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Friday, 30 April 1920

Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) . - Surely it is competent for a Committee of this House to give instructions to the Government on occasions. We may be practically unanimous in regard to a certain course of procedure, and ought to be in a position to exercise our judgment in that direction. The object of the amendment is to give an instruction to the Ministry to avoid the creation of a new Department, which may make greater demands upon the public purse, and to draft the measure on lines that will enable the work of repatriation to be conducted as it has been in the past. From every quarter we have had the information that the task of the Administration in the matter of repatriation is, in most aspects, coming to an. end; but that only seems to be an incentive to this "economy" Government to establish a new Department. I support the amendment, because I am opposed to the Government creating expensive machinery which is quite unnecessary.

Mr Laird Smith - The honorable member wishes to wreck the Bill.

Mr FENTON - That is not so. If the amendment is accepted, it will simply be an instruction to the Government to bring in a Bill in accordance with the wishes of the Committee. All the benefits given by the Bill will remain, but they will be administered differently. Evidently the Government are too prone to spend public money, because they grasp at the opportunity given to them to do so by. a Chamber that has no control of the public purse. We are the people who are responsible to our constituencies for the expenditure of public moneys, and we ought to guard the public purse jealously. The Government delight in ruthlessly scattering public money, and I hope the country will realize that when we provided that the Commissioners were to be appointed for a term of three years instead of five we were taking a step in the right direction.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The Senate was counted out to-day.

Mr FENTON - I do not think that we should take much notice of the Senate.

Mr Poynton - Let us take a division.

Mr FENTON - I am prepared to assist in that direction, but I must, answer the extraordinary statement of the Minister, that by carrying the amendment we will be depriving the soldiers of the benefits that would accrue to them. It is a most cruel and unfair statement, and is not in accordance with fact, because no Government would be prepared, even if the amendment were carried, to drop the Bill and thus deprive those who are to benefit. I shall vote for the amendment in the hope that it will be carried, because I believe the Repatriation Department will proceed smoothly under the old regime, and that it is altogether unnecessary to create another Department.

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