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Thursday, 15 July 1926

Senator GRANT (New South Wales) . - The more we consider the position the more strongly should we resist this attempt by the Government to appoint another commission with such comprehensive and far-reaching powers. There will be nothing to prevent the commission from travelling to Siberia, going . up and down Africa, jaunting through Europe and North and South America, spending some time in Japan, or wandering away to the Pacific Islands. There is not the slightest justification for its appointment. I cannot get it out of my mind that in proposing to create another body the Government is desirous of providing some of its friends with highly-paid positions. The salary of the chairman will, it is understood, be about £5,000, and the successful applicant will be appointed for not. less than seven years. As a matter of fact, he will be in a better position than the Prime Minister himself. If this were a proposal to pay £5,000 a year to members of Parliament, the Government would not support it. The commission will have authority to interfere with the functions of State Governments. I do not deny that, on occasions, both State and Commonwealth Governments are guilty of serious mistakes. I think that the proposal to have single-line tunnels on the Kyogle to South Brisbane railway is a criminal blunder. I feel sure it will one day mean the death from suffocation of drivers and firemen, and possibly passengers. The State Public Works Committees will strongly resent any interference with their proposals by the commission. What will happen if that body attempts to interfere with works recommended by the River Murray Commission ? Instead of appointing another commission to inquire into proposals relating to public works, it would be far better to strengthen the personnel of existing bodies. The commission, it seems, will be empowered to examine and investigate any undertaking or scheme proposed by a State under the principal migration agreement or any supplementary migration agreement.. This commission will be clothed with such extraordinary powers that it will almost completely override the authority of this Parliament and. ' alao the State Parliaments. I cannot imagine any government submitting such a proposal. As it. is also proposed to give the commission very extensive powers in regard to the control, and supervision of works, it will doubtless come into conflict with, other authorities. The deletion of this clause will! not necessarily destroy the bill, as the Minister states, because the proposal, I understand, is to increase the powers of the Public Works Committee to enable it to conduct the investigations which this commission .is to undertake. There are, I believe, about 27 commissions, boards and committees endeavouring to solve the problems which the Government is. either unwilling, or too tired, or too lazy to settle.. There are two welldefined lines of thought in this country, one endeavouring to regulate industry, and another to open up and maintain fresh avenues of employment, and allow those engaged in industry to control their own destinies. These two sections are more" or less striving for supremacy, and apparently this is an endeavour to regulate that section' which is in the ascendancy. A competent officer once said that it would pay the Government to have an - officer supervising the operations of every workman, but that is a policy to which I do not subscribe. This commission will be one of the most highly-paid and irresponsible bodies that could be suggested. The chairman is to receive £5,000 a year for a term of seven years, and the deputy-chairman, whose salary is not mentioned, will be appointed for a term of five or six years at a very substantial remuneration. There is no justification whatever for interfering with work now being undertaken by the .States in a most efficient manner. An amendment of the Public Works Committee Act in the direction suggested would meet the case, and at the same time save a considerable sum of money. If the Government wishes to go in for a scheme of complete unification and entirely destroy the activities of the States, it will find that the public opinion of the Commonwealth is distinctly against it. It was suggested the other day that, instead of the spoils collected at the

Customs House being distributed to the States in the form of per capita payments, certain financial adjustments should be made between, the Commonwealth and the- States. But the State Premiers, threatened the Commonwealth Government in such a way that the consideration of that proposal, has been temporarily postponed. If the Government submitted a policy embodying unification, they would receive substantial support from honorable, senators on this side of the chamber. The Government is now endeavouring to superimpose upon the Public Works Committees of the Commonwealth and States, and an almost innumerable number of board's and commissions, yet another commission. That is entirely unjustifiable. I intend to support the deletion of the clause with a view to inserting in its stead the provision which has been suggested.

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