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Thursday, 21 April 1921

Senator PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Defence) - The honorable senator intimated to me that it was his intention to ask this question, and I had the file looked up. As the extracts from it which I wish to read are somewhat lengthy, I thinkthat, under the StandingOrders, I should ask leave to read a statement. - (Leave granted.) - I should mention that there are two landing places in the Northern Terrritory - one at Fanny Bay, and the other at Katharine. I have here' a number of extracts from the file dealing with the particular matter to which the honorable senator has referrred. The first is a telegram dated 21st October, 1919, from Lieutenant Fysh, at Port Darwin, stating that the Fanny Bay site was the only suit able emergency site. Then, on the 25th October, a letterwas sent to the Homo and Territories Department asking for permission to use the Fanny Bay site, and. stating the probable cost at about £100; There was then a wire from Lieutenant Fysh, stating that labour was costing 4s. per hour, and owing to the high rate the estimate of cost would be increased to £205. On the 30th October the following report was received, from Lieutenant Fysh on the Fanny Bay landing ground.

The landing place is situated at Fanny Bay, and 2 miles out of Darwin in a northerly direction..... The present obstructions which are being cleared are 700 yards wire fencing, two banyan trees, two' large earth mounds, and several small trees on the edges of the site.

The work, which is being carried out by the Public Works Department, was began at midday on the 27th October. A gang of twelve men are employed on the work, whichis being pushed on as speedily as possible. The rate of pay is 4s. per hour, and a conveyance to and from the ground is supplied.

Senator de Largie - Motor car?'

Senator PEARCE - Yes, motorcar.?

He then stated -

Thehigh rates make . the work very costly, but., they are unavoidable. Mr. Kellaway, Superintendent of Public Works, estimates the cost to be £205, and the work to be finished about ' the 7th November.

On the 10th November, 1919, a further report was received from Lieutenant Fysh, who I may say is a flying officer, who was sent up to Port Darwin at the request of the Prime Minister's Department to make arrangements for the arrival of Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith. He then stated : -

Work was started on the fanny Bay landing ground on the 27th October; a gang varying from twelve to seventeen menwere employed up to the 8th November, when the majority were knocked off, and four men left on to complete a few . odd jobs.

The principal work done was the clearing of two large banyan trees and two earth mounds. The banyan trees proved very tough work indeed, not being, solid, and having, a tangled mass of roots explosives had little effect. However, they were finallyremoved, as were the earth mounds. Seven hundred yards of fencing were also removed and stacked, post holes were filled up and the gravel from the mounds spread in a slight depression of the ground.

On the 15th November a further report was received on the cost of the Fanny Bay landing ground, showing that, the estimate of £205 had been exceeded, the cost being £390. The report reads: -

The original estimate of the cost of preparing the Fanny Bay landing place was £205. This estimatewas submitted to me by Mr. Kellaway, Superintendent of Public Works. Since this estimate was made, several unforeseen jobs have been carried out, such as' the clearing of two large earth mounds, instead of. one, marking circle and telephone lines, &c. On the first - day the men went on at £1 per day, but casual rates were demanded by the Union, which are 4s. per hour. A conveyance to and from the landing place had also to be provided.

The above mentioned rates are put of all reason,but they had to be paid if the work was to be done without a strike, and as the work was required immediately their demands had to be granted. The casual rate of 4s. per hour has been in - force, I believe, for some months here. -

Owing to the high wages (32s. per day) the total cost of clearing and finally fixing . up has reached £300.

On the 4th' December a telegram was sent from the Defence Department to Lieutenant Fysh asking for a statement of expenditure; and on the 5th of December a reply was received from Lieutenant Fysh that the total expenditure at Fanny Bay and Katherine reached £350. On the 6th December a further report from Lieutenant Fysh, intimating that the final cost of Fanny Bay was £449 2s. 5d., reads as follows : - "

The figures £300 . were given," to me by Mr. Kellaway as the final cost of "the Fanny Bay ground, but evidently one or two small accounts were overlooked, and a part of his salary which should have gone on was also omitted.

A detailed account of the expenditure will be prepared and forwarded on to you.

The total under the heading of Fanny Bay comes to £449 2s. 5d., as notified by the SubTreasury Account. Some of the accounts have only just come to band.

It will be seen that the press report of this matter is inaccurate as to the cost, which is stated at £650, and also because the work included the removal of. two large mounds and the erection of a tele phone wire, as well as the removal of the banyan trees.

Senator Wilson - Still the papers represent a great reflection upon the capacity of the officers concerned to estimate the cost of the work.

Senator PEARCE - I . quite agree with the honorable senator. It has to be borne in mind that at the time the work was undertaken Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith were approaching Australia, and in the circumstance's we. had to surrender to the " hold up " and give whatever was asked.

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