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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr CHIFLEY (Macquarie) (Treasurer) (5:28 AM) .- On behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), I have no hesitation in giving to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) an assurance that this House will be called together immediately should any change of the war situation warrant such action.

T fully agree with what the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) ha3 said about war expenditure. The honorable gentleman doubtless realizes that there are great difficulties in the way of checking this expenditure at the present time. However, the Government has done everything that is possible. The Department of the Treasury now has the Defence (Treasury) Section under its control, and it has the Board of Business Administration, which employs a number of inspectors to maintain a constant check on war expenditure. One difficulty is that decisions involving large sums of money must sometimes be made overnight. My policy is not to hinder the implementation of such decisions. I have given instructions that, if the military command considers expenditure to be necessary, its decisions must be carried into effect. However, an intimation must be given to the officers of the Treasury immediately so that the Board of Business Administration may have an opportunity to investigate such extraordinary expenditure at the earliest possible moment. In some instances, it is only possible to make a review of the expenditure. I do not deny that there has been a great deal of extravagant expenditure in connexion with military operations. No Treasurer could deny that statement.

I found that many of our building standards were too high to maintain in war-time, though they may have been all right for peace-time. The Government, therefore, appointed Sir Harry Brown, a competent and experienced man, to consult with the officers of the various services with the object of fixing a range of standards suitable for present needs and for defence buildings generally. A unanimous agreement was reached on the subject. It was necessary to take this action in order to conserve both manpower and materials which are in short supply. I assure the honorable member for Lilley that so far as it is humanly possible to do it, expenditure is being supervised. Urgent work of a defence character that must be completed without delay is put in hand at once, but it* an inquiry cannot be made into costs before such a job is done, it is made afterwards and, if necessary, . steps are taken to remedy any mistakes and extravagances. The honorable gentleman may rest assured that the Government is supervising, to the best of its ability, all public expenditure.

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