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Thursday, 6 September 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - In spite of the explanation which the Minister has given - I think he termed it an explanation - we are entitled to some information in order to allay the doubts which have been created bv the pertinent criticism addressed to the Committee by Senator Findley and Senator Croft. The statements which have been made raise many questions ; and I expected the Minister to attempt to give, at least, some explanation which is. necessary to determine whether or not this is a vote which ought properly to be passed. I am entirely with Senator Dobson in his desire for economy, but it has not been proved that the present system is the most economical.

Senator Dobson - Surely it does not need any proof?

Senator MILLEN - Senator Dobson expressed the opinion that it is only reasonable that the State and the Commonwealth should co-operate. We all indorse that sentiment: but the statements of Senator Findlev show that, as a matter of fact, there is' no' system of co-operation. On the contrary, there appears to be no definite organization; and that view was confirmed by the Minister when he interjected that the whole thing is a sort of " goasyouplease " arrangement. Sufficient has been said, in the absence of any answer from the Minister, to justify a call for inquiry. I do not know enough to affirm that the time has arrived to start a Commonwealth printing office, or to say whether that would necessarily be the more expensive course. But if the Minister is not in a position to give any information, it is, I think, incumbent on the Senate to take steps to obtain information by some other means.

Senator Dobson - Give us one statement that requires answering.

Senator MILLEN - The whole of Senator Findley 's statements require answering. I do not claim the intimate knowledge which Senator Findley possesses of the technical working of a printing office, but I do know what happens when one font of type gets mixed up with another.

Senator Dobson - Who says the type is mixed up?

Senator MILLEN - Senator Findley said so.

Senator Dobson - Senator Findley does not know.

Senator MILLEN - I am entitled to assume that Senator Findley, when he rose, had, or thought he had, some substantial ground for the statements he intended to make ; and if the picture the honorable senator drew is correct, the type is being mixed up in a most hopeless fashion.

Senator Dobson - Is there any Commonwealth type there at all?

Senator MILLEN - In view of that question, I need not go any further. Is the Committee prepared to go on voting sums of money for we know not what? Senator Dobson, that staunch apostle of economy, says that economy is to be conserved by voting any sum the Minister asks for, without our knowing what plant or machinery we have now, or what is going to be done with the money. The statement has been made that the Commonwealth makes no payment for the use of the machinery in the State printing office; but I should like to know whether, when Commonwealth work is done on State plant, a percentage is not added to the cost for the use of that plant. I do not know whether there is such a practice or not.

Senator Playford - No, nothing of the sort. The machines are used partly for Commonwealth work and partly for State work, and no charge is made on either side for their use.

Senator MILLEN - That is one point, at any rate, on which I have succeeded in getting a definite statement from the Minister.

Senator Playford - I told honorable senators all about the printing office last year.

Senator MILLEN - Surely the Minister cannot expect us to remember even his valuable words for twelve months.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator will have another opportunity to discuss the matter on the Estimates

Senator MILLEN - After the £1,500 has been spent ?

Senator Staniforth Smith - Cannot the honorable senator trust the Ministry ?

Senator MILLEN - Not if the Ministry carry on their business in the way described.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator is only wasting time.

Senator MILLEN - It is my business to see that the Ministry do not waste money. I am sent here to devote my time, as far as possible, to stopping wasteful expenditure, and I desire to know what this item is for.

Senator Findley - According to the Minister, most of the money is to be spent on metal.

Senator MILLEN - Senator Clemons asked whether there is a corresponding vote on the State Estimates. Linotype machines use up a considerable quantity of metal, and I should like to know whether the Commonwealth is finding the whole of the metal used for the State work.

Senator Findley - Nobody knows.

Senator MILLEN - I am certain that the State does not desire that the Commonwealth should be continually providing plant, unless there is a reciprocal arrangement.

Senator Playford - There is a reciprocal arrangement, under which we use each other's type, and charge the cost of labour and material.

Senator MILLEN - Under that arrangement, when fresh metal is required, who supplies it?

Senator Playford - I think it is a case df about half and half, though I do not know exactly.

Senator MILLEN - That answer confirms everything Senator Findley has said as to the absolute confusion which prevails.

Senator Trenwith - No, it only shows that the Minister, as is natural, ' does not know all the details.

Senator MILLEN - If the linotypes are used for both State and Commonwealthwork, does the Commonwealth find the whole of the raw material ?

Senator Playford - The honorable senator cannot expect me to answer questions as to every little detail.

Senator MILLEN - I have reached the stage when I do not expect the Minister to answer anything. We have never yet had a satisfactory explanation of the item from the honorable gentleman, who has practically told us with great candour, as he told me on another occasion, " I have told you all I know, and Iknow nothing." We cannot, of course, have an inquiry at this stage, but I hope the Minister will give us an assurance that some investigation will be made into the many statements which have been made here, so that he may be enabled, at a short date, to offer some explanation to honorable senators. If the Minister does not do so, I suggest that honorable senators who think with me, should take steps to have a committee appointed, or to ask the Printing Committee to inquire and report. At present 1 can only regard the position as exceedingly unsatisfactory.

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