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Tuesday, 4 May 1971

Senator CANT (Western Australia) - I wish to deal with Division 480, subdivision 2, administrative expenses. I indicate once again that it is not my intention in examining these estimates to attack any of the salary rises unless I think they are exorbitant, because they are largely out of the hands of the Government if they are the result of determinations or decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In looking at the overall position, I think the way in which administrative expenses of the various departments are increasing is a disgrace. There should be very good reason for these increases. Item 01 in subdivision 2 makes provision for an additional appropriation of $82,000. The amount appropriated in the Budget was about the same as was expended last year, and now an extra $82,000 is required. What situation has developed that would require this extra appropriation? The expenditure was $255,000 in 1967-68, $296,000 in 1968-69, and $397,715 in 1969-70. The estimate for 1970-71 was only $400,000. It seems to me that there was a deliberate attempt here to underestimate and to try to produce a fictional balanced Budget in August of last year.

I would like to know what the increased expenditure of $82,000 represents. I have examined the explanatory notes in connection with it, although we received them very late in the piece to be able to examine them properly. The . explanatory notes in relation to this item indicate ' that an extra appropriation of $18,000 is required for travelling allowances and an extra $28,000 for fares to cover this increased travelling by the administrative staff. The expenditure in relation to travelling allowances almost equals the cost of fares listed under this item. But the explanatory notes go further and give a break up of the method of expending this amount. The notes show that the expansion of central office, Canberra, and departmental activities resulting in increased travel between Canberra and Melbourne has resulted in an extra appropriation of $12,980 being required. This is quite a large amount for travelling between an office in Canberra and an office in Melbourne. J realise that the main functions of the Department of Shipping and Transport have over the years been centred in Melbourne. I take it from the explanation given that there has been a gradual movement of the Department to Canberra. But it seems to me that that is quite a large amount to expend on travel between Melbourne and Canberra.

Under the same item we find that an expenditure of $12,200 had not been estimated for in relation to overseas travel. I regard this as a considerable amount of money not to have been estimated for in the Budget and not to have been foreseen by the Department to be required. I also invite attention to the figure of $12,980 in that respect. This sort of travel between Canberra and Melbourne should have been foreseen at the time the estimates were being prepared. The next item is concerned with excess costs incurred due to the need to change members of crews of lighthouses, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland. Apart from people leaving the Department and having to be replaced, surely the Department knows whether lighthouse keepers are going on leave and have to be replaced. The Department could be caught in a tight spot in the case of illness or something like that, which necessitates people being replaced. But a bald statement such as this is not satisfactory to me.

Under the third section of the item we are asked to appropriate $12,200 for overseas travel which was not estimated for. Under the eighth section of the item there is the cost of overseas travel associated with the presentation of Captain Cook's cannon, namely, $2,850. Surely the preparations for the presentation of Captain Cook's cannon were not made in a hurry. Surely the Department knew what was to happen in regard to that presentation and knew whether it would have to send some? one overseas in connection with that. It seems to me that these sorts of items should have been in the Budget and should not be in the supplementary estimates.

The next item to which I want to refer covers postage, telegrams and telephone services. Under this item $235,000 was appropriated in the Budget. It must have been expected that that amount would not cover increased charges. An extra $65,000 is now required. Some of the reasons are given in the explanatory notes. My inquiries arise not from what is in the explanatory notes but from what is left out of them. The explanatory notes do not give us the necessary information, but they do give us clues that enable us to make some inquiries. In my examination of the Estimates I have not attacked on a general basis, increases in telephone, postal and other charges made by the Postmaster-General's Department. The reason is that it has been revealed that such increases are not taken into consideration when the Budget is prepared and that they must be included in the supplementary estimates.

But, looking through the dissection of the figure of $65,000, 1 find that an extra appropriation of $51,400 is required for the use of office telephones. That applies to the three-quarters of the year for which charges were increased as a result of the legislation passed in October. 1 also find an extra appropriation of $4,000 for residential telephones. Where are we going with residential telephones? The extra use of residential telephones will involve $4,000. What is the amount that is spent on residential telephones over the whole year? Whose telephones are these? Who is entitled to a residential telephone under the estimates of this Department? I believes that the Committee should have some information on that item.

The next item to which I refer is the extra appropriation of $10,000 for professional services - fees and expenses. The total of the amount appropriated in the Budget and the amount now asked for is $76,000 greater than the amount expended last year. What are the professional services which the Department expects to use and which will cost this extra amount? The additional appropriation involves only quite a small amount. The explanatory notes say that provision is made under this item for the cost of special professional services and for special fees and expenses associated with services provided from outside the Department. They say that the necessity for the marine operations centre project stems from concern about the adequacy of existing arrangements for handling marine search and rescue emergencies. I am concerned that this item is for professional services - fees and expenses; yet loaded into it is an additional requirement to cover the cost of a feasibility study in relation to the establishment of a central marine operations centre or other methods of conducting search and rescue operations. That has nothing to do with the heading of the item in the estimates, namely, professional services - fees and expenses. That matter should not be under this item at all. It seems to me that there is a padding out in here somewhere.

I invite the Minister's attention to the fact that, if private legal practitioners are being consulted by this Department - I have no doubt that they are - the Depart* ment has been waiting for some considerable time for information from the crown law officers as to the constitutional ability of the Department to carry out certain functions. I suggest that if an amount of $322,000- that will be $332,000 if this vote is passed - is to be expended on legal expenses, perhaps some outside people could be used to advise the Department on its constitutional problems and so have them settled, because some of the questions have been before the AttorneyGeneral's Department for more than 2 years without an answer being supplied. Perhaps someone from outside could supply the answers a little more quickly and take some of the load off the AttorneyGeneral's Department. If we are spending this sort of money, let us spend it wisely and obtain the answers to questions that we require, and do not let this item be padded out with something connected with marine search and rescue operations.

An extra appropriation of $64,000 is sought for incidental and other expenditure. The Budget appropriation represented an increase of about 35 per cent on the expenditure last year and the amount now requested is about 50 per cent of the amount expended last year. The amount expended in 1969-70 under this item was $128,973. The additional appropriation sought is almost $64,000. So the Department comes to us seeking an additional appropriation which will increase the total appropriation to an amount representing an increase of about 85 per cent on the previous year's expenditure.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Davidson) Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

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