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Thursday, 31 July 1902

Mr POYNTON (South Australia) - I desire to emphasize what has been said by the honorable member for Coolgardie with respect to the appointment of one inspector under the Public Service Act being insufficient for the two States of South Australia and Western Australia. The duties which he will have to carry out under the Public Service Act will, for a considerable time, keep his hands very full indeed, and unless the intention is to prevent certain, employes of the Federal Government having justice done to them by putting off the evil day, as some people consider it when they will have to pay a little more remuneration for the services rendered them than they are paying at the present time, I feel confident that it will be found that one inspector cannot properly perform the duties of this office for the two States. I trust that what has been said will receive the fullest consideration of Ministers, and while the immediate extra cost would not amount to much, I think it would result in a saving in the long run if an extra officer were now appointed, seeing that he might at once get into the running with the other inspectors appointed. With regard to the objection raised that the Postal Rates Bill has not been passed, I am personally rather pleased that it has not been passed. It is all very well for certain business firms to look for cheap postal facilities and low postal rates, but there can be no doubt that there will be a loss in some directions in the department, and it certainly will not' assist the financial position of Queensland if the Postal Rates Bill, as introduced, is brought into operation. What will be the position if there is a loss in connexion with these services ? Will those who make use of these services have to pay the loss 't Do we not know that they will not pay one-hundredth or one-thousandth part of it, and that as a matter of fact it will fall upon the general taxpayer 1 Is not that proved to be the case in Victoria to-day, in the matter of- the reduction of the postage rates 1 The man in the street, who perhaps does not get two days' work in the week, has to contribute the same amount as the largest firm to make up the deficiency. The incidence of this imposition is absolutely unfair, and until we have some assurance that the postal rates and telegraph rates and the many other concessions which are clamoured for by business people are likely to prove remunerative through an increased volume of trade, I shall decline to give my vote to carry any proposal which will result in the poorest of the poor having to make up a revenue deficiency. I desire to refer now to another matter, and I am sorry that the Minister for Home Affairs is not present. Recently what is- looked upon as a grave reflection upon State officials in South Australia was made by that honorable gentleman. He has accused them of having been guilty of charging an excessive amount for work done for the Commonwealth Government. In other words, he has suggested that they have tried to get at the

Commonwealth Government, and that is the suggestion which has gone f ort 11 to the people. I asked two or three questions last week upon this matter, and during my absence on Tuesday last the answer to a question of which I had given notice was to the effect that the Minister for Home Affairs had read the correspondence in connexion with this matter, and was still of opinion that the charges made were excessive. I have no hesitation in saying that if there was a fault at all it was that the South Australian officials did not charge enough. The Minister seems to be under the impression that it was merely work of supervision for which the 10 percent, charge was made. He has contended that if the charges generally for the construction of public works throughout the Commonwealth were upon that basis they would amount to £30,000 a year. But the honorable gentleman did not tell those who interviewed him upon the subject that the plant was supplied, and that railway expenses were not charged to the Commonwealth. It is wrong for any Minister to throw broadcast a statement that State Ministers or officers have been guilty of what is practically a dishonest act by charging for services which were not rendered. One would think, on hearing the Minister for Home Affairs, that this money came from the Commonwealth, whereas the whole 1 comes from the States, which, if they charge in excess, have to pay in excess. I know the Superintendent of Public Works in South Australia, and I know that no man in the Commonwealth is better able than he is to get work done satisfactorily at moderate cost. The percentage system was considered to be the simplest, and the expenditure embraced a portion of the office rent, cost of stationery and drawing materials, routine clerical work, record, keeping, accounting, office and official inspection, draftsmen's work, advertising, drawing up tenders, use of four tents, valued at £10 each, for six weeks, and use of barrows and other plant required* for the particular work, which was that of erecting an embankment near Port Adelaide for the Defence, department. Then, of course, there was the cost of ordinary supervision ; and on the total expenditure of £228, the per- 'centage charge amounted to £28.

Mr Page - Does the honorable member think that a fair amount to charge for supervision ?

Mr POYNTON - There was not only supervision, but materials were supplied; and I do not think any outside contractor would have done what the South Australian Government did for £28.

Mr Page - The honorable member makes a great mistake in pitting a Government department against a contractor.

Mr POYNTON - The charge made was a moderate one, as I am sure the honorable member will admit.

Mr Page - I think 10 per cent. expensive.

Mr Conroy - Perhaps it is a work which ought to have been doneby private contract.

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