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Friday, 31 October 1913

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) (Minister of Defence) .- I think I can furnish the Committee with reasons justifying the action that has been taken in this matter. The position is this: First of all, the Victoria Barracks is the home of the military side of the Defence Department.- We have also in Lonsdalestreet, Melbourne, a rented building which is the headquarters of the Naval Branch. Then we had somewhere else in a place which I have not yet had time to visit another block of buildings for the Works Branch of the Department. I believe there is also a little side branch blossoming out somewhere else. As a business proposition alone, I submit that this proposal is defensible. Unless we did something of the kind we should have to rent other buildings to provide additional accommodation for a growing Department.

Senator Findley - Is this to be a permanent home for the Department, or is there not to be a home at Canberra?

Senator MILLEN - For what?

Senator Findley - For the naval section.

Senator MILLEN - There will certainly have to be a home for the Department in Canberra, if my ideas are carried out. But we cannot have the whole Department there. We shall still want some buildings down here. It is obvious, I think - and I can appeal to Senator Pearce on the point- that the present accommodation is insufficient. That can be claimed without fear of contradiction. We have three important branches of the Department scattered about this city. No one can satisfactorily look after them under these conditions. , It not infrequently happens that when I arn in the middle of papers at the barracks, I receive an urgent call to deal with some important business at the Navy House; in Lonsdale-street. When I am dealing with papers there, business has to be attended to in connexion with works. Then telephone messages have to be sent in order that the papers may be brought to me from the Works Office. It is harassing to have to transact business under these conditions. I put no exaggerated estimate on the value of my time, but I say that no man can administer a Department satisfactorily under these circumstances, and do it or himself justice.

Senator Findley - My point is that £25,000 for temporary premises is too much.

Senator MILLEN - The premises will not be temporary. If the Committee thinks that we ought to go on renting premises, let me point out the difficulty. I believe that Senator Pearce, while he was at the head of the Department, was trying to find out whether it was possible to obtain a block of buildings somewhere in Melbourne which would meet our requirements. Suitable premises were not to be found in Melbourne. There are, of course, many suitable buildings, but they are held under lease, and it was not possible to find close together the accommodation necessary for the Naval and Military Branches of the Department. There was an opportunity of purchasing the block in which the Navy Office is now housed for £10,000. The .Home Affairs Department could put up an additional block of buildings at the back at a cost of £8,000. The position, therefore, was that we could either spend £18,000 on the present premises or build for ourselves. It appealed to lue as *i very much better business proposition to put £25,000 worth of buildings on our own land - and there is ample room at the corner of the barrack lands in St. K i Ida-road - than to purchase premises which would only meet our immediate requirements. The building which we propose to erect will answer the purpose for an indefinite period.

Senator Rae - Does the honorable senator believe in spending money which will benefit posterity?

Senator MILLEN - I have no grievance against posterity. I am stating the reasons which have actuated me in including this proposal in the Estimates. In view of this explanation, I ask the Committee to allow the item to pass.

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