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Wednesday, 11 August 1926

Senator PEARCE - Why not wait until the report of the commissioner is laid on the table to-morrow ?

Senator ELLIOTT - There is another matter into which I hope the Minister will look closely and carefully. In New Guinea there is an officer who, I understand, is the Crown law adviser. If his salary is compared with that of officers who hold corresponding positions in the other territories and Crown colonies, it will be found to be very low. The terms of his appointment provide that he shall be entitled to certain annual increments upon the Administrator certifying that he has satisfactorily performed his duties. Although he has been there for three or four years, his increments have been consistently and firmly refused, and the Minister and the department have turned a deaf ear to all appeals on his behalf. If the Minister supports the Administrator in the attitude which he has adopted, he must assume that this officer is not fit for the position which he holds. If he is' fit, he will not be encouraged to improve .the quality of his work when he is denied even the opportunity of stating his case. Inquiry elicits the fact that in the early years of his appointment a petty quarrel developed between him and the Administrator. The latter formulated a list of charges, as long as one's arm, against him, alleging all manner of offences. A proper inquiry was held, and every charge except one was contemptuously dismissed. That charge appears to have been the head and front of his offending. He was found guilty of rudeness towards the .Administrator at a meeting, because he failed to spring to attention at the moment that the Administrator entered the room. That is militarism in excelsis. Because of that rudeness, whether it was intentional or otherwise, his increments have been withheld for four years. Surely a further inquiry ought to be held. Are we likely to receive from these officers the service that we desire if they are treated in that fashion?

The only mention that I shall make of the Northern Territory is that more drastic steps ought to be taken to maintain a service of steamers. We have been told that the residents have been on the verge of starvation because the unions have refused to unload the steamers. The additional powers that are proposed to be conferred on the Government ought to enable it to put a stop to that sort of thing. I hope that the Minister will give the matter immediate attention, and see that a proper system is evolved.

The expiration of my time the other day prevented me from completing my remarks regarding Canberra. I am seized of the importance of having Canberra properly administered, but I fear that, unless the matter is very carefully watched, we shall have a repetition of the scandal which developed in connexion with the War Service Homes Commission.' Although the Minister may believe that any praise or blame should be shouldered by the Federal Capital Commission, the people of Australia will look to him, as they did to the late Senator E. D. Millen, in connexion with the War Service Homes Commission, to see that that commission carries out its work successfully. The late Senator E. D. Millen felt his responsibility even after the War Service Homes Commission was appointed, and the worry which hastened his end was largely due to the unfair attacks that were made upon him in the public press. I should be sorry to see Senator Glasgow worried into an early grave in a similar way. The policy and acts of the commission ought to be explained by the Minister to the Parliament and the people as frequently as possible. He should realize that he is responsible for seeing that the commission does not run off the course at inconvenient angles. I have in my possession a design which was prepared by Mr. Murdoch, Chief Commonwealth Architect, of a combined shop and dwelling to be erected in the civic centre. It appears to be quite a reasonable type. Accompanying it are other drawings from which one can obtain a fairly reliable estimate of the cost. It is necessary that those who are to be tied hand and foot when they purchase or build in the Federal Capital City shall be able to obtain the fullest possible information in regard to costs. The type of shop to which I have referred has been discarded, and the Commission has sub stituted one based on an Italian style of architecture, which is more expensive and which, to me, does not appear to lend dignity to the civic centre. To erect buildings of the type the commission desire will impose a useless burden of expenditure upon the lessees. The specifications provide, among other things, that roofing shall consist of Roman tiles, which, from inquiries I have made, resemble a bisected drainpipe.

Senator Guthrie - Are Roman tiles expensive ?

Senator ELLIOTT - I have made inquiries, and find that they are manufactured only by Warburton, Franki and Company, of Melbourne, and are rarely used in Australia. If a person decided to roof his premises with Roman tiles instead of with ordinary tiles, the cost would be 100 per cent, greater.

Senator Guthrie - What is the advantage of using Roman tiles?

Senator ELLIOTT - The only advantage is that they are supposed to be in keeping with the type of building to be constructed, and which is to be found in northern Italy. If other than Roman tiles were used, the structure would be regarded as inartistic. Ordinary roofing tiles are manufactured at Canberra. If the specifications provide that Roman tiles, shall be used, it will be necessary to obtain supplies from Warburton, Franki in " Melbourne, who will quote only for' delivery free on trucks, Melbourne. If a large quantity of Roman tiles are to be used at Canberra, they will have to be bought at a much higher price than ordinary tiles, and the purchaser will have to pay freight, and bear the cost of breakage, which is considerable. I cannot understand why ordinary roofing tiles cannot be used on business premises in the civic centre. The general style of the building also calls for some comment, as on the ground floor provision is made for cloisters, similar to those to be seen at the cafes in France, where tables' are provided at which patrons can take wine or coffee. The provision of such accommodation is quite unnecessary, particularly at Canberra, where the climate during some parts of the year is wholly unsuitable for refreshments being partaken of in the open air. The increased cost of the buildings to be constructed on the 20-ft. frontages will amount to £250, although the style of the structure will not result in an additional penny of revenue being obtained. If it was deemed essential that this style of architecture should be adopted, the commission should have erected the shops and let them to tenants at the best rent. So far as one can gather, the estimated number of people who will live in Canberra for the next ten years will not be sufficient to enable those who build on these allotments to receive interest on their capital. Some one must engage in business, but under the present policy the number of blocks . available has been limited by the commission. Notwithstanding this, it is forcing purchasers to erect structures of a type which is altogether too expensive. On the 4th August I submitted a number of questions to the Minister for Home and Territories, in an. endeavour to obtain some information concerning the method by which the commission had arrived at the value of the land. One question read - 1

What is the estimated cost of erecting a building at Canberra on subdivision No. 1 in the civic centre of the type required by the commission in the area on an allotment of 20-ft. frontage ?

The answer I received read -

The commission has not made an estimate of the cost of the buildings to be erected by private enterprise on the No. 1 subdivision of the civic centre.

It will, therefore, be seen that the commission has not the remotest idea of the price which unfortunate purchasers of leaseholds will have to pay for these buildings. It it quite usual to stipulate in building leases the class of building that shall be erected, but invariably a minimum cost is fixed. The commission has not gone to the trouble to arrive at a reliable estimate. I believe that the commission is afraid to commit itself to a specific figure. I also asked the Minister the following question : -

Is the commission prepared' to erect such a building for a purchaser at the estimated cost?

The answer I received was in the negative. A further question was -

What is the estimated average income to be expected from a building of the .type referred to, erected on the site mentioned, over the next ten years?

The answer read -

It is not practicable at this stage to formulate a reliable estimate in this regard.

I also asked-

Upon what system of valuation is the upset price of the allotments in the Capital Territory, and particularly in the civic centre, arrived at?

The answer was -

The upset prices put on tho allotments in the 1926 sales were arrived at by expert valuators, after consideration of the results of the 1924 sales and other factors which affect land values.

Senator Kingsmill - How were the 1924 prices arrived at ?

Senator Sir William Glasgow - By auction.

Senator ELLIOTT - No.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - An upset price was fixed.

Senator ELLIOTT - Yes, but the upset price was too high. The upset price they fixed for business sites was approximately £4,000 for an acre of land, for which only £4 an acre was paid. There is nothing to justify the increased price. Surely we should give the purchasers a fair deal. Calculations should be made as to the estimated cost of erecting build,ings, as specified, on these sites, and by that means a fair rental value could be arrived at. An expert valuator would not reach a. decision without giving careful attention to those details which form the basis upon which valuations are made.

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