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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr MAXWELL (Fawkner) (12:15 PM) . - I do not intend to detain the House at this late hour, especially as the " numbers are up," and also in view of the fact that I had an opportunity the other evening of giving my reasons why I shall vote against this proposal. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) that any man who is going to accept this allowance, if it be approved, should vote for the Bill. I am going to vote against the Bill; and though two honorable members who object to it, have said that they will take the increase as enabling them to distribute their doles more widely, I feel that we have no right to the money, and I cannot accept it under any circumstances.

Mr Riley - You have plenty without it.

Mr MAXWELL - -I have not, and I would sooner have an allowance of £1,000 than £600 a year. I am dependent for my living on the sweat of my own brains - I have no other source of income. I wish to reiterate the point I made the other night, because I think honorable members have got quite away from it. Nine-tenths of the discussion has been devoted to the proposal on its merits ; there has been no real attempt made to meet the objection of those who oppose the measure, that our masters have had no say in the matter.

Mr Mathews - They accepted the Constitution.

Mr MAXWELL - In the Constitution it is provided that the allowance or remuneration of honorable members shall be £400 a year until otherwise provided by Parliament, and no one has ever disputed for a moment that this Parliament and this Parliament only, has the power to increase it. The appeal to the Constitution does not meet the objection that, having accepted a position at a certain figure, we should increase that figure without saying one word to our masters.

Mr Fenton - How do you know ?

Mr MAXWELL - I say that, as a Parliament, we have not said one word to our masters, though individuals may have done so; and that is one reason why I do not take it on myself to judge honorable members. I repeat what I said before, that every man ought to satisfy his own conscience, and I say that in spite of the sneering remark made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs).

Mr Fenton - You brought that on yourself.

Mr MAXWELL - Because I said that I was going to vote according to my conscience

Mr Fenton - You questioned the honesty of other people.

Mr MAXWELL - I did not-I was careful not to do so - and I think no honorable members will say that I am in the habit of imputing motives.

Mr Mahony - You said we were dishonest.

Mr MAXWELL - I did not; the burden of what I said was that if honorable members regard the position as I do, they will see that this is a dishonest proposal, because we accepted service at a certain figure and then, when our master's back is turned, we dip our hands in the public purse.

Mr Fenton - That is worse!

Mr MAXWELL - That is, from my point of view, what we are doing.

Mr Fenton - The honorable member has a marvellously elastic conscience.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - He lost his conscience when he took up the defence of criminals.

Mr MAXWELL - The honorable member talks about defending criminals, but I have heard more special pleading in this House to-night than I have ever listened to during the whole ,of my experience at the criminal Bar. The only redeeming feature about the debate has been the marvellous unanimity of opinion that has been expressed, the fact that men who in other regards are as wide as the poles apart are on this question " loeing each other like very brithers.'

Mr Mahony - For instance, the honorable member and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb).

Mr MAXWELL - To me, it was quite touching to notice the marvellous way in which honorable members on the Opposition side hung upon every word that fell from the lips of the Prime Minister. In other circumstances, they are continually gibing at him, and' .hurling all kinds of reproaches at him. But tonight, when they listened to him on this Bill, we heard from them not a single word of anything but the most perfect approval of everything he said.

I have been accustomed, since I came into this House, to hear honorable members on the other side tell honorable members on this side that the people are our masters. We have had that constantly cast up to us. We have been told that we forget whose servants we are, and that if we do not serve our masters faithfully we will have to answer for it when we go back to them.

Mr Mahony - The honorable member will be praised by the Age for this in the morning.

Mr MAXWELL - The running commentary of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) is not very pleasant.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon W Elliot Johnson - I ask honorable members hot to interrupt. -It must be difficult for the honorable member to speak with so many interruptions, and difficult, also, for the Hansard staff to hear what he says.

Mr MAXWELL - It is constantly cast up to us by the other side that we are responsible to our masters, and should think of them. What I say is that I undertook employment in this House-

Mr Blakeley - To give the fag-end of your time.

Mr MAXWELL - No. I do not give the fag-end. of my time to my duties here. The best answer to that statement is that when I stood on the hustings on the last occasion, having served for one Parliament, and one candidate from the opposite side offered to give the electors all his time, I told them that they would get only part of my time, and yet they chose me. I am told, forsooth, by some honorable members that I neglect my parliamentary duties.

Mr Fenton - So" the honorable member does.

Mr MAXWELL - What right has any man to say that I neglect my duties ? Thank God, honorable members opposite are not the judges of that. The people are the judges, and so long as I have their approval, I do not care a snap of the fingers for that of any one else. These gentlemen prate about their democratic ideals, and talk about trusting the people, but when there . is a suggestion that their allowance should be raised, they say, "Don't go near the people; don't refer it to the people." We have been given two reasons why we should not refer this matter to the people. One by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), who says " Do not refer it to the people, because" they do not understand it. They do not understand what the duties of a member of Parliament are. What is the use of discussing the matter with them. They will not understand it." I should like to have seen the honorable member, when he was wooing the suffrages of the electors, going on to the platform and dealing with some complicated question of policy contrasting that of the Labour party with that of the Nationalist party, ,and saying, "Now, ladies and gentlemen, there is one matter I have not touched upon, which is far more important and far more complicated and difficult than any of the questions with which I have dealt" - (Breathless attention). "What is it? A rise in my screw. You are fit to express opinions on any of the complicated questions which I have been elaborating, but this is above and beyond you."

Mr Mahony - And it is above the honorable member.

Mr MAXWELL - I am trying to give reasons for the position I take up, and I should like to hear what reply honorable members have to make to what I have said. They tell us that the people do not understand this question sufficiently to enable them to give an intelligent vote upon it.

Mr Mahony - The honorable member will be lauded for this speech in the Age.

Mr MAXWELL - The Prime Minister gave another reason. He says, " Do not refer it to the people." Why? "Because they will vote against it." That was the reason we got from the Prime Minister.. He says, "We have an example from South Australia. They asked for a very modest rise, but the people turned their request down; and so, for any sake, if you want the rise, do not ask the people for it."

Very well, I say be honest in regard to the matter, and face the facts. If honorable members take up that position, it is understandable. Let them say, " We are going to raise our own salaries because the people do not understand the question, and there is no use discussing it with them," or " because if we did ask them, we should have no chance of success. Therefore, if we want a rise, we had better take it."

Mr Blakeley - Do the honorable member's clients fix his fees?

Mr MAXWELL -No ; they do not. I fix my fee, and generally a fairly high one, and I tell my clients that they can get advice next door for half the money, and are under no obligation to come to me.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Does the honorable member ask them where the money comes from with which they payhis fees?

Mr MAXWELL - No, I certainly do not.

Mr Mahony - The honorable member will have a big article in the Age this morning.

Mr Fenton - I am glad to see that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) got home on the honorable member.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I ask honorable members to cease their interjections.

Mr MAXWELL - There is one thing I have remarked about the speeches of a good many honorable members, and it is that, to hear them speak, one would think that the electors are running after them to secure their services.

Mr West - They do to secure mine.

Mr MAXWELL -Then I imagine that my honorable friend is a brilliant exception. I wonder if there are any other honorable members whom the electors run after.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I was up at Darlinghurst one night, and I saw and heard the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) running after the electors.

Mr Fenton - The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has done more running after the electors than any other member in this House.

Mr MAXWELL - I hope that that interjection by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) will be taken down. I do not think that honorable members generally would indorse that ungenerous remark.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Are not the terms of the honorable member's contract upon which he entered Parliament governed by section 48 of the Constitution?

Mr MAXWELL - What does section 48 of the Constitution say?

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) -That Parliament shall determine the terms of the contracts - the remuneration for our services.

Mr MAXWELL - It was fixed at a certain amount "until the Parliament otherwise provides." Certainly, I agree that Parliament is the only tribunal that can raise the allowance of honorable members; but that does not obviate the necessity for referring the matter to our employers, and telling them that it is our suggestion that our present remuneration is inadequate for the duties we perform.

Mr Wise - If they had desired that, the words which have been quoted would not have been included in the Constitution, and then it would have been necessary to go to the people for a decision, as in the case of other matters, by a referendum.

Mr MAXWELL - Under section 48 of the Constitution this Parliament, and no other body, can alter the allowance paid to honorable members, and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) therefore says that, without any reference of the matter to the people, we have the right to do it ourselves.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I say that theoretically the honorable member is right; but as a matter of practical politics it cannot be done.

Mr MAXWELL - As a matter of practical politics it can be done. Seeing that there seems to be so much unanimity on all sides in this House as to the necessity for the rise, what is to prevent the different parties in the House on the eve of an election discussing the matter, and saying, " We are agreed that the salaries of honorable members should be raised from £600 to £1,000 a year," and submitting the simple question to the electors, " Are you in favour of the proposed increase, yes orno?"?

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It could not be done as a question of practical politics. You would have at theelection the cheap auction business of a member's services, and more indecency.

Mr MAXWELL - I do not think so. It is a remarkable fact, to my mind a significant fact, that those honorable members who, judging by their speeches, feel that their remuneration is totally inadequate, must have felt the same when they were offering themselves for reemployment at the last election, yet, speaking generally, there was not a single suggestion of it.

Mr West - Give us something new.

Mr MAXWELL - I am not as gifted as the honorable member for East Sydney is. We cannot all be" geniuses, and I do not pretend to be one. I do not pretend to be more than what the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) has described as one of the cheap and nasty sort. The honorable member for East Sydney may be a £1,000 a year man, but. as an apprentice in the game, I merely claim to be a £600 a year man. I undertook the work at that salary, and I intend to do the work at that figure until I have consulted my masters in regard to my remuneration.

Sitting suspended from 12.33 to 1.5 a.m. (Friday).

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