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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr FADDEN (Darling Downs) . - I protest against the way in which these Estimates have been submitted to the committee. As a business man, I strongly object to honorable members being asked to authorize expenditure to the amount of about £17,000,000 in the short time allowed for consideration of the proposals, and with the meagre information available. This committee must have regard to the interests of the taxpayers of Australia. Whilst this huge expenditure may be indispensable if Australia is to be adequately defended, every honorable member should see that extravagance is avoided, and that full value is obtained for the money expended. Having regard to the way in which the Estimates have been placed before us to-day, I challenge honorable members to prove that that desirable scrutiny is assured. The Government itself does not know where it stands in this matter, because we are asked to consider estimates as at the 30th June last which were submitted in printed form previously, and we have had other printed matter placed before us which we have been unable to examine in the short time at our disposal. The Government has amended its Estimates from time to time, if what we read in the press is correct. Only the other day, we were informed that the contemplated defence expenditure had to be supplemented by a further £3,000,000; therefore, it is useless for honorable members to close their eyes to the fact that inadequate examination has been made of these Estimates. Scant consideration has been shown for the welfare of the community, and, particularly, of the taxpayers who must supply the money for defence measures. The sum of £17,000,000 is not a small one, and, from my limited experience of public finance, I know that, whatever money is made available, means of disbursing it will be devised. Socalled advisers of the Government will submit all kinds of schemes involving the expenditure of large sums, regardless of the source from which the money must come. I lodge my protest against the unbusinesslike method in which the people of Australia are asked to provide for a minimum defence expenditure of £17,000,000, and a maximum which cannot be calculated. The total is being added to from time to time. The taxpayers of Australia have sufficiently heavy responsibilities already, and production has a big enough load to carry without a wastage of public funds. Having regard to the economic position of the nation, and the taxable capacity of the people, the Government should accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that an expert committee, representing both sides in politics, should be appointed to go minutely into the details of this scheme, in order that honorable members at least should be assured that value will be obtained for this enormous outlay, and that only indispensable expenditure will be incurred.

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