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Thursday, 8 July 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I gave a good deal of attention to this measure and was largely responsible for its introduction. If honorable senators realize the true position they would know that some most unreasonable remarks have been made here to-day. When it was decided that the seat of government should be removed by a certain definite date, the Government set to work to provide accommodation for those who would be transferred. I can imagine how those honorable senators who now are belabouring the Government for having decided to erect houses, would have criticized it if no houses were provided. They would have talked of the injustice of transferring public servants from Melbourne without first having made provision for their accommodation at Canberra. To expect 2,000 or 3,000 people to remove to Canberra and to provide themselves with homes, would be ridiculous. They would not be able to do so. Did honorable senators expect that when it was announced that Parliament would assemble in Canberra on the 9 th May next, private enterprise would have rushed to Canberra to build houses for public servants and others? Would honorable senators themselves have acted in that way, and left their money lying idle? The Government had to take time by the forelock. On behalf of the Government and the commission, let me say now . that . if private contractors will go to Canberra to build houses, they will be welcomed. Both the Government and the commission have been inviting, almost begging, private builders to build residences in the Federal Capital Territory. My colleague, the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) will, later, lay on the table the arrangements which the Government is making to encourage public servants to build their own houses at Canberra, to their own design, and by their own contractors. The more they do that, the better the Government and the commission will be pleased.

Senator Kingsmill - And the better for Canberra.

Senator PEARCE - If honorable senators think, as some appear to think, that the commission is desirous of having a monopoly of the building of houses at Canberra, they are entirely mistaken. The commission will welcome private enterprise, and will encourage public servants to build houses to their own plans, and, if necessary, to do their own financ ing. The more that is done, the more will the commission be relieved of responsibility in the matter. But the Government and the commission cannot leave this business to chance. Were they to do so, there would be hopeless confusion when the transfer takes place next year. The commission has issued to public servants a booklet containing 25 different house designs, and they are asked to say whether they consider any of those designs are suitable, and, if so, whether they desire the commission to build houses for them. The price of each type of house is given in the booklet. No public servant is compelled to accept a house of the type being erected by the commission. He can say that he does not want a house built to any of the designs submitted, but prefers to submit his own plans. So long as the plans he submits comply with certain regulations, similar to those which are prescribed by every municipality, no objection will be raised. Why should not the commission have the right to exercise some control over the class of building to be erected in the Federal Capital Territory?

Senator Kingsmill - No one said that it should not have that right.

Senator PEARCE - In this case the commission takes the place of a municipality. It has powers similar to those possessed by every municipality. We do not desire that there shall be any " jerrybuilt " houses in the Federal Capital.

Senator Kingsmill - Certainly not.

Senator PEARCE - Nor do we want any slum dwellings there. If Canberra is to be a model city, there must be regulations governing the erection of buildings.

Senator Kingsmill - The aesthetic effect of the buildings should be taken into account.

Senator PEARCE - I ask the honorable senator to mention one instance in which a design submitted has been rejected.

Senator KINGSMILL (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - How many submissions have there been?

Senator PEARCE - I do not know; but there have been a good number. Several speculative builders are already operating in the Federal Capital territory, and not one of the plans submitted by them has been rejected.

Senator Kingsmill - How many of the houses built by them have been sold?

Senator PEARCE - I do not know. Any builder or architect who desires to set up in business in Canberra will be welcomed by the commission, and every public servant who wants to build a house to his own design will receive every encouragement. The commission is not grasping for more powers. It does not want to build more houses. But, both the commission and the Government are concerned with the necessity for providing houses for officers when they are transferred. The original act did not give the commission power to erect residences for private individuals - and the public servant must be regarded as a private individual. It was thought necessary to extend the powers of the commission to enable it to erect buildings for public servants; not all buildings, as mentioned by Senator Kingsmill. The word " all " is not in the bill.

Senator KINGSMILL (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I do not remember using the word " all." I did not mean to use it.

Senator PEARCE - Paragraph k.a. reads : " The construction of buildings for use as, or in connexion with, residences in the territory."

Senator Kingsmill - I was alluding to the construction of works and buildings required for the purposes of the commission.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable Senator said that the commission had power to erect all buildings. It has no exclusive power in that connexion. I have had many consultations with the chairman of the commission, Mr. Butters, and I know that the commission is prepared to encourage public servants to build their own houses according to their own designs, and, if necessary, to do their own financing. The Government has made certain arrangements for financial assistance for public servants desiring to build their own homes. Is that wrong? Private institutions may- or may not help. We want to be sure that money will be available, if necessary, and we have taken action accordingly. All that we have done is to ensure that when the removal takes place, there will be some guarantee that houses will be available. That is the Government's only object. The commission does not want to have a house-building monopoly, or in any way to limit the architectural designs of houses, provided that they conform to the ordinary building regulations necessary to prevent slum buildings and " jerrybuilt " houses.

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