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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) .- I dislike having to raise some of the subjects with which I propose to deal because in doing so I shall place other honorable members at a disadvantage in that they may not have an opportunity to bring forward matters in which they are particularly interested. I direct the attention of the Assistant Minister (Mr. Harrison) to the fact that £1,952 is to be paid in lieu of furlough and accrued recreation leave to Mr. H. C. Brown, exAuditorGeneral, on his retirement. I venture to say that that gentleman appears to have been amazingly well treated. He was appointed to the position of Auditor-General only a short time before the age at which he would have retired, and I question very much the propriety of his appointment in such circumstances. Having been appointed he became entitled to higher allowances, and was permitted to take a trip around the worldProvision was made last year for the payment of £1,750 for that purpose but, as his term was extended, that amount was not paid. Mr. Brown is now to be given furlough and recreation leave greater than that contemplated in the previous year. Having had an extra year's service he is now to receive an equivalent of nearly £2,000 in lieu of furlough and accrued recreation leave. I venture to say that any one conversant with the circumstances must feel dissatisfied with the appointment of Mr. Brown to the position of Auditor-General for such a short period. The appointment was utterly unwarranted, particularly as it enabled him to go abroad on the eve of his retirement, which prevented any information which he may have obtained being of value to the Government. It appears to be an entire misuse of authority by whoever was responsible. The public of this country is opposed to such actions, and numerous items of that kind cause an expansion of departmental expenditure.

I also direct attention to the proposed expenditure at Australia House in London. The vote last year was £53,060 and the actual expenditure £54,945. This year the committee is asked to vote £74,240 or an increase of £19,295. There must be some explanation of this staggering increase in the cost of conducting Australia House. In endeavouring to dissect the figures, I find that whilst the upkeep of Australia House last year cost £10,500, this year the cost is to be £14,000. Alterations this year are to cost £4,000; but as Australia House has been functioning for a number of years, I should like to know what alterations are contemplated. Is this additional expenditure to cover the cost of certain rearrangements, and, if so, why are such rearrangements necessary? Last year the upkeep of the High Commissioner's official residence cost £741, and this year the cost is to be £1,130. Last year £1,999 was provided for "Allowance to High Commissioner for expenses of official residence ", and this year the amount has been increased to £2,510. Last year the upkeep of Australia House and the official residence of the High Commissioner cost £13,200, and this year the estimated cost Ls £21,600. There is also a new item " Exchange on salaries paid abroad, £5,410 ".

Mr Nairn - That is a book-keeping entry.

Mr CURTIN - It may be, but some explanation should be given, particularly as it appears as a new item. The amount provided in this connexion is £5,410, although no such provision was made last year. The manner in which the Estimates are prepared emphasizes the need for the adption of the resommendation made by the Public Accounts Committee some time ago that the figures should be submitted in such a way that they can be readily understood instead of honorable members having to refer to numerous papers before they can ascertain what is actually proposed. I ask the Assistant Minister (Mr. Harrison) to justify the action taken in connexion with Mr. Brown, the former Auditor-General, and also to explain the staggering increase in the cost of maintaining Australia House.

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