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Wednesday, 23 September 1936

The PRESIDENT - Strictly speaking, the .wisdom or otherwise of reconstituting these committees is not relevant, to the discussion of the second reading of this bill. As, however, the matter has a bearing on the need for the Senate to have fuller information regarding proposed expenditure on public works, k may be referred to incidentally.

Senator PAYNE - All that Senator Hardy has done so far is to express a desire that, when a bill involving expenditure of such magnitude comes before the Senate, honorable senators should he given more information than that which the Minister has supplied.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator does not trust the Minister?

Senator PAYNE - Until the suspension of the parliamentary committees, it was the practice for many years for individual works projects costing more than £25,000 to be referred to the Public Works Committee for inquiry and report. Having regard to the improved financial position of the Commonwealth, I think that the time has now arrived when that system of investigation should be restored. I am not in a position to oppose the expenditure for . which authority is sought under this measure, because the only details we have are those supplied by the department. In order to secure the best results a proper investigation into all public works should be made, and a full report submitted to Parliament. The amount of £600,000 mentioned in the bill probably includes some public works the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000. Had a public works committee been in existence, works exceeding that cost would have been investigated, and a report submitted to Parliament. I trust the time is not far distant when both the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee will be reconstituted. As a member of the Public Works Committee for some years, I am conversant with the close investigations made by it, and I can endorse all that Senator Hardy has said regarding the value of its work. I trust that the Government will decide to reconstitute the two committees mentioned.

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