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Wednesday, 27 July 1904

Mr WATSON (Bland) (Treasurer) .- I move -

That a sum not exceeding£317,387 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1905.

The reason why I am asking for a Supply Bill before the presentation of the Budget statement, which previously in this Parliament has been presented before Supply has been asked for, is that we find it impossible to get the Estimates ready in time to permit of the Financial Statement being delivered during this month. The classification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner was presented only during the last week in June - the last month of the financial year just closed - and that necessitated the recasting of the Estimates, so far as salaries are concerned, throughout Australia. When it is remembered that the sending of the Estimates back through the Departmental heads involves in some cases a journey to and from Western Australia and other equallv distant parts of the Commonwealth, as well as the time occupied in altering the Estimates themselves, it will be recognised that it was not possible to get the work done in the usual time upon this occasion. The particular Supply Bill which I am about to present contains nothing more than the usual votes for the current month, based on last year's Estimates, and not including any increase on account of the classification scheme or any other increments.

Mr Mcwilliams - It contains nothing new at all?

Mr WATSON - Nothing new whatever, except that it includes the payment during this month of an item which would ordinarily be spread over a longer period, in the shape of , £30,000 for cable subsidies. These are distributed over three States, and, roughly speaking, represent £10,000 on account of each. The reason why I am asking for this amount in a lump sum is that it must be in England by a certain date, and if the Treasurer has not authority to transmit it at any time that may prove convenient,, he may be compelled to pay a heavier rate of exchange than would otherwise be the case. This amount. I would point out, would have to be paid in any circumstances. In the case of Victoria it represents the whole expenditure for the year. I draw, attention to that fact because usually honorable members do not like to be inadvertently deprived of their right of criticism in respect of any vote which has been completely expended when the ordinary Estimates come under review. Nevertheless it still comes within the general limitation that it is for services for which we are bound to pay. Consequently I do not think that there can be any real objection to this item ot £30,000. It is economical to vest the Treasurer with authority to take advantage of the money market at any period that may prove convenient for him to do so, because exchanges fluctuate, and sometimes facilities are available which allow careful officials to effect a considerable saving in the transmission of money abroad. Then there is a total sum of £18,000 in respect of ocean mail contracts. That amount represents one-fourth of the £72,000 which we have to pay under contract to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation and Orient Steam Navigation companies. I am asking for three months' supply upon that item, because, as honorable members are aware, the contract expires in a comparatively short period, and as it is money which must be paid, precisely the same arguments apply to it as are applicable to the vote for the ordinary cable subsidies.

Mr Reid - To what item does the Prime Minister refer?

Mr WATSON - To mail subsidies. It will be found upon page 26 of the Bill. The amount in question - £18,000 - is for the whole of the States. These are the only two items contained in the Bill, outside of the regular salaries. Under these circumstances, I think that we are quite justified in asking that the amounts which I have specified shall be granted during this month. I may say that the Treasurer is always anxious to reduce the cost of exchange on these remittances to the motherland. In some instances if the States Treasurers are in credit in London, and do not particularly want the money there, we are able to make an arrangement with them which saves the entire exchange between here and London They allow us to draw upon them in London, and we allow them to draw upon us here. In various ways of that kind, every care is taken to keep these expenses down to the lowest possible limit. In pursuance of that policy, I am asking that these two sums shall be included in this Bill. They have to be paid in any case, and the only question involved is, whether they should be included in this measure instead of being held over until the general Estimates are submitted a month or two later. When alluding to this measure a day or two ago, I neglected to indicate that I also desired to pass a small Supplementary Appropriation Bill for a sum of £5,000, which is intended to cover arrears for the year 1902-3. This money was paid out of the Treasurer's Advance Account, and, therefore, has been allocated, but it was only brought to account with the different votes about seven or eight months ago. It is just an ordinary case of remanets, such as must be provided for from time to time. It does not involve any fresh expenditure. The money, however, has to be credited to the proper votes, in conformity with the. Audit Act. I ask that the Bill dealing with these small arrears may be passed immediately the Supply Bill has been disposed of.

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