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Tuesday, 31 July 1906

Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) (Treasurer) [9.26J. - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill is to amend the Audit Act 1901. There are several matters dealt with thai are of some importance in the keeping of the public accounts, but I do not think that any of them need cause much discussion. Clause 3 merely provides for a change in the term " public accountants." It appears that the Incorporated Institute of Accountants protest against the use of this term, which is generally Used to describe persons who hold high qualifications in accountancy. By clause 4 it is desired to take authority for establishing a guarantee fund. There is such authority at present in the Public Service Act, but it does not apply to members of the Defence Forces, ' and to other persons exempt from the provisions of that Act. Clause 5 is a provision to save exchange. Under this clause postmasters will be authorized to use money, received for money orders, in payment of salaries and other expenses, instead of remitting the money to headquarters. Proper adjustment will, of course, be made by paying the amount of such payments into the money order account at head-quarters. That has been done in several of the Statesalready,andit is found to be a convenient plan, which saves the transfer of money, and, therefore,. saves the cost of exchange. Clause 6 is to meet a difficulty which has been experienced in making payments in distant parts of the States. Clause 7 deals with lapsed votes in regard to the Militia. At present, votes lapse on the 30th June, and any money which is earned by the Militia, and which is on that date in the hands of the commanding officers for payment to the men, has to be returned to head-quarters. To place the commanding officers again in funds after the 30th June would take time, and before it could be. done many of the men would make unsuccessful claims for their pay. It is desired to avoid dissatisfaction in this important branch of the Defence Forces, by allowing the pay to remain in the hands of the Accounting Officer for three months. Clause 8 provides for three new sections, the first of which will save much bookkeeping without any sacrifice of accuracy or principle. The principal clause of the Bill is clause 13, which is to legalize certain accounts which have been in existence for some time. The following may be termed "trading accounts," namely : The Commonwealth Ammunition Material Account, the Small Arms Ammunition Account, the Defence Clothing Material Account, the Small Arms Account and the Defence Force Stores Collection Account (Queensland). In connexion with all of these, material is sold to members of rifle clubs and others, and the proceeds of the sales are paid into the accounts, in order that the fresh purchases made by the Governmentmay be paid for out of such proceeds. A strict reading of the law would probably require the proceeds to be paid into revenue, and the fresh purchases to be charged to a vote of Parliament. Such a course would, however, show the expenditure of the Commonwealth as much more than the amount which is really borne by the general taxation of the people; and it is thought that these special receipts should be devoted wholly to the purpose of replacing the goods sold. This practice was followed by Victoria and Queensland before the Defence Department was transferred to the [Federal control. The Government Printer's Account is also a trading account, but is used principally as a suspense account. Wages and material are paid for from the account, and, when the work is complete, transfer entries are made in the books, charging the votes of the various Departments and relieving the Trust Account. To the two Naval Agreement Act Accounts expenditure made for the British Government is charged, and the accounts are credited when the moneys are repaid. To the Pensions Account are credited the deductions made in accordance with the requirements of the States laws, from the salaries of officers transferred from the services of New South Wales and Queensland. The Pensions Account, therefore, applies only to New South Wales and Queensland officers. The money will be used towards payment of the pensions, and, in some cases, lump sum compensation, when due. The Guarantee Fund account, the Defalcation account, the Money Order account, the International Postal and Money Order account, the Deferred Pay account, and the Ocean Mails account are, it is thought, sufficiently explained in the schedule to the Bill. It may be stated, however, that the Defence Force Stores Collection account (Queensland), the Deferred Pay account, and the Ocean Mails account, are included in the Bill principally to validate past transactions, it being intended to close them almost immediately. Honorable members will see that the object of the Bill is merely to legalize certain methods adopted at the inception of Federation, and to provide for the manner in which these matters shall, in future, be dealt with. In a fourth schedule which appears in the Bill, the names of the accounts, and the purposes referred to in section 62A are given, and this schedule it is proposed to insert in the principal Act.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee '

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Alteration of " Public Accountant " to " Accounting Officer.")

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