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Wednesday, 20 March 1985
Page: 489


Senator CROWLEY —My question is directed to the Minister for Finance and Minister for preventing disasters. Has the Minister seen the article in today's Canberra Times reporting Mr Hugh Morgan's claim that government accumulated debt is facing Australia's agricultural and mining sectors with industrial ruin? Mr Morgan goes on to claim that one significant part of Australia's debt is due to the expenditure on kings and Ministers, that we have 827 members of parliament at an average cost of $262,394 a year, and that their annual advice and legislation costs total $217m. Will the Minister estimate the cost of Mr Hugh Morgan to Australia and the cost of top level management in the private sector in Australia? Will he allow that his Government is reducing the country's debt left to us by the Fraser Government? Further, will he comment on the effect of Mr Morgan's prophecy of doom on this country's economic recovery?


Senator WALSH —I heard a report on the wireless this morning that Mr Morgan had been making statements along those lines. I do not know to what extent they are correct, or even whether the basic claim about the number of politicians in Australia is correct.


Senator Messner —You are the ones who increase it all the time.


Senator WALSH —I think Mr Morgan would have a good deal of public support in claiming that there are too many politicians and too many parliaments. If Senator Messner thinks there are too many politicians, I suggest that he address his attention in particular to that Territory of the Commonwealth where there is a politician for every two and a half thousand electors, that is, the Northern Territory of course. What is more, every backbencher in the Northern Territory is paid considerably more than backbenchers are paid here. The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory is paid more than the Prime Minister of Australia. This matter is perhaps appropriate, given the matter of urgency which is about to come up for debate.

There are definite plans by this Government, and particularly by me, to curb the sorts of extravagant grants to the Northern Territory which the previous irresponsible Liberal Government made available on an ad lib basis so that Northern Territory politicians could indulge themselves at Commonwealth taxpayers' expense to the extent they have done. I tell Senator Messner now that something will be done about that. I trust that, when other members of the Opposition are pontificating on the urgency motion shortly to come on for debate there will be no advance criticism of this Government's plans in respect of the Northern Territory or of the details of the curbing of the irresponsible expenditure which the Fraser Government made available to the Northern Territory on an ad lib basis so that Northern Territory politicians, who represent two and a half thousand electors each, can indulge themselves with salaries considerably higher than those of the backbench of the Federal Parliament and with chief ministerial salaries higher than that of the Prime Minister of Australia.

I do not know about the accuracy of Mr Morgan's other figures. I will see whether I can have them checked to see whether they approximate the actual cost of governments in general. The other part of Senator Crowley's question related to the cost of senior executives to private business and ultimately, I suppose, to the community in general and would, I fear, would appear to be beyond the resources of the Government to quantify.