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Wednesday, 5 May 1920

Mr GREGORY (Dampier) .- The House ought to have an absolute assurance from the Minister that the recommendation of the Public Works Committee in connexion with this building was carried out. Paragraphs 15 and 16 of the Committee's report state -

The Committee investigated the site which has been acquired and found that it is an area about 50 feet by 120 feet, completely surrounded by buildings varying from two stories to six stories in height. The only approach to the area is by means of a right-of-way 10 feet wide and 150 feet long leading from Castlereagh-street, andthis right-of-way is built over for about half its length.

The Committee was very unfavorably impressed with the site from the point of view of fire risk, bearing in mind that there will be a staff of about 164 in occupation of the building during the daytime and about three at night. Evidence on the subject was obtained from the Chief Officer, New South Wales Fire Brigades, who supported the Committee's view that in the event of an outbreak offire there would be great difficulty in the way of employees effecting an escape from the buildings through the right-of-way, which is the only outlet. At the same time the approach of fire-fighting appliances through the same right-of-way wouldbe extremely difficult.

I have commented, on more than one occasion, on the policy of proceeding with work before the report of the Public Works Committee has been considered and indorsed by Parliament. Certainly, since the present Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has been in office, that has been done. In the case of this work, particularly, the concurrence of Parliament should have been obtained before the building was commenced.

Mr Wise - There is no doubt about that.

Mr GREGORY - Especially as the Committee was extremely anxious that better means of ingress and egress should be provided before the work was started. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that it has been the practice, particularly of the last Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) to carry out, piece-meal, important works involving an aggregate expenditure of more than £25,000 without reference to the Public Works Committee or Parliament, except by means of the annual Estimates.

Mr Austin Chapman - What is the use of referring works to the Committee if they are carried out without regard to the Committee's report?

Mr GREGORY - The fault did not lie with the Committee. I think the Postmaster-General would be well advised in agreeing, as a condition of the passing of this motion, that effect should be given to the recommendation of the Public Works Committee.

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