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Tuesday, 6 December 1927

Senator LYNCH ("Western Australia) . - It appears that we shall have to agree to this expenditure whether we like it or not, and wait a little time in order .to see whether the appointment of the commission is justified. For my part, I strongly object to its fantastic recommendation that there should be erected houses costing from £600 to £700 for rural workers, while the struggling owner is living, or has lived, in a lean-to tin shanty for years. If that is the only solution the members of the commission ca.n offer of the problems that confront agriculture in. Australia, I am afraid that we are paying them far too high salaries. Just imagine a man looking out from his leanto shanty upon a £600 house occupied by one of his employees, and built as a means to help him to success in working his farm ! That is a nonsensical proposition to be put forward by three allegedly wise men. They were chosen for this work because it was understood that they possessed intelligence above the average. From my knowledge of the two of them, I can say that if they had been told in 1921 that six years later they would be in receipt of the salaries they are now paid, they would have had to tune their imagination to its highest pitch to conceive of such a possibility. They are doubtless good men in their own spheres. Mr. Gunn is a rare product of fortune iu politics. He is lucky. I know Mr. Nathan very, well; he is a gentleman of passing respectability. He went to the Wembley Exhibition, where he was constantly in the company of the chairman of the commission. When next we heard of him, he had been appointed to the commission. He was a successful commercial man, within limits, in Western Australia, but he was not by any means at the head of his calling.

Senator Reid - Does the honorable senator suggest that a £600 house is too good for a settler?

Senator LYNCH - Let us juxtapose the position and imagine the settler living in & shanty and viewing the spectacle of one of his employees living in a £600 house. That is the brilliant idea which has been put forward by these brainy men.

Senator Sir George Pearce - That is not correct.

Senator LYNCH - That suggestion was made to the Queensland Government, and was scouted as it deserved to be. However, we must accept the position. I voted against the proposal to appoint the commission in the belief that the existing organizations could pull us through for a number of years while systematizing the efforts of both the Commonwealth and the States. Let us consider what works have been constructed without the aid of expensive commissions. There is the River Murray scheme. The estimated cost of that work was about £6,000,000, but the expenditure will probably exceed £12,000,000. It was not necessary to appoint an expensive commission to undertake it and carry it to success. It will not be loaded with large overhead expenses, as will every work that is recommended by the Development and Migration Commission. The Coolgardie water scheme was completed at a cost of about £3,000,000 - it would probably cost £6,000,000 todaywithout being overloaded with the expense of a costly commission; and the work was well done.

The committee is asked to vote the Prime Minister's Department the sum of £380,000. The vote last year was £309,000, and the expenditure £335,000. When Parliament, after mature consideration, decides that a certain amount shall be spent, why is it exceeded? In the case of the Prime Minister's Department, the expenditure exceeded the votes by £26,000. If the other 22 departments exceeded the vote by a similar amount, the difference would be over half a million pounds. There are three offending branches in the department that we now have under review. The administrative branch exceeded the vote by nearly £9,000, the audit office by almost £4,000, and the Public Service Board by a similar amount. Why can they not cut their coat according to their cloth?

Senator SirGEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.36]. - The honorable senator will see that the branches which are responsible for the increases are those which employ clerical labour. The Estimates are based, of course, on existing salaries, but appeals are constantly being made to the Public Service Arbitrator for increases in salaries, and his awards add considerably to the expenditure of the department. That expenditure cannot be foreseen when the Estimates are being framed. The additional amount is paid out of the Treasurer's Advance. That practice has been going on for several years, and salaries have been continually on- the upgrade. Senator Lynch will find that that is the explanation in the case of nearly every increase.

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