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Tuesday, 27 October 1964
Page: 1315

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) .-I rise only to register my very firm disagreement with the observations that I have heard fall from the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Anderson) as to the scope of a debate on the Estimates. I realise that Senator Anderson is at a great disadvantage. He has been overworked today, and we would not expect him to be equipped with the material to answer all the questions that have been asked or to justify all the policies that have been mentioned. However, when the Government is asking the Parliament to vote an appropriation for the year, we, as parliamentary representatives, have the right to require the Ministry to justify the policy behind the proposed expenditure and to establish the integrity and the sufficiency of the expenditure. If any honorable senator feels that a defence agency, such as radar, and the instruments operating that agency are misplaced or obsolete, I suggest that the debate on the Estimates is the occasion par excellence for the Ministry to be called upon to justify the relevant item on those heads. I regret that statements are made to us that the debate on the Estimates is more limited than 1 have indicated. I would say more except that the matter has been, by consensus of the Senate, shelved until another occasion; the next appropriate occasion.

If the item referred to by Senator McClelland were included in the capital expenditure of an Appropriation Bill, a procedure to which we have been accustomed in past years, the appropriate method by which Senator McClelland's submission would be followed up would be to move that the amount be reduced by £1 as an indication to the Minister that the expenditure on radar should be disposed differently or more efficiently. But we are dealing with a measure which, for the moment, we are to treat as a bill involving only an appropriation for the ordinary annual expenditure of the Government. As that is a bill which is beyond our power to amend, no honorable senator will suggest that the item should be rejected. However, I call attention to our constitutional rights, to be registered hereafter, which will very definitely give us procedures by which to guarantee that the policy of the Government on all of these items will be questioned and, I hope, justified.

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