23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Address-in-Reply: Acknowledgment by Her Majesty the Queen.
– I desire to inform the House that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General the following communication in connexion with the Address-in-Reply: -
I desire to acquaint you that the substance of the Address-in-Reply which you presented to me on 18th March, 1959, has been communicated to Her Majesty the Queen.
It is the Queen’s wish that I convey to you and to honorable members of the House of Representatives Her Majesty’s sincere thanks for the loyal message of which your Address gives expression.
J. SLIM, Governor-General. 9th April, 1959.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Recently, in reply to a question concerning the appointment of an additional commissioner - this appointment was suggested by the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - the Minister informed me that the appointment was still being considered. I ask the Minister whether finality has yet been reached in this matter. Further, has the matter pending before the Public Service Arbitrator in respect of postal workers’ claims made any advance? As these workers have been considering strike action in order to gain recognition for their claims pending, will the Minister inform me of the present position?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ Not yet “. I am still discussing the matter with my colleague, the AttorneyGeneral. As to the second part of the question, the Public Service Board has agreed with the federal executive of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union to increase the pay, first of all, of cleaners, lift-drivers and night-watchmen by a certain amount a week. I will get the exact figures and convey them to the honorable member. It has been agreed also that line foremen, grade II. and line foremen, grade I. shall have their wages increased by annual amounts. In one case I think the rate is £60 per annum, and in the other, £30 per annum, subject to an allowance when special duties are performed.
But the important thing about the negotiations between the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and the Public Service Board is that the executive of that union has expressed its appreciation of the use of conciliation by the Public Service Board and of the action it has taken. For that reason the union has decided that, so far as pending claims are concerned, it will defer consideration of any further action, direct or not, until, I think, about 30th June this year. I think the honorable member will agree that the matter is now proceeding smoothly and satisfactorily. If there is any further information I can get for him subsequently, I will convey it to him in writing.
– I address a question to the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade. Can the Minister say whether the global import licences introduced by the New Zealand Government enable imports to be made from the most favorable market, and so eliminate discrimination against dollar sources and make the best use of funds available for imports? If so, will the Minister consider issuing global licences for Australian imports?
– I know the interest that the honorable member has in this particular subject. I think that the first thing to do, though, is to establish just what is the New Zealand position. New Zealand does have discrimination against quite a number of goods from dollar sources. I cannot, of course, remember all of them, but they include clothing, footwear, tractors, sporting goods and, of course, newsprint. Then there is another group for which virtually no licences are issued, and it is only on the balance that they are freely available from other countries. The honorable member will recall that just before the Minister for Trade went abroad that right honorable gentleman announced the Australian Government’s decision to increase from 50 per cent, to about 70 per cent., the value of goods which could come without discrimination irrespective of origin, which covered about 330 items, I think, from memory, at a cost of about £170,000,000. I am sure that the honorable member will understand that the Government has this question right in the forefront of its mind, and will no doubt carry on with the same policy as it becomes possible to do so.
– Will the Minister for Social Services have inquiries made in connexion with the allowance made to the wives of invalid pensioners and certain age pensioners, with a view to relieving people in this category who receive only 35s. a week wife’s allowance in addition to the pension of the husband? Further, will he also consider the fact that the rental allowance of 10s. a week paid to single rentpaying pensioners without dependants means that the wife’s allowance plus husband’s pension is now only 25s. a week more than the amount received by those who qualify for the special rent allowance?
– Perhaps I should say that I am grateful to the honorable member for Port Adelaide for his general attitude of helpfulness on the broad question of social services, and I can give him an assurance that the matters he now raises are currently under consideration.
– In directing a question to the Treasurer I refer to a question that was recently asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in which that honorable gentleman said that the result of the recent conversion loan in London reflected what he called - most unfortunately, I think - Australia’s worsening economic plight. I ask the Treasurer, Sir, whether he can give the House any information about the standing of Australia on the London market at present, and also whether he thinks that it is unfortunate that the Labour Party should attempt to make capital, and damage Australia’s credit, by referring in the terms the Deputy Leader of the Opposition used, to what was really a temporary position.
– Answering the latter part of the honorable gentleman’squestion first, I agree that it gives no assistance to Australia to make the kind of comment which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made when he asked the question to which the honorable member for Macarthur has referred. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had taken the trouble to study the circumstances and the results, he would have known that the £20,000,000 stg. loan, on long-term issue and completely underwritten, was undersubscribed by about 60 per cent, only as a result of the disturbed international situation at that time, with disturbances occurring in the Middle East, Africa and Europe, which affected the state of the market. Had Australia’s credit standing not been as high as it was, we should not have been able even to get on the London market at that time and have a loan underwritten. We felt that although we had sought a loan on more favorable terms than on the two previous occasions, the result was largely due to the factors I have mentioned. I have been watching the position closely in London subsequently and I am glad to be able to report that that judgment has been confirmed in the result. Although the loan opened at a discount after being so heavily under-subscribed, it gradually moved back to the price of issue and, on the most recent trading date for which I have information, was being traded at a slight premium.
– Has the Prime Minister received a letter from the Johnstone Shire Council requesting him to make an investigation into a mechanical harvester for tea? If he has received that letter, has he given it consideration because of the national importance of the industry to Australia? If he has not, will he please receive from me at a later date, on behalf of the council, representations on this matter?
– I am not aware of having received this letter. Naturally. I would be very interested to hear from the honorable member, himself, whatever he can tell me about the matter.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry tell us the final realization figure per lb. for butter in the last financial year? Can the Minister also tell us what the realization figure is expected to be for this financial year? If an approach were made to the Government to increase its guarantee to 3s. 6d. per lb. or more, would the Minister consider such increase?
– The calculations that my department have made with regard to payments for last year’s butter deliveries indicate an approximate price of 3s. 7Jd. per lb. which, in effect, means that the dairymen will receive approximately Hd. per lb. in addition to what they have already received as last year’s payment. That amount should be forthcoming within two months. On present calculations, based on the realizations overseas for this year, it is estimated that we may equal last year’s payment in the ultimate. The price on the London market is holding at about 287s. per cwt. and has been at that figure or above since 7th December, 1958. So far as the honorable member’s request for an increased guarantee for the forthcoming year is concerned, I rather assume that submissions will be made by the Australian Dairy Industry Council to me as the responsible Minister pertaining to our marketing policy in regard to a price for the next season. I would give due consideration to those submissions.
– Can the Minister for Health say whether a decision has been reached in reconsidering the recognition of the Northfield and Magill wards of the Royal Adelaide Hospital for the purposes of the special accounts plan for chronic and pre-existing ailments?
– Yes, the decision has been reached. My recollection is that one of those institutions has been recognized but not the other. I shall get the definite details and let the honorable member know.
MEKONG RIVER PROJECT. Sir WILFRID KENT HUGHES. - I ask the Minister for External Affairs how long the Mekong River project has been under consideration by the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. What progress, if any, was made, at the recent meeting in relation to the operation? How long will it be before the project has any chance of being started?
– The scheme is being investigated by a committee of four, representing the four riparian countries - Thailand, South Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. The present phase is one of investigation and preliminary work. The United States of America has offered aid of, I think, from memory, 2,200,000 dollars. The Canadian Government is providing a very great deal, if not all, of the air survey at a cost which is the equivalent, I think, of about £600,000 Australian. At the meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, at Broadbeach, in Queensland, lately, I offered, on behalf of the Australian Government, £100,000 Australian to be devoted to the provision of such equipment as we could supply, and of experts from Australia and, if necessary, to the training of engineers and the like in Australia. That offer has been made to the committee of four, and they will select projects, equipment and proposals, and if these things are within our compass, we shall provide them under the Colombo Plan.
As I have said, the present phase is one of investigation. The project is very large indeed, as I expect the honorable member for Chisholm knows from his own experience. I should expect the preliminary phase to occupy several years, and the eventual carrying out of the scheme will entail the expenditure of a very great deal of capital. I cannot give any prognosis as to when the actual work will begin, but I should think the start will be several years ahead.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Has the Minister noted the most unfortunate aftermath of the recent eclipse of the sun, which has left so many children suffering from irreparable damage to their eyes? Can the Minister indicate whether, when the next partial eclipse is due, in March, 1960 - in the comparatively near future - action can be taken to ensure that adequate publicity and advertising material is distributed throughout Australian schools, and whether special lectures can be given to pupils to indicate the danger inherent in gazing at these interesting but, in most cases, dangerous solar phenomena?
– I have noticed that there have been - and I am very sorry to say it - quite a number of reports of permanent affection of children’s eyesight from looking at the recent eclipse of the sun, and I agree with the honorable gentleman that it would be most desirable that the danger should be publicized before the next eclipse occurs. Prior to the recent eclipse, I issued to the press and the Australian Broadcasting Commission a statement on its dangers, and this statement, so far as I know, was published throughout the Australian press about five days or a week before the eclipse occurred. I happened to be in Queensland at the time, and I saw the statement quite well displayed in both the metropolitan and the country press in that State; and I have no doubt that it was displayed similarly throughout the rest of the Commonwealth. However, if there is anything further that can be done in the future, I shall be glad to do it.
– I address my question to the Minister for Air, and I refer to a question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Corio of the Minister for the Army, concerning an alleged difference of opinion between the chiefs of staff of the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force over the use of Hercules aircraft. Will the Minister for Air inform the House whether these aircraft can be used for the carrying of troops and whether they will be made available for this purpose?
– I am asked, I think, two questions about the use of the Hercules aircraft. They can be used for carrying troops. Each of these twelve aircraft is provided with movable seats to enable it to carry 92 passengers. It is accepted that these aircraft will have a certain tactical role for troop-carrying in war: that is, for moving troops in forward areas of war. Training, with the Army, for this purpose, is included in their programme. But to regard these aircraft as personnel-carrying aircraft, and to use them only as such, would be to mistake their special capability, which is to carry heavy equipment, heavy stores, ammunition, weapons and large vehicles such as can be carried by no other aircraft in Australia. It is for this purpose that they can best be used in the interests of all three services. To regard them as buses would be a mistake. They should be regarded and used as heavy trucks of a highly specialized kind.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Interior been directed to a finding by the Conciliation Commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory, refusing an application by master butchers for Saturday morning trading during winter months? Does this mean that the National Capital is to follow the policy of trade paralysis encouraged by Mr. 0’Dea?
– I have not studied the effects of the decision referred to by the honorable member. I will consider it in the light of his question.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the former Third Secretary of the Soviet Legation in Canberra, Vladimir Petrov, will continue to receive income from the Commonwealth Government when that legation re-opens? Further, is it the Government’s intention to offer the same terms and conditions that applied in the case of Petrov to any newly appointed member of the legation who may be interested?
– The second part of the question, I take it, was a clever comment. The first part of the question I am quite prepared to investigate, and I will advise the honorable member.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. I refer to the expenditure of money for capital works on the coaxial cable projects, designed to facilitate interstate communications, which were recently announced by the Minister. I ask the Minister: Has such expenditure materially diminished the amount of money available for capital works such as engineering works and line installations for the provision of telephone services in newly developed residential and industrial areas, in which there is a growing need and demand for telephone services?
– The projects which I have recently announced, involving the laying of a coaxial cable between Melbourne and Sydney, and other coaxial cables servicing other parts of Victoria and New South Wales, form part of the normal work of the department in satisfying the everincreasing demands for the various services that have to be provided, including telephone and telecommunication services. The laying of the coaxial cable between Melbourne and Sydney is a large project, and its financial implications have already been thoroughly discussed with my colleague, the Treasurer, and Treasury officials. The equipment cost for this particular project will be just over £3,000,000, but that expenditure will be spread over several years, as the project will not be completed until, I think, some time in 1962. The proportion of our capital costs for the coming year represented by this project will not be large. The understands’; is that in each year the cost of this particular venture will be taken into account in determining the total amount made available to the department for capital works. The Government has shown by its allocations to the department in previous years that it has a proper appreciation of the need to continue development to keep pace with the demands on the department, and I feel quite sure that that policy will be continued in future years.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Honorable members will recall that in May, 1957, the Government introduced, and before the end of that year the Parliament passed, the Commonwealth Police Act, under which officers can be appointed to the Commonwealth Police Force on terms and conditions determined by the Attorney-General with the concurrence of the Public Service Board. I now ask the honorable gentleman whether he has yet determined these terms and conditions and, if so, why has the act not yet been brought into operation?
– The determinations of the Public Service Board have not come before me as yet.
– You determine them.
– Yes, with the concurrence of the board. I have not received the return of the recommendations of the board as yet. I have had a number of inquiries on this subject, and I have promised that as soon as I determine the terms and conditions I will let the associations concerned know what the terms and conditions are. The act will then be able to be put into force.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Immigration, following on the question of the honorable member for Corio, which called attention to the number of children whose eyes have been affected by looking at the eclipse of the sun. I ask the Minister whether he will issue to migrants, through every available channel, a warning of the danger of watchins? an eclipse of the sun. Honorable members will have noticed the number of migrant children whose eyes have been affected. Probably their parents were unable to understand the language or to read the newspapers.
– I thank the honorable member for Sturt for his suggestion. I shall certainly investigate what he says and shall cause inquiries to be made as to whether we can usefully issue the notices for which he asks. On the other hand, I think it is only fair to bear in mind that, according to the comments of astronomers published in the newspapers, the eclipse of the sun which we had last week was, as T understand it, the most dramatic that perhaps any of us will see in our lifetime in Australia. I believe that there will not be an eclipse of such magnitude until the end of the century when, of course, T hope that my honorable friend will still be alive and that I will betoo. Nonetheless, the danger mentioned by the honorable member cannot for the next 40 years be of such magnitude as was sounfortunately the case last week.
– My question, Mr. Speaker, is directed to you. I thank you for your answer to my previous question which, by the way, was given no prominence by the press - these supposed guardians of the public purse and protectors of the public welfare. I should like to know now whether it is a fact that additional offices are to be added to the rear of Parliament House. If this is so, why is it necessary for 21 offices to be occupied by employees of the press combines when they are obviously required by the Parliament? Is it a fact that the offices occupied by members of the press gallery are serviced by the cleaning staff employed by the Parliament? Is it also a fact that messengers are used, free of charge, to deliver papers in connexion with the proceedings of the House to the press gallery? Would you, Sir, investigate the cost of these services to the great mass of Australian taxpayers?
– I undertake to have a look at the question raised by the honorable member and to furnish him with a reply.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House what progress is being achieved in the Commonwealth antipoliomyelitis campaign? Are sufficient stocks of Salk vaccine being prepared to cover full continuity of the campaign? What are the age groups which have so far been covered, and when is it anticipated that the next age group will be covered?
- Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of this campaign the population is divided into three age groups - from birth to fourteen years, fifteen to 44 years and those above 44 years. The campaign is a continuous process. It is not a question entirely of finishing one age group before going on to the next because the honorable gentleman will realize that new entrants are continually arriving in each age group.
I think that approximately 2,250,000 children have received a full course of injections and perhaps another 400,000 will have had one or two injections, so that very good coverage has been obtained in that age group. In the intermediate age group from fifteen years to 44 years, there has not been nearly so good a cover, nor is it easy to arrange with adults to attend for mass immunization; at any rate, it is not as easy as it is with children. All the same, between 750,000 and 800,000 adults have now had at least one injection and, speaking from memory, I think that perhaps 100,000 to 103,000 or 104,000 have now had the full course.
I take this opportunity to say how very important it is for adults to submit themselves for inoculation because we will deceive ourselves if we imagine that inoculation of the children will provide any protection for adults, in whom poliomyelitis can be a very severe disease. Mass immunization is not considered necessary for the final age group.
As to the honorable member’s question about the stocks of Salk vaccine, the answer is that adequate quantities are held to permit the campaign to be continued on the present scale.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of preface, 1 wish to state that some time last year, the Association of Professional Engineers lodged a claim for increased pay. Subsequently the Clerical and Administrative Officers Association also lodged a claim, and both associations then asked that their claims be heard together by the full Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Is it true that no decision has yet been made by the commission in respect of those two matters? Having regard to the fact that the Clerical and Administrative Officers Association covers only employees of the Commonwealth Public Service, and having regard to the undue delay that has already taken place, would the Minister be prepared to agree to an interim award covering at least in part the claims it is making? Will the Minister indicate also whether there is anything he can do to expedite a decision by the commission in respect of both these claims?
– Some time towards the middle ot the end of last year, the Association of Professional Engineers did lodge a claim with the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, or a commissioner, for an increase in the salaries of its members. The association itself then made an application for the hearing to be referred to the full commission. Some time later, the Clerical and Administrative Officers Association lodged an application on much the same grounds for an increase in salary. Again, application was made for the case to be referred from the arbitrator to the full commission. The engineers’ case concerns not only Commonwealth and State engineers, but private employees as well. The State government concerned took the matter to the High Court to see whether the commission had jurisdiction to determine the claim insofar as it related to State employees. It is quite true that the clerical and administrative officers’ case does concern Commonwealth public servants, but it has been thought that that matter could not be dealt with by interim award for the simple reason that the grounds of both claims are similar and it would not be proper to make a decision in the clerical officers’ case without being able to hear the evidence being presented in the case of the professional engineers. Tn other words, it is not thought practicable at this stage to hear one case and to neglect the other.
As to the future, I should say that little of a practical nature can be done until the High Court has given its decision as to jurisdiction. Once the question of jurisdiction has been decided, I hope that the hearings will be able to proceed without too much trouble.
There is one other matter that I should mention. The parties themselves are largely responsible for the delay because they had the matter referred to the full commission and they have insisted that the evidence be heard by the full commission rather than the Public Service Arbitrator or the lay commissioner concerned. I hope to be able to bring this matter before Cabinet shortly in order to overcome the procedural difficulties and to ensure that there is a minimum of delay in taking evidence in future.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the presence of the Dalai Lama in India gives the lie direct to the Communist Chinese claim that he was under duress and had been abducted by hostile or unfriendly elements. Will the Minister ask the Australian representative in India to call on Mr. Nehru and express to him Australia’s support of his action in giving sanctuary to the Dalai Lama? Will the Minister also assure the Dalai Lama of Australia’s sympathy with the people of Tibet?
– I do not think anybody was taken in by Peking’s claim that the Dalai Lama had been abducted. To that extent the answer to the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question is, “ Yes “.
With regard to the remainder of the question, I think it has been quite clear that not only the Australian Government, but also the Australian people, have every sympathy with the Dalai Lama in the distressing circumstances in which he finds himself. I shall certainly consider the honorable gentleman’s proposal that we should communicate with the Government of India in this regard.
– I ask the Minister for the Army: Is it a fact that the army exercises being held at Mackay, or in that vicinity, are not a true exposition of the manpower, fire power, and equipment of the Australian Army because of the absence of units of the armoured division? Is the absence of those units due to the fact that the roads and bridges of the highway system of this country will not carry the tanks so that they may be used in those exercises? Further, would it be possible to transport the tanks by Hercules aircraft?
– I saw something about this matter in a Brisbane newspaper recently, lt is true that the 50-ton tanks are not being taken to Mackay for the brigade group exercises, nor indeed have the exercises been planned in a way that would require the tanks in the kind of terrain in which they are being held.
– There are no strategic roads.
– It is not a question of strategic roads for vehicles of that kind. Those vehicles could be taken by sea or train, but it would be a very costly process. I have gone into this matter very closely and have ascertained that the cost of taking the Centurion tanks to Mackay for the exercises, and returning them to their base at Puckapunyal, would be altogether out of proportion to the importance of the exercises because the troops can be trained with the tanks in their present position. The tanks could be moved, but there is no necessity to move them, nor are the exercises being arranged with a view to their use.
– If an enemy wants to invade us, he has to come to Puckapunyal!
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes will remain silent.
– The Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will recollect that some months ago I took up with him the question of that body providing some scholarships for the undergraduate study of science, parallel with those already provided by the Commonwealth Statistician, the Department of Works for architects, some State government departments, and many large private firms, to foster the study in universities of the subjects in which these bodies have a particular interest. Can the Minister now say whether he has made any progress with his inquiries and, if so, what is the result?
– I remember the correspondence that I had with the honorable gentleman on this matter. The facts are not in my mind at this moment, but I shall -examine the correspondence and communicate with him at an early date.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is there any truth in the persistent rumour that Newcastle is not to be provided with a television station and that the Government proposes to recommend only the establishment of booster stations for that city? In view of the ever-increasing number of applications by residents of Newcastle and district for viewers’ licences, will the Minister urge the Government to give earlier consideration than was originally intended to the need for the establishment of a television station in that city?
– This is a question which I have answered on a number of occasions during the last few weeks. My answer is still the same as that which I have given in the last week or two. The matter is under consideration. No determination has been made. When a determination is made, it will be announced to the House.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. Is it true that sales tax in Australia is now covered by 24 statutes, and that this section of taxation has become so complicated that accountancy institutes might well include sales tax in their syllabuses for examination purposes? Will the right honorable gentleman assist the accountancy profession and the public by arranging for a new edition of “ Sales Tax Exemptions and Classifications “ to be published and supplemented by a service to keep the volume up to date?
– I confess that I have not had a recent count of the number of statutes which embody sales tax provisions, but I have no doubt that they are many and that their provisions are complex. In fact, during almost every Budget discussion on this matter, honorable gentlemen are able to produce instances of what seem, on the face of them, to be anomalies in the operation of sales tax provisions. I shall have examined the practicability of doing something useful along the lines suggested by the honorable gentleman and communicate with him as soon as I can do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. Is it a fact that one of the conditions of the release from prison in 1954 of the convicted German war criminal, Herr Krupp, was that by March of this year the interests of his family in the coal and steel industries were to be sold? Is it a fact that the Krupp industrial empire is now bigger and richer than ever? If so, will the Minister state whether the Government has taken, or intends taking, any action to raise this matter for discussion and decision with the other nations which were our allies in accomplishing the defeat of Germany in World War II.? If not, what is the Government’s explanation of its inactivity in this matter?
– The simple answer is that I have not the slightest idea. I shall look into the matter and give the honorable gentleman a reply to his many questions.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence, in reference to the recent decision to amalgamate the canteens services of the three branches of the defence forces. How much is it anticipated this move will save in a full year? Why is the Navy permitted to maintain, partially, a position of splendid isolation in the new arrangement? Finally, can the Minister tell the House which other services common to the three branches are in line for integration in the near future in pursuance of the Government’s policy?
– The honorable member has asked two or three questions, the first of which is in regard to the integration of the three services. The Navy has the same representation on the canteens board as the other two services. There were the best of good reasons why the Navy did not fit into the new organization, but it will take part in the bulk purchases of supplies and therefore get all sorts of added benefits. It is estimated at fhe present timethatthere will be a saving of £33,000 a year, and that could increase to as much as £1,000 a week, all of which goes in added amenities for the members ofthe forces.
The other part of the honorable member’s question requires a very Jong answer. The Design and Inspection Branch has been tidied up and integrated. We are now looking at the medical services and the possibility of installing electronic data processing equipment through all the stores, and so on. This is quite abig subject, and I will let the honorable member have further information if he cares to come and have a talk with rae about it afterwards.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to a proposed adjustment of the quotas of members ofthe International Monetary Fund and to a proposed increase of the capital stock of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament for an increase in Australia’s subscriptions to the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I have been advised that the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947, which provided for Australia’s membership of the fund and bank, already contains sufficient authority for Australia to consent to an increase in its fund and bank subscriptions. However, in view of the importance of these two institutions in the field of international finance the Government has decided that it is in the public interest to give Parliament an opportunity to express ite views.
I should first make it clear that the proposed increases in Australia’s subscriptions to the fund and bank are part of a general proposal to increase the subscriptions of all the 68 member countries of each institution. At the annual meetings of the boards of governors of fhe fund and bank held in New Delhi last October, at which Australia was represented by my predecessor, Sir Arthur Fadden, resolutions were passed instructing the boards of directors of each institution to examine the case for an increase in its resources and to report back to governors. There are eighteen directors on each board and since 1948 an Australian representative has been appointed to serve on both boards. Governors have delegated authority to the directors to carry on the day to day operations of the fund and the bank but revisions offund quotas or increases in the capital stock of the bank are among the matters that must be referred to the boards of governors on which all 68 member countries are represented.
Last December, the directors reported back to governors that they were in favour of an increase in the resources of each institution and the texts of their reports have been circulated to members. The reports recommended a general increase of 50 per cent, in fund quotas and a doubling of subscriptions to the capital stock of the bank with additional increases for certain members.
The governors of the fund and the bank have approved the recommendations contained in the reports of the directors and it now remains for each member country, in accordance with its own procedures, to determine whether or not it will consent to the proposed increase in its own fund quota and capital subscription to the bank.
In my capacity as Australian governor of the fund and the bank I have voted in favour of the recommendations and it is now proposed that, along with other members, Australia should accept the increase in its fund quota by 50 per cent, and in its subscription to the capital stock of the bank by 100 per cent.
I shall deal first with the proposal to increase Australia’s fund quota by 50 per cent. When members joined the fund they were allotted quotas which determined both the size of their subscriptions and the amount of financial assistance they could obtain from the fund. The amount of a member’s subscription was equal to its quota and was payable partly in gold and partly in its domestic currency. On joining the fund, each member was given the alternative of making a gold payment equal to either 25 per cent, of its quota or 10 per cent, of its official holdings of gold and United States dollars in 1946.
Australia joined the fund in August, 1947, with a quota equal to 200,000,000 United States dollars or £89,000,000 Australian at the present rate of exchange. A gold subscription equivalent to £4,000,000 was paid representing 10 per cent, of our gold and United States dollar holdings in 1946. The balance of £85,000,000 was paid in Australian currency.
The increase of 50 per cent, now proposed would raise our fund quota from 200,000,000 United States dollars to 300,000.000 United States dollars and the consequent increase in our subscription would be the equivalent of 100,000,000 United States dollars or £45,000,000 Australian. Under the articles of agreement of the fund, 25 per cent, of this increase, about £11,000,000, would be payable in gold and the balance of £34,000,000 would be payable in Australian currency but not in cash. For the Australian currency proportion Australia would lodge non-negotiable, non-interest bearing securities with the Commonwealth Bank as depository for the fund.
As mentioned earlier, the quotas allocated to members determine the amounts they can borrow from the fund as well as the size of their subscriptions. The fund lends foreign currencies to its members to assist their balance of payments and there is now a firmly established policy regarding the amounts members can borrow from the fund. A description of this policy is contained in the report of the fund’s directors. Members can obtain from the fund, virtually on demand, an amount equal to the amount of gold they have paid in. Thus the gold payment of £11,000,000 would always be available to us in time of need. In appropriate circumstances Australia can, of course, draw from the fund amounts substantially larger than its gold subscription; and the increase in our total subscription by 50 per cent, would raise the maximum .amount we could draw, if the fund considered the circumstances warranted it, from £93,000,000 to £149,000,000. As Treasurer, I consider that such an increase in our borrowing potential from the fund would be a most useful addition to what is, in effect, our second line of international reserves.
I now turn to the proposed increase of 100 per cent, in Australia’s subscription to the International Bank. The increase in our subscription to this institution will involve no cash payment by Australia. Unlike the fund, which relies entirely on its members’ subscriptions for its working capital, the bank obtains the greater part of its finance from its borrowings from institutional and other investors. It has been able to do this for two reasons: First, the bank has become recognized as a sound financial organization which lends only against the guarantee of the governments of its members; the second reason lies in the way the bank’s capital has been constructed.
When members joined the bank they were allotted shares in its capital stock. However, of the total value of shares allotted to each member, only 20 per cent, was called up, 2 per cent, being paid in gold and 18 per cent, in the domestic currency of the member. The remaining 80 per cent, was left subject to call only if required to meet obligations arising out of the bank’s own borrowings or guarantees of loans. It is this 80 per cent, uncalled capital that provides the backing for the bank’s borrowings. In the eyes of the investor, the uncalled capital constitutes a guarantee undertaken by all the member governments of the bank to provide funds to meet the bank’s debt to him in the unlikely event that the bank could not meet its obligations from its own resources.
Because of the growth in the bank’s lending to its members the point could be reached before long where, in the absence of an increase in its uncalled capital, the bank would be hampered in raising further funds in the world’s capital markets. In order to prevent this situation from arising, and to allow the bank to continue its lending operations at the high rate achieved in recent years, it has been proposed that members should double their capital subscriptions to the bank. However, in view of the purpose for which the increase in capital is being sought it has been proposed that all of the 100 per cent, increase will be left uncalled. Thus, all that the member governments of the bank are being asked to do is to accept an increased contingent liability to provide funds if they should ever be needed to enable the bank to meet its obligations - a contingency which, given the way the bank operates, is extremely remote.
When Australia joined the bank in 1947 it was allotted a share of the capital stock equivalent to 200,000.000 dollars or £89,000,000 at the present rate of exchange. As already explained, only 20 per cent., about - £18,000,000 - was paid up, and the remaining £71.000,000 has remained uncalled. The proposal to increase Australia’s share of the capital stock by 100 per cent, would increase this uncalled liability by £89,000,000. As a net im porter of capital from overseas it is to Australia’s advantage to see the capital of the bank increased in this way so that the bank may continue at least to maintain its present rate of lending to members. Since 1950, Australia has negotiated six bank loans totalling £142,000,000 and the equipment and materials imported under those loans have played an important part in the development of our economy in the postwar years.
Having looked at the proposals from the Australian point of view, I would finally like to say something about the part the fund and the bank have played in the wider sphere of international financial relations.
When the proposals for the establishment of the two institutions emerged at the end of World War II., many countries had misgivings as to whether they would prove to be of real value. To-day, after twelve years of operation, there can be no doubt as to the contribution the fund and bank have made to international trade and economic growth in the post-war period. It is, perhaps, not irrelevant to note that the current membership of these bodies comprises almost all the countries of the free world. Since it commenced operations, the fund has made short-term finance available to 36 of its member countries totalling over 4,000,000,000 dollars. This assistance has been an important factor in maintaining the growth of international trade in which Australia has a vital interest. The largest single transaction by any member country with the fund arose out of the Suez events, which caused sterling to come under pressure. In December, 1956, the United Kingdom drew 561,000,000 dollars from the fund and entered into a stand-by arrangement which allowed it to draw a further 739,000,000 if it so desired. Over the years, other Commonwealth countries have also had occasion to make use of the fund’s resources. Australia has made two drawings, one of 20,000,000 dollars in 1949, and one of 30,000,000 dollars in 1952. Both these drawings have been fully repaid.
The International Bank makes long-term loans available to its members for the development of their economies, and in its twelve years of operations it has made over 200 separate loans to 49 of its member countries, amounting to 4.300,000,000 dollars.Apartfromthefactthatanenlargementoftheresourcesofthebank mightbeconsidered as enhancing the possibility of further investment by the bank indevelopment projects in Australia, the. increase is needed to ensure that the bank will be able to continue financing economic development elsewhere, particularly in the less developed countries. Such aid is of great importance from the political point of view. Moreover, it benefits not only the economies of the less, developed countries tiiemselves,. but is generally conducive to the expansion of world production and trade’.
If is the Government’s view that a strengthening; o£ both the fund and bank willi make an important contribution to political stability, as well as to orderly economic growth; in the free world generally;, and that Australia stands to gain substantially, both directly and indirectly., by increasing its own contributions. I commend) the bill to the House.
Debate (on- motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for further investigation and report, as recommended by the committee following a preliminary examination held in 1955, namely: - The construction of a Supreme Court Building at Darwin, Northern Territory.
The proposal provides for the construction of a reinforced concrete framed building, two stories in height generally, with a lower ground floor. The building will be air-conditioned and will provide accommodation for the Supreme Court and two. lesser courts, together with chambers for the judge and magistrates, accommodation for their staffs, a law library, reading room and so on. In an attached wing separate accommodation is provided for the Crown Law Office, the Registrar’s office and the Public Trustee. The estimated costofthe proposal is £412,000. I table the plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 1174), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be. now read a. second time.
– I desire to put before the House a review of the position created by the Richardson report, and then to deal with the main bill before us, the Ministers of State Bill, with passing reference, to the two other hills, the Parliamentary Allowances Bill and the. Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill.
Of course, the subject is one of: great importance: My own view is that the most important aspect of it - and there are many important aspects - was emphasized by the Prime Minister (Mr.. Menzies) yesterday evening. He regarded the matter as raising the question of a struggle for supremacy, on this issue, between a certain section of the press and the Parliament. I think, myself, having listened most carefully to what the Prime Minister said, that he made his points effectively and in substance. I think that he proved his case.Of course, if that is correct, that is one of the greatest issues which could confront a parliament.
What happened in this case was not unusual. There were precedents for it. Therewere procedures which, in a sense, had been adopted by the Parliament from the previous reports, for the assistance of Parliament, starting with the report of the Nicholas committee. No- sooner had the present report been issued to the press than a barrage started before there was time for the political parties even to consider it. In those circumstances, I considered that I should not commit myself as leader of the political Labour Party until I had had an opportunity for consultation with all members of the party. With respect to a complicated document such as the Richardson report, one cannot say that this is good or that that has faults. Varying views are taken. The theory of the party system is that the members of the party shall forgather, exchange views, and come to a conclusion. Of course, that was not good enough for some of the newspapers. They were all ready for this. They began their bastinado of members from the earliest possible moment. They have never ceased and they are not ceasing now.
What is the relationship between Parliament and the press? One of the important aspects of that relationship, in my opinion, is this: Each has important functions to perform. Parliament cannot avoid criticism and criticism is a public duty. It is not so much that there has been criticism, as the nature, tone and vehemence of the criticism. I have never read such extreme and vicious attacks on Parliament, and particularly on individuals who stood in the way, as I have read in the press on this occasion. The Prime Minister gave some illustrations and there are many others that could be given.
Dealing with the relationship between the Parliament and the press, I say that the Parliament has a power which should be used very seldom indeed. In fact, I hope that it is never found necessary to use it again. I refer to the power to protect itself against invasion and interference with its deliberations by the press. That, of course, is a time-honoured system of protecting the privilege of Parliament, not because it is a privilege, but because it is a necessity for the Parliament to exercise it in certain circumstances.
We had one such case a couple of years ago in which there was a trifling act of intimidation, as I regarded it. The Privileges Committee decided that there had been an act of intimidation. It concerned a threat to publish defamatory matter about a citizen. This was found to be intimidatory and no doubt it was, according to precedent. But, compared with what has been going on since the Richardson report came out, it was a mere trifle. This has been wholesale intimidation, not only against individual members, but against the institution of Parliament.
One has only to look at some of the references in order to see this. One member of the committee, Mr. Cowper, is a very able man and a patriotic citizen, prominent in public affairs and associated with the International Law Society. He is independent of politics.
– He was a blue-blood Liberal in 1926.
– I do not care if he was a blue-blood Liberal. He was a straight
Australian and I think he gave a straight report. When he objected to the criticism, as well he might, an attack was launched against him. The position is similar to that which would exist if a judicial body were dealing with the matter and one of the judges made some comment in reply to an attack and an attempt was made to crush and intimidate him. These attacks have not stopped from the beginning. The campaign has been carried out by not only one newspaper. Pretty well all the newspapers in Australia have been engaged in it. They want Parliament to be in a position of comparative subservience to the newspapers so that they can say what they like and affect Parliament. If the newspapers were able to deter Parliament or a majority of members of it from doing their duty there would be no point to which the newspapers could not reach. I think that that is the most serious aspect of the matter. I am not advocating resort by Parliament to extreme weapons in dealing with the situation. I think that that would be wrong. The only thing that Parliament can do is its duty in the particular case and try to ensure that the power of the newspapers is limited in some reasonable way.
Some newspaper companies control, not only the press, but also radio stations and television stations. They are forming gigantic monopolies in Australia. The Labour Party has appointed a committee under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) to see what can be done about it in the public interest. I am sure that something has to be done. Parliament is not entitled to privilege in any exclusive or monopolistic sense. But it is entitled to fair play and so are our citizens. That has been the killing thing about the whole controversy. It has been conducted by means of misrepresentation, threats and insults. Nothing can be more threatening or insulting than slander - slanderous cartoons or slanderous attacks without any real basis. If you say anything you are attacked, and if you say nothing you are also attacked. If you await the decisions of your party you are wrong; you are a coward and a cur. If you express your view and it does not meet the opinion of the press, you are attacked on that ground. I agree with what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said about this recently. In substance, I also agree with the views of the Prime Minister.
It is not that the press cannot fulfil great functions. It can do so and it should do so, but on this occasion it looks to me as though the organization of the attacks was very alert. No sooner would one Sydney paper come to the attack than a Melbourne paper would echo it. The campaign went pretty well all round Australia. Nobody was so uninformed or so prejudiced about the matter that his views, if they were against the Parliament, would not find full expression. You never saw such an illustration of either hysteria on the part of the press or, failing that word, of prejudice.
What is the whole question about? The committee consisted of able Australians. Nobody dares, openly, to suggest a word against their honour and probity and their endeavour to do what is right and what is in the interests of the people. Yet they have also been subject to public hatred, contempt and ridicule. I say this: The members of the committee were asked to make a report; then, having decided upon an inquiry, they informed members of Parliament and advertised to the public that the inquiry would commence, and they invited the press and the public to attend if they so wished. They also invited the parties. I informed our party of the decision of the Government to initiate the inquiry, the Government having announced last year that such an inquiry would be held three years after the previous inquiry. The party decided unanimously to have representatives at the inquiry. It also decided that members should have the right of individual audience before the committee in order to state their position from the point of view of finance and the like. That was done. The views were put. In the end, the report was made.
I say that the committee is entitled to fair recognition for what it did. I think it did it under conditions which will make it harder to find people like that to do the job again. It is a very serious thing to have these attacks. All through the press campaign, attacks on the committee were parallel to attacks on members of Parliament. The actual organizations of the parties were invited by the most conservative newspapers in Australia to come and express their views to whip the Parliamentary Labour Party into line. They were encouraged to do it. Of course, if that happened on some other occasion the attack by the press would have been “ Just imagine these outside bodies trying to dictate to Parliament through the Parliamentary Labour Party “. That would have been regarded as a crime. I remember an honorable member opposite moving the adjournment of this House in order to denounce the Labour Party because official organizations were attached to it which he alleged interfered with the freedom of the Parliament. But the press has not cared about the freedom of the Parliament on this occasion. It has been flat out to get the comments of anybody and everybody, no matter how unimportant, in order to attack members of Parliament consistently and without cessation for fear they might decide in favour of the recommendations of the Richardson report.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what was the result, and what are the recommendations contained in the Richardson report? There are three measures involved in these proposals, and the one with which I wish to deal now. and on which I wish to open up, is the Ministers of State Bill. A time came when, after all the atmospheric preconditioning by the press, the Australian Labour Party met in its rooms to consider the question. First at the executive level, and then at the full party level, it met to consider what was the right way to regard this.
– Members of the party were unaffected by the pressure.
– Well, I hope they were. At any rate, they certainly were not deterred from stating their views about the Richardson report.
– None of them got the bends.
– No. The recommendations of the Richardson report are summarized in the appendix at pages 50 to 55 of the official report. This was carefully done.
The executive of the Labour Party, and subsequently the full party, decided upon some changes in the recommendations of the Richardson report, if they could be obtained. I think it is fair to summarize it as follows: - First of all, recommendations were made that the salaries and allowances of members of the Senate and of this House - those whose needs, I think, on the whole, are greatest - should be increased. They had given their evidence or their statements to the Richardson committee. I think that, from the first, the great majority of the members of the Labour Party favoured making those increases. Then the report dealt with Ministers and what are called parliamentary officials and office bearers - the Ministers of State, the Presiding Officers of the two Houses, the Chairman of Committees in each House and the leaders of the parties in both Houses. Recommendations were made in respect of both their salary and allowances generally, as well as their travelling allowances. As to that, the view of the Australian Labour Party was that there was an element of excess in relation to all except the rank-and-file membership of both Houses. The party did not condemn those allowances to the Ministers, but it asked previously for some review of them in an endeavour to make the proportionate increase recommended for Ministers correspond more fairly with the increase to be accorded to the rank-and-file members of both Houses. That is not a perfect test. It is mentioned in the motion that I propose to move in relation to the Ministers of State Bill.
The recommendations in relation to rank-and-file members and Ministers were the first two recommendations in the Richardson report. The Labour Party’s decision that objection was to be taken, and that a request should be made for some review of these salaries and allowances, was come to by the party on the recommendation of its executive, and that decision was accepted by a very great majority of the members of the party. That meant, in effect, some moderation - some reduction - of these allowances, not only for Ministers and officers, but also for the leaders of the party itself; and that was readily accepted and seemed, I think, to provide a good starting point for some review. There was an excess, as I have said. An opinion to that effect prevailed at the caucus level.
Other portions of the report then were dealt with by the Labour Party. The Richardson committee recommended a change in certain privileges, and these changes are dealt with in items (3), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9) and (10) at pages 50 and 51 of the report. They are six recommendations all relating to salaries or allowances to Ministers, Presiding Officers, or leaders of parties, other than the Government parties. I have tried to describe what was done about them. Then, in item (11), at page 51, there was a recommendation in connexion with life gold passes. That does not come before the Parliament for review, because it is not dealt with by any of the three bills. But certain modifications were suggested by the Australian Labour Party in relation to that recommendation.
The next recommendation to which some objection was taken was that contained in item (14), at page 52 of the report. That relates to car transport for ex-members of the Parliament. The Prime Minister referred last evening to the proposed provision of official car transport facilities for certain of the party leaders after they cease to be members of the Parliament. He has anticipated any argument about that. He treats it, I think correctly, as a matter of trifling import. It is a wonderful thing to be out of the Parliament if you can drive in your own car instead of an official car! At any rate, the right honorable gentleman took exactly the right view of it last evening, and I say no more about it. That passes away out of the picture. But just imagine the sensational description of the dreadful things that were to come into operation as a result of the Richardson report!
There is nothing then until we reach the recommendations under the heading “ Non-contributory Retiring Allowances “, at page 54 of the report. As to that, the position is that, in general, the Labour Party objected to non-contributory retiring allowances which were originally proposed. I must say that they certainly seemed to be not unwelcome if they were just but the point of objection raised was that they were non-contributory. Again, the Government has correctly formed its own independent opinion on that matter and is not proceeding with the proposal for noncontributory pensions for ex-Ministers and leaders and deputy leaders of the Opposition. But there is a proposal for non.contributory retiring allowances for exPrime Ministers. As to that, after ful) consideration, the party that I lead has come to the conclusion that the increased payments to be authorized by the relevant clause in the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill under the heading of noncontributory retiring allowances should not be payable to an ex-Prime Minister whose term of office ended more than 25 years before the commencement of that clause. I do not want to elaborate on that. There is no personal hostility in the matter, but the proposals do not seem to be reasonably applicable more than 25 years after retirement, when the service has been long completed. At any rate, that was the view of the Australian Labour Party. As to the general provision for non-contributory pensions, as I have pointed out, that matter was postponed.
In the short time for which I have been speaking, I have summed up the way in which this report was dealt with by the Labour Party. I submit that it was reasonably and rationally dealt with. Some people may disagree with any particular decision made by the party, but to say that its decisions were hypocritical is a complete slander. The Richardson report was considered by the party, and there were differing points of view. Some members of the party were of the opinion that there should be no increases whatever, and they put their view. But that was a minority view. I feel sure it was a minority view, because I think the great majority of the members of the party are convinced that the ordinary members of both Houses have made out a fair case for an increase. One cannot compare their positions with those of persons who follow other vocations, and to suggest that increases granted to ordinary members would be prejudicial to the interests of age, invalid or war pensioners, or to the cause of the worker with regard to his basic wage or margins, is completely absurd. My own belief is that if these increases are granted they will produce a good effect upon the economy of the country and will tend to bring nearer the day when justice will be done to the pensioners and the workers.
I do not want to make a particular political speech about this matter. Honorable members of both Houses know our point of view. It was expressed with complete frankness in the Labour Party policy speech. The point is that our policy was not accepted by the majority of the people of Australia.
– We did not win.
– That is putting the same point in a more brutal way, but it is quite correct. Does any one in his senses think that the Labour movement does not care for the welfare of the pensioners or the basic wage earners? Consider the policy of the Labour Party, as it was put to the people, with regard to the freezing of the basic wage and the injustice that flowed therefrom. What I am suggesting is that it is absurd to say, on the one hand, “ You cannot do this because it will hurt the pensioners “, while, at the same time, saying also, “ The danger of this is that if you grant the increases you will start a course of events which will result in inflation in the country giving the wage-earners and the pensioners good grounds for demanding increases “. I am not using the language that has been used by the critics, but that is the essential contradiction. We, as a party, resent these imputations very deeply, and we do not think that such criticism should have been offered.
I wish to indicate that at this secondreading stage of the debate on the Ministers of State Bill, T shall move an amendment in the following form: -
That all words after “ that “ be omitted, with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the substitution for the proposed increases of Ministers’ salaries and allowances such increased salaries and allowances as would be fairly proportionate to the increases of base salaries and allowances contained in clauses four and five of the Parliamentary Allowances Bill “.
Honorable members will see what this means. We will take our guide from the increases given to the ordinary members, and other increases will be proportionate to those increases.
– Do you mean since 1952?
– I realize that the Prime Minister is pointing out that the year 1952 is very important in this connexion. I realize this, and it is a factor that we think should be taken into consideration. The Prime Minister is quite correct in making his point, but we have used the phrase fairly proportionate “, and we feel that that is the kind of increase that should be granted. We propose to move an amendment along those lines. Our purpose is not to prevent the granting of reasonable increases for Ministers or officers concerned, but to limit those increases to some kind of percentage increase. I believe this is a suggestion that should be considered by the Government. The Prime Minister said that there has been no increase in some cases since 1952. That is- a point, I agree, but it does not completely answer my proposition, although it may answer part of it. We say that the increases proposed are so substantial and large that they should be moderated, and a figure arrived at which would be reasonable and justifiable in all the circumstances.
I have dealt with the Ministers of State Bill. With regard to the Parliamentary Allowances Bill, we propose in the committee stage to move for the consideration of the clauses dealing with allowances to those who are not Ministers, but who get special allowances, such as the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses, the Deputy Leaders of the Opposition, the leader of the third party, and the Whips. We suggest that the clauses fixing allowances for those office-bearers should be omitted, and it is our purpose to have the position reviewed by the Government. We are not giving any figure that we say should be inserted in relation to any particular position, lt is difficult, and almost impossible, for us to do so. The relevant information is not in our possession. But we do feel that the allowances provided are too large, and that the relevant clauses of the Parliamentary Allowances Bill should be omitted. We believe that the Government should then carry out its duty - it could certainly attempt to do so - and meet the objection that these allowances are, on the whole, excessive and should be amended.
I have referred to the first two bills. The third, of course, deals with parliamentary retiring allowances. There is one provision in this connexion to which I particularly want to refer. I have already referred to clause 10, dealing with what is called the Prime Minister’s allowance. This is to be enjoyed, not only by the present Prime Minister, but also by others. These allowances are granted on a non-contributory basis. I have already referred to the amendment that we suggest in relation to Lord Bruce, because of the long period of time that has elapsed since that gentleman held office. I now want to refer to clause 13 of the bill.
Clause 13 provides for and authorizes increased payments. We feel that it is an unsatisfactory clause, and that it interferes with the pension rights of widows, lt does not ensure the protection of the widow or the pensioner as it should, and it tends to lower the standards of persons who should be protected by the pensions system. We shall endeavour, in committee, to convince the Treasurer that special consideration should be given to clause 13, to ascertain whether its deletion is acceptable to the Government.
I have put the position to the House. I have spoken of those matters that appear to me to be involved in the question. No doubt the increases are substantial. No doubt they will be condemned by many people. I believe that the condemnation has been accelerated to a large extent by unfair reporting and unfair criticism, which should not have been indulged in. However, we should not be deterred from doing our duty. I feel that the Labour party, in its consideration of the matter, has played a straight part. It has tried to introduce just amendments to the Richardson report. I have given the House the substance of its decisions, and I sincerely hope that they will commend themselves both to the House and to the country.
I move -
That all words after “ That “ be emitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the substitution for the proposed increases of Ministers’ salaries and allowances, such increased salaries and allowances as would be fairly proportionate to the increase of base salaries and allowances contained in clauses four and five of the Parliamentary Allowances Bill “.
– I second the motion.
.- I oppose the bill and all legislation arising from the Richardson report. In doing so. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not intend to reflect in any way on the members of the Richardson committee. They carried out their duties as they were requested to do. The responsibility for the decision rests here with the members of this House.
I oppose the legislation on two grounds; first, on the ground of principle and secondly on the ground of the consequences arising from it. I would make two passing observations, if I may. I do not claim for myself a monopoly of principle, nor do I suggest or find it necessary to impute to any member of this House improper, sordid or selfish motives, but I exercise my right to state and accept responsibility for stating a point of view. It may be the majority point of view, but the tradition of the Parliament is that the majority point of view is heard and an honorable member has the right to express it. I do no more than that. My second observation is this: I listened last night, as we all did, to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I listened, as we all did, to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I am sure that every honorable member will agree that the campaign conducted by sections of the press has been, to put it very mildly indeed a scurrilous campaign. However, it does not necessarily follow that, because the press in this case has been, in the opinion of most honorable members. I think, wrong, the opinion of the Richardson committee as expressed in the report and now being translated into legislation is right. I differ, with respect, from the Leader of the Opposition; I do not believe that, because sections of the press have made an attack upon the Parliament and the institution of Parliament, it is necessary for the Parliament in order to establish its independence and freedom from press criticism of this sort to take the contrary action. It seems to me, Sir, that if that argument were put forward in fact or by implication, it does not pay due deference to the tradition of Parliament which we who sit here should uphold. The Parliament, as I understand it, carries out its duties and obligations without regard to the sort of pressures that have been put in the last few weeks.
In the matter of principle that I first mentioned, I come to the term used by the Prime Minister last night - the institution of Parliament. It seems to me that over the centuries that we have had the institution of Parliament - it has grown, been modified and has developed over the years - one of the conflicts inherent in a Parlia ment is the conflict between the Executive and the Parliament. As I understand it, again from press reports, the Richardson report was presented to the Cabinet, was considered and, so we were told, was accepted. Par; of the responsibility of Parliament, as such, is to fight, if that is necessary to keep within the hands of Parliament the final powers of decision. In the sort of system that we have in this and other countries, where we have on the one hand a government and on the other hand an opposition, the first decision is made by the government parties because they have the majority of numbers in the Parliament. It is then subjected to the sifting of the Parliament and to the right of the individual members in the Parliament to criticize and to examine it. That right, while not denied to the members on this side of the House, was postponed over a period when the press had the opportunity to indulge in this campaign and when almost all of us who sit on this side of the House sat in silence and took these insults. If that situation is accepted, even to this narrow extent, we accept the whittling away of the real powers of the Parliament, and on that ground of principle I offer my opposition to the proposals.
I come now to the second point of principle. The Prime Minister referred to the umpires - no doubt other speeches also will refer to the umpires - and suggested that the decision of the umpires should be accepted. I make two comments only on that. In recent history, the decisions of the umpires have not always been accepted. Indeed, as I understand it, in the great Australian tradition the decision of the umpire is not always accepted. The other point that arises is this: As I see the report, there are a number of matters on which I find myself as a member of this House in disagreement with the committee. The Leader of the Opposition has illustrated matters on which a substantial number of members of the Parliament are in disagreement. I do not propose to canvass individual points. My approach is that this apple has so many bad spots that the best thing to do is to throw it away.
It cannot be emphasized too often that a number of members of the Parliament are making considerable sacrifices in coming here. Putting it into blunt financial terms, the expenditure of a number of members exceeds their income, and that is due to the fact that they occupy a position in the Parliament. The contribution of a number of members of the Parliament to the welfare of Australia is greater than can be measured in terms of salary or allowances, or emoluments of any sort. If 1 may particularize, it is true that the services to the country of the Prime Minister, the Ministry, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition cannot really be assessed in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. But it is equally true that in this Parliament, in parliaments that have preceded it and no doubt in parliaments that will follow it, some or all of those conditions do not apply to some of the members present.
With the particular interest with which we all read the various reports on this matter, I have read a little of the history of the movement of salaries and allowances over the years, to which the Prime Minister referred last night. Having read that, I am drawn to the conclusion - I do not think that it can be denied - that the salaries and allowances of members of this Parliament are related to the office that they hold. I do not think I need develop that selfevident fact. If that be accepted, then I suggest it is impossible to dissociate action of this kind for this is a relatively narrow field in a financial sense. It is impossible to dissociate them from the national economy for which our office makes us accept individual and collective responsibility.
It seems to me, Sir, that over the years, all members of this Parliament have accepted a responsibility to endeavour to hold back the inflationary pressures operating in the economy. It is true that the Opposition differs from the Government on methods, but it is still true that overall that principle has been accepted. The Leader of the Opposition made use of the argument I am about to present to the House. I believe it is impossible to dissociate the financial provisions of these bills from the effect of them on the minds of the people in this community, and some sections of the people in particular. If we accept the question of need - as the Richardson committee accepted it - surely there are people in this country whose need is incomparably greater than that of anybody who sits in this House! If we accept service as the criterion, then I say there are people in other fields of endeavour whose services to this country, in comparison with those of the majority of members of Parliament, are at least equal, if not greater. If 1 understood the right honorable gentleman correctly he said or meant this when he came to the section of his speech dealing with discussions that had taken place within his own party on the question of justice to the pensioners and workers. I think that was the term the right honorable gentleman used.
If I followed what he said - and I am open to correction - it meant in effect this sort of proposition: Here is justice or relative justice to the members of this Parliament. Therefore, in the terms of the policy that the right honorable gentleman has enunciated in the past, we should give to other equally or more deserving sections of the community the same justice. If that means anything at all, it means that the right honorable gentleman was saying this: If the increase proposed in these bills is somewhere in the vicinity of 20 to 21 per cent., then that sort of judgment should be applied throughout the economy. I use that as an argument coming from a most responsible political source.
If that sort of argument comes from the right honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition in this Commonwealth Parliament, what sort of an argument can we expect from those who have not either his capacity or his responsibilities? I think it is a dreadful inevitability, Sir, that if we take this - in the narrow sense - justified action, then we are releasing on our heads and on this country inflationary pressures that have been withstood through this Government’s efforts over the years. I leave it to the judgment of the House whether that approach is not likely. I submit that it is more than likely. I submit it is inevitable finally that, in the circumstances, every member of this House will find it difficult in his own conscience to resist that pressure. For those reasons, and I do not wish to delay the House, I propose to vote against all the legislation arising from this report.
.- I think, Sir, that the support we on this side of the House are offering for the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) is an indication of the temper of the Australian Labour Party in relation to this measure. I shall support the amendment because, if it is carried, it will be one more nail in the coffin of the Richardson report. To a Labour man who has taken his own view of this matter and then acted within the decisions of the party, this is a monstrous example of inequality. The Australian Labour Party itself, with all its faults - and there is an admission that on occasions it has fallen short of its ideals - can never get away from the fact that it is an egalitarian party, and inequality is anathema to it. In this report, inequality is piled on inequality to such a staggering extent that I do not blame the press for entering a campaign as powerfully as it did, because it was an insult to the national consciousness to suggest the distribution of salaries and allowances on as generous a scale as was ever thought of for this Parliament.
Let me say something as a private member of the Parliament on the complaint that it was suggested we should get our team together and see whether we could get a rise for ourselves. I agree that that was the general idea. Would anybody in his common sense or an Australian with any morality at all accept the whole of these resolutions because he had asked somebody to bring down a report and now looks at that report - the thing that carries such laughter-making reference to the future as how much money you can give to a man who for 25 years has been out of the country - such as Viscount Bruce - and which could provide carriages for retired politicians five years after they had shuffled off this mortal coil in a political sense so that they could run around like something in the royal show, using these carriages whenever they thought fit?
So many of these proposals seem to be desperately wrong. Let us consider the question of the pension for members of Parliament. The superannuation of the members is their own business and in my view it had nothing whatever to do with the Richardson report. In my neglect of the committee’s terms of reference or being busy in other directions, I was horrified to find that the Richardson committee had such power and that we were going to lay alongside a contributory scheme, which we have made actuarially sound by our contributions, a free scheme for Ministers who have long since left this House - some as long as 25 years. This is an emolument of the most extraordinary nature which has aroused the anger of the Australian people. Those are not the things the ordinary man of this Parliament needed and he is the man who interests me because I am of that common fraternity. He wanted some relief from the pressures of finance. We could have given to him - or an intelligent committee could have given him - these reliefs that I am talking about instead of these grandiloquent and absurd things. All these are being piled on as though this country was at the height of prosperity and was not struggling with the demon of inflation day by day and minute by minute. The Richardson committee has taken valid things from him which, if returned, would have made non-inflationary additions to his form of income. For instance, the return of his pass; and some sort of electorate allowance which would have been subject to the purview of the Commissioner for Taxation. He would have been satisfied with that because in the main it would be real money. It would not be money dissipated. I believe that the great Australian Labour Party was used as a stalking horse by the Richardson committee in order extravagantly to raise the salaries of members, the special allowances for leaders of the House and their deputies, and the pensions of former Prime Ministers and Ministers who no longer remain in this House.
I wish to cite a case that concerns me, and which will be of interest to honorable members and to the public generally. In my own case I have paid amounts varying from £2 10s. to £4 10s. a week into the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund, which would permit me, after a period of eight years, to draw benefits from the fund. I have always thought that to be a very good scheme. But the Richardson committee has come up with a non-contributory scheme for former Ministers. A Minister who had been in two Cabinets and who is still on the gravy train in some other part of the world - in Washington or New York - will, for his services outside the Parliament, receive a pension of £39 a week, towards which he is not asked to contribute anything. If he dies, his widow would get .five-sixths of that amount - more than £30. ‘Compare that with the proposal of the -Richardson committee that an ordinary member should, on retirement, receive £21, and, on .his death, his widow should receive £1’5. So, :the cart horse of Parliament, the private member, -who plugs along from day to day with an insurance asset of up ito £2,000, will get only half as much by way of pension as people who are no longer here -but whom, for some fantastic -reason, *he Government wishes to reward. This whole matter tff perpetual hand-outs and *he inequality -of them horrifies the Labour Party, and we have tried by various resolutions to express that horror.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) did not deal with ‘the Richardson report in actuality. He launched a massive campaign against the press, which exceeded the “ Curse the Press “ campaign of my friend, , the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). That ‘campaign was not so much a justified -campaign as one designed to attempt to seduce the opinion of honorable members on this side of the House. The tory Prime Minister used such terms as “ -big money “, “ monopoly “, and “ people with ease and leisure “ in an endeavour to tickle the ears of the groundlings so that they would miss the horrid and terrific implications of this report. I thought at one stage that some labourite had taken control of the Prime Minister’s tongue, because he was arguing as Labour would argue. Who has created the monster of the press and the monopoly of the press if not the Prime Minister and his party? Who has handed out holus-bolus to the press the mediums of television and radio? Who has refused at all times the application by the Labour Party for a radio or television station? Now, because of a feeling that the Prime Minister has been personally insulted or done upon, the Labour Party carries the barrage of the press attack from day to day and week to week without whimpering. It is time the barrage fell on heads other than the innocent ones of the Australian Labour Party. The position with regard to the Richardson report has worsened as a result of some of the things that the Prime Minister has said and done following on that report. It has been implicit in every statement made by the Prime Minister, if not actually said in so many ‘words, that he would fight this -thing to a finish. We were told in inspired statements that it was a case of all or nothing. When that bluff was called the total -result was that -one decent member of the Australian Journalists Association, a member of the press gallery, was sacked by !his bosses in Sydney. What sort ‘of a result -was that, because the essence of the Prime Minister’s statement on this matter, and Which was freely spoken about in the lobbies, was that he would stand by the report?
Let us look at the press campaign. If the press campaign made no impact upon the Prime Minister, why is it that some of the suggestions of the Richardson committee have been trimmed? The noncontributory pension scheme has gone. As the Prime Minister said in his best patron of the Canberra Repertory Society manner, the provisions relating to the use of a car after a man has left the Parliament have been allowed to drift to the ground and wither away like autumn leaves. They involved important considerations and would have represented a charge of £3;000 for a person in a year. So the press campaign is not entirely one for which we would curse the press. We must concede that in some respects the press did line up the people of this country. Does anybody think that all of the published letters in the prominent newspapers were written in the offices of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. the Melbourne “Herald” or the “Age”? There was a natural upsurge of opinion against the proposals, and it is still present in the community. Why play ‘possum or, emu-like, hide one’s head in the sand and say that this antagonism does not exist? I have made my position clear from the outset. Because of its monstrous inequality I dislike the Richardson report intensely.
Members of this House felt that in this case they were submitting to arbitration by three gentlemen. They had certain feelings about what they should get; their ideas were not extravagant. I would have supported the increases to the limit had they not been loaded with sortie of the things that we now see before us. That is why the whole thing came tumbling about our ears. We have tried to adjust our conscience by the amendment that has been moved, and before this debate is over member after member will rise and deny the right of the Government to introduce and support such a report. We were wrong from the start in not exercising our constitutional right to fix our own emoluments in full view of the public, and to stand by them. There will never be another Richardson report, you may be sure, and very possibly there will never be another report on this subject by three gentlemen outside the Parliament. We will be forced by the weight of public opinion to get back to where we started and fix our salaries and allowances in full view of the public. Perhaps we should do more. Perhaps we should submit our proposals to the public at an election. It is foolish to say that the ordinary parliamentarian, no matter how he may be maligned in other directions, is not a man under authority and with some sense of mission. He will fall down badly in the eyes of the public if he accepts these extravagant payments, which in my view have been introduced for no purpose other than to grease the fat pig.
Honorable members are very eager to have their allowances increased so that they may further their work in their electorates. Who would say that the average member does not look after his electorate in an efficient manner, because keenness is necessary if he wishes to hold his seat? I know from experience of more than fifteen years in a swing seat, which normally belonged to the Liberals and which I won despite a former Liberal majority of 10,000, that the reward for being in this House is eternal vigilance and hard work. That involves a member in a great deal of money, but it does not involve tossing money around in a reckless manner. I would support to the limit any increase in parliamentary salaries if there were not a conditioning factor which makes these proposals monstrously wrong, unethical, and scandalous in the eyes of the people. Wage-pegging still exists to-day. Quarterly adjustments of the basic wage have been abolished in the federal sphere. Only recently the triumphant Government told 500,000 pensioners in this country that they must wait until times were better, until the Government defeated inflation - that they must wait in the appalling darkness of old age until the Government could come to their rescue with a few shillings. How ridiculous we would look if, after these proposals had been made law, and we gave ourselves a pension of £21, plus the most excessive loadings on salaries in all directions for Ministers, leaders of parties, and Whips, we provided in the Budget that pensioners should get an increase of 2s., 3s., or 5s., compared with the £76 pension for the Prime Minister, and fantastic increases for members of the Government who, in my view, receive emoluments greatly in excess of those of the rank and file member. Then we have the question of the morality of these two provisions, which have not applied before. The Prime Minister, in his rhetorical address last night, said that in 1902 there was a row, that in 1926 there was a row, and that in 1947 there was a row, and that they were all made by the same people all creating the same remonstrance. Well, it was not so.
In one case, namely in 1947, the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, took the exact point that I am taking to-day. He refers to the playing of politics. If politics is being played now, he was an arch player of politics on that occasion. With the pious lift of the eyebrows, he said then, “ Can we afford to do this; I ask you. As always, I am in favour of everything reasonable that you should have in this House, but in view of the fact that the Chifley Government has pegged wages, can we do it? “ I beg leave to quote his remarks on that occasion to indicate to the House that the rows that are alleged to have surrounded salary increases since 1902 were being contributed to by the Prime Minister on one occasion. On 4th June, 1947, he said, as reported at page 3349 of “ Hansard “-
What concerns me is, should the Parliament, at a time when wage-pegging is still the law of the land, unpeg its own remuneration to the extent of a rise of 50 per cent.?
If that was a valid comment for the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Opposition, to make in 1 947. it is a valid comment to-day, and the people outside this Parliament who do not share our splendid isolation in what is known as the bush capital, where we may lack adequate communication with the spiritual feelings and the hearts and minds of our constituents, start wondering what sort of a Parliament and what sort of a Constitution it is that allows these things to go on.
As a further indication of the manner in which the Prime Minister, facing one way now, faced another way in 1947, playing politics of the worst kind, I point out that in those days the pegging of wages was being lifted at a rapid rate and we were moving towards the position where we could legitimately increase salaries. Wages were becoming unfrozen, because the exigencies of war no longer existed. It was quite valid then to vote for increases. On this occasion, it is quite another matter altogether. The Prime Minister, on that occasion, went on to say - when you say that your policy is to peg wages, that means that your policy is to keep wages down … to keep a hand firmly down on the wage structure.
Therefore, he said, ipso facto in the circumstances we should not have any increase in parliamentary pay. Has there ever been a government in the history of federation that has kept its hand so heavily on rises in the wages of workers as this Government has done? The stultification of the Arbitration Court, the denial of marginal increases, and the pegging of quarterly adjustments, are all indications that the only way that the Government has of stopping its free-wheeling economy from shooting over the cliff altogether is by putting pressure on the worker.
The Prime Minister conceded that in 1947. Now he makes another statement and refers to press propaganda. He says that we deserve these increases. I have never denied that the private member’s circumstances demand that he have an increase in salary. But I think that our cause, our right, and the logical justification for an increase, were destroyed with great stupidity by the Richardson report. Some of the language of it makes me blush. It is all overwritten nonsense about how we are slaving day and night. T like to have some leisure and I do my job, I hope, with efficiency, but the way in which the report was sloppily overwritten made me squirm. There was the tribute to its secretary, who may be a good public servant - good luck to him! The whole tenor of the report was such that one could see that the Labour party was to be used as a bogy, & “lummy, a stooge, and a straw man. It was -Sought that if a few quid were thrown to the rank and file, it could be piled on for the tall poppies. That has been the basis for my resistance to this report from the moment I saw it. I think that the national resistance is the same and equally valid.
The first bill is the Ministers of State Bill. As the leader of the Opposition has pointed out, we are seeking certain amendments to the bill which would, if approved, have the effect of invalidating it as a bill. This is a challenge - not an apologetic statement to the Government. It is a challenge to the Government to make these amendments, or else. That is the way I read it, that is the way that caucus read it, and that is the way we are presenting it to the Government. These difficult provisions have been presented in three bills. Certain alterations will be made by administrative act. Every devious way has been cultivated to provide a scary hole or an exit to avoid meeting the people, first in this Parliament and later on in the electorate. These three bills are the maximum that can be squeezed out of the situation for the protection of the Government. The Labour Party will move an amendment to another bill, taken in conjunction with this, which will be intended to destroy the essence of the bill.
Finally, I come to retiring allowances. This matter gives me the greatest sadness, because it is very difficult to get a superannuation scheme which suits the peculiar circumstances of members of Parliament. Having got it, having made it actuarially sound, having contributed to it over the years, and having obtained a good cash balance, plus the Government’s subvention, we find that it has been attacked in the most sinister and miserable way by those who would use it not only for a noncontributory scheme but also as a medium for paying sums to former Prime Ministers and others. I know that there are holes in the scheme, and there are difficulties about past members who have contributed. There is the trouble about widows of former Prime Ministers. It makes a sad picture of how little, financially, there is in Parliament for the greatest of leaders or the simplest of his followers. But we do no justice to ourselves, our calling, our party, or the great Australian people by making a salary grab of these gargantuan proportions, giving ourselves an increase of £21 a week in three years. We have, at the same time, been forced to consent, because of our deficiency in numbers, to the pegging of wages and the lowering of living standards of aged pensioners.
This party hoped and believed at the last election that it would be listened to on three vital factors. Ohe was its aim to conserve the economy by common-sense legislation. Another was to develop the nation by proper social services. The third was to see, in our time and age, whether we could give some adequate assistance to the aged and sick. Our target was a pension of a miserable £5. Indeed, I think, it was whittled down to £4- 17s. Because of the propaganda of the press, of which the Leader of the Government now complains bitterly, our story was not believed and our election was not consented to. In the face of that, without, any reference to Parliament,, or again to the people, how can we accept these extortionate alterations to our salary status? That, of course, is the view held; by many members of the Labour Party and many members of the Liberal Party. I hope: that when the test comes to the Senate- it will ring true and defeat this legislation.
I am bound by what has been decided by caucus. In this general survey. I return to where- T started, the inequality of the measures in themselves. I am not concerned about, the phoney attacks on the press by the Prime Minister or his temporary aberration as a Labour man, who talked about monopolies, rich men, and all that sort- of thing. It rang so hollow that even ghosts of past Prime Ministers must be laughing in their shroud’s. If rang so hollow that it had no effect on this side of tha House. He had a sob story to- tell us, but never did. he address his cowering followers- and say, “ How will this go d’own in Pymble and Vaucluse?” He talked about monopoly,, money and lei-sure and all the things that honorable members opposite believe in and vote for. That is why they are here. He temporarily turned his back on his supporters and said to us, “ I want you boys to listen. Look at the terrible things the press has done to me.” As if I care about that! He said, “ Look at the terrible things they are likely to do to you. You know you want a bob or two. Listen to the song of the siren. Listen to what I am telling you. Move along with me to an adequate remuneration.” That would have been all right, as I said before, except for one conditioning factor - the Government has not done justice to the workers in the community, to the unemployed or to the old people. You do not live with this decision for a minute; you do not live with this decision for an hour, you live with it for the whole of your political lifetime and for that reason you have to be rigid up to the point of differing with your dearest friend’s on this matter. That is so because in it is involved the integrity of a whole national movement. The Labour movement, which is the heart and texture of this country, is represented in this Parliament by the Opposition and although outnumbered here is never ineffective. For that reason the cry that comes from the Opposition on this matter has to be heard. It may be modified in some directions by the Leader and his advisers, it may be done more strenuously, perhaps, by myself or others, but the basic thing is that there is inequality of a shuddersome nature in this report.
No matter how these various measures are dressed up, they represent an- attempt to get something that should not belong tO’ us until first the people we serve are adequately provided for, if not rewarded. So> in the circumstances, all the flowery speeches about the Richardson report, all the talk here about the integrity of the Richardson committee, all the rhetoric and rodomontade of the Prime Minister in regard to these things are less than nothing against the common query from the man in the street - “ Why? Why is this done? “ He asks, “ Why have you suddenly become so valuable? Why do you suddenly take an enormous increase when I, one of the cogs in the wheel, am: pressured by the arbitration court which you created to protect me and am pressured by the social service laws which you brought into being to sustain me? “ In the circumstances, there is nothing but a spiritual rejection of this legislation and of the attempt to implement it. I think that the way in which the Labour Party, in caucus and elsewhere, has dealt with this matter will provide that measure. Have no fear! In my mind at least, and in the minds of many people, the desire is to destroy the Richardson report so that the integrity of this Parliament and of the people we stand for shall flourish instead of the creation in this country of a cynical disregard.
I heard tthe Prime Minister talk about the Parliament. He said that people have no regard for it, and have become fascists because they do not like parliaments. The best way to restore Parliament to an estimation of genuine worth in the community is to be loyal to one’s trust in this Parliament and not to play politics with a matter such as this. The best way for members of the Australian Country Party, the Liberal Party and, indeed, the Australian Labour Party to restore faith in this Parliament is to be proper members in this Parliament whose duty is first to the constituency and later to themselves. That is an axiom which everybody respects. No one has to be pious about it, but when a proposal is made for a large-scale raise of this nature, some one has to speak about it, and doubtless many more will. 1 conclude by saying that the impact that this legislation has made on the electorate is valid. The reaction of the people has been a condemnation of the complete inequality of this proposal. They say, “ These parliamentarians were sent there to guide us and to rule us in many ways and to prepare laws which we must obey, and we expect them to be men of integrity. But our chosen men, elected by us, have created an aristocracy of their own. They have fixed their own standards of comfort, of money and of leisure and let the rest of the world roll by “. That is one of the most dangerous, aspects of this proposal and I will resist it to the finish.
I support the amendments proposed by the Leader of the Opposition because if they are properly proceeded with they have in them the germs of the destruction of the Richardson report, which in no way reflects the desires of most members of this Parliament and certainly does worsen the situation of the Australian community.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) began his speech in a moderate and tolerant manner, but during the last ten minutes or so, in making charges against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) he has descended to the use of sob stuff. The latter remarks of the honorable member consisted of nothing else.
He referred to the cowering followers on this side of the House. Fancy anybody on the other side of the House referring to Government followers on this side as cowering, in the light of the history of the Australian Labour Party during the last week or two! He talked also about the people we serve. I wish to inform the honorable member for Parkes and any one else listening that we on this side of the House pride ourselves in the fact that we do set ourselves to serve the people. The result of the recent election showed that the majority of the people realized that we do so infinitely better than our opponents.
The honorable member spoke about playing politics. Goodness gracious me, is it not playing politics for him to indulge in face-saving talk as he has in discussing the legislation before the House? As I shall show shortly, it is perfectly obvious that there is insincerity of the worst type in the proposals which have been put forward on behalf of the Opposition. They amount to nothing more nor less than an attempt to save face.
Later I intend to deal with the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and supported in such a queer manner by the honorable member for Parkes. But before I do so, I think that it is appropriate that I should state quite plainly my own attitude to the legislation before the House. As a matter of fact, of all subjects, 1 suppose this is particularly one which demands frank expression of opinion by all members in the House. Therefore, I say without hesitation that I support the bills which set out to implement the major recommendations of the Richardson committee. At the same time I oppose the amendment brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition.
Before actually dealing with the subject of the legislation, I think it is proper also for me to say that we should pay a tribute to the members of the Richardson committee and the splendid work they have done. I feel that, so far, not enough attention has been paid to the task which this committee had to perform. The great value of its work, not only to this House but also to the people of Australia will be realized eventually. The three members on this committee are men of great public experience and of proved capacity in private enterprise and they have been prepared to offer, not merely to this
Parliament but to the whole of Australia, completely altruistic service. They produced the finest report on this debatable subject that we have ever seen; there can be no question of that. No one, even those who may not support it, can challenge the fact that for the first time this Parliament and the people of Australia have received a report of a completely impartial nature about what it means to be a representative of the people, what are the duties involved, what are the charges or costs incurred and what is a reasonable remuneration. Yet in spite of that service which this committee has given, it has been subjected to a great deal of abuse and, in one or two cases, to threats. Therefore, I say that the least we can do is to pay tribute to the members of this committee and say that their work is appreciated. They have applied themselves courageously to a task which has long called for attention. It was a task which could best be tackled by an outside, impartial body such as this committee. One of the things it had to do was to combat the insidious tendency which has been developing throughout the nation over a considerable period of years, of sneering at and deriding any one who is giving political service.
I remember how astonished I was in my early years as a political representative to find that when I first stood for Parliament I was considered a fine fellow worthy of support. But after about twelve months it seemed that in the opinion of some people, I was changing and departing from some of my principles and beliefs. In actual fact I was not, any more than any other honorable member on either side has done. Every honorable member comes to this place with a determination to serve - that is probably why we stay here. Yet there is a tendency after a little service in political life, as a result of derision and sneering, for a man to be represented as having lost something of his principles and. as a consequence, his worth.
That, I think, is a very bad development in our political life, and it is to the credit of the committee that it set out to try to do something about the matter. This habit to which I have been referring is followed by a great many people, although I am glad to say that it is not followed generally. It is something in the nature of a popular habit developed without very much thought, and it is a habit that is not in the best interests of this institution. It is a habit which gives easy rise to charges of greedy salary-grabbing every time there is some move by Parliament to give a decent and proper remuneration to its members. The committee properly refers to it as “ a curious feature of Australian political life”. If the investigations and the report of the Richardson committee have done anything to counter that feature of our political life then, quite apart from its recommendations, the committee will have done a very fine thing.
This “ curious feature “, of course, provides a ready foundation on which can be based a press campaign of the sort that we have just passed through, or rather, of the sort that we are passing through now. It is a press campaign of deliberate misrepresentation and unprincipled rabble-rousing, a campaign in which the use of deliberately misleading headlines has been indulged in, and at times a campaign of intimidation either implied or direct, a campaign which is, as has already been said, obviously designed to take away from Parliament the control of the nation and place it in the hands of the press. This is a campaign which has been made into a matter of Parliament versus the press, and I believe that every one who has a proper conception of the dignity of this institution will refuse to allow himself to be dictated to by the press or to depart in any way from the principles embodied in this report.
I was interested to note that in the committee’s report the attitude which I have been attempting to express was summed up very well indeed in paragraph 17, which stated that “ misstatements abounded and malice took the place of judgment “. That, I believe, is a concise and completely correct summary of the attitude of most of the press in regard to this matter - most, but not, thank goodness, all of the press.
Now, Sir, let me briefly recapitulate a few of the facts in relation to the establishment and the operation of the Richardson committee. Here I disagree with the statement made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who implied that the system of appointing an impartial committee to make recommendations on parliamentary salaries and allowances was not the proper method to follow, and that the job should be done by the Parliament itself. Of course. Parliament’s doing the job itself is one of the methods by which this task can be carried out, since the Constitution provides that only Parliament itself can deal with the matter. Incidentally, how many of the hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia who have been criticizing our action are aware of that fact?
A review of parliamentary salaries and allowances can be made by one of two methods. First, the Parliament can say, “ We have decided that the salaries and allowances shall be such and such “. We ourselves can make that decision. In fact, I was in this House at a time when that method was used by the Labour Government. The other method is the one which this Government adopted after its election in 1949 and has used ever since. It is a method which has been adopted also by practically all the State governments. That method is the appointment of an independent and impartial committee to make recommendations as to salaries and allowances. After these recommendations have been made it becomes necessary for the Parliament to endorse them or otherwise.
Now, Sir, the appointment of this committee - and I am about to make a statement which cannot be made often enough to some of our critics - was announced openly before the last general election, and during the election campaign it was referred to by at least one newspaper in Queensland. Therefore, this is not something which happened suddenly after the election was over and we were back in office. The intention to appoint the committee was announced. Furthermore, it had been stated, at the time of previous similar investigations, that this Government believed that there should be a periodical review of the salaries and allowances of members, at the beginning of each Parliament, so that the scales fixed could apply throughout the life of the Parliament, without alteration. So I think it is well to restate the fact that there has been nothing in the action of the Government which merits any of the criticism which has been levelled at it in the press.
I believe that the investigation made by the committee was the most thorough ever carried out. The members of this House and of another place had the opportunity to appear before the committee and state plainly exactly what their own positions were. Members of the public were also invited to appear before the committee if they had anything to put to it and, as we were told last night in this House, and had previously been told by the committee, the number of representations made by the public was between 1,000 and 2,000. So the committee did everything possible to inform itself on all the factors bearing on the subject of its inquiry, and everything was done quite openly. Certainly the members of this Parliament were not forced to go before the committee and disclose intimate details of their private lives, with somebody else sitting around and listening in. Because that was so, it has been said that the committee’s inquiry was not a public inquiry. I submit that that is a claim which cannot be sustained, particularly when the people involved are men holding positions of responsibility in the community, such as members of Parliament. It was an inquiry which gave everybody the opportunity to make any recommendations or proposals that he saw fit. Consequently, it must be conceded that the determination mads by the committee is based on a thoroughly sound investigation, and on information which is not available to any member of this House. I want to make that point again very particularly. I repeat the committee acted on detailed information which was not available to any of our press critics or to any other organization throughout Australia. This committee is the one body in this country which set out to discover, and knows, the conditions which apply to members of this Parliament, and therefore its recommendations cannot be seriously challenged.
I make that point particularly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I want to go on and say, in relation to some of the recommendations, that I cannot assess what should be the actual amount paid, say, to a private member, or the allowances which should be paid, say, to representatives of city electorates of which I have no knowledge. I propose, therefore, to make one or two critical remarks. I have just said that none of us is in a position to claim that his opinion on this matter is better than the opinion expressed by the committee. In fact, I believe that the salaries recommended for private members by the committee are not high enough. I am quite prepared to be taken to task, and challenged for that statement, by some of the Government’s own supporters. I repeat that the salaries recommended for private members are not high enough when you take into account the fact that the determination must be based, not on the position of some private member who has a fairly large private income, but on the position of the ordinary run of private member. I can remember the time when I first came into this Parliament when it cost me between £300 and £500 for the privilege of being here. Fortunately, I had some private income. The salary of a private member of this Parliament must be such as to enable a young man in his thirties or forties, with a young family growing up which he has to educate and place in civilian life, to meet his responsibilities. It is on that basis that I say that the salaries to be provided for private members are not high enough.
During the last few days I have had a look at some of the Public Service salaries paid in the government instrumentalities of which I have particular knowledge. I looked at some of the rates paid in the bracket of public service offices which would be equivalent to, say, the position of a private member of this House. I refer to what I will call the lower bracket of the senior administrative officers in the Public Service. None of them receive less than £3,000 per annum. If a member is representing his constituents properly, and contributing to the discussions in this legislature - and we must assume that he is - he is worth at least what the lower bracket of the top-level public servants obtain. I have no doubt that they themselves would be the first to agree. I am not suggesting, for a moment, that salaries in the Public Service are too high. I am suggesting that, at least, the recommendations are not extravagant.
Reference has been made, also, to Ministers’ allowances by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Parkes. I do not propose to say very much about that matter because I am a Minister and I do not want to appear to be pushing my own barrow. I shall leave it to the good sense of members generally with the general comment that, just as the knowledge obtained by investigation by members of the committee places them in a privileged position to determine an appropriate rate of salaries and allowances for private members, so also does that knowledge place them in an appropriate position to determine remuneration of Ministers.
With regard to electoral allowances, here again I could cite a number of cases in which they appear to me not to be enough. Perhaps, if I were to go into this matter in the greatest detail, I could put my finger on a few instances in which I could say, “ Surely in this small pocket city electorate this amount is too much “; but I do not know. I have a good knowledge of the great expense incurred by a member who represents a large country area. He has to cover hundreds of miles by car. My own electorate is 500 miles long and that is not very large in comparison with some of the others. In cases such as that, the amount of £1,050 certainly does not cover the expenses of the member. In other cases, the committee undoubtedly had to try to strike something which would be reasonably fair - the happy medium. Therefore I am quite prepared to say that this is a recommendation which can be accepted.
There are certain recommendations regarding the parliamentary retiring allowances scheme. Unfortunately, the report itself, we ourselves, and the press, have referred to these as “ members’ pensions “. That is a misnomer which we have to nail right now. This is simply and solely a superannuation scheme to which we contribute, which is self-supporting, and which is not a drain on the taxpayer. It is not comparable with what is commonly called a “pensions scheme”. We should hammer home the fact that this is a superannuation scheme. The honorable member for Parkes said that this was our own business, and he was quite right. It is our own business.
Let us make it clear as we are discussing this with our people that this is not a pensions scheme. As we all know, and as the committee found out under its terms of reference, it is an extremely harsh scheme - probably the worst superannuation scheme in Australia. The committee very properly applied itself to a consideration of this fund and made certain recommendations. I understand that the committee was astonished to find that the scheme required the payment by each member of 10 per cent, of his salary. That payment has to be met. A member cannot contract out of it so as to put that amount into some other much more remunerative form of investment. That fact is not known by most people outside Parliament.
Some of the conditions of repayment by the fund should be noted. If, for example, a single member were to die, the superannuation fund would pay to his estate only the actual amount paid in by the member. It would not pay any interest and it would not pay the Commonwealth subvention. This was a glaring inequity in the scheme. Yet we have criticism of the extent of this “ pension fund “, which, of course, it is not. So it is a good thing that the committee did look at this scheme and made certain proposals which we have adopted and which amount to some easing of the harsh conditions of the scheme. But there are still elements of this superannuation scheme which require further amendment.
I believe that the committee has done a splendid job. In some cases, I think that it has been very moderate indeed in its handling of the whole matter. There are some minor recommendations in the report which are not implemented in the legislation before the House. That is either because legislation is not required or because, as announced by the Prime Minister last night, there are one or two matters - one involving the determination of new policy concerning the non-contributory allowances scheme for ex-Ministers - which are now being proceeded with and one or two other matters that turn on an interpretation. The fact that those interpretations have not yet been made does not mean that the Government has in any way departed radically from the report.
In the time remaining to me I want to deal with the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and supported by the honorable member for Parkes. It was very interesting to me to see that there was really a very considerable measure of support by the Leader of the Opposition for this ‘legislation. For instance, he agreed completely - and I think the honorable member for Parkes agreed-with our criticism of the press campaign. Having indicated that considerable measure of support, he said, for instance, that his party agreed with the proposals for the increase in salaries and allowances for private members; but he went on to refer to some element of excess in the other proposals and proceeded to make certain suggestions which I can only describe as face-saving amendments which will enable Opposition members to say later on, “ We were not in support of the full range of the proposals “. They say, now, “ We want these increases and we know that they will be carried, but let us put through an amendment so that we can say later on that we did not quite support them “.
First of all, there is to be an amendment to the Ministers of State Bill. The Opposition agrees there should be increases for Ministers. The Leader of the Opposition said that he believed in reasonable increases for Ministers - increases which would be “ fairly proportionate “ to the increases for private members. What on earth does that mean?
– Another £300 on what is recommended!
– I rather thought so when I heard it but I am prepared to stick to my principles and the Richardson report. Who will determine what is “ fairly proportionate “? Apparently, members opposite will determine exactly what is a fair increment. We say that the impartial body of sound, experienced businessmen who have made the report are far more capable of determining a fairly proportionate increase than are the members of the Opposition. So, Opposition members cannot sustain their argument in that respect. The same thing applies to their other proposed amendments. I will not keep the House too long in dealing with them because the argument is exactly the same.
In relation to the review of the allowances to officials of the Parliament, a rather unfair attack has been made on men who are not really in a position to reply. We can reply to any attack on ourselves, but is there any one here who does not believe that the officials of the Parliament are worthy of proper remuneration in comparison with other people in the community? Is there any one here who would not agree that the best thing to do in order to enable that proper remuneration to be determined is to invite a committee such as the Richardson committee to make a recommendation about this matter? Of course, that is the best thing to do! But there is the basic difference in the approach to this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We say that these matters should be determined by an impartial body - by men of probity and decency over whom the Government can exercise no influence. The matter should be determined in that way. It should not be left to be determined in this Parliament by members, whose knowledge of these matters is limited to their own particular experience, and whose knowledge of the other factors that have to be considered is no greater than the knowledge displayed by many of the elements of the press that have criticized the proposals.
For these reasons, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the Government’s proposals.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I speak on this bill as an Opposition member putting forward what has been decided by the Opposition. I want to make it clear that the Opposition, according to its method of deciding these things, has decided that it will support the increase of salary and allowances for members - not just ordinary members other than officers and Ministers, but all members, both in this House and in another place. It has been suggested that we are opposed to increases in the salaries of Ministers. People outside the Parliament cannot quite understand the expression “ salaries of Ministers “. What we are opposed to, as a party. is the additional increase of salary for Ministers over and above the increases that they will receive in their ordinary members’ salaries. Every Minister in the Parliament will receive, according to the electorate that he represents, the same increase in the basic salary and allowances as members generally will receive. So, I want to make it clear, first of all, that we make no differentiation between members, both in this place and the Senate, in respect of the salaries that they receive as members of the Parliament.
The Opposition has had this matter out in caucus. Some Opposition members expressed the view, in the caucus, that there should be no increases either to ordinary members or to Ministers. However, we have come to a decision that we shall not come in here as a rabble, with each Opposition member putting his own opinion separate and apart from what has been decided by the official Opposition as a collective body. If I were to express my own views, I should, perhaps, take a line a little different from that taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I say, quite definitely, that my opinions did not coincide 100 per cent, with the decision made by the Australian Labour Party, but every member of the party cannot come into this chamber and speak his own views, because the party cannot speak with a dozen different voices. If Opposition members were to express their own opinion, they would not be telling the people of this country the decision that the accredited Opposition carried at a party meeting at which all Opposition members were entitled to be present, and at which all had an equal vote in arriving at the decision.
After making that point clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I want to deal with the increase of the salary and allowances of members. I say that many of our members greatly need those increases - not the additional amounts for Ministers and the holders of certain offices. If I were thinking only of myself, I might take the view that I have been here a long time, that I have not many more years to go, and that it will not make very much difference to me. I have served in this Parliament, and in a State parliament, over a long period, and I know very well that the opposition to these proposals is the kind of opposition that has always been advanced against similar proposals for increases of salaries and allowances.
I do not intend to abuse the press. I do not need to go into the subject of press criticism in the way in which it has been dealt with by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Leader of the Opposition and others. But I just want to bring to the notice of the House a statement that was made in the South Australian Parliament by a man long since deceased. He said that, if ever a big public question were before the people and, say, Mr. Jones were asked what he thought, Mr. Jones would tell you what he thought, and that what he said he thought would be, not what he really thought out for himself, but what he had had his mind conditioned to believe by the statements made in the press from time to time. Very often, a man thinks what the editor of a newspaper wanted him to think - what the editor had printed perhaps in a leading article and in subsidiary articles and elsewhere on a number of occasions, until, ultimately, the man in the street had read it so often that he would say that it was what he thought. We know that that is what happens in many of these cases. And we see it again to-day in the opposition to these increases by people who say of us, “ Why should they have an increase? “
When I was in the South Australian Parliament, I received £400 a year. When the depression came, we reduced our salaries to £360 a year. But nobody patted me on the back for that. After a long time, conditions improved, and we gradually got our salary back to £400. Then we had the same sort of opposition that we have to-day. When things improved a little and we were only getting back to a salary level that we had voluntarily and willingly relinquished in a time of general hardship, there was opposition to our getting back to that level. So it was that, after a long time, shortly before I became a member of this House, it was decided to raise the salary in South Australia to £600 a year. The same opposition and objections were heard again, and every one was against it.
I do not want the younger men in this Parliament to have to go through the experience that I had. I do not want them, when they make a donation to some fundraising appeal for a necessary and worthy cause, to feel that there go one or two pairs of shoes that their children will have to do without. That was my experience. You may say, “ It is not so bad to-day “. But I have been told by one honorable member, who said I could use the facts of his situation, that he is £2,000 behind with the bank after some years in this House. Why? It is because he is trying to do his job in his electorate. Ever since he was first elected, he has done everything he could to advance the interests of his district - to such good effect that, at every election, he has increased his majority. He has been able to increase his majority only because he is doing his job as it should be done. The honorable member in question has told me that if this sort of thing continues there will come a time when the bank will no longer increase his overdraft.
In spite of these things, we find that people outside this Parliament are saying, “ Why should they have these increases? “ Statements have been made, even by organizations, that the recommendations of the Richardson committee should not be accepted. People say, “ Why should they accept the recommendations that the committee has made? Why do they not go to the Arbitration Court? “ Why should we? We had the Nicholas committee’s report away back in 1952, and we had the report of the first Richardson committee in 1955. Members generally felt at the time that on neither of those occasions were they given sufficiently large increases to meet the needs of ordinary members. But, on those occasions, none of the organizations that have voiced opposition this time said to us, “ You should not have appointed that committee. You should go before a judicial tribunal.” That was not said, because it is very well known that a judicial tribunal has no power to tell the Parliament what members shall get. We have to make the decision.
Let me remind honorable members of what happened in 1947. At that time a Labour government was in office, and we increased our salaries by 50 per cent. Most of the honorable members of this Parliament were not here at that time, but I happened to be here, and I remember what was said about our increasing our salaries to £1,500. It was said that we should not accept such an amount, but there was not as much opposition to the increase that we made in 1947, off our own bat, as there has been to the increases we are now discussing.
I would remind honorable members, too, that much has been said about the power of Parliament to fix the salaries of its own members. What member of Parliament can bring down a bill in this House to increase his own salary? Who can do it? It has to come from the Governor-General. It has to be done by means of a bill introduced by the Minister, and the responsibility devolves upon the government of the day to bring down legislation concerning parliamentary salaries. The present Government has, therefore, brought down this legislation. Then there is a responsibility on the Parliament to decide whether the suggested increases should stand or whether they should be reduced. They cannot be increased, mind you. Honorable members cannot increase them once they have been set out in a bill. You can move only to reduce them.
– I do not think you would have to.
– The honorable member may think that. He has an electorate similar in. some respects to mine. I can honestly say this to him: We represent districts that do not require of us the expenditure that must be incurred by honorable members who represent other electorates. However, many demands are made upon us, and if we want to help in all those directions in which we think we should, as public men, give assistance, we must incur considerable expenditure. Fortunately, I do not have such a problem as faces a certain member of the Senate, who said to me, “ My boy is just reaching the age when he may be admitted to the university, but unless we can get these increases I cannot see how I will be able to pay for his tuition there “. He cannot represent himself to the university authorities as a parent who is unable to pay. The means test would preclude him from doing so. Yet he wants to send his son to the university, and because he has to spend so much in connexion with his position he is unable to do so.
I am in a similar position to many other of the older members of this Parliament. Our children have grown up. They have their own homes or are purchasing them. We who are up in years, if we are worth our salt, have our own homes. If we have not, there is something radically wrong with the way we do things. It is obvious, therefore, that I do not view these increases as being necessary to keep me going. However, they represent some recompense for what I have done during my years in Parliament.
Some remarks have been made about the way various members represent their constituencies. We may find that one member is able to do more for his constituents than, another is able to do. Perhaps he has a happy knack in this regard. However, it should not be concluded that the second, member is not trying as hard. Frequently it costs money to do these things and tokeep on doing them, and if, in our consideration of this legislation, we allow ourselves to be brow-beaten by the opinions of others, we will get nowhere. Years ago I attended a meeting of a union to which I belonged. A move was made to increasethe salary of the secretary - and a pretty miserable salary he was getting at the time. It was suggested that it be increased by a pound or two. One chap said, “Why should he get any more than the amount set down for my classification? “ I rose to> speak after him, and I said, “Why should he get the amount provided for your classification, instead of that set down for the classification below you or the one above you? Why should he not be given overtime whenever he comes out at night to attend a meeting, just as you get overtime for working outside normal hours?” Finally the organization and the individual members saw the logic of my arguments and the increase was granted, not because of any persuasive oratory on my part, but simply because the facts were put before them, and those facts were found to be unanswerable.
Honorable members know how they are going to vote on this legislation. I do not believe for one moment that anything I say will alter the way in which an honorable member proposes to vote. I am merely explaining why we, as a party, are supporting portions of the legislation. We say very definitely that every man in this House, and every man and woman in the Senate, should receive the basic increase, both in salary and in electorate allowance, as set out in the schedules to the legislation. We do consider, however, that the report went a little bit haywire with regard to the increases proposed for those occupying higher positions. I agree with the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) that I could not suggest what the members of the committee ought to decide. The Postmaster-General said that the report has been prepared by certain businessmen. That is quite correct, but now we have to pass judgment on it. When we sue for damages in the court we brief a lawyer to> -appear for us. He puts our case, but the judge does not necessarily accept it, or accept it in full. The judge determines finally what should be granted.
A similar position exists in this Parliament. Honorable members of the Opposi tion do not want the whole legislation thrown out - do not make any mistake about that. We do say, however, that the increases granted to those in the higher positions should bear some proportionate relationship to the basic increases provided for private members. We do not say that there should be no increase in the salaries -of Ministers or officers of the Parliament, such as the Speaker of the House, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and the Whips. We know that they all have duties to perform, and they should be considered. But we believe that the increases they receive should be proportionate to those basic increases granted to the members in the lower Tanks. That is the reason why the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has moved his amendment in connexion with the Ministers of State Bill. He suggested that portion of it be re-drafted to make provision for increases on a scale comparable with those granted to private members.
Let me say at this stage, that, so far as protests are concerned, I have received only one letter from a private individual, who signed his name as secretary of an organization. No one has come to me and condemned our attitude to these increases. The main objection that has been raised is the one that was voiced at a meeting in my own electorate, when one of those attending the meeting said, “ What is this amount of £3,000 to be given to Lord Bruce, who is living in England? “ That is the part of the report that makes people sore. It is no use telling them that we cannot exclude certain individuals if benefits are granted to a particular class of people. They are still sore about it, and they do not think he should get this amount. The Leader of the Opposition has foreshadowed an amendment to the effect that no person who was Prime Minister more than 25 years ago should participate in benefits granted under this legislation. Lord Bruce will still receive the £1,200 a year that he is getting now.
It may be said that we agreed to this kind of benefit, as a principle, in 1952, but let me say that we would not have agreed to it as a principle then had it not been for the needs of other ex-Prime Ministers or their widows. Having introduced the benefit for the sake of those persons, we could not cut out one individual. But when this benefit is increased so greatly, from £1,200 to £3,000, we believe that something should be done about it, and that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition should be accepted.
Let me now come to the matter of the retirement benefits fund. It is not a pension fund, but unfortunately the word “ pension “ has been frequently used in connexion with it. If a man has served in the Public Service, has risen to the higher ranks and retired, and receives £12 or £15 a week, does he say that he is getting £12 or £15 a week pension? No, he says, “My superannuation is so much “. If a man retires after having served in the lower ranks, and gets only £3 10s. or £3 15s. a week, does he tell you that he is receiving that amount as a pension? No, he says, “ I am getting £3 15s. a week superannuation, and I am getting so much as old-age pension “. He makes that differentiation. People have been led to believe that our pension is on the same basis as the age and invalid pension. They do not seem to realize that we contribute to our pension.
Some time ago, when I was having a haircut, the barber referred to what we get. I pulled the monthly pay slip out of my pocket and showed him that in the previous month £19 10s. had been deducted from my salary for superannuation and £34 16s. 8d. for tax. He was surprised to learn that we paid as much tax as that. I showed him that about £54 was taken from my salary each month for superannuation and taxation and that in addition I paid £6 a month into an election fund. People do not have any idea of the amounts that are taken from our salaries; they think we get everything for nothing. When the increase of £400 in our salaries is paid, my taxation will not remain at £34 a month. I think the rate then will be 7s. Id. in the £1. Out of every £1 that the Government gives me, it will keep 7s. Id. in the taxation office, and I will receive 12s. lid. However, some people do not seem to appreciate that fact, although they realize that other men receiving similar salaries pay the high rate of taxation. If we are to look to the future of the Parliament to ensure that men who come here are given an opportunity to represent their districts as they should, we must not be led away from the main issue by other people. I do not refer to the newspapers but to people who in good faith write letters to the newspapers suggesting that we are taking a salary grab.
The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the legislation. Under this legislation ex-members and the widows of ex-members will not receive the increased pension. It is wrong to suggest that they should not receive the increases, and the Government should agree to payment being made to them. I know that the suggestion can be made that they have not paid additional contribution for the increased pension, as we will be obliged to do. However, I should like to refer to my experience in these matters. Some twenty years ago, I was appointed to the finance committee of the University of Adelaide. While I was on the committee, we had to deal with a request by some employees that they be given superannuation rights, just as the professors and the senior lecturers had. When I inquired, I was told that the university paid 10 per cent, and the employee paid 5 per cent, of his salary, making a total of 15 per cent., for an endowment policy which would enable him to receive half pay from the time he retired. In contrast, we pay 10 per cent, of our salary for our superannuation, and, as has been said, that is a fairly high rate to pay when compared with superannuation funds generally.
Some members may receive their pensions after serving in Parliament for eight or nine years, but others would serve for much longer periods. In my case, it is possible that I will remain here for as long as I am able to represent my electorate. Of course, if the electors do not want me, they will send some one else. In the ordinary course of events, however, I will contribute to the fund for very many years and will not receive a great deal of the amount that I pay. However, I do not object to that because I feel that the general basis of the fund is right.
After I had been in Parliament for a short time, I was asked what my biggest, impression was. I said that it was that we cannot legislate differently for different sections of the community. We could not say to one member that because he was engaged in other work or, perhaps, running a big property, he should receive only £500, while other men who relied entirely on their salaries were paid £2,000. We must arrive at the reasonable needs of the members of Parliament and try to meet them. The committee has made its recommendations, but some people still say that we should be doing something else. Of course, it is always easy to say what the other fellow should do until you are in his boots. I feel that we should judge this matter on the job we are doing. If the electors are foolish enough to put men in the Parliament who cannot devote their time to parliamentary work, that is their pigeon. I believe that a man should devote all his time to this job. In my experience, I have never been able to say that I have nothing left to do. The Parliament always gives me plenty of work, apart from any research work that I may undertake.
I trust that the Government will not hold the view that we are trying to be funny, or that we are trying to gain some kudos from this matter. What we are trying to do is to meet the genuine needs of the members, and at the same time to try to relate all the increases to the increases that have been given to ordinary members. If that is done, much of the ill feeling will be removed. People outside do not object so much to the general increases for members as such, but they do object to the additional amounts that are to be paid to some persons. I hone that the people will not be misled by statements made by those who do not understand the position. I have always argued for better pensions and for better conditions for those receiving pensions, and whether this legislation is accepted or not. I will still argue for that. In addition, I have told workers that if we are returned to power we will use our influence in an effort to restore quarterly adjustments of the basic wage. However, if the other side is elected to power, we are not able to do that, and, therefore, I hope that we will not be condemned for not doing it.
The people say, “Wait until you have given the pensioners justice “. What is justice? Is it a rise of 10s. a week? Some of them say, “ We want half the basic wage”. What is justice to them? It depends on what they ask and whether the people are of opinion that we are giving them a just deal. I say that the pensioners as well as the wage-earners are entitled to the highest amount the economy of Australia can afford. I do not think they are getting sufficient to-day or as much as our economy can afford, but that is another question apart from the matter we are now discussing. It is a question that I shall be ready to argue when the time comes.
My last word on this matter to the Government is this: If you agree to put this legislation through as we want it remember that the people outside are entitled to an equal deal when they come to you for a reasonable increase. I shall do my best to see that they get it.
.- I rise to speak in this debate with some diffidence because I find it extraordinarily difficult to speak on a matter which so closely affects my own personal interests. However, there is just one thing I would like to say about the amendment that has been submitted by the Opposition. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) virtually said it for me when he stated, somewhat ironically in relation to a lot of this criticism, that you can always judge what is the other fellow’s worth if you are not in his boots. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that if we look at that section of the Richardson report of which we have personal experience and decide that the Richardson committee has accurately and wisely assessed the situation so far as we are concerned, it is logical and morally indefensible to reject that section of it which concerns offices of which we have no personal experience. I believe that to be tantamount to saying that the Richardson committee, in that part of its report which concerns me, showed itself to be a wise and perspicacious body, but in those sections which concern other people, of whom I have no knowledge, showed itself to be very lacking in judgment.
With all the controversy surrounding these proposals, very little credit has been given to members of Parliament for the difficult and embarrassing situation in which they are placed by the constitutional responsibilities which devolve on them to fix their own salaries and allowances. It is because members of Parliament have a genuine and natural embarrassment in these circumstances that the device of appointing an independent committee has now become what might be regarded as the normal practice. It is for this reason, too, that Parliament invariably accepts the committee’s recommendations when they are put forward. I, for one, hope that Parliament does so on this occasion. Certainly I myself will vote for them.
It is not my intention to discuss what should or should not be the level of a member’s salary. I do not regard it as my prerogative to decide what I am worth. But like most members of Parliament, Mr. Speaker, I do not divide my salary from my electorate allowance when determining the position in which I am placed by virtue of being a member of Parliament. Foi instance, as soon as I have expended my electorate allowance each year, I do not lay down my arms and soldier no more until the beginning of the next financial year because if I did so my electorate would remain virtually unrepresented for more than half the year.
I am not interested in the salary, Sir. My family and 1 live modestly and well within the present salary of a member of Parliament. But although this is the case, in each year I have been a member of this Parliament, my total expenditure - that is my personal expenses plus my electorate expenses by virtue of being a member of this Parliament - has substantially exceeded my income. By that I mean my salary plus my electorate allowance. As an honorable member opposite said by way of interjection, it has put me in the red or, in other words, in debt. That is a situation, I might add, which has not been brought about by lavish living and gross self-indulgence because, as I have said, I have lived well within my salary in respect of my personal expenses. It is the result of expenses involved in performing my electoral and parliamentary duties.
There is nothing I resent quite so much, Mr. Speaker, as the widely expressed opinion that by concurring in these increases, members will be made personally more comfortable- So far a& I am. concerned - and I. think, this relates to tine majority of honorable members - not one penny will be used to- that end-. Having stated my personal position! in- this- regard, may t say that I ami aware that arguments have been used against this particular approach. Although. I think those arguments could, be- answered,. I should like to deal with them now because- they raise important: points of principle reaching, to the very roots of. out democratic system- of representation’.
The first argument, Sir; is that a. person is aware of the level of his remuneration when he nominates for election. It is said that he knows what he will get before he enters Parliament; that he does not have to be a member; and that if he does not think he can make out on the pay and allowances, he does not have to put himself” up for election. That is one of those arguments which seems to be so logical that it precludes thought, but when it is examined more seriously it will not hold water. I like my work as a member of Parliament, ft gives me satisfaction and I think I have a small’ contribution to make. I think I have the confidence of my constituent’s. Why, then, should I be excluded from membership of this House because I have not the means to do the job conscientiously and well? Why should I be excluded for- any reason other than that I have lost the confidence of my constituents?
It seems to me that some people have forgotten the great fight on the question of the principle of payment of members which took place in Australia and in the United Kingdom in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s of the last century. That fight marked a decisive step in the advance towards a truly democratic system; as big a step, I believe, as the introduction of adult suffrage itself. It meant that from that time forward, all points of view could be represented in Parliament by men who understood them and had the confidence of those who held that view. Prior to that, Parliament was composed largely of persons whose attitude was overlaid by the possession of large resources or by persons who were the personal property of particular interested groups. Are we to abandon the principle and return to that state of affairs? If the principle means anything it means that members- should receive not. just remuneration but sufficient remuneration- to- enable them to- discharge the responsibilities, of their office and. provide, foc their, families. By “ sufficient “ 1- mean, sufficient - not half of what is- sufficient- nor three-quarters of what is. sufficient,, but what is sufficient. The Richardson committee, after carefully considering, the matter, has stated what it conceives to be sufficient,, and I know ot no other, body as qualified, as this one to pronounce on the subject.
The other argument, Mr. Speaker, which is used! in opposition to the view that members do not receive sufficient to meet the reasonable expenses of their job, is that many of the activities in which a member of Parliament engages are not properly part of the function of a member of Parliament. The suggestion is made that a member who opens- a show, receives- debutantes, or attends a fete or any of the hundred and one things that we all do, does so not because it is necessary for him to do so in order properly to perform his duties as a member, but because he wishes to curry electoral favour. Why should a member, so the argument runs, be assisted to win his seat at the next election at the taxpayers’ expense? Why indeed?
Personally, I think that this is just about the most stupid argument that has been used in this controversy. Indeed, it is so stupid that I would not bother to mention it tonight were it not indicative of widespread misapprehension in some quarters of the task and role of a member of Parliament. Why does a member do these things? First, because in most cases he is asked to do them, from which I assume that the performance of such functions fills a felt need in the social life of the community. In other words, members of Parliament do these things because the men and women in their electorates want them to do them.
This leads on to the second and vastly more important reason why members of Parliament do these things, the reason which I believe is the very raison d’etre of a member’s existence. A member does these things, Sir, as part of the vital process of keeping in touch with his constituents, the process of finding out what they are thinking, what problems they and their district have which affect the government, and what is the impact of government policies and administration at the grass roots.
You do not find these things out, Mr. Speaker, by sitting in a newspaper office or the bureaucrat’s chair, or over a whisky and soda in a comfortable club. Nor do you find them out by a hurried dash to gather information for a feature article. You find them out by continuous and organized contact with individual men and women and with community groups. This in its turn involves hard slogging and intelligent work of the type of which I am speaking. I am not complaining about this - I glory in it. It is this which gives the politician his individuality and his role in the processes of government. It is this which makes him unique and gives the humblest of back-benchers a place in the sun. If he does his job properly he brings to the enactment and administration of legislation a quality which can be bought by no one else in quite the same way - a thorough knowledge of the needs of the people and districts that he represents and the impact of legislation and administration upon them.
I repeat that there is only one way in which a member of Parliament qualifies himself to perform this vital function - by hard and continuous attention to his electorate. That applies whether he is in a safe seat or not. I believe that there is no greater danger to our democratic system than the widely prevalent view that the measure of a member’s value is the length of time that he sits in the Parliament in Canberra. How. often does one read or hear the view expressed that if only members of Parliament could be freed of tiresome social and community activities- in their- electorates, they would be left free to concentrate their attention on the vital tasks of government.
Sitting suspended from 6. to 8. p.m.
E8-.0J. - There are many considerations in this matter, butt&e paramount consideration is; to maintain the- health of the parliamentary institution, and to preserve the- respect of the people of Australia for the Parliament. The press campaign of- recent weeks has certainly succeeded in damaging those things: Of its very nature, it could not do anything’ else. Then what is the course-, in those circumstances, that Parliament ought to take?’ Is it to- yield- to the press intimidation and to call off the- press by allowing the newspaper proprietors to dictate parliamentary policy in this matter? I think that that is not the answer. The tactic, having succeeded once in overawing and intimidating Parliament, would be repeated on every occasion on which the newspaper monopolists decided that their will must be carried out by the Parliament in substitution for the will of the elected Parliament itself. Parliament would become their creature and therefore unworthy of any respect
As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) have said, in this classic contest between an elected Parliament and an anonymous press, the Parliament must prevail or else democracy in Australia will be replaced by a press tyranny. Further, since the same newspapers have, ever since federation, opposed every proposal for an adjustment of the rates of parliamentary remuneration, to yield to them would mean a parliament so underpaid that only wealthy men, or subsidized men, or corrupt men, could be members of it. That again would bring Parliament into utter disrespect. It would make impossible, of course, the existence of a full-time member of Parliament, having no other interest or occupation and devoting the whole of his ability to the service of his electorate in the Parliament. Yet, that is what modern government requires,, because of its vast impact on daily life, and. that is what nearly all members, at least on this side of the House, are - full-time members of Parliament, having that as their sole interest and sole occupation and finding, themselves fully engaged in, the performance of their task.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that Parliament must expect, and must be open at all times to severe criticism. That, of course, is also an essential of democracy. No one- could object to a- reasoned case, no matter how powerfully expressed, against the proposal’s which the Parliament is now considering. Of course, such a case can be made. There are two sides to every question. The disturbing feature of recent weeks, as has been emphasized in the debate already, is that so much of the press campaign has been based not on reason- but on emotional appeal to hatred, to anger; and to contempt based on misrepresentation, suppression and deliberatelies’. I’ say- that quite deliberately.
Recently the “ Sunday Mirror “ asked me to answer questions on my attitude to an increase in salary for private members of Parliament. I have never concealed my attitude on that question, and I immediately wrote out an answer and handed it to the “ Sunday Mirror “ representative. In the course of that answer, I wrote -
In the sixteen years that I have been a member of this Parliament, representing a large country electorate, my expenses have been such that 1 have not been able during all those sixteen years to add anything to my assets. I would have been far better off had I remained on the “Mirror”.
The whole of my answer was published - except that paragraph which, of course, did not suit the proprietors of the “ Sunday Mirror “ and certainly did not suit the heading which they placed upon their article, which was, “ Cash before Conscience “. It was a case of deliberate falsification and suppression of an important section of my answer.
In a recent broadcast I had occasion to deal with the reasons for the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ campaign of deliberate vilification of the Parliament on this issue and, to the very best of my ability, I exposed the methods and actions of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ in that matter. I then went on to indicate generally some of the views which I held on this question of parliamentary salaries. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ published a few paragraphs, leaving out entirely what I had said concerning the actions of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and leaving out entirely, as far as I could see, anything that did not suit it, but placing beneath the report a footnote reading, “ The views expressed by Mr. Fraser in this broadcast are largely those already expressed by the Sydney Morning Herald “.
I turn from this aspect of the matter, after just one other observation on it. It is that many senior and experienced journalists to-day are bitterly unhappy over the rapid decline in newspaper standards in Australia in the last few years, and are deeply disturbed by the way in which the executives of those newspapers to-day come into the news-gathering field and deliberately and personally direct the nature of the stories to be obtained, even to the extent of giving memoranda that read, “ We want you to obtain opinions on parliamentary salaries, and we are not interested in the opinion of any one who is in favour of an increase “.
– They do that in East Germany.
– Yes. These journalists are most unhappy at the way in which, on the orders of these same executives, the news is deliberately slanted in matters in which the executives have ends of their own to serve. If any investigations were held into this matter in Australia, there would be ample evidence forthcoming to support what I have just said. I am particularly concerned at the utter misrepresentation of the attitude of the Labour Party in this matter. This, of course, has had its effect. It could not fail to have an effect. If one adopts the Goebbels technique of the big lie continually repeated, of course people will be found to believe it, and that has happened. Many honest people and many good, decent Labour supporters believe the falsities that have been published in the press in the last few weeks concerning the attitude of the Labour Party, and these I propose to expose. This is an opportunity to set the record straight, and I hope that many Labour men and women throughout Australia will hear what I am saying to-night. in the first place, there is no doubt that the Parliamentary Labour Party favours an increase in the basic parliamentary salary. Whether the increase is right or wrong - I certainly believe it is right - that attitude is an honorable one, and a natural one, and it can be fully justified. Looking at the files of this particular section of the press, not from the moment the Richardson committee reported, but from the very moment the Richardson committee was appointed, one can see stories continually appearing, declaring that increases of £1,000 a year or more in the pay of private members would be made, that the Labour Party would vote for everything in the report in order to make sure that the increases for its own members were safeguarded, that Opposition leaders had made secret deals with the Government, undertaking not to oppose anything in the report, and that discreditable manoeuvres were proceeding behind the scenes to fix everything so that, in the words of those newspapers, politicians would “ cop the lot “.
Although these stories were necessarily inventions since the committee had not then even met - and there certainly had been no meeting of the Labour Party - and although every one of these stories has been disproved in its entirety by the event, it is noteworthy that they were published, not as speculation but as facts, under black banner headings. Every heading and every story in each of these newspapers were calculated to have exactly the same effect, to promote public cynicism, arouse anger against Labour politicians and injure the Labour Party in the eyes of its own supporters, and to destroy respect for the institution of Parliament in Australia. I have said that every one of these stories has been disproved by the event, and this I will show by a brief recital of the facts.
The primary fact is that the Parliamentary Labour Party did not meet to consider the salaries proposals until Wednesday, 8th April, exactly one week ago. So everything published prior to that date as to what the Labour Party decided or would do was necessarily either guesswork or deliberate falsification. The Labour Party then met in the proper way immediately upon the re-assembling of Parliament after the recess. Consequently, everything attributed to the Labour Party as a decision, up to that stage at least, could not be other than a concoction.
Since last Wednesday these same newspapers, in utter disregard of the facts and of the official statements made by the Leader of the Opposition after every meeting of the party, have continued to publish these stories, declaring that the Labour Party would swallow everything in the Richardson report in order to ensure the rises for its own members and that all other considerations would be set aside except this utterly selfish one. Successive stories during the last week have depicted the Labour caucus as being in a state of fear and indecision, waiting upon the Government and engaged in a game of discreditable tactics.
None of it is true. Here is the record of what actually happened, based upon the official statements of the Leader of the Opposition. The Parliamentary Labour Party met for the first time on this matter last Wednesday and then, at that very meeting, overwhelmingly adopted a recommendation from its executive, branding features of the Richardson report as unacceptable and indefensible. At that time the report from the Government lobbies was that unless the Labour Party accepted the entire report the Government would scrap the whole legislation and everything would be lost. The Labour Party, at its first caucus meeting, agreed that if this were so, it would lose the lot, including the increase in basic parliamentary salaries, rather than accept features of the report which were repugnant to Labour ideas. At that same meeting the party requested its executive to list the unacceptable features and to present them to a further meeting of the party.
The executive did this task at once and reported back to another meeting of the party held the very same night. The executive then listed non-contributory pensions for Ministers and the use of government cars proposal both as being totally unacceptable, and listed the proposals for increases in salaries and allowances to Ministers, Opposition leaders and officers of the Parliament, as unacceptable in their existing form.
At that stage Cabinet had announced its full endorsement of all the proposals in the Richardson report, including the three I have named. It was made plain, therefore, that the Labour Party was prepared to see all the legislation go overboard rather than accept these features. This was finally determined and confirmed yesterday when the party, at its resumed meeting, fully accepted its executive’s recommendations. At its further meeting to-day, after the Prime Minister, last night, had announced that the Government had dropped the non-contributory pensions and the government cars proposals, the attitude of the Labour Party having been vindicated in these matters, the party decided that although it was not opposed to reasonable increases to Ministers and associated officers of the Parliament - indeed, it cannot be since these rates have not been adjusted for the last seven years - yet it considered the rates, in total, to be excessive. Therefore it decided to move in the House, at the second-reading stage, as the Leader of the Opposition has already announced, to have that total reduced. If that amendment is not carried the Opposition will vote against the motion for the second reading of the hill both here and in the Senate in an endeavour to defeat it.
– That means that the Labour Party will not accept the increases even if the measure is passed?
– I say that we will make our .endeavour at the secondreading stage to have ; the total amount under this heading reduced, and if our amendment is not carried we will vote against the second reading in both Houses amd .attempt to defeat the measure in that way.. If that move of ours succeeds it might well be an end of the .legislation as a whole.
The sole purpose of reciting .these facts is to .correct the false impressions which have been so consistently .created and to enable the .fair-minded public to judge correctly of .the attitude and decisions :©f the Labour Party in this matter. As the Leader .of the Opposition has pointed out, because we .believe that the increase in basic parliamentary salaries :is justified, we will vote for the second .reading of that measure and will then move an amendment to reduce the amounts of increase recommenced for ‘Opposition ‘leaders, Mr. Speaker, Mr. President -and so on.
Equally, we will support at the second reading the parliamentary pensions bill, and do so with a good heart indeed, because the pensions provided for members of Parliament are financed by the contributions .of .members of Parliament .and .are not a charge upon .the .taxpayer. They .are a .charge upon every member .now sitting in this Parliament. .At present each .member pays £4 10s. .a week for pension benefits. That figure .represents 10 per cent, of the salary .of a private .member .of this House and in future .each member .will pay an additional weekly .contribution to finance the increase in .the pension rates . now to be provided.
That, then, is the position of the Labour Party -with regard to contributory pensions. “We ‘have no need, ‘as members of this Parliament, to apologize to any one in Australia for the provision of our contributory pensions plan. It is .entirely different from the system of non-contributory pensions. It has no relation whatever to the rate of social .service pensions and a comparison with them is utterly false and misleading. People who say “ Look at the politicians, they give £4’ 7s. 6d. a week to an age pensioner but they give £15 or £18 a week to themselves “ are deliberately misleading the Australian public. They know that this is a contributory scheme such as every citizen of Australia is entitled to belong to if he so desires. Parliamentarians are simply exercising the same right as all other -citizens exercise to make insurance payments for their own future or to contribute to a superannuation fund or a staff provident fund. It happens in business and m government employment right throughout Australia and is never confused with a non-contributory social service system. This falsity is perpetrated only in the case of the parliamentary pensions plan.
The Labour Party remains firmly opposed to non-.contributory pensions for Ministers or any -other parliamentarians, with .the exception of -the Prime Minister. I think that the -Prime Minister -of Australia is in .a -unique position. He carries a tremendously heavy burden indeed. This Parliament has already established the provision of a special -pension for a retired Prime Minister and J -think that a man who has served -this country in that onerous capacity is in a unique position and does deserve special .consideration at the hands of this nation.
As the Leader of the Opposition has announced we will move to limit the retrospective operation of this pension to 25 years back. The effect of that will be to leave out of it Viscount Bruce of Melbourne., who, though .that is his title, has for the past 30 years made his home in London. ‘He was Prime Minister of Australia from 1923 to T929 when, with all due respect to him, the .tasks of .the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia had no relation in magnitude or complexity to the tasks which the Commonwealth .Government “has to face at present. At that time the annual Budget of the Commonwealth Government was about £50.000,000 or £6.0,000^000.. .In fact, .it did mot reach £100,000,000 until 1938. To-day, ‘it is well over £ 1,000,000, 000. He :had six and a (half good years .controlling .the Commonwealth Government at a time when its legislative tasks were limited indeed, and he is not, and cannot be, regarded as being in the same position as any Prime Minister since the depression years.
– During his residence abroad he was still serving Australia.
– That is true. But we have not adopted the system of giving non-contributory pensions to people who serve Australia abroad after leaving the Parliament. There is no justification for giving the pension on that ground, and I believe that, having regard to the complete distinction between what has applied since, and the nature of the services rendered by a Prime Minister in the 1920’s when this country was less than half its present size in population, and when the Commonwealth had not assumed any of its present tremendous governmental responsibilities, the same principle could not, and should not be applied to both the present and the past.
I regard the case of an increase in the basic parliamentary salary rate as overwhelming, and I do so not only on the basis of my own experience but also on the basis of what I have learned in many conversations with many colleagues on this side of the Parliament. When you represent, as I do, a large country electorate, you find it impossible to provide adequate representation for your people, and meet the costs of that representation, without dipping very considerably into your parliamentary salary. I was, however, astonished, when I came to answer the questionnaire sent to me by the Richardson committee, to find that in the year 1957-58 I had spent £1,246 on representation of the electorate - an amount 50 per cent, above that allowed to me under the act. I then proceeded to speak confidentially with colleagues in my party, and I found many of them were in the same position, and some of them who were in an even worse position.
As I have said, I have not managed to save any money at all in the last sixteen years. I am not worried about that. I do not choose to make money out of politics, and did not ever have any wish to do so. I am quite happy with what I have, and I am quite willing to go on in the way that I am going; but I know plenty of members, on this side of the House at least - younger men than I am who still have the task of bringing up their families - who represent large electorates, who are finding it an onerous task to do so and are running into debt, have heavy bank overdrafts, and are facing continual financial burdens. It may not be recognized by people outside this House that the task of representing an electorate in this Parliament is an exceedingly expensive one, and many members, I think, are finding the strain of it heavy and should not be compelled to continue to accept that strain.
I have, from time to time, endeavoured to interest young members of branches of the Labour Party in arranging to contest selections for seats now held on the other side of the House which certainly should go to the Labour Party. I know a number of seats held by members over there which are very vulnerable. They ought certainly to be Labour seats, and I know many bright and keen young men in the Canberra branch of the Labour Party, and in branches of the Labour Party throughout my electorate who, when I put to them the idea that they should submit themselves for Labour Party selection, are keen on the idea; but then they go away and consider it, and nearly always they come back and say that, having regard to the positions they at present hold in the Public Service or in other avocations, and to the security and the prospects of salary advances which are open to them, they feel themselves, in duty bound to their families, not able to adventure on the risk in order to take the limited opportunities that are available to them in politics. I think that that is a very bad thing indeed.
I agree that a man should not enter Parliament with the idea of making money out of it; but I think it is a tragic thing when men who would be valuable in this Parliament are prevented from contesting seats because, out of duty to their families, they cannot afford to make the financial sacrifice that would be involved. Indeed, some of these men to whom I have referred and whom, at earlier dates, I have tried to interest in contesting seats on behalf of the Labour Party, are now earning well above £3,000 a year as members of the Commonwealth Public Service, with complete security for the rest of their working lives. I do not blame them at all for making that choice of a career in the
Public Service instead of the other choice that I should have liked them to make.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that in his six years as Leader of the Opposition he had to dip very heavily into his savings. I have not the least doubt that that was so. On this side of the House every one knows that the present Leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for Hunter (Dr. Evatt), made tremendous sacrifices, not only financial but also in relation to his future security and his time and comfort, in coming back into the hurly-burly of politics.
– And by leaving the High Court.
– And by leaving the High Court of Australia. Since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has interjected, I may say that he gave up his career as a Treasury officer in Victoria to enter politics, and who can doubt, knowing his ability in this House, that, had he set aside the task of politics and continued solely as a Treasury offical, he would most certainly to-day be Secretary to the Treasury in Victoria? Many similar cases could be cited.
One of the most extraordinary arguments which is directed, against the Labour Party particularly, on this issue - and this is directed by sections of the press - is the argument that we have no right to accept an increase in salary for ourselves while the poor pensioners and the mothers of Australia are still having to exist on insufficient pensions and insufficient child endowment rates. This argument is advanced, of course, by exactly the same newspapers which, when we announced our policy a few months ago, proposing properly and adequately to increase the rates of pensions and child endowment, bitterly attacked us, declaring that our proposals were impracticable and extravagant. We could not possibly win with these newspapers whatever we did, and it is not worth trying to do so; but I think that the reproach made by the press in that connexion lies heavily at the door of the present Government, and I should not like to be in the position of any member on that side of the House who is saying, “ My rates have not been adjusted for seven years, and I am entitled to an increase “, while at the same time he is refusing an increase in the rate of child endowment which has not been adjusted for eight years. I think the position of every member of the Ministry is ambiguous in that respect. I should like to see one of them get up and attempt to justify the increase that he is to receive - and to some of which he is no doubt entitled - at a time when he is refusing the increases of child endowment to which the mothers of Australia are entitled.
– You yourself said that there was no relation between social service payments and this matter.
– No. I did not.
I said that there was no relation between social service payments and contributory pensions. Let me say that the same reproach as I mentioned before lies against every member of the Government parties on the question of age and invalid pension. You are perfectly entitled to be attacked when you adjust your own rates of pay to present living costs but refuse to adjust to present living costs the rates of pay of the people in the greatest need in this country. The Labour Party has always fought for a proper adjustment of the rates paid to those people in great need, and will continue to fight to the utmost of its ability until the adjustment has been made; and the greatest hope I have is that as this Government is now proposing to increase the emoluments of its own members, it cannot any longer than the next Budget refuse justice to the mothers and pensioners of this country.
– We have now reached a stage in this important debate when it does not remain necessary for those of us who now speak to cover much of the ground, because it has been ably covered by speakers on both sides of the House. I am quite certain that all parties, and certainly this institution of Parliament, are greatly indebted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the splendid exposition he gave last night in the Parliament of the fundamental aspects of the issue now before us.
I, Sir, do not want to convert what has been, over recent weeks, a “ curse the politicians “ campaign into a “ curse the press “ campaign; but I think it is proper that references should be made to the press campaign of distortion and misrepresentation which, whilst following the general pattern that has obtained from the first change made in parliamentary salaries from 1907 onwards has, I think, exceeded in degree anything of the kind we have known in this country before.
The Prime Minister, last night, reminded us that this was not the first time in the life of the Parliament that changes had been made and that those changes had invariably attracted a bitter, hostile press and public campaign. It is rather interesting to recall the national leaders who have felt it their duty to bring to Parliament for approval proposals for changes in the emoluments of members. To take at face value the press comments on those who are committed to this course in the Parliament at the present time, one would think that they were of the lowest order of public and political morality that this country had ever seen. But on each occasion, this process has gone on. On the first occasion, the proposals were introduced by Alfred Deakin; on the second occasion by William Morris Hughes; on the third occasion by Joseph Lyons; and on the fourth occasion by Mr. Chifley. Now, a fifth name has been added to what I think most fair-minded Australians will agree is a very distinguished list of national leaders who have left the imprint of their character and their policies upon the history and the make-up of this country.
Now, Sir, who are the people who are being attacked? You would imagine from the language of the press campaign that we had nothing to commend us to the people - that the best thing that could happen would be for Australia to jettison us from public life immediately and find another set of citizens to get on with the business of government. It so happens that we are the freely elected representatives of the Australian people. We are the men and women, for what we are worth in terms of character and capacity who, as recently as November of last year, represented the first choice that was made in any electorate in which candidates were offering themselves to be returned to this Parliament. We are the people, so elected, who are now being subjected to this barrage of attack.
I do not want to dwell on that because it has been dealt with by others far more effectively than 1 could hope to do. But I want to make this point: Much has been said about the campaign of distortion and vilification which followed the findings of this committee. However, I think it is worth reminding, not only honorable members, but also members of the public, that the press did not wait until those findings had been published before it set about this process. On page 8 of the committee’s report is set out the committee’s experience on this matter, even before its findings came to the light of day. The committee said this -
In his statement announcing the appointment of the 1951 Committee the Prime Minister said, “ There are many grave misapprehensions about ministerial and parliamentary salaries and privileges “. The 1955 Committee complained that the general public, without full information and often in complete ignorance of the facts, tended to offer unreasonable opposition to any alteration in parliamentary allowances; that little attempt was made to inform the public or for members of the public to seek accurate information; and that much of the publicity given to the matter was deliberately distorted. We have observed the same phenomena. The Prime Minister’s announcement of the 17th January, 1959, was followed by comments (in some newspapers and in letters to the Committee) of the familiar kind, in which phrases loaded with false and abusive implications were freely used, mis-statements abounded, and malice took the place of judgment.
The persistence of such attitudes, in the face of the findings of Select Committees of the House of Commons, and of Committees of Inquiry (comprising judges, other members of the legal profession, accountants, and commercial and industrial leaders) which have reported on similar matters to the Parliaments of the United Kingdom, New Zealand and several of the Australian States as well as to the Commonwealth Parliament during the last 30 years, seems to us a curious feature of Australian political life.
It may be a curious feature but it has been a feature of Australian public and political life. We, for our part, particularly those of us who have gone through this process several times over the last twenty years, have become, if not familiar with, at least to some extent resigned to a campaign of humiliation and abuse every time some attempt is made, however long the interval between each attempt, to examine the circumstances of members of this Parliament.
To-night I will not attempt to talk to the prejudiced. I seek to talk to the fair-minded people of this country because I have found that, irrespective of this campaign in the press - and I know that this has been the experience of my colleagues and of honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House - wherever I have been able to come face to face with my own constituents, whether at branch meetings, public meetings, or in private conversation, and hammer out with them the sort of issues that they had very imperfectly understood from their reading of the press, 1 have found a willingness to understand and accept what we ourselves have decided to be the reasonable thing for this Parliament to do. Speaking to these fair-minded people I say, “ Can these questions be answered in any other way than the way I am attempting to answer them to-night?”
First, should there be a review of Parliamentary emoluments at appropriate intervals? There can be only one answer, I suggest, to that in the mind of any fairminded person. There are three very good reasons why there should ‘be a periodical review. The first is common justice to. members themselves and to their families. Australians do not expect their parliamentarians to continue indefinitely at the rates which applied at the beginning of our Federation although, as the Prime Minister said, each time a change has been made, if a referendum had been held, the rates would have remained static. But, in common justice, there should be a review from time to time. We believe that a three-years period is a suitable interval of time for such a review to ‘be made.
A second important reason why it should bc made is that the circumstances of the member and the community in which he lives are not static. The community sets a pace for him which, as its representative, he must hold to. If the standards in his area become such that more is expected of him, he must either do more or make way for some person who is willing and financially able to do more. The community sets the pace and as Australia has prospered - and it has prospered very greatly in recent years - the member of Parliament has found it necessary to adjust the amount of work that he does in his electorate in accordance with what the electorate expects of him.
We are living in a rapidly developing and expanding nation - an economy which is growing in leaps and bounds. Australian circumstances to-day are quite different from what they were a few short years ago. We are now being visited by many distinguished and interested people who would have regarded us as something in the Antarctic region - inaccessible, and even undesirable of access - so short a time ago. Australia, to-day, is a lively, growing, throbbing nation and we members of Parliament are conscious of that and must respond, in our own lives, to what is expected of us. People who wish to see us, people who wish to be shown round this country and around our own cities by us - these all represent duties which have either in kind or degree been added to us in recent times, if not in degree, at least in kind.
The third point that I bring forward has not been considered, so far as I am aware, by the press at any stage of this campaign; nor am I conscious of its having been dealt with so far in the course of this debate. We members and Ministers form an important integral part of the structure of democratic government in this country and, over the years, our place in that structure has been resolved by decision of the Parliament and by the decision of tribunals which have set down standards and conditions for members of our Public Service. I believe, myself, that it will be a bad thing for democratic government in this country when the remuneration for senior public servants gets so far ahead of that of Ministers and members of the Parliament that we cease to occupy the status in their eyes and the eyes of the public that I believe our place in the democratic structure demands of us. It will be a bad day when that happens, Sir - and that is what has been happening. Can anybody knowing the facts challenge that it has been happening, on the facts? Certainly, this committee was very conscious of it.
I have here in my hand, Mr. Speaker, a table which I think shows quite graphically the change in circumstances which has occurred since federation. When this Parliament was first constituted, the Minister who held the office that I now occupy received a salary of £2,050 a year. The permanent head of the Treasury received a salary of £750 a year. In other words, the Treasurer received nearly three times the salary of the head of his department. In 1901, the Minister for External Affairs received £2,050, and the head of his department £800. The Attorney-General received £2,050 a year, and the Solicitor-General, who was the head of his department, £750. The Minister for Defence received £2,050, and the head of the department £900. It may be said by some critics, “ Oh, but you are plucking figures going right back to the time of federation,” even if that is no answer to the argument that I am putting. But I can bring the story much more closely to the present time than that, Mr. Speaker. In 1947, the Minister for External Affairs received £2,960, and the permanent head of his department received £2,000. The Attorney-General received £2,960, and the Solicitor-General received £2,100. The Minister for Defence received £2,960, and the secretary of the department received £2,000. The Minister for Health received £2,960, and the secretary of the department - or the head of the department, because the name implies the same thing, as honorable members are aware - received £1,800.
It will be seen, Sir, when we come to the present situation, in which the salaries of most Ministers are well below the present rates of pay for their permanent heads, that even if the rates recommended in the Richardson committee’s report are adopted - and they are being attacked by honorable gentlemen opposite as being too high - the Minister will merely be in a position comparable with that of the permanent head of his department. I do not suggest that the Minister should get substantially beyond that, whatever may have been the position at federation. We have a very able team of men at the head of our government departments, and we know that in order to retain the services of men who are themselves public-spirited and anxious to go on with the business of running departments of state, and in order to bring some measure of relativity to them compared with those who are in positions of responsibility of a like kind in private industry outside, these salaries have to be paid.
I believe that those three reasons that I have mentioned - common justice, the need for the men and the Minister to keep pace with the community of which they are a part, and the need to maintain this relativity in the structure of government - make a periodical review necessary. If a review is to be made, what should be the machinery? In the past, we have attempted to do this work in the manner which the founders of the Constitution envisaged, the Parliament itself accepting the responsibility for the decisions. And that is what honorable gentlemen opposite did in 1947. The campaign of public indignation and abuse then was, I think, second only to the present one in its intensity. It was as a result of that expression of public dissatisfaction that we turned to what seemed to us to be the preferable method, not by discharging our responsibility on to the shoulders of somebody else, but by having an impartial, competent body of men examine our circumstances, relate those to what they knew of the circumstances of people with measurable responsibilities outside, and say, “ These are what we believe should be the conditions that apply to members of the Parliament and Ministers at this time “. I think, Sir, that there was good, general public support for that kind of machinery. Certainly, the Nicholas committee of 1952 and the Richardson committee of 1955 both seemed to the public to represent an arrangement preferable to members of the Parliament determining these matters for themselves.
In passing, Sir, it is worth recalling that the press has again built up a public atmosphere that this is a sort of hand-picked committee, that we went to an expansive commercial tycoon, that we added a couple of other fellows to help him, and that we sat back and waited for the happy result I think it is worth putting on record that the first committee included Sir Frank Richardson. It was chaired by Mr. Justice Nicholas - a former Supreme Court judge. Sir Frank Richardson had served governments on both sides of politics in an entirely voluntary capacity. Indeed, he has never accepted a penn’orth of reward or recompense for any expense incurred by him all through the years. He served us ably and well in an honorary capacity in a number of fields, and took the weight of responsibility for disposals in the war years. One could name a variety of other important honorary undertakings that he discharged. The third member of the Nicholas committee was Mr. H. W. Buckley, a leading accountant from Victoria.
So we had the Nicholas committee and, in 1955, we came to another review. Again, in passing, may I point out that, by decision of the Cabinet, Ministers were withheld, as were officers of the Parliament, from the review at that time. When we came to the review in 1955, Mr. Justice Nicholas was dead, and Mr. Buckley was not willing to serve again in the capacity of a member of such a committee. Obviously, we wanted some continuity of approach and knowledge in this matter. Sir Frank Richardson was the natural choice for appointment as chairman, and it is worth while reminding honorable members opposite that he was not regarded as unacceptable on purely political grounds, or on the ground that he might favour some political group or other, because the Cain Government, in Victoria - a Labour government - subsequently asked him, with the knowledge that he had already gained to chair a State committee appointed to review the circumstances related to the salaries of members of the Victorian Parliament.
– I do not think that anybody has ever suggested that he was politically biased in any way.
– I am glad to have the Leader of the Opposition’s endorsement. I think he shares our view that these are acceptable and able men who have set out conscientiously to do the best job they could in this distasteful and different business.
– I have never heard it questioned.
– I am glad to have the endorsement this time of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. So, when we came to the third review, Sir Frank Richardson was willing to act again, as was Mr. Fitzgerald, an accountant who had served before. Mr. Brown, the retired public servant who had served formerly, was three years older, and we felt that we should, in any event, turn to a man from Sydney to give balance to the committee’s work. So we sought a man, preferably with a professional background, and one who had made some study of the structure of parliamentary government, and we invited Mr. Norman Cowper to serve on the committee. He was by no means a hand picked choice. Mr. Cowper had twice been defeated as a candidate for Parliament, and, in my experience, Mr. Speaker defeated candidates are not the most liberal advocates on the conditions of those who have been somewhat more successful. Those points concerning the history of the matter, I think, are worth reporting in order to show how the composition of the committee fitted sensibly and naturally into our present arrangements.
Then there was the argument about timing. The time is not ripe, we are told. As the Prime Minister so aptly stated last night, the time never has been ripe on an issue of this kind. The argument can be summarized quite easily. If prices are rising, there is an obligation on members of Parliament to give some lead in restraint, lest they encourage an acceleration of some inflationary process. So the time is not ripe when prices are rising. If prices are stable, the time is not ripe, because to put up parliamentarians’ salaries might be to encourage other people to put up salaries and wages in other directions. Consequently we should again exercise some restraint. Finally, if prices are falling, the time is not ripe, the argument runs, to increase parliamentary salaries, because those receiving them are going to be that much better off anyway. If we waited until our critics said, “ Yes, this is the moment “, we would wait forever. The logical time, we thought, was early in the life of each Parliament, so that the conditions then agreed upon by the Parliament should hold, subject only to abnormal circumstances that might arise, throughout the life of the Parliament. That is the practice that we have adopted on this occasion.
When we are told, as we are told by many people, that we should put this matter aside and certainly not touch it again in the life of this Parliament because the electorate should have a chance to decide just what we are going to do, is it seriously contended that it is reasonable that no upward review should occur, so far as members of the Parliament are concerned, for a period of seven years - because that would be the consequence of it - and, in the case of Ministers and senior officers of the Parliament, for ten years, because that would be the effect of it in their case?
So. again appealing to the sensible and the fair-minded people, I say, Mr. Speaker, that the reasonable thing has been done. Although a committee sits to inquire into these matters, we in this Parliament, because of our constitutional responsibilities, have the final determination, first, as to whether a review should have occurred at all, and, secondly, as to the various items reviewed. That is what we are determining at the present time.
Let me turn, finally, to another aspect of the matter. Why the storm of protest after these findings have been announced? If a committee was the proper instrument, if it was timely to make a review, if the members of the committee were able and impartial men and went to pains to ascertain, in a manner in which no other tribunal, I suggest, could have ascertained, the private and confidential circumstances of members and Ministers, why the storm of protest when the committee’s findings came out? Were they so outrageous? Take the position of members of this Parliament and their basic pay. It is quite clear that the members of the Parliament, on whom the final responsibility rests under our Constitution, do not think that the recommended increase was outrageously high. Wherever we have turned in this debate, with very few exceptions, we have found general agreement that the increase in the basic pay of members of the Parliament was justified.
This view tends to become confirmed when we turn to the findings of a quite unrelated committee, the Martin committee, which has recently been going into these matters in respect of the Parliament of Victoria, and which came to a similar conclusion with regard to the basic pay of members of the Victorian Parliament, whose salaries have not been reviewed for approximately the same period as the salaries of members of this Parliament. That committee recommended an increase of £400 a year in basic salaries. When one considers the different circumstances attaching to service in this Parliament as compared to service in the Victorian Parliament, the extensive travel that is entailed and the differing geographical conditions, it can hardly be said that what was recommended for honorable members here was out of line with a fair-minded approach.
– The Victorian recommendations were of similar dimensions to those of the Richardson committee.
– That is so. So far as this Parliament is concerned, at any rate, we are not to be persuaded that what has been recommended for the increase in the basic rate for members is unreasonably high. That being so, were the increases prescribed for Ministers unreasonably high? I have already indicated that the result will be, if the recommendations are adopted, that, generally speaking, senior Ministers’ salaries will be brought to parity with the salaries of heads of their own departments. For instance, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) will be brought to the same level as senior executives functioning under him in the administration of his own department, in the airlines, the railways and other utilities of that nature. I do not know of any activity in the outside commercial field in which the man who gives the orders and has a full-time executive job in the giving of those orders is expected to receive less than those who take the orders from him.
– He has all the responsibility.
– Yes, he has the weight of responsibility for policy and for the making of decisions, and for much of the executive direction as well, in a highly complicated economy such as we have in Australia at this itme
Finally on this point, let me turn for a moment to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I have not sought to make this a party argument. I have tried to look at these matters quite calmly, and, I hope, quite objectively. What the Leader of the Opposition proposes in his amendment is that the bill bc withdrawn so that the increases to be awarded to Ministers may be fixed so that they will bear a direct proportionate relation to the increases which have occurred in the basic pay of members. When pressed by the Prime Minister on this matter, the Leader of the Opposition conceded that since there had been no review of Ministers’ rates since 1952, the fair thing would be to relate this consonance with members’ rates back to the time when they were both last reviewed, which was 1952.
– I think that is a misunder standing.
– The right honorable gentleman says it is a misunderstanding.
If that is so, then he is not prepared, as I understood him to be when he replied to the Prime Minister, to deal fairly, as most people in this country would suggest should be done, with the comparative circumstances of Ministers and members, because the last time the rate of both Ministers and members were reviewed together was in 1952. If we are to relate one to the other to-day, we must take our bearings from what was done at that time. To do so would produce this very interesting result. If the recommendations before us are adopted, it will be found that since the Nicholas report of 1951-52, the salaries of members will have increased by 57 per cent., and their salaries plus allowances by 59 per cent., whereas the salary of a senior Minister will have increased by 50 per cent., and his salaries and allowances by 51 per cent. For my part, therefore, I would have no hesitation in adopting the amendment of the right honorable gentleman, if he agrees that the comparison should be related back to the time when both rates were last reviewed together.
I would have liked, if I had had the time, to go through the items with which we have decided not to proceed, because they, or two of them at least, formed a substantial part of the earlier recommendations.
Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The case presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has the support of every member of the Opposition. It certainly has my support. It does not represent the views of every individual member of the Opposition, but it represents the final decision arrived at by members of the party, after several days’ discussion of the Richardson committee’s report, and after a discussion of the legislation brought down to implement portion of that report, that final decision being binding on us all.
The Richardson committee’s report, Mr. Speaker, was a long document, and the Government does not propose to give effect to all the recommendations made by the committee in the present legislation. Two particular recommendations have been dropped. Some will be brought into operation by administrative act. There has been one notable deviation from the report, concerning clause 13 of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill. This means that those persons who are already retired will not receive the advantage of increases granted under the present legislation. We think that that is most unfortunate, most undesirable and most unfair to members of the Parliament now retired who distinguished themselves over eight long years of war-time and early post-war administration, and to the widows of some other of those members. These people are entitled, we believe, to the same consideration as is proposed for present and future members of the Parliament. We have our views on that clause and we will offer criticism at the appropriate time.
The case put by the Leader of the Opposition has been supported by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I would not wish to weary the House or the nation by a reiteration of the arguments that have been advanced. Nevertheless, I think this question of salary increases is still a matter of great concern to many people. There is a good deal that should be said about it and 1 hope at this time to have the opportunity of saying some of the things that should be said.
The Labour Party’s attitude towards ad hoc committees is one of opposition. We have never agreed to the establishment of outside authorities to fix the salaries of members of Parliament. We would not think, as a Labour Party, of agreeing to a judge of any Commonwealth court, who in truth is a creature of Commonwealth legislation, being appointed to fix the salaries of members of this Parliament. In 1947, the Chifley Government took the responsibility of fixing salaries. It brought down legislation fixing salaries and allowances and did many other things that that Government thought desirable in the interests of the Parliament and of the country. When this Government in 1952, in 1956 and in 1959 set up committees to deal with the question of salaries and allowances, and in the last instance with retirement allowances, the Opposition said, “ We accept the fact that the committee has been appointed and we will send our representatives before it to put our point of view.” We did so on each of the three occasions, and on this last occasion about which so much criticism is being offered by the press and by sections of the community, our caucus unanimously decided that Senator McKenna, the honorable member for EdenMonaro and myself should put to the committee the point of view of caucus members in respect of higher parliamentary allowances, higher electoral allowances, a better scheme for retirement allowances and other matters.
When the committee was appointed and at the time the Labour Party decided to send its representatives to the committee, there was no criticism at all on the part of the public or of anybody else. It was after the committee presented its report that the great barrage of criticism, mixed in the case of the press with a great deal of abuse, arose. The committee could be charged with being over-generous. The Labour Party believes that it was over-generous in certain respects and will offer criticism of some of its recommendations. But the Labour Party has not said in its final resolution that parliamentary allowances should not be increased to the extent that the committee recommends; it has not said that the electoral allowance is too high and should not be increased, and it certainly has not said that the system of increased retirement allowances is not a good one.
If I may digress for one moment, I would emphasize again what other honorable members have said, and that is that the retirement allowances fund is practically self-supporting and that the interest earned from the investments of the fund are of such an order that within a few years, provided there is not a wide sweep out of members of this Parliament, the fund will be able to function on the interest from the investments. That, of course, when understood by the public, will certainly dissipate “and destroy much of the propaganda being directed against that provision of the Richardson committee’s report.
The opposition of pensioners, trade unionists and other good citizens, as far as I can ascertain, is due to the fact that whilst the legislation is being put through to give these benefits to members of Parliament, pensions are not being raised, child endowment is still frozen, the case before the Arbitration Court is not being assisted by the Government and, generally, the Government is showing indifference to the pressing needs of quite a large section of the Australian people. We have made our position perfectly clear. We put forward a programme at the last election, and there must have been a lot of pensioners who voted against us, there must have been a lot of basic wage workers who voted against us and there must have been a lot of mothers who voted against us. We put forward a series of proposals which were eminently sound and financially practical, but they were not accepted by the Australian electorate. So, in one sense, we can say, “ Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung “. The Government has decided to go ahead with these proposals and we are facing up to our responsibilities in the matter.
– What shocking hypocrisy!
– We are not hypocritical and we have never been hypocritical. If the charge of hypocrisy is to be raised, it can be raised against honorable members opposite who were members of the 1947 Parliament and who opposed-
– I did not oppose it.
– The honorable member was one. They put forward the proposal that the suggestions in the legislation of the Chifley Government should be referred to an all-party committee and, as was mentioned earlier to-day, said that allowances should not be increased while wages were pegged. 1 am not attacking the Government to-day in the manner in which the Opposition of that day attacked the Chifley Government. I am dealing with the proposals as they are before the chamber and I am answering the charges that have been made by a number of people that parliamentarians generally are indifferent to the needs, the wants and the demands of pensioners, mothers and basic wage workers. We of the Labour Party are not indifferent in those matters, but if the legislation is passed we will take the benefits that it confers. We will not be like some members of the Opposition of that day who refused to take the rises and made as much political capital as they could out of the decisions of the Parliament of that time, right on until the 1948 election.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last night attacked the press. I rather welcomed what 1 thought was a belated conversion on his part. 1 know how he has felt over a long period of time, but for some extraordinary reason he always kept himself in check. Last night, in his own modest fashion - he gave himself credit for modesty - he said many things with which I arn in complete agreement. I did not agree with all the arguments that he advanced in support of his proposals and plans, which are the basis of this legislation, but when he attacked the press for attempting to usurp the functions of the Parliament, I thought he was on particularly sound ground. I did not disagree with a word of it. As a matter of fact, I could have listened to him longer. In anticipation almost of what he was going to say, I made some observations myself on the 3KZ “ Labour Hour “ on Sunday afternoon last in connexion with the Richardson committee’s report. But unlike the Prime Minister, I did not get a full report of what I said. In fact, I got no report at all and I shall repeat my sentiments tonight. I said -
The Government is likely to introduce legislation to give effect to the Richardson Committee report on Tuesday night. It will not be known until then whether the report will be implemented in full or in a modified form. The debate will be adjourned and later resumed by Dr. Evatt. The Martin Committee has recommended increased salaries and allowances to members of the Victorian Parliament and the press that calls the proposed rises to Federal Parliamentarians excessive and indefensible says the rises suggested for Victorian Parliamentarians are fair and reasonable. I make the point, a debating one only, that if the Menzies Government does not implement the Federal plan, while the Bolte Government legislates to give effect to the Victorian plan, most Victorian members will be much better ~ff in regard to salaries and allowances than Federal members. Be that as it may, and regardless of whether there should or should not be any increases now or at any other time in the salaries of any parliamentarians, no matter at what level, national or state, they serve the people, the press campaign, as is now clearly revealed, was not concerned with equity or relative justice or any other ethical or moral consideration in its treatment of parliamentary remuneration. It was simply seeking to dictate the policy the Parliament should pursue on a matter which, under the Constitution, is for Parliament alone to decide. It is to be hoped that the public appreciates the motives behind the Press campaign whatever happens to the Richardson report over the next few weeks in Canberra.
Well, the Prime Minister could not be ignored by the people he criticized and addressed last night. He got the advantage, if it can be so called, of an extensive report of what he said, but I noticed that the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ did not bring up into heavy type what the right honorable gentleman said by way of challenge to the managing editor of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ to disclose his financial situation and do all the other things the Prime Minister said he ought to do if his newspaper was to continue its current line of criticism of what the Federal Parliament was doing or might do. I wish the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ would publish on its front page in heavy type the salaries of the managing editor of that newspaper and two of his subordinates alongside the remuneration of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, who is the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). Then the public would know.
There must be a lot of money in newspapers these days. I have been reading something recently of the affairs’ of Mr. Warwick Fairfax and after my reading of some newspaper reports, all I have to say is that Mr. Fairfax certainly is not a poor man.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, the report of the Commissioner of Taxation has shown that there are 1,700 persons in Australia who are getting more than the Prime Minister of Australia, and nobody is suggesting that they are overpaid. There are over 820 members of the Commonwealth Public Service who are getting more than the backbencher in this Parliament to-day. As the years go on, their salaries rise while members’ salaries remain stationary for at least three years at a time. Conciliation commissioners get £2,750 a year and expenses. Judges of the courts are entitled to half their salary by way of pension when they retire, and most of the judges get £6,000, and go out on £3.000 a year. It is right, therefore, that the recommendations of the Richardson committee should be seen in the right perspective.
I return to the press. I do not know that I have ever loved the press or that I have ever been beloved by it. Somebody said to-day that I started a curse-the-press campaign. I have never started any campaign to curse the press. I have never cursed the press. Why should I? The newspapers are the best friends I ever had.
They set out to write me out of politics and all they did was to write me in. I am not going to curse something when I am a beneficiary. I am not in the underwriting business any more than the Prime Minister is.
I believe that what the Leader of the Opposition has put forward, and that submitted by other members on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, make good commonsense. I am appalled to think that in this present situation, there is so much gross misrepresentation, distortion and vilification. I am satisfied that if the trade union movement could see some activity on the part of the Government in respect of pensions and other things, a good deal of the criticism that comes from that quarter would abate. Most of the resolutions that have been passed by authoritative organs inside the Labour Party have not said that the committee’s report should be rejected out of hand. They said it should be modified because they think some of the benefits that are being given are too great. There is, for good reasons or bad, a great hostility to the payment of increased pension benefits to Viscount Bruce, who ceased to be an Australian citizen at least ten or fifteen years ago. He is now resident abroad. His interest in Australia is incidental to the work he is doing in Great Britain, although it has to be admitted that he is still Chancellor of the Australian National University in Canberra. But Viscount Bruce has been out of office associated with this Parliament for 25 years. We do not think it right that he should get a benefit when he has been out of office for so long, while war-time Ministers and widows of those gentlemen and a number of people who served in this Parliament during World War II are being ignored by the report and not getting the benefits they ought to get.
The Leader of the Opposition will move his amendment at the appropriate time. We will address ourselves first to the Ministers of State Bill. We propose to move that the bill be withdrawn to be redrafted. We will take that to a division. The Treasurer has said that Ministers will get increased benefits under our amendment if it is carried. I think that is a bluff. If he wishes to enter into the bluff to the point of acceptance of our amendment, well and good, and we will examine the result of the investigation the Government might make then.
-lt has already been made.
-Well, we have made it too, and there is a difference of opinion as to how it will work out. However, when it comes to the question of payment of pensions to the officers of the Parliament, we hold the ‘iew that those payments, too, are excessive; that the payments proposed to be mad( for the Leader of the Opposition and mself and to the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy in the Senate are too high. We will move 10 reduce them in the committee stage of the second bill.
– Will you try to persuade us to carry your amendment?
– Yes, we will. We will take it to a division and see how we will divide on that question. But I think the temper of the people is this: They have no objection to the granting of reasonable remuneration, electorate allowances, travelling expenses and a proper retirement allowances scheme to members of Parliament. The people never have had any basic objection to members of Parliament being properly and adequately remunerated, but what they feel in this case - and it has been whipped up in some instances by the press - is that excessive amounts are to be paid to some people under the legislation. We think that the Government, whilst it has made some concessions and has altered one provision that was detrimental to a lot of good people, should have taken the matter further and whittled down even more of the recommendations of the Richardson committee.
Let me say finally that nobody has attacked the probity or capacity of Sir Frank Richardson, Mr. Fitzgerald, or Mr. Cowper during the course of the deliberations of the committee and since the report was presented. I know those three gentlemen. I know them as capable, honest men. I know that Sir Frank Richardson did more work for the Curtin and Chifley Governments during the war than he has done for any other government, and he did it without favour or reward. In this case, he mayhave been over-generous. He may have become somewhat extravagant in his recommendations, but I am sure that his recommendations were made because he honestly believed that they should be made. I think that the judgment of this Parliament should be that he erred on the side of generosity. I have no more to say.
.- There is one good thing about this debate - it has given many people in Australia a very much better idea of the duties of members of Parliament than they otherwise would have. It has also given them some idea of the responsibilities of a member of Parliament, and that is a very good thing, because a lot of people are singularly uninformed about this subject.
Whilst a great deal has been said about the work that has been done by honorable members, and the extraordinary lengths to which some of them seem to go in order to retain their seats, I have heard very little so far by way of explanation of the basic changes in circumstances that would warrant the increases that are proposed in these bills. It is one thing to charge the press with whipping up a campaign of fury against the increases, but it is quite another thing to produce arguments in favour of the increases that will stand up to a challenge on academic grounds. I have seen very little sign of any attempt on the part of honorable members to do that.
I believe that it is the duty of this Parliament to reject this legislation. There is only one way to do that. The Labour Party - the Opposition - which, under other circumstances, would claim to represent the workers of the country and the under-privileged classes, must vote against the legislation as a whole, not just little bits of it. The Labour Party will merely complicate the issue if it adopts some curious system of voting against one bill and attempting to amend another bill. It must vote against all three bills, but I cannot see any sign of that happening.
Opposition members in this place have made an outcry about the abyss upon the brink of which Australia is supposed to be poised. The Labour Party weeps crocodile tears for the wool-growers and the dairy farmers, who have suffered a cut in their incomes as a result of a slump in world prices. The Labour Party predicts that
Australia will experience the greatest depression for years. It must vote against this legislation - not just one bill, but all three - or show itself up for the greedy, grasping sham that it has always been. During the war years as a government Labour proved how grasping it can be, and now, to line their own pockets, honorable members opposite propose to let down their supporters and sell out the unions who have been so outspoken against these increases.
For a Labour man, to vote for these increases is to vote entirely against the platform that he represents. I refer to all three bills, because every Labour man who votes for these increases is approving, amongst other things ,a payment to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of £70 a week spending money whenever he goes out of his electorate. I do not like bringing personalities into the debate, but we are all well aware of how much the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) likes to go to the Northern Territory and other places.
– I have always made those trips without incurring travelling expenses.
– I appreciate that, and I am well aware of the great job that the honorable member has done for Australia and, incidentally, for his party, but £70 a week spending money on top of his salary when he makes those trips is a little bit too generous.
– That is why I am voting against that provision.
– If the honorable gentleman is voting against that provision, I will say no more. How will members of the Australian Country Party be able to go into their electorates, where farm incomes are down, and claim that they represent the best interests of their constituents? How can they justify a windfall like this - and nobody can regard it as anything but a windfall? Nobody expected such generous increases. The people who send Country Party members to represent them in this place have never found finance harder to get. Some have had to give up even their maintenance programmes in order to retain decent living standards for their families. Country Party members should forget their own petty financial interests and should do the right thing by the people who elected them to this place. I am oldfashioned enough to believe that that is one of the things we come here to do. I propose to remain firm and vote against this legislation, and if members of the Country Party vote with me this legislation can be defeated here, as it should be, and not left to another place.
Like most honorable members, I thought that the committee appointed to inquire into salaries would examine the changes that have taken place since 1955 and would make some recommendations that would bring rates up to date. The idea of a review at the beginning of each new Parliament seems a good one. However, the committee seems to have decided to make a fresh examination of the true value of the work of an honorable member. I have read the report carefully and I have tried to relate it to the things that were going on around me. After doing that, the more I think about the report the more unrealistic it becomes. In some respects it is as fanciful as “ Alice in Wonderland “.
Mr. Speaker, in my own submissions to the Richardson committee I said that there should be no increase in salaries as there has been no alteration, as far as I can see, in the conditions that we enjoyed in the last Parliament. The basic wage has increased by about 5 per cent, in three years. That certainly represents a very small increase. However, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) discovered, we can become very confused if we deal with percentages only. The basic salary increase that we are asked to accept in this legislation is 17 per cent., and that is too high. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said, it is a bit too generous. I did tell the committee that I thought the electorate allowance of country members should be double that of city members. I am certain that our quite unavoidable costs in actual electorate work fully justify that. It seems odd to me that businessmen with any knowledge of the running costs of motor cars, depreciation, and the number of miles that members travel annually, could see a difference of only £200 between city and country electorates. For a country member travelling, say, 15,000 miles a year, the allowance for car expenses in any other type of business would be about £750. Country members must buy a new car at least every two years, because their old one is worn out! A city member may do the same to keep up with fashion, but he does not need to replace his cars as often as a country member must. In fact, many city members do not need a car. Some of them could walk across their electorates in twenty minutes. We know, too, that Ministers do not need to own cars, because Commonwealth cars are made available to them, but in spite of that they accept the electorate allowance as well as the Canberra allowance, which is one respect in which the report places these matters on an unrealistic level.
I notice that one city member said that the number of sporting clubs and charitable organizations in his electorate was 76 and that he was compelled to support most of them by subscriptions. He should come to a country electorate, where he would find about as many football clubs alone. When I went on to read further, in the report, of recommendations for increases, ranging from £500 in salary and £250 in Canberra allowance for junior Ministers, to £1,000 in salary and £500 in Canberra allowance for senior Ministers, and found that, on top of that, it was proposed to pay travelling allowances of £10 and £12 a day, I considered the whole set-up, with increases ranging up to £50 a week, to be so unrealistic and out of perspective with all the economic factors of our wage structure that I could do nothing else than oppose the proposals as a whole. That is what I propose to do.
I shall do everything in my power in this place to try to prevent increases in costs in our primary and secondary industries. I believe it is essential to our survival to get our costs down to figures that will allow us to enter world markets and build this nation up to its rightful stature. I believe that the increases contemplated by these measures cannot help triggering off another series of claims for wage increases in other walks of life. I do not see how it could possibly happen that the increases proposed would have no impact on the whole economic structure of Australia. They must result in a rise in the price of other things affecting our costs, and it is desperately important that we do all that we can to prevent that.
The committee seems to be a little mixed in the conclusions to which it came on the reasons why people enter Parliament. No one will deny that many men who have come here could reasonably be expected to have been better off and to have made more in their professions or businesses if they had not been elected to Parliament. They came here because they had the call. On the other hand, not a few members of Parliament have been known to build up lucrative businesses by reason of the very fact that they have been here and have been able to make valuable contacts in their parliamentary careers. There is nothing wrong with that, but the great majority of members have come from ordinary jobs and the salary and conditions of their parliamentary employment are very much better than those which they enjoyed in civilian life.
The committee seems to have been torn in two directions. Whilst it said it was not prepared to encourage men of proved business and administrative experience to enter Parliament, it seemed to want to attract young men of ability, education, character and some experience. The committee took it on itself to decide the type of man needed in Parliament. I thoroughly disagree with its conclusions. Unless we do get men with proven business and administrative experience, anxious to serve their country - men with real experience and not young men who have just had “ some “ experience and still have a career to make - and unless such men are given the opportunity to take part in the proceedings in an. executive capacity, this Parliament will not carry out its great tasks to the benefit of the people.
Raising the salary is not the way to attract these men. Only by offering a true opportunity for service in the Parliament will they be attracted. Only by giving the private member the feeling that he is actually taking part in the proceedings - not acting as a rubber stamp for Cabinet decisions - and only by opening the avenues by which private members can feel that they are achieving some results for the people they represent, can the best type of candidate for parliamentary honours be found.
I think that the report is a very valuable document. The committee has done a wonderful job in gathering many very important facts about the conditions under which this Parliament works. But as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said in his concluding remarks, it has been a little on the generous side. I says that it has been unrealistic, I do not see why we still cannot get some benefit from the Committee’s work, but I believe the whole Richardson report - not just as it relates to this one bill - should be rejected forthwith, and that a joint committee of the Parliament should be appointed to go into the many anomalies that we all know exist and to correct them in the light of actual fact and not of the fairy stories on which the bill is based.
.- In this debate a great deal of time has been taken up by speakers on both sides of the House in criticizing the attitude of the press in relation to this matter. It is not unusual to hear criticism of the press from Opposition benches, but it is quite unusual to hear it from the Government benches. In my opinion, this is rather a healthy sign, but why is it that on occasions when the press has tried to influence, intimidate, malign and misrepresent members of the Opposition, we have never heard a word of protest from the Government benches against the activities of the press?
There is no reason in the world for people to say that this is a question of the supremacy of Parliament or the supremacy of the press. I do not think it is anything of the kind, because the anti-Labour press of this country and the people who control it were never more discredited than they are at the moment. The reason the Government advances this argument about the supremacy of Parliament or of the press is that it is trying to convince members of this Parliament that unless they swallow entirely the recommendations of the Richardson committee they are subservient to the press and are destroying the supremacy of Parliament. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is perfectly true that the press has been guilty of the conduct that members of this Parliament have described. It has indulged in falsehood, suppression and deliberate falsification, but is this the first time that has ever happened in this country? It is very rarely that we ever hear Government supporters raising any protest against it.
In my opinion, the press is not responsible for the whole of the outcry and agitation against the recommendations of the Richardson committee. I believe that from the very moment the report was published, members of the public were shocked because many of the proposals were outrageous. That is not merely a term that I use. It is a term used by many trade unions and Labour organizations in connexion with these proposals. Let us have a look at the method by which this course was initiated. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) would have us believe that the Government was quite frank and open about the matter, and that it had a mandate for its action, because two years ago in this Parliament, in answer to a question, he declared that it was the intention of the Government to review parliamentary allowances early in the life of every Parliament. But there was not another word about it; no mention was made of it in the Government’s policy speech.
Is there not, therefore, some basis upon which criticism can be levelled by the press or by anybody else against the way in which this matter has been handled? It has been advanced by the committee in justification of its recommendations that the value of money has depreciated. At least this provides evidence to the people of this country that the Government has failed dismally to carry out its undertaking in 1949 to restore value to the Australian £1. It is because that depreciation is continuing, and the value of money is falling so rapidly, that members of Parliament now say, according to the report of the committee, that they are in distress and that some relief must be afforded. Let us see what organizations are offering criticism of this report, because criticism is not coming from the daily press alone.
But before I depart from the subject of the press I should like to make reference to one peculiar matter. It has often intrigued me and I should like some honorable member, if he is able, to tell me what is the basis for the long-standing feud - it has extended over a great number of years - between the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Mr. Warwick Fairfax. I have heard all sorts of rumours as to the basis of this feud, including matters of a personal character. I have heard it said also that Browne of the famous Browne and Fitzpatrick case - the men who were tried, judged and gaoled by this Parliament-
– Order! That matter has nothing to do with the bills before the House.
– It has as much to do with them as the arguments used by Government speakers against the press.
– Order! The honorable member will obey the Chair or sit down.
– I am obeying your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have heard these rumours circulating and they have never been answered to my satisfaction. But it is not only the press which is criticizing the recommendations of the Richardson report. Let us look at some of the Labour organizations which take strong exception to it. They include the Queensland Central Executive, the Labour Women’s Interstate Executive, the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, the Labour Council of New South Wales, the Western Australian State Australian Labour Party Executive, the Newcastle Trades and Labour Council, the Northern Miners, and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Mr. F. E. Chamberlain, the federal president of the Australian Labour Party, in condemning the proposals, said, in effect, that it was the duty of the Labour Party and of Labour members to reject the proposals in the Richardson report. Would any one suggest for one moment that these organizations have been influenced by press comments, or by press propaganda? Nothing of the kind!
Now let us examine the method by which these recommendations have come before us. I have always been of the opinion that the Parliament itself ought to have the courage, as it had in 1947, to accept the responsibility imposed on it by the Constitution, fix what it regards as a reasonable allowance for members, take the responsibility for the act and defend it, before the public of this country. But what has this Government done? When the present government parties were in Opposition they were opposed to the appointment of any outside authority as I will mention in a moment. Yet it has been the first Government to appoint such a committee. Why did it make that decision? It was because the Government thought that by getting a committee to make the recommendations, it would save itself from any criticism in regard to any of the legislation which would subsequently be passed by this Parliament.
I shall now refer to some of the statements made on a previous occasion in respect of the idea of appointing a committee to consider this subject. The present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), said, in 1947 - 1 do not believe that this matter ought to be delegated to some person or body outside the Parliament, whether a justice of the High Court or the Full Bench of the High Court.
The present Prime Minister said in this House -
The fixation of this allowance is a matter for Parliament.
He was referring to parliamentary allowances. He went on -
It involves a complete misconception of the authority of the Parliament as one of the three great organs of this country to suppose that it has to go to somebody outside in order to have this responsibility discharged for it.
He said, further -
It is a great mistake to discuss the national parliament of this country as if it were a subdivision of the public service.
The present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) then said -
We are all in agreement up to this point.
So that in 1947, when the Leader of the Labour government took the responsibility of bringing to this Parliament a measure dealing with parliamentary allowances, that was the unanimous opinion. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) said -
The responsibility is ours and we should shoulder it openly and without shame.
The present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) who spoke in this debate earlier this evening, on that occasion said -
The Parliament is able to exercise its own responsibility in this matter.
The present Prime Minister at that time moved an amendment for the setting up of an all-party committee, such as is now suggested by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), but it was lost. Honorable members may be interested to know who were some of the members who voted for an all-party committee. They included the present Minister for Primary Industry, the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), the present Chairman of Committees, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), the PostmasterGeneral in this Government (Mr. Davidson), the Treasurer, and the honorable members for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), Canning (Mr. Hamilton) and Calare (Mr. Howse) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). They all voted for the appointment of an all-party committee of this Parliament. Others who voted for it were the present Prime Minister and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). They objected to the Government fixing parliamentary allowances because they said it was a matter to be examined by an all-party committee of the House.
Let us examine the present committee. I have heard members say that there has never been any question about the honesty and capacity of the committee. I offer no criticism of its personnel, either. 1 think that we are in agreement on that. But I am satisfied that the committee did not realize that some of the evidence put before it was a little exaggerated. I will illustrate what I mean. In 1952 the Prime Minister quoted, in this House the report of the Nicholas committee. That was the first committee appointed by this Government. He read the following passage: -
We found that in a number of instances the amount available to a member or senator after taking account of the expenses necessarily or actually incurred in the performance of his duties was - in some instances - less than the basic wage.
We know that there are members of the Labour Party in this Parliament who are having great difficulty in carrying out their duties in their electorates because of financial difficulties. I accept their word for that, but I believe also that it is a little exaggerated to say that at any time members of this Parliament were receiving less than the basic wage.
Now let us turn to the Richardson report. No doubt the committee was influenced by the evidence of one senator to whom reference is made in the report. He is unnamed but he placed before the committee as an argument why his allowance was inadequate that he travelled in his car 31,000 miles every year. Does anybody accept that? Let us examine that statement to see whether it could be based on fact. If the average speed of the car were 40 miles an hour - including journeys through cities and country towns where 30 miles an hour speed limits are fixed it would take 775 hours of driving at 40 miles an hour to travel 31,000 miles a year. He would have to drive at that speed for an average of over two hours on each of the 365 days of the year to cover that distance. In my opinion that is an exaggerated statement.
Now let me turn to another aspect of this question. When we have asked questions in Parliament the Prime Minister has said wage-pegging has nothing to do with the Richardson report on parliamentary allowances. Only a day of two ago, in reply to a question I asked about wagepegging, the Prime Minister said it was ridiculous to suggest that any comparison could be made between a quarterly review of the basic wage and a three-yearly review of parliamentary allowances. But the Prime Minister and his colleagues were not always of that opinion. In 1947 Sir Arthur Fadden, the former Treasurer said -
Members of the Australian Country Party have expressed doubt regarding the wisdom of increasing the parliamentary allowance at this stage in view of existing restrictions such as wagepegging.
The present Chairman of Committees, the honorable member for Gippsland said -
It looks to me very like a case of “ Do not do as I do, but do as I say “.
The Prime Minister said in the same debate -
What concerns me is, should the Parliament, at a time when wage-pegging is still the law of the land, unpeg its own remuneration to the extent of a rise of 50 per cent.?
Then he went on to say, referring to the wage-pegging regulations -
But until they are repealed we, as a Parliament, should respect them, not because we believe that we are technically bound by the wagepegging regulations, but on the good oldfashioned ground that example is worth a lot more than precept. We have, I believe, a very serious duty in this matter. I find it impossible, with, I suppose, all the desire in the world from one point of view, to reconcile a 50 per cent, increase of the remuneration of members of Parliament with the maintenance of pegged-down rates for others.
Then he went on to say -
I cannot persuade myself . . . that I could be justified in improving my own position, how ever much it needs to be improved, if, at the same time, I was saying to the industrial workers of Australia, “ Please understand that wagepegging is the law of the land and you must go on obeying it “. To do that would be to forfeit all moral authority, and, indeed, all moral right to talk to these people.
What is his attitude to-day? When the Labour Party in 1947 brought down its proposals, we were relaxing wage controls. It was admitted in the debate that they had already almost disappeared. To-day they are more rigid, and a government formed of the same people who made the statements that I have quoted to the House, has a representative before the Commonwealth Industrial Commission arguing for the maintenance of wage-pegging. How can that possibly be justified?
In 1947 the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) took the same attitude, and the present Treasurer said -
I should have preferred, as my party would have preferred, this matter to be delayed until the wage-pegging regulations have been repealed.
Even if the Government is not prepared to divulge what it intends to do in its Budget - and I do not ask it to give the precise figures - why cannot the Prime Minister say to the people of this country, “ The time has arrived - and we will do it in the Budget - to increase pensions and all social service payments in this country “? That would not be divulging the contents of the Budget. I agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I will be amazed if there is any member of this Parliament on the Government side, who supports these proposals, who will have the audacity to oppose a substantial and early increase of social service payments.
Let me issue one further word of warning: The trade unions of Australia are very resentful at the fact that wage-pegging is continued in a period when the Government is continually talking about the prosperity of Australia. I believe that if the trade unions fail to get the peg lifted from the wages of their members, they will be justified in taking industrial action. Let me say to the members of the Government that if the trade unions, on the passage of this legislation, determine to pull on an industrial fight for the lifting of wage pegging, they can count on my support and, I feel, the support of every member of the Labour opposition.
Now let me turn to other examples of the hypocrisy engaged in by members of the Government parties. After they had criticized, when in Opposition, the continuance of wage-pegging while there was an intention to adjust parliamentary allowances, Mr. Lang, who was the honorable member for Reid at the time, tested their sincerity by moving an amendment to provide that the act to adjust parliamentary allowances should not commence to operate until the day that the wage-pegging regulations were repealed. That amendment was lost. It had only fourteen supporters. The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), the present Treasurer, the present Prime Minister, the present honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) voted against the amendment, and the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann), the present Chairman of Committees (Mr. Bowden), the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) switched on to the other side when it came to a vote.
Now let me turn to the question of the pensions. I agree with the other members of the Labour Party when they say that the question of the contributory pension fund, to which every member contributes, should never have been a matter for the consideration of the Richardson committee. There is a committee representative of all parties which to-day administers that fund. It is the proper body to consider any changes relative to these contributory pensions. But the Government has considered changes, and the remarkable thing is that the changes are not to be retrospective. That means that the widows of former members who are now in receipt of pensions are to benefit in no way. They are to continue on £10 a week.
But under the non-contributory scheme what is to happen? We have heard members say in this Parliament that they are opposed in principle to non-contributory pensions. If they are opposed to noncontributory pensions on principle, we ought not to continue them. But nobody suggests that the pensions that are already paid should be discontinued. There is no proposal such as that. However, I am firmly of the opinion that there is no justification for extending the principle of noncontributory pensions.
We find that ex-Prime Ministers are to get on a sliding scale, according to their measure of service, pensions of from £2,000 to £3,000 a year, and the widow of any former Prime Minister is to get half the pension. Now here is the amazing part of it: These non-contributory pensions are to be made retrospective. For 25 years Viscount Bruce, who is to benefit, has been out of this country. It is 30 years, I understand, since he was Prime Minister. So you are, in effect, making the pension retrospective for a period of 30 years. If a trade union went to the Arbitration Court and asked for its award to be made retrospective for one month, it would not hit first base, as the saying is. When the Government introduces legislation to increase pensions, and we ask that the increases be dated back to 1st July, the commencement of the financial year, the Government always refuses to make the increases retrospective. Why should the principle of retrospectivity be a privilege that is to be enjoyed by ex-Prime Ministers and their widows only?
I make no bones about where I stand in regard to this matter. 1 feel that there is no justification on any ground to extend this payment to Viscount Bruce, and I support the attitude indicated by the Labour Party, which proposes to move for the elimination of such payments. There are, as I have said, widows of former members who are in need, but will not receive any benefit under this legislation.
I criticize this Richardson report because of the extravagance of the proposals. I accept, like the other members of the Labour Party, that there is need for some adjustment for the ordinary member, particularly those who have widespread country electorates, where they face considerable additional expenses; but that does not justify the other extravagant amounts that are to be provided under this legislation. Take the case of the Prime Minister, so that you can get an idea of how substantial and extravagant are the increases that are to be made. The Prime Minister is to benefit, in salary alone, excluding allowances, to which I shall make reference in a moment, by £75 a week. When this legislation passes - if it does - he will be getting £276 a week. In addition, he is to get a special travelling allowance of £15 a day - £105 a week tax free, and he does not have to account for its expenditure. Let us examine what the Prime Minister’s pension position will be. His pension will be £3,000 a year under this scheme. In addition, he will get £1.092 a year from the members’ contributory pension scheme, and he will have also the £1,000 a year legacy from the estate of the late Sir William Angliss. His known income, when he retires, including his pension and regardless of what he may be receiving from investments, will be at least £98 a week .
When the Prime Minister’s salary was compared with that of the British Prime Minister, he attempted to defend himself by saying, “ Oh yes, but the British Prime Minister has free use of No. 10 Downingstreet and Chequers, which are maintained for him. He gets that in addition to his salary.” Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister of this country, during his term of office, has the Prime Minister’s Lodge at Canberra? Is it not also a fact that, by the expenditure of great sums of public money, reaching more than £60,000 for renovation, without considering the cost of maintenance, Kirribilli House in Sydney, which is now known as “ Kishi House “, has been provided for the use of important visitors to the Commonwealth? When the Prime Minister visits Sydney, he does not go to a hotel and pay his expenses, but is accommodated in government-maintained Kirribilli House? How can it be argued that the Prime Minister of Great Britain is in a much more favorable position than the Prime Minister of this country?
The Deputy Prime Minister is to get an increase of £45 a week, bringing his salary to £176 per week, and a travelling allowance of £12 per day which is £84 per week tax free. Senior Ministers are to receive a rise of £41 a week, bringing them to between £160 and £164 a week, according to whether they happen to be members of this House or members of the Senate. Junior Ministers are to receive an increase of £27 a week, bringing them to between £137 and £141 a week, with unlimited facilities in regard to postage and telephones.
The other officers of this Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition are both to receive substantial increases but, to their credit, at least the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) themselves regard them as excessive and they are asking this Parliament to reject these proposals because they want them to be put on a more reasonable basis. That is their attitude. If there are members of this Parliament who believe that the Labour Party is only bluffing in this regard and playing party politics let me say to them that there is a way of testing us. Let them vote for the amendments moved by the Opposition. That is the real test whether we mean business or not and I invite them to do it.
Let me turn to one or two other matters. I have said that there are many people in this country who are in great need and who are shocked and distressed at these proposals. This afternoon we heard the Treasurer speak about prosperity in Australia. During the general election campaign in November of last year the Treasurer and the Prime Minister told the people that they promised nothing because the economy was in such a situation that they could not undertake more social service payments or other increased expenditure. That was their attitude.
At least I’ will say this of the Prime Minister: He was frank enough to say to the electorate that he promised nothing. But the electors were fools enough to trust him. No sooner was he elected than he said, “ They have me now, for better or for worse, for the next three years “. Never were more prophetic words uttered in this chamber. During the election campaign, the press, which is now complaining about this Government, helped to return the Government to office by distorting the case of the Labour Party. It deliberately misrepresented the policy of the Labour Party in order to return this Government - this nopromise Government. This is the very press which now criticizes the Government’s act!
I have heard it said that if this increase goes through it will cost between £170,000 and £190,000. The Government says that that is a mere bagetelle. It may be. But has the Prime Minister not said that we ought to set an example? And in respect of pensioners, what do we find happening? The greatest economy has been exercised by the Government in its administration. If an unfortunate pensioner has an income of £2 a week above his pension he cannot benefit under the free medical scheme which is provided for pensioners.
One could mention anomaly after anomaly. Practically every night, in this Parliament, cases are cited in which people have been refused justice by this Government. Therefore, I compliment my colleague, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) on his statement. I believe that this bill ought to be recast. That is the purpose of the Opposition’s amendment. It does not mean what the Treasurer tried to imply that it meant. I shall make the position quite clear.
The Oppositon is moving this amendment because it believes that the increase of allowances and expenses which have been provided for Ministers are grossly excessive. Because we believe them to be excessive, our purpose in seeking a review is to get them substantially scaled down. That is the aim of the Opposition’s amendment but the Government is engaging, as usual, in misrepresentation. In conclusion, I again invite Government supporters to call our bluff. I invite them to vote with the Opposition and send this report out for the review and recasting that I think it so richly requires.
– I thought, when the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred last night to the inaccuracies of the metropolitan press that he gave a very clear definition of an inaccuracy. But after listening to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward)-
– Order! I must insist on honorable members being orderly in the chamber. They will not continue to make a noise and move about while somebody is addressing the Chair.
– I was about to remark, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the honorable member for East Sydney surely reached the limit of inaccuracy when he lumped figures together in a most reckless fashion and attempted to create an impression which I can only imagine was intended to cover his own retreat from a complete dissociation from the bill.
Apparently, the honorable member supports the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He said that the travelling allowance of the Deputy Prime Minister would amount to £84 a week. If he did not convey to the average listener outside that the Deputy Prime Minister was travelling all the time and continuously collecting £12 a day every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year, there is no meaning in the English language.
I do not propose to traverse the arguments of the honorable member for East Sydney. I am quite prepared to listen to argument and I have heard very good arguments from both sides. I wish to say this: When I studied this report of the Richardson committee - the first report I have seen which completely and exhaustively places before the people of the country, if they care to buy it, the facts concerning the salaries and other emoluments of the various members, officers and Ministers of this Parliament - I felt that it might do a very great service to the Parliament of this country. I know that, time and again, younger men who have had responsibilities and who could have been most valuable in this Parliament have been restrained from entering it for the simple reason that standards in the community have risen, opportunities have increased, and they would be called upon to make such sacrifices that they could not enter Parliament.
I believe that the salaries proposed for members, although they are not lavish compared with the average of a certain range of salaries outside Parliament, may encourage - cold comfort though it may be to present members - a vigorous, wellprepared and educated type of young fellow to offer his service to this country in the Parliament. There were plenty of men of natural force of character who entered politics in the earlier days and who made a great contribution to parliamentary affairs. But the complexities of community life, national life and international life are such that, more and more, we require the type of young man whom lately I have seen coming to both sides of the House, although perhaps not yet in sufficient numbers on the side of the Opposition; but they will come. They will enable this country to have the service of men who can hold their own in the community outside and who will win the respect of the Public Service over which they may be destined to exercise executive control.
I want to deal to-night, Sir, with what is in my opinion a curious confusion of ideas based upon what I would call the philosophy of approach to the question of parliamentary salaries and allowances. I take it that there are two main avenues of approach. That adopted by the MenziesMcEwen Government is clear-cut and, in my opinion, is based upon true Liberal principles. I know that I am open to a pun on that, and to a certain amount of rather sarcastic comment, but the fact remains that it is based on true Liberal principles. The second avenue of approach, which has been adopted by the Opposition, has been indicated by the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
If you take my first postulate, Sir, you will find that the Government has arrived at its decisions on the basis of the recommendations made by the Richardson committee. In effect, the Government says, “ Having regard to the changing value of money, the higher standards in the community and the heavier calls on the time, energy and finances of Ministers and members, owing to the increasing complexity of our national and international life, the assessment that the committee has made is fair and reasonable “. As I understand it, that is the summing up of the case put by the Prime Minister, and I agree with that.
Let us now see how this works out in effect. Last evening, the Prime Minister mentioned the fact that, in 1901, the salary of the Governor-General was fixed at £10,000 per annum tax free. In 1959, it still remains at £10,000 a year tax free, but to it have been added allowances representing approximately £40.000. In other words, the total is now £50,000, as against £10,000 in 1901. As the Richardson committee correctly pointed out, in 1901 money was at least five time9 as valuable as it is to-day. If you multiply £10,000 by five, you get a total of £50,000. So, the relative amount has not altered. I sometimes think, Sir, that the community is more or less hypnotized by the sound of actual amounts of money in pounds, and forgets about purchasing power. If you examine carefully the Richardson committee’s report, you find that it has regard not only to the changing value of the £1 over the years since this Parliament was established in 1901, but also to the completely changed conditions in the community. No one can deny that, in the past 58 years, there has been a remarkable raising, all round, of the standard of living in this community, and an overwhelming number of our citizens live an infinitely better life than people could have dreamed of 58 years ago.
I pass now, Sir, from the Government’s point of view to the Opposition’s point of view. The philosophy evident here is, in my opinion, indicative of a muddled approach to the older socialist and Communist idea that all men should be paid at the same level. I say that the approach is muddled, because, in the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition agrees that members should receive increased salaries and allowances. So Opposition members have been muddled away from the old downright socialist conception that everybody should receive the same and that there should be no difference between individuals. They have moved from that to say that, as members, they have certain responsibilities and travelling costs, and that they have to keep up several homes, as it were, because they have to spend much time travelling to and fro between their homes in their electorates and Canberra, or, alternatively, live in Canberra and spend much time travelling in their electorates. They say that they should be paid commensurately with their expenses and responsibilities, and that they should be paid substantially what the Richardson committee has recommended. And here is the muddled thinking. When it comes to Ministers, Opposition members say that they cannot agree that Ministers should receive increases. Apparently, everybody should be on the same level. They say, “ Let us go back to the old socialist concept, but do not take it further than ordinary members of the Parliament. Why give the Ministers more than members? “
On this subject, I shall tell the House a few things, because I have had the experience - not in this Parliament, but in the senior Parliament in Australia - of being both a Minister and an ordinary member. The first thing to note about a Minister is that, when he becomes a Minister, he must give up any directorships which he has, apart from those of a very small company kind. Not one of the Ministers on this side of the House could survive the scandal that would be created if he retained a directorship in any company- - a directorship from which he would probably receive a substantial income. I know perfectly well that since I have been a member of this House there has been a case in which a Minister reluctantly gave up his directorship. I do not say that a member cannot continue to be a company director, but no Minister can continue to be a director of a company. That is just one of the things to remember about Ministers.
It is carefully obscured by some people on the Opposition side of the House, but fairly admitted by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), that every member of this House pays income tax proportionate to his income, and tax on the scale on which anybody else pays tax is payable on any increase to us as members or to Ministers. I freely admit that allowances for both travelling and other purposes are not so taxed. Neither is the travelling allowance paid to any business executive so taxed. As the Prime Minister pointed out last evening, a man who works for a private company is not expected to pay £100 or so for stamps used in the interests of the company, and he is not expected to meet the costs of running a car in the interests of the company. If he has to meet those expenses, he is reimbursed for them.
It is just as well that people outside this Parliament should understand that the proposal to increase ministerial salaries in particular, as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) pointed out, is a reasonable attempt to bring the status of Ministers into line with that of the public servants whom they control. I do not cavil at the salaries paid to senior public servants who carry big responsibilities, but it is a sorry day for democracy when Ministers, including the Prime Minister - the heads of the country, who, for the time being, control its destinies - get less than is paid to the public servants they control. Always, in every country, there are groups which, under some extraordinary impulse, strive to gain control of the machinery of government. The press is trying to do it to-day. The public servants may try to do it to-morrow. The unions have tried to do it in the past. But, for the benefit of democracy, Sir, this Parliament must be constituted of men who will be able to stand up against those forces when the trial comes, and who will see that the people’s freely elected representatives are given a chance to carry out their task in a proper way. So I will have nothing to do with the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. I will have nothing to do with any proposal to give members increases while leaving Ministers in a position inferior, so far as remuneration is concerned, to that of the public servants whom they control. I fully realize, of course, that when the Leader of the Opposition rises he speaks as the Leader of the Opposition and not as an individual; and I have always deprecated the attitude that prompts personal attacks on a man who, as the mouthpiece of those who sit behind him, submits a particular point of view, as the Prime Minister does sometimes, which does not entirely accord with his own personal judgment. I emphasize that there is nothing personal in my attack on this amendment at all. I merely say it is unsound, that it is unfair to Ministers to suggest that they should be on exactly the same plane as ordinary members of the Parliament. I know perfectly well that under certain conditions an ordinary member can be interested in certain activities outside Parliament which can be remunerative, and I know equally well that a conscientious Minister of the National Parliament could not engage in outside activities for remuneration and at the same time remain a Minister.
I should like to refer now to the suggestion that some different method of fixing parliamentary salaries should be adopted. Some argue that it should be done by a select committee of the Parliament. Preserve us from that! If the press slanders us to the extent it has when an independent committee makes recommendations, what would it say about the boys rigging their case in Parliament? We can reject that suggestion at once. It may be said that the Government itself ought to fix the remuneration for members of Parliament. I can see very grave objections to that course also, because there again interested parties would be making the decision. Then we have the suggestion that salaries should be fixed by a commission presided over by a judge. I should be very sorry indeed to see a judge subjected to the kind of abuse to which the Richardson committee has been subjected by the press. Another very amiable suggestion that was made outside the House was that the Public Service Commissioner might be asked to decide on the matter. I have yet to learn of a more unsound proposal than the suggestion that one of our senior officers who is dependent for his salary on what this Parliament votes should be asked to make a decision on what members should be paid.
So we come back to the expert and independent committee. In this instance, an expert committee of three extremely able men, two of them known personally to me, has submitted a report that is by no means political. Examining that report as a politician, I admit that there are certain things my experience suggests would be better left out. The Prime Minister has agreed either to delete or amend some of them. But these three men did not look on this matter as a political question; they looked on it objectively, as something requiring honest assessment similar to that which one expects from an arbitration court or an industrial commission. They submitted their recommendatons based not on political considerations but on facts, and nothing could be fairer than that.
I come now to a remark made by the Prime Minister who said that there are those who hark back to the good old days when we had most beautiful and pure politics. I ask any honorable member who has a flair for research to read Macaulay’s essay on the beautiful days in the Old Country when members of Parliament were not paid. There they will see an account of an occasion when the Earl of Bute sought to obtain enough votes to retain the Government of the Duke of Newcastle, and of the stream of the unpaid members who went in and out of his office. It is reported in that essay that on that occasion no less than £20 Scotch was paid for each vote obtained for the Duke of Newcastle. Unfortunately, the noble earl forgot to bargain also for the adjournment of the House as well as the vote of confidence. The result was that the members carried the vote of confidence but refused an adjournment unless they were paid also in respect of their vote on the adjournment, and the Government collapsed. That was a jolly good thing. I submit that to-day we have as fine a standard of political morality in this Parliament as has obtained at any time in the history of any British country. Politics is a tough game requiring tough nerves, a tough constitution and strong moral character, and I ridicule the idea that purity of politics is something that belongs to the good old days when members were not paid. There never were any good old days.
I pass on now to what the Prime Minister said last night, and I should like to add to his remarks. He said that if there were no payment of members - and if members are to be paid their remuneration must be based on a common-sense comparison with what is paid to the rest of the community - you would have members who are socially rich and leisured. According to the Richardson committee, we have about fifteen members who, when they receive the proposed increases, will pay so much more in taxation that precious little of the increase will be left to them. The Prime Minister went on to say, “ Or, you would have it consisting of men of the Labour Party who are kept there by unions and are financed by them “. I suggest that you would have another group, and God forbid that we should ever see them. I refer to those men who are willing to serve but who would be so restrained and so restricted when they got here that they would require the assistance of special interests. My political experience goes back some 40 odd years, and I can remember that when I was standing for election the second time, a gentleman came to me and said that in Queensland, one who shall be nameless, but who, I think, is associated with “ Power Without Glory “ in the final analysis, would pay .all the expenses of a very young, enterprising and intelligent parliamentarian. I do not set myself up as being more righteous than the other fellow, but on this occasion I simply said, “ I am not for sale “. I did not know that gentleman’s reputation at the time. The point I make is that if we had what the press apparently wants we would reach the stage at which we would have in Parliament men who are simply put here by the great trade unions or financed by special interests, and men who would be tremendously open to any attack that might be made upon them.
Considering the report as a whole, I find very little in it at which to cavil when we compare the recommendations with the average standards in the community. I submit that honorable members now have to decide whether they will accept the socialist principle that all members of Parliament shall be on the one level or whether they will accept the Liberal principle that men shall have privileges according to their responsibilities and remuneration which, while not sufficient when compared with standards obtaining outside Parliament, are at least some recompense for the things that members of Parliament have to put up with and for the physical and other strain inflicted upon them in this Parliament.
I do not know whether I will have time to say much about pensions. I just want to make a few comments for the benefit of people outside this Parliament who labour under the misapprehension that we are supported by the Crown. Out of an amount of £532,506 paid into the pension fund since its inception in 1949, members have contributed £330,000. If you add their share of accrued interest, the total would be about £350,000. The total amount that has been paid out is £220,000. This means that after allowing for the amounts paid out, members themselves have about £140,000 standing to their credit. Although as a matter of bookkeeping it could be said that the Crown has paid some money in this direction, in truth it has not contributed one penny, and we still have a credit, on these Treasury figures, of £140,000 or £150,000 in the fund. The most scurrilous misrepresentation that we have seen in regard to this report is that dealing with the matter of pensions, and I am very glad that the Richardson committee has made the position clear.
If I said that I agreed entirely with every point in the report, I would be denying the wisdom of the Prime Minister in his decision not to proceed with certain recommendations. However, as far as the general principle is concerned, I have nothing to be ashamed of in giving it my support. In my 40 years of parliamentary life I have voted on one occasion against a rise m parliamentary salaries. I voted twice to reduce them arbitrarily, once in time of depression, and once in giving my support, through sheer stupidity, to the Government. Let me say that if the public feels that a government can vote to reduce parliamentary salaries and allowances in time of crisis, then it should give this Government credit for knowing the facts of the situation when it says that the economy can stand these increases. As I said, I voted on one occasion against a rise in parliamentary salaries; I voted on another occasion to reduce them, and again, in a time of crisis, I voted for a 22^ per cent, reduction. I believe that this Federal Parliament did the same on one occasion. I am sure that if we really came up against trouble every member of this House, whether he votes for the measure and takes the money, or votes against it and takes the money, would stand behind the Government, or any government, in giving a lead to the community, although I hope that this will never be necessary.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 3 of the bill, which states -
Section five of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “Forty-six thousand five hundred “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Sixty-six thousand six hundred “, and move -
Omit “ ‘ Sixty-six thousand six hundred ‘ “, insert “ ‘ Forty-nine thousand seven hundred and fifty ‘ “.
I have already made myself clear on this matter. The differentiation between the position of private members and that of Ministers is unhealthily great and gives rise to undesirable comment. That differentiation originated, quite justly, at a time when Ministers were regarded as giving full-time service to the Parliament and when members were regarded as giving part-time service to the Parliament. At that time the differentiation, great though it was, was thoroughly justified. At this time, however, a private member who is doing his job properly givesfull-time service to the Parliament.
I have read very carefully the recommendations of the Richardson committee which cover this and other matters. A distinction must be drawn. On the one hand, the recommendations are based on needs. Because of the heavy expenses to which members are put, those recommendations are justified. Ministers also are con.fronted with the prospect of heavy expenditure, and clause 4 of the bill provides an addition to the expense allowance now being paid. However, on the other hand, the report of the committee indicates that consideration has been given to the question of Ministers’ salaries, which is not a consideration based on needs. Every member of this House, whether he be a Minister or a private member, unquestionably is entitled to such remuneration as will enable him te carry out his duties properly. I am not certain that, having regard to the great satisfactions of being a member of this House, whether one is a private member or a Minister - the life is one which has attractions and rewards which are not monetary rewards - we should go beyond that principle. It has been said that the salaries of Ministers have not been adjusted for seven years or more. That may be so, but it leaves unanswered the question as to whether they were correctly assessed before. The committee, as it said - approached our task without feeling fettered or committed on any question by the opinions and recommendations of the previous committees
This committee of the House could, perhaps, adopt the same principle. Sir, I do not mean to labour the point. I think that there is an exception properly and rightly to be made in respect of the Prime Minister, for whom the committee has recommended an increase in salary of £3,250. I think that is justified, because the Prime Minister bears a special place in the life of this country and because his expenditure which will be chargeable against that salary, if he does his job as he should and does, seems to me to run beyond the allowance given. Under those conditions, I suggest that in place of the increases put forward bv the committee, the increase should be £3.250, which is the amount allocated to the Prime Minister.
.- I oppose the amendment. I believe that when the Government - and the press, of course - accepted the principle that a committee should inquire into this matter, the committee then was placed in the situation where it could evaluate what increases should be granted. The committee took evidence and the evidence is not before the Parliament. I believe that it reached a correct decision.
At times in this chamber I have questioned whether there should be so many separate Ministries. I have thought that, perhaps, some of the portfolios could be amalgamated. But, if the Government decides that there shall be 22 Ministers, and entrusts them with responsibilities, calls upon them to work many long hours, late at night, with tremendous travelling, and places upon them the responsibility of administering departments, they ought to be paid the amount that the committee recommends. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has attacked the committee’s proposal on various grounds. The honorable member said - and if this is not a fair interpretation then let him tell me - that he thinks that one of the things that will happen will be that Ministers will get too far away from the members of the House. As far as I am concerned, that can be corrected by electing Ministers. That would have an important effect and would dispose of his objection.
The honorable member for Mackellar has held the view and has expressed it in this chamber that it is important not to bring down the margins for responsibility and skill. I propose to read certain remarks of the honorable member, certainly not made on this bill but on a bill called the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Bill 1950. He said -
It is most important that the persons holding the top offices of this country should not be weighed down by care which might prevent the effective discharge of the duties of those offices. As the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) has said, it is important to the Government and to the nation that its business should be effectively transacted. While it is important that in these top offices we should have those features which the honorable member for Sturt has mentioned, 1 believe that there is also some substance in the remarks of the honorable member for Wills. I believe that effective margins could be carried down not only through the top salaries but also right throughout the service. I know that here I am venturing on matter that is perilously close to being out of order bin I desire to make only passing reference to it. I believe that we, in this House, throughout all our legislation, should keep in mind the principle of effective margins not only for officers at the top but also for officers lower down the scale.
I believe that the honorable member for Mackellar was correct when he said that. I believe that he was trying to say to us that industrial legislation and many findings of tribunals had done away with the important margins for skill and particularly for responsibility, which should exist. We know that because the margins for high responsibilities are low, many men must look at the offer of promotion very carefully before they take it. I believe that the honorable member for Mackellar was sincere when he made those remarks, but his motion tonight is against the spirit of what he said in 1950, and I think that he is wrong in this instance.
It is clear that people who take positions of great responsibility ought to be recompensed for doing so. It is clear that men who go into the Ministry in this country now have tremendous demands made upon their time, upon their physique and upon their mental capacity. Many Ministers have given the best years of their lives to the discharge of their responsibilities. If the committee says that they should be recompensed, then they ought to be recompensed. I do not think that the honorable member forMackellar should have brought this matter forward, because it is contrary to the view he has always held that there ought to be margins for skill and responsibility.
– The Opposition’s view on this bill was explained during the second-reading stage. An amendment seeking a review of the legislation was defeated, and we voted against the second reading of the bill. Nothing in this amendment now before the committee persuades us to do more than continue our opposition to the bill and to vote against the third reading, not being diverted by any immediate amendment such as this.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 104 -11 o’clock rule - be suspended for this sitting.
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 1 1 75), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- At this stage, I indicate that in committee, on behalf of the Opposition, I shall move a number of amendments. They will be somewhat on the lines of the amendment moved to the motion for the second reading of the previous bill, but in this case they will relate to certain clauses of the bill and will be moved in committee.
The object will be, in each case, to cause the Government to review the additional allowances proposed for officers of the Parliament in both Houses, for the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in both Houses, and for the whips of parties.
.- I wish, in dealing with the bill before the House, to make some reference to the attitude of the press to these proposals. I think it should be made very clear that the attitude of at least one section of the Queensland press was clearly defined before trie Richardson report was ever made public. I know that the editor of one of the newspapers in Queensland - a leading daily newspaper of Australia - had stated that he was waiting to slay members of the Parliament - that, I believe, was the exact phrase used - if any increases were recommended by the Richardson committee.
Let me explain to the House the method that was used to stir up protest. It was a very deliberate attempt to do that, without the slightest doubt. On one occasion, a representative of the Brisbane “ CourierMail “ rang me up and asked me if I would like to make any comment on the matter. The newspaper knew at that time that members had not had an opportunity to discuss the subject among themselves at a party meeting. The comment I made was that I was amazed that the Queensland newspapers were prepared1 to go to the length of encouraging anonymous letters in their attempts to bring Parliament into disrepute.
The “Courier-Mail” published that on the following day, 2nd April. On the same page in the column alongside, the newspaper stated that every letter that had been published in the “ Courier-Mail “ had been signed. I wrote to the editor and pointed out that once again, and this time apparently deliberately, the newspaper was trying to misinform the public. I received an acknowledgment from the editor to the effect that an anonymous letter had been published on 28th March under the heading “ Why Not a Women’s Crusade on M.P.’s Pay? “ It was stated quite deliberately at the commencement of the letter that the writer was a woman who wished to remain anonymous for family reasons.
Any responsible newspaper that is prepared to go to the length to which the “ Courier-Mail “ did on that occasion to encourage the publication of anonymous letters - and if a newspaper publishes an anonymous letter it must be encouraging the publication - is to my mind, contemptible. I say that of any newspaper that is so far prepared to forget its responsibility as to stoop to that form of pressure. It is equally as contemptible as the writer of an anonymous letter on a highly contentious subject.
I took the opportunity when writing to the editor of the “ Courier-Mail “ on 2nd April to direct attention to a leading article in the newspaper on 24th May, 1957. In the editorial of that date, the “ CourierMail “ stated, when referring to a previous rise in parliamentary salaries and allowances -
They have no need to apologize to the public. They have submitted their case for higher pay to an investigation by an independent committee.
That was the opinion of the leading Queensland newspaper in 1957. I do not know what caused it to change its mind in the meantime. There was only one thing wrong with the speech of the Prime Minister last night, when he made a very just comment on what appeared in the “ Sunday-Mail “ on one occasion and replied to what he termed deliberate lies and dishonest representation. In my opinion, he did not make it clear enough that he was referring to Mr. Harold Cox. I say that quite deliberately because I would hate to think any other reporter could be blamed for the deliberate lies and falsehoods that were printed under Mr. Cox’s name. Whether the fact that they were printed as lies or in the form that they were printed was Mr. Cox’s responsibility or the responsibility of the newspaper I do not know, but the fact was that they were printed, that they were completely dishonest and that they were deliberate lies.
I think that in the consideration of the salaries that are paid to parliamentarians in other countries, particular mention has been made of the amount that is payable to members of the House of Commons. Several matters should be borne in mind when one is making that comparison. One is that in the United Kingdom, the tradition still carries on that parliamentary service is not full-time service. That is amply proven by two things. The first is the fact that the House of Commons is not built to seat all the members at the one time. As I understand it, the seating provides for some 400 members of a total of more than 600. Consequently, it is obvious that the Parliament itself does not expect full-time attendance of its members.
There is another point that we should not forget when considering the comparison that is sometimes made. It is this: The large number of lawyers and journalists in the House of Commons is another indication of the fact that politics in the United Kingdom is considered to be a part-time profession because lawyers and journalists are able to carry out their own professions while attending to their parliamentary duties there to the extent that they are expected to carry them out.
Another point we should remember is that in the United Kingdom Parliament at present, quite a number of members of the Labour Party are there as representatives of trade unions. They are paid by those unions while they are still members of Parliament. I mention these matters because it is quite unfair to draw the comparison between the salaries paid to members of the House of Commons and those paid to members of this Parliament.
I am not at all surprised that there has been a very considerable amount of public criticism about these proposed rises and I think that, to a large extent, it does spring from the fact that people generally have not a real conception of the expenses that attach to the office of a member of Parliament. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) to-night made an excellent speech on this subject. I consider that it rates second only to that of the Prime Minister, and certainly explained the private members’ point of view very accurately.
I think it is only fair to say that many members in this Parliament enjoy being here. Possibly, there are some who do not, and there are some aspects of political work which do not appeal to most members at different times. But I believe that, on the whole, most of the members hold their office because of a sense of service. They feel they are contributing something to running the country. I think, Sir - in fact, I am not ashamed to say so - that in the nine years I have had the honour of being a member of this Parliament, it has been at a personal cost to me, overall, of more than £2,000. I say that quite deliberately because I consider the electors of the Commonwealth generally should know these facts. I believe my own electors of Bowman should know that in sending me to Parliament, they have not conferred a very great financial benefit upon me.
I am very proud to be the representative of the electorate of Bowman, but I say quite frankly, Sir, that unless there are some considerable rises in the course of this Parliament, when the next election comes along I shall be unable to continue as the member for Bowman because my own private resources have been exhausted to a point where I can no longer continue in this Parliament and pay for the privilege of doing so out of my own pocket. I believe these things should be said. I should like to mention if I may, some of the subject-matter of the Ministers of State Bill, which we have just passed.
– Order! The honorable member must be very guarded about that.
– All I wanted to say was that, in my opinion, the margins that have been fixed between the pay and allowances of Ministers and those of private members are fully justified.
I hope that, arising from the kafoofle which has been caused by this legislation, some consideration will be given to an idea that I have maintained, since we started to use independent committees to make these recommendations, should be put into practice. There was a lot of talk even before we adopted the idea of using an independent committee. If I remember rightly, at that time a comparatively small number of us delayed the proposed increases for some eight or nine months, md when they were granted they came in, as they always seem to do, at a most inopportune time politically. The point I should like to make is that I said, when a committee was first mooted, that it should include a representative of the trade union movement. I do not see any reason why the trade union movement could object to having a representative on such a committee. I am quite certain that, when such a representative reviewed any evidence that was placed before the committee, he would be in agreement with the overall recommendations of the committee.
I must admit that from time to time I have wavered in my thought on this point, but I also said at that time - and I still think so - that it would be a good idea, in spite of the many difficulties and probable delays that would be caused, to include on the committee a member of some women’s organization such as the National Council of Women. Possibly that would delay proceedings slightly, but I do believe that, when the committee made its recommendations, the backing of a representative of such an organization would satisfy the public that these matters had been very thoroughly canvassed.
One of the unfortunate aspects of the Richardson committee’s activities is that more explanation could have been offered to the public as to their exact nature. Possibly all of us, as members of the Parliament, knew what would happen on this occasion, because we knew what happened on the previous occasion. But I do think that there should have been more preparation of the public mind as to the exact nature of the committee’s inquiries. I feel that, if that had been done, possibly there would now be less criticism.
I have not the faintest hesitation about going back to the electorate of Bowman on Friday night and attending a public meeting that has been called by that section of the Liberal Party to discuss increases in parliamentary salaries and allowances. I am quite certain that, when the electors have had an opporunity to think over some of the facts that have been put before them duing this debate, particularly by the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), and to ask me any questions they wish, not very many of them will retain in their hearts the unjust criticism that has been there up to the present time.
– There can be no question about the authority of this Parliament, under section 48 of the Constitution, to determine the emoluments of its members. I think that point must be clearly brought before the minds of the public. The practice has grown up over a period of appointing an independent committee to inquire into the question of parliamentary salaries and allowances. I believe it is a wise and commonsense practice. It has been suggested by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) that the matter would be better dealt with by a committee of this House or by the House itself. I think that would be wrong. I think that the processes which have been adopted are correct. I could imagine an even greater hullabaloo being caused than has occurred on this occasion if the matter was dealt with by a joint committee of the Parliament. I suggest that the procedure that has been adopted is both just and sensible.
I believe that the findings of .the Richardson committee are the result of a conscientious and a thorough examination of the position. I further believe that they represent the opinions of three most capable men who alone - T emphasize the word “ alone “ - have had an opportunity to make a study and an apprciation of this very, very vexed question. I should like to take advantage of this opportunity to express my respect for the views of the members of the committee. I should like also to suggest, 1 hope with some sense of fair play, to honorable members and to the people of Australia that it is most unfortunate that any member of that committee should incur the public odium that has been expressed by some sources of propaganda in this country. Members of the committee have made their recommendations according to their judgment. The fact that those recommendations do not happen to please everybody is no reason why the members of the committee should be subjected to a barrage of criticism and, unfortunately, in the case of the chairman of the committee, due possibly to an inflammation of feeling or influence by a certain section of the press, to threats on his life or home.
The question of fixing parliamentary salaries is a very serious problem, and I feel that the public of Australia, with a real sense of fair play, will realize the abnormality of a situation which allows members of a committee appointed by the Parliament to deal with such a problem to become the subject of violent criticism which could even lead to threats against their lives.
I wish to express a personal view. I treat this matter as being purely a personal problem. It is not a problem of party philosophy or one which concerns any of us in relation to the political theories to which we subscribe and which we have been elected to this Parliament to support. I believe that every member has the right to express his own opinion on this subject, and I reserve the right to express my own views. I have no desire to influence any other honorable member, because this is a personal problem and one which we must all solve for ourselves. I believe that this matter must naturally be associated with the ideas of honorable members and their relationship to the constituents whom they represent in this place.
– Sometimes their independent income enables them to say that they do not want an increase.
– I would have a pretty poor conceit of my own value in this place and my own value to the people that I represent in this place if I did not think on balance that the basic recommendations as contained in the Richardson report are justified. However, I want to say that I propose to vote against the legislation that we are now discussing, which relates to salaries and allowances. I avoided voting on the previous bill because it did not concern me personally. I believe, in fact, that those people who have the higher direction of our party politics and of government have a tremendous weight on their shoulders. They have tremendous responsibilities, which cannot be calculated in any terms of money. I feel that they alone can justify or judge the amount of their own remuneration. That is why I avoided expressing any opinion on that subject.
I have two reasons for voting against this bill. The first is that there can be no doubt that the public mind on this vexed subject has been conditioned by a prolonged and violent campaign in certain sections - I say that reservedly - of the press. In some cases there has been deliberate misrepresentation, which has effectively added colour and atmosphere to the attack. I mention only one case to support my remarks. Last night the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) mentioned a particular case, and I wish to mention one other case because I think it illustratres the build-up that has been going on in order to condition the mind of the public.
In the early references to the recommendations contained in the Richardson report, dealing with non-contributory pensions, the name of Sir Percy Spender was mentioned. He was included as a future recipient of a non-contributory pension under the proposals. Great pains were taken to point out that the substantial tax-free pension that Sir Percy would enjoy upon retirement from his position as a judge of the International Court of Justice would be additional to the pension that he would receive as a former Minister of this Parliament. The background to the build-up was carefully packed to imply how fantastic such a recommendation was. In other words, any person with a reasonable appreciation of things would ask, “ What sort of a scheme is this where somebody who has left Australia, who has gone to an important position on the International Court of Justice, and who will receive a pretty considerable tax-free pension on retirement, is also to receive a pension from this noncontributory source?” No doubt this colouring had a tremendous effect on public opinion.
I regret certain references that have been made about Viscount Bruce. I feel that they were unworthy of certain members of the Opposition. T do not think that those honorable members meant what they said - 1 hope they did not - because after all, Viscount Bruce has made a vast contribution not only as a Prime Minister of Australia but also as a great protagonist in the interests of Australia since his departure from this country. So I hope that the remarks made by honorable members opposite will be forgotten and that due credit will be given to a great Australian who has supported Australia’s interests overseas.
The fact of the matter is that despite all the hullabaloo about Sir Percy Spender’s non-contributory pension, he is not entitled to receive one. The build-up to try to put a wrong construction on the recommendations in the Richardson report - something that would belittle and fantastically distort the actual recommendations of the committee - falls to the ground. Sir Percy Spender is not eligible for this noncontributory pension because he did not serve for a sufficient length of time as a Minister of State!
I do not want to criticize so much the methods adopted by the press in its campaign, but I must point out that the effect of the campaign on the public mind has been very considerable. That is what concerns me. The minds of decent thoughtful people, who would normally take a reasonable view of these proposals, have been so conditioned that if the proposals are adopted, I think that they would react, at least temporarily, to the detriment of the position and prestige of Parliament. This conclusion, to me, is completely inescapable, and I for one would regret taking any step in this place, or any action, which would contribute to a lowering of Parliament’s dignity.
My second reason for opposing the recommendations contained in the report is, again, purely personal. It is my privilege to represent a large country constituency in which the main economic activities are associated with primary production. In the face of falling world prices, which have applied to our main primary exports, the constant pressure of rising costs presents a tremendous problem to our farming community. In fact, it presents a threat to the survival of many people who have recently engaged in farming activities and are now being squeezed between the upper and the nether millstones of falling world prices and rising costs. I could not regard with any satisfaction any act of mine which would give the least excuse, or could be used as an example, for encouragement of a series of demands which, in the long run, could only add to the burden on the farmer. This must almost automatically affect all those who make their living in servicing the farming community.
History shows that in the mind of the uninformed public no time is opportune for an upward adjustment of parliamentary salaries or allowances. That fact is inescapable. Many speakers have pointed out that every time this question has been raised there has been a violent storm of protest. So no time is opportune for an upward adjustment of parliamentary salaries. We must face that fact. However, I would have reconsidered my position at least in relation to a more modest financial appreciation of my own services. Could the whole proposal have been deferred until such time as the immediate rural economic situation was in a more favorable state?
In regard to the bill concerning members’ retiring allowances, which I presume I may mention at this stage, I have held for some years that the existing scale of benefits in relation to members’ contributions is far from attractive. In fact, I have done quite a little research on the question of the relation of the fund, as it has been built up, to the possibilities of future benefits. Had the legislation been confined to the retiring allowances, I could not have given it more support, because I believe that that is one way in which the representative of a constituency who, perhaps, fortunately has some security in Parliament, can make a contribution to the uncertain situation of an honorable member with a doubtful electorate. That is a means by which the team spirit may be brought into this place for the sake of helping the other fellow. I believe that the scheme, as it is, is far from attractive.
I am not the least interested in the rather uninformed letters that are produced in the press occasionally about the pension references in this matter. This allowance is not a pension. As, I think, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said, this is a contributory scheme. It is a superannuation scheme. One expects to get something back for what one puts in. The contributions are not small, they are very considerable. So, Sir, I say again that if the legislation had been confined to the recommendations regarding the retiring allowances, I would have supported it. But since this bill embodies certain provisions which are involved in the previous bill with which the House is now dealing, and are contingent on the increase of salaries, I again, to be consistent, must oppose it.
I propose to refer now, Sir, to the action of the Opposition. I feel deep regret about its action, because it seems to me that honorable members opposite are trying to get the best of both worlds. Anybody who has listened to Bob Dyer’s “ Pick a Box “ session on the radio should have a nice appreciation of the way in which they are trying to get both the money and the box, the money involved in the salary increases and the box of public approval for the sham fight they are putting up against the legislation. They are trying to curry public favour. Having stated my attitude, Sir, I want to say again that I propose to vote against the legislation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Turnbull) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1959.
Banking Bill 1959.
Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1959.
Audit Bill 1959.
Christmas Island Bill 1959.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1959.
Crimes Bill 1959.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1959.
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill 1959.
Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Bill 1959.
Officers’ Rights Declaration Bill 1959.
Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1959.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1959.
Allegations against Members of Parliament - Employment.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise a matter of some importance. Some little time ago, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) introduced a matter into this Parliament, and I personally regard that matter as not yet satisfactorily resolved. When the honorable member brought the matter to the Parliament he moved that it be referred to the Committee of Privileges. He was quite entitled to take that course of action, but in my opinion the matter has not been cleared up satisfactorily, from the point of view of the honorable member, from that of the Parliament, and from that of the country.
An honorable member on the Opposition side of the chamber questioned the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about this matter recently and wanted to know what further action could be taken to deal with allegations which had been made by a Mr. Somerville Smith. I do not know Mr. Somerville Smith very well, and therefore I am not able to judge whether he should be regarded as a responsible person in these matters; but what I do know is that when the Prime Minister answered the question that was asked by an honorable member from this side of the House, he said that allegations coming from such an individual were not worthy of any consideration at all. If that is the case, and if that is the opinion of the Prime Minister, why did the right honorable gentleman and the Government agree to waste the time of the Privileges Committee of this Parliament in dealing with the matter? They must have believed, at that stage, that some action should be taken. Often, people bandy about reports or statements regarding members of this Parliament, and I do not object to honorable members protecting themselves, but I hope that the honorable member for Capricornia does not regard this matter as being satisfactorily resolved. In the past, I have been subjected to attacks and aspersions on my integrity and so forth, and I have taken the stand to see that my name was cleared completely. I asked the government of the day for a royal commission and submitted myself and my personal affairs to examination bv the royal commission that was appointed. Honorable members opposite may examine the report of that commission. My opinion, and also that of a lot of other people, is that I got the best finding from that royal commission that any royal commission appointed in this country at any time has ever given to any person. I received a complete exoneration and clearance.
I ask the honorable member for Capricornia: What has the Privileges Committee determined? It dealt with the matter in the proper manner and it found that there was no breach of privilege. Mr. Somerville Smith was not called before the committee. That was not necessary because the committee, according to its report, had already determined that there had been no breach of parliamentary privilege. But that does not clear the honorable member for Capricornia of the allegations that had been made against him. I can tell the honorable member that the information that has been circulating does not all emanate from Mr. Somerville Smith.
I want the honorable member for Capricornia to say whether there is any truth in the rumour that I heard that he went with a parliamentary delegation to Japan, and that shortly after his return to this country he returned to Japan, and that his expenses were paid by Thiess Brothers, who are big contractors for the present Government. Thiess Brothers was one of the firms that was mentioned by Mr. Somerville Smith in regard to his allegations against the honorable member for Capricornia. I do not know what action I can suggest to the Government. I think that it is up to the Government to decide what to do. It has either to clear the honorable member completely, or he has to take some action to clear himself.
If Mr. Somerville Smith is the type of person indicated by the Prime Minister and he has been circulating these malicious rumours and stories, if we are to believe what is said from the Government side, then Mr. Somerville Smith ought to be penalized. But on the other hand, if there is any basis for what Somerville Smith has been saying, then the honorable member for Capricornia should not be remaining in this Parliament. If I remember correctly - and I have a fairly good memory - I think that the honorable member in his endeavour to score in some of the cross fire in the House, has often made very disparaging remarks about me, suggesting that I was not completely exonerated 01 cleared by the royal commission that was appointed at my request and which, in fact, gave me the best clearance that a man could possibly have. As the honorable member for Capricornia has adopted1 thai attitude in regard to myself and other honorable members, I want him now to clear himself of the allegations that are made against him. I want him now to take some action himself or ask the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the matter. One cannot dismiss it merely by saying that Mr. Somerville Smith is a man of no account. I do no know whether he is or is not. I do not know enough about him to assess his value or his importance, but I do know that the matter is not satisfactorily cleared up merely because the Committee of Privileges of this House declares that there has been no breach of privilege. That does not answer the allegations made by Mr. Somerville Smith. If what I have been told is true - it did not come from Mr. Somerville Smith - and Thiess Brothers paid the expenses of the honorable member for Capricornia on his second trip to Japan, shortly after he had returned from a visit as a member of a parliamentary delegation, does any one think that Thiess Brothers sent him there for the good of his health? If it is a fact that they paid his expenses, there must be some explanation of it, and I invite the honorable member to let us have the benefit of his version of the incident.
.- Mr. Speaker, this is the fourth time that I have dealt quite publicly with the allegations of Mr. Somerville Smith. In the first place, the House was told that Mr. Somerville Smith had sent a lettergram to the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) and that I had given a written statement to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in reply to the charges made in that lettergram. Then I, quite voluntarily, brought the matter before this chamber and asked that the Committee of Privileges investigate it. I agreed to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) that I should be examined fully in regard to the matter, too. Then the Committee of Privileges examined me on oath on the matter. A statement to that effect was contained in the report of the committee. All that 1 shall do now is to say here in this place that I have not acted improperly in the discharge of my duties. I have said so in writing to the Prime Minister; I have said so on oath before a very important committee of this House, and I now say so quite publicly here. I think that most members of this chamber-
– Did Thiess Brothers pay the expenses of your trip to Japan?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney has spoken.
– Most members of this place would sooner accept my word on oath than the word of John Somerville Smith.
– Did Thiess Brothers pay your expenses? I shall return to the matter again - do not worry.
– The honorable member for East Sydney will refrain from interjecting.
.- I would like to raise again the matter of dismissals by the Commonwealth Department of Works at Moorebank, New South Wales, and to state that the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council intends to have a 24-hour stoppage of work on Friday with reference to this matter. A meeting of the disputes committee of the council was held last night. It discussed the letter received on Monday, 13th April, from the Minister for Works (Mr. Freeth). It was pointed out that the Minister was first informed of it on 20th March and later by telegram on 31st March. I raised the matter last week. The Minister’s reply was received only on Monday, 13th April. The decision of the disputes committee was that there should be a stoppage of all members of the building trades group of unions in the metropolitan area of Sydney and the other metropolitan areas. We feel that the Minister was given a good deal of notice and that very little was done about the matter. I believe that there is to be a meeting between the Minister and the Canberra Trades and Labour Council on Friday next, but because of the slowness of the department to take action the building trades group has had to resort to direct action.
I should like to point out also that the dismissals were made on the basis of relative efficiency because of a cutting down of expenditure by the Department of Works, and because the cream of the work was handed out to private enterprise. The trade union movement believes that the department cannot carry out fairly this principle of relative efficiency and that, in fact, people are being victimized.
I wish to raise for the Minister’s consideration the case of Mr. V. W. Lalor, who lives at Ingleburn and was employed at Moorebank. He is a decorated exserviceman of the First World War. The award to him of the Military Medal was gazetted on 14th December, 1917. The award of a bar to his Military Medal was gazetted on 24th January, 1919, and the award to him of the Distinguished Conduct Medal was gazetted on 18th February, 1919. As honorable members can see, he is an ex-serviceman of distinction. I have here a reference which reads -
TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN.
This is to certify that the bearer, Mr. Lalor, has been employed as Leading Hand carpenter, at the Department of Works Sawmills, since 20th November, 1950.
During this period, Mr. Lalor has displayed aptitude and ability of a very high standard, on all work, whether maintenance or construction.
At all times he has been most conscientious and trustworthy, even when working under extreme conditions.
I regret that family illness has caused him to terminate his services, and to move to a milder climate than that of Canberra.
Mr. Lalor has my best wishes for his future; while I sincerely recommend his character, conduct and ability to any person or persons, from whom he may seek a position.
Signed: R. D. BENTLEY
Department of Works, Canberra.
Mr. Lalor first joined the Commonwealth Public Service on 20th June, 1950. He worked at Canberra until 4th June, 1954, and then transferred to Sydney because of illness. After a lapse of three and a half months, he recommenced employment in October, 1954, and he was maintained in employment by the Department of Works until dismissed in April of this year. He has given great service to the British Commonwealth. He has references which testify to his good character and to his ability, yet because of this principle of relative efficiency, because of his age, and because youth was coming in, he was thrown aside. I ask the Minister to review this basis of relative efficiency, and to restore the principle of day labour in the Department of Works, and the principle of last-on-first-off. I believe that the unions’ case is quite a reasonable one. They are not trying to browbeat the Government. They merely want justice. I ask that in the case of Mr. Lalor, particularly, favorable consideration be given. He is aged 62 and has given good service.
– Where else would he get a job at the age of 62?
– That is quite right. I ask the Minister to give consideration to this man.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) has raised the question of the termination of employment of a number of men in the Moorebank area. I have already dealt with the matter insofar as I have had representations from the union concerned. It is true that there was a certain amount of delay in the Department of Works carrying out the investigations. The House will realize that those investigations were carried out during the Easter holiday period, and it was rather difficult to get the full information required to enable me to reach a decision in this matter. I find, however, that the dismissals in that particular area occurred because there was no work; these men were engaged mainly on maintenance work for the Department of the Army. That department did not require any maintenance work done there, and those men were surplus to requirements. There were some 43 dismissals in total, I think. The men were given one month’s notice of termination of employment, and it was possible to arrange other employment for approximately 20 of those men in other parts of the State. Those who were willing to take the other employment went to it.
These facts were communicated to the Trades and Labour Council. I have since discussed the matter with Mr. King on the telephone, and I had undertaken to meet a deputation, as the honorable member for Reid suggested, next Friday. But the whole situation has been changed, I would think, if the council has now decided to have a stoppage of work. Under those considerations, I must have another look at the arrangement to meet this deputation.
– Is that a threat?
– There is no threat at all. On the contrary, I would regard the threat as being the other way. Under those circumstances it would be most difficult. I have also undertaken to receive any representations on the question of the order of retrenchment, but again I have given no undertaking to change the order as it exists at present.
So far as the question of day labour is concerned, it has been a fixed policy of this Government to maintain only the labour force necessary efficiently to carry out maintenance work. It has been found that wherever work can be satisfactorily let on contract, far better results can be obtained, and in fact over a period of years the day labour force has been steadily reduced as a matter of Government policy.
So far as New South Wales is concerned, because there has been some unemployment there, the reduction of the day labour force in that State has been deliberately retarded to a considerable degree. It has lagged behind the reduction of the day labour force in other States. That has been done deliberately to assist the unemployment situation. If the honorable member is genuine in this connexion, and if he regards the day labour force as being just as efficient as private contractors doing the work, then he will admit that in the long term the total numbers employed either by the Government or by private contractors would be very little different. Indeed, if the day labour force were more efficient, private contractors would probably require more labour in total to do the same work.
– The Minister should have a look at the position at Maroubra.
– Order! Interjections are disorderly, and the offence is aggravated by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith interjecting from the Country Party benches.
– From the point of view of the long-term position, whilst we regard it as a fact that contracts can be carried out more cheaply than can day labour, if the honorable member’s views are to be believed I do not think the total number of men employed would be very different. However, apart from the question of day labour, which is a matter of settled Government policy, I have undertaken to give consideration to any other points raised by this deputation. I only hope that I am not placed in a position where undue pressure is sought to be put on me when the meeting takes place. As I have said, I must reconsider the situation in view of the news, which I had not heard until the honorable member spoke to-night, that a stoppage of work has taken place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.6 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
h asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, upon notice; -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The following table shows the volume of production of sawn timber in Tasmania, exports of sawn timber from Tasmania, and the percentage which exports formed of production for the years 1955-56 to 1957-58:-
Note. - The above table excludes the sawn equivalent of logs, importations of which were (in ‘000 super, feet) as follows: 1955-56-25,164; 1956-57-28,232; 1957-58-29,205.
t asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In order that a growing child might achieve optimum health it is necessary that he should receive certain dietary essentials. The exact amounts of all these nutrients which are required by any individual vary within wide limits - and even vary in the one individual at different times since they depend on such factors as rate of growth, height, degree of physical activity, and the presence or absence of illness.
n asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he confer with the Minister for Social Services with a view to making some arrangements whereby the Social Services Department can advise pensioners of the hospitals that are recognized for hospital benefits?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Information regarding hospitals that are recognized for hospital benefits is available at the office of the Commonwealth Director of Health in each capital city.
i asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
t asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
This information is not available.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Capel Court Securities Proprietary Limited.
Delfin Discount Company Proprietary Limited.
Discount Corporation of Australia Proprietary Limited.
Short Term Acceptances Proprietary Limited.
United Discount Company of Australia Proprietary Limited.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 April 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590415_reps_23_hor23/>.