Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 25 September 1958

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- I should like to make some observations on the speech of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. That committee submits reports to this Parliament periodically; the chairman makes some observations, and the motion is then carried that the paper be printed. That prevents any honorable member from having any effective say on the contents of the document or on the observations of the chairman of the committee. I think we should have some better procedure whereby this document is presented for the consideration of the House. Members of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts, of course, are saturated with the subject. They know all that is to be known about the subject on which they report, but until the chairman of the committee rises and presents the report, members of the Parliament do not even know that a report is forthcoming. It is impossible at this stage to canvass the views of the chairman or to make any criticism of anything contained in the document.

Very often, these documents - and this one particularly - are critical of the Government in some respects. There ought to be a reply from the Government to the strictures which the committee passes upon its operations. An opportunity ought to be given to honorable members on this occasion to be able to say whether they agree with the chairman of the committee - who may be speaking not only for himself but possibly for everybody - when he said that members of the Parliament in committee should address themselves to the particular item under discussion rather than make second-reading speeches. There could be several views about this matter. If the committee desires that Estimates should be discussed as Estimates and second-reading speeches should not be made, perhaps some change in the procedure should be adopted. But I think it is quite unsatisfactory to expect the House to give serious consideration to anything the committee presents to it when all that happens is that the report, which is roneoed, is put on the table; the chairman makes a few remarks and the motion that the paper be printed is carried. It has to be carried so that the paper can be printed. There the subject ends.

If that is all we are going to get out of the committee, there might be a reason for abolishing the committee. I was never happy about seeing it appointed, and I think the new Treasurer might regret his action as Prime Minister in establishing this committee. I know it was the pertinacity and the keen desire of the honorable member for Warringah as former Professor in Public Administration at the Sydney University to have this committee re-established after the lapse of very many years that resulted in the government parties agreeing to his suggestion; but I am not so sure, after seeing the committee in operation for several years, that it has been a success, or that there has been very great justification for maintaining it in existence. I believe that something better must be done about these reports if they are to be worthwhile to the Parliament. Up to date, they have merely provided the newspapers with opportunities to criticize the Government, while members of the Parliament have had no opportunity to criticize either the Government or the committee on the reports that have been presented.

Suggest corrections