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Friday, 16 July 1926

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - This is the second occasion, Mr. President, upon which I have had the privilege of addressing you. I have to apologize for the fact that on the previous occasion I did not avail myself of the opportunity to compliment you upon your elevation to your present high office. Naturally, .being human - and preferring to be human rather than inhuman - I should like to be the' congratulated instead of the congratulator. That, however, is by the way. I feel that in my attempted flight to the exalted pinnacle upon which you rest I was stricken down and made to feel a piercing humiliation. From my lowly position I now express the hope 'that you will have a long and prosperous career in the Chair. Using words as a vehicle for conveying my thoughts towards you, I assure you that I better showed my appreciation of your qualities by supporting you to the fullest extent of my powers in your effort to obtain your present position. I did so, not only personally, 'but also by giving advice to those who sought it from me regarding your fitness for the position. I now leave the matter by wishing you all good luck.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon J Newlands - I thank the honorable senator for his very manly explanation. I accept it cheerfully.

Senator LYNCH - Under this measure it is proposed to spend £296,734 on new works and buildings, and we are afforded the opportunity of showing where in the past public money has not been expended to the best advantage. I refer particularly to the cost of the erection of houses in the Federal Capital Territory. I hope that you, sir, will not rule that I am out of order in referring to that matter. If you have any doubts I call your attention to the fact that the schedule to the bill contains numerous items that are applicable to the erection throughout the Commonwealth of new works and buildings that may have been the subject of inquiry by the Public Works Committee. It is regrettable that a greater amount of wisdom and common sense has not been displayed in providing houses- for our public servants at Canberra. It was reported that a contract for 300 houses involving an expenditure of over £500,000 had been let by the Federal Capital Commission. That report, I may add, was, within certain limits, contradicted officially. We were given to understand that the ministerial interpretation of the position was not that a complete contract had been let, but that contracts in groups of six cottages, and costing from £1,600 to £2,000 each, had been entered into for the erection of homes for public servants. It is clear, however, that the interests of the public servants - that body from which I have always demanded 20s. worth of work for every 20s. received - have not been conserved in this transaction.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon J Newlands - I am afraid that I cannot allow the honorable senator to discuss the erection of cottages at Canberra. The bill contains no item covering works at the Federal Capital. The honorable gentleman will be in order in referring incidentally to that subject, but may not discuss it at length.

Senator LYNCH - Very well, Mr. President, I accept your invitation to discuss the matter incidentally. I hope that the Government will not again depart from the established practice of referring all public works of any magnitude to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report. Failure to do that in this instance will involve public servants in substantial loss, because they will have to pay more for the rent or purchase of their houses at Canberra than otherwise they would have to do.

Senator Givens - The public servantsare not compelled to accept those houses.. If they wish they may build homes for themselves.

Senator LYNCH - Nevertheless the burden on them must necessarily be heavier as the result of this foolish departure from the policy which has been in force for the past fifteen years of referring all such works to the Public Works Committee.. . I have personal knowledge of the case of an eight-roomed house erected in my own State 200 miles north of Perth. That building will last for 100 years, and although it cost less than £1,000, it is good enough for any person.

Senator Findley - Is ?t a wooden or a brick house?

Senator LYNCH - It is a wooden house built on a very sound foundation. I speak of it because I am personally interested in 'it. Homes of that description would have been more satisfying to public servants at Canberra. I regret that Mr. Murdoch, one of the most capable officers in the Commonwealth Public Service, has not been retained at least in an advisory capacity in connexion with the erection of houses in the Federal' Capital. That is all I shall have to say on that point.

I endorse what my friend the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) said a few moments ago about the need for extending our air services, and I note that the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Pearce), is not unfriendly towards the suggestion. If any further grants or subsidies are to be paid the Government should stipulate that heavier types of machines capable of carrying the simpler commodities so necessary for the people who live in the north or north-west of my State, and in other isolated portions of the Commonwealth, should be provided. These things make for the contentment of the people, and we should bend our energies to seeing that they get them in a larger measure.

Senator Givens - There is nothing like the divine discontent; a contented man will never strive for anything.

Senator LYNCH - Our. ex-President, as we know, lives in the empyrean regions where' he may in his moments of leisure- reflect upon the virtues flowing from a condition of divine discontent. I am speaking . of the ordinary .work-a-day affairs that come within the region of practical politics. I am dealing with the ordinary discontent of mankind. I am dealing with a utilitarian subject. I am endeavouring to persuade the Government to make it possible for people who live away in the north and north-west to obtain some of those commodities so essential for their comfort. In other words, I am speaking for the pioneers, . to whom we owe so much, and who, I regret to think, are so often forgotten.

I turn now to the subject of rifle ranges. There is provision in this bill for the same vote as last year. It should be substantially increased, so that those men who devote so much of their, time to perfecting themselves in the use of those weapons so useful in time of war, may be encouraged to a reasonable extent. I should like to see an increase of 50 per cent, in the vote for rifle clubs. I know that I am not allowed to refer to the debate on the measure that was before the Senate last night, but I should like to say that I deprecate the expenditure of so much money on a Migration Commission whilst such ' useful institutions as our rifle clubs are clamouring for further assistance. I hope that the Supplementary Estimates will provide an increased vote for these clubs. A voluntary man, as - we know, is worth ten pressed men. A citizen who voluntarily sacrifices so much of his time in this useful occupation should be encouraged. In my State, where sturdy men have to work six days a week in the battle for a crust, they cannot afford to indulge in rifle practice on Saturday afternoons as is the custom in these "festering" cities like Melbourne

Senator Findley - Keep off the grass!

Senator LYNCH - I am only quoting Thomas Jefferson, the man who wrotethe Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, and who declared that the sores of our civilization are the festering cities that abound. I am surprised that an admirer of the classics like Senator Findley, one of the notables of the Labour party, should register dissent. I think I have said all I intended to say when I rose. Let me, in closing, repeat that I hope there will in the future be a thorough investigation into all public works involving the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. The Public Works Committee, which was created by this Parliament, is one of our most valuable institutions. All shades of politics and all States have representation upon it. Every proposal is looked at from every angle, and as a result, in very many cases unnecessary expenditure is avoided. I believe that the Government has shown some contrition in the matter. I am led to believe that, what I am suggesting will be done. I am glad to think that Ministers, who are not all hard-hearted, have relented to some extent, and that we may confidently anticipate that hereafter there will be no departure from the well-established practice of referring such proposals as house construction at Canberra to the Public Works Committee for investigation and report.

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