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Thursday, 17 August 1972
Page: 429

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - Mr Speaker,1 wish to take advantage of one of the few opportunities left to me to say a few words of criticism against this departing Government. I want to deal tonight with the secrecy that this Government exhibits in regard to the activities of its members which involve public expenditure, and also to place on record what I believe is contempt of Parliament on the part of Government members, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), in their failure to reveal to the Parliament certain essential details of expenditure incurred during their term of office. On 9th December 1971 I placed a question on the notice paper. 1 asked the Prime Minister:

(1)   How many official overseas visits have been made by (a) Ministers and (b) office holders of the Parliament during the 27th Parliament.

(2)   What were the names and designations of the persons accompanying each Minister and office holder.

(3)   What was the (a) purpose, (b) length of visit and (c) total cost of each visit.

(4)   On how many occasions was the wife of the Minister or office holder included in the delegation and what were the names of the persons concerned.

(5)   What was the cost for the wife of those concerned on each occasion.

(6)   What is the total cost of all these overseas visits during the 27th Parliament to date.

The Prime Minister subsequently answered in this way:

The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   to (6) Between the commencement of the 27th Parliament on 23th November 1969 and 21st April 1972 - a period of 2 years and 5 months - there has been a total of 72 overseas visits by Ministers (44 of these accompanied by wives)-

They certainly decided that they would not be lonely on the trip - and 7 by office holders of the Parliament (5 of these accompanied by wives).

They also were going to have all home comforts. The reply continued:

So far as Ministers' visits are concerned, it is the practice to announce details of each visit at the time in Parliament or, if Parliament is not sitting, by means of Press statements.

Information on each individual visit over the past two and a half years is not centrally recorded in the form required by the honourable member's question. To compile it would be a substantial task and I am reluctant-

I should think he would be reluctant - to authorise the administrative effort that would be involved.

Costs incurred on ministerial visits and visits by office holders of the Parliament during this financial year will be shown in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1972-73; costs in relation to earlier visits have already been published in the relevant Appropriation Bills.

I consider that that answer represents complete contempt of Parliament. In other words, the Government refuses to reveal to this Parliament the costs which have been incurred in sending its Ministers around the world. Honourable members who seek this information can ascertain it only once a year, when the Appropriation Bill is prepresented to the House. They are then expected to wade through the Bill to find out in detail the amounts that have been expended. Honourable members on this side of the chamber have no staff or facilities but are expected to delve through all these papers to calculate the aggregate sum. The Prime Minister, with a personal staff costing over $100,000 a year, has refused to give this information to Parliament. Is there a sinister reason behind his refusal? I think there is.

Why were the wives of all the Ministers taken abroad? What was the cost involved? Was the cost of their entertainment and their other expenses paid for by us? Is it desired to hide this fact from the public gaze? If not, why has it not been revealed in this answer? Why should the Minister be reluctant to authorise his officers to give details of this public expenditure?I advise the Prime Minister tonight that when the Estimates are debated I will again ask for this information to be given to me. I do not have the staff, the secretarial assistance and research facilities available to me to go through all these documents. I expect the Prime Minister and his staff costing $100,000 a year to be able to spend a little time on this matter.

I will tell honourable members another reason why the Minister did not want to reveal this information. I have asked a similar question. I asked how many visits abroad have been made by departmental officers in each year since the commencement of the Twenty-Seventh Parliament. I asked for similar information about officials. The Prime Minister replied:

An answer giving much of the information requested by the honourable member was provided by the Treasurer in reply to Senate Question No. 990 (Hansard 22 February 1972, page 22). ,

He went on to give me, almost chapter and verse, the answer that he had given to me regarding ministerial trips. I turned up that question and answer of 22nd February 1972, containing details of trips abroad by public servants. In 1968-69, 1,172 officers travelled abroad at a cost of $2,214,597. In 1969-70, 1,224 officers went abroad at a cost of $2,481,103. In 1970-71, 1,297 officers went abroad at a cost of $2,673,905. The total number of officers travelling abroad in the 3 years to February 1972 was 3,693 and the cost has been $7,369,605. Those figures relate to the second level of the Parliament, as it were. They relate to the public servants. What must the trips of Ministers have cost?

I believe that the cost of the visits of Ministers to overseas countries would be between $20m and $40m. The Government will not reveal those figures, knowing full well that if they travelled at only the cost of trips of public servants it would be a minimum of $7.5m. But we all know that the present Ministers travel extravagantly and get all the best of everything. Probably they are hiding from the public gaze expenditure of between $30m and $40m. Some people may say that mine is an extravagant estimate, but if I am not told the facts am I not entitled to estimate what the cost would be?

This information should be revealed to the Parliament. The figures show that 652 officers of the Department of Air travelled abroad in that period. They are certainly using the air extensively. Their visits cost about $622,000. of the Department of the Army, 564 members have gone abroad in the last 3 years at a cost of almost Sim. In the Department of Civil Aviation 259 officers have made overseas trips at a cost of about $530,000. In that period about $7-5m has been spent on public servants travelling abroad. Is it any wonder that the Prime Minister will not give information regarding the costs of the travels of Ministers, their wives and people associated with them? It is because he knows that it will be a public scandal when the wastage of funds is exposed.

We would not mind the expenditure on the travelling of Ministers if they learned anything when they went away, but everybody knows that they are dumber than ever when they come back. The state of the economy today proves that no matter if they spent only $7. 5m almost every dollar has been wasted, judging by the effort they have put in. What I place on record tonight is my concern for the contempt which is being shown to the Parliament by the Prime Minister who refuses to reveal this information. In every other Parliament with which I have been associated over the years, when such questions have been asked they have always, with the exception of the present Prime Minister's period of office, received a reply containing the information desired. That is why tonight I say that there must be some reason why the Government will not reveal the information. I believe it is probably because the wives of Ministers, public servants and other persons have been given extravagant trips at the taxpayers' expense.

The Government refuses to reveal this information because it knows it cannot justify such expenditure under any circumstances. I simply advise members of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister, who I understand is in a state of ecstasy for the first time for months, that they will be brought right back to the ground later because we will seek an explanation during the debate on the Estimates. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he might do better to spend a few more million dollars on those in the community who need it rather than spend this money on Ministers, their wives and others, and then refuse to reveal that information to the Parliament.

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