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Friday, 22 July 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaMinister for Defence) .- It is not the rule, but the exception, for the work of the Auditor-General to be in arrears. He has been behind only in isolated cases. The most notorious case, of course, was in connexion with the Cockatoo Island Dockyard.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would remind the Minister that the Auditor-General himself, in at least one report two or three years ago, brought this matter under the notice of Parliament.

Senator PEARCE - I am coming to that. It is a fact that two years ago the Auditor-General stated that he was handicapped by reason of an' insufficient staff, and complained that his requests for assistance had not been complied with. But that complaint has since been met. His staff has been increased. The Government are also meeting the complaint in another way. In the Public Service Bill which is now before the Senate, provision is made that the Auditor-General shall become a permanent departmental head, and he will, therefore, have control of staff matters himself. Consequently, the Government have recognised the wisdom of the course which has been advocated by Senator Pratten. They have provided the Auditor-General with an increased staff, and they propose to vest in him the powerto appoint and control his own staff.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman recognises the advantages which the adoption of that course will confer upon Ministers themselves?

Senator PEARCE - Precisely. The report of the Auditor-General, which I laid upon the table of the Senate to-day in connexion with the Commonwealth factories is for the year ended 30th June, 19.20, and it may, at first glance, seem as if that fact is indicative of' delay. But the Auditor-General, it must be remembered, cannot commence his audit of the accounts of any Department until the financial year has closed. Consequently, his report cannot be presented to Parliament until some months later. The increase which has been made in his staff, and the granting tohim of the power to control that staff, for which provision is. made in the Public Service Bill, will bring about a more desirable state of affairs.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Department of the Treasury.

Proposed vote, £101,820.

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