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Wednesday, 7 July 1926

Senator SirWILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) (Minister for Home and Territories) [3.50]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill provides for certain amendments of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924, which provided for the appointment of a Federal Capital Commission to control and manage the affairs of the Territory of the Seat of Government, and, generally, prescribed the powers and functions to be exercised by the commission. It was assented to on the 19th July, 1924. The members of the commission were appointed in due course, and assumed their responsibilities on the 1st January, 1925. After eighteen months' experience of the operation of the act, it has been found that certain amendments are desirable for the more efficient working of the commission; the improvement of the machinery set up for the management of the Territory; and the clarification of the commission's position in relation to certain of its activities. The amendments proposed are largely of a formal character, and do not introduce any important new principle. One of the most important alterations is for the purpose of authorizing the commission to erect and dispose of residences and other improvements on leaseholds, both for cash and on extended terms of payment. This power is necessary in connexion with the housing of public servants, many of whom it is hoped will undertake the purchase of their own homes instead of renting dwellings. These alterations involve consequential amendments to the section dealing with the commission's revenue, to provide that any moneys received by the commission as interest or repayments of advances mav be regarded as forming part of the commission's revenue as prescribed. There has been a difficulty in relation to the lands to be vested in the commission. The existing act prescribes that lands on which utilities and services were provided, and lands contiguous thereto, might be vested in the commission by the Governor-General. As the services include roads, water supply mains, sewerage mains and reticulation, electric mains, parks, depots, and other utilities of a municipal character, it is both difficult and costly to provide for detailed surveys in order to delimit all the lands on which such services arc provided. It would he simpler to vest the whole of the city area in the commission. It now has authority to manage and control, in the name of the Commonwealth, all the lands in the Territory, including tho city lands, and to receive revenue therefrom. The proposed alteration would involve no essential change, but it would simplify the commission's work, and permit it to carry out in its own name what it now does for the Commonwealth. The vesting of the city area lands in the commission will not make any change in the tenure, or affect the rights of any lessee, as it is proposed that the commission, in leasing such lands in its own name instead, of in the name of the Commonwealth, must comply with the provisions of the ordinances already inforce. The existing act gives the commission power to borrow moneys, subject to a resolution by both Houses of Parliament and to the Treasurer's approval ofthe terms. The existing legislation does not permit of the commission utilizing the existing machinery of the Treasury for raising loans. For the Federal Capital Commission to go on the market independently for loan moneys would be costly, and would involve duplication. Moreover, that procedure would increase the> number of borrowing authorities, which it is considered should bc discouraged. It will be remembered that steps have already been taken to attain more uniform action between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to the borrowing of moneys. The proposal now made would fit in with that policy. The alterations which will be submitted for consideration will authorize the commission to arrange with the Treasurer to include its requirements in Commonwealth loans. In this respect the act will be brought into conformity with the Northern Australia Act recently passed by Parliament. It is also suggested that the commission shall, from the commencement, make a contribution to a sinking fund in respect of all loans which are raised in that way. The commission will still be able to arrange with the Commonwealth Sank, or other similar institution, for small loans for purposes for which it is not advisable to obtain a large loan by arrangement with the Treasurer. It is also necessary for a clearer definition to he made in respect to the commission's liability. The existing act provides that the sites allotted for Parliament House and the residence of the Governor-General are not to be vested in the commission. The commission is consequently unable to earn any interest by way of rent or other charges, on the sums expended upon the construction of those buildings.

Senator Duncan - The commission should not have jurisdiction over Parliament House.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - It will not. The lands on which Parliament House and the Governor-General's residence are erected will not be controlled by the commission. It is only equitable that the Commonwealth should meet the cost of construction in both cases, because the commission would have no means of recouping itself if it were to be held liable for the expenditure. It is, therefore, proposed to exempt from the commission's liability all expenditure incurred on Parliament House prior to the act coming into force, and to provide for all expenditure incurred since that date on Parliament House and the residence of tho Governor-General to be defrayed by the Commonwealth. "With the exception of these two buildings, the commission will be responsible for providing all buildings and services required by the Government in the Federal Capital Territory, subject to a reasonable arrangement as regards charges by way of rent, and for services rendered. Other amendments proposed are chiefly matters of detail. They include the alteration of the title of the chairman of the commission to " Chief Commissioner " in order to avoid confusion with chairmen of local boards and committees iti the Territory; provision for convening meetings, so that in cases of difficulty or deadlock the Minister may direct meetings to bc held; investing the Chief Commissioner with the functions of a permanent head under the Public Service Act in respect to permanent public service officers; empowering the commission to make by-laws having immediate operation in case of urgency, subject to possible disallowance by the Governor-General or by Parliament; making clear the commission's position in relation to leases granted by the Commonwealth, in order that it may take action in its own name, if necessary, for the recovery of rent or other moneys. These minor amendments will be fully explained when dealing with the specific clauses in committee. It will be seen that the bill now submitted deals principally with matters which do not require a great deal of discussion or examination. The Federal Capital Commission has had a very heavy task before it in completing the constructional programme, and in dealing with the many problems that have arisen as the result of leasing lands to the public, and setting up a proper local government organization in the Territory. These amendments, if agreed to, will assist the commission in its work; increase its efficiency; and define its position in relation to certain administrative difficulties which have become apparent as a result of practical experience. They are all in conformity with the policy already laid down by Parliament in respect to the

Federal Capital Territory. It is hoped that honorable senators will facilitate the passage of this bill in order that the amended provisions may come into operation as early as possible.

Debate (on motion by Senator NeedHAM) adjourned.

Senate adjourned at 4.0 p.m.

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