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Wednesday, 7 May 1930

Senator O'HALLORAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - "Were the bricklayers responsible for the shortage of concrete in the foundations of the permanent administrative building?

Senator OGDEN - The honorable senator can inquire into that matter for himself. There was, no doubt, a good reason why the cost of construction hem was a great deal higher than it would have been under normal conditions.

Senator HOARE (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - "What about the wastage due to mistakes?

Senator OGDEN - I am not defending the Commission; I am pointing out that explanations can be given for the high cost of construction. I realized at the rime that the appointment of the Commission was a mere expedient, and that it must eventually be supplanted by another form of government. The only logical alternative, in my opinion, was that the Public Works Department should retain control of constructional work and that a local authority should be set up to carry out purely administrative work. I realize that the problem confronting the Government is ah extremely difficult one owing to the design of the capital. We have two or three villages such as Ainslie and Kingston separated by long distances. Of course there are roads, footpaths, water mains and drains throughout the capital, and all sorts of services have to be maintained and repaired, although no revenue is being derived from thom, so that for a good many years, probably, there will be no great progress in Canberra. During the lifetime of honorable senators there ia not likely to be further marked development. In my opinion, this city has nearly reached its zenith now from the point of view- of population. After the transfer of a few more officials has been effected the population will no doubt remain practically stationary for many years, and there will probably be very little increase in the revenues from the Territory within the next twenty years. Therefore, whatever form of government is substituted for commission control, all those difficulties will have to be faced.

It has been urged that the late Government did nothing to bring about local control, as advocated by Senator Pearce and other honorable senators. It is true that that Government did not set up a local authority, but it practically did what the present Government now proposes, with one or two exceptions. It continued the commission system for twelve months under modified conditions and with less expense in salaries than had been formerly incurred. It dispensed with the services of the Chief Commissioner and appointed Mr. Christie. It laid the foundations of all the economies that have been effected by the present Government. It intended to introduce those economies, but I frankly admit that it did not appoint a local authority.

Senator Sir George Pearce - It did not lay down any permanent policy. It was considering the whole problem, when it went out of office.

Senator OGDEN - I do not consider that the present proposal of the Government embodies a suitable permanent policy. I believe that the Minister has promised that at the end of twelve months the matter will be re-considered.

Senator Daly - The Minister says that within twelve months a report will be made to Cabinet upon the whole subject.

Senator OGDEN - I think that the Minister might have gone further and said that at the end of a year there will be a definite reconsideration.

Senator Daly - There will be.

Senator OGDEN - I shall be content to accept that position, if the Minister will promise that within twelve months this system will come up for reconsideration. I have no desire to harass the Government. I believe that Senator Pearce would be satisfied with such an assurance by the Minister.

Senator Sir George PEARCE - I would accept it.

Senator OGDEN - Then I shall not discuss the matter at any length at the present time. I am out to fight the Government on important issues and will do so when the time comes, but I do not intend to administer pinpricks where no great national issue is at stake. I believe that the alternative suggested should have been given effect to.

Senator Daly - The Government nas a similar belief.

Senator OGDEN - If the honorable senator gave the Senate that assurance the debate might be shortened.

Senatorhoare (South Australia) [3.31]. - Senator Ogden appears to entertain the opinion that the Senate is wasting a considerable amount of time on a matter that is not of much importance to the community generally. I remind him that the Government is endeavouring to do something to ameliorate the conditions of those who have been compelled to live in Canberra. The honorable senator will probably remember that he was partly instrumental in bringing about their transfer to the Federal Capital city. I remember the occasion when the labour party defeated the Government in the Senate by one or two votes on the question of the construction of this very Parliament House. Strangely enough, a few hours later, when the whips were cracked and the Senate again met, the numbers were reversed and, if 'my memory serves me well, Senator Ogden was one who twisted on his original vote.

Senator Ogden - I did reverse my vote.

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