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Thursday, 10 October 1912

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I move -

That this Bill be now reada first time.

The only extraordinary feature in connexion with this measure is that it asks for three months' Supply, which will carry us on to the end of the calendar year, that is, until the Appropriation Bill has been passed and the financial year has been provided for. We wish to avoid the neces- sity of bringing in a Supply Bill at the end of every month. The practice in most of the States is to ask for a quarter's Supply, but that has not been done in this Parliament up to the present time. In this session we asked, first, for a month's Supply, second, for two months' Supply, and now for three months' Supply. The proposed appropriation is based upon the Estimates, and is required for the purpose of carrying on the ordinary services of the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - What is the amount of the Treasurer's Advance.

Senator McGREGOR - It is £150,000, and no doubt honorable senators will recognise that that is a very moderate amount in comparison with what has been asked for previously for three months. We have asked for as much as that for one month, or for two months. The Treasurer has cut down the amount of the Advance as much as possible. The total amount of the proposed appropriation is .£2,252,661. The items in connexion with the different Departments for three months bear a very fair proportion to what has. been asked on previous occasions for one month, or for two months. We ask for £8,512 for the Parliament, £9,759 for the Prime Minister's Department, and £39,770 for the Treasury Department. We consider that, on account of the reasonableness of these requests, there will be very little opposition offered. I have no desire to curtail the right of honorable senators to ventilate any grievances which they may have, because this is a fitting opportunity for them to do so. The Attorney-General's Department requires £12,326, while the External Affairs Department - owing to the development in the Northern Territory and otherwise - needs £106,663. Honorable senators realize, of course, that there are certain Departments whose requirements at all times . are almost stationary. For the Department of Defence we are asking for £641,700, for the Department of Trade and Customs for £88,051, and for the Department of Home Affairs for ^74,2.35-

Senator Millen - Will the Minister allow me to suggest that he should indicate whether any departure f rom the normal is proposed ?

Senator McGREGOR - As far as I can ascertain, there is no departure from the normal amounts.

Senator Millen - The Minister has just mentioned extra amounts.

Senator McGREGOR - That is in cases where there has been an increase of officers. In other instances demands are made for extra payments which are required at particular periods of the year, as, for instance, in connexion with, the Defence Department. These go to swell the total amount. The Postmaster-General is asking for £1,046,645. The amount required for refunds of revenue is £75,000, and the Treasurer's Advance amounts to £150,000. In the last Supply Bill, No. 2, we asked for £1,503,574. The amount now required is only about £3,000 more than proportionately to that sum. Consequently, the amount set down in the Bill comes very near the mark. In Supply Bill, No. 1, which was only for one month, the amount was £882,768. It will, therefore, be seen that the sum now required for three months is only a little over three times that amount. The Government are submitting the measure in this form for the convenience of both Houses of the Legislature. We do not desire, when we reach, the busier stages of the session, to delay the business by the introduction of Supply Bills for one month. If, during the debate, any points are raised or inquiries made requiring explanation, I shall endeavour to furnish honorable senators with the particulars they need. In Committee, honorable senators will have every opportunity of asking questions, and departmental officers will be in attendance for the purpose of furnishing information.

Senator Millen - When . is this money required ?

Senator McGREGOR - It is required immediately. The expenditure of it commenced on the 1 st October, but up to the end of the first fortnight, no large amounts will be expended. There may be a few sums paid on account of small contracts. But before the end of the second week of the month, money must be available for paying officers who receive their salaries fortnightly. Although honorable senators may take advantage of the opportunity to discuss the policy of the Government, and the Bill itself, it is obvious that we cannot delay this measure for a week or two. We still have the debate on the Budgetpapers in front of us, and honorable senators are thus afforded an opportunity' of entering fully into questions of policy. Therefore, 1 am sure that they will be reasonable with respect to the discussion on this Bill.

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