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Thursday, 11 July 1946

Mr SPENDER (Warringah) . - The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who took the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) to task for having tried to chastise the young honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who speaks in pontifical tones from time to time, and with the air of a professor tells us how stupid is everybody except himself. The honorable member for Fremantle has not taken long to be polluted by the usual method of the Labour party of making personal . observations when driven into a corner. He said that I had misled the people over the air. I address the members of this chamber, and am not particularly interested in the microphones which have been installed for the purpose of broadcasting parliamentary debates. In fact, I opposed the introduction of the microphones under the conditions in which they have" been installed, but I am content to have the merits of the contributions of honorable members on the Opposition side judged by the people in comparison with those of supporters of the Government. The honorable member for Fremantle remarked that the bill provided ample protection, and, approaching the matter from Olympian heights, he said, "Look at clause 33 ". This provides that, subject to the act, the moneys of the commission may be applied in payment of expenses and charges and in discharge of. other obligations of the commission, in the payment of the remuneration and allowances of the commissioners and the employees of the commission, and in investment in any securities of or guaranteed by the

Government. I do not know what, protection that gives to this Parliament, but no doubt the honorable member will tell us. Clause 34 provides that the commission shall keep its accounts in such form as is approved by the Treasurer. What real protection is given to this chamber or to the people by such a clause? None . whatever. The next clause states that the accounts of the commission shall be subject to inspection and audit,- at least once yearly, by the Auditor-General for the Commonwealth. So are all the accounts of every government department.' What protection does that give to the Parliament over public finance?

I have raised a matter of fundamental importance to the nation. Are estimates to be placed before the Parliament before the expenditure is incurred ? The honorable member for Bass said he had participated in the debate only because of a remark by a previous speaker. Either he was not in the chamber when clause 29 was tinder consideration, or he was asleep, because that clause has already been debated. It deals with a present appropriation, but this clause refers to estimates to be prepared each year in future. The point I am seeking to. make is that, this Parliament has a right to demand that estimates shall be placed before it before they are approved. The clause states - '

Thu Commission shall prepare estimates, in such form as the Minister directs, of its receipts and expenditure for each financial year, and shall submit those estimates to the Minister. 1 point out to the honorable member for Fremantle that that gives no control of the matter to this Parliament. The point, is that all estimates should be placed before us, so that we may determine whether they should be accepted for the ensuing financial year. Therefore, I arn seeking to add to the clause an obligation on the Minister to present the estimates of the commission to the Parliament. I seek the addition of the words : - " which shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament as soon as is reasonably possible after their receipt." Not one word said from the Government side meets the objection which has been raised by the Opposition.

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