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Thursday, 8 July 1926

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . I move -

That all the words after the word "That" be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, " the bill be read a second time this day six months."

I am sure that all honorable senators are as anxious as I am that Canberra should be a model city, surpassing any city in the world. Statements have been made that Canberra is an extremely cold place in winter, some even going so far as to say that it is necessary for people living there to be clad in attire similar to that worn by explorers at the poles. Probably such statements emanate only from those whose minds are warped and prejudiced. Again, it is said that Canberra in the summer time is hotter than Hades. That also is probably an exaggeration.I believe that the climate of Canberra is bracing and invigorating. Most of the people who have visited the Federal Capital Territory for the first time have been agreeably surprised to find the climate so congenial. For my part, I am not particularly anxious to go there for the first time. There seems a. disposition on the part of the representatives of some States, particularly New South Wales, to get to Canberra at express speed. I hope that those gentlemen are not like the man who, although always in a hurry, is never on time. Should the bill be passed in its present form, the commission will be clothed with suchpowers that it will be able to administer the Territory in its own way. Only yesterday, as it were, Parliament passed a measure appointing a commission to administer the Federal Capital Territory; now we are told that that legislation is full of defects. That statement will please Senator Barwell, who has expressed the opinion that such defects are inseparable from our method of government. Certainly, defects are inseparable from the present Government. No Government has introduced into this Parliament so much amending legislation as has the present Administration. A board of three was appointed to control the Federal Capital Territory. It is now, apparently, infra dignitatem to refer to that body as a " board " ; and, therefore, legislation has been introduced to refer to its members as " commissioners." and to the chairman as "chief commissioner." Moreover, it is thought necessary to extend the powers of the commission to enable it to administer the Territory according to its owndesires. I have no fault to find with the personnel of the commission. I believe that its members possess the qualifications necessary to fit them for their high and important duties. But they are not infallible; I expect that they sometimes make mistakes. Apparently, they have exceeded their duty in calling for tenders for a certain number of dwellings without tho matter having first been fully investigated by the Public Works Committee. Parliament appointed that committee to carry out certain important work, and it has discharged its duties well. From time to time the members of the committee have visited the Federal Capital Territory. Probably no body of men is more familiar with the work that has been done there than are the members of that committee. They are as anxious as the members of the Federal Capital Commission that all work done at Canberra shall be satisfactory, both from the point of view of the taxpayers and of those who will be called upon to reside there permanently. In the interests of the latter it is essential that the fullest inquiry should be made into the class of dwelling to be provided for them. It is all very well for honorable senators who are well circumstanced in life, and are not troubled with financial matters, to treat the cost of houses at Canberra as a matter of little or no concern ; but, to the public servants, many of whom are near the bread line, the cost of the buildings which are being provided for their needs is of considerable importance. The smallest cottage to be provided for their accommodation will cost over £1,000. I understand that the Government intends to take action so that transferred public servants will not have to sacrifice their homes in Melbourne; but, in addition to that, Parliament should see that they get value for their money in the homes which they will occupy in the Federal Capital Territory, and, moreover,' that those homes will suit their needs. Surely this is a matter which calls for investigation by the Public Works Committee. If, as a result of its inquiries, the committee is of the opinion that something has been done which ought not to have been done, it will draw public attention to the matter in its reports. How many honorable senators knew that the commission was undertaking this big work without the Public Works Committee having been consulted ?

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - If in every case the commission had to wait for investigation by the Public Works Committee, it would be years before the transfer to Canberra could be made.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not think so. Some of the biggest works ever undertaken by the Commonwealth have been undertaken only after inquiry by the Public Works Committee. While work in the Federal Capital Territory has been carried out much more expeditiously during the past year or two than was the case previously, that result is not so much due to the creation of the Federal Capital Commission as to the fact that large sums of money have been granted by Parliament from time to time for works in the Territory. I am sorry that New South Wales representatives have shown such extreme haste to get to Canberra. I do not know what fault they have found with the State which I have the honour to represent in this chamber. They have been well treated in Melbourne.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Look at the weather outside.

Senator FINDLEY - Melbourne's climate is such that people can live in it; its people are kindly disposed; its press has regard to the actions of legislators. My desire is to delay the passage of this bill. By so doing we ought to be able to get the opinion of the Government's legal advisors regarding the relation of the Public Works Committee to the Federal Capital Commission, and also a better understanding of what the commission proposes to do during the next few months.

Senator McLachlan - In what way would delaying this bill affect matters?

Senator FINDLEY - It would enable Parliament to know the view of the Crown Law authorities regarding the necessity or otherwise of works proposed by the commission being referred to the Public Works Committee.

Senator McLachlan - Apparently there is a difference of opinion between the two bodies; but what has that to do with the passing of this bill?

Senator FINDLEY - Until that difference of opinion has been settled, Parliament should not grant additional powers to the commission. If it has exceeded its powers under the existing legislation, it is likely to do worse if granted additional power.

Senator McLachlan - This bill will not make the slightest difference to the question of referring the contracts for the building of these houses to the Public Works Committee.

Senator FINDLEY - The bill will give the Federal Capital Commission greater powersthan are now given to it by the existing act, under which it has already undertaken certain work, which the Public Works Committee declares should not have been undertaken until it had had an opportunity of investigating it. A delay of six months in the passage of this bill will be in the best interests of the people and of that section of the public service that is very much concerned as to the cost of the houses they will be called upon to occupy at Canberra.

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