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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2043

Senator McMANUS (Victoria) (Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party) - An Appropriation Bill is an appropriate Bill on which to raise a question of whether the Parliament has full control of government finances. Annual government expenditure is given parliamentary authorisation in several ways: Firstly, through Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2), and, secondly through special appropriations. Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) cover the costs and expenses of maintaining the ordinary annual services of the Government and non-recurring types of expenditure. Special appropriations are really permanent appropriations, and Bills relating to these appropriations do not come before the Parliament annually but on an ad hoc basis. For example, the salaries of High Court justices have been established and adjusted by a Bill debated in both Houses. Such a Bill does not come before the Senate every year but only when an adjustment is being made. These special appropriations cover more than just the salaries of officials. Some cover the entire running costs of a statutory authority. But I make the point that they are not subject to detailed annual scrutiny by the Senate, although I know that a motion was carried some time ago asserting the right of the Senate to have control of these matters if it so wished. However, the point has been made and evidence has been presented to me that in fact the Senate gives detailed scrutiny to only 42 per cent to 44 per cent of annual government expenditure.

In recent years the Senate has improved this scrutiny through the Estimates Committees. Despite the lengthy meetings of the Estimates Committees the point has to be made that we are dealing with only 42 per cent to 44 per cent of annual government expenditure and that 56 per cent to 58 per cent of total government expenditure is escaping any detailed scrutiny by the Senate. The only chance that honourable senators have of looking at the use made of these millions of dollars is to examine the annual reports of the authorities when they are presented to the Parliament and circulated to honourable senators. These annual reports are often more noteworthy for their glossy covers and expensive printing than the information they contain. These special appropriations also cover tied payments to the States, and for 1973-74 they amount to $792m. We authorise these payments but there is little or no scrutiny by us of how the money has been spent. I have a number of tables of figures relating to this contention as well as some explanatory notes. I would ask that they be incorporated in Hansard so that honourable senators can examine them and test whether they accept the contention on the information which is now put forward. I seek leave to incorporate those tables and explanatory notes in Hansard.

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