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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1785

Mr HALLETT (Canning) - I understood that we were discussing the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN - Order! The Minister for Services and Property was speaking on the estimates for the Department of the Special Minister of State, whom he represents in this House, and accordingly his time was unlimited.

Mr HALLETT - I am not talking about the time, Sir. I was suggesting that we were discussing, firstly, the estimates of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and, secondly, the estimates of the Department of the Special Minister of State. May I suggest, Mr Deputy Chairman, with respect, that the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) got up to answer a previous speaker and he touched on practically every department, including of course his own, the Department of Education and a few more, other than the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Was he trying to defend something he could not defend? What he was trying to do we will never know but it was a typical speech by the Leader of the House. He seems to enjoy himself but he does not really go anywhere.

I shall endeavour to come back to the question before the Committee, and that is the estimates of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It has been said on numerous occasions and repeated during debates today by members on the Government side that the Opposition should suggest ways and means of cutting down Government expenditure. This is an excellent opportunity perhaps to have a look at some of the estimates in relation to the portfolios we are discussing this evening. It is rather a pity that the Minister spent so much time wandering around the various portfolios other than the ones we are discussing, because I think it would be more appropriate if he would answer a few questions that may be raised during these discussions. For instance, in division 430 of the estimates for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which deals with administration, the total expenditure in the previous financial year was $5,121,955. This year the total appropriation is $9,389,300.

Mr Hewson - It is doubled.

Mr HALLETT - It is not quite doubled. Perhaps the Minister at the table who is responsible for answering on behalf of the Prime Minister tonight would indicate the reason for the difference. There is limited information within the various documents in the Budget papers, but the information available is not good enough, as I see it, to explain the variation in those sums of money. I think it is in these sorts of areas that the Ministers at the table can spend their time telling us what it is all about. In division 448, which deals with the Public Service Board, expenditure in the previous year was $8,135,337. This year the appropriation is $9,159,000. About $lm more is to be spent on administration and other services within the Public Service Board. That is quite a figure. In division 442, which deals with the Australian Council lor the Arts, expenditure in the previous year was $7,185,081 and the appropriation this year is $15,019,900. That division covers quite a field. There is limited information in rela tion to that figure in the Budget documents. Again it is not sufficient to describe what the increase is all about. It is quite a considerable increase. The appropriation this year is a little more than double what it was the previous year. Perhaps the Minister for Services and Property would like to describe precisely where that money is going.

Let us look at the Tariff Board. I think the Tariff Board has been disbanded and something else is to take its place. We are not too sure what the operation of the new body will be. In division 449, which refers to the Tariff Board, expenditure in 1972-73 was $2,606,004 and this year the Government has increased the appropriation to $3,264,700. That is quite a lift in the appropriation for the administration of the Tariff Board. Perhaps the Minister could indicate the reasons for it. I have already mentioned the Australian Council of the Arts. I notice that on page 87 of the Bill under the heading 'Other Services' there appears as item 06 the acquisition of works for and the conservation of the national collection. I do not know what is meant by 'the national collection'. One of my colleagues was talking about retaining some of the older structures in Australia today. Perhaps the Minister might explain what this item is all about. It is noticed that in 1972-73 expenditure on this item was $1,077,646 but in 1973-74 the appropriation is $4m. So here is another considerable expansion of expenditure that the Minister might also explain. How will that money be spent? Where is it going and by whom is it to be spent?

I would like for a moment in my limited time to turn to page 111 and the estimates for the Department of the Special Minister for State. Here we find that the total administrative expenses last financial year were $1,661,291. This financial year that figure has increased to $3,207,850. Here again limited information is available. Can the Minister explain precisely where these millions will be spent? I am sure that the Committee and members of the public would like to know on what this money is to be spent. Item 544 relates to the Commonwealth Archives Office. During the financial year 1972-73 this Department expended $1,335,581 but for the financial year 1973-74 the estimated expenditure is $2,038,400. This also is a considerable increase and perhaps the Minister might explain the situation.

In the few minutes remaining to me I want to refer particularly te the Grants Commission.

I think it was the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun) who gave his interpretation of precisely how he thought the Grants Commission would operate in future. This is probably the first explanation that has been given by a Government supporter. I am anxious to know how the Grants Commission will operate. I am sure that local authorities throughout Australia are also interested in this matter. Perhaps the Minister later tonight will have the opportunity to tell us precisely how it will operate. Item 546 relates to the Grants Commission. Last financial year $124,732 was expended by the Grants Commission. This was quite a modest sum but in the current Budget $593,250 is provided for this financial year. Only a few weeks ago in reply to a question the appropriate Minister suggested that it would be some 3 months before any guidelines of any sort would be available to indicate what is to happen with the Grants Commission. If this is the case it will be Christmas time or later before the Government's proposals for the Grants Commission get off the ground and therefore they will be in operation for only a few months before the end of the financial year. However the people of Australia and local authorities want to know how the Grants Commission is to function. We as a Parliament have not been told, nor have the people, and if the Minister can explain how this money will be spent people will be a little better informed.

Item 549 concerns the National Library of Australia which performs a most important function, but here again whereas last financial year $5,820,000 was made available by the previous Government this year that amount has been increased to the round figure of $7m. This is a substantial increase and a little later during this Committee debate I should like the Leader of the House, who represents the Special Minister of State, to explain precisely how this money will be expended.

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