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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr GROOM (Darling Downs) (Minister of Home Affairs) . - The leader of the Opposition has referred to a matter which has not escaped the attention of the Government ; but good reason can be given for the fact that some votes have not been expended. Let me explain the position..

A Department recommends to the Department of Home Affairs that a given sum should be appropriated in respect of a certain work, and after the vote has been granted a requisition is sent in for the execution of that work. It is then necessary to investigate the requirements of the Department concerned. If a post-office or some other Government building is required a sketch plan has to be prepared showing the disposition of the space required. This having bean approved, plans have to be drawn, and tenders have to be invited. In consequence of the delay in carrying out these details, votes are often passed which are not expended within the financial year.

Mr Reid - Everything should be in readiness for the work to proceed.

Mr GROOM - I think it will be found that these delays will not occur so frequently in connexion with the amounts upon these Estimates. We have pressed the Departments to apprise the Department of Home Affairs early in, 'the year of the nature of the work required by them, so that we may be in readiness to proceed with the undertaking as soon as the necessary vote is passed.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The regulations to which the Minister refers were circulated last year.

Mr GROOM - That is so, but we have hitherto . had some difficulty in bringing them into operation. It frequently happens that it is only at the last moment, so to speak, that a Department realizes its needs, but we are now in a better position than we were last vear. Most of the sketch plans necessary in connexion with the votes to which honorable members are now asked to agree have been prepared, and as soon as the Appropriation Bill is passed we shall be in a position to call for tenders.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The passing of the Estimates late in the year has something to do with the fact that votes often lapse.

Mr GROOM - Exactly. We passed the Estimates at a fairly early period last session, with the result that we were enabled to push on with various works earlier than we should otherwise have been able to do. Let me refer, by way of illustration, to an item relating to the construction of large defence works. We are now in a position to know what are the requirements qf the Department in relation to those works ; the plans are in readiness, and as soon as the Estimates are passed tenders will' be called, and . the major portion, if not the whole, of the vote will be expended during the financial year.

Mr Crouch - Before the honorable member resumes his seat, I should like to inquire whether he thinks it right to include grants to rifle clubs under the heading of " New Works " ?

Mr GROOM - The items to which the honorable and learned member refers relate, I presume, to new works in connexion with rifle clubs. I have only to say that the point raised by the leader of the Opposition is an important one, but that, in some cases, there is special reason for the delay which has taken place. I agree with the right honorable member that the finances of the States, as well as of the Commonwealth, are often disarranged when votes are not expended within the year for which they are passed.

Proposed vote agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

Division 4 (Post and Telegraph), £7**555-

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