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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

The SPEAKER - Order !

Mr GREGORY - I withdraw the word "untrue"; the honorable member's statement is incorrect. For one year while I was chairman the fees amounted to only £980, and in another year to only £1,200, although £2,000 was provided on the Estimates. Some honorable members do not appreciate the value of these committees. I have had no experience of the Public Accounts Committee, but I have read some of its reports, and to say that they are valueless would be most unjust. As a result of my own long experience as a member of the Public Works Committee, and having no interest in what I am now proposing, I suggest to the Prime Minister that a committee of six members presided over by a chairman elected by the Parliament, and having a casting as well as a deliberative vote, would function well and economically.

Mr Mackay - Is the honorable member suggesting a chairman in addition to the six members?

Mr GREGORY - No; the Government would nominate the chairman for election by this House.

Mr.Scullin. - That suggestion was considered by the Government, but was not favoured, because one member of the committee would be the absolute nominee of the Ministry.

Mr GREGORY - The members of committees are usually selected by the various parties-

Mr Scullin - Not definitely by the Government.

Mr GREGORY - No; but the Ministerial party appoints a majority of the members of the committee, and, in practice, a ministerial nominee becomes chairman. The Government, which has to bear the financial responsibility for the work of a committee, has a right to appoint a chairman in whom it has confidence, and who can be trusted to conduct the investigations with due regard to economy. I have no axe to grind in this matter, and Ispeak with great experience of the working of the Public Works Committee. This committee has no work at present, and. this year it is costing the country nothing. While there is no work for its members they are not receiving fees. With regard to the Public Accounts Committee, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) knows best whether the work that it is doing is essential. I am not associated with that committee, and I know nothing of what it is doing. If my proposal were adopted, these committees would be more effective. I repeat that the work of the Public Works Committee has probably saved this country £1,000,000.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Its members are a lot of numskulls.

Mr GREGORY - If the honorable member were a member of that committee, his great genius would no doubt enable him to solve every problem put before him.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - For no consideration would I become a member of that committee.

Mr GREGORY - I do not know that the honorable member has ever been asked to do so.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Most honorable members on the committee engineered the position.

Mr GREGORY - The honorable member is imputing motives which are decidedly unjust and unfair. I have never engineered my appointment to the Public Works Committee, and I have never asked any honorable member to support me.

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