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Thursday, 20 June 1946

Mr LAZZARINI - Th is is what Mr.

Conde says -

No.2. - Terms of Reference - Salvage Commission.

My investigations have failed to reveal the existence of any agreement or transaction with a " refugee firm ".

During the course of my investigationsI have examined the Auditor-General's special report, dated 3rd December, 1945, addressed to the Minister of Home Security and Works, the Hon. H. P. Lazzarini, on the accounts and transactions of the Commonwealth Salvage Commission. In view of the Auditor-General's comments in this special report, I feel that the terms of reference do not call for any further comment on my part.

I now intend to state what the AuditorGeneral said in his report to me on this transaction. I admit that his report is critical of the early stages of the Salvage Commission's existence. In common with other Commonwealth instrumentalities, when the war was raging, the Salvage Commission met with great difficulty in staffing, and it had to employ, not exactly for accounting, hut for recording, people of little experience, as is well known by the honorable member. I pause to emphasize that Mr. Schrceder proved conclusively by reference to the records of the Registrar-General's Department in Melbourne that the firm concerned was registered before any contract was made by it with the Salvage Commission. With all due respect to the AuditorGeneral and his staff, I say that they made a blunder in this matter. Either they did not check the dates or they accepted as true what some one had told them. So I do not care what the Auditor-General says, because the records prove that the firm was registered before it made a contract with the commission. Anyway, this is what the AuditorGeneral said in his report to me -

So far as the commission's records are concerned, the quantity of clothing transferred to " rag " was not appreciably large, but, as stated previously, the records are not reliable. In any circumstances, it would not be possible for auditors to check the genuineness of any such transfers nor are they able to ascertain from the inquiries made whether any large quantity of clothing was unjustifiably classified and sold as rag. The chairman has stated that a quantity of clothing was included as "rag" in a particular sale and has reported fully to the department his reasons for so doing. It is not possible for me to express an opinion whether such transfers wore justified by the state of the market for worn and obsolete clothing at the date in question, but I have no reason to doubt, that chairman of the commission acted in good faith in the matter. [Extension of time granted.] That is the only reference made by the AuditorGeneral to this matter. I asked him to inquire into it. The honorable member for Wentworth may shout as much as he likes, but Mr. Conde says, "No further time should be spent pursuing or investigating statements made by Mr. Harrison in connexion with the particular transaction referred to by him ", and the Auditor-General says there is no justification for further inquiry. Mr. Schroeder is cleaning up the transactions that are left over and, now that the National Security Regulations under which the Salvage Commission was established have been repealed, the , whole "show " will soon be closed. I have not the slightest intention, regardless of the threatening words and looks of the honorable member for Wentworth, to do anything more about this matter. He can do whatever he likes to move me to further action through the House or on his own account, butI am. satisfied with the position, and am convinced that all he is out for is party political capital. I will take no more notice of anything he says about the matter.

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