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Tuesday, 26 August 1902

Mr POYNTON (South Australia) - The honorable member for Echuca said that he regretted to note the existence of an antifederal spirit in the House. I deny that any such spirit exists here, though there is cause for it in the action of the Government in the whole of this business. The Government seems on every occasion to have adopted the wrong way of dealing with the matter. A few months a,go a Bill was introduced to provide for expenditure in connexion with the Governor-General's establishment, which should have been provided for on the Estimates. That Bill was very much altered, but ever since then the Government have made a continuous series of blunders with regard to the whole question. It has been stated to-day that an arrangement was made between the States about the keeping up of two Government-houses, but I remember distinctly that when it was stated in the daily newspapers that the Parliament of New South Wales had voted a certain sum of money towards making good an additional grant of £10,000 to the Governor-General, the South Australian Premier of the day was asked in Parliament if he had been consulted about the matter, and his answer was that he knew nothing about it except what he had read in the newspapers. Yet we are told to-day that the various States Governments agreed to this arrangement.

Mr Deakin - That is a mistake. There was no such agreement.

Mr POYNTON - The honorable member for Echuca said that he could understand an objection to this proposal on the ground of economy. But I say unhesitatingly that the sum proposed is not a large one. Does the Acting Prime Minister really think that we shall not be asked within a short time to supplement it?

Mr Deakin - I do not think that we shall.

Mr POYNTON - Shall we not later on be billed by the States with accounts for the railway travelling of the GovernorGeneral? The Government have had time since the matter was first brought before us to ascertain definitely what the States intend to do. We have no assurance from them that they do not intend to charge us for the railway travelling of the Governor - General. That being so, we may within the next twelve months be called upon to foot a pretty heavy bill for railway travelling. As a matter of fact, the Government have already been billed, and, although they have refused to settle the account, that does not end the matter. Later on we shall be told that there has been a breach of an agreement ; that the arrangement for the upkeep of two Government - houses implied an undertaking to pay for the travelling between them. The amount set down here is within the estimate which was arrived at by the Conventioin in 1898, though there was then no intent on of providing for two establishments. If there had been that intention, the estimate would have been very much larger. Are we to understand that the Sydney Government-house is to be retained by the Commonwealth for all time ? I do not know that I have much more to say upon this proposal. I intend to vote against the whole thing as a protest against the method which the Government has adopted in dealing with this question generally. Their course of action has been a series of bungles from start to finish. We had more discussion of the GovernorGeneral's establishment than there would have been any necessity for if the Government had dealt with the matter in a statesmanlike manner.By the action of the Government the House has been placed in a false position. Before we are many years older those who will be in this Chamber will be told that they are in honour bound to support further votes proposed in connexion with the establishment of the Governor-General. I do not believe that it is possible to keep up the two establishments in Melbourne and Sydney for the sum proposed. I remind honorable members that the proposal implies, in addition to the sum stated, a fair claim upon the Parliament for railway charges between the two establishments. Those who will later on be called upon to foot the bill will be told that it must have been clearly understood that when two establishments were provided - one in Sydney, and the other in Melbourne-there must be some means of communication between the two ; and the expense of that communication will be submitted as being only a fair charge, and a natural corollary of the agreement entered into.

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