14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr.SCULLIN. - by leave - I desire to announce to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, that I have resigned the leadership of the Opposition. I take this occasion very heartily to congratulate my successor, and to wish him success and continued good health.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Mr.CURTIN.- by leave- Ibeg to inform you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, that I have been appointed Leader of the Opposition. I would crave the indulgence of the House to say how deeply I regret the circumstances that have led to the resignation of my predecessor.
The services of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to Australia and tothe Labour party have been immeasurable. He has set what I regard as a magnificent example of wholesouled patriotism. He has always fought fairly and ably. He has devoted himself unsparingly to the work which has fallen to him. Indeed, he has paid the price of ill-health and much suffering as a result of the expenditure of the reserves of bis strength. I sincerely hope that his services to Australia will remain always in the memory of his fellow citizens,’ and will be an inspiration, to young men particularly, to endeavour to emulate them. I can only hope that, with his example before me, I shall always strive to reach the standard that he has set.
– by leave - I regret that the right honorable member for Yarra has found it necessary to relinquish the position of Leader of the Opposition, particularly as that decision has been forced upon him by ill-health. In times such as these we can forget party alignments. I can say on behalf of honorable members who sit on this side of the House that although the right honorable member has always been a hard fighter, he has won universal respect. As a matter of fact I can safely affirm that because of his fine conduct, his sterling character, and the many other attributes that he possesses, he has endeared himself to all. We know that, should he be early blessed with a return to good health, he will regain his old fighting form; and, although he is a sturdy and an able opponent, we shall welcome that event.
To the successor of the right honorable member I offer the congratulations of honorable members on this side. He can depend upon receiving from the members of Cabinet and from honorable members generally, that courtesy, consideration and co-operation which have been freely given to his predecessor.
– by leave- I desire to associate myself with the expressions that have fallen from the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the newly appointed Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), concerning the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who for a number of years has ably and creditably performed the duties of Leader of the Opposition, and in addition has discharged important administrative functions. On behalf of the Country party I should like to say how much we appreciated at all times, not only his eloquence, but also the very deep interest thatbe always took in parliamentary debates, as well as the utmost fairness that he invariably displayed. We regret very keenly the circumstances that have compelled him to relinquish his position. We arc pleased indeed to see him back in this House, and trust that, having been relieved of the very onerous duties that he has so ably discharged, he will soon be completely restored to health, and for many years be an ornament to this chamber.
We extend our congratulations to the new Leader of the Opposition, and hope that he will achieve success in that position.
– by leave- My colleagues and I join in the expressions of regret at the circumstances that have caused the resignation of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) from the position of Leader of the Opposition. As is well known to all honorable members, I was associated with the right honorable gentleman in his Cabinet for a period. Idiffered from him on a matter of policy, but I am prepared to admit that he is a fearless fighter in the exposition of what he believes to be the right course to follow. We are exceedingly sorry that ill-health has overtaken him, and sincerely wish that he will quickly be restored to normal health. Good health, I believe, is the greatest prize for which we may strive. Irrespective of what other advantages we may enjoy in life, without good health we are poorly endowed. We trust that the right honorable gentleman will soon be able to play again a prominent part in the affairs of the party with which he is associated.
My colleagues and 1 extend congratulations to the Leader of the Opposition upon his attainment to that office.
– Can the Minister for the Interior supply the House with information concerning the report in to-day’s Canberra Times that a very rich deposit of tin has been discovered near Ti-Tree station, in Central Australia?
-I have been advised that a very rich deposit of tin has been discovered about 45 miles north-west of Ti-Tree well, and have given instructions for the Mining Warden at Tennant’s Creek to examine and report upon it.
Petition by Western Australia.
– by leave- On the 23rd September, I laid on the table of the House a copy of the report of the Joint. Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons appointed to consider the petition of Western Australia regarding secession. A United Kingdom parliamentary paper containing, in addition to that report, the proceedings of the committee and minutes of speeches delivered by counsel, has now been received from London, and a copy is available in the Library for the information of honorable members.
The following papers were presented : -
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Seventh Annual Report of the Wine Overseas Marketing Board for year 1934-35, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of” the Act.
Ordered to be printed.
Canberra University College - Report for year 1934.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for year 1934-35.
Quarantine Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1935, Nos. 85, 91.
– I lay upon the table a copy of the annual report of the Tariff Board for 1934-35. The report is complete, but in the annexure, which contains a summary of the recommendations made by the Tariff Board during 1934-35, several recommendations relating to tariff revision matters not yet finally considered by the Government have been omitted. As practically the whole of the Tariff Board’s recommendations included in the annexure as tabled are covered by Tariff Board reports already made available to honorable members, it is not proposed to print the annexure. I, therefore, move -
That thu report be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Aerodrome Site at Rabaul.
– by leave - A question appears on the notice-paper to-day regarding action by the Administrator of New Guinea with a view to the erection of an aerodrome at Rabaul, and my attention has been drawn to the published statements relating to the matter. I have been advised by the Administrator of New Guinea, Brigadier-General W. R. McNicoll, that the allegations in the published statements are extravagant and misleading. He has no knowledge of any disorderly disturbance, and he denies categorically the existence of any serious native trouble. He also denies that there was a march of hundreds of native inhabitants upon Rabaul. The facts of the matter are that the Administration, seeking a site for an aerodrome close to Rabaul, had made a preliminary survey of certain land. The natives in a quiet orderly manner protested on the ground that the resumption of the area selected by the Administration would cause interference with their food supplies. The survey marks were removed by the Administration, and the Assistant District Inspector was instructed to make a full inquiry in the villages affected, and to furnish a report. The report made consequent upon these investigations indicates that the natives of Matupi cannot afford to lose the area tentatively selected by the Administration as suitable for an aerodrome site, unless suitable cultivable laud is made available for them elsewhere. Inquiries are now being made to select such land or alternatively to secure another site for an aerodrome.
In a question, without notice, recently addressed to the honorable the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) alluded to our obligations under the mandate in relation to the natives and in regard to fortifications. No question of fortifications is involved in the matter under review, and the rights and needs of the natives are being in this, as in all other matters, adequately safeguarded. Such alarmist and misleading statements as those which appeared in a section of the press are strongly to be deprecated. The Administrator of New Guinea and his officers are fully seised of the importance of the requirements and welfare of the natives, and the Minister-in-Charge of Territories (Senator Pearce), during his recent visit to New Guinea, was greatly impressed with the trust and good feeling shown to exist between the officials of the Administration and the natives.
– In view of the definite statement made by the Prime Minister at the opening of this Parliament, that the Government had appointed a member of the Ministry to deal with unemployment, will the right honorable gentleman indicate which Minister is doing the work during the absence abroad of the UnderSecretary for Employment?
– Matters affecting unemployment are being dealt with by more Ministers than one; but the chief part of the work is being done by the Minister for the Interior, before whom the main works proposals come. The PostmasterGeneral is also taking a particular interest in the subject, because of the number of postal works in hand in connexion with his department. Really, the subject of unemployment is being given continuous consideration by all the members of the Cabinet.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to announce the personnel and terms of reference of the royal commission on banking and monetary systems?
– I hope to be able to make an announcement this “week, and hope it will be early in the week.
– The Minister for the Interior intimated to me last week that an important letter had been despatched to the Premier of South Australia in regard to the proposed construction of the Port Augusta toRed Hill railway, but he could not at that moment disclose the contents of that communication. I ask him now whether he is prepared to indicate the nature . of the latest proposal of the Commonwealth Government in this connexion; whether he will lay on the table of the House the correspondence in connexion with the matter, and whether he does not think it possible for some arrangement to be reached between the two governments without recourse to litigation?
Mr.PATERSON.- It will be remembered that when this subject was under discussion some time ago, it was intimated that the Government of South Australia had estimated that the cost to it of obtaining connexion by a 5-ft. 3-in. railway betweenRed Hill and Port Pirie, under the terras of the 1925 agreement, would be about £100,000. Under the alternative proposal put forward by the Commonwealth Government it was estimated that the cost would be £350,000. The difference between those two amounts is £250,000. These are South Australian estimates. The Commonwealth Government has now offered to pay South Australia £10,000 a year for twenty years, which, honorable members will observe, is equivalent to 4 per cent. on the difference between the cost of the two proposals, and it is hoped that this offer will be the means of reaching a speedy agreement between the two governments.
– I ask the Assistant Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to the following statement made by Mr. S. McKellar White, President of the Taxpayers’ Association of New South Wales, which appeared in the Sydney Mornmg Herald on the 20th September last: -
Details of the incidence of the taxes on individual taxpayers revealed an equally serious position. Income taxes alone for Federal and State purposes rose as high as 50 per cent. of the taxpayers’ income, and probate and death duties up to 40 per cent. of the estate.
In regard to the incidence of company taxation Mr. McKellar White saidthat reports submitted to the Association revealed that in respect of Dalgety’s Limited the various governments took £1 for every £2 received by shareholders. Another statement was-
– I am obliged to make these quotations in order to explain my question. The statement reads -
One report received from a private company disclosed that over the last four years the profits were £21,275 and the rates and taxes for the same period were £21,270, leaving £5 for the shareholders.
Assuming that the statements made by Mr. McKellar White are correct, I ask the Assistant Treasurer for an assurance that he will cause an investigation . to be made into . the matter, with the object of giving relief to the sections of the community concerned.
– The affairs of individual taxpayers do not, of course, come under my notice. I have no means of informing myself about individual cases. In regard to company taxation I point out that the rate is1s. in the £1 or 5 per cent. In addition to that, companies have in the past been taxed on their property income at 6 per cent. This, in the future, will be 5 per cent. There are, in addition, land taxes and rates. I cannot, however, conceive of the possibility of the rate of taxation on companies ever reaching 50 per cent. I can only assume that the amount of dividend paid to shareholders by this company must have been very far short of the total amount of profits earned. In that way only can I account for the discrepancy between the disclosed profits and the rate of tax.
– I again ask honorable members to exercise proper care in asking questions of Ministers. I checked the honorable member forWentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison) for asking a question the nature of which I realized would require the Minister to make a statement of a kind which should properly be made only by leave of the House. Questions should not be framed in such a way as to require answers of that kind.
Slum Conditions - Case of Rickets
– In view of the reports which have been published regarding the existence of slum conditions in Canberra, including one that 100 families are living under unsavoury conditions at Molonglo, will the Prime Minister follow the example of the Premier of Victoria (Mr. Dunstan), and make a personal examination of the area mentioned in order to learn for himself something of the conditions which exist there?
– There is scarcely need for me to take the action which the honorable member suggests, because all relevant information on the subject can be obtained through the ordinary channels. However, I shall look into the matter, and if I feel that any further steps are necessary, I shall not hesitate to take them.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked a question regarding cases of rickets in the Territory. The Director-General of Health reports as follows : -
On one family a definite case of rickets of an aggravated type is recorded. This is the family of a man who first arrived in Canberra in 1931, travelling with his family in a horse and cart. He was not eligible for registration, but on representations by the medical superintendent of the hospital - Dr. Nott - he was allowed to remain in Canberra and given work so that his child’s foot could be treated at the Canberra Hospital. Later, another child was born, this latter child being now three years old and having shown the first signs of rickets at ten months of ago. This child has been under treatment, and especially from November,1934, to March, 1935, was in attendance at the Child Welfare Clinic receiving the necessary adjuncts to its diet.
The conditions associated with this family were such that I requested the Director of the Investigation Branch to arrange for a special inquiry. Accordingly an officer of the Child Welfare Department in Sydney visited Canberra on the 11th September, 1935, and reported that - “ although there is definite evidence of past neglect, proper attention is now being given the children by way of providing ample clothing, nourishing food and medical attention.”
This case of rickets, therefore, has been receiving proper attention for some considerable time past.
No other case of rickets has been reported to me, and I have not been able to obtain evidence of other cases.
Resumption of Land
-In connexion with the proposed resumption of blocks of land for the enlargement of Essendon Aerodrome, is it a fact that some of the land holders are being offered a maximum compensation of £25 a block, in spite of the fact that the municipal valuation is £80?
– It is quite true that, in some instances, prices as low as £25 have been offered for blocks, but in those instances the price offered was as high as the highest of three independent valuations. However, I am having a further report prepared by the valuer, and this will be made available in due course.
– Does the Assistant Treasurer know the names of the members of the council or committee that determines the price of gold throughout the world, and, if so, will he furnish the House withthat information?
– I think it can quite safely be said that there is in existence no council, committee or board that determines the price of gold throughout the world. Generally speaking, the price is regulated by the demands of the central banks in the various countries in the world, and the supply of gold coming forward. I do not think that any one could give a more informative reply than that.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that the price of petrol sold by the major oil companies has been raised by one penny a gallon as from to-day? Has he received from the directors of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited any advice regarding this increase?
– I have received no specific advice from the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, but I understand that the increase has been agreed to by the directors because of the financial position of the company. For the year 1933- 34, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited made a loss of £86,000, and while no balance-sheet has yet been issued for the present financial year, I understand that there will again be a substantial trading loss.
– Seeing that the committee appointed in 1932 to inquire into war service homes administration reported in favour of various alterations, and the re-appraisement of values during 1935, does the Government propose to give immediate legislative effect to the committee’s recommendations?
– The committee of inquiry submitted a report containing several recommendations, all of which wore adopted by the Government and put into operation. The committee proposed that its recommendations should remain in force until the 30th. June, 1935, but the Government has agreed to allow them to continue in application until such time as the department can formulate a basis upon which a general review can be made.
– What about a reappraisement of values?
– That recommendation was not adopted.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say whether, under the Constitution, conscription can be enforced in Australia for the purpose of sending soldiers overseas? If not, is (here any provision under any act of Parliament to conscript men and send them for service abroad, or must the people, through a referendum, first signify their agreement?
– It is neither customary nor advisable to answer questions relating to matters of law based upon a hypothetical statement of fact.
– A report in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle of the 20th April states that the Prime Minister, in addressing the National Farmers Union spoke of the need for offering facilities to the young men of Great Britain to go abroad.
– I remind honorable members that questions must not be based on newspaper reports.
– I am merely asking, if that report be correct, whether it can be taken as an indication that the Government intends to pursue a policy of assistedmigration?
– I addressed the National Farmers Union, not on the question of migration, or on the need for providing facilities for British migrants to come to Australia, but upon the matters covered by the recent ministerial delegation to Great Britain. I placed the facts of the Australian position before them, and, first of all, said-
– I ask the Prime Minister to confine his remarks to answering the question asked.
– I submit, sir, that I can do that only by repeating what I said to the members of the National Farmers Union. I may have made some reference to migration in making out a case for the right of Australia to an increased share of the British market for our primary products. I claimed that Australia could not go on expanding without securing that increased share. I said that the only hope for migration from Great Britain in the future lay in the dominions, and not in foreign countries, and I used that argument to demonstrate that Great Britain should give Australia an increased share of the British market. So far as the latter part of the honorable member’s question is concerned, I have mentioned frequently in this chamber that, when the Government has any proposal to make in regard to migration, it will be made known definitely in this chamber. The Government has no such proposal to make at present.
– In answer to a question raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on Friday last, an indication was given that the debate on the Italo-Abyssinian dispute would be continued either to-day or to-morrow. Will the Prime Minister indicate to the House now when the debate on this matter will be resumed, in order that honorable members generally may be fully prepared to discuss it?
– It is desired first to dispose of three bills before the discussion on the Italo-Abyssinian dispute is resumed. The first is the Ministers of State Bill, which must be dealt with before the Financial Relief Bill, because its passage will involve the insertion of a new clause in that bill. Secondly, the Financial Relief Bill itself needs to be passed as early as possible, in order that the Public Service may obtain the benefit of the salary restorations as early as possible. Thirdly, we hope to dispose of the Works Estimates, because the sooner they are approved by Parliament the sooner plans can be got out and works commenced. After these three bills have been disposed of, the discussion on the Italo-Abyssinian dispute will be immediately resumed.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the press report in which the Attorney-General is stated to have proposed an “Inner Cabinet”? Will the Prime Minister say whether the AttorneyGeneral was authorized to make the statement on behalf of the Government, and, if so, when it is proposed to set up this inner group?
– The honorable member is apparently thinking of his own organization when he refers to “ inner group “. So far this Government has not adopted that principle. Any Minister or honorable member is entitled to express his own opinion regarding what he considers would facilitate the work of the Cabinet, Government, or the party to which he belongs. Honorable members will be immediately informed of any decision of such nature.
– Three or four months ago, I received an intimation from the Trade and Customs Department in which it was denied that that department had anything to do with the destroying of 1,800 gallons of wine. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the destruction was carried out by the Trade and Customs Department or by the Health Department of New South Wales?
– If the honorable member will give me full particulars, I shall have inquiries made and supply him with a reply to his question.
– In view of the abnormal displacement of men from industry, particularly the coal-mining industry, due to the high mechanization of industry, when does the Government propose to appoint a select committee to inquire into the need for a shorter working week?
-I remind the honorable member that it is not the practice of the Government to state matters of policy in reply to a question.
Debate resumed from the 27th September (vide page 309), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition has decided to oppose this measure, not that it believes that Ministers should be overworked, but because it contends that there is no necessity for the appointment of an additional Minister. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) could, by a re-allotment of portfolios, arrange for the work of Ministers to be carried out quite satisfactorily with the present number of Ministers. Looking back over the past years since federation, I find that a number of variations have been made in the number of Ministers. Originally, there were seven Ministers in the Barton Ministry of 1901-1903, and two Ministers without portfolios; in the Deakin Ministry of 1903-1904, there were seven Ministers; in the Watson
Ministry of 1904, there were seven Ministers; and in the Reid-McLean Ministry of 1904-1905, the number remained the same. In the Deakin Ministry of 1905-S there were seven full Ministers and three without portfolios, and in the Fisher Ministry of 1908-9 there were seven full Ministers and one without a portfolio. During the war the number of full Ministers was increased to nine and in the Hughes Ministry of 1919-23, that number of full Ministers was maintained with three honorary Ministers. Successive governments have not increased the number of Ministers with portfolios.
Despite the very difficult times which were then experienced, the Scullin Ministry was composed of only nine full Ministers and four honorary Ministers. I know that the task of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has been rendered difficult in this matter because of the presence of four Country party members in the Ministry, and I believe that his action to-day has been dictated more by political expediency than by any genuine feeling that it is impossible to carry on with the present number of full Ministers. For instance, it is not necessary to have three Ministers controlling the Department of Commerce, but the right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), as Minister for Commerce, is assisted by an honorable senator in another place, and by an honorary Minister (Mr. Thorby). In the Scullin Ministry I was, for seven months, Minister for Trade and Customs, as well as Acting Minister for Commerce, or as the latter portfolio was then called, Minister for Markets and Transport. To-day there are three Ministers doing this work. I have no objection to the promotion of the Assistant Treasurer to full ministerial rank because I believe he has worked very conscientiously for the Government, and that he deserves such promotion. If a re-shuffle of ministerial positions were made in the ordinary way, the Assistant Treasurer would need to be promoted at the expense of another Minister, who would have to stop down in his favour, as was done when the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) sacrificed his portfolio as Minister for Commerce on the altar of political unity. It was then claimed that in the cause of unity between the United Australia party and the Country party, that gentleman should stand down and, I understand, he did so voluntarily, being relegated to the back benches as Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment.
In view of the many directions in which the money now expended to provide for the increased number of Ministers could be spent, I have not heard any valid reason for this proposal. When the Scullin Government was in office salaries of Ministers amounted to £11,858 per annum, whereas now ministerial salaries are to be increased to a total amount of £12,545. This latter figure does not take into account increases incurred in the cost of trade and other missions, engaged on which two Ministers are still abroad. This Parliament is entitled to a more lucid explanation by the Leader of the Government as to why an additional Minister is to be appointed. It cannot be admitted that the existing number of Ministers cannot carry out the work now devolving upon the Ministry. Half of the members of the Cabinet were absent for seven months but the work was carried on without them. I submit that the Leader of the Government has not made out a convincing case, and suggest that were he candid enough, he would admit that he has adopted the course of asking Parliament to assent to the appointment of an additional Minister rather than cause any friction in the Cabinet which would undoubtedly follow a re-shuffle. I submit that in the present circumstances there should be a re-shuffle of portfolios - omitting one Minister and appointing another - as is done in the ordinary course of events, and I reiterate that the appointment of an additional Minister is not justified. The Opposition, therefore, opposes such a course.
.- With the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I cannot see the necessity for the appointment of an additional Minister. This proposal will increase the number of full Ministers to ten and with the Assistant Ministers, fourteen, who, despite all the propaganda that has been disseminated on this matter, will have to administer only fifteen departments.
These departments are : Prime Minister’s, Treasury, Commerce, External Affairs and Territories, Attorney-General’s, Defence, Health, Repatriation, Interior, Postmaster-General’s, Development and Scientific and Industrial Research, Trade and Customs, and War Service Homes, and the Vice-Presidency of the Executive Council, “which, I presume, may be called a portfolio. Included among the fourteen Ministers who, it is proposed, should look after these fifteen departments, is one of whom we have seen very little in this Parliament. I refer to the Minister directing negotiation for trade treaties, who has been abroad since the early part of this year. As to the necessity for a full Minister to look after this work, I am not aware of any particular good which has resulted from his activities since this Parliament opened twelve months ago. When the only trade treaty ratified by this Parliament, namely, that with Belgium, was discussed by this House that Minister himself, when speaking on the measure, stressed the fact that the agreement had been negotiated, not by himself, but by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). Furthermore, I point out ‘ that in the negotiation of trade treaties various departments, such as that of the Prime Minister and the departments of External Affairs, Commerce and Trade and Customs, are called in. I do not know which of these four departments is the most important, or whether one is more important than another in such matters. Possibly all are of equal importance in the negotiation of trade treaties with foreign countries. In addition to the Ministers administering these four departments, there is also an additional full Minister to co-ordinate the negotiations of trade treaties. The failure of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to supply more information to this Parliament on this matter is to be regretted. He has failed to tell the House the real reason why the Government proposes to appoint an additional full Minister. I ask honorable members not to accept this bill without an explanation of what is actually intended by it. The House has not been taken into the confidence of the Prime Minister. I therefore propose to vote against the measure. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties is a spare member of the Cabinet. I candidly confess that I have no knowledge of the work upon which he is at present engaged. Has any other honorable member? I see no necessity for that particular fortfolio
As a member of the Country party, I draw attention to the fact that, when that party joined the Government party, the arrangement was that it should have two full and two honorary portfolios. I object to its having only one-fifth of the total number of full portfolios and yet being called upon to shoulder an equal share of the responsibility for the acts of the Government. I have not discussed this matter in any way with my colleagues, and am expressing, definitely and decisively, only my personal opinion.
I invite the Prime Minister to give the real reason for the proposal to increase the number of paid Ministers from nine to ten and, in addition, to state why a full portfolio is to be held by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties in view of the fact that he is merely a liaison Minister. The right honorable gentleman has held up to the present two of the most important portfolios, those of Prime Minister and Treasurer, and I admit the wisdom of conferring full Cabinet rank upon the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey). The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has charge of the administration of three departments, as Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Health, and Minister for Repatriation. Thus he and the Prime Minister hold five of the full portfolios. Yet we are asked to increase the number, without being give* specific reasons for the proposal. I hope that the Prime Minister will make a complete explanation of what is intended.
– This bill proposes to increase the number of paid Ministers from nine to ten. I was not privileged to hear the second reading speech which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made on Friday, but I have gathered from the two speakers who have preceded me to-day, that very little in the way of a genuine explanation of the reason for the change has been made. Those speeches have been in direct opposition to the measure.
I propose to discuss the matter from a slightly different angle. The first question that must be answered is, what particular additional duties warrant raising the number of paid Ministers from nine to ten? At the last general elections the Prime Minister made a special point of the subject of unemployment. The right honorable gentleman then suggested that it was necessary that the Commonwealth Parliament should shoulder a greater measure of responsibility in regard to the matter. He said that it had been left largely to the States, which had not by any means satisfied the demands or requirements of those who were affected, and that the need had arisen for it to be grappled with by the Commonwealth in a much more serious and determined manner. In order to establish the bona fides of the Government party, he said that a full-time Minister would be deputed to give close attention to the matter. At the time the belief was generally held that many of the ills from which we were suffering had their genesis in the enormous degree of unemployment which prevailed, and that, if that matter were satisfactorily handled, and adequate provision were made for the unemployed, many of our difficulties would be almost entirely removed. Those with whom I was associated took the stand that opposition could not be offered to whatever additional expenditure might be involved in the strengthening of the Ministry for this purpose. Lengthy discussion of the matter is useless unless accompanied by a sincere desire to apply practical remedies. “We applauded the scheme proposed, while condemning the Government for its previous inactivity. The mandate which the Government was given involved the taking of action along the lines mentioned, and a suggestion that the number of paid Ministers should be increased for that purpose would have encountered no opposition. But a full-time Minister was not deputed to deal with the matter. When we directed questions to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), we were told that the duties which had to be discharged were to be delegated to different Ministers. As late as this afternoon, the answer given to a question stated that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the Post master-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) had been asked to handle matters arising out of unemployment. Any one who has had experience of administrative functions must admit that unemployment is the major problem in Australia as well as in the majority of other countries. The task of co-ordinating the activities of the States and, in the words of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), of getting down to the root causes of the problem, requires the full time and attention of probably more than one individual. It may be a fact that Ministers are overworked. Admitting that to be so, I yet contend that much of what they are called upon to do arises out of the unsatisfactory handling of the unemployment problem. To one man should be delegated the responsibility of devising means to co-ordinate the various activities of the States, and to plan, not only for the immediate present, but also for years ahead.
– The honorable member is digressing somewhat from the purposes of the bill.
– My object is to indicate what I, and the members of my party, consider would be a more satisfactory way to deal with this position. We feel that if a new Minister is to be appointed he should be directed by Parliament to devote his attentions specifically to unemployment. If the Government would agree to that course we would facilitate the passage of the bill. We are not concerned about the position of any individual Minister and certainly not about the proposed elevation of the Assistant Treasurer to full cabinet rank, but we are concerned about the urgent need for more attention to be devoted to unemployment. We believe that unemployment was the subject uppermost in the mind of the people when they elected this Government more than 12 months ago, and in order that attention may be focussed on this urgent problem, which was referred to in the policy speech of the Prime Minister in terms which have been frequently quoted in this House, I move -
That all the words after the word “ that “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and re-drafted with a view to inserting a provision that the proposed additional Minister of State shall have his duties confined solely to unemployment.”
– I will, at once. indicate the attitude of the Government to the amendment. No Government could permit dictation as to the particular work that individual Ministers shall do. The allocation of the duties of various Ministers is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. If the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) were in my place I am sure that he would resist a proposal of this kind. I wish also to take the opportunity to refer to certain remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that this proposal was intended to avoid trouble which had arisen in the ranks of the Cabinet because of the presence there of members of two political parties. That is not the position. The statement I made in this House on this subject a few days ago made it perfectly clear that no question of re-adjustment of that kind was involved. The Government desires that the Assistant Treasurer shall be promoted to full cabinet rank because of the work he is doing; but to achieve that end another portfolio must be provided. If the bill is passed there will be one more Minister of full cabinet rank and one less Assistant Minister; but the total number of cabinet Ministers will remain the same. The honorable member for Richmond pointed out that two Ministers, including myself, were responsible for five different departments, and by that very statement emphasized the need for the introduction of this bill. I agree with what the honorable member said in that connexion. The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth should be as free as possible from the administrative duties of particular departments. He should be in close touch with all departments so as to be able to take a full part in the general discussions of the Cabinet, particularly on matters of policy. I have, as a matter of fact, followed that principle for some time, and the Assistant Treasurer has really been doing the work of the Treasurer, although he has kept in close contact with me. The pur pose of this bill is to elevate the honorable member to the full cabinet rank to which he is entitled as the result of the work that he is doing. The work of the various government departments has increased greatly in recent years and the activities of the Government, in the aggregate, are much greater than they were in the earlier years of federation. For this reason the passage of this bill is desirable. “We have had brought under our notice to-day the urgent need to lighten the responsibilities that fall upon those who are called upon to discharge the duties of the Ministers of the Crown, and we have had other instances in recent years of the strain that this work places upon public men. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), whose retirement was announced to-day, was Prime Minister of this country, and he has found that the strain placed upon him through his occupancy of that office and also that connected with the discharge of his duties as Leader of the Opposition has made it necessary for him to retire from his office. We should do all that we can to lighten the burden of office for those who are called upon to discharge important public duties of this kind. The business responsibilities of individuals cannot be compared for a moment with those involved in the government of a country. So much depends in these days upon the actions of various governments that Ministers should not be called upon to shoulder unduly heavy burdens. I, therefore, have no hesitation in asking honorable members to agree to the passage of this bill.
– What additional amount will be involved in the passage of the bill?
– The amount now provided for Ministers is £12,240, and if this bill is passed it will be increased to £13,560.
– Does the Assistant Treasurer receive any special payment at present ?
– It has always been the custom for Assistant Ministers to be granted extra remuneration out of the Cabinet fund. If this bill is passed the Assistant Treasurer will receive £185 less as a member of Parliament because he steps up to full ministerial rank.
– At present the other Cabinet Ministers pay him.
– That is so, but I do not want to stress that aspect.
– It is not fair that that should be so.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) made reference to the position of the Assistant Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), but he was labouring under a misapprehension. Apparently some objection seems to exist concerning the absence of this honorable gentleman from Australia. But a Minister occupying that position must travel abroad at times unless honorable members wish the representatives of all foreign countries with which we wish to make treaties to come to Australia.
– My objection is that as he is a full Cabinet Minister he should be here.
– That is where the honorable member is under a misapprehension. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties is not a full Cabinet Minister; he is an Assistant Minister. If his services were terminated to-morrow it would still be impossible to elevate another Minister to the full Cabinet rank.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate which members of the Cabinet hold full ministerial rank?
– There are at present nine full Ministers. The Vice-President of the Executive Council does not, in that capacity, hold a portfolio. That position could be occupied by an Assistant Minister, but the present occupant of the position is Minister for Repatriation and also Minister for Health.
While the Government cannot accept the amendment, I assure the honorable member for West Sydney that continuous attention is being given by Cabinet to the subject of employment. There is, therefore, no need for his proposal. The Government received a mandate from the people to devote special attention to this subject, and it is doing so. Everything possible is being done to provide additional employment. As I mentioned earlier this afternoon, certain Ministers are taking an individual interest in the subject. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) are particularly concerned with the problem. The Minister for Industry (Mr. Menzies) is also concerned about the subject, not from the angle of the direct provision of employment, but from that of conditions and the like, in order that standards may be improved from time to time. Everything possible is being done to increase the amount of employment available and the Government will continue its efforts to that end. In the circumstances I hope the bill will be passed and the amendment defeated.
– I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) cannot see his way to accept the amendment moved by the leader of my party (Mr. Beasley). If he were to accept it, it would merely be in conformity with the policy for which he himself accepted responsibility at the last general election. We were then given to understand that the Government, if returned to office, would appoint a Minister who would devote the whole of his time to matters pertaining to employment. Now, the Prime Minister says that such a step is unnecessary, that the matter can be handled by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson), In my opinion, the problem is too big to be dealt with by Ministers merely in their spare time. If the amendment be not accepted, I am disposed to oppose the bill altogether. There have been very few sittings of Parliament during the life of the present Administration, or of the previous one, but there has been much tripping about by Ministers, who must have created practically a record for travelling expenses on what can only be termed holiday jaunts. Seeing that Ministers have, apparently, so little to do that half the Cabinet can be absent from the country at the same time for months on end, surely it is not too much to ask that one Minister should devote the whole of his attention to the grave problem of unemployment. Some time ago, the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was delegated to undertake this work with the title of
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment, but he has now been abroad for some months, and, so far as we know, no one is attending to his work. The honorable member for Parramatta offered to do the work in an honorary capacity, and I believe he was sincere in his offer. He has visited many countries overseas, and has interested himself in the unemployment problem of other countries. He has attended meetings of the International Labour Office at Geneva, and has given his support to the recommendations of that body for the establishment of a shorter working week. Although the honorable member made so generous an offer, the Government is, apparently, not prepared to accept it, because nowhere in this bill, or in the remarks of the Prime Minister, who introduced it, was there anything to indicate that the portfolio of employment was to be given to the honorable member for Parramatta.
The bill provides for the allocation of £13,560 for payment to Ministers, which is £1,320 more than was previously allocated for the purpose. We know that the extra payment received by Ministers, over and above their ordinary parliamentary allowance, is about £800 after deductions have been made. Why, then, is it proposed to provide an extra £1,320, when the only addition required is for promoting one Assistant Minister to full cabinet rank? Is provision being made for the distribution of perquisites to & few of the lucky ones? The Prime Minister has told us that, although he promised the people that a full-time Minister for employment would be appointed, he considered himself bound, not so much by that statement, as by what he says in Parliament. I do not think that that is the view the people take of the matter. They expect a government, when returned to office, to honour the promises made at the election. Apparently,however, this Government does not care a “ tinker’s cuss “ about the unemployed.
– The honorable member is not in order, when dealing with the amendment, in discussing matters pertaining to the Government’s treatment of the unemployment problem.
– The bill is under discussion as well as the amendment.
– The bill deals merely with the allocation of portfolios, and does not touch upon the matter of unemployment.
– This Government was returned to power largely by the vote of the unemployed, who accepted the promise of the Prime Minister that a full-time Minister would be appointed to attend to them.Now the Government is seeking to avoid the issue.
– I support the bill, which, I think, is somewhat belated. When we consider the growth of the administration of the Commonwealth from its inception to the present time, we realize that a very heavy burden has, all along, been placed upon Ministers of State. At first there were seven Ministers only. In 1915, the number was increased to eight, and in 1917 it was increased to nine. To-day, we are being asked to increase the number to ten. I agree that the Prime Minister ought to be free from details of administration, sothat he may concentrate upon matters of major policy, and be able to consult, when necessary, with his Ministers. That is not a new proposal. In 1909 and 1910, when the Honorable Alfred Deakin was Prime Minister, he did not accept any portfolio, but kept himself free to attend to matters of general policy. Since 1909, the problems of the Commonwealth have greatly intensified. People are apt to forget that, when the Commonwealth was inaugurated, the population of Australia was only about 3,773,000; to-day, it exceeds 6,500,000, and the government of the country has become complex to an extraordinary degree. New developments have taken place, and departments have grown to such an extent that some are almost beyond the capacity of one man to administer. The result has been that the Government, instead of appointing an adequate number of Ministers, has had to accept the services of honorary Ministers in order to get the work done. We should pay tribute to those honorary Ministers, who, from a sense of patriotism, have sacrificed their home life, and the interests of their constituencies, to assist the Commonwealth without receiving any compensation for themselves. If we compare the work done by Ministers of State with that done by executives in large business firms, we realize how inadequate, after all, is the financial reward which Ministers receive. It is not right that one man should be asked to fill, at the same time, the positions of Prime Minister and Treasurer. The Treasurer has a great deal of detailed work thrown upon him; he has to keep in touch with every other department, and, in addition, has to preside over meetings of the Loan Council. On the last occasion on which the Loan Council met, it was presided over by an Assistant Minister. Consistent with the dignity of the high office which he is called upon to perform, and in deference to the representatives of the States present at its meetings, the Loan Council should be presided over by a gentleman able to speak with the authority attaching only to a full-time Minister of State. If this bill is passed the chairman of the Loan Council will be vested with full authority as a Minister of State. Though I am satisfied that this measure is, if anything, belated, I am glad that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has taken this step. The amendment moved by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) I regard as a technical mistake. When appropriating sums of money for the salaries of Ministers of State we should not attempt to allocate a particular sum to a particular Minister. The allocation should be left to the Prime Minister as a matter of executive action.
– I do not say that the Prime Minister should not be free to make allocations to individual Ministers.
– But the honorable member says that the appropriation should be devoted to a Minister for unemployment.
– The Prime Minister promised that in his policy speech.
– The proper way of assigning duties to a Minister is by the passage of a special act. For instance, we have in the Repatriation Act reference to a’ minister in charge of. repatriation. “ Minister “ is there defined. The method of naming a Minister in a particular act who will have charge of its administration has at times been found to be too inelastic, and acts containing direct references to Ministers have been amended to remove this restriction. If this bill is passed honorable members will find, as they did in 1909, that much benefit will result. The Prime Minister will then be able to give his full time to consultation with individual Ministers. Many important departmental issues are often raised involving such consultations. But one of the main results from the passing of this bill will be to relieve the Prime Minister from the consideration of matters of detail and enable him to handle major problems. Honorable members would therefore be wise to accept the bill as introduced.
– I record my emphatic protest against the bill now before the House. Once again Queensland has been completely overlooked in the allocation of portfolios. During the regime of the present Government Queensland has been represented only by an Assistant Minister; first the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and, secondly, by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter). It cannot be said that the first mentioned did not carry out his duties to the entire satisfaction of this Parliament, but, when the composite Ministry was formed, the honorable member was dumped in order to make way for a Country party Minister. The present Government is composed of nine full Ministers, and five Assistant Ministers. Victoria has three fully-paid Ministers and three Assistant Ministers; New South Wales, three full Ministers and one Assistant Minister; Tasmania, one full Minister; Western Australia, one full Minister; South Australia, one full Minister; and Queensland one Assistant Minister. Looking at this matter from another angle, Victoria, with approximately 1,500,000 people, is represented by three full and three Assistant Ministers, and New South Wales, with 2,500,000 people, is represented by three full Ministers and one Assistant Minister; but Queensland, with its population of 1,000,000 people, is represented by only one Assistant Minister. The present allocation of portfolios is an injustice to Queensland, and is not in keeping with the more equitable distribution carried out by the Labour Government. I intend to vote against this bill as a protest against the inequitable treatment meted out to the State of Queensland.
– This bill raises one or two interesting points ; it opens the way to a general discussion on the Ministry. Two effective criticisms could be levelled against the Government, not in its departmental aspect, but in its collective capacity as the Administration of the Commonwealth. First of these is the continual change which is taking place in the allocation of portfolios throughout the life of a parliament. It seldom happens that more than a few months elapse before some re-allotment of portfolios and of Ministers’ duties takes place. I do not consider that such a state of affairs can be conducive to the best work inside the departments. It may be quite all right for the Cabinet itself; but, so far as the departments are concerned, Ministers should, as far as practicable, be left in control of them for a considerable time. The other point is that raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) in regard to State representation. Personally, I think that the attempt on the part of every Prime Minister to secure representation of the several States in his Cabinet must lead to a weakening of the Cabinet as a whole.
– Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill. I remind him that what he complains of would not be affected in any way if the bill were passed in its present form, or if it were amended or even rejected.
– Very well, sir. The other point I make is that in regard to honorary Ministers, to which several honorable members, speaking before me, have made fairly extensive reference. I think there should be a very early discussion on the part of the Government as to whether the employment of honorary Ministers should be allowed to continue as a definite part of the functions of the Commonwealth Government. If there is sufficient work inside Cabinet to warrant the inclusion of honorary Ministers,then they should enjoy a different status from that which they have to-day.
I express myself in complete agreement with the point made by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), that it is the absolute right of the Prime Minister to allocate his portfolios once the Cabinet has been formed. I believe that the office of Federal Treasurer is of sufficient importance, and must entail a sufficient amount of departmental drudgery, to warrant the appointment of a fully-paid Minister. In my opinion, that Minister should have very little else to do. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the head of the Government should be relieved of all responsibility in regard to departmental administration, so that he can exercise a general review and a general control over the policy of the Government which’ he leads. I hope that the time may not be far distant when the Government will give greater consideration to the whole question of the direction and functions of the federal departments. I know it is quite a common thing to-day to criticize Minister’s for what they have done, or for what they have failed to do - I have done a little bit of that myself - but I consider that the time is ripe to indulge in just a little more criticism. In connexion with the present Administration, one initial mistake was made after the last election. That was by the innovation of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment - something entirely foreign to the functions of the Federal Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are not relative to the question before the Chair.
– These matters have been discussed quite a lot during the present debate.
– I have called several honorable members to order for irrelevancy. The honorable member must not question the ruling of the Chair.
– The whole question of public administration is one which vitally concerns the taxpayers of this country. “While we have, on the one hand, continual arguments for the extension of social services and demands on the part of the producers for the intervention of the Government in matters of trade and commerce, we have, on the part of others, very serious criticism of any increase in governmental activities, and also of their cost. It stands to reason that, while we increase our activities in different directions, there must be also an increase in the cost of government, and also from time to time justification for increases in the number of Ministers required in order to give effect to what, after all, is only the popular will.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has moved his amendment in a genuine attempt to urge the Government to live up to its pre-election promises. During the last election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
Om- idea is first to assign to a Commonwealth Minister definite’ responsibilities for Commonwealth action in relation to unemployment. lt is proposed that the Minister shall be assisted by advisory committees in thu several States. We are prepared to submit definite suggestions.
That statement represents a definite undertaking that his Government would deal primarily and effectively with the problem of unemployment, and the nonfulfilment of that promise is ono reason why the honorable member for West Sydney has submitted his amendment. Furthermore, that honorable gentleman lias recalled the statements made by honorable members on both sides of this House, that it is recognized throughout the Commonwealth to-day that the Commonwealth Government can no longer shirk this national problem- by pushing it on to the States. Every one now realizes that the problem of unemployment is a national one, and must he dealt with by the National Parliament. For these reasons, and because our economic position is becoming graver, it is only reasonable to expect that a full Minister should be appointed to devote the whole of his time to this work. That sums up the full significance of the honorable member’s amendment, and if it is not approved by the Government I shall vote against the bill. If it is carried I shall support the bill. The only justification which the Government can have for adding to the cost of government by appointing an additional Minister is to appoint a full Minister to deal with the serious problem of unemployment. There is no justification for such increased cost as proposed by this measure. Taxpayers’ associations and many other bodies are constantly criticizing the increasing cost of government.
The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) told a very touching story concerning the great selfsacrifice which Ministers make in order to carry out their work effectively, and pointed out how the arduous nature of such work seriously affected the health of Ministers. But whenever Ministers are to be appointed, I have never noticed any great unwillingness on the part of honorable members to make such a sacrifice in order . to secure a portfolio. If present Ministers find their portfolios call for too great a self-sacrifice, then I suggest there are many other honorable members who would be only too willing to relieve them of their responsibilities. Such talk is therefore humbug. It reminds me of the policy adopted by certain contractors who quote a low price in order to obtain a contract, but, after obtaining the contract, endeavour to get Parliament or some other authority to pay them a price at which the job will prove remunerative. Honorable members apparently pursue a similar policy in this matter. Their “heelers” go round hoping to get them into the Ministry. After straining every nerve in their bodies to secure portfolios, Ministers then talk of the sacrifices involved in their assuming ministerial duty, and seek by such talk to win the sympathy of the people. In behalf of such men it has been suggested that they have suffered a loss in income by foregoing a. career in private life. If that be so, I fail to see why they do not choose such careers instead of accepting portfolios.
This measure will not find favour with the people. The appointment of an additional Minister can only be justified if the new appointee is to deal with the problem of unemployment. If the amendment is carried, I shall vote for the bill, but if it is defeated I shall vote against the second reading of this bill. Frequently it happens that when a Minister goes away he hands over his duties to a colleague. Such a course, which has often been followed by some members of this Ministry, belies the contentions now being advanced by the Government in support of this proposal. During the last recess, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) visited the Northern Territory and one of his colleagues carried out his duties. Some times it happens that one Minister deals with all communications on behalf of as many as half a dozen of his colleagues while the latter are away. During the last five months most of the letters I have received from various government departments have been signed by the one Minister.
– Who was that?
– The Minister assisting the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hunter). I have received letters from him signed on behalf of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes). The suggestion that the present number of Ministers is not sufficient and that individual Ministers are overburdened by their duties and are so distressed by their patriotic work that all of them are bound to die at an early age, is hocus pocus. Ministers look the picture of health to-day. Sometimes a Minister has suffered ill-health, but he would probably have had a similar misfortune irrespective of his ministerial duties. I oppose this measure in view of the Prime Minister’s promise that the first cause of any increase in the cost of portfolios to the Government would be the Ministry’s desire to appoint a Minister to deal with the problem of unemployment. I urge the Government to fulfil this promise by now appointing the proposed additional Minister to deal with this problem and by so doing give an earnest of its sincerity in this matter even at this late hour to grapple with the problem of unemployment, which is an economic canker eating the vitals of the country.
.- The remarks of honorable members opposite impel me to speak on this measure. Examining the bill from a general point of view I agree with the arguments advanced by honorable members on this side of the House, that the Prime Minister should not have to undertake the administration of any department other than his own. In spite of the jeers of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) on this point, it is an undoubted fact that ministerial duties take their toll so far as the health of Ministers is concerned. An instance of this is seen in the unfortunate experience of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who has had to relinquish his position as Leader of the Opposition. I think it will be generally agreed that the strain of his duties when lie was Prime Minister has been the main cause of the present state of his health.
A question was directed to-day to the Prime Minister with regard to remarks made to the honorable the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) during the weekend, in Sydney, when he expressed, privately, the opinion that the work of Ministers- was so arduous that an inner Cabinet within the Ministry should be constituted. When a man of the experience of the Attorney-General advances such an idea, I think it is convincing evidence that present Ministers have too much work. On these grounds I support the allocation of an extra portfolio-.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R, Green) stated that he proposed to vote against this bill mainly on the ground, apparently, that the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) was overseas instead of being in his place in this House. I regret that the honorable member for Richmond is not in his seat at present, but I ask where would one expect a Minister negotiating trade treaties to be. Surely he must go to those countries with whom Australia desires to negotiate treaties. The honorable member for Richmond said he could see no results from that Minister’s work and in any case doubted whether such work should be continued. Honorable members will agree that it is generally recognized throughout the world that the trade of the world must again be set going. The best way to achieve that aim is through bilateral trade treaties. I do not agree that such treaties should be for a long term; they should be negotiated for a. short term. In that way will the trade of the world again be restored to its former volume. There is, however, no way of negotiating treaties other than by sending representatives to the countries with which we desire to negotiate.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) criticized the Government with regard to the expenditure incurred on the delegation which recently journeyed overseas. I was interested to learn that it amounted to approximately £16,000. 1 point out that to-day is sheep sale day in Melbourne and that approximately 70,000 lambs will bo offered-
– Order ! The work of the overseas delegation cannot be discussed under this measure.
– I support the bill. The increased cost involved is well justified.
.- I support the amendment. The duties of Ministers to a large degree are carried out by departmental officials. If a Minister had a good, speedy penman as an Assistant Minister, then the Minister with portfolio would be more or less a rubber stamp.
– Order !
– Many decisions are made by officials. Four of the present fourteen Ministers were recently absent: overseas and during their absence we heard no complaint that their colleagues who were left behind were not able to carry out the extra duties in addition to their own. Now that those four Ministers are back again surely the Ministry as a whole cannot be overburdened with work. During the last election campaign the Right Honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) promised that a special Minister would be appointed to deal with the problem of unemployment. He stated that hitherto the responsibility for the relief of unemployment rested on the States. The Government has not dealt effectively with this problem and if a special Minister is to be appointed, he should be appointed to deal with unemployment, which is one of the major problems confronting Australia at the present time. It is big enough to engage the whole of the attention of one Minister. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who was deputed to deal with it, is at present joyriding on the other side of the world. The speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General at the opening of the present Parliament contained the following statement : -
My advisers regard with sympathy and concern the heavy unemployment which still persists, and propose to give this grave and press ing problem priority over other matters. With this object in view, employment and its associated questions have been allotted as a special ministerial task to the Minister of State for Commerce.
In the reshuffle of portfolios that subsequently took place, the honorable member for Parramatta lost his position in the Ministry, and became UnderSecretary for Employment, Not at any time has he been able to answer questions in relation to unemployment. If any alteration is made, it should be in the direction of the appointment of a Minister to deal solely with this major problem.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Beasley’s amendment) stand part of the question - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
There shall be payable to the King, out of the Consolidated Revenue fund of the Commonwealth, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the salaries of the Ministers of State, an annual sum up to but not exceeding Thirteen thousand five hundred and sixty pounds.
.- This clause states that the salaries of Ministers shall aggregate £13,560 annually. That is an increase of £1,320 on the present, total allowance. At the secondreading stage I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who was then in charge of the measure, a question in connexion with this matter. The right honorable gentleman is now absent from the chamber. I understand that the extra allowanceof a full-time Minister is about £800 a year, but this bill makes provision for £1,320. I want to know why there is that difference when all that will be required will be the increased allowance due to one Minister, who was previously an Assistant Minister, the amount involved being about £400.
– It was explained during the second-reading debate that the salary of a full-time Minister is £1,650, but the 20 per cent. reduction under the financial emergency legislation brings the amount down to £1,320. When there is a full restoration, the salary will revert to £1,650.
– That does not answer the point raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). We were told that the object of this bill was to elevate an Assistant Minister to full cabinet rank. I understand that at present Assistant Ministers receive between £300 and £400 less than Ministers with full cabinet rank. I cannot see, therefore, why the additional expenditure involved in the passage of this bill should be more than that amount. If there is a reason it should be made clear to us.
– I wish to make my attitude clear on this proposal. I do not think that honorable members would oppose the expenditure of extra money in this way if we were assured of good service for it under proper conditions. I do not think it is ever expensive to pay well for good service. In view, however, of certain promises made by members of this Government that every endeavour would be made to reduce the cost of government, we should be furnished with a complete justification for this proposal. It cannot be argued that the additional work placed upon members of this Government as compared with the members of the previousGovernment, for instance, is a sufficient reason for the introduction of this bill. Everybody knows that when Parliament is in recess, Ministers are able to devote themselves to their departmental and administrative duties more completely than they can do when Parliament is sitting. We have already complained strongly that the Government has failed to call Parliament together sufficiently this year. As the House has been in recess for so long Ministers must have had adequate opportunity to do their departmental work. There is no objection to the proposal to elevate the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to full cabinet rank. He is a good Minister - I speak, of course, administratively and not politically. But I agree with the widespread view that the cost of government should not be increased at least until the shades of the financial emergency legislation still hanging over us are dispersed. If this clause is passed, sufficient money will be provided to pay to the Minister to be elevated to full cabinet rank the same salary as that of his other colleagues holding portfolios, and still’ leave £1,000 to be divided among the other members of the Cabinet. If this is not so, the position should be made clear. As I see it, if this bill is passed in its present form cabinet Ministers will receive a substantial advance in their salaries while public servants will have restored to them a very small amount of the emergency cut, and the pensioners, who are the most needy class in the community, will receive nothing at all. I offer no. objection to the proposal to pay the Assistant Treasurer the additional amount which would bring his emolument up to that enjoyed by other cabinet Ministers holding portfolios ; but, in the circumstances, I object to the members of the Cabinet receiving substantial increases of salary. I do not believe that an additional Minister is justified because of any increase of cabinet work. The long parliamentary recess entirely excludes that consideration. When one examines the record of this Ministry, a surprising state of affairs is revealed. There has never been so much shuffling of Cabinet positions as has occurred since the accession to office of this Government. It is extraordinary also that the honorable gentlemen who have been relieved of their Cabinet positions have been honoured with knighthoods. I was addressing a public meeting last Sunday in Bay-street, Port Melbourne, and was asked by several of my constituents whether knighthoods had been conferred on certain gentlemen as a reward for their public service or as a consolation for their exclusion from the Cabinet. I was asked straight out whether they deserved the titles or not. I said that I assumed that they did, but it was strange that only the gentlemen who resigned from the Cabinet received them. But, nevertheless, the strange coincidence to which I have referred has attracted considerable public attention. The work of Cabinet Ministers has been even more arduous in the past at certain periods than it is now, and I do not think there is any justification for the introduction of this bill in its present form. Had an increased expenditure of £400 or £500 been proposed, it would have been a different matter. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment (Sir Frederick Stewart) is collecting data to help him deal with the unemployment situation effectively immediately he returns to Australia? I also wish to know whether he will, at once take charge of the inquiry that is to be made into this serious problem ?
THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).Order ! The honorable member’s remarks are wide of the clause before the committee.
– As Parliament has sat for only a comparatively few days this year, I cannot believe that the appointment of an extra Minister is necessary to cope with the work that has accumulated. If the Government were meeting Parliament for the normal number of days each week, for, say, nine months in the year, there would be justification for the appointment of an extra Minister, for otherwise it would be impossible for departmental administrative work to be kept up to date. But that is not the situation. I contend that before Ministers of the Cabinet receive any substantia] increase of salaries, a complete restoration of the pension should be made to those who are suffering under the’ Financial Emergency Act.
.- The answer which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) gave to my question was quite unsatisfactory. We are being asked to agree to an additional expenditure of £1,320 when the amount needed to serve the purpose for which we have been assured the bill has been introduced is only between £300 and £400. If a Minister with full Cabinet rank were to be appointed to deal with unemployment in accordance with the promise made in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), we should offer no objection to the passage of this measure, but that is not the case. The Prime Minister has said that two Ministers - the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) - are devoting their attention to the problem of unemployment.
-The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– Seeing that discussion is to be confined rigidly to the clause now before the committee, I move -
That all the words after the word “ exceeding “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words, “ Twelve thousand six hundred pounds.”
The sum of £12,600 should be ample to remunerate all the Ministers, including the new appointee. We know, of course,, that the whole of the extra £1,320, for which this bill provides, will not be paid to the new Minister; it will be split up among all the Ministers, who will each receive a little more than he is getting now.
.- I oppose this measure, which providesfor the expenditure of an additional sum of money by way of remuneration to Ministers. I listened carefully to speakers on the Government side of the House in the hope that some adequate justification would be advanced for the step the Government is proposing. I cannot agree that Ministers are suffering any injury from overwork, having regard to the fact that Parliament has been closed up for months, and that four Ministers have been absent from the country for a considerable time attending the Jubilee functions overseas.
– The honorable member must not deliver a second-reading speech, but must confine himself to the discussion of clause 4.
– This clause provides for additional expenditure, and naturally the people expect some return for it. I maintain that there will be no corresponding benefit to the public, which has to find the money. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when introducing this measure, made some reference to the severe strain imposed upon Ministers by their arduous duties. I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not see fit to remain in the chamber to hear the criticism of his measure, and to answer the points raised. If I am any judge of the matter - and I am supported in my view by the fact that several Ministers were able to remain overseas for months at a time without affecting the work of their departments
– If the honorable member transgresses again, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– You are making it very difficult for me, if you compel me to confine my remarks to the mere wording of the clause. I heard previous speakers refer to such matters as the way in which titles are handed out, and the reasons why they are given and accepted. I thought, therefore, that I might be allowed to refer to the work done by Ministers of State, and to say why, in my opinion, they are not entitled to any extra remuneration. Although it may appear that the extra sum to be provided is to be paid to one Minister, we know that, in fact, it will go into a common pool, and all the Ministers will share it.
– The honorable member is in order now.
– The work of the departments which Ministers are supposed to supervise is carried on principally by public servants, and the Ministers, in many cases, are only figure-heads. When honorable members on this side of the House seek information, the questions are answered by Ministers, it is true, but the answers have been prepared by permanent officers of their departments. I do not propose to deal with individual cases, but if it were necessary I could name certain Ministers who have been so lax that they have not even troubled to attend at their offices with any regularity. This extra expenditure is not warranted, especially in view of the fact that social services have been reduced under the Financial Emergency Act. Far from being in any danger of breaking down through overwork, Ministers are in greater danger of injuring their health by overeating and over-drinking. I think I read somewhere that the Prime Minister, while abroad, attended 30 banquets in a fortnight. The people did not elect this Government to office so that it might close Parliament, and send half the Cabinet on a trip overseas to attend to matters that were of no concern to them or to Australia. It ill becomes the Government to provide an additional £1,320 for distribution among a chosen few, when it has refused to restore social services to those whose need is so much greater. Besides their ordinary allowances, Ministers receive a liberal allowance for travelling expenses. Despite that, however, I believe that certain Ministers think that the allowance should be increased from two guineas a day to £2 12s. 6d. Travelling allowances are paid for seven days a week when Ministers are travelling either in Australia or abroad, and no record is required of how the money is spent. A Minister need not even spend the full allowance, but may save part of it for himself, and no questions are asked. If it is believed to be necessary to raise the Assistant Treasurer to full ministerial rank, there is already sufficient money in the ministerial pool to compensate him for the additional work. I have been given to understand that this matter has come before Parliament only because the Government was unable to induce any member of Cabinet to stand down so that his position might be given to the Assistant Treasurer. It was, therefore, necessary to alter the law so .as to create a tenth Cabinet position, and then it was deemed desirable to enlarge the financial pool so that the avaricious desires of all might be satisfied. The members of my party would not lend themselves to a decision of this kind. No doubt the Government has a sufficient majority to ensure the passage of the measure, but Ministers will_ eventually have to answer to a higher tribunal than Parliament - the tribunal of the people. I am convinced that when the Government goes before its masters at the next election, it will not be able to justify its action in involving the country in this extra expenditure.
.- I do not know whether the additional £1,320 provided for in clause 4 will im prove the efficiency of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey). While I congratulate him upon his promotion, I take this opportunity to express my disappointment that Queensland should continue to be left with one Assistant Minister as its representative in the Cabinet. With all respect to the Prime Minister I maintain that that State is worthy of better recognition. While I do not consider that the Assistant Treasurer should be asked to hold a full portfolio without additional reward, I am at a loss to understand why the provision of this large sum is necessary ; to effect this promotion should not involve an additional annual expenditure of more than £500 or £600. This bill seeks to bring about an all-round increase to members of the Cabinet. Surely Cabinet Ministers would not claim the necessity for this increase in their salaries arises because of over-work. When the first Commonwealth Ministry was formed, only seven full-time Ministers were appointed. Since then there has been an increase of their number by practically 100 per cent, I realize that the position held by the Assistant Treasurer is a strenuous one, calling upon his full time, and no member of the Cabinet applies himself to his duties more conscientiously than does the honorable member; but Cabinet appointments and emoluments should be above criticism. The introduction of a bill of this kind, however, must inevitably lead to a certain amount of criticism. If an increase of emoluments for Cabinet Ministers generally is justified, the Government should be quite prepared to give reasons why it is proposed. There is a tendency to the belief that because a man is a member of Parliament, he assumes the right to put his hand into the Treasury any time he finds himself short of funds to carry on. There is also a general impression that member of Parliament is fair game in any town through which he may be travelling, for importunity on behalf of race clubs, sporting bodies, and the like. To uphold the dignity of his position entails a good deal of expense. I am and always have been a very solid supporter of any proposal to increase the wages of any section of the community on the ground that the more money distributed to the people, the more prosperous becomes the State. If it is possible to ensure a more equitable distribution of money it should be done.
I should be quite prepared to give my support to this bill if it involved only the provision of additional money for the promotion of the Assistant Treasurer, but I maintain that so long as the promises made by this Government to the invalid and old-age pensioners remain unfulfilled, any proposal for increasing the emoluments of Cabinet Ministers is unjustifiable. Since the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) has been Assistant Treasurer, he has been most attentive to his job. He, unlike some other Ministers, has made it a full-time job. If we are to create confidence in the minds of people generally, we must honour the promises made by governments, whether Labour governments or Nationalist governments, before we incur such additional expenditure as is provided for in this bill. My only regret is that the finances of this country have not yet improved sufficiently for us to redeem our promise to those who suffered so severely under the Premiers plan. When those promises have been redeemed in full, I shall be quite prepared to give my approval to a measure of this kind.
.- This clause brings before the committee the difficulty which must face Parliament when it fails to put first things first. Broadly stated, the Opposition has no objection to the appointment of the Acting Treasurer as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, nor is it altogether fundamentally hostile to an increase of the number of Ministers from nine to ten. Having regard to the enlargement of Commonwealth functions since federation, the increase of the number of Ministers from seven in 1901 to fourteen at the present time’ may not be an unwise extension of the number of persons upon whom ministerial responsibilities devolve. I know, of course, that five of the members of the Cabinet are Assistant Ministers, but none the less the emoluments of all Ministers are dealt with in clause 4 of this bill. The position is that in clause 4 of this bill Parliament is asked to increase the expenditure of the Commonwealth Parliament for the purpose of carrying on the administration. We cannot get away from the fact that during the last five years Parliament has had imposed upon it major responsibilities to safeguard the revenue of the Commonwealth, and to ensure that no expenditure is incurred which is not really unavoidable. We are still faced with that necessity if we are to judge by the answers given by Ministers to other proposals made to them from time to time. We have asked that there should be some restoration made in respect of old-age and invalid pensions. The answer has been, by and large, that the purchasing power of money has increased, and that in any event Parliament cannot see its way clear to provide increased appropriations because of the general increase of the cost of pensions. Do honorable members consider what is to be the criticism of this Parliament if it is able to increase the emoluments of Ministers, which this clause involves, and at the same time is unable to increase the old-age pension to the figure which it had previously reached? No matter how I look at this clause I cannot understand the arithmetic of the Minister in dealing with it. We are asked to provide an additional £1,320 because of an increase of the number of portfolios from nine to ten. Although that additional money is to be provided, we understand that the whole amount is not in respect of the new Minister, but that there will be some margin which is to be distributed among the other Ministers over and above the Minister to be promoted. Because this bill does more than increase the number of Ministers - it also increases the salary of every other Minister - and because the Government has failed to put first things first and make provision for what we regard as imperative social expenditure, I am opposed to it. As a matter of fact this bill has the effect of placing this Parliament in the position of attributing more importance to the salaries of Ministers than to payments made to certain other sections of the community. I am in favour of an increase of the number of Ministers - I believe that Ministers should be paid according to their deserts, having regard to the ability of the country to meet the expenditure - but clause 4 provides for a total appropriation in excess of what is required in order to promote the Assistant Treasurer to full ministerial rank. It does more than is called for, having regard to the purposes of the bill. As I have said, the bill not only increases the number of the Ministers, but also appropriates an additional amount for their recompense. T ask the Minister representing the Government at the table (Mr. White) to explain why it has been found desirable to increase the salary of other Ministers in a bill which has for its major purpose the increase of the number of portfolioed Ministers from nine to ten.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has explained this matter fully.
– Where is the Prime Minister ?
– He has been called away to deal with most important Government business. At the inauguration of federation there were seven Ministers, but I point out that these were Ministers with full portfolios, and the total amount of their salaries was £12,000, or a salary of £1,650 for each Minister holding a full portfolio and slightly more for the Prime Minister. In 1915, the number of full portfolios was increased to eight, and £1,650 was added to the appropriation. Whenever an additional full Minister has been appointed, just as Parliament is now being asked to do, Parliament has been asked to vote an extra £1,650, representing the salary of the individual Minister. In this case a similar sum is involved but is affected by deductions under the Financial Emergency Act.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), whom I congratulate upon his appointment to the post to-day, pointed out that there are five honorary Ministers in the present Cabinet. These are paid by the other Ministers. That fact is news, perhaps, to a lot of honorable members, as it was news to me when I became an honorable member. Without referring to my income tax return, I could not now fix the amount which I have received during the last twelve months as a Minister, nor do I care particularly, because it has given me some satisfaction to know that I have been discharging a high public duty.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and another honorable member, have stated that they do not see any of the present Ministers languishing, and that all of the present Ministers seem to have plenty of time to do their work. It has been claimed,, also, that some departments are neglected and that others are not. But ministerial duties cannot be evenly allocated. Some Ministers have more ‘ work to do than others.
Since federation there have been 29 Trade and Customs portfolios, which have been held by 20 different Ministers. Mr. Tudor, who occupied the post on four occasions, held this portfolio the longest, and only two of my predecessors haveheld the post longer than myself, although I have held the position for only threeyears. I point out these facts merely toshow that changes in the Cabinet are inevitable, some being caused by changes of government, and others by breakdowns of health. Ministers do not state these facts in any spirit of complaint; none of the present ‘ Ministers has beenheard to complain. Nevertheless, I feel sure all honorable members will agree that the work of Ministers, and particularly those associated with financial and’ trade portfolios, is immeasurably greater than was the case at the time of federation. Owing to tariff changes, quota systems and intense nationalism arising out of the war, the work of Ministers concerned with trade matters has changed immensely within the last decade. This has called for greater and greater application to work, and I feel sure that, had’ a similar proposal to that embodied in this measure been advanced to cover extension of work in other spheres, it would have met with approval. The Prime Minister has informed the Housethat the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has done his work “ exceedingly well,” and I am glad that honorable members opposite agree that he has earned a full’ portfolio as Treasurer. No suggestion has been made for a reshuffle of portfolios.
– No one now in the Cabinet will get out.
– No Minister has beeninvited to get out. Perhaps the honorable member does not realize that there are such things as loyalty and a desire to serve one’s country.
– Especially if one is well paid to do so.
– Loyalty and a desire to serve one’s country actuate many honorable members irrespective of emoluments. For some time as a Minister I have not asked for travelling allowances. I touch on this point because honorable members opposite have hinted that the amounts received by Ministers for travelling allowances have been more or less covered up. However, information on that point is to be found in Hansard in replies given to questions asked from time to time by honorable members.
Two honorable members representing Queensland electorates have referred to the fact that in the new Cabinet no full portfolio will be held by a Queenslander. Queensland’s interests have been well looked after so far as Cabinet representation is concerned. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work achieved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), when he was Assistant Minister for Defence. As a member of the Cabinet, he was always a great supporter of Queensland’s interests.
– Order ! I am afraid the Minister’s remarks are verging upon the irrelevant.
– The Prime Minister has informed honorable members and he was very definite upon the point, that the duty of allocating portfolios fell upon himself. Now he is seeking the authority of this Parliament to enable him to create another full portfolio.
– If the Government’s sole desire is to provide for the cost of raising the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the status of a full Minister, an amount of only £400 would be needed. We desire to know why the Government is asking for approximately £1,000 in addition to that sum.
– When an Assistant Minister becomes a full Minister, his parliamentary salary is reduced from £825 to £640. He does not receive a full parliamentary salary. The five Assistant Ministers in the present Cabinet are paid the difference between the parliamentary salary and their present salary by the full portfolioed Ministers. The amount paid to them is strictly a matter for the Cabinet. What the full portfolioed Ministers pay to the Assistant Ministers has not been disclosed in the case of any Cabinet since federation, and I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) not to press his question on that point.
– We are not asking for details, but merely the amount which each Minister will receive. The point is that the Government is now asking for an amount which greatly exceeds that which would be necessary merely to promote the Assistant Treasurer to Treasurer.
– I thought I explained that point. Whenever an additional portfolio has been created, the Government of the day has asked for the granting of an amount equal to the salary of a full portfolio Minister. In this case, it is £1,650. which is reduced by deductions under the financial emergency legislation. Of course this means that the full Ministers will be called upon to pay less to the Assistant Ministers than previously.
– I am not satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). This measure has been framed in such a way that it would lead an inexperienced member of this House to believe that the amount asked for is needed merely to cover the additional salary following the appointment of an additional Minister. The bill itself, in my opinion, has been given a wrong title. On the admission of the Minister for Trade and Customs, the appropriation of the sum asked for will allow approximately an additional £100 to go into the pockets of full Ministers already in Cabinet. This measure could therefore be better described as a bill for the increasing of Ministers’ salaries. Only for the queries raised by honorable members on this side of the House, no one would have been aware of the fact that Ministers are not fighting for their colleague, the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey), as they try to make out, but are really putting up a fight for themselves. Honorable members are being asked to agree that at this particular period Ministers are warranted in increasing each of their salaries by £100; but they view the claims of invalid and old-age pensioners on a different basis altogether. These are left to the mercy of the Commonwealth Statistician, because changes in the amounts of pensions arc made only on the basis of cost of living figures which are compiled by the Statistician, and in the opinion of many honorable members are more often wrong than right. The cost of living index figure must rise 100 points before pensioners become entitled to an increase of 6d. a week. Yet Ministers who .oppose the restoration of social services and who quote data with the object of showing that pensioners are better off to-day than they were previously on a higher pension, because of the alleged drop in the cost of living, are prepared to use what might be described as questionable methods in increasing their own salaries.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has informed the committee that Assistant Ministers are paid from a common pool provided by those who hold portfolios. If the Assistant Treasurer is raised to full ministerial rank, the number of Assistant Ministers will be reduced from five to four, and that will necessarily lighten the burden of providing for their remuneration. Ministers will have an additional £100 per annum, with which to pay four instead of five Assistant Ministers. The Minister for Trade and Customs quoted figures dating back to the dawn of federation, and dilated upon the increasing burden of the duties which Ministers have to discharge. He stressed the fact that members of the Cabinet are overworked. I hope when replying to the debate he will make some reference to the additional burden placed on’ the general community who pay for the upkeep of Parliament, and will furnish particulars of increases of Ministers’ allowances. The honorable gentleman referred to the rapidly increasing national debt, which, I understand, has mounted by over £57,000,000 in the last three years. But the most important point to be considered is the method employed by the Cabinet in this matter. I remember well the press criticism of the partial restoration of members’ allowances. One newspaper made the caustic comment that members had behaved as “ thieves in the night, dipping their hands into the public treasury “. The Cabinet has endeavoured to avoid similar criticism on this occasion by bringing down an apparently harmless measure, designed to raise the status of the Assistant Treasurer. The Prime Minister’s colleagues have rushed into the fray to justify the proposed appointment by explaining that the Assistant Treasurer performs a number of important duties which warrant his elevation to full Cabinet rank. Not one word, however, have they said of the benefit which they are to derive. But for the vigilance of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has ascertained that an amount out of all proportion to the increased expenditure necessary to raise the Assistant Treasurer to full Ministerial status is being provided, this Parliament and the public would not have been aware of the snide tactics that have been adopted by Ministers to increase their allowances at the expense of the general community. Evidently the Prime Minister did not welcome the invitation to explain this point to honorable members. After a very brief introduction he found business elsewhere and left the measure in charge of his Ministerial colleagues.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. James) put -
That the honorable member ha,ve leave to continue his speech.
The Committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– As this debate has developed it has become evident that, because of the tactics adopted by the Government, honorable members will feel inclined to regard with suspicion the legislation which it introduces. All governments should be perfectly straightforward as to their intentions. Not until this bill had been debated at some length, and we had been able to examine minutely the Government’s proposals, did the Opposition begin to realize that the amount of the proposed appropriation was £1,000 more than was actually required. Such a procedure is distinctly wrong, and it will not be countenanced by those who expect a fair deal. In the final analysis honorable members are obliged to accept a good deal of what is told them by the Minister in charge of a bill. Their scope for research in order to obtain information is naturally restricted; they have not access to the sources of this information, nor have they the advantage of the advice of departmental officers. They are always led to believe that in matters involving finance, all the cards are laid on the table and members can discuss them with a full knowledge of all the relevant facts. But honorable members have had to probe this matter, and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has been obliged to move an amendment of the clause. We have had’ to plead with the Minister to explain the amount involved. In a roundabout way the honorable gentleman disclosed the fact that the provision exceeds considerably what is required. The Government has established a precedent, and members of the Opposition will be justified in asking that the complete facts be made known when similar measures are introduced in future. The debate has at least placed in an entirely new light the policy and methods of this Government.
.- The evasive answers that. Ministers have given to the questions that we have asked on the clause satisfy me that more money is being asked for than is required. I do not quibble at the salaries paid to Ministers; I take the attitude adopted on a former occasion by the Melbourne Herald that the least Cabinet should have done was to include in the budget speech references to the increase in the salaries of members and the bill for the increase of allowances to Ministers. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) practically admitted to-day that the bill would provide more money than was needed to raise the salary of the Assistant Treasurer to the level of the salaries of full Cabinet Ministers. I am notcavilling at the work Ministers do or at the salaries to which they feel they are entitled; but this legislation does not reveal what the Government intends to do. The statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs had only one meaning - that Ministers desire to restore their salaries to the level of a considerable time ago. I do not believe that Ministers or members receive the allowances to which their services entitle them. But over and above the extra payment that will be made to the Assistant Treasurer will be an amount sufficient to increase the salaries of the other members of the Cabinet by between £50 and £100 a year. I object to the doing of this by an indirect method. That is not an honest way for the Government to act. I will support any amendment moved in opposition to it, at least until a satisfactory explanation is given of the real intentions of the Government.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) rs. 17]. - The only ground on which the Opposition can criticize the Government for having introduced this bill is that of the necessity for the change. Is it necessary at present to appoint a tenth Minister with full cabinet rank? The committee has already, without division, agreed to clause 3, which provides for such an appointment. There is thus an obligation on it now to provide a salary for him. The Opposition, in effect, desires a Cabinet of ten full Ministers te work for an amount very little in excess of that voted previously for a Cabinet of nine Ministers. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) claimed that provision should have been made in the budget for this extra money. As I understand the law, ministerial allowances are not provided for in the budget, but by a special act.
– I did not say that.
– I took particular notice of the honorable member’s statement. I am open to correction, but I believe that the Ministers of State Act makes no provision for assistant Ministers. Parliament deals only with the number of portfolios provided for in that legislation. It is for the members of the Ministry to decide how the sum voted for ministerial salary allowances shall be distributed among the ten full Ministers and whatever number of assistant ministers there may be constituting Cabinet. The committee has agreed to the appointment of a tenth Minister, and is therefore under an obligation to provide him with a salary. If the Opposition pursues its present course, its attitude will amount to a request to the Government to reduce the remuneration of Ministers by failing to provide a full ministerial salary for its tenth member. Although the committee has authorized the Prime Minister to appoint a tenth Minister of full cabinet rank the Opposition is virtually suggesting that the Ministry is trying to mislead the committee. I have closely examined all the facts, and can see no justification for the charge. The only reasonable basis for opposition to this clause is that of economy. It will, therefore, be interesting to discover how members of the Opposition vote on another bill which provides for increases of certain other salaries.
.- I do not desire to say much in amplifica tion of what I said earlier on this subject, but the explanation given by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) does not square with that given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. ‘White) before the dinner adjournment. The view of the Opposition is that after the passage of this bill the amount of money by which full Ministers will be out of pocket through the addition of assistant Ministers to the Cabinet will be less than formerly. That will be equivalent to an increase of the allowance to full Ministers. At present deductions are made from a pool of the salaries of nine Ministers for the payment of five Assistant Ministers; and in future the deductions will be made from a pool of the salaries of ten Ministers for the payment of four Assistant Ministers.
– We could make the number of Assistant Ministers two.
– I concede that; but the reason advanced for the passage of this bill is the promotion of the Assistant Treasurer to Treasurer. The Opposition considers, therefore, that the only increase necessary in the sum already voted for the payment of ministerial allowances should be the difference between the present salary of the Assistant Treasurer and that of a Minister with full cabinet rank. It cannot be denied that, by the appointment of another Minister of full rank, the present Ministers will reap the benefit of increased allowances. I see no reason to reward the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) for the exceptional services rendered by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey).
– Some of the statements made inthis debate have surprised me. I refer in particular to the suggestion that Parliament has been misled. Honorable members are not children. They know the amount that has been voted up to the present for the salaries of Ministers. This bill provides for the actual amount that will be voted to the Ministry if the measure is passed. There can be no deception of honorable members in regard to the difference between the two amounts. No charge can be laid against the Government in that regard. No alteration is being made tothe practice which has existed since federation, and I hope that honorable members will consider this subject reasonably, and notwith the object of making political capital out of it.
Mr.Ward. - The Minister will make capital out of it!
– There are a few honorable members whose opinions do not matter to me, and the honorable member is one of them.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney is disorderly.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr.Cur tin) and some of his supporters have made a reasoned objection to the Government’s proposal, and suggested that Ministers are to get some advantage to which they are not entitled. I put this before them: The Prime Minister, with the approval of his colleagues with full cabinet rank, decides how many Assistant Ministers shall be in the Cabinet. We have recognized that the work of the Government has been increased greatly in recent times, and so the number of Assistant Ministers has been increased. The effect of these additions has been that Cabinet Ministers have voluntarily reduced their salaries over the last few years. That applies to the previous Government as well as to mine. We have, in fact, reduced our own salaries by our own act. No complaint was then made by honorable members. More departments are operating now and more assistance is necessary to cope with the work. The full cost of providing the extra cabinet assistance hitherto has been borne by the Ministry. The effect of this bill will be to restore Ministers to the financial position they held before so many Assistant Ministers were appointed. What criticism can be levelled against the Government for doing that? There may be criticism outside, but honorable members should recognize the logic of the argument that the Government, by increasing its numbers, reduced its salaries all round. If that point is weighed by honorable members they will realize the falsity of the charges they have levelled against the Government. The committee has approved of the appointment of an additional Minister of full cabinet rank, and it is now being asked to provide the finance necessary for his salary. It has been suggested that the Government should have adopted some other procedure for doing this. I have considered the present portfolios, and the possible re-adjustment of them, but I realize that a satisfactory redistribution of duties among Ministers is not practicable. The Government would not be justified in taking away from any department the special attention now being given to it. In other cabinets the Prime Minister has sometimes been Minister for External Affairs. It might be suggested that that portfolio could be given to some other Minister - perhaps the Prime Minister. My opinion is that the questions dealt with in the Department of External Affairs are of such vital importance to the community that it would be extremely unwise to make such a change. The special attention that this branch of Australian affairs is receiving should not be withdrawn. The Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) is at present also administering repatriation. It cannot be suggested that he should have additional duties. It has been pointed out that matters affecting commerce are now in the hands of three Ministers, but it must be remembered that commerce is vital to Australia, as production and trade treaties come within its ambit. An additional Minister is necessary to undertake spade work, to deal with the numerous details and to represent the department in the Senate. The three appointments are justified in order to safeguard the interests of thepeople.
.- The explanation of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) is as illuminating as the speech he delivered in moving the second reading of the bill. He cannot deny the contention of honorable members on this side of the chamber that, in addition to making provision for the appointment of another Minister with a portfolio, each Minister is to receive an extra £100 annually. In referring to the importance of several departments the right honorable gentleman overlooked the fact that he neglected to provide a Minister to deal with employment, which is of greater importance than the work handled by all other departments. While the Government is doing all in its power to lower the standard of living of the workers, it is providing that every Minister with a portfolio is to receive an additional £100 annually. If any one can prove thatafter the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has been promoted to full cabinet rank, £12,600 is insufficient to cover the ministerial allowances on the present basis we may reconsider our decision. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) that the amount be reduced from £13,500 to £12,600.
.- After moving the second reading of the bill, the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. lyons) left the chamber, and honorable members had to rely upon the information given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) who clouded rather than clarified the issue. The Prime Minister has made the intentions of the Government fairly clear, but his explanation is unsatisfactory. I admit that if an additional Minister is appointed, he should receive the same allowance paid to other Ministers; but if the appropriation is not increased, the allowance which each Minister receives is necessarily reduced. At present, the Assistant Treasurer is receiving £300 or £400 less than a Minister with a portfolio, but if he is appointed Treasurer why should it be necessary to appropriate an additional £1,320? When the Financial Emergency Bill was under consideration in 1931, Ministers submitted to a reduction 2£ per cent, greater than in the case of private “members, and even after a restoration of 2^ per cent., for which the budget has provided, they will still be subject to a reduction of 17^ per cent. But this bill provides for an additional allowance for Ministers through the medium of their pool. Is this a snide and cunning way to regain some of the money of which they have been deprived? It is looting the Treasury.
– I regard the honorable member’s statements as offensive, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them. I shall say that it is a shrewd move on the part of Ministers to recover a portion of the allowance of which they were deprived under the Financial Emergency Act. The Prime Minister, who insulted the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) by saying that there were only two members in the House of which he took no notice, and that the honorable member was one, should be the last to ask an honorable member to withdraw such a remark as I made.
The annual appropriation for Ministers of State is £12,240, whereas this bill provides for an increase to £13,560, or £1,320 in excess of the amount voted last year. As the Assistant Treasurer is the only Assistant Minister to be elevated to full Cabinet rank at a cost of an additional £400 or £500 a year, what is to be done with the balance? Clearly it is to go into the Cabinet pool. The Prime Minister himself has admitted that the money provided for Ministers of State is pooled. Do Ministers propose to cut it up among themselves? If that is the intention, instead of suffering a reduction under the Premiers plan of 17-J per cent., the salaries of Ministers will be reduced by less than the 15 per cent, cut now applied to private members. When the Premiers plan was first evolved and the financial emergency legislation introduced in this House, it was only with the assistance of the Prime Minister and members of his party who were then sitting in opposition that it was brought into force. At that time the promise was made that immediately the financial position of the country improved, invalid and old-age pensions would be the first to be restored. The Prime Minister himself made that statement, but the pensions have never been restored to their former level.
– Is the honorable member able to prove that I made the statement that the invalid and old-age pensioners would be- the first to have their cuts restored? I challenge the honorable member to prove his assertion.
– I can prove it. At a deputation which I introduced at th,e Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, and which was attended by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), the Prime Minister said that immediately the financial position improved, restorations would be made, and that invalid and old-age pensions would be the first to be restored.
– I said nothing of the kind.
– I know it is of no use expecting the Prime Minister to admit that:
– The honorable member’s statement is incorrect.
– Order ! This extraneous discussion must cease.
– In fairness to all concerned it must be admitted that those who suffered under the financial emergency legislation should have been the first to have had their cuts restored. That policy was expressed freely by those who helped to place the financial emergency legislation on the statute-book. As I see it, the proposal is to give the Assistant Treasurer £400 or £500 and to cut up the balance among the other Ministers.
– By way of a personal explanation, Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has said that, at a deputation which I attended, the Prime Minister made a statement that the first restoration to be made would be a restoration-
Mr.Ward. - On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I desire to know whether the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) is entitled to make a personal explanation at this stage. Does the honorable member for Watson say that he has been misrepresented?
– Order ! The remarks to which the honorable member for Watson takes objection took place during extraneous discussion which I ruled out of order.
– The honorable member for Hunter alleges that at that deputation the Prime Minister stated that the first restorations effected would be made in the invalid and old-age pensions.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Watson cannot claim that he has been misrepresented. The only statement made by the honorable member for Hunter was that the honorable member for Watson was present at the deputation.
– That is no point of order.
– The statement made by the Prime Minister-
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I want to emphasize that the statement made by the honorable member for Hunter was only that the honorable member for Watson was present at the deputation.
– Order! The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has already submitted his point of order and I have already ruled it out. I desire to hear the honorable member for Watson further.
– On the occasion to which the honorable member for Hunter refers, the Prime Minister said, to the best of my knowledge and belief, that restoration of the invalid and old-age pensions would be considered when the condition of the finances of the country warranted it.
– That is what the honorable member for Hunter has contended.
– On a personal explanation, I repeat that the honorable member for Watson was present when I introduced a deputation to the Prime Minister asking for a restoration of salaries. On that occasion the Prime Minister said that a restoration of the pension was not warranted, but immediately the position of the country improved, the pensioners would receive first consideration.
– I think I am entitled, Mr. Chairman, at this stage to make a personal explanation, in view of the two statements made by the honorable member, both of which are contradictory and both of which are incorrect. The honor-, able member for Hunter said that when the deputation was interviewing me and on another occasion I made a statement that the first to receive the restoration of their cuts would be the pensioners.
-I qualified my statement.
– The honorable member qualified it because he knew it was incorrect. The honorable member then tried to suggest that I made the stupid statement that, though the financial circumstances would not then permit of restoration, as soon as sufficient improvement had taken place I would restore the pensions first. The honorable member has too much common sense to imagine that any one would make such a statement. It carries on its face its own contradiction.
– Nevertheless, I repeatthat the honorable gentleman did make that statement. The honorable member for “Watson has also said that he made it.
.- The Government has stated that this bill has been introduced to provide for the promotion of the Assistant Treasurer to full Cabinet rank in order that the burden of ministerial work may be shared. The committee has agreed to that. But, on top of that, we are asked to give Ministers an additional £100 a year for doing less work than they perform at present. Ministers complain that they have been overworked, and have asked Parliament to relieve the burden by the appointment of an additional Minister. But why should we be asked to provide more money for each Minister for the carrying out of a less amount of work? The charge that the Opposition is opposed to the payment of a new Minister is entirely without foundation. If the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr James) is accepted, provision will be made for the payment of the additional Minister, but if the bill is passed in its present form, not only will an additional
Minister’s allowance be provided, but also a further sum of £900 will be provided for the other Ministers comprising the Cabinet. Significantly enough, there are nine other Ministers who, apparently, will each share in this additional £900. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has sought to justify the increase in the number of Ministers by the amount of administrative work that has to be performed by them. My experience was that as soon as the number of Ministers was increased, it became increasingly difficult to approach them on matters relating to their departments. As I see it, the position is really that there are not sufficient loaves and fishes to go around among the avaricious members on the Government side. A certain amount of room is to be provided for members of the Country party who profess to be staunch in their stand for policy and principle before jobs, but who to-day are clamouring for the loaves and fishes of office. Additional members of the United Australia party have to be found Cabinet positions to counteract the influence of Country party Ministers. As I have said, the real reason for an increase of the number of Ministers- is to make room for those- gentlemen within the two parties who desire to scale the heights of ministerial rank. I justify myself in supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter, because to do the logical thing the committee must vote sufficient to cover the additional expense of appointing another full-time Minister. But the committee is justified in refusing to pav to all other Ministers £100 a year to do less work than they did formerly.
.- Regarding the statement by honorable members on this side that the Prime Minister (Mr Lyons), who was sitting in Opposition when the Premiers plan was introduced, gave an undertaking that immediately the financial affairs of this country recovered, restorations would be made to those on the lower social scale, and that the old-age pension would be increased to the full amount, I ask the right honorable gentleman whether hedid not vote with the government then in power which made that same promise? It would have been better had the statement that £1,300 was intended for the pool been made earlier, because the division of the money in the pool is a matter for the Ministers themselves. The composite nature of the Ministry has necessitated additional pay for extra Whips, and has imposed a heavy financial strain on Ministers. If it were merely a matter of providing the salary for a full Minister, instead of for an Assistant Minister, only about £400 would have been necessary. An. additional £900 will be placed in the pool so that the salaries of Ministers may be restored to what they were before the number of Assistant Ministers was increased to five. If the Government thinks that an additional full portfolio is necessary it ought not to be ashamed to say so. In any case, it has the numbers to carry its proposal and it must accept the responsibility for what is done. But the Opposition contends that if the finances of the country are in such a flourishing condition that an additional £1,300 can be provided for distribution among Ministers, the promise to the oldage pensioners that their full pension would be restored should be honoured. Under another measure now before Parliament a restoration of salary will be made to the lower paid public servants; but the poorest members of the community who were deprived of 2s. 6d. a week are not to get anything back.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. James’ amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
A bill for an act to increase the maximum number of Ministers of State from nine to ten and to appropriate an amount for their salaries.
.- The title should be amended. A better title would be “ a bill for an act to increase the salaries of the Ministers “. In order to test the committee, I move -
That the title be amended by omitting the words “ maximum number “with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ salaries “, and by omitting all the words after “ State “.
– The amendment is not in order. It conveys no meaning different from that which is conveyed in the title.
– I think you asked the. committee if it were prepared to agree to the title of the bill. My reason for proposing my amendment is that I do not think the title of the bill adequately describes this measure.
– When I put the question the honorable member will be able to exercise his right of voting against the title, but the amendment he proposes is not in order.
– The ruling is probably correct, because as far as I can see there is no difference between the meaning of the bill itself and the title I proposed, because I think it is one of the most barefaced robberies that have ever been perpetrated in this Parliament.
– I ask that the honorable member withdraw those words.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– I withdraw them.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Paterson) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Menzies) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 27th September (vide page 310), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle) [9.28].- This bill relates to certain adjustments it is proposed should be made in the principal act which dealt with conditions of financial emergency existing in 1931, and which interfered, very drastically in some cases, with payments then made to persons coming within certain categories. It is designed to effect some improvement of the salaries payable to public servants, and to members of Parliament. Insofar as it accomplishes a partial restoration of rates of pay, the Opposition welcomes the measure, but feels, as I said earlier this evening, that in failing to place first things first, it is based on a mistaken conception as to what claims for such restorations should be of paramount consideration to this Parliament. Many statements which were made earlier to-day, will be repeated until such time as the justification for such agitations ceases. This Government entirely misapprehends the obligations of this Parliament when it improves the conditions under which more favored sections of the community live, whilst at the same time it neglects entirely to effect any reasonable improvement of the conditions under which the more indigent sections of the Australian people have to live. I confess that, in the absence of the complete capacity to restore the salaries of public servants which were affected by the financial emergency legislation, it is not easy to decide where the first step shall be taken. The Treasurer has informed us that the finances are in a much more satisfactory state than they were last year. We regret to be obliged repeatedly to declare that, until such time as there is a complete restoration of the payments to invalid and old-age pensioners, we shall not consent to the general financial policy which the Government is seeking to implement. We take the stand that, as the Government is remitting taxation imposed under the financial emergency legislation upon certain sections of the community and removing burdens from others in more comfortable circumstances, its paramount obligation is to improve the conditions of those who to-day are in a most desperate plight. It is for this reason that we appeal repeatedly on behalf of the unemployed for relief; it is for this reason that we contend that the bill should include provision for the complete restoration of invalid and oldage pension payments. I do not propose, in view of what has been said, since Parliament re-assembled, to deal with this matter at great length to-night.
The principal act effected reductions of the salaries of public servants and the allowances of members of Parliament, as well as reductions of payments to invalid and old-age pensioners, and generally affected the expenditure of all Government departments insofar as that expenditure was adjustable. We now take the stand that, in the process of recovery made possible as a result of the improvement of conditions generally as reflected in the increased revenues of the Government, the Ministry should reverse the order in which it is removing the burdens which were imposed upon the various categories of citizens. By its readiness to improve the rates of pay to members of the Parliament and the Ministers of State as well as highly paid public servants, and to remit taxation paid by those whose incomes in any event are large - for the most part they own property in the large capital cities and, strictly speaking, are not engaged in primary production - while still leaving unaffected the reductions of payments to invalid and old-age pensioners, the Government has failed to honour the undertaking sincerely given that pensioners should not continue to bear this unfair share of the sacrifice a moment longer than was necessary. The only reasonable assumption is that, in the opinion of the Government, the pensioners have less right to share in the national recovery than have members of Parliament, Ministers of State, the higher-paid public servants, and large taxpayers. I move, as an amendment -
That all the .words after “that” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for such alterations as would, without increasing the appropriation, provide for the complete restoration of the reductions in invalid and old-age pensions, which was effected in the Principal Act.
I put it to the House that we should not engage in any extended liberalization of the conditions of those sections of the community whose circumstances are the more fortunate until we have made complete restoration to invalid and old-age pensioners, who were called upon to make such a heavy sacrifice in 1931, and who, since that time, have had imposed upon them other onerous disabilities. There ought not to be any further use of the capacity of this House to make allowances out of the improved financial position to various sections of the community who, we believe, have less claim on the generosity of the Parliament than have the invalid and old-age pensioners. Before we do more for those for whom we have already done something, we should at least do something for those for whom, up to the present, we have done nothing.
– I support the amendment. The appeals from this side of the House on behalf of our invalid and old-age pensioners are becoming painful, but we must continue with our demands or requests until some justice is done to this most deserving section of the community. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has made it dear that when the Financial Emergency legislation was passed there was a definite understanding that immediately the finances of the country improved sufficiently there would be a complete restoration of pension payments. I have made that statement on Many occasions, and I have not heard any honorable members supporting the Government deny that such an undertaking was given. The Financial Emergency Act authorizing the reductions of public servants’ salaries and payments to pensioners, was carried by a large majority, but against the wishes of some members on this side. In spite of repeated promises that pensioners would receive first consideration when the financial position improved, the Government has remitted taxation to the wealthy sections of the community, and there has been no suggestion, so far, of a restoration of pension payments. There is nothing wrong with the proposal to restore some portion of the salaries of the higher officers of the Public Service. That also was part of the understanding when the Financial Emergency Act was passed. But it is paradoxical that the poorest people in the community are always the first to be called upon to make sacrifices, and the last to be given relief, the reason being that in the aggregate - the working classes constitute 80 per cent, of the total population - the Government obtains, by way of indirect taxation, more revenue from them than from the minority of direct taxpayers. I know it was impossible, except by spreading the sacrifice over all departments and sections of taxpayers, for the Government of the day to reduce its expenditure by the millions of pounds demanded by the Commonwealth Bank at the onset of the depression. I saw the figures worked out at the time, and did what I could to influence those who were drafting the Financial Emergency legislation to ease the burden on the poorer section of the community; but always the answer was that if the Government was to achieve its purpose every person in the community, including even girls and boys earning 7s. 6d. or 10s. a week, had to make his or her contribution. But, as has been stated so repeatedly, there was a distinct promise that the poorest people would be the first to receive consideration when the finances of the country improved. That promise has not been honoured. Certain classes of taxpayers who were not affected by the financial emergency legislation have been relieved of taxes to the amount of many millions of pounds, but so far there has been no indication by the Government that justice is to be done to our pensioners. The Government seems to be becoming more callous with the progress of the years. It was not until after millions of pounds of taxes had been remitted to the wealthier classes of the community that Parliament was called upon to consider proposals to restore in part the salaries or wages of the lower paid public servants. More recently there has been a further restoration of members’ salaries, as well as further remissions of taxation to large city landowners, banking, insurance and shipping companies, and this year the Government is making provision to restore a further percentage of the salaries of the higher paid officers in the public service. Long ago I emphasized the fact that normal business activity could not be restored by reduction of the income of the poorer sections of the community. The only logical way to give an impetus to trade is to place spending power in the hands of the workers. Every economist agrees that thrift, far from being a blessing, has become a curse. One of the great troubles of the world to-day is that spending power is restricted. The loss of world trade has caused a collapse in this and other countries. The great majority of the people have had their living standards reduced, and it is tragic to find the Government seeking to re- habilitate industry by adopting cheeseparing proposals. When it reduces the taxes of the wealthy, the beneficiaries probably invest their extra money in government loans rather than in industrial enterprises. The demand for the products of industry has so decreased that if prosperity is to be brought about the standards of living of the people must be restored to the 1929 level. The Government has been advised by Professor Giblin, as it was by Mr. Wickens in 1930, to restore the 1929 standards of living, but action has been taken which will prevent that restoration. The partial restoration of salaries to Ministers, members of Parliament, and the higher-paid public servants will have no effect whatever in rehabilitating industry, because the recipients are already enjoying the standards of living to which they are accustomed. It is essential to make a restoration of income to those who are not now in a position to buy the goods they need. We should give an increase to the invalid and old-age pensioners, and to the widows of ex-soldiers, who would spend the additional income immediately they received it. The present proposals of the Government, apart from being inhumane, and involving failure to keep a promise to do justice to the poorer sections, are economically unsound.
I have no doubt that the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) will tell us that the invalid and old-age pension has already been increased from 17s. 6d. to 18s. a week. The automatic adjustment of the pension in accordance with the cost of living is most cruel in its operation, and it eliminates the possibility of the pensioners ever getting back the 2s. 6d. a week by which their income has been reduced. No doubt the pension will eventually be raised to fi a. week, but this will be due entirely to the increased cost of living. Prices must rise by reason of an increased demand for goods and services if prosperity is to return; they must not be raised artificially. When prices begin to ascend every one will begin to buy, anticipating further rises, and when that time comes, we shall emerge from the depression. When the pension was reduced from £1 to 17s. 6d. a week the cost of living index figure was about 1810; but, if the figure increases to 2000, the pensioner will be actually worse off than he was in 1931, because the act provides that the automatic adjustment shall not carry the pension above £1.
– How can we obtain increased prices for our exports?
– When 30,000,000 white people who are unemployed are put back to work there will be a greater demand throughout the world for goods and services. The loss of world trade, through unemployment, amounts to £400,000,000, and only when this position is rectified can improved prices be obtained. Agreements such as those made at Ottawa cannot solve the problem; that agreement merely means that the representatives of six dominions sat round a table as though playing poker. A certain amount of money was in their possession, and at the end of a long game, the sum was neither greater nor less, but the money had changed hands. If the Government will not accept the amendment, I urge it, as a compromise, at least to grant to the pensioner a percentage restoration equal to that to be given to members of Parliament and the higher-paid public servants. Were the pensioners not more numerous than those whose salaries are to be partially restored, no doubt they would be given back the 2s. 6d. a week which they lost, but because they are so numerous the Government contends that a restoration to £1 a week would be too costly. I ask the Minister not to oppose the amendment, but to recast the bill.
[9.59 J. - I have no desire to take a debating point on the wording of the amendment, but I point out that the burden which this bill imposes on the budget is about £70,000. Spread among the existing 280,000 pensioners this amount would provide, not a complete restoration of the pension to £1, but the insignificant sum of one penny a week to each pensioner. An alteration to this bill to give an additional 2s. a week to the pensioners, without placing an additional burden on the budget, is quite impossible.
– What amount has the Government remitted by reducing the tax on income from property?
– That question is hardly relevant; but the amount is comparatively insignificant. The Government is proposing to restore 1 per cent, of one of the heaviest of the emergency taxes. It is difficult to estimate the additional cost of a complete restoration of pensions to £1 a week. Approximately, the figure would be in the vicinity of £2,000,000 per annum. The increase of the total cost would be not merely the 10 per cent, of the existing pensions bill, but that proportion plus a considerable amount more. The higher the pension, the more pensioners come on the list, and the total burden becomes higher because of the encroachment on the allowable income. So the total cost would be about £2,000,000, assuming that the present proportion of full pensions were maintained. In the last financial year, when the allowable maximum pension was 17s. 6d., the average payment was 16s. 9d. Members of the Opposition should not overlook the fact that in the last financial year the pensions bill amounted to £11,750,000, and this year it will be £1,000,000 more. To my knowledge never before in the history of pensions has there been an increase of so much as £1,000,000 in one financial year. The pensions bill for last year was the highest ever recorded in the Commonwealth, and this year it will be increased by another £1,000,000.
– What does that indicate?
– The significance of the increase is that a large number of people are reaching the age at which they can claim pensions. The Australian population has passed through a peculiar phase in the last fifteen years, and a disproportionate number of persons are reaching old age. That trend is continuing, and the pensions bill may he expected to increase steadily year by year.
– Is that a. sign of prosperity?
– The question of prosperity is not involved. Several factors are operating to increase the number of persons of pensionable age. Last year after allowing for deaths and surrenders of pensions the net increase of pensioners was 13,500. For this year an increase of 14,500 is estimated. Such figures cannot be lightly brushed aside; this is an enormous burden to be borne by a country with Australia’s production of wealth. My sincere hope is that Australia will continue to be in a position to meet this bill on the same scale as at present, together with the other increases of expenditure which it will have to face. While the total cost of pensions is of great concern to the Government, the chief interest to the pensioner is the amount he or she receives each fortnight. But more important is the purchasing power of the pension, which to-day is greater than at any other time in the history of old-age and invalid pensions in Australia. I could quote figures showing the effective purchasing power of the old-age pension from 1910 onwards, but I ask honorable members to believe that the recent increase of 6d., bringing the pension up to 18s., gives it greater purchasing power, both in theory and in practice, than when the pension stood at £1. Honorable members should not overlook the fact that in order to maintain that purchasing power, the Government has provided for the rise of the cost of living, and the increase of 6d. a week which took effect from the 1st July last will add £350,000 to the pensions bill this year.
Another test of the fairness of the present rate of pension is a comparison with the basic wage during the past ten or fifteen years. The proportion that the pension bears to the basic wage is higher to-day than ever before ; it has risen from 16 per cent., its lowest point, to 27.3 per cent, to-day. Countless times in this chamber, it has been demonstrated that the pensions system in Australia is the most liberal and humane in the world. I make that statement without any qualification whatever. The systems in Great Britain, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa most nearly approach that in Australia, but on all counts - the age at which the pension is available, the actual amount of the pension, the other income allowable, the residential qualification, and the total per capita burden of the pensions system on the people as a whole - the Australian pension is easily the most liberal.
– Why not bring this matter to finality by admitting that the
Government’s policy is not to restore the pension to fi a week?
– For me to attempt to forecast the Government’s future policy would be altogether wrong. I can deal only with the present and immediate past. A great deal of what has been said about the Government’s attitude towards pensioners, and the hardships it has inflicted upon them may have some rhetorical effect but cannot be sustained by logical argument. The Government has a clear conscience in respect to pensioners, and is not ashamed of the manner in which it treats them.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) stated, in an unguarded moment, that eminent economists throughout the world would support him in the proposition that, in order to achieve greater prosperity, purchasing power should be stimulated by increasing pensions and other government payments. Upon reflection I think that the honorable member would probably not make so broad a statement. The incomings and outgoings of the Government have to be balanced. For instance, if we were to double the pension bill we should have to double the direct taxation, and that would produce a state of affairs considerably worse than now exists. Invalid and old-age pension payments in the last financial year absorbed more than the whole of the Commonwealth’s direct taxation and about 20 per cent, of the taxation from all sources, direct and indirect. Honorable members have referred to the amount of taxes remitted to people who, they claim, can well afford to pay them. The budget speech which I delivered in this House a few days ago did not show any very pronounced remissions of taxation to such persons; in fact, a large section of the population, which is not the least vocal, is not at all satisfied with the relief given to taxpayers. One of the many reasons why the Government has not been able to remit more of the emergency taxation, some of which is very heavy, is the necessity to maintain pension payments on the present scale. And I repeat that the burden on the present budget will be fl,000,000 more than it was last year. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has no case against the Government on this account. The Govern ment has a clean sheet in respect of pensioners, and i3 unable to accept the amendment.
.- I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has made a strange claim when he says that the Government has a clean sheet in respect of the treatment of invalid and old-age pensioners. On numerous occasions I have heard supporters of the Government, when seeking to convince the electors of the necessity for returning it to power, pledge themselves to do everything possible to restore to the invalid and old-age pensioners the amount taken from them under the Financial Emergency Act.
– The honorable member knows that we did not.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has given similar pledges, but, like other supporters of the Government, whenever a vote has been taken, he has been against the interests of the pensioners. The Government is guilty of injustices in respect not only of invalid and old-age pensioners, but also of other social services. The Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) is continually prating of what he is doing to care for the child life of this country, though he knows that the maternity allowance has not been restored to its former level. We have heard in this House of many mothers who have been denied the maternity allowance because their husbands receive f232 per annum or more. Although the Government has frequently pledged itself to restore these social services, its first action following an improvement of the public finances, was to increase the salaries of members of Parliament and highly-paid public servants. The budget speech contained absolutely no reference to a restoration of soldiers’ pensions, but it did not omit to announce an increase of £1,750,000 for war purposes. The Assistant Treasurer said that it would cost £2,000,000 to restore a further 2s. a week to invalid and old-age pensioners, and that the restoration could not, therefore, be made. In view of that, it is astounding that he had the effrontery to announce the intention of the Government to propose an additional amount of £1,750,000 for the destruction of life. Not only was the announcement made, but the Ministry has boasted about its intention, and the newspapers have expressed their pleasure at the decision. This year, in order to prepare for the destruction of life, about £7,000,000 will be expended.
Because of the pledges made by the Government, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition has the full support of the party of which I am a member. Honorable members receive a fairly good salary, and the salaries of some highly-placed public servants exceed £2,000 per annum. “Why should honorable members and these high officers of the Commonwealth public service receive substantial restoration when the invalid and old-age pensioners are still receiving 2s. a week less than the amount to which they are entitled. It is a disgrace for this Parliament to say to the pensioners : “ We cannot see our way clear to make restoration to you “.
.- I support the amendment. Personally, I do not object to the restorations proposed in the bill. It may be claimed that there has been an improvement in general conditions which justifies the Government in bringing in a bill to provide for increased payments to honorable members and public servants. Certainly there has been some improvement of the outlook of the community in general. One reason for this is the fact that factories have been able to increase their output in order to replenish warehouse stocks, which had been allowed to become low during the depression. The fact remains that the emergency legislation passed by this Parliament has caused the standards of the mass of the wage-earners to be lowered.
I listened with a good deal of interest to the remarks of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in regard to pensions. The honorable gentleman quoted statistics to prove that it is not possible to make any restoration to pensioners, and said that a formula had been prepared under which their position would be improved in the future. I agree with him that the pensions bill absorbs a good deal of revenue. But I join issue with him upon the reasons which he gave for the considerable addition to the number of pensioners within the last year or two. In the main, the reason is that depressed conditions have caused a number of persons to lose what income they formerly possessed. I suggest in all sincerity that we cannot afford to neglect the aged and infirm members of the community. We are not greatly concerned with what is done in other countries. In many respects Australia has led the way in the provision of social services for its people. The royal commission which inquired into the matter some years ago presented in tabulated form the rates in European countries, Great Britain, and the dominions. I frankly admit that the rates in other countries are relatively not so high as they are in Australia. But that does not alter the fact that we now have a less attractive system than that which formerly operated. If not actually stated, it certainly was implied in the financial emergency legislation that there would be complete restoration as soon as it was warranted by the circumstances. During the last three years, however, another line of attack has been developed. Taxation has been remitted to an amount of about £9,000,000 to those who were not promised relief. That constitutes a definite breach of faith cn the part of the Government. If it be not practicable to make complete restoration, I join with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) in appealing to the Government to give some relief to pensioners. I read with a good deal of interest the following statement made in London by the wife of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) : -
There is a feeling of hopelessness among the young. They are bom, they grow up, and they have no outlook. There is a fine foundation for optimism.
The position to which Mrs. Lyons referred is due largely to the reduced purchasing power of the people. The problem must be tackled from that angle. There is a good deal of truth in what the
Prince of Wales told a conference of nations in 1932. His Royal Highness said that the problem of production had been solved, that the problem now to be faced was that of distribution, and that the position could only be improved by raising the standard of living of the people as a whole by employing all the employable labour for a limited number of hours a day. It is well known that with five out of six persons earning less than £2 a week, the purchasing power of the community is not likely to rise. The paradox of the situation is that production must be increased before the people can obtain some of the good things that alreadyexist in abundance. I hope that the appeal which has been made to the Assistant Treasurer will not be entirely ignored; and that he will at least attempt to do something to improve the position of the pensioners as well as that of wage earners generally. [Quorum formed.]
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mahoney) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Archdale Parkhill) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow, at 2.30 p.m.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he make a statement setting out the nature of the duties of the Imperial Defence Committee; also the powers of the committee, and whether its decisions will be binding upon the governments concerned.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The duties of the Committee of Imperial Defence, which was established in 1904 by the United Kingdom Government, are to secure as far as possible continuity of policy in matters of defence, and to co-ordinate defence policy and defence questions. As the committee is an advisory and consultative body its powers are limited to inquiry into and recommendations on the issues of defence policy and organization which are brought before it. The decisions on the committee’s recommendations rest with the United Kingdom Government except in cases where the advice of the committee is sought by a dominion government. In such instances any decision is a matter for the government con- cerned.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government state if any action has been taken to deal with the following instances of inflation to avoid taxation (majority report, page 145) : -
s.- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. I would invite the honorable member’s attention to Order of the Day No. 9, relating to the amendment moved by the honorable member for West Sydney to the motion “ that the reports be printed “, and I do not propose to anticipate discussion on that honorable member’s amendment. The Government’s intentions as to the action it proposes to take on the recommendations of the royal commission will be made known at an appropriate time. It is not the practice to announce the Government’s policy in reply to answers to questions.
I may add that I am causing a copy of the honorable member’s question and this reply to be supplied to the Commissioner of Taxation for any action which he deems necessary.
Trade with Papua.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. Only two organizations have fully complied with the conditions governing the grant of subsidies for gliding activities, viz., the West Australian Flying Club, which has earned subsidy to the amount of £75 in respect of activities during the period April, 1934, to June, 1935; and the QueenslandGliding Association, which has earned £10 in respect of the period February to April, 1935. A third body (the Australian Gliding Club, Victorian section) is expected to be in a position to earn subsidy at the approved rates in the near future.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With the object of ensuring correct grade, will he consider the advisability of introducing a system of inspection of kerbstone petrol pumps throughout Australia?
– Owing to constitutional difficulties it is not possible for the Commonwealth to legislate to give effect to the recommendation of the chairman of the Royal Commission on Petrol that a definite standard for petrol be prescribed, and that all petrol should be sold under a specification which should appear on the pump, or to institute a system of inspection with the object of ensuring correct grade. The chairmen’s recommendations have, however, been brought under the notice of the States for any action the States consider desirable.
en asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The special total expenses in each instance are not at present available for the reason given in the answer to 2.
The Right Honorable J. A. Lyons and Mrs. Lyons (Melbourne-Canberra) - 24 weeks 4 days.
Mr. McKenna (Melbourne Canberra ) 24 weeks 4 days.
Mr. Douglas (Melbourne Sydney) 24 weeks 4 days.
Miss Grosvenor (Melbourne Canberra ) 24 weeks 4 days.
Mr. Swanson (Melbourne Canberra) 24. weeks 6 days.
The Honorable H. V. C. Thorby and Mrs. Thorby (Melbourne-Sydney) - 2(1 weeks 4 days.
Mr. H. MeConaghy (Melbourne Melbourne) 20 weeks 6 days.
The Honorable R. G. Menzies and Mrs. Menzies (Melbourne-Melbourne ) - 28 weeks 4 days.
Mr. Stirling (Melbourne Melbourne) , 28 weeks 4 days.
Mr. Sunners (Melbourne Melbourne) , 27 weeks (i days.
The following’ left Australia on the 19th February, 1935, and have not yet returned: -
The Honorable Sir Henry S. Gullet and
Lady Gullet; Mr. A. C. Moore; Mr. E. McCarthy, Mr. A. Hopkins, Miss O’Brien.
en asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Figures for earlier years are set out in Oversea Trade Bulletin, No. 31. published by the Commonwealth Statistician.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l. - On the 27th September, the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Broadcasting Station at Clevedon, Queensland.
– On the 27th September, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) inquired, without notice, when the wireless broadcasting station at Clevedon, near Townsville, will be completed and ready for use. I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that the installation of the radio equipment at the Townsville regional broadcasting station is proceeding, but it is not possible to say when the station will be in operation until after the full operating tests have been conducted. These tests are expected to take place about the end of the year.
Dole in Canberra.
n. - On the 27th Septem ber, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for the Interior advise me as to what dole is paid in Canberra at the present time?
I now desire to advise the honorable member that for some time residents of Canberra, for whom full-time government employment was not available, were provided with unemployment relief work on a minimum basis of one week in three for married men and one week in five for single men. Usually it was possible to raise this ratio to full-time for a few weeks in December and June. According to the size of a man’s family, the ratio of one in three was supplemented by an allotment of work, the wages for which, together with the periodical week’s wages above-mentioned, equipped the householder with sufficient funds to purchase food. Out-going for rent was allowed for in this connexion. No payment was made or ration relief order issued for which, no return was made by the recipient. The Government has now been able to increase the employment ratio to one in two for married men and one in four for single men.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351001_reps_14_147/>.