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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL (Warringah) .- I regard the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee as relics of the antiquated system of " perks " for parliamentarians. They should undoubtedly be abolished. I propose to move as an amendment that this bill be withdrawn and another bill introduced to provide for the abolition of these committees. They are entirely unnecessary, particularly in this time of financial stringency. The introduction of this bill to reduce the number of members on the committees is a concession to the demand of honorable members generally, when the Estimates were being discussed, that there should be a definite reduction in parliamentary expenditure. It is admitted that the Public Works Committee has nothing to do, yet its staff is being maintained. For what purpose?

Mr Fenton - Surely the staff is doing something?

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - Although the committee is doing nothing, the staff is still in existence and carrying out its duties, apparently, adequately and satisfactorily from the Government's point of view. Surely the fact that there is no work for this committee is a clear case for its abolition. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has stated that the Public Works Committee has saved this country probably £1,000,000, but that is an absurd statement. Any government that is responsible for an obvious waste of expenditure of £1,000,000, which can be pointed out by a number of amateurs, should meet its fate on the floor of this House. The protest against such extravagant expenditure should be made here, and not by a number of members who examine details of which they have no more knowledge than the man in the moon.

Mr Maxwell - Not even of engineering. .

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - I admit that they may have a knowledge of underground engineering, but I am referring to the legitimate avenues of the engineering profession. In that respect they are totally unqualified for the positions which they hold, and the operation of the committee under such circumstances is nothing more than a farce at public expense. I am opposed to the retention of the committee on that ground. The honorable . member for Swan gave good reasons for the abolition of this committee. He said that some of its members attend meetings, hear the minutes read, walk out, and then draw full fees. In order to prevent the abuse of the public revenue, he suggested that the chairman should be given a salary, so that he might check the artifices resorted to by the ordinary members to ensure the collection of fees. He is to be the economist on the committee, the master of the group, to prevent them from drawing fees to which they are not justly entitled. Surely there can be no greater argument than that proposal for the abolition of this committee.

It is quite true that the Public Accounts Committee i3 pretending to do something, and doing it badly. Its members set out to examine the disabilities of South Australia, and its chairman conducted an inquiry into Australia House. Of what value is either report, and what qualifications did the members hold which would enable them to make a proper examination into either sphere of activity? As the weather is getting warm, the time ia opportune for a further investigation by this committee into tho disabilities of Tasmania. Such duties should not be allotted to members of this Parliament ; they are properly the function of an interstate commission, which should be a permanent institution in our public life as provided by the Constitution. It may be said that that would be more expensive. I agree that it would. But the work would be done properly, and we would be supplied with really valuable information, instead of with reports upon such matters as tho administration of Australia House.

Mr Scullin - That was an excellent report.

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - Reports of that nature are placed in a pigeon hole in a department, where they soon become covered with dust, and forgotten. They are never quoted. They do not furnish information to which reference can be made, and upon which action can subsequently be based.

Mr FENTON (MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA) - A good deal of money was saved in connexion wilh Australia House,

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - And it was spent again.

Mr Scullin - Where?

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - One nian was dismissed, and two others were appointed to do his work.

Mr Scullin - Docs the honorable member say that we have saved no money on Australia House?

Mr. ARCHDALEPARKHILL.A chauffeur and a personal servant of General Ryrie were dismissed, and a motor car sold - trifling matters of that nature instead of a comprehensive and general reconstruction.

Mr Lewis - As a result of the action taken, the party to -which the honorable member belongs has been able to procure a candidate for Corio. What more does he want?

Mr ARCHDALE PARKHILL - Any person selected to contest that seat would defeat the honorable member. What was wanted in connexion with Australia House was, not pettifogging alterations and trifling economies, but a definite statesmanlike policy in relation to the representation of Australia in Great Britain. That has been needed for many years. Nothing that this Government has done has improved the position in any way. The duty of inquiring into the disabilities of different States should be undertaken by impartial persons who are not members of this House, There have been times in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament when more than half of its members have been drawing fees in addition to their parliamentary allowance, if we take into consideration the Ministry, the whips, Mr. Speaker, the Chairman pf Committees, and the members of the Public Accounts, Public Works, and Other committees as well as payments made to other members. That is not right, and it was never intended. How can parliamentary institutions be properly conducted when there is such an incentive to a person to retain his position in Parliament no matter how it may be conducting the business of the country? No country can tax itself into prosperity. The only way in which Australia can regain prosperity is by lightening the burden of taxation; and in existing circumstances that can be done only by reducing public expenditure. By abolishing these committees we can reasonably, legitimately, and honestly meet the public demand for a reduction of expenditure, without doing a scintilla of harm to our parliamentary institutions, and thus improve to some extent the financial position of this country. I, therefore, move -

That all the words after the word "be" be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " withdrawn and that another bill lie introduced to provide for the abolition of the committee

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