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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Senator MATHESON (Western Australia) - I should like to obtain from the Minister of Defence an explanation concerning the item of ,£250 for an armoury at Northam, in lieu of an armoury at Guildford.

Senator PLAYFORD(South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - The original vote was for an armoury at Guildford; it was devoted to an armoury at Northam, and the Parliament is now asked to approve of the transfer of the vote. There is no difference in the amount.

Senator MATHESON(Western Australia). - This is, a most casual way of dealing with a vote. Probably the Minister is not aware that Northam is over fifty miles from Guildford.

Senator Playford - It may be 1,000 miles from Guildford for all we care; we have transferred the vote from one place to the other.

Senator MATHESON - The honorable senator seems to forget that we considered these votes, in the Estimates very carefully. I cannot say from memory that this particular vote caught my eye; but no doubt when I was looking through the Estimates for last year I noticed an, item of ,£250 for an armoury at Guildford, and it was passed. Guildford is one of our m>st important country towns,, with the railway workshops not far away, whereas Northam is a little village.

Senator Pearce - But Guildford is within eight miles of a City.

Senator Playford - This must be all right, or else there would have been a -row over it before now.

Senator MATHESON - Guildford has a large population, which is increasing rapidly.

Senator Playford - As, the money has been spent, it is of no use to talk about it.

Senator MATHESON - I protest against this lavish expenditure of unauthorized money.

Senator Playford - The transfer was authorized, and the money has been spent. There would have been a fine old row if it had not been all right.

Senator MATHESON - It raises once more the issue I have put to the Senate on other occasions : Is there any use in debating Estimates when we find that the Government have spent the money?

Senator Playford - Surely the Government must take some responsibility.

Senator MATHESON - The Government does nothing but take responsibility. What I complain of is that Ministers resent any criticism. Even now the Minister does not tell us why this change was made. It concerns his own Department, and he ought to know in what directions money is spent upon public buildings. I have no doubt that the people of Guildford are wondering when the drillhall will be erected. When I go to Western Australia, I shall be asked on all hands when the work is to be commenced. I can give a case in point. Only a little while ago, there was a sum of money on the Estimates for the building of a post-office at Gwalia in Western Australia. Months have passed; but by a recent mail I received a letter from residents, asking when the work is to be commenced. Here is a similar case. I quite expect that when I go to Guildford I shall have people swarming round me inquiring why the drill-hall has not been built. Fortunately,I am taking the Minister of Defence to Western Australia with me, and shall refer the deputations to him. He will have the peculiar felicity of defending the policy of his predecessor. It is a farce to vote money in: specific directions, when it is not spent as voted. We might as well vote a lump sum.

Schedules agreed to.

Postponed clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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