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Thursday, 20 May 1965


Senator WEDGWOOD (Victoria) . - Having regard to the discursiveness of the debate on the Bill with which the Senate has just dealt I hesitate to enter this debate on the Supply Bill (No. 1), but I do so to remind honorable senators of some of the circumstances that were generated by the debate in this chamber about 12 months ago on the presentation of the Appropriation and Supply Bills. Honorable senators will recall that on 5th May 1964 the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Sir William Spooner, announced that the Government had decided that from 1964-65 the contents of the Appropriation Bill and the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill would be amalgamated, subject to the separation out and inclusion in separate measures of any particular items which, as a matter of interpretation, did not fall within the description of appropriations for the " ordinary annual services of the Government ". Senators Cormack, Mattner, McKellar, Scott and Wright from the Government side of the chamber, and Senator Murphy from the Opposition' side, expressed very strong views as to the probable effect of the decision on powers reserved to and exercised by the Senate since federation. These views were strengthened and fears were aroused still further when on 14th May 1964 Senator Paltridge, the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, presented Supply Bills requiring the appropriation of £427 million for the ordinary annual services of the Government, in relation to which the Senate had power to make a request but had no power to amend, together with a bill requiring the appropriation of between £1 million and £2 million in respect of which the Senate had power to amend. The pattern was repeated when the Appropriation Bills were introduced during the Budget session. On that occasion honorable senators again discovered that practically the entire range of items previously found in the separate amendable bill had been removed from it and placed in the non-amendable Bill.

I do not propose, particularly at this hour, to repeat any of the arguments that were used 12 months ago. They can be found in " Hansard ". Honorable senators who are interested may read them and refresh their memories, but I would like to refer to a reference that was made on a number of occasions to the 1961 inquiry by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, and to its subsequent report to the Parliament. I repeat what 1 said 12 months ago, that the Committee undertook a review of the form and content of the financial documents presented to the Parliament in an endeavour to eliminate procedures which had been found to be costly, cumbersome and wasteful.

In its report the Committee stated its awareness of the administrative and accounting advantages that could flow from an alteration in the form and content of the papers, but the Committee deliberately refrained from making any recommendation in relation to the practices of the Parliament. It is very evident that during the last few months the Government has given much consideration to the matters raised last May and during the Budget session, particularly as they applied to subjects concerned with constitutional interpretation and parliamentary practice. As a result, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) who represents him in this chamber, have informed both Houses of the Parliament that after further discussion on the classification of appropriations the Government has now decided that henceforth there will be a separate bill, on this occasion entitled the Supply Bill (No. 2), which will be subject to amendment by the Senate, and that this separate Bill will contain appropriations for expenditure on (a) the construction of public works and buildings; (b) the acquisition of sites and buildings; (c) items of plant and equipment which are clearly definable as capital expenditure; (d) grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution; and (e) new policies not authorised by special legislation. Subsequent appropriations for such items will be included in the Appropriation Bill not subject to amendment by the Senate.

In the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1964-65 Senator Branson inquired whether an item which was in dispute at the present time was likely to be the subject of amendment during the Budget session and the Minister, if I understood him correctly, said he would think that that item would appear in the non-amendable bill during the Budget session. I should think that that would be so since it could not be claimed that it was an item of new policy as it has appeared in the Appropriation Bill referred to above. In the Treasurer's statement and also in the statement made by the Minister for Civil Aviation in this Chamber, we were given to understand that subsequent appropriations for such items will be included in the Appropriation Bill not subject to amendment by the Senate.

In essence, the Senate understands that it is dealing with a bill appropriating £398,654,000 to carry on the ordinary annual services of the Government during the first five months of 1965-66, in relation to which the Senate may make a request but which is not subject to amendment by the Senate, lt is also dealing with a Bill requiring an appropriation of £95,026,000 for what the Senate understands is expenditure not being expenditure for the ordinary annual services of the Government and which is subject to amendment by the Senate. Honorable senators may have noticed that I have twice said that the Senate understands that that is the position. My reason for saying that the Senate understands that the appropriations in the Supply Bills are for expenditure for the ordinary annual services of the Government and for expenditure not being for the ordinary annual services is that I notice that in the long title of Supply Bill (No. 1) the draftsman has used the following words: "To make interim provision for the appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the service of the year ending on the thirtieth day of June one thousand nine hundred and sixty six ". In the Supply Bill 1964-65 the words " for the ordinary annual services of the Government " appeared, but in this Bill the words " for the service" have been inserted. The long title of the Supply Bill (No. 2) 1 965-66 is as follows-

To make interim provision for the appropriation of moneys out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for certain expenditure in respect of the year ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and sixty six.

In that Bill the word " certain " is used instead of the words " not being expenditure for the ordinary annual services of the Government" which were used hitherto.

I make these points not in any critical sense but because I am certain that all honorable senators will be satisfied with the outcome of what appeared last year to be a very difficult situation. The Government and officers of the Treasury are to be congratulated upon their work to find a solution that would be acceptable to both Houses of the Parliament. They appear to have found a solution. I believe that they have set out in a more, if not a completely, definitive way the classification of items that the Senate may expect to be included in the future in a separate amendable Bill. In other words, this Bill establishes a criteria hitherto absent. What is most important to honorable senators, it retains for the Senate the power to amend which is reserved to it in sections 53 and 54 of the Commonwealth Constitution.

Nevertheless, in my opinion it would be unwise to regard this whole matter as being resolved completely or for all time. The Bills under discussion tonight cover only a proportion of the total expenditure for 1965-66. Therefore, I shall watch with particular interest the form that such Bills take when the total expenditure for the year is under consideration by the Senate in the Budget session. I shall be interested to know also whether the words in the present long titles are intended to cover an interim period or are to find permanent expression in all Appropriation Bills. This is a question which I do not expect the Minister to answer either today or tomorrow, but I leave it as a challenging thought for the future consideration of honorable senators should the necessity to re-examine it arise. I therefore have much pleasure in supporting this Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.







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