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Tuesday, 8 November 1904

Mr WILKINSON (Moreton) - I have no desire to delay the passing of these Estimates, but it seems to me that we are piling up "other" expenditure rather unduly. The new works we are undertaking are being constructed out of revenue instead of, as formerly, out of loan funds; and we have to take this fact into account when we consider the exigencies of the States. We have an Inspector-General of Works at a salary of £800; a superintendent for New South Wales at £600; and a similar official for Victoria at the same salary. When public works similar to those now being undertaken by the Commonwealth were being constructed by the States, their officials had to supervise them, and it appears to me that some arrangement might be. made for the supervision of the Commonwealth works by States officers. There may be some reason for employing the Commonwealth officers to whom I have referred, but in view of the fact that the cost of the works has to be charged to the States, we should make as much use as we can of the States officials.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - The appointments referred to by the honorable member are not new ones - the officers were provided for on the last Estimates.

Mr WILKINSON - Do I understand that these Commonwealth officials were formerly employed by the States?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - They were previously States officials.

Mr WILKINSON - Does their employment by the, Commonwealth relieve the States of expenditure equivalent to the amount represented by their salaries?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - It should do so, but that matter rests entirely with the States.

Mr WILKINSON - If the States are relieved to an extent corresponding with the extra expenditure incurred by us, my remarks do not apply ; but I object to the appointment of new officers who are not needed.

Mr Reid - The officers referred to have held their appointments for some time.

Mr WILKINSON - Even so. If the States officials were competent to do the work, honorable members were somewhat lax in allowing the appointments to be made. We are not carrying out any more works than were previously undertaken by the States, and therefore the States officials should be competent to do everything now required.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Or there should be an equivalent reduction in the States expenditure.

Mr WILKINSON - I understand from the Minister that it is not intended to appoint inspectors of public buildings, but to utilize the services of the inspectors employed by the States.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - Yes, the amount provided for at the foot of the page is to be used for paying the States for such services.

Mr WILKINSON - There is another matter to which I wish to direct attention. I notice that in connexion with every Department, certain charges are made for postages and telegrams. In the aggregate these items represent a very large sum, and serve to greatly swell our expenditure.

Mr Watson - "Under the States management, the services rendered by the Post and Telegraph Department were very seldom charged to the other Departments.

Mr WILKINSON - It is well that the public should know that these amounts are merely transferred from one pocket to another, and do not represent an actual outlay on our part.

Mr Watson - In the Electoral Office alone it will amount to some . £12,000 or £14,000.

Mr WILKINSON - That is a case in point. In estimating the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in administering its affairs, all these charges are included. Of course, in the Post and Telegraph Department they are regarded as revenue. But we have to recollect that the average elector is accustomed to compare the present cost of these Departments with their cost prior to theestablishment of the Federation.

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