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Friday, 13 October 1911

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - In moving -

That this Bill be now read a first time,

I merely wish to observe that the motion will afford honorable senators an opportunity of criticising the administrative acts of the Government, and of dealing with any other matters to which they may desire to call attention. Upon the present occasion we are asking for two months' Supply in the hope that it will prove sum.cient to enable our various public services to be carried on until the Budget has been presented and the Estimates approved. The amount of Supply for which the Government ask is £1,409,534. On a previous occasion, when Supply was granted for only one month, the amount involved was £1,038,016. Honorable senatorsmay think that the sums asked, for by the Government are excessive when compared with the amountsgranted under previous Supply BillsHonorable senators must bear in mind that the Supply Bill for two months, passed at the latter end of last session, the Bill for one month's Supply passed recently, and this Bill for two months' Supply, involved a total amount of ,-£3,023,000 for five months. When we come to consider that under the circumstances previously existing the Supply asked for a similar period would have'' 'amounted, approximately, to £2,760,000, the amount asked for the five months of the current financial year showsan apparent increase of £323,000. But it must not be forgotten that in taking over the Northern Territory we accepted responsibility for interest payments as they matured on the Port Augusta railway andi to cover the deficit on the Territory itself. These obligations amounted in the first instance to £40,000, and in the other tosomewhere about £50,000. We must realize,, also, that during the last year or twothere has been a very material increase in the staff of the Post and Telegraph Department, and honorable senators must be aware that the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth are gradually increasing. In connexion with the Defence Department, an increased expenditure of £206,000 is necessary to defray the cost of services that have been instituted and tc« give effect to the compulsory training of our boys and youths. This increased expenditure of itself almost entirely accountsfor the total increase of expenditure for thefive months of £320,000. As a matter of fact, the necessary increases in respect tothe items to which I have referred account for a total increase of £412,000- on the amount ordinarily provided in previous years for five months' Supply. I am further able to show that there are very few cases in which the amount asked for in this Supply Bill for two months is double what was asked for in the previous Supply Bill covering one month's Supply. For theParliament for the two months we are asking £4,943- For one month, in the previous Supply Bill we asked for £3,070. For the External Affairs Department we are asking in this Bill for £80,416, and: in the last Supply Bill for one month- £124,725 was asked for. For the AttorneyGeneral's office we are in this Bill asking for ,£7,636 for two months, whilst in the last Supply Bill for one month .£3,923 was asked for. For the Home Affairs Department we are asking in this Bill for a little more than the proportion for other Departments. This is because the Home Affairs Department is the one in connexion with which most work involving expenditure has to be done. We are asking for £96,200 for the two months, covered by this Bill, whilst we asked for £30,975 for one month for this Department under the previous Supply Bill. For the Treasury Department we are asking in this Bill for £26,013 for two months' Supply, and in the last Bill for one month only we asked for .£20,960. For the Trade and Customs Department we are asking for £58,424 in this Bill, and for one month only we asked for .£34,885 in the last Supply Bill. We are asking in this Bill for £270,215 for the Defence Department to cover two months' Supply, and in the last Supply Bill we asked for .£233,277 for one month's Supply. For the PostmasterGeneral's Department we are asking for two months .£575,687, and in the previous Supply Bill we asked for one month's Supply £366,box. There are two items which have appeared in Supply Bills for some time past to which a reference may be made. One is for refunds of revenue. In the last Supply Bill we asked, to cover one month's Supply on this account, for .£20.000. In this Bill we are asking for £40,000 to cover two months' Supply. For the Treasurer's Advance account, a vote which is necessary for the purpose of keeping works going which are provided for in the general Estimates, we are asking for the two months ,£250.000. In the last Supply Bill for one month we asked for .£200,000 on this account. Honorable senators will, therefore, see that the amounts provided for in this Bill have been kept very much below double the amounts asked for in the last Supply Bill for one month's services only. If this Supply is granted, we earnestly hope that, before it is exhausted, the Budget will be before honorable senators, and, when the Budget papers are laid on the table of the Senate, the Government will afford an opportunity for a full-dress debate on the administration and financial policy of the Government. If honorable senators will consider the matter from a common-sense point of view, they will agree that that is the occasion for which they should reserve themselves. It is not on every paltry Supply Bill, to meet the ordinary services of the Commonwealth for one month or two months, that grievances and complaints should be ventilated. They should be reserved for the debate on the Budget itself, and less time should be wasted in the discussion of current Supply Bills than has been the case in the past.

Senator Millen - Before the honorable senator resumes his seat, he might point out the items of the Bill which Senator Pearce said could not be decided on until the last moment.

Senator McGREGOR - The PostmasterGeneral, for instance, could not tell exactly what amount he would require to carry him over the passing of the Budget until he knew at what time the Budget statement would be made.

Senator Millen - Does he know now ?

Senator McGREGOR - Well, he has a better knowledge now than he had a week ago, because the Treasurer is in a better position to say how far his work in the formulation of the Budget has advanced through the returns sent in from the different Departments. Honorable senators must see that the Post and Telegraph, the Defence, and the Home Affairs Departments have not an easy task in estimating what will be required to carry on the services under then- control. The AttorneyGeneral, the Treasurer, and the Minister of Trade and Customs might put in an estimate of the requirements of their Departments at any time. They might, in fact, have a standing return to cover monthly Supply, but the three other Departments to which I have referred are in an entirely different position. I have no desire to curtail debate on the Bill, and, between now and 4 o'clock, honorable senators should have plenty of time at their disposal to say all they desire to say on the various items of the measure. If it should be necessary to reply to their statements, I hope that any information that is desired will be forthcoming. Members of the Government who represent the different Departments in the Senate will do all they possibly can to satisfy, not merely the curiosity, but the earnest desire for information of honorable senators.

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