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Thursday, 26 July 1906

Mr WILKS (Dalley) . - I am glad that the honorable member for Wide Bay, on behalf of the Labour Party, has said that he does not object to the publication of the information sought.

Mr Fisher - The honorable member for New England could obtain from the Treasurer the information he seeks.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member said a Tew moments ago that the preparation of this return would entail considerable expenditure, and1 now he asserts that the information could be readily obtained from the Treasurer, the inference being that it can be secured without cost. I do not understand whether the honorable member for Wide Bay believes that it will cost something to prepare this information, or thinks that it can be obtained from the Treasurer without cost. What motive influenced the honorable member for New England in moving for the return, I know not, but I support the motion in order to give - publicity to the cost' of Royal Commissions. I do not desire an inquisitorial search, with a view to proving that some members have received so much in travelling allowances, or that the travelling allowances of -some Commissions have been greater than those of others ; I wish to show the cost of Royal Commissions, and I care not whether they have been Commissions appointed by the Deakin Administration, the Reid Administration, or the Watson Administration. There is too great a tendency in Australian politics for Ministers who are in re ceipt of lar,ge sal'aries, and should have the assistance of well-equipped staffs, to avoid responsibility by supporting the appointment of Select Committees, and allowing those Committees to be converted into Royal Commissions. Some little time back, I opposed the appointment of a Commission asked for by the honorable member for Kooyong, to inquire into financial questions. You, Mr. Speaker, were to be a member of that Commission. I also opposed the appointment pf the Shipping Committee moved for by the honorable member fori Barrier. Last Parliament, on my motion, a return was prepared, giving the amount of money expended upon Royal Commissions and Select Committees, though not in the detail now asked for. The public have a right to this information. In my opinion, large sums have been wasted in connexion" with the inquiries of Select Committees and Royal Commissions. I da not know of one instance in which the adoption of the report of a Select Committee has been moved in this House.

Mr Tudor - The adoption of the report of the Decimal Coinage Committee moved.

Mr WILKS - At any rate, it was not carried, the discussion being adjourned. I have no desire, by supporting the motion, 10 injure any honorable member who has been a member of a Royal Commission or a Select Committee. I admit that there are times when the appointment of a Royal Commission is a wise and prudent step for a Government to take; but these inquiries should noi' be set on foot whenever they are asked for, and merely to shelter Ministers. In supporting the motion, I do not question the value of the services which have been rendered by those who have been members of Royal Commissions and Select Committees. I believe that they have acted to the best of their ability, and have given a great deal of time to the performance of their duties, for which, perhaps, the payments made have been no sufficient compensation. I hope, however, that the return will afford honorable members an argument for resisting future motions for the appointment of Royal Commissions or Select Committees.

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