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Thursday, 24 March 1927

Gas Service - Proposed Rate or ls. 3d. on Unimproved Capital Value of Land - Commission's Reports - Business Sites- Commission Officers' Blocks at Acton.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - On the 17th March, 1927, Senator Ogden asked me the following questions: -

1.   Does the Federal Capital Commission intend to install a gas service for heating and cooking at Canberra?

2.   Has the Government or the Federal Capital Commission received any report from an expert or experts upon the practicability of installing such a service at Canberra?

3.   If such a report has been received, will the Minister lay it upon the table of the Senate?

I then replied in the following terms: -

1.   A report by the Federal Capital Commission on the question of the installation of a gas service at Canberra was to have been posted to me yesterday. An announcement as to the action decided uponin connexion therewith will be made at the earliest possible moment after the arrival of the report.

2.   The Federal Capital Commission has received such a report.

3.   The report will be laid upon the table of the Senate, when the decision on the subject has been announced.

I have now been advised by the Federal Capital Commission that, in order to assist it in its consideration of the matter, it has obtained reports from Mr. P. C. Holmes Hunt, consulting gas engineer, and from its own Chief Engineer, after collaboration by the latter with the Chief Electrical Engineer of the Works and Railways Department. After carefully considering these reports, the commission, realizing that an economic loss on domestic lighting, heating, and cooking utilities is inevitable for some years, and that it is sounder to concentrate upon one system than to incur increased losses on two separate systems, came to the conclusion that, for engineering and economic reasons, it should meet the position by making electricity available at attractive rates, and decided upon the adoption of the following scale of charges for domestic purposes : - Lighting, 7d. per unit; domestic' power, l¾d. per unit; continuous electric water -heating systems,¾d. per unit. The commission has further advised that it is making arrangements which will enable public servants to obtain electric cooking stoves on a hire-purchase basis, which will be practically the same as would apply in Melbourne or Sydney. The commission hopes that its proposed agreement with the New South Wales Government for the supply of hydro-electricity, in combination with the improvements in its existing power-station now in progress, will make possible the adoption of even lower rates than those already quoted. Copies of the experts' reports referred to by the commission will be laid on the table of the Library.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - On the 22nd March, Senator Needham asked me the following question : -

Is it a fact that the Federal Capital Commission intends to place a levy of ls. 3d. in the £1 on the unimproved capital value of all land' held by civil servants and others at Canberra?

I have now received the following information from the Federal Capital Commission, in reply to the question by the honorable senator : -

All civil servants who have been, or will be, transferred to Canberra during the present year, and who obtain houses from the commission through the medium of the Commonwealth Bank, on rental, rental-purchase, or purchase conditions, or who acquire any houses through any other source in the city area of Canberra, will be required to pay rates under the following headings: -

(a)   General Bate.

(b)   Lighting Bate.

(c)   Water Kate.

(d)   Sewerage Kate.

(a)   General Rate.- The general rate for the current year has not yet been struck; but for the year ended 31st December, 1026, it was at the rate of 3d. in the£1 on the unimproved capital value of each parcel of rateable land which is within the city area. It is not proposed to vary this rate at present.

(b)   LightingRate.- The lighting rate for the period ended 31st December, 1926, was 2d. in the £1 on the unimproved capital value of each parcel of rateable land within the city area in any district in which lighting services had been provided. It is not proposed to vary this rate at present.

(c)   and (d) Water Rate and Sewerage Rate. - So far, no rates have been levied in respect to water and sewerage services, nor have any rates yet been determined upon in this connexion.

The necessity to construct services for a population which will not accrue at Canberra for many years, has involved a capital cost in respect of which it will be impossible to recover the proper annual return from the present population, or from the population that is likely to be served, for many years. The commission's policy, therefore, will be to deal with the matter on a comparative basis, and it proposes to fix for such services rates similar to those which are charged in cities in other parts of Australia similar in size to Canberra, and subject to conditions which are approximately the same as those obtaining at Canberra. With a view to determining this matter at an early date, the commission has obtained information from the principal water supply and sewerage authorities throughout the Commonwealth, and it is now considering this data with the object of deciding upon an equitable basis.

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