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Wednesday, 22 October 1913

Senator GARDINER (New South ' Wales) . - I 'have listened very attentively to the explanation of the Honorary Minister, in the hope that he would put the position in such a light that I would be able to support' him . I am very sorry to say that it is clearer to me now than it was previously that the clause under consideration requires to be struck out. What, is evidently the intention of the Government should be incorporated in a separate Bill. Nobody can read this clause without concluding that the powers sought to be conveyed by it are rather vague and ambiguous. Under it, the Auditor-General would be in a position, after a Supply and Tender Board had been constituted, to give instructions as to where purchases of materials should be made.

Senator Clemons - I assure the honorable senator that he would not.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - Any regulations must be authorized by the Executive.

Senator GARDINER - Exactly ; and the Executive will call into existence boards which will regulate the purchase of stores. I take it that the regulating of the purchase of stores -will be one of the great matters over which Parliament will require to exercise the closest supervision.

Senator Clemons - May I remind the honorable senator that this clause is intended to amend section 71 of the principal Act? If he will read the clause in conjunction with that section, he will see that the Auditor-General will have nothing to do with the purchase of stores.

Senator GARDINER - No doubt the Honorary Minister is quite clear as to the meaning of the clause, but, unfortunately, I am not. It is because I am not clear as to what will be its effect that I am opposed to it. Upon such an important measure I would gladly have supported the Government, recognising the position that they occupy, had I been able to do so. In view of the growth of Commonwealth expenditure, and particularly of the expenditure of the Defence Department, I should welcome any noncontentious piece of legislation which was designed to protect the public interest. But I think it would be well if the Honorary Minister agreed to strike out this clause, with a view to introducing a separate Bill providing for the constitution of Supply and Tender Boards.

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