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Wednesday, 21 July 1926

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - The Senate should not agree to the motion submitted by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) without giving the matter careful consideration. When the Seat of Government Administration Bill was before this Chamber, a few days ago, honorable senators on this side ;of the Chamber directed attention to the fact that the Federal Capital Commission had let a contract for the construction of certain houses at Canberra before the proposed work had been investigated by the Public Works Committee, but our protests in that regard were ridiculed. We said that if the action of the commission was not a violation, it was certainly an evasion of the Public Works Committee Act. I understand that the Crown law authorities have now advised the Government that this work should be inquired into by the Public Works Committee. Whilst I recognize that the proposed work should have been investigated by the committee before any action was taken by the Federal Capital Commission, I do not know whether the Senate should permit the committee to meet while the Senate is sitting. On the last occasion when a similar motion was submitted to this Parliament, the matter was urgent, but I do not think that can be said in this in stance. If we- agree to the motion we shall be establishing a very bad precedent. The Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee can sit on days when Parliament meets, but not while either House is actually sitting. The Minister should have stated why there is any urgency.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is aware that Parliament is to meet at Canberra on the 9th May of next year.

Senator NEEDHAM - Yes, and I am also aware that the Public Works Committee will have approximately ten months in which to complete its investigation and submit a report. At present the committee is sitting frequently, and if the session ends as is anticipated early next month, there will then be. at least nine months in which it can carry out its investigations. Possibly the Minister may say that the committee's report will have to be submitted to Parliament before we adjourn, but if that is the case, we should have been so informed. Unless the work is very urgent, the procedure suggested in this instance is dangerous.

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