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Tuesday, 28 November 1905

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) - I do not feel quite satisfied about this item of £5,000, notwithstanding the clear and lengthy explanation given by the Minister. I was going to remind the honorable senator that the Bill has not yet been passed into law; and, considering that half the year "has gone by and no agreement has been come to with the States as to how the Federal Statistical Department is to be carried on, it seems to be a little premature to ask for a vote of £5.000. As I understand the matter, the suggestions made to the States Departments have been repudiated, and they prefer that the statistics shall be collected by their own officers: Until this important question has been settled it is impossible for the Minister to say what he will do with the £5,000, or when the Commonwealth -.Office will be inaugurated. There is to be a .conference of Treasurers during the next few weeks, and I ask whether this matter might not be gone into at that conference. Some agreement as to the action to be taken might be come to between the Commonwealth and States Governments, in order that the bureau may be conducted with the greatest possible efficiency and with the least possible expense. It is certainly premature to ask for a vote of £5,000 whilst we are still at issue as to whether the States or the Commonwealth shall perform this work. If the bulk of the officers who are now collecting statistics are to continue to collect them in future, and they are States officers, I should like to know how this money is to be spent. I agree with Senator Mulcahy that we ought to know what salary the chief statistical officer is to get, and how many clerks he is to be provided with. This cannot be determined until we agree upon the action to be taken by the States and the Commonwealth. If the work is to be undertaken by the Federal Bureau the States Governments may look forward to a saving in the transfer of some States officers to the Federal Department. This would be practical politics, and would make for economy, and I suggest that in the meantime the Government should withdraw this item.

Senator Playford - There must be some money voted, or we cannot start the Department.

Senator DOBSON - The Government would not be able to do anything towards the establishment of the Commonwealth Statistical Department until July next, even though they should get the States to agree with them. I direct attention also to the vote of £500 set down for a new edition of the Seven Colonies. Is that money to go to Mr. Coghlan? I take it that the new edition of the work will provide us with all the statistics we shall require up to the 30th June next, and in view of that fact I ask whether there is any occasion to vote an additional £5,000 for the establishment of a Statistical Bureau?

Senator Best - The £500 is money well spent.

Senator Keating - We are paying that every year.

Senator DOBSON - I am aware of that, but I say that the publication of a new edition of The Seven Colonies this year makes it unnecessary that we should vote £5,000 for the establishment of a Statistical Bureau.

Senator Playford - Why did honorable senators pass the Census and Statistics Bill?' ,

Senator DOBSON - They did so in order that the Federal and States Governments might confer as to the best mode of establishing a Federal Statistical Bureau. They have done so to a very limited extent, and their conference has not brought them together, but has set them wide apart, since the States officers do not agree with the suggestions which came from the Commonwealth Government. In the circumstances, I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item " Towards the establishment of a Statistical Bureau, ^5,000," by £2,500.

With regard to the Federal Capital Site, I desire to say that the correspondence which has been going on for some time has been a bitter disappointment to me. We seem to be every day getting further apart.

Senator Pearce - I thought the honorable senator wished to have the matter hung up.

Senator DOBSON - Speaking personally 1 do. I have always thought that we commenced a generation or two too early to talk about establishing a Federal" Capital, and every man I meet says the same thing.

Senator Clemons - The honorable senator. meets the wrong men, -that is all.

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