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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

Mr MACKAY (Lilley) . - I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) on taking this early opportunity of carrying out the promise made by him when the work of the committees was previously under discussion. My only complaint is that the bill does not go far enough. I would much prefer to see the membership of each committee reduced to five. We all well know what the procedure is at the meetings of these bodies. When a witness is called, he is examined by the chairman, and each member in turn is entitled to submit questions to him. This means that after the first two or three members of the committee have made their inquiries the rest of the examination is mainly repetition. All the evidence is taken down by official reporters, and is printed. I am entirely opposed to the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), and I am inclined to think that he does not understand the functions of either of the committees. When the tariff was under consideration, the honorable member ranged from textiles to machinery, and from whisky to agricultural products, and to do him justice, I admit that he discussed them ably, but he relied to a great extent on information with which he had been supplied. I do not imagine that he would claim to have a sufficiently wide knowledge of the subjects under discussion to enable him to supply the detailed information with which he furnished us. 1 think that tho honorable member has been unjust to the members of the committees in regard to the work performed by them from time to time. I had the privilege of being a member of the Public Works Committee for eight years, and my experience of its activities is that its members discharge their duties conscientiously and most efficiently. But no member of either the Public Works Committee or the Public Accounts Committee would pose as an expert. The departmental officers come forward with their proposals, and the very fact that these ure subject to close examination by members of the committee makes the officers exercise the greatest care. 1 do not suggest that the officers arc not reliable; they are most reliable and capable; but it is a good thing that their proposals should be discussed before a committee which acts as a jury and decides whether the proposals are well founded.

Mr Prowse - The committees also take evidence from outside experts.

Mr MACKAY - Yes ; professional men in various walks of life are called in to criticize the departmental proposals, and much good results.

I rose, particularly, to draw the atten-

Mou of the Prime Minister to the anomaly due to the fact that members of the Public Accounts Committee are paid what are termed travelling expenses, while members of the Public Works Committee receive what are described a3 fees. Eoi- ordinary meetings members of the Public Works Committee receive 30s. per day, and £1 per day extra is granted as a travelling allowance. I understand that the members of the Public Accounts Committee are paid £2 for each meeting, irrespective of whether they sit in Canberra or elsewhere.

Mr Coleman - That is not the position. The members of the Public Accounts Committee receive no travelling allowance for meetings held at Canberra when Parliament is in session. For such meetings they receive 25s. per day, loss 20 per cent.

Mr MACKAY - I am perfectly well aware that they do not receive a travelling allowance when sitting at Canberra; but they receive fees. I understand that the members of the Public Accounts Committee do not pay income tax on their fees. That also is an anomalous position. The members of both committees do important work, and I think that they should be paid alike; but they should not- be exempt from taxation.

The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) stated that the Works Committee had an expensive staff which was operating at the present time. If that, is so, the position should be altered. In Mr. Whiteford the committee has a most valuable officer who has had large experience in various Commonwealth departments. Since he is a highly-paid officer, he should be transferred to a position in which hia duties would be more in keeping with his ability. An officer on a lower salary should be made secretary to the committee. I think that the House would be ill-advised if it supported the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Warringah.

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