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Thursday, 23 June 1949

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) . - I move -

That the following words be added to subclause (1.) : - "and with the sanction of an appropriation by the Parliament ".

I have carefully examined Part V. of the bill, which deals with the finances of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, and have studied later clauses, including clause 40, which provide the manner in which the authority shall presentits accounts, but I have not discovered any provision under which the Parliament will control all the funds that will be at the disposal of the authority. The clause now before the committee reads - (1.) The Authority shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer. (2.) The Treasurer may, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Act, make advances to the Authority of such amounts and upon such terms as he thinks fit.

In other words, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) may make certain advances out of the Treasurer's Advance, but those sums of money will be comparatively insignificant. The Treasurer's Advance, which is set out in the budget each year, represents only 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. of the total budget. If the Snowy Mountains project is to be of the magnitude that the Government has led us to expect it to be it will require many millions of pounds each year. Sub-clause 3 reads -

Except with the consent of the Treasurer, the Authority shall not have power to borrow money otherwise than in accordance with this section.

The position is that the major expenditure by the authority will notbe covered by a parliamentary appropriation. In accordance with treasury practice, substantial sums of money are provided each year for, say, defence and invalid and age pensions. The money is appropriated by the Parliament, which in that way, has an opportunity to control the expenditure. However, under the clause we are now considering, the Snowy Mountains undertaking may be financed independently of the Parliament. That principle is wrong, and is a departure from the custom under which the Parliament controls the public purse. Such control is a basicprinciple of British parliamentary practice. That principle is recognized in the Supply debate which takes place regularly, and which affords honorable members an opportunity to ventilate the grievances of their constituents. Ifthis clause is not amended, the Parliament will not exercise any control over the expenditure of money by the authority. History has shown that great inflationary movements have begun when a government has been able to control and use a bank for the purpose of providing hugesums of money that have been spent without parliamentary authority. My purpose in moving the amendment is to place the matter on a proper basis.

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