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Thursday, 15 July 1926

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . -Although the Leader of the Senate said that the Government would not pay extravagant salaries to the commissioners, but only what they were worth, I am of the opinion that a definite offer has been made to a certain gentleman to accept the office of chairman at. a definite salary. Having failed to get the committee to agree that a commission is unnecessary, we on this side are anxious that the taxpayers of the Commonwealth shall know exactly the remuneration to be paid to the members of the commission. If, as has been hinted, the gentleman whose name has been mentioned is considering the acceptance of the chairmanship, naturally he will expect a remuneration corresponding with the salary which he is at present receiving, and according to current reports he is now getting £5,000 a year. He may be well qualified for his present position, but it does not follow that he will be specially fitted for the chairmanship of the commission and worth £5,000 a year. When the first Governor pf the Commonwealth Bank was appointed the salary for the position was fixed at £4,000 a year. That gentleman, lately deceased, had immense responsibilities; but, fortunately for the Commonwealth, he was specially fitted for his high and honorable position, and it is due to his wise administration that the operations of the Bank have been signally successful. Can any comparison be made between the duties which he had to perform and the work which the Chairman of the Migration Commission will be called upon to undertake? Again, is there any comparison between the work which the High Court judges perform and the duties of the chairman of the commission. The judges of the High Court are men of exceptional qualifications, well fitted for their honorable posts. The salary of the Chief Justice is £3,500 a year, and the salaries of other judges are £3,000 a year: We should not. pay a higher salary to the chairman of the commission, because, notwithstanding; the qualifications which the gentleman to be appointed is' said to possess, his responsibilities cannot be compared with those of members of the High Court of Australia.. The public iff entitled to know why it has even been suggested that such a princely salary should be paid to the chairman of the commission. No sane person will, suggest that the responsibilities- of the members of the commission will be greater than those of any other principal official in the service of the Commonwealth. The salary of the Chairman of the Federal Capital Commission is £3,000 a year. When the bill for the creation of the Northern Australia Commission was under consideration, the work to be performed by that body was definitely outlined by the Minister, and in view of the stupendous problems which the commission would be called upon to handle, the Government was given a free hand in the appointment of that commission and the salaries to be paid. The work which members of that body will have to do will be infinitely greater than that which will be laid upon the members of this commission. I want something more definite than we have had up to the present from the Leader of the Senate as to the intentions of the Ministry and the salaries which it proposes1 to pay to ap- pointees under this bill. Why has the name of a certain gentleman been so prominently before the people during the last few weeks? Is it because, he is in receipt of a high salary, or because of the influence exercised by interested persons to secure his appointment? I believe1 it is possible to secure from within the Public Service men of greater experience and longer training, who are as well fitted to fill the position of chairman. I have not heard of any great activities having been manifested by the gentleman referred to in the fields of industry, commerce, or land settlement. I believe that he is a man of strong personality, highly qualified for the work that he is called upon to perform, and possibly well worth the salary he receives in his present position.;: but it does not follow that he is pre-eminently fitted for the chairmanship of the commission, and, therefore, worth a salary of £5,000 a year. We have heard a. lot about co-operation and co-ordination - high-sounding phrases that have become so hackneyed that one gets tired1 of their repetition - with the State authorities, and . so on. As> a matter of fact,, I anticipate that members of the Migration Commission will content themselves with, the examination of migration schemes that have been carefully thought out by experts in the various States', and I have no doubt that those experts are as well qualified as - and maybe, better than - members of the commission will be to express a sound opinion concerning such, proposals: The Government: cannot be trusted in this matter. Government in this country is' too much in the hands of commissions and' boards. Whenever the Government is up against a difficult proposition, instead of tackling it in a statesmanlike way, its: first thought is to get rid of its responsibilities by creating another board' or commission. It is significant that, as a the number of boards and commissions multiplies, salaries become higher. The Government began in a very modest way. Members of the earlier boards or commissions received moderate salaries, but latterly the Government is prepared to pay almost any amount to enlist the services of men who are credited with the possession of certain qualifications. The Government came in on the slogan of economy and efficiency.. We hove no evidence of either economy or efficiency in connexion with this scheme. It is cumbersome and complicated in the extreme.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator has exhausted his time.

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