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Wednesday, 18 May 1904

Mr BATCHELOR (Boothby) (Minister for Home Affairs) . - In reply to a very large number of queries, I may say generally that, having been in office only about three weeks, I cannot hold myself responsible for most of the delays which have been complained of. I have not had an ' opportunity of looking into the causes of all of them. So far as concerns the Post . Office officials who have not been paid for electoral work, I will make further inquiries. With regard to the question asked by the honorable member for Kennedy, as to laying on the table of the House papers in connexion with the Wooloongabba Post Office, I have to say that I shall be very glad to do so. Concerning the question of the honorable member for .Hunter, I may say that the reasons are not very clear to my own mind as to the hundred odd. small accounts which have not been paid. But I can say that the amounts necessary to paythe accounts have been in the hands of the Returning Officer for some time. I understand that they have now been paid. With reference to the requests made by the honorable member for Parramatta, he will see that, while I. am doing my very best to settle these , accounts, they can only be settled as they are brought before me. Correspondence has to take place between the central office and the returning officers in the various districts.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The correspon.dence has taken place long ago.

Mr BATCHELOR - All the accounts about which there is no dispute have, so far as the central office is concerned, been settled.- There may be some delay at the post offices where the money has been sent.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why should .the Central Government do' all this? Why npt let the State officers do it ? ' That is the whole trouble.

Mr BATCHELOR - I do not want to. debate the question now, because it will, come up again. But I can assure- the honorable member that every possible ex-, pedition is being used to have the accounts settled. I have had hundreds of them .to. deal with, and shall be very glad to get them out of the way as quickly as possible.

Mr. WATSON(Bland- Treasurer).- In regard to the request made by the honorable member for Grey, I desire to say that I was not aware that the men referred to were being kept out of the payment due to them for overtime and Sunday work. I passed through the Treasury a few days ago an advance account, but I am not sure whether it was for South Australia or Western Australia. If the honorable member will bring; it under my notice definitely, I will look into it in the Department. With regard to the question of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, I desire tq say that I have the papers here, and will lay them on the table to-morrow. I allude to the corre,spondence with the surveyors, and the report from Colonel Owen. But as to the additional report prepared by the right honorable member for Swan, I do not think that I should be acting rightly in setting a precedent in that regard. I personally - and I think the Minister for Home Affairs also---am very glad to have that report for our assistance. I am sure we all recognise the peculiar qualifications of the right honorable member for. furnishing a report of this character. But as to its being laid upon the table of the House as an official document, I think that to do so would estab.lish a very peculiar precedent. We can give copies of the report to the press for publication. But if every .ex-Minister can prepare a report, and have it regarded as an Official document, the precedent will be a far-reaching one. The latter part of the document, which is now referred to, is a sup- ,plementary report made by the right, honorable member since he left office:

Sir John Forrest - There is nothing unusual about that.

Mr WATSON - I think it is unusual, and I also think that we can attain the desired object iri another way. I will give the report to the press, and I am sure that every one will value it very much. But I do hot care to establish a precedent, which I or any other ex-Minister might follow up, by furnishing long reports, which would be regarded as official documents. I regard the document as I should regard a similar report from any other member of Parliament, except that we all recognise the right -honorable member's qualifications, and appreciate them.- I do not feel, as at present. advised, that I am justified in taking 'any - such step as requested. The Minis ter will, however, communicate with the press, and give publicity to the document in that way. Question resolved in the affirmative.

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