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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

Mr BAYLEY (Oxley) .- I am glad that the Government has decided to reduce the membership of both the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. This alteration is long overdue. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) will recall that when he was chairman of the Public Works Committee, and I was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, we waited upon the Government of the day and suggested that the membership of each body should be reduced to six. I realize that so long as party considerations influence appointments to the committees, six is an awkward number, but there is no reason why the committees should be elected on a party basis. During the six years for which I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and you, Mr. Speaker, served with me, partisan considerations had no influence upon our work. The alterations now proposed will not save much money, and I am confident that the Government, in introducing those bills, is not actuated primarily by considerations of economy. The main objections to the present numbers are that they make the committees unwieldy ; smaller committees will do much better work, and I hope that the Government will yet agree to reduce the number to six. Surely it is not beyond our power to make an arrangement between the two cham- bers for the election of committees on a basis that will be satisfactory to all.

Mr Watkins - These committees deal with the expenditure of public money. Why should the Senate be represented upon them?

Mr BAYLEY - So long as wc have joint committees, the Senate must be represented, but I see no reason why these committees should not be appointed by the popular House.

Mr Bell - The Senate also is very popular.

Mr BAYLEY - It is at the present time, because the check it imposes upon the legislative machine has been the salvation of the country in recent months. We, in this chamber, represent the people, whereas senators represent States. If the Government will agree to a proposal for an amendment of the act in order to confine the representation on the committees to this chamber, I shall support it.

Mr Scullin - How shall we deal with the Senate?

Mr BAYLEY - I appreciate that difficulty, but if the representation were confined to this House, each committee could bo reduced to five members. The Prime Minister did not state whether the Government intends to give immediate effect to the proposed alteration.

Mr Scullin - Yos.

Mr BAYLEY - I 'understand that the Public Accounts Committee is engaged on a very important investigation; while that is proceeding any alteration of the personnel would be unwise.

Mr Scullin - Wc would not interrupt that inquiry.

Mr BAYLEY - The Government would be well advised not to alter the personnel of the Public Accounts Committee until new appointments are made after the next general election.

Mr Scullin - I agree not to alter the membership of the Public Accounts Committee until the inquiry now proceeding is completed; that will take only a few weeks longer.

Mr BAYLEY - I am glad to have that assurance. The Public Works Committee is practically in recess, because no new public works are at present being proposed.

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