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Wednesday, 12 May 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) . - I suggest that this amendment should not be persisted in. I have not been able to follow the matter very closely, but, I understand that Mr. Allard was appointed auditor, and I respectfully suggest that that gentleman's reputation as an auditor and a citizen is quite equal to that of any one in the community. Any audit conducted by him would, I venture to say, carry as much

Weight as one by the Auditor-General. Mr. Allard is a man of the highest possible standing in Sydney, a man of great public spirit, who has done an immense amount of work for the State Governments.

Mr Mathews - It must be admitted that it looks suspicious when Sir John Higgins would not have the AuditorGeneral.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I see nothing suspicious about the matter. When Sir John Higgins agreed to accept Mr. Allard as auditor he accepted a man of the highest reputation in the public mind of the country, than whom we could get none more disinterested or with greater weight. Could there be the slightest suggestion that Mr. Allard would do anything not strictly correct I could understand the anxiety for the services of the Auditor-General. If we were beginning the business the attitude of honorable members opposite would have some point; but since Mr. Allard has been appointed a proposal of the kind before us is, under the circumstances, a reflection upon him - a slur that he really does not deserve. Is it worth while persisting in an amendment of the kind ?

My colleague, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom), who is more familiar with the matter that I am, reminds me that not only was Mr. Allard appointed auditor, but that the AuditorGeneral approved of the appointment. What more could there be in the way of a guarantee? May I read a letter which sets out the whole case, and which appears in Hansard of the 25th July, 1919, page 11005? The letter is from the Treasury, and is signed by Mr. Cerutty, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury -

On -the 6th November last, the late Treasurer addressed to the Prime Minister a letter dealing with the audit of accounts of the firms who are manufacturing wool tops. A letter has now been received from the AuditorGeneral in which he stated he is prepared to formally appoint Mr. George Mason Allard to act on his behalf in making audits.

Mr. Allardwould also be required to certify to statements and prepare reports for the Auditor-General.

The Auditor-General considers that the alternative course, namely, for one of the Audit Office staff to make inspections from time to time, would be inadvisable.

The Treasurer concurs in the appointment of Mr. Allard as suggested, if no objection is raised by the Central Wool Committee or by your Department.

That letter seems to complete the. case. Here we have a gentleman of the highest character appointed with the concurrence of the Auditor-General.

Mr Riley - The private company did not suggest the name?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - No, the Central Wool Committee suggested the name ; and what possible objection there can be I fail to see.

Mr Ryan - Did Mr. Allard make the audit?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I understand so. He did it, not only with the consent of the Central Wool Committee, but with the complete concurrence of the AuditorGeneral himself.

Mr Mahony - Who are the Central Wool Committee? They are not above the Government, surely!

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) -- They are a body of men entitled to the greatest possible respect with regard to their views and standards of conduct, and the fact that eventually it was arranged that Mr. Allard should make this audit shows that the Committee had only one desire, namely, to secure an independent audit which would carry conviction with it to the mind of any reasonable man. Mr. Allard's name is too well known to be associated with anything but matters of highest honour and greatest respect.

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