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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1764

Senator COTTON (New South Wales) - As I said yesterday, this Bill was brought in late in the afternoon and in rather a hurry and one did not have any time to consider it in any detail except to make some general observations and to indicate that the Opposition would facilitate its progress and passage once we had had a chance to study its impact and consequences. I think that this is a proper responsibility for the Senate to assume, both in the Government style and in the Opposition style. In no sense can this be construed as a delaying action or other than as an act of total responsibility by a Senate which should perform in this style.

It will not take me very long to put my views on this matter. The Bill provides what might be called carry-on money. It does not in any sense change dramatically the appropriations which are due to come to us on some future occasion when the House of Representatives has disposed of them. Naturally we will be examining the Appropriation Bills at that time. The Bills are being examined at present by the Senate estimates committees. Some of those committees have concluded their work; some have still to conclude their work. The Bills will come to us at an appropriate time, and that time may well be rather close to the end of November. One understands that there is some need for the Government to have additional funds to carry on past that date. That is substantially what this legislation is about.

There are areas of this legislation which are of considerable interest. The passage of time has produced changes in both money requirements and circumstances. One thing is clear from examining the statements supplied with the Bill and from reading the rather short message given to us, that is, that part of this problem has been caused by the expansion in the number of Government departments. The Government has added 10 new departments of state. It also goes without saying that some part of the need for the extra money must be the additional expenditure incurred by Ministers who have added to their staffs people in various grades and at various rates of remuneration. One of those positions was mentioned yesterday by Senator Murphy in answer to a question. A person is to be appointed to his staff at $25,000 a year. This is not the first appointment of this character, although the rates of remuneration may be different, that has been made to the staffs of various Ministers.

The number of departments of State has been increased by ten. This has added a considerable number of new people to departments, and the restructuring of their pay rates will without doubt have a substantial effect on the requirement for the money that has been sought in such an urgent fashion. I imagine that the consequential effect of these new advisers and other people who have been appointed to the 10 new departments of State will not really be able to be judged adequately until about April or May next year. That 12-months period will enable a review to be made of what is now the cost of staffing compared with what it was before. This was indicated in this Senate when Appropriation Bills No. 5 and No. 6 were under discussion.

Even at that time- this was early in the sessionit was evident that at least an additional $ 10m would be required.

Other things that one might comment on include the fact that Dr Coombs was given the task of looking at the overall level of government expenditure. He made some substantial proposals for reductions in expenditure, many of which had a dramatic effect on primary and other industries, and on Australia's export capacity. However it seems to me that he was rather reluctant to propose any decreases or adjustments in the areas under his own control. We have seen some expansion in that area. Some of it no doubt may be praiseworthy, but in the context of seeking to restrain expenditures the person who makes such proposals should have some regard to action called for in his own house. Therefore, a little later we will be looking at this matter more critically. In 1971 there was a similar process involving a request for supply. I referred to the Minister's second reading speech on that occasion and found that the request was substantially for increases in wages and salaries and war and Service pensions, the product of a substantial national wage case decision at that time. However, the same principle held true. It is not the purpose of an Opposition to defer a request for supply made by a government but only to look at it, have it explained and scrutinise it. Any delay and inconvenience in this matter is the Government's responsibility and fault because Appropriation Bills are matters in the hands of government and the timetable of their passage through Parliament is a matter for government determination and government order of priority.

In the Minister's second reading speech the request for a total of $36m is explained as follows: Salaries, what I call not fundable under existing votes, represents about $5.288m; an amount for the restructuring of and additions to departments which is not specified; an amount for education of $ 1.834m which, as I said yesterday, is for admirable purposes; Service pensions and gratuities of about $9m. That adds up to something like $16m. So less than half of the $36m which is requested is explained to the Senate. One needs then to turn quite briefly to the accompanying document. There it is seen that in respect of the Parliament the increases are substantially those brought about by salaries and payments in the nature of salary. The same is true of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The Department of the Attorney-General has only one substantial addition to salaries and payments in the nature of salary and that is for expenditure under the Criminology Research Act which we all support as an admirable project. The Department of the Capital Territory seems to have an increase in caretaking expenses of no great consequence. For the Department of Customs and Excise there is an adjustment of $400,000 in respect of petroleum products in the Northern Territory. As I said, I am being quite brief.

In respect of the Department of Education the increase is for Aboriginal secondary grants, Aboriginal study grants and isolated children's assistance, the latter being for the substantial amount of $ 1.5m. All of them are rather good measures. For the Department of Environment and Conservation the increase is only in salaries. In the Department of External Territories it is for special assistance to facilitate the transfer of functions to the Papua New Guinea Government. There is involved an amount of $158,000. The Department of Foreign Affairs has some additions, the product of reimbursement of sales tax and a substantial increase in aid programs and aid under the Colombo Plan of nearly $600,000. For the Department of Health it is the Canberra Hospital and the Northern Territory hospitals which have had the main effect on the requirements. In the Department of Labour it seems to be the employment of persons displaced by technological change, which expenditure again is a very good thing. It has been brought into account in a request for money. The balance is due largely to salaries and payments in the nature of salary.

For the Department of the Media the increase is in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for expenditure under that Act. It is not explained in detail but the amount of $150,000 could be taken up by an Estimates Committee at a later date. The increase for the Department of Minerals and Energy of $433,000 is substantially for the search for oil subsidy. It is not detailed but it also can be looked at by the Estimates Committee. For the Department of the Northern Territory there is about $340,000 for the Water Resources Branch and for general supplies stores and materials. There again it is a matter for the Estimates Committee and not for consideration under this Bill. The increase for the Department of Primary Industry is mainly in respect of wool marketing advice and administrative expenses. These are quite straightforward. When we come to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet there is a large amount of nearly $2m, the explanation simply being 'Other services- acquisition of works for, and conservation of, the National Collection'. I do not want to get involved in a debate on artistic merit, but it would have been useful to have been told in the Minister's second reading speech what that $2m is for. We have not been told. Perhaps the Minister might care to tell us whether that $2m approximately is to be for the proposed purchase of the painting called 'Blue Poles' and others. In effect, what is the $2m for? It is a rather large sum and is not explained here.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The value of Blue Poles' has increased since the Australian Government purchased it.

Senator COTTON - The Australian Government, therefore, is bringing into account in its Estimates a sum of money reckoned to be profit or a credit. The Minister should not have said that. It was a rather useless observation. The collection is a good collection and it is important that we do these things. The $2m needs to be explained now in the Senate or we will search it out in the Estimates. The appropriation for the Department of Science, which is substantially for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, I imagine is a separate appropriation for funding its requirements. The appropriation for the National Library, which is under the control of the Special Minister of State, is $392,000 for running expenses. That is understandable and supportable by me at least because I am a great believer in the National Library for the use of the Australian people. The appropriation for the Department of Transport, which is mostly for the Bureau of Roads, is for expenditure on items other than salaries and payments in the nature of salary. The Service departments have large sums involved for gratuities and bonuses which have been explained in the Minister's second reading speech. lt seems to me that the thing that one might say is that out of $36m only about $16m is itemised expenditure. The balance is treated rather casually. In that balance there is nearly $2m for the acquisition of works of art. That amount needs to be explained at some appropriate time. Other than that, speaking for myself, I feel that the Opposition has a responsibility to see that this Supply Bill is passed and that the money requested by the Government is given to it. The Government, of course, must stand ready to answer in due course for its actions in relation to its total expenditure and its general extravagance.

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