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Wednesday, 5 November 1913

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) . - Since I moved the adjournment of the debate on the motion for the third reading of this Bill, several items of business have Been dealt with by the Senate. The Honorary Minister very urgently requested that the Opposition should consider their action with respect to an amendment made in this Bill. He has invited honorable senators on this side to go back upon their firm convictions in the matter. We almost unanimously agree that a supply and tender board, or a number of such boards, would be advantageous in dealing with the purchase, disposal, and distribution of goods and materials for the carrying" out of Commonwealth works. Still we do not consider it advisable to make provision for anything of the kind in a Bill amending the Audit Act. The Honorary Minister has contended that if we persist in the rejection of clause 3 of the Bill, and are still in favour of the establishment of supply and tender boards, we must ultimately carry an amendment of the Audit Act to give effect to our desire. The honorable senator has made statements' which would lead those who have not inquired into the subject to believe that certain things have occurred in connexion with supply and tender boards established by the State Governments. The Honorary Minister, in order to leave himself a loophole to enable him to get out of his difficulty, said that, in any case, we have a right to create a precedent. I hope this Parliament will never create precedents which are of a retrograde character. I do not think it is necessary for us to make precedents of that kind. I am sure this Parliament has any amount of power to pass a Bill to bring into existence supply and tender boards, or any other boards of that description.

Senator de Largie - We may not have sufficient time to do so.

Senator McGREGOR - We have ample time. It is a long time till Christmas, and even if such a Bill were not passed this session - seeing that we 'have managed to scrape along for thirteen years in the manner we have done, and that we have got into so little trouble - I do not believe that the interests of the Commonwealth would be seriously jeopardized. But the Honorary Minister appears to think that under regulations we may do everything. Yet, when the Navigation Bill was under consideration, he complained bitterly that so much in it was left to regulations. It is a very peculiar circumstance that some honorable senators who are strenuous opponents of doing anything by means of regulations when they are in Opposition want to do everything by regulations the moment they get into a Government.

Senator Clemons - Does not the honorable senator think that he is one of those examples?

Senator McGREGOR - I am not going to say that I am not a horrible example in many directions. But I can honestly say that I have always taken the trouble to make preliminary inquiry into the accuracy of any statements that I intended to make to the Senate. Although I do not believe that the Honorary Minister would intentionally do anything wrong, yet he committed a very grievous blunder when he made certain statements in this Chamber upon the motion for the third reading of this Bill. In connexion with the creation of supply and tender boards, I think that Parliament ought to be extremely careful to see that the right number of nien are appointed to the central supply and tender board, that their functions are accurately specified in the Bill under which these boards are brought into existence, that' powers ave given for the creation of supplementary supply and tender boards, and for delegating the powers of those boards to the existing Supply and Tender Boards of the States. All these matters would be very carefully considered if a Bill for that purpose were presented to Parliament, and I am sure, from the temper of the Opposition here, that every consideration would be given to legislation of that de"scription.

Senator Findley - The Government would not know there was an Opposition in existence.

Senator McGREGOR - Of course, they would not if they did what is right, and, as a matter of fact, we criticise them very mildly when they do what is wrong. The Honorary Minister stated that in New South Wales the Supply and Tender Board Avas brought into existence under the Audit Act. I would like to ask him whether he obtained that information for himself ?

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