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Tuesday, 27 October 1964

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) .- I wish to follow up the reference that has been made to the Canberra City Omnibus service. If we can take these figures at their face value, we are being asked to provide this year for an expenditure of £79,000, as against an expenditure of £87,300 last year. That, of course, has to be taken in conjunction with the subsidy for the conveyance of school children, which is to be increased by £5,000. 1 am surprised that this matter comes as a novelty to any honorable senator who has been in this chamber for 12 or 14 hard years. Year by year the Parliament has voted money from the national Treasury for the transport of the citizens of Canberra. In the supplementary report of the Auditor-General reference is made to the Central Transport Services, which in some way has relationship to parliamentary and governmental transport facilities. As I understand it, this year the Central Transport Services produced a profit, but the city omnibus service, for which we are asked to vote £79,000, according to the Auditor-General's Report, lost £87.297 in the financial year ended 7th June 1964.

I wish to direct attention to another matter, despite which this hardy annual has grown. I refer to the bland statement in the uninformative report of the AuditorGeneral, that earnings of £211,091 include a subsidy of £61,000. I think you will recall, Madam Temporary Chairman, that the Public Accounts Committee some years ago commented stringently upon the attitude of mind which, in any accountant's office, could include a governmental subsidy under the term " earnings ". Here we have the conundrum continued, despite what is said by the Public Accounts Committee. I say this with a full understanding of the hurt that such an expression must cause you, as a distinguished member of that Committee, Madam Temporary Chairman, but, of course, nothing that is said in this place is expected tq have any effect in the corridors where officials reign. These practices will continue, notwithstanding anything that is said here, until we get a much more determined attitude as to the opinion of Parliament prevailing. Leaving for lamentation that fact that the strictures of the Public Accounts Committee have been entirely ignored and a subsidy of £61,000 is still included in the term " earnings ", I ask a question of the Minister. I have taken a little longer than I would have taken had it not been for my wish that the Minister should have an added opportunity to weave his way through the intricacies of the figures in the Estimates. I ask whether I am to understand the figures I have quoted to mean that the City Omnibus Service receives a subsidy of f 6 J, 000 and, with that credit, shows a loss of £87,297, so as to cost the taxpayers £148,297; or is it, as it appears to one of a simple turn of mind like myself, reading the Auditor-General's figures for what they appear to represent, that it is a loss of merely £87,297?

I always like to indicate something of the nature of the tedium that will be involved in hearing me out. I said that I wished to raise two items, if my time would permit. The other item is couched so as to be wreathed in an odour of sanctity. It appears in Division No. 853 and relates to the reimbursement of interest on capital borrowed for construction and extension of private school buildings. I am interested to know whether the purpose of this expenditure has been expressed in any statute or regulation, which is the usual means of expressing Parliamentary will, or Ministerial will which is not disallowed by Parliament when it takes the form of a regulation. Last year an appropriation of £56,000 was made in respect of this item. This year the appropriation has been increased by £50,500 to £106,500. I should not say that the increment calls for explanation, but in an innocent atmosphere such as we are enabled to maintain in the Senate, at least we would like to hear the Minister say a few words in explanation of it. I would like to know who are the beneficiaries of the increase.

I am particularly interested to know whether this policy of a recurring expenditure of this nature for the benefit of private schools has expression in any legislative document such as an act of Parliament, or even a regulation. I also ask the Minister whether this item has any relationship to the payment that has been provided as a matter of Government policy since the last general election for the assistance of private schools generally, or is just a little special item for private schools in the Australian Capital Territory. I make that suggestion because in my youth I had a grand old adviser, one of whose precepts I have found very warming in my later life. It was, as he expressed it to me: " Reg, if you want good bread, get near the bakehouse ".

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