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Wednesday, 19 September 1928

Sir NEVILLE HOWSE (Calare) (Minister for Home and Territories) . - The bill, together with the amendments which have been circulated, fulfils the promise of the Prime Minister on the 30th June, that before the end of the session steps would be taken to give the citizens of the Federal Capital Territory representation upon the Federal Capital Commission. Consequently I regret that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that the Prime Minister's promise has not been fulfilled. He is quite wrong in his statement, though I do not suggest that he made it for the purpose of misleading the House. I do not propose to make any lengthy reference to the honorable member's quotations from the Hansard report of the proceedings of the date I have mentioned ; but I am justified in saying that the- bill, with its amendments, carries out in every respect the promise of the Prime Minister and provides a liberal franchise for the election of the people's representative on the commission.

Mr Blakeley - Surely the Minister does not consider that the bill provides a liberal franchise?

Sir NEVILLE HOWSE - The bill, and its amendments, provide an extremely liberal franchise - as liberal, possibly as that of any local governing franchise in Australia except that of New South . Wales. The introduction of the bill has resulted in a most interesting debate upon the development of our Federal Capital. I am glad to say that while I have had to listen to much abuse of myself, as Minister, and of the Federal Capital Commission, no speaker, except the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) has made any suggestion of dishonorable conduct. During the last three or four months I have been required to answer innumerable questions of the most trivial character. Many of them were more trivial than questions I was required to answer when I was mayor of a small, but important country town of New South Wales. It is to be hoped that after the people have elected their representative on the commission these trivial matters will no longer occupy the time of this Parliament. It appears quite clear that honorable members generally are not anxious to accept the bill and its amendments except as a temporary measure. I therefore propose to move when the bill is in committee to provide that the second and third commissioners shall be appointed for only one year. This will enable Parliament to review the whole subject during the coming year. It has been suggested that the control of the Federal Capital Territory should revert to the Works and Railways Department, and that the day labour policy should be adopted.

Mr Blakeley - The wish of the House is that the bill shall be withdrawn.

Sir NEVILLE HOWSE - I do not think that is the general opinion; but in any case the Government must honour the promise given by the Prime Minister in June last. Much has been said about the salary suggested for the third commissioner. I suppose many honorable members of this House have served for years on local governing bodies without any pay whatever. The position of the third commissioner will be, to a large extent, that of an alderman in a municipality.

Mr Blakeley - Except that he will not have the power of an alderman.

Sir NEVILLE HOWSE - He will have a great deal of power. He will bo able, for instance, to examine all the files in connexion with any matter which is brought before the commission.

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will he be expected to do that while the commission is sitting?

Sir NEVILLE HOWSE - He will have every opportunity to do it. In the circumstances I consider that the remuneration is liberal. At any rate, in the next twelve months we can estimate the value of the kind of representation proposed.

I regret that there has been so much criticism and abuse of the commission. I say unhesitatingly that the work of the Chief Commissioner, Sir John Butters, and of the second commissioner, Sir John Harrison, has been of inestimable value. I shall not refer to the work of the third commissioner, Colonel Thomas, for he has not been connected with the commission, for very long. I amglad that, with the exception of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, no honorable member has attacked the integrity or honour of the commissioners or myself. That is satisfactory in view of what has happened of recent years in connexion with the civic administration of Sydney. The honorable member for Hindmarsh hinted that there was some scandal attached to the departmental administration which the Minister would have great difficulty in answering. Seeing that the same honorable member attacked the honour and integrity of the Minister some time ago in connexion with the purchase of radium, and we know how little foundation there was for his attack, we can put the proper value upon his present statements.

Mr Makin - Sworn declarations were produced on the former occasion to support the attack.

Sir NEVILLE HOWSE - The honorable member terminated his speech with the statement that he did not know how he would be able to defend his attitude in regard to Canberra.

Mr Makin - I shall make no attempt to defend it.

Sir NEVILLE HOWSE - The honorable member said that he was so keenly interested in the progress of the Capital that he would have difficulty in defending himself. He would certainly have great difficulty in supporting his innuendoes and abuse of the Chief Commissioner and myself. I shall leave the matter at that.

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