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Tuesday, 22 March 1927


Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - It is true, as the Minister has said, that the men on Willis Island are employed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and that the Postmaster-General cannot recommend the expenditure of Federal funds to make their positions more comfortable; but it will surely be recognized that the Commonwealth is the major partner in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited; it holds a majority of the shares. In these circumstances, therefore, we, as a Parliament, should have some voice in regard to the conditions of the employees of the company.


Senator McLachlan - As shareholders.


Senator NEEDHAM - Not only as shareholders, but also through our representatives on the board of directors.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - How long is it since the honorable senator saw the conditions that exist on Willis Island ?


Senator NEEDHAM -I was there about twenty months ago; but, as a matter of fact, I know that the conditions prevailing then remain unchanged. I am not asking for anything luxurious. Surely the work of these men on Willis Island in connexion with the recent cyclone, when they issued a warning 48 hours ahead of any other station, entitles them to our consideration. I suggest that they should have a tennis court, a fair library and, say, a gramophone. I hope that Senator Glasgow will make representations to the board of directors of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited that the lot of these men should be made a little more comfortable.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [4.59]. - I shall be pleased to pass on the honorable senator's representations to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, but at the same time

I point out that this Parliament cannot vote money to improve the conditions of the employees on Willis Island. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, is responsible for the control of the wireless station, and also for the comfort of its officers. I shall, however, place the honorable senators' representations before the general manager of the company.

SenatorREID (Queensland) [5.1]. - I direct the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Glasgow) to a report of the Public Works Committee on housing conditions at Canberra, in which, after a very exhaustive inquiry, the following recommendations were made -

(a)   Encourage the building of cottages in numbers up to five by small contractors.

(b)   Bring construction costs within 5 per cent. or 7½ per cent. of Sydney prices.

(c)   Reduce valuation placed on residential blocks of public servants.

(e)   Extend period of rental purchase to 45 years.

(f)   Arrange for Federal Capital Commission to carry its own fire insurance.

(g)   Eliminate at option of purchaser £125 charge for extras, leaving occupier to provide them under supervision. (h)Reduce overhead and suspension charges to 2½ per cent.

(i)   Provide for officials receiving salary of £400 and under, brick cottages of the standard of the War Service Homes Commission.

(j)   Allow officials in receipt of£400 and under to select timber dwellings provided that not more than 5 per cent. of such dwellings are allowed in any brick group.

(k)   Reduce cost of thesmaller types of concrete houses to at least 15 per cent. below the cost of similar brick houses.

I should like the. Minister to state how many of those recommendations, which received the unanimous support of the committee, have been adopted. Some of the charges imposed by the commission are creating discontent in the Public Service, and appeared to be out of all proportion to the service rendered. These charges will have the effect of considerably increasing the cost of living. A reduction would be of great benefit to the Service, and would not seriously effect the financesof the commission.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Home and Territories) [5.3]. - I shall first state the committee's recommendations, and then give the commission's replies (a)" Encourage the building of cottages in numbers up to five by small contractors."

Everything possible has been done to encourage small contractors to tender, but the commission's experience is that the lowest tender has invariably been received from one of the larger contractors. (b) "Bring construction costs within 5 per cent, or 7-J per cent, of Sydney prices." The utmost efforts are being made by the commission to reduce construction costs as far as possible, (c) "Reduce valuation placed on residential blocks of public servants." In assessing the value of the land the market value, which is the only reasonable basis, has been followed in the case of blocks set apart for the Public Service. The late Mr. Gorman, who was a member of the commission, was an expert in land values, and gave a good deal of attention to this matter. After his death the commission sought further advice before finally fixing the value of blocks allotted to public servants. The Government does not propose to interfere with the valuations arrived at by the commission.


Senator Reid - Then it is making a mistake.


Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - The only way in which to arrive at a fair valuation is to take, as a basis, the prices received at auction. I come now to the next recommendation, (d) " Reduce cost of fencing." The cost in this direction has been reduced, (e) " Extend period of rental purchase to 45. years." The Government is not prepared to act on this recommendation, as it considers 35 years an adequate period. The depreciation on a wooden house, for instance, in 45 years, would be considerable, and, on the other hand, many public servants are not likely to reside even in brick houses for 45 years. (/) " Arrange for Federal Capital Commission to carry its own fire insurance." The commission has considered the question of fire insurance, but has not yet come to a definite decision, (g) " Eliminate at option of purchaser £135', charged for extras, leaving occupier to provide them under supervision." That recommendation has been acted upon, (h) " Reduce overhead and supervision charges to 2£ per cent." The commission is npt prepared to act upon the recommendation, as it considers a charge of 4^ per cent, fair and reasonable. As a matter of fact, the original rate was 7^ per cent., which was subsequently reduced to 4$ per cent. No architect would prepare plans and specifications and supervise the construction of a building' on less than a 6 per cent, basis, and many would charge 8 per cent. (?) " Provide for officials receiving salary of £400 and under, brick cottages of the standard of the War Service Homes Commission." Additional provision has been made for houses of a cheaper type to be constructed for officers in receipt of comparatively low salaries, (j) "Allow officials in receipt of £400 and under to select timber dwellings provided that not more than 5 per cent, of such dwellings are allowed in any brick group." The Government does not propose to interfere with the commission's policy by permitting the construction of timber houses in brick areas. (k) " Reduce the cost of smaller types of concrete houses to at least 15 per pent, below the cost of similar brick houses." The UtmOSt efforts are being made by the commission to reduce the cost of construction to the lowest point possible. I have briefly stated the action taken on the recommendations of the Public Works Committee referred to by Senator Reid.







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