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Thursday, 31 March 1966

Mr BRIMBLECOMBE (Maranoa) . - Mr. Deputy Speaker, 1 do not propropose to delay the House long by my participation in the important discussion that is taking place this afternoon. This is the first -occasion since I have been a member of the Public Works Committee, and, indeed, since I have been a member of this place, on which the House has evinced any interest in the work that the Committee has done down through the years. This is the first time there has been any comment of this kind by honorable members about the Committee's work. The Public Works Committee is a very important committee. The concern voiced this afternoon by some members of the Committee at its being bypassed in relation to a project of the kind that is usually referred to it is not confined to one group of its members. Since I have been a member of this Committee, it bas functioned without party considerations entering in any way into its deliberations. Decisions have not been made by the Committee on party lines. On occasions, Liberal and Labour members of the Committee have stood together and on other occasions Australian Country Party members and Labour members have stood together against Liberal members.

I want to discuss the background to the matter that is now before the House. I do not agree with all that has been said, but I consider that the urgency of this project has been ably demonstrated by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Barnes), who has told us of the reasons why there is an urgent need for the road to be built. I object to certain remarks that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the House in relation to the Public Works Committee. One honorable member on the Government side of the chamber implied that Labour members of the Committee have taken a stand against the motion because they want a trip to the Northern Territory. That was an unworthy remark. All members of the Committee at all times try their hardest to keep down expenses. Nevertheless, the Committee does a thorough job of making inspections. The Minister, in explaining the urgency of the project, said that he had made departmental officers available to the Committee. I should like to put matters right for the record. He made officers of his Department available to me, as Chairman of the Committee, for discussions about the proposed road. 1 passed on to other members of the Committee exactly what the departmental officers told me about the project. 1 rose mainly to say that the Public Works Committee for a considerable time has been concerned at the attitude of certain departments that try to bypass it in relation to projects of the kind that are usually referred to it. The Committee, having investigated such projects over the years, sometimes is told that its investigation of a particular proposal would not be in the public interest. Members of the Committee are sufficiently broadminded to accept an explanation that because a project involves defence matters or is urgent it would not be in the public interest for the Committee to investigate it, and this is one occasion on which I accept that kind of explanation. My principal purpose this afternoon, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to explain to the House how the Committee works and to place on record the concern expressed by Committee members in recent months at the bypassing of the Committee in relation to projects of the kind that are usually referred to it. I stress again that ever since I have been a member of the Committee its decisions have rarely been arrived at by a vote of the members. Furthermore, they are not based on any party considerations.

Question put -

That the motion (vide page SI 7) be agreed to.

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