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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3212

Mr STREET (Corangamite) - This Bill seeks parliamentary provision for a further appropriation of $35,944,000. The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. However, we register our particular concern that this appropriation is needed to provide for extensive increases in the Commonwealth Public Service. In addition, we place on record our view that this appropriation should have been submitted to the Parliament at an earlier date to cut out the delays in many Commonwealth payments which have occurred. As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has pointed out, a precedent to this Bill was established by the former Government in 1971. However, legislation was passed in that instance in sufficient time to prevent the delays in Government payments which have occurred this year. The Treasurer has been prepared to allow a situation to develop which could have been pre-empted by the introduction of a similar Bill some time ago.

The Government has asserted that the pressure of the Government's legislative program can be blamed for the delay in the passage of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1973-74. The Government, after all, has the responsibility for the legislative programming of this House. If the main Appropriation Bill had been given the prirority which it warranted, there would have been no need for supplementary measures of this type. I do not want this to be taken as an argument for cutting down speaking time on legislation and the Estimates. We have had far too many examples of the Government using its numbers to stifle debate on important issues. What I am saying is that it should not be beyond the capacity of the Government to ensure that it does not run out of money and at the same time provide adequate time for debates in this Parliament.

It is difficult to understand why the Treasurer claimed that the increases in salaries, administrative expenses and other services of the Commonwealth Public Service could not reasonably have been anticipated. It is clear that some Ministers have just been unprepared to accept the constraints of budgetary responsibilities in their desire to build up the capacities of their Departments and agencies. The Opposition has made continual reference to this over a considerable period, and I do so again today. The Opposition parties believe that the Government should reimpose the former growth limit on the Public Service as part of an overall program of fiscal restraint. However, we have always adopted a responsible attitude in opposition and, consistent with that approach, we will not seek to hold up the passage of this legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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