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Tuesday, 9 May 1961


Mr BLAND (Warringah) .- Every one knows that the debate on a Supply Bill traditionally provides an opportunity for honorable members to seek redress of grievances. To-night -we have heard a characteristic speech from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who has indicated that his grievances are connected with Australia's relations with the International Monetary Fund, and the consequences that flow from the operations of that fund. That subject will be debated when the statement presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on that subject is being discussed in this House, and the arguments of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will be answered during that debate. What the honorable member has had to say has had nothing whatever to do with the Additional Estimates that are now before us. I am concerned with the Additional Estimates and not with the problems that the honorable member has been raising.

The Treasurer budgeted last year for expenditure of £1,616,000,000. That was a record Budget and the amount involved was about £150,000,000 greater than the amount in the previous year's Budget. The Treasurer bargained for a surplus of about £150,000,000, and because the revenue has been so buoyant he has decided, in these Additional Estimates, to make available a further £40,000,000 for the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve. This is simply a reflection of the buoyancy of the revenue of the Commonwealth.

As I have said, this is a debate on the Additional Estimates. One may ask why we have Additional Estimates at all. The Additional Estimates are a challenge to the integrity of the estimating of the public servants and other advisers of the Government. If their estimates are accurate the Treasurer can budget along a certain line. If, on the other hand, they are not, he may be faced with some difficulties when he approaches the end of a financial year. There are three different reasons for the provision of Additional Estimates. The first is that the amount needed for the ordinary activities of the Government may have been under-estimated. Secondly, unforeseen conditions might have arisen, and for which provision has to be made. Thirdly, although it may have been known that certain liabilities were going to accrue, the exact details may not have been known. So you have then an apportunity to make provision in the Additional Estimates for those things that you knew you had to meet, but the details and amounts of which you had no understanding.

Let us go back to the three different categories under which you underestimated what you needed. If honorable members look at the statement of the Treasurer that has been presented, as well as the bills before us, they will find that the total amount extra the Parliament is asked to provide for 1960-61 is £57,000,000. Of that £57,000,000, no less than £54,206,000 represents Additional Estimates for the

Public Service itself. That is to say, departmental estimates for 1960-61 show that an amount of £54,206,000 is needed to meet such things as salaries or payments in the nature of salaries or some general expenses. That is an example of what I am saying about the accuracy of estimating. When we are dealing with a Budget of £1,616,000,000, some might say that a requirement of £54,000,000 for additional expenditure represents fairly accurate estimating; but my own feeling is that these are estimates that should not have been put on the Additional Estimates at all. They should be added to the Budget for next year. These amounts should be provided in the 1961-62 Estimates and not in the 1960-61 Estimates. These are amounts that are to be paid by 30th June. They should not be included in the expenditure for this year but in the Estimates for next year because these are things that could easily wait for further treatment.

On the other hand, the other Estimates covering unforeseen expenditure include such items as relief for the Congo and assistance to the Australian National University following the fire that occurred there. These are things that must be dealt with at the time and cannot be postponed. They amount to only a few millions of pounds it is true, and they are legitimately included in the Additional Estimates for this financial year. So also are amounts which are needed for the satisfaction of contracts in connexion with purchases for Qantas or Trans-Australia Airlines. These are items which must be met in this financial year.

The statement that the Treasurer has made gives an indication of the amounts that the Government has needed for Additional Estimates over the past few years. The figures I have taken from the bills that have been presented show that the amounts were £57,000,000 in 1959, £60,000,000 in 1960 and £57,000,000 in 1961. Departmental estimates in connexion with these deficiencies were £54.000,000, £54,000,000 and £54,000.000 and a few odd thousands in the respective years. That indicates a pattern that the Treasury seems to have followed in providing for salaries and payments in the nature of salaries. If the Estimates did not run to about the required sum, the extra amounts needed were included in the Additional Estimates in this way.

I do not wish to say anything about works and services except that I hope that the money that is being voted in connexion with works and services will be put into circulation quickly. I would like to see expenditure hastened on such proposed works as railways in South Australia, the east-west roads and north Queensland roads and so on, because such expenditure will help to relieve the unemployment which has been developing. I have found - and I am sure those who have examined the Estimates and Budget Papers carefully will agree - that there has been a distinct improvement over the years since I became a member of the Parliament in the manner in which the Estimates are presented and in the accuracy of the presentation, too. I believe that is attributable to the work that the Public Accounts Committee has done and to the willingness of the Treasurers over the years to accept what the committee has recommended.







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