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Friday, 1 May 1942

Senator COLLINGS (QueenslandMinister for the Interior) . - It is the policy of the Government, and not merely my policy as Minister for the Interior, to transfer the head-quarters of all government departments to the National Capital. I am only one among the Ministers who compose the Cabinet. We have no intention, for instance, of attempting to bring the Service departments to Canberra while there is a war on. However, we do not intend to allow the head office of other government departments to remain elsewhere when it is clear that they can operate from the National Capital, not only just as effectively, but also under conditions far more conducive to effective service than prevail elsewhere. The propaganda to sabotage Canberra is not new. It has been going on since the inception of the National Capital. Many departments have already been brought here. Despite the persistent propaganda against Canberra, and the natural reluctance of people to break old associations in cities where they have lived for the greater part of their life, the unanimous testimony of those public servants who have already been transferred to Canberra is that, as the result of their experience here, they do not, in any circumstances, wish to return to the cities which they were obliged to leave. Further, when it has become necessary to transfer portions of various staffs from Canberra to other cities because of the exigencies of war, the public servants so affected have been very sorry indeed to leave here. All of them have made what arrangements they could in preparation for their return to Canberra as early as possible. Instead of giving up their homes they havemade arrangements with the Department of the Interior to lease them to other people during their temporary absence. The Australian Broadcasting Commission can readily establish its head-quarters in Can berra and do its work here just as efficiently, and under far more comfortable dignified and happy surroundings than exist in the hurly-burly of big cities. In Canberra, members of the commission will be free from the importunities of hundreds of people who have no real business with the commission, such as persons who believe that they have outstanding talent simply because somebody has told them so, and for this reason persist in endeavouring to obtain auditions. Even when they are granted auditions they have not the slightest possible chance of obtaining engagements. Members of Parliament frequently receive letters from these disgruntled individuals to the effect that they are heaven-born artists and the commission has refused to grant them engagements, not because they lack talent, but because of some prejudice against them on the part of the commission. Except during war, there is no kind of administrative work which cannot be carried on efficiently from Canberra. When the war is over, and provided that it ends the way we want it to end. and we are still controlling this country, we shall ensure that the Service departments should be brought to Canberra. We shall make it a truly national capital.

Senator McBride - Does the honorable senator propose to bring the graving dock from Sydney to Canberra?

Senator COLLINGS - One would not expect a remark of that kind from an honorable senator who has occupied positions of great responsibility in this Parliament. It denotes either a child mind, or a very crude attempt to embarrass me. I can understand that Senator McBride's mentality would be quite equal to the prodigious task of bringing the graving dock from Sydney to Canberra. However, I can only speak with certainty about what we can do, and have done, in Canberra. In many instances we have succeeded where the previous Government failed. I can also indicate what can be done at Canberra when the war is over. I wish to see this provision retained in the bill. I oppose the amendment. The plan of the National Capital provides for the construction of lakes in the city. Those lakes can, and will be made. Then, whilst Canberra shall not have a graving dock, because it does not need one, it shall have aquatic sports, national and international. I ask honorable senators not to be led away by frivolous interjections about graving docks, but to keep in mind the fact that we have a city well worth while developing. The transfer of the head-quarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the National Capital will be only another step closer to the day, which I hope we shall all live to see, when Canberra will be, not only in name, but also in reality, a capital of which every Australian can be proud.

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