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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - I am concerned with the fact that expenditure is increasing in several of the departments, other than war departments. The Estimates for four .of the five departments which have so far been considered show increased expenditure of more than £500,000 as compared with last year, and they are minor war departments. This has been called an austerity budget, and I suggest that a good deal of money could be saved by paring expenditure within the departments. Quite obviously, that lias not been done. In the Crown Solicitor's Office, for instance, there has been an increase of £18,000 over last year's expenditure. I do not think that increases of that kind can be justified at a time like this.

Dr Evatt - This department is concerned with the enforcement of all Commonwealth laws and regulations. There has been an enormous increase of the number of prosecutions and investigations due solely to the war.

Mr HARRISON - I am not selecting the Attorney-General's Department in particular; there have been increases of expenditure in other departments, also. However, in the Attorney-General's Department there is an increase of about £6,000 for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It has been pointed out in the course of discussion in this chamber that the functions of the Arbitration Court are being assumed by Ministers of the Crown. They are making some of the decisions which the court should have made; they are putting aside the awards of the court in some instances, and in others are placing their own interpretation upon awards. They are ignoring the rulings of the court upon such matters as preference to unionists, and yet the vote for the court is £6,000 more than the expenditure last year. Is this to be regarded as an indication that Ministers have at last seen the error of their ways, and from now on are prepared to allow the court to do its own proper work? If so, I do not begrudge the expenditure of this additional £6,000. However, if Ministers propose to continue to usurp the powers of the court, I cannot see any reason for the increased expenditure.

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