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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill came from the other House last week, when it. was read a first time, and, although it is very small in volume, it is of considerable importance for very many reasons. It will be within the recollection of honorable senators that upon the last two occasions when the Estimates of Expenditure for the year were under consideration, the question of the up-keep of the Federal Government House at Sydney received consideration. If I remember aright, it was I who first called in question the necessity or desirableness of maintaining in the Commonwealth two establishments for His Excellency, namely, one at Melbourne, and one at Sydney; but I was not vouchsafed1, I may say with all respect to those who were in charge of the Estimates, the information which I have since had an opportunity of acquiring. Honorable senators can judge of the quantity of that information, if not of its quality, when they, observe the file which I have at my left hand. Most of these papers deal solely with the question of the Governor-General's residence in Sydney. Some of them certainly deal with the residence of the Governor-General in Melbourne, but the great majority of the papers, which I have gone through most carefully during the last few weeks, deal with the whole question of the residence of His Excellency at Svdney for a portion of the year. Some time ago papers were tabled, I believe in the Senate as well as in the other House, containing correspondence which had passed between the Colonial Office and the Premiers'' of New South Wales, and other intending federating Colonies, on the question of the place of residence and allowances of the GovernorGeneral when he should come to Australia. It will probably Le remembered, even apart from any official papers which, have been tabled, that just before the arrival of the first Governor-General in Australia, communications passed between the then Premier of New South Wales, Sir William Lyne, and the Colonial Office, urging that, for various reasons, the Governor-General should for a period of the vear reside in that State. The matter was submitted for the consideration of, not merely the Colonial Office, but also the Premiers of the other Colonies, and the correspondence which, has been tabled in Parliament since discloses that at a Conference of Premiers a majority had decided that it was advisable that, during the recess, at any rate, the Governor-General should reside in S\ olney, and should from time to time visit the other States. Those were circumstances which were not presented to me. nor did I advert to them, or have any knowledge of them at the time when I was calling in question the necessity or desirableness of maintaining two separate establishments in the Commonwealth for the GovernorGeneral. However, the question was again referred to when the item cropped up on the Estimates last year, and then the Government promised that, so far as it was concerned, there would be no payments mar'e in connexion with the maintenance and upkeep of the Government House at Sydney beyond the end of the current financial year, that is the 30th June last, and that, as far as any future expenditure in connexion with the maintenance of a Government House at Svdney was concerned, it should be made the subject-matter of a Bill which could be dealt with bv both Houses, apart from the consideration of the Estimates. This Bill has accordingly been introduced ; but I should mention that between the time when the Senate gave consideration to the matter last year, and the beginning of this session, negotiations have taken place between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Government of New South Wales. As a result of the negotiations, the Government of the Commonwealth is in this position : that if the Bill be passed, it will be enabled to make an arrangement with the State of New South Wales for the acquisition of Svdney Government House, for the purpose of a residence for the GovernorGeneral, for a period not exceeding five years, rent free, and subject only to the consideration that the house and its furniture shall be maintained in their present order and condition, and at the termination of the tenancy so handed back to the State.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Are not those the existing conditions ?

Senator KEATING - Yes.

Senator Walker - Has the Commonwealth never paid any rent?

Senator KEATING - No; and it has. not paid any rent for the occupation of the Melbourne Government House. The terms upon which the two houses have been occupied a,s residences for His Excellency have not been precisely similar. So far as Melbourne Government House is concerned,, negotiations were entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Victoria, and as a result an agreement was drawn up for a three years' tenancy, with the option of a two years' extension. It was drawn up so long after the tenancy had commenced that when it was forwarded for execution the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth pointed out that probably by the time it was executed the term would have run out, and consequently it was suggested that a five \ears term, running from the original date.- should be the term of the lease. A lease was drawn up accordingly, and was forwarded for execution. Although it received official approval, still, for some reason or other, it was not signed, and apparently the counterparts had not been exchanged. So that His Excellency hasbeen in occupancy of the house upon what has practically amounted to a tenancy from year to vear. When it was first contemplated that Svdney Government House should be set aside by the State of New South Wales as a residence for the Governor-General during a certain portion of the year it incurred a considerable amount of expense. I am not quite certain about it, but if my memory serves me aright the amount expended by the State in refitting the house, and making it ready for the occupation of the Governor-General was about ,£20,000. I do not suggest for a moment that the whole of that expenditure was absolutely necessitated bv the fact that His" Excellency was going to occupy the premises. Probably a large portion of the expenditure would have been of value to the State as the owner of the property, whether His Excellency had continued to occupy it for a long or short period, or had discontinued to occupy it. But apart from that expenditure, the State took a lease of premises which have since been occupied by the State Governor as a residence, and Which, situated at Rose Bay, near Sydney, are known as Cranbrook.

Senator Col Neild - Built bv old Captain Towns, the founder of Townsville.

Senator KEATING - That statement is, I believe, correct. Since the last session of this Parliament negotiations, as I have said, have been taking place between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales. ' The term of occupancy of Cranbrook will run out on the 30th September next. Naturally enough, in view of the attitude of the Senate towards the whole question of the maintenance of the Government House in Sydney. the Government of New South Wales is desirous of knowing as early as possible in what position it stands with regard to an extension of its occupancy of Cranbrook. When it came to negotiate with the owner for the option of an extension of the term of occupancy, it was met with a distinct refusal. He had decided that he would not let the property any longer, but would cut it up, and sell it. In view of that fact, the only thing which the Government of New South Wales could do was to ask for the right to purchase, and now it has an agreement to that effect from the owner, but it has to exercise the option at a verv early date. It is for that reason that this Bill has been put in front of several orders of the day on the notice-paper. The State Government is desirous of knowing at the earliest possible date what is the position with regard to- a second residence for the Governor-General. If it is desired that His Excellency shall have a second residence afforded to him - a residence in Sydney as well as in Melbourne - then it will be necessary for the Government of New South Wales to exercise its option of purchasing Cranbrook as a residence for the State Governor, at any rate, for a period of years. The preamble of the Bil! says -

For the purpose of providing residences for the Governor-General pending the establishment of a Federal Capital : Be it enacted ... as follows.

In clauses 2 and 3 it empowers the Governor-General to -enter into an arrangement with the Governors of Victoria and New South Wales respectively ' for the, use and occupation of the local Government House as a residence for himself. It is really a Bill to enable the Commonwealth to make the necessary arrangements for securing both of these houses as residences for the Governor-General, pending the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. The position in regard to Victoria is that at present the Governor-General is occupying Melbourne Government House on what might be called a tenancy from vear to year. There is no definite agreement with the State of Victoria, nor is there any agreement, with, the State of New South Wales. The house that is now being used for the State Governor will soon revert to the owners of the property, who desire that the Government of New South Wales shall notify them not later thani the 1st August of this vear whether or not it intends to exercise the option of purchase. Both of these Government Houses have in the past been at the disposal qf the Commonwealth for occupation by the Governor-General rent free, the only obligation being in each case to maintain the furniture and belongings of the establishment, and to hand them over in good order and condition at the end of the term. All that we are asking in this Bill is for power to enable us to enter into arrangements for the continued occupation of those two houses on the existing terms. Honorable senators will probably remember having seen some time ago a notification in the daily press to the effect that it was intended to claim rent in respect of the occupation of these premises by the Commonwealth. I am in a position to say that there is to be nothing in the nature of rent paid bv the Commonwealth for either of the houses.

Senator Stewart - Has not Mr. Bent made a claim for rent?

Senator KEATING - It has been withdrawn. In the session of 1901-2 a paper was circulated, dealing with the GovernorGeneral's establishment and the Executive Council. It was printed, and appears on page 835 of the General Parliamentary

Papers,Session 1901-2, volume 2. There is set out an estimate of the cost of maintaining Melbourne Government House and grounds, together with the furniture and belongings of the establishment, and. a similar estimate in the case of Sydney Government House. The total comes to. £5,5°°-

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - What was the actual expenditure?

Senator KEATING - Last year the actual expenditure was .£5,868.

Senator Story - How much for each ?

Senator KEATING - In 1901-2 the expenditure for Melbourne was ,£3,101, and for Svdney £2,077, making a total of £5,178; and the proposed vote was £5,500. The expenditure of £5,868 last year included, however, what would be called non-recurring items. There was, for instance, an item for the asphalting of a portion of the grounds. When I say " nonrecurring," I mean not recurring annually. The Department has every reason to believe that the estimate of £15,500, which was in 1901-2 described as being a bedrock estimate, will not be exceeded during the present vear. I have here some figures, for which I am indebted to Mr. Dugald Thomson, formerly Minister of Home Affairs, who quoted them during the debate on this measure in another place. They afford a useful contrast with the expenditure incurred by different States in a similar direction. The honorable member did not set out in these figures, as reported in Hansard, particulars for any other States than New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, though he also mentioned the expenditure incurred by New Zealand in respect of Government Houses. In New South Wales, where there are two Government Houses for the use of the State Governor, the annual cost is stated to be £12,^68. In Victoria two Government Houses are maintained for the State Governor, at a total annual cost of £8,732.-

Senator Guthrie - Does that include interest ?

Senator KEATING - The figures are mentioned as the total annual cost.

Senator Millen - The sum clearly does not include interest in the case of New South Wales.

Senator KEATING - I do not know whether in Queensland there is more than one Government House, but, at any rate, the total expenditure in that State is £7>r_32. In New Zealand the annual expenditure on Government Houses amounts to £7,000. There we have an account of the cost in three States of the Commonwealth and the Colony of New Zealand, and in contrast 'we have an annual expenditure by the Commonwealth on two Government Houses, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne, of £5,500. So that, from the point of view of expenditure annually incurred in housing Governors, the Commonwealth appears to be making a very, excellent bargain. If it can get two Government Houses, presumably the largest and best equipped in Australia, absolutely rent free, subject only to the observance of terms and conditions which will involve an annual outlay of £5,500, the Commonwealth appears to be doing remarkably well.

Senator Givens - Why should we have to "cadge" to the States Governments for the use of Government Houses?

Senator KEATING - I do not know that we have "cadged." I may refer to some correspondence that passed between the Premier of New South Wales and the Colonial Office before the establishment of Federation. It discloses that there was a voluntary offer on the part of New South Wales to provide rent free for the GovernorGeneral, Svdney Government House, and before the Governor-General was accommodated there to put the establishment in the best order, at an expenditure of £20,000.

Senator Col Neild - That included furnishing of all kinds, including the cost of new silver, cutlery, and: so forth.

Senator KEATING - Not only did New South Wales, through her Premier, make that offer, but - what was absolutely new to me, until a few moments ago, I had an opportunity to peruse this verv bulky and not altogether inviting, looking file of papers - the New South Wales Government introduced into Parliament a Bill, which was passed, to provide out of the consolidated revenue of the State a sum of something like £3,000 per annum to add to the Federal constitutional allowance of £10,000 for the Governor-General.

Senator Col Neild - New South Wales voted one-third of £10,000 as an addition to the constitutional allowance.

Senator KEATING - She voted what would be her proportionate share of £10,000, over and above the sum provided by the Constitution. That fact, as I have said, was new to me until I read the papers on the file. The fact that that Bill was passed was communicated to the Home authorities. A similar Bill was introduced in Victoria for the. purpose of supplementing the Governor-General's constitutional allowance, but was not passed. This action indicates the attitude of New South Wales with regard to the residence of the GovernorGeneral in that State. I mention this in reply to Senator Givens, to show that it is not the case that the Commonwealth is going cadging to any State Government for anything of this character.

Senator Givens - I object to the Commonwealth being under an obligation.

Senator KEATING - New South Wales, at any rate, had a strong desire that the GovernorGeneral should reside for the best part of the parliamentary recessin that State. Various reasons were given for that attitude. It was stated, as honorable senators may remember, that, although the Constitution providedthat, until the Seat of Government was definitely established, the Parliament should sit at Melbourne, that in itself did not imply that the Seat of Government was at Melbourne. These were arguments advanced Eased on opinions that had been supplied.

Senator Millen - Amongst others by Mr. O'Connor and Sir Edmund Barton.

Senator KEATING - I do not know as to an opinion having been supplied by Sir Edmund Barton. But there was a feeling in New South Wales, over and above a desire that the Governor-General should reside there a portion of the year, that New South Wales, as of right and not as of favour, was,under the terms of the Constitution, entitled to claim that the GovernorGeneral should reside there.

Senator Givens - Does the Constitution not provide that the Seat of "Government shall not be within 100 miles of Sydney ?

Senator KEATING - Quite so: But I am not prepared to argue the matter with Senator Givens from the legal point of view. What I am prepared to do is to state that the people of New South Wales not only had such a desire, but felt that, as a matter of right, they were entitled to claim that the Governor-General should reside there.

Senator Givens - Not in Sydney.

Senator KEATING - I am, stating a fact, and not saying whether the people of

New South Wales were right or wrong. The peopleof New South Wales believed that they were entitled to claim that the GovernorGeneral should reside in that State when the duties of his office did not necessarily call him to Melbourne ; and provision, was, made by the Stateto supplement the allowance of £10,000 per annum, to which the Governor-General is entitled under the Constitution.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I thought that this supplemental allowance was only in respect of the initial expenditure at the inauguration of the Commonwealth ?

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