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Thursday, 30 August 1928

Mr C RILEY (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I realize that I am adopting a rather unusual course in thus moving an adjournment motion on the second business day of the session, and especially on the day fixed for the Treasurer's budget speech. I feel, however, that in view of the danger of serious curtailment of the time allowed members for the discussion of the budget speech and Estimates, I am justified in taking an early opportunity of bringing this matter to the notice of honorable members. I wish to speak about the foundation contract for the first permanent administrative block in

Canberra, a contract entered into with a firm of builders in Sydney at a price of £50,783. The work was completed about four months ago, and the sum of £46,000 has been paid up to the 27th April, 192S. I understand that no payment has been made since then. My object in moving the motion is to make the charge that huge discrepancies in cement quantities have been disclosed, that the work has been fraudulently carried out, and that the builders have failed to complete the foundation according to the specifications. I believe that there is a serious possibility of the foundations not being equal to the requirements of the large building which it is proposed to erect on them. The contract provided for the purchase of the whole of the cement required for the job through the Federal Capital Commission stores, and therefore the exact amount of cement mixed into the job could be readily obtained if an examination were made of the total amount issued from the stores to the contractor. This amount could then be compared with what would be required to do the job properly. The specifications provided that -

The contractor shall and will well and faithfully execute, perform and finish all and singular, the works strictly in accordance with the specifications.

The work has not been carried out according to the specifications, and yet the sum of £46,000 has been paid already to the contractor. In spite of the fact that the job was completed four months ago, no finality has been reached in regard to the accounts. I understand that negotiations with the contractor are in progress, but I maintain that the Commission has had ample time to investigate and examine the position, and the delay which has occurred is absolutely unjustifiable. If the supervision of the work has been such that a serious discrepancy in the quantity of cement has been allowed to pass, there is a grave danger that discrepancies also exist in regard to the amount of blue metal used with the cement, and the quantity of steel reinforcement. The contract provided for the concrete being subjected to certain tests. I should like to know whether those tests were made, and also what explanation the building supervisors and officials responsible to the Commission can offer for their failure to see that the contractor carried, out the work according to the specifications. I should like to know, further, whether these men are still in the employ of the Government, and whether any certificates have been issued by the architects to the effect that the work was carried out according to the specifications and completed to their satisfaction. I maintain that faulty work was proceeding for months; yet, in spite of that, progress payments were made to the extent of £46,000, and no action was taken to check the fraudulent practices of those carrying out the work.

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