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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) (Prime Minister) . - The greater part of the expenditure incurred in connexion with the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) is met from the administrative vote for the Prime Minister's Department. It is the regular practice for expenditure in connexion with royal commissions and committees of various kinds appointed to undertake investigational work to be met from the Prime Minister's vote, for the reason that usually matters of policy are involved in the inquiries that are ordered. Honorable gentlemen may rest assured that the post-war reconstruction work begun by the previous Government is being continued. It will be found, on examining the Estimates, that the proposed vote for the Department of Labour and National Service shows an increase of about £100,000 over the expenditure actually incurred last year. A good deal of this is required for salaries, though I do not suggest that it all has relation to social reconstruction activities. I remind honorable members also that the Tariff Board is making an investigation of secondary industries, which has some association with reconstruction. The vote to cover such expenditure is included in the amount allocated to the Department of Trade and Customs. The Joint Committee on Social Security also is inquiring into certain aspects of the subject and its expenses in that connexion are being met from the vote for the Prime Minister's Department. The absence of a special item for "social reconstruction " does not mean that the Government is inactive in relation to that subject. It is not intended, at this stage, to establish a Ministry of Social Reconstruction. Our first duty is to draw together the threads of the various inquiries that are being made into the issues involved, in order to ascertain exactly what needs to be done to achieve the best results. These general questions have been distributed by the Cabinet sub-committee among various Ministers for inquiry and report, but primarily I, as Prime Minister, am responsible for government policy on the subject. Until we obtain some better factual information it would be useless to develop a beautiful plan, for there would be little foundation for it.

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