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Wednesday, 8 June 1904

Mr McCAY (Corinella) - When the Government make such a request, in such circumstances, one has to accede to it. But I must be excused for smiling slightly when the Prime Minister tells us that this is not to be taken as a precedent because the statement has such a familiar ring.

Mr Watson - Not from me.

Mr McCAY - Oh, no; but it is astonishing how quickly a new Government falls into the old paths. The present Government appears to fall into the old paths very easily, and perhaps that shows that it is almost inevitable that Governments will get into these ways. I have no objection, to the Prime Minister going on with the Estimates to-night, but I do hope that the statement that this is not to be taken as a precedent is not merely the fac on de parler that' one always hears from a Minister, and that we will not have a continuance of this kind of thing. We got it occasionally from the last Government.

Mr Deakin - Very rarely.

Mr McCAY - Not more often than they requited to pass Estimates or Supply Bills. I suppose that the present Government, in the same way, will always have to get Supply Bills and Estimates through in a great hurry, and there will always be some reason given for an insufficient time being allowed for their consideration. The Prime Minister has put his request so very nicely that we should have to be more hard-hearted than an Opposition such as we are could be supposed to be to offer any factious opposition to dealing with this business to-night. We are so near the end of the financial year that I do not desire that these votes should appear on fresh Estimates, and that we should be told by some people, " Here is another proof of Federal extravagance." There are items in these Estimates which merit a good deal of discussion, and I must admit that some alterations appear which merit a certain amount of commendation, I say that the more freely because I do not always commend the present Government for what they do.

Sir JOHNFORREST (Swan),- I am prepared to assist the Prime Minister in getting these Bills passed to-night, but I must say a word or two in reference to the remarks made by the honorable member for Kennedy. I think the honorable member was aware that he had made a mistake in certain statements he made with regard to the expenditure upon the up-keep of Government Houses, but he did not withdraw what he said, and he appeared to wish it to go forth that the late Government had spent a great deal more money on the up-keep of the two Government Houses than it was understood would be spent. The honorable member was altogether wrong. Although it would appear from the Estimates that more has been spent this year, that is due to the fact that some accounts have been paid this year which were properly chargeable to last year. I find that the vote for 1902-3 was £5,500, whilst only £2,436 was debited to that vote ; and there was £3,064 left as a balance to credit of that vote for that year. Some outstanding accounts of last year have had to be paid out of the vote for this year.

Mr Watson - A good deal of it is arrears.

Sir JOHN FORREST - For the two years £9,823 was expended, and that' would make the expenditure for each year £4,912. It will, therefore, be seen that the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy were altogether incorrect, and, in so far as they were intended to reflect on the conduct of the late Government, were not justified.

Mr Watson - I insisted on an explanation in regard to those items, and I found that they were arrears. I have asked that in future none of the votes shall be allowed to get into arrears, but that the money shall be paid in the year to which they properly belong.

Sir JOHN FORREST - They should be so paid, but it is sometimes not easy. I agree with the honorable gentleman that every effort should be made to charge to each year all that is properly chargeable against it. I think it is necessary to make these remarks, because it is very easy for honorable members to find fault, more especially in regard to expenditure incurred in connexion with the maintenance of Government Houses. As long as we are required to maintain Government Houses, we must keep them in a reasonable and proper state. I regret to say that both Government House, Melbourne, and Government House, Sydney, and the grounds, . were allowed to fall into a- state of disrepair, with the result that it became necessary to spend a large sum in putting them in fairly good order. We cannot have these fine public buildings and grounds without being called upon to incur expense in maintaining them in an efficient state. My own experience is that the money spent in this direction has not sufficed to do all that is necessary. Even the proposed vote is too small to allow of what, I am sure, we all desire being done. At the same time, I am glad to learn that during the two years in question, as much money has not been spent in this direction as the late Treasurer intimated that he proposed to expend. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer - the item " Gun and mountings, Fremantle, £5,000." I notice that this sum, which was provided on last year's Estimates, has not been expended, and that it is proposed to re-appropriate it for " arms, pistols, and reserves of ammunition." I am well aware that these arms and reserves are urgently required, and I take no exception to the proposed expenditure; but I do not think that the vote in respect of the gun and mountings should have been allowed to lapse. An order might well have been given. I am familiar with the whole of the circumstances ' relating to the matter, and I understand that the late Treasurer refrained from expending £5,000 on this gun and mountings for the reason that he desired to place before the Parliament the total expenditure that would be necessary to properly fortify Fremantle. He considered it would be better to refrain from spending any money in this direction until Parliament was in full possession of the whole of the facts of tha situation, and made aware of the total expenditure that would be incurred, I trust that when the Estimates for next year are submitted to us, we shall find due provision made in them for the fortification of Fremantle. No other port in the Commonwealth has been left so wholly undefended, nor is there any other part of the Commonwealth more urgently in need of fortifications than the important port of Fremantle. I shall be glad to assist the Treasurer in facilitating the passage of these Estimates.

The CHAIRMAN - I propose to put the items in globo.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But I desire to obtain some information with regard to certain items.

The CHAIRMAN - That being so, I shall submit each Department separately.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of External Affairs. Division 14A {Transferred), £30.

Attorney-General' s Department. Divisions 15 and 17 {Other), £2,169.

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