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Thursday, 11 July 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) made an unwarranted attack upon the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) alleging that his voice was not often heard in this chamber.. I point out that, although supporters of the Government far exceed in numbers members of the Opposition, to-night the number of Opposition members present in the chamber is considerably greater than the number on the Government side. It is a pity that the proceedings are not being televized as well as broadcast, so that listeners could see what is happening..

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I ask the honorable member for' Balaclava to confine his remarks to clause 31.

Mr WHITE - I agree that this chamber has almost ceased a deliberative assembly. Having a substantial majority, the Government is able to force its will upon the Parliament.

Mr Beazley - Irise to order. I ask you, Mr. Chairman, if. the remarks of the honorablemember for. Balaclava are relevant to the bill?

The CHAIRMAN - The Chair has already asked the honorablemember for Balaclava todealwiththe clause now under discussion. So far,his remarks have been very wide of the subject matter of clause31.

Mr WHITE - It was mostconvenient of. course, forthe youngand learned member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) to try to save the reputation oftheGovern- ment as he did. Clause. 31 relates to the sum of £3,000,000 that is tobeappro- priated for the purposes of thiscommission, and the Government, isshowing great reluctance to give anydetailsof the manner in which this moneyis being spent. The honorable member for Warringah.. asked if some details could be given to the committee.The Minister for Immigration resortedtoan unfortunate analogywhen he , referredto the Australian National Airlines Commission, and. saidthatwhen the , : setting up of that authority wasbeing debated, the Oppositionraisedno objection to the. appropriationof £3,000,000. Wedid oppose that proposal.Apparently whenever the Government has a socialistic scheme tobring before the Parliament, it thinks of a number, usually, £3,000,000. At least, that is true of the Australian National Airlines Act, the Aluminium Industry Act, and now this measure. This clause relates to the preparation of estimates, and the Minister so far has refused to give usany estimates of the money that will be expended. I should have thought that a government which has the socialization of industry as its objective would have been anxious to disclose these things. Honorable members opposite claim to have no interest in the profit motive, yet they are afraid to say how this money will be expended. The Auditor General has referred to the manner in which accounts are kept by departments under the control of this Government, and I do not think that the Minister should be permitted to get away with this without giving the committee more details. I support honorable members on this side of the chamber who have raised this matter. I believe that in doing so they have rendered a service to the taxpayers who will have to provide the money. Finance cannot be obtained from thin air; it must be derived either by taxation, loans, or hank credit. Already too much bank -credit has been used with resulting inflationary tendencies. Of course, the Government has a majority somewhere 'in this building - it i3 not in the cham- her at present - and can force this proposal through regardless of the interests of the general public and the Opposition. "Mr. SPENDER (Warringah) [9.50].- I propose to move an amendment and I shall not be deterred from referring to it by the comments of the Minister (Mr.. Calwell). Whenever he- is in difficulty, he tries to make some slighting reference to members of the Opposition. If I may be forgiven for saying so, since you, Mr. Chairman, permitted the Minister to make some remarks upon this matter, I" point out that I am present in this chamber much more frequently than he is, and I conduct myself much better than he does. Having said that, I shall direct my remarks to the clause.

To this clause, I have no objection, but what I have sought to convey, and apparently it has not penetrated the magnificent intelligence of the Minister, is that it does not go far enough, because it does not protect the people. I know that it is the habit of the Government to think less and less of the people, and more and more of its power; but, strange to say, although members of the Opposition are accused of being the minions of "Big Business ", I believe that more money is represented by honorable member's opposite, in the form of hotels and other interests, than we represent. We assert the right of the people to know what the Government's financial proposals are. Therefore, I propose to test honorable members opposite by compelling them to show precisely where they stand in respect of these vital matters. I move-

That the following words be added to the clause : - " which estimates shall be laid before both -Houses of the Parliament as soon as is reasonably possible after their receipt."

There can be no objection to that amendment. In his " meanderings of Monty "' - if I may so describe them - the Minister walked round and round and round and round, but he never reached the central point, namely, the need for the Government to inform honorable members of the estimated cost of acquiring the telecommunication assets of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. It is upon that, subject that I ask the honorable gentleman to bite, if he will, assuming that his teeth will penetrate it.

The Minister directed attention to clause 39, which provides that the commission shall, as soon as possible after the close of each financial year, submit to the Minister an annual report relating to its operations and financial accounts. The only relevance of that clause to the present discussion is that it supports my amendment, and does not support the contentions of the honorable gentleman. It draws attention to. the obligation of the commission, when the money has been expended and any extravagant expenditure cannot be recalled, to submit to the Minister a report of its operations and its financial accounts. Those documents, accompanied by a certificate of the Auditor-General, shall be laid before both Houses pf the Parliament within fifteen sitting days after their ' receipt by the Minister. All I ask is that a similar procedure be followed before the money has been expended. The Government will not be justified in refusing my request. After all, the Government may expend money only with the authority- of this Parliament. It has no right to say, " We shall expend so much money upon this project. We have a big majority, and shall roll the Budget through the House of Representatives and the Senate ". The correct approach is to present to this Parliament early in the financial year estimates of revenue and .. expenditure, with all the detail available, so that honorable members may discuss intelligently the Government's financial proposals. The Minister has failed utterly to reply to the criticism voiced by honorable members on this side of the chamber. He sought to turn the argument by resorting to personalities, in which he often engages. We are discussing an important matter. It is not to the point for the honorable gentleman to say, " When similar proposals were under consideration in the past, the Opposition did not raise these objections." Even assuming that all honorable members failed in their diligence in the past, that is no reason why .the point now having been raised, should not be dealt with. The clause, if amended in the way I suggest, will read -

The 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, which estimates shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament as soon as is reasonably possible after their receipt.

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