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Thursday, 29 May 1902

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has forestalled me in a good deal of what I intended to say. Although £5,000 is a very small amount, I see no justification for creating another Public Works department to spend the £250,000 which the Minister for Home Affairs tells us is to be spent, when the work can be equally well done by the State authorities. The Ministers of the Federal Government have all been Ministerial heads of State departments, and the probabilities are that the permanent officers in this new department will be transferred from the State services. What reason, then, have we to expect better work from a Commonwealth Public Works department than from the Public Works departments of the States ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This Parliament has no control over the State officials.

Mr KENNEDY - I venture to say that that disadvantage is not to be compared with the probable future cost of 'the proposed department. Directly we create this department it will begin to grow. There will be the Inspector-General, .with his office at the seat of government, but he will require sub-inspectors to look after works which are being conducted in other States, and they will have their staffs. In this way we shall probably he repeating in connexion with the Commonwealth expenditure what takes place in Victoria now in connexion with State expenditure, when, although there are staffs of competent officers scattered here and there throughout the country for the carrying out of shire works, yet whenever the Public Works department have to spend £200 the plans are prepared in Melbourne, a special officer is sent up to supervise the work, and officers travel up to the district occasionally to inpect it.

Mr Poynton - Ten years hence this department will cost £50,000 a year.

Mr Bamford - If we employ State officials to do this work we shall have to pay the States for their services.

Mr KENNEDY - Yes, but we shall only employ them when we have something for them to do.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And they will do our work only after they have finished their State work.

Mr KENNEDY - They will have plenty of time in which to do our work. There is too great a tendency to try to create friction between the States and the Commonwealth. The people have to bear the expense in any case, and, to my mind, it will cost them less if the Commonwealth public works are carried out by the State officials. Practically the only public works with which the Commonwealth are concerned are the building and maintenance of post-offices and customs-offices.

SirWilliam Lyne. - And the construction of defence works, which will be the most costly of all.

Mr KENNEDY - Yes, but they will be constructed at places on the coast where their construction can be easily supervised. I feel inclined to vote against the expenditure.

Sir WILLIAMMcMILLAN (Wentworth). - As a business man, and a keen critic of the Government, I am as much inclined to economy as any honorable member, but I think that the honorable member for Moira is unreasonable in this matter. The Commonwealth is taking over from the States, in the various post-offices, customs-offices, defence works, and lighthouses, property worth £10,000,000 or £12,000,000, and surely their maintenance will be sufficient to employ the services of a reasonably large staff. I take it that it is the States which should economize. If the States do their duty the officers who are told off for this particular work will be transferred or retrenched. There is no doubt that we must make arrangements for the supervision of this work, and £5,000 seems a very reasonable sum to provide.

Mr Poynton - Does the honorable member think it will stop at that.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - Some honorable members seem to think that the Minister for Home Affairs may desire to magnify his department, and that the staff will be increased year by year, but Parliament can keep a vigilant eye upon the Minister's action. We have clothed the Public Service Commissioner with a large degree of authority, and all appointments will have to pass through the sieve of his criticism. Moreover, we shall have an opportunity of reviewing any appointments when the Estimates are placed before us. I understand it is the intention of the Minister to engage State officers to do the work of the Commonwealth where it is possible to do so ; but, at the same time, we must provide machinery of our own to insure the proper expenditure of our money. I regret very much that the honorable member for Maranoa read a letter from the Minister of Works in New South Wales. Had I known what the purport of the letter was, I should certainly have objected to its being read. Mr. O'Sullivan's letter is absolutely misleading and libellous, and if I were the honorable and learned member for Parkes, I would make him answer for his libel in the law courts. He made a statement in that letter which, ifit means anything, conveys that Mr. Bruce Smith is a corrupt person, because, for the sake of a syndicate with which he was connected, he advised the Government of which he was a member to resume Darling Island in Sydney Harbor. There is no other inference to be drawn. If Mr. O'Sullivan does not mean that, he is a coward, and if he does mean it, his letter is a libel and a lie.

Sir William Lyne - I do not think the letter conveyed that the honorable and learned member for Parkes was a member of the syndicate.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - He said that the honorable and learned member did certain things to please the syndicate. What right had he to mention the syndicate?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The words were " to oblige his friends on the syndicate."

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - The resumption of Darling Harbor was one of the most far-seeing acts that was ever performed by a Government, and it was not the fault of the honorable and learned member for Parkes that Darling Island was not made use of during his term of office. Mr. O'Sullivan left it to be inferred that the honorable and learned member for Parkes allowed the property to remain untouched andunserviceable after having advised the Government to take it over ; but the honorable and learned member for Parkes retired from office within twelve months after the purchase was made, and had nothing whatever to do with the fact that Darling Island was allowed to lie idle.

Sir William Lyne - I allowed it to lie idle.

Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN - Yes ; but the insinuation in that lying letter is that the honorable and learned member for Parkes was accountable for an unbusinesslike resumption.

Mr Crouch - Why dig up these corpses ?

Sir WILLIAM MCMILLAN - I am not digging up any corpses. I am defending one of my colleagues in a State Ministry. If the transaction referred to were corrupt, then I am a corrupt man, but if Mr. O'sullivan were to make any such statement regarding me I should soon have it out with him in the courts of justice. I hope the honorable and learned member for Parkes will take that course. The fact that the honorable and learned member for Parkes, as a member of this Chamber, and holding the economic views he does, dissented from the principle of the minimum wage and the construction of public works by day labour, affords no reason for a phillipic which contains a foul libel, foul misrepresentations, and foul innuendoes. Mr. O'Sullivan's letter justifies the position taken up by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, that it is not wise to intrust the public works-of the Commonwealth to the hands of the Minister of Works in New South Wales.

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