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Thursday, 6 September 1906

Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) . - There is only one way out of the alleged confusion, and that is to establish a Commonwealth Printing Office. I think it must be admitted that if we were permanent ly located anywhere the composite system which now prevails would be unsatisfactory. But it must be borne in mind that we are only here tentatively. The argument for establishing a permanent Department in co-operation with the State points to what at Jeast one of the States is verv much afraid of, and what would be very wrong in itself, and that is the fixing of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne. We ought to have all our arrangements as easily transferable as possible, in order that whenever the time came to permanently locate the Federal Capital - either100 miles or further from Sydney, or at Sydney, it might be - we could do that with , as little expense as possible, and obviouslv the more complete the Departments we created in Melbourne, the more difficult that operation would be. With reference to the printing for the Commonwealth, it will be remembered that in the early stages the whole of our work was done under very high pressure with the machinery that the State had. It had a very ample supply of machinery for its own requirements, but it had not provided machinery to meet the necessities of two distinctGovernments, the other rapidly becoming bigger than itself so far as printing was concerned. When it was necessary, as it soon became necessary, to largely augment the plant it could not be expected that the State would undertake all the extra cost, knowing that in the ordinary course of events the Federal Parliament would be removing to some other place, and would require the additional plant for its purposes. Therefore, it was necessary that the Commonwealth should undertake some responsibility in connexion with the enlargement of the concern, which it did in the purchase of a considerable quantity of necessary machinery.

Senator Guthrie - To the amount of

Senator TRENWITH - That, I venture to say, is a very small sum compared with the aggregate cost of the plant and machinery in the Government Printing Office.

Senator Findley - I doubt that.

Senator TRENWITH - Without knowing the facts, I should say that the aggregate cost was more than three times that sum.

Senator Croft - Oh, no; it is nearly all obsolete.

Senator TRENWITH - That is a very rash statement. I agree with Senator Dobson that the work done for us at the Printing Office is admirable, and it is absurd to say that it could be performed with obsolete machinery.

Senator Millen - On what machinery is it performed ?

Senator TRENWITH - On the two sets, but the State has very much the larger proportion, according to the statement of Senator Findley. I agree, in fact we must all agree, that a separate Department, if it were possible without unduly burdening the Commonwealth in this transition stage, would be a better thing, but of the two evils, the establishment of a complete and separate printing office for the Commonwealth would be the greater.

Senator McGregor - We ought to find out which is the cheaper.

Senator TRENWITH - I quite agree with the honorable se'nator, if there is any doubt on that point, but that cannot be done on these Estimates. If the abuses are as great and widespread as Senator Findley has alleged the only way to ascertain the facts is by instituting an inquiry. That cannot be accomplished either by a discussion or by omitting the item. The better course would be to submit a specific motion, and bring up concrete facts more definite and complete than those we have had. I am not in a position to saythat there may not be great cause for complaint.

Senator Mulcahy - Surely we do not want any huckstering with the Victorian Parliament ?

Senator TRENWITH - No. Speaking not as a Victorian, but as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, I admit that we are necessarily under a very great obligation to the Victorian Government. They met us in a most gracious and generous manner, when, if I may so express it, we came as a necessity of the Constitution to Victoria to live. Some persons said they did so with the view of fixing us here. I do not think that there is any justification for that remark. I think that the action of the State Government has been prompted by a truly generous Federal spirit. I deprecate any suggestion that the State is imposing upon the Commonwealth.

Senator Mulcahy - It is all the other way.

Senator TRENWITH - I will not say that it is all the other way, but I dare say that by this time arrangements have been so completed that each party to the composite work which is carried on meets fairly its own obligations. I do not think that the Commonwealth is now under any particular obligation financially to the State. I am not aware that there is any charge for housing the plant or for such supervision as the State provides.

Senator Millen - The trouble is that we are not aware of many things.

Senator TRENWITH - That is true ; and this is not the way to get the information desired.

Senator Dobson - I suppose that the Minister can give us the details.

Senator TRENWITH - Without reflecting upon the Minister, I think it is somewhat unreasonable for Senator Dobson to assume that he can. The Executive enjoys the confidence of Parliament, and we have a right to assume until proof to the contrary is presented that this Department, with others, is being administered with care, watchfulness, and necessary supervision. If a question were presented to the Minister in the Senate, I dare say that it would elicit most complete information. We cannot expect any one Minister to know the business of all the Departments. All we have a reasonable right to expect is that when difficulties are presented, the leader of the Senate will obtain information for us.

Senator Dobson - Did not the Minister read a statement last year explaining the position ?

Senator Playford - Yes; and it can all be seen in Hansard. The question was discussed here for hours, and a complete explanation was given.

Senator TRENWITH - The objections which have been raised seem to me to be unfairly exacting. I do not say that everything in the Printing Office is as it should be. It is reasonable that under existing circumstances there should be some uncertainty as to the exact use and application of each machine where two complete sets are employed conjointly to do the work of two Governments. If the State were to say, " We are sorry that you are dissatisfied ; but for the future you can do your own work on your own machines," we should immediately be placed in a difficulty. Of course, we should place ourselves in a position to get our work done, but the immediate result would be that we would not be able to do our work for some time, and to equip ourselves for that purpose would entail an expenditure of probably twice as much as we have already5 incurred.

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