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Friday, 18 September 1942

Mr CONELAN (Griffith) .- Most of the statements made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Stacey) are incorrect. I have discussed this matter, not only with the honorable member, but also with the Ministers concerned. If the statements made were true, I should be totally opposed to such action by Ministers; but I have consulted the transport officers and have ascertained that, with the exception of an army car used in Western Australia, all of the cars engaged on interstate trips by Ministers have been fitted with producer-gas units. These units are not placed on any army cars.

Mr Marwick - They are used on at least two in Western Australia.

Mr CONELAN - The honorable member for Adelaide, when discussing the biggest budget ever presented to this Parliament, introduced the most trivial complaints imaginable. He objects to the painting of the ceiling of the dining room at the Hotel Kurrajong at a cost of £48. The expenditure, even according to the honorable member, was only £120. The honorable member laid on the Minister for the Interior (SenatorCollings) the blame for the expenditure of money on recarpeting the Hotel Canberra. That carpet was purchased by the brewery which controls the hotel, and the Minister hadnothing to do with the matter. The carpet was already manufactured and it cost only half the sum mentioned by the honorable member - £900. I heard the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) the other night charge the Treasurer with thinking of a number and then doubling it. That, apparently, is what the honorable member for Adelaide has done.

I have inquired into the honorable member's statement concerning motor cars used by Ministers on interstate journeys, and I find that it is incorrect. All the cars used on interstate trips are fitted with producer-gas units. The honorable member could have obtained that information from the transport office. During the term of office of the last Government, and until shortly before the present Government came into power, many government motor cars without producer-gas units were used in all parts of Australia.

Mr Stacey - That was before the war.

Mr CONELAN - That is not so. A former Minister who now sits on the Opposition side frequently used a car between Canberra and Sydney, and when he was in Sydney the car was freely used for the convenience of his wife and family. The driver, while he remained in Sydney, received a travelling allowance of 12s. 6d. a day, which increased his wage to £850 for the year. Another Minister had a car in Sydney in similar circumstances; the driver was taken from his home in Canberra and was paid an allowance of 12s. 6d. a day for seven days a week for a period of approximately seven months. No Minister of the present Government has done that sort of thing. The position became so bad that the transport drivers under the control of the Department of the Interior petitioned for the institution of a roster system, so that every body would be treated fairly and the choice of drivers would not be governed by their personal appearance. Provision to this effect was incorporated in the award governing their conditions of labour. The sort of attack to which we have listened could be made only by a mountain of flesh, with the brain of an insect, who is observing austerity by taking longer steps so that he will not wear out the soles of his boots; yet, according to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), this samegentleman "backs up " for four plates of porridge at the Hotel Kurrajong at breakfast. Had he taken the trouble to check up, he would have learned the facts. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Members of the Opposition ought to investigate the doings of their own Ministers and members of the Advisory War Council before making such attacks on Ministers of the present Government.

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