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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr BRUCE (Flinders) .- I did not have an opportunity of speaking on this question when it was raised last week by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), and as I voted against the motion then submitted \>y him, I want very briefly to give my reasons for the action I took. The position as I see it is not one in which we are concerned in discussing whether the present remuneration is sufficient or not. It is not on that ground that any objection on my part is based. When such a question is under consideration I am prepared to express my opinion upon it, but to-day the whole point seems to me to turn upon the time that has been chosen for this action on the part of the Federal Parliament. There was a general election only some five months ago, and at that time every party represented here to-day - be it National, Labour, or Country party - outlined a very exhaustive policy which indicated the action it was going to take if, and when, it was returned. There was, however, no mention of .the question of payment which then was as burning as it is now, no suggestion, that the amount paid to the individual members was inadequate, and that steps should be taken in order to maintain the prestige of the House, to increase it to a more reasonable figure. While I believe there were individual members who did express that view on the platform, not one of the great parties, though nearly every one in the House adheres to one or the other, laid that. down as a policy in the way generally recognised: by the country. The Parliament then elected is some five months old, and now the question is introduced. While I believe that members are perfectly sincere - I wish them to understand I make no suggestion against anybody - I point out the way in which this proposal strikes the people of the country. There is no doubt that it is striking them as a piece of rather smart practice which is not confined to any section or party. I feel, and feel very seriously, that it is nearly a tragedy that any action by we representatives of the nation should leave such an impression, with, as I venture to suggest, some grounds for it. We are the highest authority in the land, and it seems to me we should be completely above suspicion. That is the reason, and the sole reason, I propose to vote against the measure.

The case has been put by the member for the Barrier (Mr. Considine), that there are certain individuals in this world who, while not prepared to help to further any object, or run any risks, are, nevertheless, quite prepared to take all the benefits of such a proposal as this. That, it appears to me, is a despicable attitude to take. This question is one -which many people in this land believe involves a certain risk at the next election to those who vote in favour of the Bill. If that be so, anybody who proposes to take the benefits that certain people are risking their political existence to obtain, had better vote for the Bill. I wish to place on record my own personal view, that not to come straight out and vote in favour of that of which they propose to take the benefits is despicable - an action of which I do not think any member of a great National Parliament should be guilty.

In expressing my opposition to the Bill I should like it to be distinctly understood that I am in no way referring to the clause dealing -with, the Leader of the Opposition. In regard to that, we are not dealing with our own remuneration or our own affairs, but with an individual position - a question on which the present older (Mr. Tudor) has very properly said he does not intend to vote. Having regard to the very heavy and onerous duties of the Leader of the Opposition, I have not one word to say against the proposal; in fact, I am heartily in accord with it.

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