Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 8 July 1926

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland1) (Minister for Home and Territories) [4.54].- The point raised by Senator Needham, with regard to construction work at Canberra, really does not arise under the. bill. The Federal Capital Commission -let certain contractu under the principal act, which has been in operation since the beginning of last year. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), on a point of order, showed clearly that this bill does not in any way interfere with the authority of the Public Works Committee 'to inquire into public works proposals in the Federal Capital

Territory. The question whether there has been an evasion of the Public Works Committee Act by the commission, in letting the contracts referred to, is at present before the Crown Law authorities. As honorable senators are aware, a. considerable number of houses are in course of erection at Canberra.Undoubtedly, it is more econocical to build them under the group system than to let a large number of small contracts, each of which is under £25,000. I understand that the commission took the view that, as the contracts were let at so much for each house, it was not necessary to have that work referred to the Public Works Committee. Notwithstanding that, the total of the contracts aggregated a large sum of money.

Senator Needham - It was one way to evade the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The commission was not particularly anxious to do that. Its sole purpose was to expedite the building of houses at Canberra to enable Parliament to function there next year. . When an opinion has been given by the Crown law authorities as to the legality of the action by the commission, the Public Works Committee and the commission itself will be advised.

Senator Thompson - It is to be hoped that the work will be proceeded with in the meantime.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - A number of small contracts are going on. It must be obvious that, if the commission could let contracts for a large number of houses on the group system, the price should be lower. Senator Reid particularly stressed the high building costs at Canberra, and mentioned a number of other difficulties. I can assure the Senate that if public servants and other people who intend to live there will build their own houses and take the responsibility off the shoulders of the commission, that Body will be very pleased.

Senator Duncan - That is not a fair thing to ask.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Perhaps it is not, but I can assure the Senate that the commission is doing its best.

Senator Duncan - The commission is buildingunder mass production methods and is charging enormous prices for the houses. Thatis the trouble.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The commission did all that was possible to ensure that prices should be reasonable. It called for tenders for these contracts throughout Australia. Canberra is a considerable distance from the coast, so the cost of all raw material there is greaterthan in our capital cities, in addition to which workmen have to be engaged and taken to Canberra.

Senator Reid - That is altogether wrong. If there is work at Canberra the men ought to go to the job.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The honorable senator must realize, surely, that, as Parliament will be sitting there next year, it is important that all the work should be expedited. If there was any slowing down, members generally would be very much concerned. The commission is endeavouring to expedite the work so that Parliament may meet there next year.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Senator Reid says that houses in. Canberra cost twice as much as better houses in Adelaide. That is a serious allegation.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.I am notina position to say if Senator Reid's statement is in accordance with fact.

Senator Reid - It is quite correct.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - In any case, this Bill does not raise that issue.

Amendment negatived.

Suggest corrections