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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 1972

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to increase the standing appropriation in the Public Works Committee Act 1969 from $20,000 to $30,000. The appropriation, which is fixed by section 36 of the Act, is designed to limit the upper level of the amount of the expenses of the Committee. The major part of these is the cost of travel for members when on Committee business and the balance represents the sitting fees and travelling allowances payable to the members under the Regulations.

The Committee has advised that the funds remaining available to it for the rest of 1971-72 will be insufficient to cover the cost of anticipated inspections and hearings, and has accordingly sought an increase in the standing appropriation. The Committee's 33rd annual general report for 1970 shows that the number of reports presented to Parliament has increased over recent years, as follows: 1966, 13; 1967, 11; 1968, 20; 1969, 18; and 1970, 22.

The 34th annual report records that the number of references during 1971 has maintained the abovementioned trend of a gradual increase in the volume of Commonwealth works projects. The scope of the Committee's investigations ranges over Commonwealth activities in all States, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and it is unlikely that there will be any diminution of the Committee's activities in the future. A significant feature in 1971 was the preponderance of Northern Territory projects.

The work which this Committee does in extending the scrutiny of Parliament in the field of Commonwealth public works is of considerable importance. The regular and comprehensive reports which it presents to the Parliament are in themselves evidence of the immense amount of work that the Committee does, and I am sure that there will be no objection to increasing the standing appropriation so as to allow the Committee effectively to continue its activities.

The Parliament approved the existing appropriation of $20,000 in 1965. It was indicated at the time that that amount would suffice for a number of years. The increase to $30,000 now proposed should make it unnecessary to approach the Parliament for minor increases. The amount will assure the Committee adequate finance to meet the relatively small expenses incurred in the performance of its duties. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator Poyser) adjourned.

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