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Tuesday, 26 August 1902

Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I am afraid that the discussion is becoming rather academic. In the first place, I am of opinion that the House is bound by the arrangement entered into by the Government with the Government of New South Wales, and that for three years at least we must vote such a sum as will provide for the upkeep of the Sydney Government-house. It must be admitted, I think, that we shall have to provide for the upkeep of at least one Governmenthouse, and it cannot be said that the amountset down forexpenditure in connexion with the Melbourne Government-house is too large. It must be remembered that the house and grounds must be kept in good order whether the Governor-General resides there or not, because a valuable State property cannot be allowed to fall into disrepair. I find that the whole amount set down for the maintenance of the Melbourne Government-house is only £3,100 a year, whereas the maintenance of these buildings and the adjacent gardens costs something like £4,000 a year. With regard to the Sydney Government-house, I am aware that some honorable members object to any expenditure there, upon the principle that there should not be two houses provided for the Governor-General. I understand that that is the position taken by the honorable member for Laanecoorie. But it must be recollected that an arrangement was entered into by this Government from which we can hardly draw back. I am not now discussing whether it was a good or a bad arrangement; but, as the executive determined, before this Parliament was elected, to lease the building for three years, we must carry out the contract. Even if I thought that no contract had been entered into, but was informed that the people of New South Wales would feel that we were breaking faith with them if we did not agree to this expenditure, I would say that it is too trivial an amount to quarrel about. After all, it is merely a matter of bookkeeping. The people have to find the money in any case, whether it is paid by the State or by the Commonwealth Government. In my opinion the people of Sydney will think that faith has been broken with them to some extent if this expenditure is not sanctioned.

Mr Sawers - I do not think that one man in six will trouble his head about the matter.

Mr CONROY - I am very glad to hear the honorable member say that, but there may be some cavil on the part of those who would have liked to see the Federal site chosen quickly, and who think that there has been undue delay in that matter. They will think that it will involve a still further delay, and that will give rise to irritation out of all proportion, in my opinion, to the object to be achieved. If after the establishment of the federal capital in New South Wales it were suggested that a Government-house should be provided at Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, or Perth, at a cost of £2,000 or £3,000 a year for each place, I should not dream for a moment of opposing it, if I were informed it would make the people of those States believe that faith was being kept with them. What honorable member on either side would oppose the expenditure of even £50,000 if he were assured that it would create harmony amongst the people of the Commonwealth ? If after the establishment of the federal capital I were to be informed that the people of Victoria desired to have a Governor-General's residence established in Melbourne at a cost of £2,000 or £3,000, I should be inclined to say that if the expenditure of that small sum of money were necessary to induce half-a-million of people in this city, and three-quarters of a million around them, to be satisfied that they were getting a fair share of attention, and that no provincialism was actuating the Government, I should be ready to vote for such a proposal. The question as to whether there should be only one Governor-General's residence is one which may be left to the debating schools. I am sure that if honorable members opposite understand that the effect of this proposal will be to remove discontent they will be prepared to, vote for it. Though the honorable member for Laanecoorie and the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne may object on principle to the establishment of two residences for the GovernorGeneral, they will be prepared to waive, that objection if they are assured that it is necessary to do so in order to bring about content. To carry out an existing arrangement the establish ment of a Government-house is asked for in the case of New South Wales, and I think that the Federal Government, whether it likes it or not, will be bound to pay this sum. We must remember that although we are keeping up a Government-house in Melbourne and another in Sydney, we are not paying a single penny of interest on the cost of construction of those houses. I suppose that the cost of construction of the Melbourne Government-house alone amounts to over £500,000. It has been placed at our disposal rent free, and it is surely not too much to ask that the Federal Government should bear the expense of maintaining it. Government-house in Sydney must have cost an equally large sum, and it is not too much to ask that the Federal Government should pay merely for maintenance and repairs. After all, is it not absolutely a matter of bookkeeping? The money will have to come from the people whether it is paid by the State or the Commonwealth Government. The time has gone past when we should deal with States as having separate interests in these matters. We as Federal members should recognise that a tax collected by a State is a tax paid by a citizen of the Commonwealth, and that a tax collected .by the Commonwealth is at the same time a tax paid by a citizen of one of the States. I think the Estimates submitted in the resolution are extremely moderate, and no objection has been taken to either of them even by the honorable member for Laanecoorie. When the honorable member is assured by honorable members from New South Wales that any departure from the agreement which has been made will be looked upon in that State as a breach of faith, he will not, I think, insist upon striking out the allowance for keeping up the Government-house in Sydney.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).This appears to me to be a very simple matter. It is not a question of whether we are in favour of two Government-houses or one. To my mind it is a question whether this Parliament is going to keep an honorable engagement entered into by the Federal Government. Let honorable members consider for a moment what has occurred : In New South Wales it was agreed that the Governor-General should be allowed to use Government-house in Sydney. That agreement was accepted by the Federal Government. There is an agreement extending over three years with the right of renewal for a further term of two years. Already a year's payment has been made on that account and on that basis, and no dissentient voice was raised in this House about the payment of that money. Not a single sound was heard in condemnation of the proposal until now, when honorable members suddenly wake up to find that they never have been in favour of the maintenance of two Government-houses, and that they never have been in favour as they say of the maintenance of the Governmenthouse and grounds in Sydney. Is this the time when they should raise their protest 1 It seems to me that they have allowed the whole thing to go by the board. After eighteen months of actual occupation of the Government-house in Sydney they wake up to find that they do not approve of the agreement when one-half of its course has run.

Mr Higgins - We never knew before that there was any such bargain as an agreement to take the house for three years or five years.

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