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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Senator WALKER (New South Wales) - I see that in the Department of Trade and Customs there is an item of £71, as representing goods destroyed by white ants at Broome bond. Does the Minister know what articles were destroyed? I am informed that the white ants are so numerous in that part' of Australia that they eat bank ledgers.

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I have no detailed information to give the honorable senator on this point, but I think the item explains itself. What the goods destroyed were I do not know, but I have been told that the white ants in the Northern Territory eat galvanized iron.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales). - If the Minister cannot give us any information as to the item of ,£132 for the protection of the revenue in Western Australia., I shall feel it my duty to submit a request asking another place to eliminate the item. What is the use of the Estimates if the Minister can give us no information ?

Senator Playford - I have given a good deal of information, but I db not know all these two-penny-halfpenny details.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- If I asked the Minister to give me a present of ,£132 I wonder whether he would call it a twopennyhalfpenny matter. I move--

That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the item " Protection of revenue, £132."

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - If the honorable senator, as my agent, were to spend £132 on my behalf, and he told me that he had spent it in the most satisfactory way, I should take his word. Cannot the honorable senator take the word! of the late Ministry, who authorized this expenditure to which he takes exception? Certainly not one member of the late Government would authorize expenditure of this kind unless it was perfectly justified. I do not think so badly of the late Ministry as to imagine for one moment that Mr. Reid, Mr. McLean, or Sir George Turner, or any of their colleagues, would do such a thing. These gentlemen are our personal friends, though opposed to us politically, and I think that under the circumstances we may trust them.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales). - This is not a question of trusting or distrusting the members of the late or any other Ministry. Why does Senator Playford not contend that Ministers should have the right to spend the public money as they see fit, with the simple explanation that it is necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth? What are the Estimates for?

Senator Playford - These are not Estimates; the money is all spent.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - Are we to vote money to the Treasurer's Advance Account, and never receive any information as to expenditure?

Senator Playford - I have told honorable senators that this expenditure was in connexion with a prosecution in Western Australia ; but I do not know all the pettydetails.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- If Senator Playford, as my agent,, spent ,£132 of my money, I should probably ask him for some explanation; and the same view should be taken of the Estimates. It has been said that the expenditure on the picture referred to, was ratified by Mr. Reid. As a matter of fact, this money was expended in 1902.

Senator Playford - No.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - The order was given in 1902, and it had to be honored when the goods were delivered.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales).I think the Minister totally misinterprets the questions from this side of the House. No one expects a Minister to be familiar with all the details" of every item. On the other hand, I ask him, as an old parliamentarian, whether there is no obligation placed on Parliament to ascertain the purposes for which money is spent, and on the Minister to supply some definite information ?

Senator Playford - I have supplied definite information, but not all the details.

Senator MILLEN - Had a little common sense been exercised in the preparation of these Estimates, this sort of difficulty would not have arisen. In the case of exactly similar expenditure in New South Wales, a perfectly business-like method of setting out the facts is adopted, whereas, in the case of Victoria, we are presented with the mysterious phrase: "Protection of revenue." The uniform of an officer or a launch to enable naval officers to go from one ship to another might be included in the term " protection o£ revenue." The phrase givesno information, and is likely to mislead. I do not blame the Minister personally, but the honorable senator will admit that the officers of this Department have not prepared the Estimates, in such a way as to assist the Committee in their deliberations.

Senator Playford - I admit that.

Senator Mulcahy - And supplementaryEstimates for money already spent should! be submitted in the early part of the session.

Senator MILLEN - I agree with the honorable senator.

Request negatived.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales).I notice an item on page 26, "Ammunition for 6-inch guns transferred from South Australia, ,£1,747." Perhaps the Minister will be able to give some informations concerning it.

Senator Playford - That is, transferred expenditure from South Australia to New South Wales.

Senator MILLEN - Merely a bookkeeping entry ?

Senator Playford - Yes.

Senator PEARCE(Western Australia). - In connexion with the item, " Expenses of officer* on. special duty as attache" to the Japanese Army!, ,£203." I should like to know whether the Minister has. had any report from that officer.

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The officer in question was Colonel Hoad. His report was printed and circulated a. year ago, and a very valuable report it was.

Senator GUTHRIE(South Australia).I direct attention

Senator PLAYFORD(South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - I believe that the first item makes provision for the payment of Commonwealth men employed on board the Imperial Fleet at the higher rate which they are paid as compared with that paid in the Imperial service. We pay the amount required into a trust fund. I believe that the item connected with the Royal Naval Reserve account is explained in exactly the same way.

Senator Guthrie - We do not pay any Royal Navy Reserve men?

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales). - We have only just discussed an item of expenditure set down as " Protection, of revenue." Honorable senators will notice that the Department of Defence hasadopted a sensible course, and, underthe heading " General Services," there appears the item "Law costs " (including costs and verdict) in the case of Evans v. Finn. That gives the information which the Committee are entitled to have in regard to these items, and I direct attention to that item to show that some of the Departments understand what is required. In this instance, a special case is referred to, and if honorable senators desire further information on the subject, they can look up the records of the case.

Senator Playford - I have taken a note of the matter referred to by the honorable senator, and will see that it is attended to in the preparation of the next Estimates.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales). - However defenceless Australia may be otherwise, it would appear that she isable to do a good deal of fighting in the Law Courts. Honorable senators will notice in these Estimates votes set down in four different places for expenditure in connexion with law cases of£946 , £49, £454, and £65.

Senator Playford - Some of those cases are two or three years old.

Senator PULSFORD - They all appear in these Estimates, and I direct attention to the fact that the Commonwealth would appear to be really a fighting force. Both Houses of Parliament have been told a great deal about the under-valuation of goods and fraud on the part of commercial people, and on manyoccasions the commercial community of the Commonwealth has been maligned, and yet in these Estimates we are called upon to vote an amount of £454 to cover the verdict, costs, and' interest in a case brought against the Collector of Customs in Sydney, Mr. Lockyer, by Mr. Goldring. I make special mention of this case amongst many in which the Commonwealth seems to have had to go to law, and has, I think, generally got the worst of it.

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