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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2453

The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted?

Senator Withers - How short?

The PRESIDENT - How short? Is that what you are asking, Senator Withers?

Senator MCAULIFFE - A little over 5 foot 3 inches. Well, a silly question deserves a silly answer, and I do not mean that with disrespect to you, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT - I am merely defending the Senate, because sometimes honourable senators ask leave to make a short statement and it is not short.

Senator MCAULIFFE - But I thought that you would know me from experience, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator MCAULIFFE - Honourable senators will recall that on 28 November I tabled the 147th report which relates to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer for the financial year 1972-73. The 148th report which I am tabling today relates to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for that year and covers the remaining items included in the Committee's annual examination of the expenditure results of departments.

In examining expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund each year, the Committee seeks to ascertain whether or not the principles relating to the formulation of estimates have been adopted by the department under examination. These principles, which are included in Treasury direction 16/9, have also been set out in chapter 1 of the 148th report. In recent years, the Committee has paid particular attention to the estimates and related expenditure of departments. As a poor standard of estimating has wide ramifications, the Committee has concerned itself not only with excess expenditures charged to the Advance to the Treasurer, but also with the over-provision of funds. The Committee has made clear that such overprovisions are undesirable, misleading and perhaps unfair to other departments whose financial needs might not have been satisfied.

At the same time, the Committee has emphasised that it does not regard the total expenditure of available funds under a particular appropriation item as an objective to be sought without regard to other important considerations. Indeed, undue emphasis on the need to match expenditure and available funds can give rise to unnecessary and uneconomic expenditure and can result in the distortion of administrative practices. In this regard, the Committee has, on previous occasions, criticised departments that have accelerated payments in order to prevent an appropriation from lapsing.

As this and previous reports relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund show, there are explanations for expenditure variations from the estimates which are acceptable to the Committee. In this report, however, the Committee has also found it necessary to refer to cases of unsatisfactory estimating, inadequate administrative performances that have resulted in shortfalls in expenditure and inaccurate and inadequate submissions to the Committee. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have arisen. I commend the report to honourable senators.

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