, but he said nothing about the material being so much dearer now. I want the whole thing to be put plainly before the Committee so that we may all know what we are doing. If we are provided with that information I am prepared to pass the item without further talk. I suggest that before we rise to speak the Government should tell us the estimated cost of any work towards the cost of which we are asked to vote a certain sum. I believe that if they adopt my suggestion they will shorten the proceedings.

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