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Wednesday, 13 December 1911

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I submit that the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council is little short of grotesque if it is put forward as a serious reason for the creation of this Department. He has urged that, as the Prime Minister had as his secretary an officer who was primarily attached to the Department of External Affairs, .and, as he very properly wished to have a secretary under his own control, it was decided to call a new Department into being. ' But what would have been easier than to transfer this officer from the Department of External Affairs to the Treasury Department?

Senator McGregor - He would then have been under the control of the Secretary to the Treasurer.

Senator MILLEN - Why should he not be? What is really desired is to give this officer the status of an under-secretary. It seems to me that his case resembles the case with which we dealt yesterday when the Arbitration (Public Service) Bill was under consideration. An 'attempt is being made to confer upon this officer a certain status without Parliament being told fully and frankly what is intended. I thoroughly believe that the Prime Minister should be free of all departmental responsibilities, other than that cf exercising a general supervision over all Departments. I cannot regard the explanation of the VicePresident of the Executive Council as a satisfactory one. In the circumstances which have been outlined by him, the correct thing to do was to create an office of " Secretary to the Prime Minister," and to have made provision for it upon the Estimates. But to bring an officer from the Department of External Affairs, and to create a new Department for him, is practically to do what the historic Chinaman did when he burnt down a hut in order that he might have roast pig.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [6.17].- In this Bill, £3,173 is set down for Audit Office salaries, and £150 for contingencies. Are we to understand that the Audit Office is to be placed entirely under the control of the Department of the Prime Minister, and that it is the only office which is under that Department at the present time ?

Senator McGregor - With the exception of the Executive Council.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - And where is the salary of the Secretary of the Executive Council provided for?

Senator McGregor - Under the Executive Council itself.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I agree with the contention of Senator Millen that any new Department which is to be created ought to be created with the full knowledge of Parliament, and that the exact responsibilities attaching to it should be fully set out. Honorable senators would then .have an opportunity of estimating whether the departure proposed! was a wise one. As time goes on, no doubt, the work of the Commonwealth will increase, and it will become necessary for additional Ministers to be created. But toprovide for additional Ministers, a special Act of Parliament will have to be passed. Personally, I think that the number of salaried Ministers we have at present isvery small as compared with the number to be found in other Governments which* have no more work to perform.

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