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Thursday, 6 May 1915

Mr PATTEN (Hume) .- I desire if possible, to confine myself to the motion that we are supposed to be discussing. If anything has influenced me it is the wonderful amount of detail that has been divulged by previous speakers. The question to me is whether the administration of the Department of Home Affairs, in the matter of the Federal Capital, is satisfactory, or whether it is necessary to have a change? During the last hour or so I think we have had sufficient evidence to show that, at all events, the attitude of the Department is not all that could be desired. There is a difference of opinion amongst the officers under the Minister, who is prepared to take the responsibility for everything - even for sitting down on the work that we wish to see progress. I have no doubt that these differences of opinion are precisely * those that we might expect to find in regard to any construction work.

Mr Archibald - Does the honorable member not think that it would be as well if the Minister said a word? If I cannot defend myself here, I shall put my defence in the press; make no mistake !

Mr PATTEN - I shall not take so long as to deprive the Minister of an opportunity to teply. In my short experience in this House it has become evident to me that it is not only in connexion with the Federal Territory that there are differences of. opinion amongst the officers. I challenge any honorable member to tell me that their experience has not been the same as my own in regard to, say, the construction of postoffices. If we inquire about any postal construction works, we find ourselves referred to the Department of Home Affairs, then dodged to the Postal Department, and then to the Public Works Department of the State; and all through we find differences of opinion, with the ultimate result that the Department of Home Affairs is prepared to take all the responsibility. This leads me to the conclusion that the sooner the Federal Territory is placed under a Commission the sooner we shall have continuity of policy and continuity of administration. Under a Commission there would never be those differences of opinion that the Minister permits amongst his officers. The railways in Australia were put under a Commission when it was found that Ministerial supervision was not satisfactory; and I am sure all will admit that to-day we are getting better service on the railways than we could ever have enjoyed under political management. At any rate, I venture to say that under a Commission it would not be possible to have such evidence as the following from Mr. Griffin-

At the present time I occupy an anomalous position. The Minister has requested me not to proceed, pending the submission to him of certain details of the plan for his consideration. He has restricted my operations to the preparation of a plan of the streets for submission to him for investigation of details, I presume. That means the suspension of my authority as Director of Designs and Construction. I recommended that alternative schemes should be considered before the scheme proposed by the Department was finally adopted, because the responsibility for the character of the works executed rested upon me. I gained a knowledge of the character of the departmental proposal from seeing the plan of Colonel Owen.

The whole circumstances disclose an internal squabble, and show that, up to the present time, the Minister has not exercised proper control. I hope the Minister will not take my words as of personal application when I say that a successful man in his position is one who runs the Department, and does not allow the Department to run him. Under all the circumstances, I propose to vote in favour of control by a Commission.

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