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Tuesday, 31 July 1906


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - It is an entire reversing of the usual practice to say that the AuditorGeneral can dispense with certain of his functionsonly with the consent of the Treasurer.


Mr Kennedy - He isabove andbeyond the Treasurer under the Audit Act. He is independent of the Treasurer.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; it is the object and purpose of the Audit Actto place him in that position.


Sir John Forrest - The clause refers only to cases where the Auditor-General desires to dispense with the audit itself.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why should he have to get the consent of the Treasurer ?


Sir John Forrest - The honorable member would not allow him to do it just as he pleased ? We must empower him by some provision in our Act to do it.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We do not propose to tell him under any Act that he shall or shall not do it.


Sir John Forrest - We propose that the Treasurer may give his consent in certain cases.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is it right that the Treasurer should have that power over the Auditor-General.


Sir John Forrest - It is only where he advises it himself.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say that we are sapping the independence of the AuditorGeneral in making anything that he does conditioned by a request for the consent of the Treasurer. I think that he should be entirely independent of the Treasurer, and should act as a check upon him. That is the prime function for which the office of the Auditor-General has been established. To make the Auditor-General subservient to the Treasurer in regard to the carrying out of his primary function seems to me to be entirely wrong.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Suppose he neglected or desired to neglect to do some of his work; who would the honorable member authorize to compel him to do it?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Treasurer is not the proper authority. Parliament should be the master of the AuditorGeneral. We set the Auditor-General over the Treasurer to criticise his expenditure.


Sir John Forrest - The Treasurer will not tell him to do anything, he will only permit him to dispense with the doing of something.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the AuditorGeneral finds that some work is unnecessary, and should be dispensed with, he cannot dispense with it unless he obtains the consent of the Treasurer. I do not think that he should be put in any such position -


Sir John Forrest - As to have to ask the consent of the Treasurer to dispense with a duty which otherwise would have to be performed ?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is where the Treasurer's power begins to operate upon this officer: -

The consent of the Treasurer shall be given only in cases in which he considers that there are circumstances which render a detailed audit under this Act necessary.

That is clearly setting the Treasurer up in judgment on a statement submitted by the Auditor -General. Instead of making the Auditor-General the arbiter in all these matters, the Bill proposes to set up the Treasurer as the arbiter in connexion with the dispensing of these detailed audits-


Mr Wilkinson - What will be the good of having an Auditor-General if he can act only with the consent of the Treasurer?


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The consent of the Treasurer is to be given only in cases in which he considers a detailed audit under the Act unnecessary. Where such permission is given, the Auditor-General can no longer be held responsible. I am afraid that we have not done right in passing clause 10, allowing the Treasurer to say when inspections are to be made, and when an audit is to take place. Such an arrangement may be very prejudicial to the public interest, if we have a masterful Treasurer, and an Auditor-General who is in the slightest degree complacent.


Sir John Forrest - In the Act to which the honorable member refers, the word " Governor " is used.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the word " Governor-General " should be used in the Bill.


Sir John Forrest - That would make no practical difference.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is a difference between a Treasurer and the GovernorGeneral. That would be demonstrated if a dispute arose between them, and I have known some very determined tugs-of-war to take place. Will the Treasurer agree to recommit the clause, if necessary ?


Sir John Forrest - Certainly.







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