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Tuesday, 8 November 1904

Mr MAHON (Coolgardie) - I think there ought to be some discussion on this division. It is notorious that the Public Works administration in the various States is of an unsatisfactory character. I know, from my own experience, that unsuitable buildings have been erected in some places, while in other places considerable delays have occurred in the carrying out of the most trifling improvements; and. generally the management of this branch is almost in a state of chaos. I am told that in Victoria the erection of a chimney was estimated to cost1s. per brick. Specifications were called for Brunswick bricks to be delivered at Wood's Point, where it was proposed to erect the chimney, and the local contractors made the estimate which I have given.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - I do not think that that estimate is quite accurate.

Mr MAHON - It may not be quite accurate, but it is near enough for all practical purposes.

Mr Chanter - Were thev fire bricks?

Mr MAHON - No; ordinary bricks. I admit that Wood's Point is very remote and difficult of access.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - I think 4½d. was the actual cost.

Mr MAHON - I do not know how the officers of the Department arrived at that cost, but contractors, who know quite as much about the matter as the officers, estimated the cost at1s. per brick. I understand that for forty years similar buildings, of stone, have stood in the same locality, and are almost as good now as when first erected. Evidently, however, the local stone was not good enough, in the opinion of the officers of the Department, and they specified bricks for this remote place. Even at the cost of only 4½d. per brick, it is monstrous to spend such a large sum when there is available local material which, in the opinion of contractors and of the general public, has been proved to be sufficiently durable.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - The honorable member should state two things - that the building was only a chimney, and that the Public Works Department of the State, which had erected both rubble and brick chimneys in other buildings, are of opinion that brick, in the long run, is the cheapest.

Mr MAHON - I suppose that must be their opinion, but it is diametrically opposed to the opinion of contractors and of the general public in the neighbourhood. Even taking the Minister's estimate as correct, 4½d. per brick is a very absurd price to pay for the erection of a chimney. We should have men in the Commonwealth service, especially those charged with the carrying out of public works, who are more imbued with the idea of economy. I suppose that the salaries proposed here are reasonable. I notice only one increase - £60 to the chief draughtsman; it is not a very large increase, and if the officer is a good man he must be worth the salary here proposed.

Mr Bamford - Where is he stationed ?

Mr MAHON - I presume that he is stationed in Melbourne.

Mr Crouch - Is the £60 increase due to classification?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Mainly.

Mr MAHON - I do not think that the salary proposed is excessive for a good man, and I shall not make any motion in connexion with it.

Mr. HUTCHISON(Hindmarsh).Some information might be given with respect to superintendents. There are superintendents for New South Wales and Victoria at a salary of £600 a year each. Then wehave an Inspector-General of Works at £800 a year; but no mention is made as to the cost of supervision in other States than Victoria and New South WaJes.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Will the honorable member look at the bottom of the page?

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