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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

Mr GUY (Bass) .- I regret that during this debate so many reckless statements and unpleasant innuendoes have been made. One honorable member, no doubt unconsciously, belittled Parliament itself by what he said.

Mr Mackay - Not unconsciously.

Mr GUY - I am prepared to give the honorable member who made the statement the benefit of the doubt. Although I have been a member of the Public Accounts Committee during the life of this Parliament, I support the Government's proposal to reduce the number of its members. Since one of the provisions of the bill is that every sitting member of the committee shall cease to hold office when the measure becomes law, the personal aspect does not arise. Every member of a committee who votes for the bill votes to throw the whole thing into the melting pot, and to give every other member of this House an opportunity to become a member of the committee, if he so desires.

Dealing now with the merits of the case, I desire to say that these committees can, and do, perform very good work. Every State has its Public Works Committee and its Public Accounts Committee. Great Britain, the United States of America, France, South Africa, and, indeed, practically every country in the world, has its finance committee, whose functions are very important, indeed. 1 refer honorable members who may have any doubt on that score to Durell, who has shown the value of such a committee in Great Britain. Speaking from my experience as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I repeat what has already been said regarding party feeling being entirely absent from the committee meetings. I agree with those honorable members who have contended that a committee of ten is unwieldly, but I do not think that five members would be sufficient. I favour the proposal of the Government to reduce the number to seven. It must be remembered that on these parliamentary committees both Houses of this Parliament are represented, and also that, rightly or wrongly, it has been the practice to appoint to them members representing the different political parties.

Mr Coleman - And also to give the several States representation.

Mr GUY - It would be impracticable to give the States, as well as the several political parties and both Houses of the Parliament, representation on the committees if the number of members were reduced to five. In ray opinion, there should be seven members on each committee.

It has been said that some members of these committees have drawn their fees although they have attended the meetings only for a short time. I have no knowledge of the working of the Public Works Committee, but I can say that I have no knowledge of any such thing having taken place in connexion with the

Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member. Had I come across anything of that nature. 1 would have objected. If the statements made by the honorable members for Hunter (Mr. James) and Swan (Mr. Gregory) are correct, honorable members have every right to object. With one exception, every inquiry undertaken by the Public Accounts Committee during the life of the present Parliament has been put in hand as a result of a reference to it by the Government. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) showed lamentable ignorance in respect to the activities and functions of these committees when he suggested that an inquiry into the disabilities of certain States was a matter for a royal commission rather than a parliamentary committee.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - I did not suggest any such thing.

Mr GUY - The honorable member suggested that it was a matter for an interstate commission.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - That is different.

Mr GUY - On more than one occasion the Public Accounts Committee has recommended the appointment of an interstate commission. The statement of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that whereas nine out of ten reports made by bodies other than the Public Accounts Committee had been pigeonholed, the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee were generally followed is worthy of the consideration of honorable members.

Mr Coleman - There is also the question of cost.

Mr GUY - That, is so, A royal commission would probably cost nine or ten times as much as the Public Accounts Committee to make an investigation. If honorable members will deal with these committees on their merits, they will realize that they are capable of performing excellent work, and, therefore, I urge them to allow the bill to pass. The Government's proposals make for economy in that it is proposed to reduce the number of members. I support the bill.

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