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Friday, 22 June 1906

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - - I can assure honorable senators that the House Committee, during last session., and at the commencement of this session, has devoted itself seriously to the consideration of the question of the deficiency in the management of the parliamentary refreshmentrooms. The subject has engaged our earnest attention. There is one phase of the matter which has not been mentioned, and which I think is not understood. It appears to me that it will be absolutely impossible to prevent a loss occurring in the management of the refreshment-rooms when we have to keep up a certain staff to provide meals on an average of three and a half days per week, whilst wages have to be paid for the full week. So far as concerns the purchase of supplies on the one hand, and the revenue derived from the sale of meals on the other, there would be a credit balance if it were not for the cost of management. The loss is involved in the payment of the cook, the waiters, and the necessary staff. The members of this Parliament may as well make up their minds that so long as the refreshment-rooms are maintained, and so long as we have what I may describe as a teetotal Parliament, or a Parliament a large number of whose members are teetotalers, a loss is bound to occur, for the simple reason that no profit is derived from the bar, which in other circumstances would be one of the largest sources of revenue. Personally, I should be quite satisfied to see them done away with altogether, and let Members of Parliament go outside for their meals. If, however, it is determined to maintain the refreshment-rooms we must make up our minds that there is bound to be a deficiency, and must put up with whatever blame the public casts upon us on account of it. I am convinced that there is no private caterer who, under the circumstances, could prevent a loss occurring.

Senator Fraser - Under the State Parliament, Mr. Gregory carried on the refreshmentrooms for years without a loss.

Senator O'KEEFE - I - If that is so the only explanation can Le that under the State Parliament a considerably larger revenue was derived from the sale of liquors at the bar than has been the case during the occupancy of this building by the Federal Parliament.

Senator Millen - What it means is, that so far as the refreshment-rooms are concerned, this Parliament refuses to drink itself solvent !

Senator O'KEEFE - Let Let me put the facts to honorable senators. We have to cater for in Members of Parliament, only a. portion of whom take their meals here. Those members only take their meal's here for about half the' week; but any caterer would have to pay the wages of the staff for the whole week. The revenue derived from the sale of meads and liquors balances the expenditure, and we should have a credit balance if it were not for the necessity of paying the staff for a whole week when their services are actually required for only one-half the week.

Senator DELARGIE (Western Aus

Committee for three or four years, I should like to say that this is a matter that has given us a great deal of trouble. The Committee has done its best to make the ledger balance, but so far has always been unable to do so. Senator Fraser has told us that the State Parliament, when it occupied these buildings, was able to run the refreshment -rooms in a better manner. But as a matter of fact we have in charge of the refreshment-rooms the same manager as the State Parliament had, and he has assured us over and over again, and has given us details in proof, that the State Parliament was actually in a. worse position than we have been. The only difference arises from the fact that there was then a larger revenue from the bar than we have been able to secure. We have a very small income from the bar. To that is largely due the fact that we have not- been able to make the lederer balance at the end of each session. There is only one way to a.void a debit balance, and that is to shut the place completely down. So' long as we maintain the refreshment-rooms there is bound to be a deficit.

Senator Fraser - I am not at all sure of that.

Senator Walker - It shows that a Government cannot run an institution, as well, as can private enterprise.

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