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Friday, 1 May 1942

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- I hope that the committee will retain this clause in its original form. It is most desirable that the Government should take a definite stand in relation to the transfer of governmental institutions to Canberra. From my own experience, when I was Minister for the Interior, I know that the staffs of many government departments and commissions do not hesitate to use all their efforts to prevent their transfer to the National Capital.

Senator MCBRIDE - How could they be accommodated in Canberra?

Senator FOLL - No Minister would be foolish enough to bring people here unless accommodation were provided for them. Every Commonwealth government, whatever its- political colour, should do its utmost to bring about the transfer of all departments to the Australian Capital Territory at the earliest possible date. I say frankly that I encountered a great deal of passive resistance from some public servants to my endeavours to bring them to Canberra. The real purpose of this city as the main administrative centre of Australia will never be fulfilled while Commonwealth departments are spread all over Australia as they are at present. Senator James McLachlan himself said that he believed that Canberra should be the centre of all Commonwealth governmental activities 1 hope that the time is not far distant when it will be the centre of all governmental activity in Australia, and when we shall no longer have State parliaments with wide powers, which some of them are now using in a way that impedes the nation's war effort. It is only natural that people who have established their homes in other cities should wish to avoid being transferred to Canberra. But Canberra has been established as the Seat of Government for the Commonwealth, and the proper place for the head office of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and all other governmental bodies is here. I hope that one of the most urgent post-war activities of the Commonwealth will be the elevation of Canberra to its proper place in the national structure. This measure will not have effect for only a few weeks or months. As Senator Gibson has pointed out, it will place the activities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on a permanent basis. Consequently, it is wise to include in the bill a provision that the Minister shall have power to bring the public servants who are under his control to the capital city. In any case, the decision to transfer the office to Canberra will be made by the Government, not by the Minister, because no Minister would act on his own initiative in a matter like this. The fact that accommodation at Canberra is badly strained at present is due to the rapid war-time expansion of departments and to the scarcity of artisans and materials. That position can be overcome. I hope that similar clauses will be included in other measures as an indication that the Commonwealth Parliament is taking definite steps to ensure that this business of having important departments scattered all over Australia shall end. From my own experience as a Minister, with one department situated at Canberra and another in Melbourne, I know that this system involves a great deal of travelling, waste of time and needless expense. Ministers have to take staffs with them from one place to another, and at present probably too much travelling is done by many senior officials and Ministers because of the scattered nature of governmental activities. I hope that the clause will remain intact and that before long we shall see the commission's head office established under proper conditions in the Australian Capital Territory.

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