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Wednesday, 5 May 1915

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - In accordance with the Public Works Committee Act, it is necessary for the work mentioned in this motion to be referred to that Committee for investigation.

Mr Joseph Cook - Where are the plans and specifications which the Prime Minister laid on the table on Friday?

Mr TUDOR - I am not exactly sure how the position stands. The Prime Minister is absent, the Attorney-General has been called out of the chamber, and I have been asked to take charge of this motion, which was formally moved by the Prime Minister on Friday. I understand that the motion will not bind the House to anything beyond the mere reference of the proposed work to the Committee.

Mr Joseph Cook - We do not understand what the proposed work is.

Mr TUDOR - I have not the particulars, but I believe that the proposal will involve the extension of the present buildings to about double their size, and a proportionate increase in the machinery, and that there is land on the factory site that can be utilized for that purpose. The Committee will be given an opportunity of investigating the whole question, and ascertaining whether it is desirable to extend the factory at Lithgow. When the Committee have reported, it willbe the duty of the Government to bring a proposal before Parliament, and place a sum on the Estimates for whatever works are recommended.

Mr Joseph Cook - To put the matter in order, a statement, accompanied by plans and specifications, should be made by the Minister, showing what are the estimates of his Department.

Mr TUDOR - I do not think that is necessary.

Mr Joseph Cook - I assure the honorable member that it is necessary. The Public Works Committee is to check the estimates of the Department.

Mr TUDOR - All the papers relating: to the matter are available in the House.

Mr Joseph Cook - I suggest you should postpone the motion until there is a Minister present who can give the House full particulars.

Mr TUDOR - The House is not asked to vote on the expenditure of any particular sum. The proposal is merely to refer a projected work to the Public Works Committee.

Sir John Forrest - Will the Committee be able to look into matters of the past as well as of the future?

Mr TUDOR - I presume the Committee will be able to ascertain what the buildings have cost up to the present time, and to consider whether the site chosen was the best obtainable, and whether it is advisable to extend the factory at that point.

Sir John Forrest - What matter would the Committee not be allowed to inquire into?

Mr TUDOR - According to the Act the Committee may inquire into practically everything in connexion with this work, and when the Committee reports, it will devolve on the Government to take action in Parliament. As the estimated sum involved is more than £20,000, it is obligatory to refer the work to the Committee, and, in order to expedite the reference, the Prime Minister has brought the matter forward in this form.

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