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Wednesday, 26 May 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Home and Territories) .- I move-

That the Senate do now adjourn.

I wish to take this opportunity of making a statement in regard to the opening of Parliament at Canberra. There are two dates which, because of their historical significance, at once suggest themselves as suitable, namely, the 26th January, Foundation Day, and the 9th May, anniversary of the opening of the first Federal Parliament. Representations have been made to the Government that Parliament should open on the 26th January, 1927. It is pointed out, however, that once Parliament has been opened at Canberra it cannot resume its sittings in Melbourne. It may become necessary to hold sittings of Parliament for the transaction of business in the early part of 1927, and the Federal Capital Commission has advised that it cannot provide accommodation for departments or housing for the Public 'Service by the 26th January, 1927, in sufficient quantity to enable any of the departments to function there. It would, of course, be possible to hold merely the ceremonial opening of the Parliament, but, as already pointed out, that would preclude the transaction of parliamentary business in Melbourne subsequently. On the other hand, by the 9th May, accommodation can be provided, not merely to enable a ceremonial function for such an occasion to be arranged for, but the necessary accommodation for the departments essential for the functioning of parliamentary business can also be provided. As regards the historical significance of the 9 th May, it may be pointed out that the first 25 years of the parliamentary history of the Commonwealth was completed on the 9th May of this year, and that date in 1927 will be the completion of the first year of the second quarter of a century of our parliamentary history. That gives that date a significance particularly appropriate to the occasion. After full consideration of all the issues involved and after collaboration with the Federal Capital Commission, the Government has come to the conclusion that it would be both more appropriate and more convenient, and would secure the more efficientconduct of public business, if the new Parliament House at Canberra were officially opened on the 9th May, 1927. The Government has been carefully considering the question of the stages in which the transfer of the officers of the Commonwealth Public Service should be effected. It was realized that, in order that buildings should not remain unoccupied for a lengthy period after the completion of their construction, the transfer should take place as soon as office and housing accommodation could be provided for the officers of those departments whose presence at Canberra would be essential to enable the functions of government to be carried on permanently after the first meeting of Parlia- ment. It has accordingly been decided that, immediately after the first meeting of Parliament at Canberra, the undermentioned numbers of officers shall be transferred, the departments being moved, . as far as possible, in the order shown: -


In addition, there will he the staff of. the Government Printing Office, which has not yet been selected. As further housing and office accommodation becomes available, the departments which, in the first transfer, will be represented by secretariats and other offices, the permanent location of which is to be at Canberra, will be transferred. The order of the transfer of those departments and offices will be determined at a later date.

Honorable senators will realize that the work of transference of departmental papers, furniture, and equipment, and the furniture and effects of officers, is a task of great magnitude, demanding the exclusive attention of a capable organizer. Colonel W. P. Farr has been appointed as Director of Transportation, and is already concentrating on the preliminary work.

The Government has made an arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank by which the bank has undertaken to make advances to public servants and the general public who desire to purchase homes from the commission, or to make arrangements for the construction of homes independently of the commission. For the construction of business premises it is possible to arrange terms with the Commonwealth Bank similar to those operating in other parts of the Commonwealth.

It is natural that public servants should be somewhat disturbed at the approaching severance of Melbourne ties and associations, but the Government is gratified at the spirit with which the service is facing the situation, and is confident that, after the initial dislocation of personal affairs has been survived, public servants will settle down contentedly in their new surroundings. In order that officers of the service may have an opportunity of selecting sites for their future homes, those who desire to visit Canberra before the dato of the transfer, for the express purpose of choosing residential blocks, will receive a concession of 50 per cent. of the return railway fare for themselves and their wives.

Realizing that the unorganized offer for sale of the homes owned by public servants in Melbourne would result in a temporary glut in the market, the Government is completing a scheme by which officers, who are prepared to accept the assessment of the valuator to beappointed, can hand over their Melbourne homes to the Government for realization on the basis of a fair valuation. The amount of the valuation in each case will be placed to the officer's credit, and will be made available towards the cost of providing a home for him at Canberra.

The Federal Capital Commission is at present engaged in the preparation of a pamphlet containing plans of various typos of homes, with particulars of the cost for outright purchase, hire purchase, or rental. Each officer of the Service will be given an opportunity of choosing the type of house he will require, and any officer who desires to do so may submit his own design. The commission will then, as far as possible, arrange for the construction of a home for each officer according to the plan chosen or submitted by him.

I can assure honorable senators that no effort will be spared to ensure an efficient and expeditious transfer, andI sincerely hope that the establishment of the Capital at Canberra will go far towards intensifying that national spirit which is so strong a feature of Australia's nationhood.

Senator Grant - Can Senator Pearce inform me whether it is a fact that the

Duke of York, Killarney and Inverness has been invited to declare the Parliament open at Canberra on 9th May, or is it intended to invite him to do so ?

Senator PEARCE - A statementwill be made on thatsubject at the proper time by the Prime Minister, and I am sure that honorable senators will not expect me now to answer a casual question with respect to it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 10.9 p.m.

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