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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) . - I think that the Minister should be in a position to afford the, information asked for by the honorable member for Lang. We should not be asked to pass items of this character in ignorance, simply because the Minister does not happen to be in possession of essential information. I notice that the proposed vote is smaller by £2,000 than the sum voted last year. I should like to know whether that reduction is due to the new method that has been adopted in arriving at a valuation of the land required for the fort, or whether it is owing to some changes in the construction of the fort. I do not think that the reduction can be altogether due to any saving that may be contemplated in connexion with the construction of the fort, but, at any rate, the Committee should be informed roughly as to the' manner in which the money is to be expended. After all, we are the guardians of the public purse, : and cannot altogether delegate our powers to any officer of the Defence Department, however highly qualified and efficient he may be. The Minister seems to think that he has performed his duty when he has given all the information that happens to be in his possession. Unless the Minister is in a position to afford the information asked for, I think that we shall have to test once and for all the question whether this Committee is to surrender absolutely its powers to some one entirely beyond the control of the people.

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