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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - I can only repeat what I said before, that the information I have given is all the information that I am able to give. I must rest upon the security classification which has been placed upon the item. The fact .that I cannot give more information should not be interpreted in any other way. Of course, the Department has control of the item. Each item of cost is given the utmost scrutiny by each department before it is consolidated in the Estimates.

Senator Ormonde - Does the Public Accounts Committee come into it, too?

Senator ANDERSON - The Public Accounts Committee can come into the matter if it wants to do so. Senator Wright referred to the Auditor-General's Department. Quite clearly, any amount which is to be consolidated in the Estimates has to stand the scrutiny of the department concerned; it has to stand the scrutiny of the Department of the Treasury; and it then has to stand the scrutiny of the AuditorGeneral's Department. It is reasonable for the honorable senator to say he wants more information. I shall try to get it for him. It should not be said that because it is not a consolidated amount it is not well founded. It is well founded. In this case the amount has been taken from previous estimates of the Department.

I am not competent to comment on the matter raised regarding transport. I have been handed a note on the rate of profit. The operating total is about £4 million. Firm rates of charges are fixed and these are adjusted from time to time. Certainly, they are adjusted annually. An attempt is made to hold profits to a minimum. The increased profit in 1963-64 was gained despite many cost increases in that year. I think that this reflects, a degree of efficiency within .the Department. I have not any other information on this question of profit, except to say that estimates of costs of transport from the various departments are critically examined from time to time, and there again there are many safeguards to ensure that justice is not only done, but appears to be done.

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