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Thursday, 6 May 1915

Mr ARCHIBALD (Hindmarsh) (Minister of Home Affairs) . - I do not think that the House has treated me very fairly this afternoon, considering that I have been left only a quarter of an hour in which to reply to, practically, an impeachment of my Department. But I suppose I shall have to do the best under the circumstances.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not the intention of my motion.

Mr ARCHIBALD - I am not speaking of intentions - I am a plain man dealing with facts. I regret very much the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne, who has reflected' very strongly on officers of the Department of Home Affairs. Those officers were absolute strangers to me until I took office in the present Government ; but since I have been in this Department I have learnt to respect them as men of ability. I do not think it is fair or just for any honorable member to use the privileges of Parliament, as I have never done in my life, for the purpose of attacking Government officers nor anybody else.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Why allow them to crucify a man?

Mr ARCHIBALD - They do nothing of the sort. No one is allowed to, in the elegant language of the honorable member, " crucify " any person in the Department while I am there. There is a vast difference between a real grievance and the twaddle circulated by old women of the male sex. A Minister's life is made a. burden to him by the twaddle of these old women. Much money has been spent on the Federal Territory by this Parliament; and I am happy to say that the Public Works Committee, which comprises honorable members from both sides, are of the opinion that this money has not been wasted, but well spent.

Mr Sampson - Of course, the Minister will realize that--

Mr ARCHIBALD - I realize that the honorable member wished to make a good party speech, and succeeded admirably.

Mr Sampson - That is not the question. The Committee, so far, has reported only on specific works; and I am merely suggesting that we should cease the divided control.

Mr ARCHIBALD - I am not much of a theory man, but a man of facts. The Public Works Committee have investigated this matter; their report has not as yet come from the printer. The gravamen of the charge that has been made has relation to Mr. Griffin, and I may say that, personally, I have neither sympathy nor antipathy regarding that gentleman. I never looked at thedepartmental plan, for the simple reason that I did not wish to lay myself open to the charge of being prejudiced; and, further, I realized that I could not under stand it. But a pretty picture is nobalways the plan of a city; and sooner or later this will be realized by honorablemembers.

Mr Joseph Cook - The Minister is expressing an opinion, although he says hedoes not understand the matter.

Mr ARCHIBALD - I hold opinions, and pretty strong opinions, as a man of common sense.

Mr Joseph Cook - Without understanding the matter ?

Mr ARCHIBALD - No; without being an expert. I claim to possess thesame common sense that hundreds of other men in Australia and elsewhere claim, without being experts. They havesufficient common sense to weigh up experts. However, the Government made. a grave error of judgment when they imported Mr. Griffin from the other side of the world. We have now got what is practically a fifth wheel to the coach.

Mr Webster - What are you going to do with him ?

Mr ARCHIBALD - I shall tell the honorable member in a few minutes what is the position in regard to Mr. Griffin and myself.

Mr Joseph Cook - You say a mistake was made.

Mr ARCHIBALD - I think so.

Mr Joseph Cook - Then you ought to rectify it at the earliest moment.

Mr ARCHIBALD - That remains for the Government of which I am a member to determine. I do 'not think that the trouble is so acute as to need the drastic step suggested; besides, Mr. Griffin is under agreement for three years at £1,000 a year.

Mr Joseph Cook - No agreement of any kind ought to interfere with the development of the Capital.

Mr ARCHIBALD - I agree with the right honorable member. I referred this agreement to the Crown Law Department, and was advised that Mr. Griffin, in carrying out his duties, was subject to the control of the Minister. I, therefore, came to the conclusion that he was responsible to me in these matters just as I am responsible to my colleagues, and as the Government are responsible to the Parliament. Mr. Griffin desired to call in experts in matters relating to engineering. I considered the matter carefully, and obtained the best advice I could on the subject - that of the engineers of the Department, who, I hold, are competent to advise me in these matters. I recognise that my officers are not infallible any more than I am, and where I thought it would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth to obtain the advice of experts outside I should not hesitate to seek it; but I shall always call on my officers to advise me.

Mr Hannan - They are paid to give the Minister advice, and if they cannot do so they should not occupy their present positions.

Mr ARCHIBALD - No man is infallible; but I am satisfied with the advice so far given me by my officers. At the same time, the House must not assume that I am entirely bound by their opinions. When I took office I found that there was no plan of the amended pro posals for the design of the Federal Capital other than a small sketch plan about the size of a sheet of foolscap. I, therefore, asked Mr. Griffin to supply me with ono showing the levels of the dams, bridges, and main roads. I did not demand a complete plan showing every work to be carried out in the Capital ; but it was not until the 20th March last that I was supplied with the plan for which I had asked during my first week of office. Honorable members may ask why I did not obtain these levels from the officers of my own Department. But what is the charge made against me ? Is it not that I am prejudiced against Mr. Griffin? Had I called in the officers of the Department, they would have given me the levels and they would have been right, but it would have been said " They are the departmental levels." I therefore said to the distinguished gentleman whom the late Leader of the Opposition brought out here, " Give me the levels." The position I take up is that Mr. Griffin has a perfect right to advise me on all matters relating to the Federal Capital design, but I am not going to be led by the nose by him, or by my officers, or any one else.

Mr Joseph Cook - What levels did the honorable gentleman demand from this world expert that he could not supply ?

Mr ARCHIBALD - I desired to be supplied with the levels of the lakes, dams, bridges, and main roads proposed to be constructed. The right honorable member ought to know the wise man's plan.

Mr Joseph Cook - I think that the Minister is showing his venom against that man in every word that he utters.

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