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Friday, 29 June 1906

Mr WILKS (Dalley) .- I agree with much that has been said by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. In the first place, I wish to say that the title of this Bill strikes me as being rather too imposing. Instead of " Governor-General's residences," I would rather see the word " residence " used- I hope that the time will soon arrive, when we shall have one residence only for the Governor-General. The people of Australia, who have neither the opportunity nor the desire to attend Government House functions, but who have to pay the bill for the up-keep of various official establishments, ought to be considered. They thought that on the consummation of Federation the expenses of the States upon Governors would be greatly diminished. I hoped that the office of State Governor would be abolished, and that the various Chief Justices would act as Lieutenant-Governors. The present cost is very great. In some of the States the Governor is provided with two residences, one in the city and one in the country. In addition to that we now have the GovernorGeneral provided with two residences, one in Sydney and one in Melbourne. I certainly have no desire to see Sydnev brought down to the level of a fishing village. If we are to have the Governor-General residing there, he certainly should occupy a residence appropriate to the dignity of his office. Government House, Sydney, occupies the most beautiful site on God's earth. I can quite understand Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth entertaining similar opinions .with regard to the GovernorGeneral residing in them. But it is not our duty to provide a perambulating system of residences for the Governor-General/ The present situation affords an additional reason why we should hasten the ultimate decision with regard to the Federal capital. When we do finally establish a Commonwealth residence for the Governor-General, I think that the Commonwealth should maintain one establishment in the Federal city, and should not be called upon to incur the expense of keeping up a second residence. The Governor-General's private residence, if he wishes to have one in the country, should be a charge on his own income. This Bill provides for the occupation of Government House, Sydney, for five years. I suggest that a provision should be inserted enabling the agreement to be terminated on twelve months' notice by either side.

Mr Groom - That would not give the State Government a definite term.

Mr WILKS - It is a mere matter of convenience. If the Federal capital were established within five years, we should have to continue to maintain the Government Houses in the States when we did not require them.

Mr Frazer - It would be difficult to impose that condition when we are getting the houses for nothing.

Mr WILKS - It is not difficult, because the very condition I suggest exists to-day in regard to the occupation of Government House, Melbourne. Of course, if I were acting only in the interests of Sydney, I should be willing to let this five year provision stand. But I do not wish to see anything unfair done. It is rather annoying to pick up one of the daily newspapers and find a cavilling between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Prime Minister as to whether we should pay rent for Government House. I take the view that as a matter of justice the Commonwealth Government should pay its way, and it s'hould certainly reimburse the State Governments for out-of-Docket expenditure. But at the same time, the occupation by the Commonwealth of the Go:vernment Houses at Melbourne and Sydney does not involve the two States in additional expenditure. The Commonwealth provides for the up-keep of these establishments, which amounts in itself to a very large rent. Indeed, the Governments of Victoria and New South Wales have made an economical arrangement by allowing the Governor-General to occupy the official residences in Melbourne and Sydney whilst they pay rent for cheaper establishments for their own Governors. The general public are not concerned as to the residences of the State Governors and the Governor-General. Thev are not part of the social world of which the GovernorGeneral is the pivot. The masses of the people do not care what is done in this matter, so long as they are not involved in unnecessary expense. At the same time they do not desire to see a State placed in an unfair position. The arrangement made some years ago with regard to Sydney Government House was considered to be a compliment and an act of justice to the mother State. That was simply a setoff against! the arrangement that Melbourne should be the seat of Government until the capital city was occupied. But thetaxpayers are not concerned in this arrangement, and must look with horror on the piling up of expenses.

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