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Wednesday, 23 September 1936

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- Having been at different times a member of both the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee, [ feel that the Government would be well, advised if it reconstituted the two committees. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) suggested by ' interjection that the appointment of such committees indicates that Ministers cannot be trusted. In Queensland a parliamentary committee has investigated the construction of an extension of the railway to Camooweal, and has presented a report to Parliament. Such an investigation does not suggest that the Ministers in that State cannot be trusted. The inquiry was held in order to ascertain whether the railway was a reasonable proposition, and to insure that full particulars could be available to members of the Queensland Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition knows that all railway extensions in Queensland are investigated by a parliamentary committee. On one occasion the Commonwealth Public Works Committee investigated a water supply for the Naval Base at Flinders in Victoria. The departmental officers favoured a proposal involving the expenditure, of a very large sum of money, but after investigation the Public Works Committee recommended an alternative gravitation scheme which reduced the cost, enabled adjoining town: to obtain a water supply at a reasonable cost, and Flinders Naval Base to obtain water free of cost. That recommendation involved a saving to the Commonwealth of over £66,000. The committee also investigated the construction of wooden ships by Kidman and Mayoh, and as a result of its recommendation the Commonwealth was saved £114,000. Senator Sampson has said by interjection that savings up to £20,000 have been effected in respect of aerodromes. Valuable work has also been performed by the Public Accounts Committee. The fact that these committees were in existence had a restraining influence upon departmental officers.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator does not trust any one.

Senator FOLL - It is not a case of not trusting anybody.

Senator Hardy - Why appoint an Auditor-General? That is the logical extension of the argument raised by Senator Collings.

Senator FOLL - That is so. Why have auditors in every concern? It is no reflection on the board of directors of a company that the shareholders appoint an auditor. Supervision of building construction by an architect is not a reflection on the contractor. If Senator Collings would take the trouble to read the annual reports of the Public Accounts Committee and of the Public Works Committee, I do not doubt that he would be just enough to take the view that, oven if a few thousand pounds were expended on travelling allowances to the honorable members and senators who constituted the committees, the money was well spent, because of the great savings in public expenditure that were effected as the result of their investigations. I can speak freely on this matter, because in the event of the reconstitution of the committees I should not be an applicant for a position on either of them. These committees did a good job of work whilst they were in operation. They saved this country a lot of money, and the Government would be well advised to reconsider their reconstitution, perhaps not on so large a scale as formerly, but in such a way as to represent all parties in both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament.

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