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Thursday, 25 September 1958

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - I would not have risen at this stage had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) not made the observations that he has. One reason, Mr. Speaker, why this report is presented to-day is so that members will have before them all the relevant information when they come to a matter that appears on the notice.paper. concerning the expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer. This discussion must take place before the conclusion of the current sessional period, and members will find the information contained in this report of great value.

I say also, Sir. that I entirely disagree with the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne as to the committee's reports not being worth while. I have been on the committee from the time it was reappointed in 1952, and I know that its work has been of great value to Australia's finances. It has also been most valuable in providing information for any members of the Parliament who care to peruse the committee's reports. However, those reports are frequently treated in the same manner as many other reports that come before us. The reports of the Public Accounts Committee come before the Parliament, as do other reports, but it is only on rare occasions that the House debates them. At times an honorable member may mention in a speech something that has appeared in a report, but, by and large, the committee has found that although tremendous expenditure is incurred in the preparation and printing of documents and papers for this House, probably 90 per cent, of what is put before honorable members is rarely looked at by them.

This does not mean, however, that all these reports should not be made available to the Parliament. Consider the reports of the Auditor-General. A number of honorable members, of course, do refer to observations made by the Auditor-General in his reports, and they try to improve matters concerning which that officer has offered criticism. But the great value of the Auditor-General's reports is not to be found in comments made in this House by honorable members. The fact is that when the Auditor-General reports adversely on a particular aspect of the work of a certain department, the departmental officers know that the matter can become the subject of criticism in debates in this Parliament, and because of this very fact they make every effort to improve matters within the department.

So it is in connexion with the reports of the Public Accounts Committee. The committee made a report on the Department of Civil Aviation, and we know that at that time a certain Minister took particular exception to what was said in the report. Other reports have been made by the committee, as a result of which certain unsatisfactory administrative features have been ventilated in the Parliament. If it had not been for the committee's investigations and comments these matters would never have been mentioned in the House.

I feel, therefore, that a misconception exists with regard to the committee's work, as appears from the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. That misconception applies particularly to the report now before us, which deals with expenditure from the Treasurer's Advance. When we are discussing other expenditure we have the Estimates and various appropriations put before us, but money from the Treasurer's Advance can be used for all sorts of things that have not been put before the Parliament and approved by it. The purpose of this report is to put before honorable members those matters that the committee believes should be considered by them. Although we have not reported on every individual item of expenditure by the different departments, we have reported on those matters which we believed should be brought to the notice of honorable members. We have taken great pains to prepare this report and present it to the Parliament as quickly as possible, so that honorable members will have the advantage of the information contained in it when they are considering expenditure from the Treasurer's Advance. We did not want the report merely to be printed and then left by the wayside.

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