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Tuesday, 8 November 1904

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Committee to consider whether it is not a little unbecoming for a deliberative assembly of seventy-five members to seriously discuss the propriety of the charges for charwomen, and the watering of the Government House gardens when the head of the present Executive, and the leader of the Opposition, who was the head of the last Executive have both indorsed them as fair and reasonable? I think we should consult our dignity more if we dealt with some of the larger items, which involve big public principles, leaving details of this sort, which are matters purely of administration, to the Executive. In view of the assurances given as to the propriety of these charges, it would be a little more becoming on our part to pass them, and throw the responsibility upon the Government. The anomalous condition of affairs in connexion with which we have to maintain two establishments for one GovernorGeneral, is only of a temporary character. Honorable members must know that as soon as the Federal Capital is established, we shall have only one Government House, and one set of charges to defray.

Mr McDonald - We were told that we should have three.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be. There is a great deal of State jealousy upon this question. The people of one State are clamouring that the GovernorGeneral shall reside in their State for a portion of his time, whilst others are making similar demands. The Committee, however, should be above all such narrow State feelings, and should recognise that until the Federal Capital is established, the movements of the Governor-General from one to the other of the two largest States must involve something more than normal expenditure. I have no interest in this matter beyond that of any other honorable member, but I feel that the dignity of the House suffers when, in the light of the assurances given to us by . the leaders of the present and the late Government, we enter into all these matters of petty detail. I appeal to honorable members to consider that we are making history, that our proceedings are reported in all the newspapers of the Commonwealth, and that every member, however little he may sympathize with the treatment accorded to such items, is joined in the general condemnation of the microscopic character of our criticism: I ask honorable members to allow these items to pass, and to throw the responsibility upon those who are charged with the administration.

Mr. McDONALD(Kennedy).- We have heard a very interesting lecture from the honorable and learned member for -Parkes.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was not a lecture.

Mr McDONALD - The honorable and learned member delivered it as such.

Mr Storrer - It was common sense.

Mr McDONALD - The honorable and learned member told us that we should throw the responsibility for these items upon the Government, but I should like to know how we are to do that unless we discuss them in- this Committee. I do not care whether the Governor-General or any one else is involved, I shall express my opinion with regard to the expenditure proposed with the same freedom \that the Prime Minister criticised the action of Lord Hopetoun in connexion with the discussion of certain political matters. We are the keepers of the public purse, and it is our duty to keep a close watch upon the expenditure, and to resist any proposals which we deem to be unfair. A distinct promise was given to honorable members that the expenditure upon the maintenance of the Government Houses in Sydney and Melbourne would not exceed . £5,000 per annum. When the Barton Government proposed to provide for an addition to the salary of the GovernorGeneral to the extent of £8,000, did the honorable and learned member for Parkes speak in favour of the increase ? Honorable members were almost unanimous in their opposition to the proposal, because they thought it amounted to an extortion. They agreed, however, to recoup certain expenditure which had been incurred by the Governor-General. The . head of the Government then stated that sooner or later a certain- sum would have to be voted for the upkeep of the Government Houses in Sydney and Melbourne, but that it would not amount to more than £5,000 per annum. I find that in 1902-3, £2,436 was expended upon the Governor-General's establishments, and that in 1903-4 the amount had risen to £5,991. Up to that time little or no notice was taken of the increase, because it was recognised that the amount was not far in excess of that agreed' upon. We were told that the upkeep of Government House in Sydney involved an outlay of something over £2,000 per annum, whilst about £3.000 was spent upon the Melbourne establishment. Now we are asked to vote £7,406.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - That is practically the same amount that was voted last year.

Mr McDONALD - That is the amount which we are asked to vote this year, and I presume that the Government expect to expend the whole of it.

Mr Watson - They expect to spend at much as may be necessary.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - The amount voted last year was £7,387.

Mr McDONALD - I admit that, but objection was taken to the increase, and until the expenditure in this direction is kept within reasonable bounds I shall oppose the proposed vote. As far as the dignity of the Chamber is concerned, I shall not be restrained by any consideration such as the honorable and learned member for Parkes has suggested in discussing the affairs of the Governor-General or any other high-salaried functionary. We cannot attack his salary.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is attacking the charwomen now.

Mr McDONALD - I never said a word about the charwomen.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - One honorable member did.

Mr McDONALD - Wedo not find the honorable and learned member for Parkes coming forward to champion the cause of the public servants who receive low salaries, and who have to work very hard for what they get.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This " poor-man " business is about played out.

Mr McDONALD - The honorable and learned member becomes very indignant if any objection is raised to the proposal to spend £7,000 on champagne guzzling.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - This vote has nothing to do with champagne.

Mr McDONALD - I see that provision is made for the expenditure of £250 upon glassware, and I presume that some of that is used in connexion with champagne guzzling. I resent any suggestion that we are lowering our dignity by discussing matters such as that now before us. We have a perfect right to enter into such details if we think that it is proposed to make improper appropriations. If the honorable and learned member for Parkes desires to obviate such discussions, he should induce the Government to bring down a Bill such as was suggested some time ago, to fix the Governor's salary and allowances in such a way that we may know exactly the amount we shall have to provide.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Home Affairs) - We could not ask the Governor-General to maintain the Government Houses.

Mr McDONALD - No; but we could appropriate a fixed sum for the upkeep of the two establishments, and avoid the risk of increases being asked for year after year. The States Governments find it exceedingly difficult to carry on, and we should avoid piling up the expenditure.

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