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Wednesday, 29 June 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I am under the impression that the Uniform Railway Gauge Commission is at work,and has made some progress. I cannot say how much, nor am I in a position to tell Senator Thomaswhenwe may expect its report. If the honorable senator reminds me of the matter next week, I shall endeavour to obtain more definite information for him.

Regarding the Queanbeyan-Canberra line, about which Senator Keating spoke, an arrangement exists between the Commonwealth Government and theGovernment of New South Wales, by which the State of New South Wales runs that section. For this it is paid a lump sum per year, and the £50 in this schedule represents one-twelfth of that amount. With respect to Senator Duncan's question, it is necessary for Parliament to authorize the Department of Works and Railways to appropriate money to meet working expenses; but that item is quite distinct from any revenue which may be made, for thelatter goes into the Consolidated Revenue. The line under consideration does not, as a matter of fact, incur the loss shown in working expenses; the amount should be reduced by the total of receipts standing to the credit of the system. I may . remark, in this connexion, that if one were to call upon all the accountants in the world to devise some system of presenting Budget particulars in order to reveal public accounts in the worst possible light, no more perfect method could be suggested than that which is in operation. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has referred to a specific example. He pointed out that it would appear that a pertain factory under the control ofthe Defence Department cost so much to run - that is to say, that therewas a loss ofa specified amount in maintaining it. As a matterof fact, the factory generally makes a profit. It certainly earns a large proportion of the money charged against it. Yet, from the method of presentation of the facts in the Budget files, it- would appear that the factory is debited with the whole amount ofits working, costs as an absolute loss. I shall cite another instance from the affairs of my own Department. Certain people have been so patriotic as to leave varying sums of money to the Repatriation Department. These gifts total at present,I think, about £150,000. Thesum has been put out at interest, and £12,000 has accumulated. That amount, however, has been made to appear as a debit against my Department, under the system of bookkeeping employed in the Treasury. The £12,000 has to be paid into the Treasury in order that it may be paid back to the Repatriation Department, and, so that this transactionmay take place, the Treasurer has to ask Parliament for authority to pay the sumover; Thus it is made toappear as an item ofexpenditure debited against repatriation, whereas, in fact, the £12,000 is an asset earned by my Department. The system may be all right from the point of view of the Treasury, but it does not command my respect.

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