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Thursday, 10 October 1912

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) . - There is a matter in connexion with the; Customs House, of which I should like the Minister to take a note. Several complaints have come to me about the extraordinary amount of duty which is charged on some medicines. A person who has been suffering from asthma for the last twenty years was advised to try an American remedy which is well recommended. He has to pay £5 for the medicine and the advice which comes with it... It is a good medicine, which has done him a lot of good. The value of the medicine is 18s. 9d., while the duty charged at the Customs House is 16s. 9d. Two cases of a similar character have been brought under my notice. I think that the matter deserves to be looked into closely. The heavy duty is very hard upon, poor people. It is a matter which seriously affects a number of suffering persons. I wish to remind the Minister of Defence that three or four months ago he promised to supply audited balance-sheets of the various Government factories.

Senator Pearce - They are with the Auditor-General now.

Senator McCOLL - A little while ago I moved for a return as to the cost of the new Treasury building. I made no charge against any person, nor did I cast a single reflection. The return was laid before the Senate, and there was a good deal of flaunting as to the cheap way in which the work was carried out with day labour. I mentioned that the State had been perfectly satisfied, but I wish to withdraw that expression of satisfaction, because it appears in the light of fuller information that the building has cost far more than it ought to have done. The latest statement is, that while it cost 9.8 pence per cubic foot a similar building alongside cost 6.75 pence per cubic foot.

Senator Pearce - Yes, but when?

Senator McCOLL - These are the statements which are made.

Senator Pearce - By Mr. Edgar, the State Minister for Works, and blown to pieces by the reply made to them.

Senator McCOLL - No. There was a further statement, made at some dinner, that 2,000 barrels of cement had gone into that building, but had never been charged. That statement has not been contradicted.

Senator Pearce - Who made it?

Senator McCOLL - Mr. Swanson.

Senator Pearce - Do you back it up?

Senator McCOLL - No. This statement has been made, and ought to be answered. Mr. Swanson said he was prepared to give £100 to a hospital if it were shown that the building did not cost 50 per cent, more than a building of a similar character alongside. In view of these statements, the question of cost ought to be set at rest by an inquiry.

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