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Tuesday, 28 June 1921

Senator FAIRBAIRN (Victoria) .- I move-

That statutory rule No. 80, of 1921, being Commonwealth Public Service Regulation (Sixth Amendment, 1921), be disallowed.

My reason for submitting the motion is that I desire to re-establish the principle which has always been recognised under our Constitution, viz., that Parliament should exercise supreme control over the public purse, that is to say, over the funds which are at the disposal of the Ministry of the day. Of course, during the war period, it was inevitable that things should require to be done summttttttttarily and suddenly, so that legislative authority couldnot always be obtained, and, consequently, great laxity arose in regard to the expenditure of public money. It was absolutely impossible to avoid that. The war had to be conducted upon practically autocratic lines,' and, consequently, Parliament had to acquiesce in summary action being taken. But three years have elapsed since the signing of the armistice, and, in my judgment, it is high time that we returned to what" is unquestionably the constitutional position, namely, that no money should be expended by the Government unless the expenditure has first been considered and approved by Parliament.

SenatorWilson. - Would not the honorable senator limit the amount to be expended without parliamentary authority?

SenatorFAIRBAIRN.---I holdthat no money should be expended without legislative authority.I understand that there is a fund from which the Treasurer may pay small amounts.

Senator Pearce - That is the Treasurer's advance account. .

Senator FAIRBAIRN - Yes. Such an account is, of course, very necessary in the case of the Commonwealth. But the regulation to which I am directing attention seeks to establish a new Department, namely, the Department of Public Health. Before agreeing to the creation of such a Department, Parliament ought to know all about it. We ought to be informed ofwhat it is goingto cost, and of whatis the necessity for it. We ought also to know whether the Department will conflict with the six State Departments of Public Health which are already in: existence. All these things should be known to us, and I am very, pleased to learn that the- Leader of the Government in this chamber intends to announce that the Ministryview this question from the same stand-point as I do. I understand that he is prepared to. give a promise that nothing will be done under this regulation before the matter has been considered by Parliament when the Estimates come under review. I shall be entirely satisfied with such an assurance. Whilst looking into this matter, I visited the splendid serum laboratory which has been established at Royal Park, where the serums required in cases of diphtheria and typhoid are being manufactured. I am glad to know that South Africa, Java, and Singapore, as well as the whole of Australia, draw their supplies of serum from that laboratory. This fact is a splendid tribute to the good work which has been done, by Dr. Cumpston.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Apart from its financial side.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - The Minister, with a joyous .smile, has reminded me that this Government undertaking is actually more than paying its way. 0

Senator Wilson - That is quite a novelty.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - Yes. I wish that more Departments were doing so at the present time. Nevertheless, I hold that each honorable senator is responsible for learning how the public funds are being expended. As I have already intimated, if the Leader of the Senate will make a statement to the effect that Ministers share the opinion which- 1 have expressed, I shall not press the motion. In such circumstances, the proper time to discuss the matter will be when the Estimates come under our consideration. We shall then be able to go into it thoroughly, and having satisfied ourselves as to its soundness, we shall be in a position to vote the requisite funds in the proper constitutional way. When the Minister has made his statement, I shall ask the leave of the Senate ta withdraw the motion.

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