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Wednesday, 5 November 1913

Senator McGREGOR (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That authority was the Attorney-General. I would like to ask Senator demons upon the authority of which Attorney-General he made the statement? Was it the AttorneyGeneral who is generally supposed to be the legal adviser of the Commonwealth, was it the Attorney-General who is lookingafter the interests of the Commonwealth in connexion with the Marconi litigation, or was it the Attorney-General of New South Wales?

Senator Findley - One is the AttorneyGeneral and the other is a general attorney.

Senator McGREGOR - I wish to be very particular about this matter, because I am sure that the Honorary Minister would never have made the statement which he did make had he been aware of the facts. Now, the fact is that in New South Wales the Supply and Tender Board was created under paragraph h of section 20 of the Public Service Act, and not under the Audit Act. I ask Senator Clemons to verify my statement for himself, and I am sure he will then apologize to the Senate for having misled it. I have not the least doubt that his statement arose out of careless inquiry, because, although the Supply and Tender Board in New South Wales was created under the Public Service Act, yet in the Audit Act of that State there are certain provisions which are similar to those contained in this Bill. They were necessary to give the AuditorGeneral of New South Wales the power to investigate the transactions of the Supply and Tender Board. But, as I have already pointed out, the powers conferred upon the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth under section 45 of the Audit Act are quite sufficient, and if other powers are required, it will be time enough to embody them in the principal Act when the supply and tender board has been established, and when it is found that the Auditor-General has not sufficient power to enable him to discharge his functions in the best interests of the Commonwealth. Every honorable senator ought to be careful about making statements on the authority of somebody else whom he imagines to be thoroughly reliable. In connexion with the creation of supply and tender boards, the States of New South Wales and Victoria are quite suffi- cient to serve as examples, because they are the two largest States, and until the advent of Federation had probably transacted the greatest amount of business. In Victoria, too, the Supply and Tender Board was created under the Public Service Act. If the Honorary Minister has any doubt about the matter, I would recommend him to read section 139 of that Act, in which he will find the provision of which I speak. It is idle to imagine that the Opposition, with these facts before them, would consent to embody in this Bill authority for the creation of a supply and tender board. Of course, I know that some members of the Ministry and daily press are continually declaring that we are obstructing business. We are doing nothing of the kind. But we wish to see a supply and tender board created under the supervision of Parliament, and we desire a separate Bill to be introduced for the purpose. The Government can provide for the creation of that board under the Public Service Act. The AuditorGeneral would come in, audit the accounts, and make inquiries into existing conditions after the board had been established. Therefore, we on this side of the House have made up our minds to oppose any recommittal of the Bill. We are prepared to send it back to another place, as amended, even with the threat of a double dissolution hanging over the head of the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

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