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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4717

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - I want to say 3 things. The first thing I want to say is by way of sorrow rather than anger. All of us in this chamber realise that Mr Crean, the man who has just spoken to the Parliament, is making his statement for the last time as Treasurer. I guess that all of us who have been in this chamber for some time have known him in that role, be it in Opposition when he was spokesman for the Australian Labor Party on matters pertaining to the economy or since the election of the Labor Party when he has been the Treasurer. I think few men in the House have been as well qualified academically to occupy the position which he has occupied. The record of his achievement, unfortunately, has not necessarily been the way tha' he would have had it. In other words, I do not believe that the present turmoil in the Australian economy is so much the result of the present Treasurer's intervention as the product of other decisions which he had little power to arrest.

As spokesman for the Opposition I pay him a compliment as a man. I extend to him the profound regrets that the machinations of his Party see this as the last occasion on which he will speak to us as Treasurer. The second thing I say is, I think, of importance to this Parliament. We all recognise the degree to which the Advance to the Treasurer can be as a cloak to cover all sorts of allocations of money. Some of us on this side of the House sometimes wonder, in looking at the way in which money has been spent in 1973-74, whether it should have been spent in that way. We believe that the Advance to the Treasurer is essential and accordingly we do not oppose the measure. But the Advance to the Treasurer is an area within which a government must exercise fundamental responsibility. There should be only a limited number of areas in which the Advance to the Treasurer should cover the expenditure of money. Normally the advance to the Treasurer should be used peculiarly for expenditure items which cannot reasonably be covered by legislation submitted to Parliament. Tragically, I do not believe that in the last 2 years that has always been so. In fact, a number of significant items have been taken out of the Advance to the Treasurer and therefore have not come before the Parliament in the manner or at the time they should have.

Time is short and I am conscious of an automatic adjournment. The third thing I want to say is that I wonder whether the Advance to the Treasurer, being in retrospect as it is, is a valid way for this record to be presented to Parliament. Of course it is valid in normal parliamentary procedures. Considering the concern of all of us on this side of the House at the way in which Treasury funds are expended, I see reason for this type of legislation to come in a little more at a time when the money is being spent. I do not know whether it can come in advance of the money or by way of an interim accounting to Parliament, but I believe it is necessary that the Treasury look at ways by which there can be a greater accountability to the Parliament if there is to be such a considerable range of expenditure authorised within this account. The Opposition accepts the measure which is proposed. We query the extent of its use and the degree to which, it having been so extended, the account should be rendered so late.

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