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Tuesday, 13 October 1931


Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- I support the amendment because, while the direct saving in expenditure might be regarded as trivial, it is a step in the right direction, and this measure of economy could be effected without inflicting hardship upon anybody. I do not deny that these parliamentary standing committees have done valuable work. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has submitted an extraordinarily good case for the retention of the Public Accounts Committee. I do not allegethat the members ofeither body have been actuated by the desire simply to draw fees and travel the countryside. I merely assert that good as their work has been, these are extraordinary times, calling for the strictest economy in all government departments. Expenditure must be curtailed where this can be done without inflicting hardship. Other committees, acting in a purely voluntary capacity, have clone good work in the past, and I suggest that this system be extended. One honorable member has alleged that onehalf of the members of this House receive extras in the form of allowances as members of a committee or as Cabinet Ministers. If these committees are necessary, as the honorable member for Reid has urged, they should be reconstructed, and continued on a purely voluntary basis during this period of depression. I should like tosee the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into all government expenditure. This course was adopted in Victoria about four years ago, when an outside auditor was called in to assist the State auditor in an examination of all items of government expenditure. Their report was an exceedingly valuable one, and, although it was shelved for some time, certain of their recommendations were adopted with advantage to the State. Business methods for the conduct of Commonwealth departments are urgently needed. If the services of an outside auditor were utilized to assist the Commonwealth Auditor-General in an overhaul of Commonwealth expenditure, I feel sure that the resultant report would contain a number of valuable recommendations. Without in any way reflecting upon officers of the Public Service, I can say that when largess is distributed in the form of such foolish proposals as a fiveday week, and when we have so much overlapping of Commonwealth and State services, it is obvious that reform is urgently needed. Some time agoMr. Jones, the Minister for Public Works in Victoria, directed attention to the overlapping of the Commonwealth Health Department with its plethora of medical men, who have little to do. The activities of that department could very well be curtailed, except that portion of it which deals with quarantine. The honorable member for Swan (Mr, Gregory), who has had long experience as chairman of the Public Works Committee made what appeared to me a somewhat amusing suggestion. Apparently his idea of economy is to reduce the number of members, thus saving expenditure on sitting fees, and to pay the chairman a stated salary, the idea being that he would see that the committee did not meet, too often ! At the moment, the Public Works Committee has nothing to do, because there are no Commonwealth public works in progress, so that the committee is not costing the Commonwealth anything by way of members' fees. Yet he suggests a fee even when the committee is not sitting. Both parliamentary committees could very well carry on voluntarily for a time. Further economy might be effected by paying members of Parliament sitting fees only. We should then see whether the attendances would be better than under the present arrangement. I suggest that a business commission be appointed to report on all phases of governmental expenditure. The need for this has been persistently urged from time to time in all the States, but members of Parliament seem to be deaf to the appeal. The Auditor-General has on numerous occasions directed attention to these much needed economies, but, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) pointed out, his comments have given rise to very little discussion in this House. If an outside board of business men, including accountants, were appointed to mate an inquiry along the lines of the Victorian Royal Commission, I feel certain that it would recommend many economies, including possibly the abolition of the two parliamentary standing committees, and other costly and superfluous Public Service activities.

Sitting suspended from6.12to8 p.m.







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