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Thursday, 10 June 1915

Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - I was not present when the honorable member for Maranoa raised the question of Mr. Bingle's salary, but, in my judgment, he did a very proper thing. It is time that something was done to remove an anomaly that has existed for the past four . years. Had we on this side had the framing of these Estimates, I should certainly, have endeavoured to do something in that direction, and there is one way for which we have a precedent. When I went to the Defence Department five years ago Colonel Pethebridge was acting as Mr. Bingie is acting now, during the absence of Captain Collins, the Secretary of the Department, ?n London, on special duty.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Captain Collins has been in London ever since, I think.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - That is so; but for three years Colonel Pethebridge acted for Captain Collins, at a salary of about £700 a year. In order to meet the situation, I placed an extra sum of £150 on the Estimates as an allowance to him as Chief Clerk, for acting as Secretary; in other words, provision was made to pay him half the difference between his nominal salary and the salary of the head of the Department. This meant that Colonel Pethebridge was paid a total of £850 per annum, or very nearly the salary of Captain Collins. I felt then - as I feel now in respect to Mr. Bingie - that the placing of this sum on the Estimates was only doing a modicum of justice. For four years Colonel Miller has been away in the Federal Territory, paying only occasional visits to the office, and during the whole of that time the work of Secretary has been practically done by Mr. Bingie.

Mr Kelly - It has been wholly done by Mr. Bingie.

Mr Archibald - Yes; I admit that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - And Mr. Bingie has had to contend with all the limitations imposed by his anomalous position.

Mr Kelly - There has been no limitation in responsibility, but only limitation in salary and status.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - And also of power in many respects; and the whole position requires putting right at the earliest possible moment. The first thing that the Government should do is to pass an Act creating a trust for the Federal Territory, and making Colonel Miller responsible Administrator in association with a couple of other experts selected because of their special aptitude and ability. Colonel Miller ought then to cut his connexion with the Department so far as the Secretaryship is concerned, and then, of course, Mr. Bingie would formally step into the position which he now actually fills. Pending that, there is nothing to prevent the Government from making an allowance to Mr. Bingie to compensate him for his work and responsibility, and that could easily be done by the means I adopted in the case of Colonel Pethebridge. Personally, I should like to see this matter go to a vote to-night, as there would then be a direction to the Government to act in the way I have suggested. Surely neither the war nor any other consideration should prevent us from paying reasonably for work performed. Mr. Bingie has been doing the work of Secretary for three years for £700 a year, and I see no reason why he should not be given at least another £100 out of the

Treasurer's Advance, thus wiping away the reproach, for it is one, of requiring a man to perform these duties at the lower salary. . Every one knows what a competent and devoted officer Mr. Bingie is, and I am sure that he is as loyal to the present Minister as he was to his predecessor. I have known Mr. Bingie for many years, both in State and Federal service, and I venture to say there is no man more devoted to his office and work.

Mr Page - He is a real good sort!

Mr King O'Malley - A slave to his work !

Mr JOSEPH COOK - If Mr. Bingie is so good a " sort " and so valuable an officer, we ought to do him justice, and I have suggested an easy way which constitutes no reflection on the Government, but is merely a direction to increase Mr. Bingle's salary from the Treasurer's Advance. In connexion with the Capital City, I think that the Committee is entitled to know, Estimates or no Estimates, what are the relations generally between Mr. Griffin and the Minister and the other officers. Is anything being done to seriously modify Mr. Griffin's plans? Once before there was an attempt at a serious modification, which might have had some temporary advantage, though I do not know, because I have not studied the matter sufficiently to say. However, if there is to be any modification in opposition to the views and wishes of the planner of the Capital, the Committee ought to know every detail and every step of the proposed modification, and the reasons for it.

Mr Fenton - Mr. Griffin has modified the plans himself.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Yes; but that is quite a different matter from having his plans modified by other people, who, it may be, do not understand them as he does. It is all the more necessary that Parliament should have something to say on this matter, because Mr. Griffin, so far as I know him, is not good at defending himself. Some of the best public officers in the world are not good at self-defence, and I fancy that Mr. Griffin is in that category. Everybody knows that he is an idealist. You have only to get into conversation with him to know he is a man of ideas.

Mr Kelly - He is an extremely capable town planner, all the same.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I believe that Mr. Griffin lives and moves and breathes in the air and atmosphere of this Federal Capital plan. All his life he has shown that he cares nothing for money, or for the material considerations that affect men Tn their ordinary business relations. His whole life bears witness to the fact that he does care for ideas, and I say that such a man is invaluable in connexion with the planning of a capital like ours, which is to last for centuries to come. I am not sure that, while Mr. Griffin is thinking of the position of affairs a couple of hundred years hence, the Minister and his officers are not considering the immediate requirements of the moment. I see no reason why there should be any friction at all.

Mr Archibald - There is none, so far as I am concerned.

Mr Kelly - Surely the Minister can hardly have seen his own papers if he says that?

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am afraid the Minister cannot say that.

Mr Archibald - It is perfectly correct.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Does the Minister say that nothing has been done except with the approval and sanction of Mr. Griffin ? Can he say that he is doing nothing to modify Mr. Griffin's plan ?

Mr Archibald - I have not modified anything at all yet.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I think the Minister referred once to the fifth wheel of the coach.

Mr Archibald - If there is to be any modification, it will be done by the House and the country, not by me.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Does the honorable the Minister seriously think that either he or this House is capable of modifying plans of that kind ? Does he really mean that the plan can be modified on the floor of this House?

Mr Archibald -- I will tell. you what I mean later on.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Is it not absurd for the Minister to talk about this House modifying a plan ?

Mr Archibald - This House consists of men of common sense.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Common sense ! I should think we want more than common sense in the planning of a capital. We want an extraordinary sense - a special town-planning sens© - to undertake a work of this kind.

Mr Archibald - But you want to bring common sense to bear on the matter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I am afraid that if there is to be any modification of the plan for the Capital by the Government or this House, a botch will be made of it. You might provide for the immediate requirements; but in the years to come it might turn out that we had made a very serious and costly blunder. I do think that there should be harmony in the Department between the author of the design and those who are to be responsible for its execution. There ought to be no difficulty, but as far as I can see I think there is. . In any case, if there is not, and if things are going all right, may I ask the Minister will he lay upon the table of the House all the papers that have passed between Mr. Griffin and his officers and himself? That is a fair question. Will he let the House and the people know what is being done?

Mr Archibald - I have no objection myself to let light in on the subject.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Will the Minister lay those papers on the table?

Mr Archibald - I do not see any objection.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Will the Minister do it?

Mr Archibald - I have no objection; but this question ought to be put to the Government.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Are we not putting it to the Government, through the responsible Minister for the Department?

Mr Archibald - As far as I am concerned, there is no objection.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - There ought to be no hesitation, if things are going along smoothly and harmoniously, in making the House acquainted with all the details of the correspondence that is going forward. At any rate, this House is entitled to know what is being done in this tremendous project, in which millions of money will be spent. Mistakes made now may later on prove very costly; and I say that the aim of the Minister ought to be to press into the service of this project for the Capital all the splendid practical ability which he has at his disposal in the Department.

Mr Archibald - That is what I am doing.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - But do not forget the plan and the planner while you are doing it.

Mr Archibald - I am not forgetting.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Do not let the planner be pushed into the background; because otherwise, in the carrying out of proposals for immediate requirements, the wrong view might be taken. If the planner is not forgotten, he might be able to save the whole situation in the years that are to come. It is all very well to construct the works immediately required, but we should also have a scheme that will provide for the years to come. Now there ought to be no great difficulty i n getting the planner and the plan workin? in the completest accord with those who are responsible for its execution. T am afraid that is not being done at the present time. At any rate, I think this House is entitled to know exactly what the present position of affairs is; but as the Minister has promised to place those papers on the table, I will refrain from further criticism until we see the documents, and have a chance to peruse them for ourselves. May we take it that we shall get those papers?

Mr Mathews - Do not let him bind you down. He is not in the party.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - I only want to see those papers.

Mr Archibald - As far as I am concerned, I do not see any objection to the papers being produced.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Are they ready for production?

Mr Kelly - They are in order. I have seen them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Perhaps the Minister will give them to us to-morrow.

Mr Kelly - They are quite in order for laying on the table to-morrow.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Will the Minister give them to us to-morrow, as soon as he can?

Mr Archibald - As soon as I can, yes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Very well, I am satisfied with the answer given by the Minister. I am only anxious that we shall make no mistake with regard to tha laying-out of the Federal Capital/

Mr Archibald - There will be no mistake, as far as I am concerned, while I am here.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - If the Minister will give us those papers, we will see if things are as he says; we will see if there is harmony as well as co-operation amongst all those officers. And if there is no trouble, I will pay the Minister a compliment with the greatest pleasure.

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