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Thursday, 8 December 1927

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.22].- The honorable senator has spent the last quarter of an hour in making a dummy of straw, setting it up, industriously belabouring it, and then knocking it down. He has not proved anything except either his own lack of comprehension in relation to the attitude which is adopted towards the Estimates or my inability to use words which would convey to his mind the meaning I intend to convey. It is a fact,* whether Senator Thomas is aware of it or not, that since the inauguration of the Commonwealth Parliament, the Parliamentary Estimates have been prepared and submitted by the President and Mr. Speaker. All that the Government does is to include them with the other Estimates that are submitted to Parliament. I invite the honorable senator to consider also something else that he apparently has not noticed, but which has been patent to me during my 26 years experience in the Commonwealth Parliament; that is, that no member of the Government ever replies to criticisms of Parliamentary Estimates. That duty is invariably left to the President in .this chamber and to Mr: Speaker in another place, because they are responsible for those Estimates. So far as my experience extends, no Treasurer has ever altered Estimates that have- been submitted by the President and Mr. Speaker.

Senator Sir Henry Barwell - Does that cover the Hansard staff?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - Yes, it covers all those officers who are under the control of the President and Mr. Speaker. The Estimates are com piled by them and submitted to the Treasurer, who has invariably presented them to Parliament in the form iu winch they have been submitted to him. When I dealt with this question in committee I said that the Government was not responsible. The meaning I intended to convey was that it was not responsible for the form in which the Parliamentary Estimates were presented. Senator Thomas ought to have known that I did not mean that the Government disowned responsibility for the Estimates as a whole. Now that Parliament has agreed to them the Government has the responsibility of seeing that the expenditure is kept within those limits. The President and Mr. Speaker have no power to impose taxation* or to raise revenue. Therefore, if they wish to exceed the Parliamentary Estimates, they must obtain the consent of the Treasurer, which implies the consent of the Government. That is my reply to Senator Thomas' laboured statement.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister has made a very weak reply.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - If the honorable senator holds that view, I say again that the fault may be either my inability to express myself clearly or his lack of understanding.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

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