Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 1 December 1960

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HigginsTreasurer) . - in reply - Mr. Speaker, I do not propose to express myself at length on this 'matter. If Opposition members are trying to imply that there are a lot of lazy loafers in the Treasury or in the Parliamentary Draftsman's office, I suggest-

Mr Curtin - They are too slow.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - They are not slow-witted like the honorable gentleman. All I can say is that my personal observation and experience indicate that the officers of both the Treasury and the draftsman's office are among the most heavily worked people in the service of the Commonwealth. They give great service to this country. I think that, instead of sneering cheaply at them and their labours, we should acknowledge the debt that we owe to them.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do not shelter behind your officers.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - That is an unhappy turn of phrase, is it not? I think the honorable member ought to change his record. It is time he l-.dd an original thought on these matters.

I can assure the House that this matter has not been neglected and that a great deal of work has been done on it. Indeed, I expected that had the Parliamentary Draftsman not been as heavily engaged in this session as has proved to be the case, the more comprehensive measure which has been mentioned would have been introduced during this session. It is certainly my expectation that such a measure will be introduced in the autumn sessional period.

Mr Allan Fraser (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Always something is to be done in the sweet by and by.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Let us see what happens. If it appeals to the honorable member's temperament to sneer, he may have the satisfaction that he seeks by sneering in twelve months' time if the task has not been accomplished. A great deal of progress has in fact been made. Many amendments to the Treasury Regulations have been decided on and are already in the hands of the Parliamentary Draftsman. The whole of - the Treasury Instructions have been revised and re-issued, and the overseas accounts arrangements have been made and now provide the legal framework for the Commonwealth's financial transactions overseas. A number of important parts of the Audit Act itself have been discussed with the .Public Accounts Committee and the nature of important changes in the regulations .has been clarified. Discussions with the Audit Office on a list of items which the Auditor-General regarded as the more important ones requiring change have been completed. Several other sections of the Audit Act require further historical research, and that is proceeding.

Mr Whitlam - That has taken more than eight years.

Mr HAROLD HOLT - Maybe so. I wonder how comprehensive a review of the Audit Act would be found to have been made during the eight years in which the Labour Government was in office if the honorable .gentleman bothered to take his researches back to that time. I cannot recall an occasion when that Government submitted to this Parliament proposals, for a review of the Audit Act. 1 could be mistaken, but I do not recall such an event.

Knowing that we should not be able,, in the time available to us in this session, to bring forward a comprehensive bill, we thought that we should at least respect the wishes of the Public Accounts Committee, and at some inconvenience to ourselves we have introduced this measure only to see, as has been evident this evening, the Parliament's time taken up at considerable length in dealing merely with this one point. Despite the inconvenience, we felt that we had an obligation to both the Parliament and the Public Accounts Committee to adopt the course that we have followed. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has made a mountain out of this minor issue. Knowing that the Public Accounts Committee had recommended repeal of the provision which has been under discussion, we took the practical course of recommending to departments that they refrain from involving themselves in a very considerable amount of work which they would otherwise have had to do. For that now to be made a ground of complaint against and criticism of us shows, I think, either that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is far more pettifogging and petty-minded than I would have accused him of being, or that the Opposition is so reluctant to face up to the major issues that confront it as to feel compelled to divert its energies to the trivia which it finds about the place.

We are not disposed to ignore the views of the Public Accounts Committee; nor are we disposed to defer indefinitely the introduction of the comprehensive legislation which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and, apparently, some of his colleagues would like to see us put before the Parliament. For my part, I shall endeavour to see that that legislation is before the Parliament in the autumn sessional period, and 1 shall await with interest the constructive and helpful contributions which, in the light of this evening's performance, we ought to be able to expect from Opposition members.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.

Suggest corrections