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Wednesday, 7 December 1927

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) [5.2ft]. - I ,should like to make a short statement on this question which is of considerable public interest and also of interest to Parliament. It is not proposed to build an additional residence for the GovernorGeneral anywhere, and therefore the question of building another residence does not arise. While the seat of Goernment was in Melbourne the Commonwealth was using the Government House there; but it is a fairly expensive building to maintain - the expense, indeed, is far more than the State Government wishes to undertake. The Government of Victoria which preceded the Hogan Government intimated its willingness to make a reasonable arrangement with the Commonwealth for the maintenance of Government House- in Melbourne. It was a generous arrangement, and the Commonwealth Government thought that it would be of advantage, at any rate for some time, to maintain a Governor-General's residence there. One or two reasons actuated the Government in coming to that determination. Some people scoff at the value of sentiment in our Empire relationships, but with the growth of the significance of the Commonwealth and the other Dominions as nations, one readily recognizes that the ties which bind our Empire together are largely sentimental ones. Sentiment must find expression in some way. The GovernorGeneral is the embodiment of that sentiment that binds the various parts of the Empire together - the idea of a common sovereign. His Majesty King George is as much the King of Australia as he is the King of Great Britain, and it is desirable that his representative should have an opportunity to move among the people in our great centres of population and meet as many as he can by appearing at public functions and so forth. Every GovernorGeneral, I am pleased to say, has realized that it is part of his duties to do this, and has travelled as much as possible throughout Australia. There is also another point of view peculiar to the Commonwealth itself. Our Federation is based largely on sentiment and the Governor-General plays a conspicuous place in the outward expression of that sentiment. The Government thinks that it is in the public interest that the Governor-General, as the embodiment of the sentiment of a united Australia, should be able to visit the more populated parts and remain in residence in the larger centres for some little time. Therefore, if a suitable arrangement can be made with the Government of Victoria, it has determined to maintain, for some time at any rate, a Government House in Melbourne. Its decision in that regard is in no way derogatory to the claims of other States. It is recognized that every State has something to recommend it, and that every State has claims to visits from the representative of his Majesty the King. But, of course, it would be impracticable to have a Government House in every State. For the reasons I have given the Government thinks that it would be inadvisable to abandon Government House in Melbourne, at any rate for the present, if the matter can be arranged on anything like reasonable terms. The terms proposed by the previous Government in Victoria were eminently reasonable, and acceptable to the Commonwealth Government. Negotiations are still in progress between the Commonwealth Government and the present Government of Victoria.

Senator Needham - Can the honorable senator give the nature of those terms ?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - Not off hand. They have been published in the press, and there is no secrecy about them. Speaking from memory the arrangement was for a Commonwealth contribution of about £2,000 a year. That was the arrangement with the previous Government. No particular sum has been mentioned officially by the present Government. All we have to guide us in the matter is a statement by a State Minister that the contribution expected by his Government is in the neighbourhood of £10,000 a year. I have no desire to express any opinion on that particular point, because it is now the subject of negotiation between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria. Of course the State Government has to look at the matter from its own standpoint, and I do not blame it for asking for a proper contribution from the Commonwealth. The Government does not feel that it would be justified in incurring a heavy expenditure in order to maintain an establishment in Melbourne for the Governor-General, but is prepared to shoulder a fair expenditure for the reasons I have already stated. I hope that the negotiations that are now proceeding will have a satisfactory termination, because it is in the public interests of the Empire and Australia that the Governor-General should have in the largest centres of population resi dences where be can spend some time of the year.

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