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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2254

Senator GRIMES (Tasmania) - I rise to speak very briefly. I wish first of all to say that when the debate was initially held on the setting up of the estimates committees I had some misgivings as to our attitude and whether these committees should be set up but having heard the manner in which the report of Senate Estimates Committee B has been turned into a political football this afternoon by Senator Greenwood I have no doubt that our Party was right. I wish to clarify one point which Senator Carrick brought up. It is true, I think, that the statement in the report of this Committee that we were disappointed at the lack of information on certain items from the Department of Foreign Affairs did arise out of questions that I asked and indeed Senator Sir Magnus Cormack asked about Australia's expenditure at the United Nations. But neither Senator Sir Magnus Cormack nor myself was particularly questioning the amounts spent, whether they were too large or too small. We were concerned about how Australia's contribution to the various United Nations funds was assessed. As has been said, no one at the Committee hearings could give us a clear picture and it is apparent from talking to officers in the

Department since that contributions are assessed in different ways according to the purpose of the funds.

I was interested in this. I still am interested in this and I will still look for this information. I am sure that I will get it. Some of this information is in the report. Being interested in this subject, I looked at the Hansard reports of the same Committee for previous years, and I found that this was the first time that this question had been asked. This may be one of the reasons that the specific person from the Department was not present. He probably sat there each year waiting for someone tq ask the question. For some reason someone new on the Committee asked the question. We will easily obtain the answers. We could probably more appropriately obtain the answers in the Senate. In fact I have asked for further answers to those questions that were asked at the Estimates Committee.

I was surprised by Senator Carrick 's remarks about the Minister for Foreign Affairs because I can remember one of his colleagues on the Committee commending the Minister at the end of the sessions of the Committee for the way he had conducted himself. This Committee went conscientiously about its work. We saw ways in which we thought the functioning of this Department could improve, and we put them in our report. We hope that they will improve. When on the last day that the Committee sat we decided to put this matter in the report one of the members of the Opposition on the Committee pointed out that it was not the first time it had happened; it had been happening for years and years. Our minor criticisms, our suggestions for improvement, are being used in typical fashion by Senator Greenwood in a paltry political argument in this place.

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