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Thursday, 15 August 1912

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I move -

That this Bill be now read a second time.

Unfortunately, many Bills authorizing the construction of works and buildings were only presented at a very late stage in the session, and a very large proportion of the money voted was not spent on account of the limited time at the disposal of those who were responsible for carrying out the works and buildings. The time was too short, the facilities at the command of the Departments were too limited, and, consequently, many of the works were not carried out. When the end of the financial year arrived the unexpended money went back into the revenue, and had to be revoted by Parliament. It must be recog-. nised that this year the Government have done all they possibly could to bring the general Estimates before Parliament as soon as possible. They have endeavoured to bring that portion of the Estimates relating to works and. buildings before both Houses in time to enable the Departments to carry out as much of the authorized works as is possible before the end of the financial year. I have no desire to occupy the time of the Senate at too great length, but, representing the Treasurer here, it is my duty to tell honorable senators the amounts which are to be expended, and, in a limited sense, to indicate the manner in which that is to be done. In the past we have heard a great deal about the construction of an Australian Navy. Even to- night the Minister of Defence has introduced and carried a Bill to enable the Commonwealth to make such arrangements with the British Admiralty as will be of benefit to both the Commonwealth and the Mother Country. It will be interesting to honorable senators to know what was done last year, and what is being done this year, in the way of providing funds for carrying out the policy with respect to an Australian.Owned Navy. Last year the amount spent upon naval construction was £1,108,171. ".There was a larger sum voted, but that was the amount which we were able to spend before the close of the financial year. As a very large sum of money was voted, and put into a trust account, we have at our disposal, and propose to spend this year, £1,196,829 on the construction of the Australian Fleet. Seeing that we have been able to do this without applying to any other part of the world for financial assistance, it speaks very highly of the resources of the Australian people, and their willingness to take their part, not only in providing for their own protection, but in rendering the protection of the Empire more effective than «ould be made possible in any other way. With respect to the other amounts which have to be spent, of course the Home Affairs Department is really the spending Department of the Government. They have necessarily to spend very large amounts in carrying out works, and buildings, and repairs, and improvements which must be effected if we intend to keep our properties up to an efficient standard. Under the Home Affairs Department proper ^151,372 will be spent. If honorable senators will refer to the papers which have been placed at their disposal, they will find that this sum is to be distributed over the States, and, it might be added, in very reasonable proportions, when we come to consider the necessity of the works which are to be carried out. Last year the amount spent by the Home Affairs Department on similar works was .£128,617. The Department will also expend £50,000 on works and buildings for quarantine. This money is also distributed as the necessity for quarantine arises in the different States, and it will be found, on reference to the papers, that it is fairly distributed. The amount spent last year was £13,302. I :think that, as far as quarantine is concerned, the Commonwealth is not grasping the nettle with a tender hand, but is setting to work in an effective manner. I hope that the country will support the Go vernment in doing all they possibly can tq secure the safety of the people against diseases brought from foreign parts. In connexion with lighthouses - a Department which we took over very recently - we intend during this year to spend £15,000.

Senator Guthrie - At what do you estimate the receipts?

Senator McGREGOR - That has nothing to do with the vote for works and buildings, but when the Estimates proper are under discussion, if the honorable senator puts that question, the information will be supplied. Last year, as I have said, there was nothing spent on lighthouses. I feel sure that every party in politics desire to make the coast of Australia as safe as possible, and if that cannot be done without the expenditure of substantial sums, I am sure that we shall all willingly agree to this item.

Senator Guthrie - With unattended lights.

Senator McGREGOR - We shall do the best we can.' As regards the Trade and Customs Department, the vote for repairs and additions to offices is not so great as is the vote in connexion with other Departments. There is proposed for expenditure through the Home Affairs Department £2,478. Last year only £101 was spent. The moderation of the Trade and Customs Department's requirements shows that, in the past, it must have been kept fairly well up to date. With respect to defence, it is proposed to spend through the Home Affairs Department £609,099 on buildings, defence, acquisition of land at Liverpool for training, and other matters of that kind. This money is to be spent in the different States. Last year there was spent £232,120. If will be seen that, so far as defence is concerned, the Government are not endeavouring to spoil the ship for the sake of a ha'porth of tar. In connexion with post-office buildings, we propose to expend £400,275 during the year through the Home Affairs Department. Last year the expenditure was £149,407, although a larger amount was voted. The total amount to be spent on works and buildings under the Home Affairs "Department - less £236,577, which it is anticipated may not be expended during the year, although liabilities may be incurred - will be £991,647 this year, as against £525,887 last year.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That is nearly double.

Senator McGREGOR - Taking the full figures, it is more than double. The Department have become alive to the requirements of the Commonwealth, and, if we are prepared to go on with the developmental works which are really necessary, we must spend a much larger sum this year. Of course, if hard times should come upon the Commonwealth, we would not be in a position to spend the money. When the country is in a condition of prosperity, and works are required for the effective and economical carrying on of its business, we ought to spend money in that direction, because the expenditure is really justifiable.

Senator Clemons - And save when times are bad.

Senator McGREGOR - Yes.

Senator Millen - Spend when you get money, because when you cannot get it you cannot spend.

Senator McGREGOR - If, in times of prosperity, we provide the necessary works and buildings to carry out the policy of the Commonwealth, it ought, I think, to make us all grateful to Providence, and every other instrumentality, that has enabled us to do that.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Should you not save a little in times of prosperity for the lean years that may come?

Senator McGREGOR - That is the way in which to make provision for lean years. It is not by putting our money in a bank, and leaving it there for the moth and rust to corrupt that we shall make provision for the future. It is by doing to-day the work which may be necessary for carrying out our business in years to come that we shall render the best service to the country. The Post and Telegraph Department has authority to spend very large sums in perfecting the telephone, telegraph, and postal systems throughout the Commonwealth. The Department earn a large revenue, and it is necessary that they should have money to expend in effecting telegraph and telephone improvements. During this year, we intend to spend £830,000, as against £129,869 expended last year. Here, again, honorable senators will recognise that, whilst we are enjoying prosperity, we are doing what the people of Australia have for years been crying out ought to be done. We know that in the earlier years of the Federation the Commonwealth returned to the States millions of pounds which it was not constitutionally obliged to return-- millions of pounds which ought to have been devoted to bringing our Post and Telegraph Department up to date. In the Treasury, we propose to expend1 small amounts upon the Printing Office and in connexion with stamp printing - upon the former, £2,000 and upon the latter, £2,400. Last year the expenditure upon these items was £1,059 and £2>4r5 respectively. For some time, honorablesenators have been asking for more effective accommodation for rifle clubs than has hitherto been provided. Under that beading, we propose to expend £17,829 this year, as against £11,400 last year. For military stores, we ask Parliament to appropriate £544,450 this year, as against £561,696 expended last year. For naval works, &c, a further sum of £318,050 isprovided.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Does that include the cost of the construction of cruisers?

Senator McGREGOR - No. It is intended to cover naval works, suchas are being carried out at Westernport, Jervis Bay, Port Lincoln, and Cockburn Sound. In the Department of External. Affairs, it is proposed to expend £58,540 during the- current financial year, as against £23,125 which was expended last year on the development and administration of the Northern Territory. In connexion with the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway a sum of £3,580 is set down, as against £401 last year.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council tell me what is the cost of the fixed establishment - that is to stay, the staff - of the Northern Territory?

Senator McGREGOR - Of course, that does not appear upon these Estimates. When we come to consider the general Estimates, I shall be pleased to supply the honorable senator with the information. But I cannot say, from1 memory, the exact amount which is being expended in connexion with administration. The honorable senator can easily understand that it would be impossible for one to carry all the figures in one's mind. The total amount to be expended upon works and buildings is £3,985,921, as against an expenditure last year of £3,565,498. That amount includes naval expenditure, which does not come out of the year's actual revenue, but which was provided by a Trust Fund largely made up of the surplus of last year. Apart from the expenditure upon the construction of the Fleet, it is proposed to spend upon works and buildings this year £2,789,092, as against an expenditure last year of £2,415,327.. I am sure that honorable senators have every reason to congratulate themselves and the country upon the fact that we are enjoying so much prosperity that we are able to provide such a large sum to carry out necessary works connected with the maintenance and the development of the Commonwealth, without having recourse either to additional taxation or to the money market. I know that every honorable senator is a patriot who believes in the progress of his country ; and, therefore, I confidently submit this Bill for their consideration, "knowing that they will do all that they can to provide the money necessary to carry out these works of development.

Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.

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