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Friday, 3 September 1920

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) . - The important thing to do in the Auditor-General's Department, as well as in every other Department of the Public Service, is to cut out unnecessary labour. That is one of the main objects of this Bill, and that is so urgent that, in order to bring it about, I am prepared to sacrifice the opportunity now offered to deal with the matter referred to by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams). At the present time the Auditor-General is responsible for every internal check in every Department of the Public Service. No matter how thorough and efficient he may know it to be, he is not authorized, under the existing Act, to accept any check made within a Department. He must carry out every check for himself. I direct the attention of honorable members to one of the clauses of this Bill, which provides that -

If the Auditor-General is satisfied that any accounts hear evidence that the vouchers have been completely checked, examined, and certified as correct in every respect, and that they have been allowed and passed by the proper departmental officers, he may admit them as satisfactory evidence in support of the charges to which they relate.

That simple provision will enable the Auditor-General to take advantage of internal audits in every Department, and will thus do away with the necessity for the performance of a huge volume of detailed work for which the AuditorGeneral is now held personally responsible.

Mr Corser - And which would be duplication.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Yes; unnecessary and costly duplication. That is a provision for economy without impairing in any way the efficiency of the audit of public accounts. I am not responsible for the deletion of these clauses to which the Senate took exception, because it was not desired in a Bill of this kind to do something to which the officials of the Audit Department objected.

Mr McWILLIAMS (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) - Did the AuditorGeneral object to these clauses?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I can assure the honorable member that the AuditorGeneral has no feeling on this matter at all. It was thought that fundamental proposals of this kind, of so far-reaching a character, could be better dealt with when we are dealing with the general Public Service measure. I wish the honorable member for Franklin to understand that if he agrees to the motion I have submitted, there will be merely a postponement of the consideration of the question he has raised, in order that, in the meantime, we may pass the useful and urgent provisions of this Bill. I ask him, in the circumstances, not to press his objection.

Mr McWilliams - Shall we have a full opportunity to discuss the question I have raised in dealing with the Public Service Bill?


Mr McWilliams -If I have the right honorable gentleman's promise to that effect I shall drop the matter now.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - When the Public Service Bill is under consideration, it will be competent for the honorable member to prepare a whole section of clauses dealing with the question he has raised, and move for its insertion in that Bill.

Mr Bamford - Is the right honorable gentleman accepting all the amendments of theSenate?

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I am treating them all as one. I may say that whilst it was proposed that the Auditor-General should suggest his own officers, that did not mean that he would be in a position to select his own officers. If that proposal had been agreed to, he would still be in a position only to nominate persons in the Public Service for positions as officers in his Department.

Mr McWilliams - Or specialists from outside.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Or specialists from outside. He would still be able only to recommend their appointment, and that would not meet the difficulty to which the honorable' member for Franklin has referred. May I suggest that this Bill will go far to meet the trouble.

Instead of askingfor more officers to do unnecessary work, it is proposed under this Bill to reduce the volume of work which under the existing Act must be performed by the Department, and so prevent duplication. This will immensely relieve the staff of the AuditorGeneral, and should lead to economy in every direction.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Clause 4 -

Notwithstanding anything contained in any Act to the contrary, all appointments to the Audit Department shall be made by the GovernorGeneral on the nomination or recommendation of the Auditor-General, provided that the Auditor-General shall nominate or recommend officers in the employ of or entitled to employment in the Public Service of the Commonwealth.

Provided further, that if at any time, in any special case, it appears expedient or desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth to appoint to the Audit Department some person who is not in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, the Auditor-General may nominate or recommend such person to the GovernorGeneral for appointment.

Clause 5 -

In all matters affecting the officers of the Audit Department not provided for under this Act, the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act . 1902-1918 shall apply.

Senate's amendments.- Leave out clauses 4 and 5.

Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to-

That the Senate's amendments be agreed to.

Resolution reported; report adopted.

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