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Thursday, 22 July 1926

Senator McLACHLAN (South Australia) . - I trust that this will be the last occasion upon which we shall be called upon to rectify mistakes that have been made in the estimates by State Governments or officials, and to give our approval to the variation of contracts that have been solemnly entered into. There is no surety that next session we shall not be called upon to ratify an agreement providing for the expenditure of a further additional sum. We have before us an illustration of the adoption of very loose business methods by those who have been in charge of the compilation of the estimates. We are entitled to ask for an assurance that there will be no repetition of this procedure. If an ordinary contractor or business man adopted methods similar to these he would find himself in the bankruptcy court, and he would not have a Parliament to relieve him of his liability. In future I shall not be a party to the righting of costly errors which ought not to have been made by the Government.

Senator Crawford - The Commonwealth Government was not responsible.

Senator McLACHLAN - The Commonwealth Government must take some share of the blame. Provision ought to have been made for the governments concerned to stand up to their estimates. This railway is only the first to be constructed in accordance with the generally accepted policy for the unification of the railway gauges of Australia. Doubtless it will not be long before we shall be asked to give our approval to the construction of other links in that chain ; and unless steps are taken to ensure accuracy in the estimation of the probable expenditure Parliament will be asked to consent to the voting of other large sums to rectify mistakes that have been made in estimates or to provide for additional costs caused by rises in wages or reductions in working hours. That is not a proper way to conduct the business of government, and I shall certainly not be a party to it in the future.

SenatorCRAWFORD (Queensland- vernments of the States of New South Wales and Queensland are bound by the terms of their contracts. So far as it is possible to make a forecast, it can be said that the amount now asked for is not likely to be exceeded. Senator McLachlan is aware that contracts for railway construction do not make provision for the payment of a lump sum, but are based upon the number of cubic yards of earth works involved, the bridges that have to be constructed, and other factors. Deviation from the estimates is always a possibility. The contract makes provision for a decrease or an increase in the price in the event of wages falling or rising respectively.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 (Issue and application of £11,650,839).

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