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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr SPOONER (Robertson) .- This clause is right in principle, but the prescribed form of accounts should be defined in greater detail if the provision is to be effective. On this subject, I hold strong views, which I placed before the House recently in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank. Clause 50 provides that- (1.) The commission shall, as soon as possible after the expiration of each financial year, prepare a, statement of income and expenditure and a balance-sheet in accordance with the prescribed form, and shall forward them, together with a report on the operations of the commission during that year, to the Minister, for presentation to both Houses of the Parliament.

I believe that a time limit should be fixed before the expiration of which the accounts should be presented to Parliament. Ministers are busy men, and have not the time to chase around after the balance-sheets of statutory bodies such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission. If the presentation of the accounts is too long delayed, interest in them is liable to be lost. As I have said, the prescribed form of accounts should be clearly defined. They should not be too detailed, but should be presented in such a way as to enable Parliament to know what is being done with the money that the commission handles. They should show the sources from which the commission receives its revenue, and the way in which it is expended. Fear has been expressed lest rival broadcasting organizations should learn from the accounts what the Australian Broadcasting Commission pays to its artists. Obviously, Parliament does not want to know what individual artists receive, but it is important that it should know the aggregate amount paid to artists.

Air. Blackburn. - The Auditor-General has to examine the accounts.

Mr SPOONER - The duty of the Auditor-General ls to audit the accounts placed before him in the prescribed form; it is not his duty to order reconstruction of the accounts in a different form. There is no reason why there should be any secrecy about the operations of a semi-government undertaking of this kind. As for the suggestion that a time limit be fixed for the presentation of accounts to Parliament, it seems to me that six months is a reasonable period.

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