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Thursday, 15 March 1973
Page: 608

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr FULTON - With reference to the report I point out that there is a proposed amendment to section 18 (8) of the Public Works Committee Act to raise the value of the mandatory limit of $750,000 to $1,500,000. However, should a limit of $2m be proposed in the light of the expected magnitude of the Government's major works program I personally would agree that $2m is a realistic figure. It is a fact that over the last 5 years there has been a general increase in the number of references to the Committee and this trend is continuing in 1973 with a record total of 54 possible proposals listed, of which 14 are valued at less than$1. 5m and 6 are between $1.5m and $2m.

In the general report, paragraph 8 mentions that in 1972 the Committee met more frequently and examined more different pro posals than in any previous year. The Committee was originally established for the purpose of ensuring that full and detailed information on major projects should be given to the Parliament which has to provide the funds necessary for public works. It has been constituted in order to ensure that taxpayers receive value for their money in the undertaking of works by the Department of Works on behalf of the client departments. I also remind the House that the last Committee had to seek leave to sit while the Parliament was in session. This is not desired by the Parliament nor by the members of the Committee. The fixation of an upper limit of $1.5m depends upon the number of major projects on which the Government intends to be engaged and the relative amount of time available to the Committee to look into these projects.

On the basis of the existing limit of $750,000, the Committee would have to average 6 projects per month. During the parliamentary sessions, an average of only one week per month is available for inspections and hearings. The Committee will need to be occupied during the whole of the winter recess. The program is also dependent upon the steady receipt of proposals which, from past experience, is known to be difficult to maintain. It is doubtful whether the Committee would be able to carry out any more inspections and hearings as occurred during 1972 when the record of 35 proposals - 17 more than in the previous year - was achieved. If those projects costing less than $2m were deleted, a total of 36 projects would remain and this would then result in a similar program as occurred in 1972. It is also pointed out that section 18(1.) of the Act provides that any public work may be referred to the Committee regardless of value. This eliminates the idea that the Committee would be precluded from reviewing the smaller projects. It may be noted that all works in excess of $40,000 are listed in the Civil Works Program circulated by the Minister for Works at the time of the presentation of the Budget.

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