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Wednesday, 5 October 1910
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Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - for reasons which will be obvious, if not to the Senate, at least to the public, I ask how long we are to continue the practice of voting temporary Supply? I do not say that the present Government are alone to blame in this matter, but they are becoming notoriously conspicuous in the adoption of the practice. On 3rd July, immediately after the opening of this Parliament, we passed a Supply Bill authorizing the appropriation of £744,000. That measure covered Supply for one month. On 4th August we agreed to a further Supply Bill for £1,280,000, " which covered Supply for two months. On 6th August, a proposal was submitted to the Senate authorizing the Government to appropriate ,£500,000 from a trust fund, :and on 9th August, a further sum of £3,500,000 was appropriated for the payment of old-age pensions. To-day we are asked to sanction a further advance of £1,500,000 from a trust fund, and to grant Supply for a period of two months to the extent of £816,619. _ So that, roughly speaking, we are committed to an expenditure of more than ,£8,000,000.

Senator Pearce - Look at the crowd who are spending it. That is the trouble with the honorable senator.

Senator ST LEDGER - Whatever revenue the Government may derive during the current financial year they are certainly .spending it right royally. Whether they are expending it wisely we have scarcely had an opportunity to consider. I repeat -that, up to date, Parliament has appropriated the sum of £8,250,000 out of the revenue for the current financial year, which the Treasurer estimates will be a little more than £15,000,000. _ In other words, we have already appropriated more -than half the anticipated revenue for the financial year, and that without being afforded an opportunity of discussing the "financial policy of the Government.

Senator Pearce - Did not the VicePresident of the Executive Council explain the financial policy of the .Government when he made his Budget statement?

Senator ST LEDGER - Yes. But the Senate has not been afforded an oppportunity of discussing it, and that oppor tunity does not appear to be within measurable distance. Yet honorable senators opposite have the consummate audacity to tell members of the Opposition that if they are good children the financial policy of the Government will continue to boom. Ministers ought to know that finance is the key of all sound government. If their finances are not upon a sound footing every measure which they introduce will land the country in difficulties. More than half the anticipated revenue for the current financial year has already been appropriated, and yet we have not had a clear exposition of the financial policy of the Government. Indeed, beyond the Budget statement of the Treasurer himself, and the tables which accompanied it, not a single member of this Parliament has been afforded an opportunity to get a clear idea of how the financial proposals of the Government will work out. It is time that the public understood how long this sort of thing is" to continue.

Senator Givens - Did the honorable senator understand what would be the condition of the finances ten years hence when he voted in favour of returning to the States 25s. per capita for all time?

Senator ST LEDGER - I had some idea of how they would stand.

Senator Givens - Then the honorable senator ought to lock up that idea, and keep it.

Senator ST LEDGER - I am glad that Senator Givens has interjected, because when I discussed the Financial Agreement, I was not unmindful of the probable financial position of the Commonwealth fifteen or twenty years hence. This is the only place in which we can lay a fairly heavy hand upon the expenditure of the Government. So far as their financial proposals are concerned, they seem to be rushing like a locomotive under a full head of steam on a down grade. Yet we "are asked time and again to take it for granted that everything is all right. Millions of pounds are being paid into the Trust Funds, and we are invited to regard that as. all right..

Senator McGregor - The honorable senator- must be qualifying for the leadership of the Opposition.

Senator ST LEDGER - That is a form of gibe which the Vice-President of the Executive Council is fond Qf throwing at me, though I admit that he sometimes hurls it in a more severe form at some of his own supporters. The other branch of the Legislature has scarcely been afforded an opportunity of criticising the financial policy of the Government, and this Chamber is in an even worse position. I think that the Opposition in the Senate should come down heavily upon Ministers.

Senator Pearce - As you are strong, be merciful .

Senator- ST.LEDGER. - The Minister of Defence knows - as the smile which accompanied his interjection indicates - how powerless we are. These Bills are transmitted to the Senate, with the knowledge thai: the Opposition here is so numerically weak that its members can do nothing but protest. I regret that, so far as its control over expenditure is concerned, this Chamber is rapidly becoming the financial Mary Ann of the representative Chambers of the world.

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