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Thursday, 17 September 1942

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) (Minister for the Interior) . - by leave - In the Senate last week, Senator A. J. McLachlan and Senator James McLachlan referred to the protection provided by the Department of the Interior against enemy action at the Hotel Canberra. I said then that effective protection had been provided. This they denied. The fact is that, not only have slit trenches been provided, but also Pavilion E of the building has been so fortified as to make it the safest place for guests, should the need arise.

In the House of Representatives on Thursday last, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey), made a series of charges against my department. Not one of them has any relation to the facts. Mr. Stacey said -

Three nights last week at the Hotel Kurrajong, nine men worked at perhaps double pay in painting the ceiling. The work wasnot necessary, and the cost would be between £100 and £120.

The work was urgently needed, and had been needed for years. It could only be done at night. Approximately 200 guests are in residence, including members of Parliament and public servants. Meals have to be provided three times daily. The painting could not be done between meals, therefore it was done at night. The total cost of the job, material and labour was ?48, not from ?100 to ?120. Mr. Stacey was himself a contractor and is a property owner, and should have been able to make a better guess at the truth.

Mr. Staceyalso said ;

I am told the Government has placed a very nice carpet in the Hotel Canberra at a cost of ?950. I advise the Government not to ask the people to make sacrifices unless it is prepared to make them itself.

The Government does not supply carpets to the Hotel Canberra. A simple inquiry by Mr. Stacey would have elicited the fact that the carpet was purchased by the lessee. I understand that Mr. Stacey was as inaccurate as usual regarding its cost. His final charge was -

I will not mention names, although they are available if requested, but on one occasion last session one of the Ministers took a petrol- driven car to Melbourne, brought his wife and family back, traversed all around Canberra, took the wife and family back to Melbourne in the car which then came back to Canberra. The following week another Minister took a government car to Melbourne. Be brought his wife and two daughters back to Canberra. The wife stayed a week, the daughters longer. The Minister and his wife returned to Melbourne leaving his daughters in Canberra, hut the following week they were sent to Melbourne by car. Is this right!

Here, again, Mr. Stacey did not know what he was talking about. Obviously, he did not wish to. The truth is that petrol-driven cars have not been sent to Melbourne since producer-gas units were fitted in November, 1941.

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