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Wednesday, 21 August 1912

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I find great fault with the expenditure proposed by this Bill. On one page of the schedule there are no fewer than thirteen different votes on account of certain undertakings, and we have nothing to show what will We the ultimate cost of those undertakings. The first thing a business man would do when proposing to undertake a certain work would be to discover the ultimate cost of it. In connexion with one item in this Bill a vote of £50.000 is asked towards the cost of a certain work, and we have nothing to indicate whether the ultimate expenditure upon it will be £100,000 or £250,000. We should have in a separate column a statement of the estimated total cost of all these works. That is a practice I have seen adopted elsewhere. I notice a vote of £5,000 towards the cost of a manoeuvre area. We are not told what the ultimate cost will be, and that is information which we ought to have. The same thing applies to works proposed for every Department. Year after year large sums of money are voted by Parliament, and in the next year we are confronted with revotes for the same works. There is ample room on the pages of the schedule for a column indicating the estimated total cost of these various works. We are asked to pass these votes blindly. There is an item for barracks, quarters, gun-parks, pharmacy stores, stabling, and' other buildings for military horses, and towards the cost there is set down a re-vote of £31000 and a new vote of £21,000; but we do not know whether next year the Government will not ask for the same services another £20,000.

Senator Gardiner - Can the honorable senator not trust the Government in these matters?

Senator SAYERS - I trust no Government. The Government will not trust Parliament.

Senator Gardiner - They are responsible to Parliament.

Senator SAYERS - They should be; but Parliament does not ask them to be responsible, because honorable senators ODposite are prepared to trust them, and will not ask for any information about these votes. That is why information must be asked for from this side. I find another item on another page in much the same terms, " Maribyrnong - Barracks and quartets, gun-parks, pharmacy stores, stabling, and other buildings - towards cost - £24,914." Is it not strange that Ministers can give no information as to how this money is to be spent? Parliament is asked to vote £25,000 towards the cost of a particular work, and then, if it will ultimately cost £50,000, we are obliged to carry it out. Surely the Government officials are able to get an estimate of the total cost of these works, and let Parliament know what it will be. The practice at present adopted is simply absurd. I heard a gentleman connected with the Ministry in another place say that there are no business men in the Opposition, but I think there must be very few business men in the Government. If the parties in the Senate were nearly equal in number, the Government would not have the audacity to come down with such Estimates, because they would know that they could never get them through. They know that they are strong enough to force these votes through without giving any information, and that criticism from this side will not be taken any notice of by honorable senators supporting the Government. These Works Estimates bristle with instances such as I have quoted. I shall not take up much time in. dealing with them at this stage, as they will have to be dealt with separately when we get into Committee. The Bill proposes an expenditure of £2,789,092, and we are given no information concerning the various votes. After every member of the Senate has spoken on this measure, Hansard, will go forth to the country without any information as to what the people are committed to. It should be the first duty of the Government to give that information. If honorable senators did their duty, they would refer the Bill back to the Government, and say that, before they will pass votes amounting to £2,789,000, they must know what the country is being committed to. It may mean that, by passing these votes, we shall be committing the country to an expenditure of £5,000,000. We are like the Jubilee Plunger. We have come into a fortune through good seasons and ample revenue, and we are taking a plunge in the dark. ] hope that we shall not be like that individual, sorry for it later on.

Senator Chataway - He went insolvent.

Senator SAYERS - Fortunately the Government cannot go insolvent, because the country is behind them, and all its resources must be drawn on to pay up. But a day of reckoning will come. We cannot continue to take leaps in the dark in this way. One honorable senator read out a list of officials appointed to positions in the Northern Territory. We know that a great number have been appointed, and that we shall soon have more officials there than settlers. I was opposed to the Commonwealth having to pay for the Northern

Territory, but now that we have taken it over, we must face the consequences. Are the Government taking any steps to develop it? 1 say they are not. The interest on the debt of the Territory will continue ; the loss on the railway from Port Darwin to Pine Creek, and on the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, will go on; and we shall have to continue to pay the salaries of the officials appointed, while the Government take no legitimate steps to induce people to settle in the Territory. They have appointed a large number of officials, and propose to start all sorts of experiments in coffee-growing and sugargrowing, though we know that the South Australian Government made similar experiments years ago. It would appear that the Government are here only for the purpose of making appointments. If, some years ago, any man had said from a public platform that in 1912 the expenditure of the Commonwealth Government on the payment of officials would amount to what it is to-day, we should never have had Federation. We were told, time after time, that it would involve very little extra expenditure.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senator know any of the officials who do not earn their money ?

Senator SAYERS - I do not reside in the Northern Territory. Does Senator Russell not know of any who do earn their money ?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Yes; many of them.

Senator SAYERS - I doubt the honorable senator's knowledge. I do not know how he could gain it in Bourke-street, Melbourne. Honorable senators opposite do not care to hear anything said from this side; but if we did not call attention to these things, they would say that we were not doing our duty. When we endeavour to discharge our duty, we are told that we are doing wrong.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator is always misunderstood.

Senator SAYERS - I do not misunderstand the Government. I thoroughly understand them, and I believe that the country is beginning to understand them, and to see through their hollow shams. They profess to be a Government of the people and for the people, but they have proved themselves to be interested only in the welfare of one section of the people.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is indulging in a general discussion of matters which are outside the principles embodied in this Bill.

Senator SAYERS - I am endeavouring to show the want of sincerity on the part of the Government, and I can scarcely do that without criticising their administration.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator may debate their administration in respect of additions, new works, and buildings, but not outside of that.

Senator SAYERS - That is all I desire to do. The Government propose to expend £2,700,000 upon works included in these Estimates, but they have not ventured to tell us what will be the total cost of these separate undertakings. I submit that the country ought to know the expenditure to which it is being committed. In the absence of that information I do not think that these Estimates will be agreed to without prolonged discussion. Surely, the Minister of Defence has sufficient business ability to recognise that he should submit for our information an estimate of the cost of these separate works.

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