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Friday, 9 August 1946

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Barnard) - As the honorable member for Wentworth regards the term " cook up " as offensive, I ask the Minister to withdraw it.

Mr LAZZARINI - I withdraw it willingly. I used the word " probably ". but I withdraw the term " cook up " as the honorable gentleman considers that it is offensive. He has indulged in many suggestions', and innuendos regarding these matters and has quoted, from a' letter which implied that something dishonest and dishonorable has been done, when, in fact, there is no evidence of anything of the kind. The Auditor-General made exhaustive inquiries, extending over 'three or four months in three States, into activities of the Salvage Commission, and in spite of all' the harping of the honorable member for Wentworth on this subject, all that the Auditor-General could find was that a contract was entered into with a firm that was not registered until the day after the contract was signed.

The Auditor-General frequently criticizes the accountancy, and bookkeeping' methods of departments. AuditorGenerals of both the Commonwealth and the States are in the habit of criticizing the accountancy methods of government departments. The Salvage Commission was one of the last bodies of the kind to be established and it had to " pick up "- its officers from wherever it could get them, because all the most capable accountants had already been engaged. I have never tried' to deny that the Aud'itor-General has been critical, hut he has also stated in plain terms that there was no evidence, to justify the allegations made in this Parliament by the honorable member- for Wentworth. This relates particularly to the statement, that a certain amount of material that was included! in a contract as- rag was .not rag. Because of that allegation I requested that an immediate investigation be made. Subsequently the Auditor-General, in company- with an officer of the Treasury, also made an investigation. I do not think it; will be suggested' that the Auditor-General would' so out of h-is way to whitewash me or anybody else:

Mr Anthony - But tenders were not called in this case.

Mr LAZZARINI - That was admitted long ago ; but since then tenders have been called in every instance. There has been no attempt to deny that tenders were not called in this particular transaction. The Auditor-General has reported that there is not the slightest evidence of any dishonesty in. this matter, though he also said that he considered that the chairman of the Salvage Commission had participated in what had been disclosed as a bad business deal. I cannot remember his exact words at the moment. I have.. the report before me, but I do not intend to "weary honorable members by reading long extracts from it. When the Auditor-General and the officer from the Treasury went to Queensland to examine and sort the goods that had been sold, they had to wear gas masks at the work because the- smell was so bad. That fact indicates the quality of the goods. Since this particular transaction occurred, all sales by the Salvage Commission have been conducted by public tender. Advertisements have been inserted in the newspapers in various capital cities when salvage has. been available for sale: As the honorable member for Wentworth obtained permission to incorporate matter in Hansard, I also intend to ask for permission to incorporate certain tables relating to tenders received by the Salvage Commission for certain goods that were offered for sale. In one of these tables reference is made to a tender of £135 by Associated Salvage Distributors. That was the highest tender; the next highest one was £134. In respect of one parcel of goods, McLeod, Bolton and Miller, Ezzy, and Sydney Waste Industries Limited, submitted exactly the same tender, £28, for certain goods. These were the only tenders received. These documents reveal that Associated Salvage Distributors Limited sometimes, offered prices 60 per cent, higher than other tenders. It is clear evidence that the three firms to which the- honorable member for Wentworth referred are deeply concerned because Associated Salvage Distributors Limited outbids them. They may desire to con- . tinue to do what, no doubt, they did in the past. Apparently they " put their heads together " and decided that they, would not bid beyond certain prices. In that way, they could get materials at prices below their real value. With the consent of honorable members I shall incorporate in Hansard details of tenders submitted by Associated Salvage Distributors Limited and other firms -



The honorable member for Wentworth has endeavoured to besmirch my administration of the Salvage Commission, and implied that dishonesty had entered -into, its transactions. I doubt whether .the honorable gentleman has the courage to make those charges against my administration outside this ' coward's castle, and not to use the coward's weapon of innuendo.

Mr Harrison - I made these statements in the Minister's own electorate a few nights ago.

Mr LAZZARINI - If the honorable member will repeat his charges outside this coward's castle, I shall take appropriate action.

Mr Abbott - I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in referring to the House of Representatives as a " coward's castle " ?

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - That is not a point of order.

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