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Friday, 30 April 1920

Mr RYAN (West Sydney) .- So far as I can recall the proceedings of this Committee, when honorable members were originally considering the Bill, opinion was divided on the question whether the Pensions Department should be placed under the control of the Commissioners or retained as at present. A decision was arrived at, and now tha amendment of the honorable member for Franklin seeks to limit the tenure of the Commissioners, in respect of all purposes, to a period of three months. Their functions cover more than the administration of pensions, the question on which the Committee was tested before. The functions of the Commissioners are much wider, and the Minister has referred to some of them. I do not recollect the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) testing this question in the Committee previously.

Mr Mcwilliams - I was not here.

Mr RYAN - The effect of carrying the amendment he has moved will be to condemn the appointment of Commissioners altogether. Is that what the .honorable member wants? Does he desire to prevent the appointment of Commissioners altogether ?

Mr Mcwilliams - Yes; to leave it under the control of the existing Departments.

Mr RYAN - If that be so, the honorable member, by his amendment, is attacking a vital principle of the Bill.

Mr Groom - Which the Committee has already affirmed.

Mr RYAN - It appears to me remarkable thatno opportunity was taken when the Bill was previously under consideration in Committee, to move in the direction in which this amendment goes. There is a clear issue as to whether the appointments should be for five years or three years. The Government previously accepted a proposal to make the term three years. Now, the Minister has given a reason why they should go back on that acceptance. I understand that the reason why the Government accepted the three years' term before was a very strong reason - the fact that the numbers were against them. I can understand the powerful persuasion of numbers in a question of this kind. Perhaps the Minister will inform me, by interjection, whether he feels that the numbers are with him on this 'occasion.

Mr Poynton - We shall soon see.

Mr RYAN - Whatever the result of the voting on this amendment may be, I hope that we shall still have preserved to us . the right to decide whether the term of office of the Commissioners shall be five years or three years.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Atkinson - The question I put to the Committee was only the amendment moved by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams). The other matter may come up for consideration later.

Mr RYAN - The amendment is more far-reaching than that which was moved when the Bill was previously before us in Committee.

Mr Higgs - If this amendment is carried, we shall have an opportunity to decide only whether the term of office shall be five months or three months.

Mr RYAN - I quite understand that if this amendment is carried it will destroy the Bill. I wish it to be made clear that whatever the effect of the voting on the amendment may be, we shall still be in a position to divide on the question of whether the term shall be five years or three years.

Mr Higgs - I do not think we shall if the amendment is carried.

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