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Wednesday, 19 September 1928

Mr WEST (East Sydney) .- I have always held the opinion that the administration of Canberra should be undertaken by either the Department of Works and Railways, or the Department of Home and Territories. Since the present Government has been in power it has made a habit of delegating its powers to boards and commissions, and allowing them to expend huge sums of money without any prospect of a return. This money has been expended extravagantly, mainly because of the incompetency of the members of those bodies, who have no thought of conserving Australia's interests. More responsibility should be vested in the Ministers, who are directly responsible to Parliament. While the Government pursues its present policy of appointing boards and commissions we must expect extravagance and maladministration to be rampant. We have an example of this at Canberra. While the Federal Capital Commission controls the destiny of this city, the present unsatisfactory position must continue. When federation took place, it was decided to establish a Federal Capital city, and the Government, in building Canberra, has only carried out the wishes of the people. Visitors to Australia have expressed the greatest admiration for our action in providing a centre of government control at which to deal with matters of a national character. The Government, in establishing numerous boards and commissions, has taken care to select carefully the members to be appointed to those bodies. For instance, the Arbitration Court judges are closely allied with the Nationalist party. The people of Australia are beginning to realize that the Government has adopted a dangerous practice. I certainly think that some form of municipal control at Canberra would be preferable to administration by the Federal Capital Commission. If Canberra were administered by the Department of Works and Railways the ministerial head of that department would be responsible to Parliament. At present Parliament has no control of Canberra, although the Government has taken care to appoint to the Federal Capital Commission men who are connected with the Nationalist party and who are therefore subject to its influence. The utterances of honorable members on this side respecting the affairs of Canberra have had little effect either on the Government or on the commission. The opposition is entitled to have some say in the affairs of the Federal Capital city. When I was a little boy, my father took me to the British House of Commons. At that time, Disraeli was in opposition and in that assembly he was just as important as the Prime Minister himself, the greatest attention being paid to his utterances. There is now too little regard for age and .experience. It would be a bad thing for this country if it had a parliament of boys. I suggest that the younger members of this chamber should pay a little more regard to the advice of those of us who have had a long parliamentary experience. Even if this bill is agreed to we can promise that many of the anomalies created by commission control will be removed after the election, for I am convinced that the people will not return this Government to power. The prestige of the Government has suffered seriously because of its maladministration in many respects, and particularly because of its delegation of its powers to commissions of one kind and another. It has done this to escape responsibility or else to provide lucrative positions for its friends. It is well known that one gentleman who is to-day a member of the High Court haunted Parliament House until he obtained an appointment. I object to persons receiving public appointments by such means. The British Government values its powers too highly to think of delegating ,them to commissions. I admire the Minister for Home and Territories as a man, and as a medical practitioner, but regret that I cannot compliment him upon his administration of this important department. It is high time that the people changed the Government, and I think they may be trusted shortly to do it.

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