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Thursday, 13 May 1920

Mr BAMFORD (Herbert) .- I move -

That all the words after the word " That " be omitted, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words " this House do now resolve that the Government be requested to increase the parliamentary allowance of members to a sum. not exceeding £ 1,000 per annum."

The moving of this amendment devolves upon me as " the father of the House," I being the oldest member with a record unbroken. I think that the honorable members who constitute my family will be almost unanimously in favour of the Amendment. There may be a few recalcitrant members, but their opposition, even if it may not be quite ignored, need not be regarded as serious. In fact, I do not anticipate any opposition from any section of the House, because I have received assurances of sympathy from many honorable members on both sides. It must be acknowledged that while the price of every article has risen to other people members of Parliament have not been left unaffected. We are suffering as people outside are suffering, and in many ways. For instance, there has been an enormous increase in our election expenses. During the last election campaign we had to pay higher prices for halls, advertising, and accommodation. Whereas at one time I could stay at a decent hotel for 10s. per day, I must now pay 14s. or 15s. per day for the same accommodation. These extra burdens are being felt by honorable members. The payment of members ceases on the day that Parliament is dissolved, and they getnothing until again elected. That is grossly unfair, as I have said before in this Chamber. The position is bad, and it is becoming worse. What is being done elsewhere? In Queensland, recently, the allowance to members of Parliament was increased from £300 to £500. That is an indication that we should get more. A State member is better off at £500 per annum than a Commonwealth member at £600 per annum. I, for instance, represent a Commonwealth electorate in which there are eight and a half State electorates, the

State representatives of which draw £4,250 for doing what I do for £600 per annum, and I say advisedly that I do as much as the whole of them. Other members of this Parliament whose electorates contain a number of State electorates know that that is not an exaggerated statement. In New South Wales the parliamentary emolument was recently increased from £300 to £500, and I understand that there has been an increase in Western Australia. In view of these facts, we are justified in asking for more than we are now getting. It is only a week or two since the Prime Minister, speaking from his place in this House, complained of the inadequacy of the travelling allowances given to Ministers. From its inception, the remuneration of this Parliament has been on mea*n. arid miserable lines, no regard being paid to the dignity of the institution. I could name several members who, having retired from Parliament, or having failed to secure re-election, have had to look for a job. I know one man - a good party man, who occupied a seat here for many years - who had to accept the position of night watchman. This state of things is disgraceful, and lowering to the dignity of the National Parliament. Members should have an opportunity to accumulate little savings, but how is that possible out of the present allowance, with families to be reared and educated, and, in the many cases where men come from other States, with two homes to keep up? The Argus, commenting on the remarks of the Prime Minister, said that if members had to rely for their living on their parliamentary allowance, God help Australia. That is the sort of comment to be expected from a Conservative organ like the Argus. What brought about payment of members? Some thirty years ago, when many of those who are now listening to me were schoolboys, the great maritime and shearers' strikes occurred. The newspapers of that day - they were practically all Conservative then - said to the workers, "Why do you not elect men to Parliament who will ventilate your grievances? If you do that, there will be open and public discussion, and your ills may be remedied." This advice was taken, and we who belonged to the Democracy returned members to fight its battles in Parliament. But the men who could best represent us were poor: men like Andrew Dawson and Andrew Fisher, who were working for & daily wage, and had families to maintain. To enable them to live while performing their parliamentary duties payment of members was instituted. Our example was followed in Great Britain. At one time the British unions subscribed sums to pay their representatives in the House of Commons, but this placed too great a strain on the unions, and it was considered unjust to tax them for their representation, with the result that the House of Commons, then possibly the most Conservative institution in the world, resolved that its members should be paid. The right of Democracy to representation so that its sentiments could be voiced in Parliament was not fully admitted until payment of members was instituted. No doubt to-morrow morning I, and those who may support the motion, will be vilified in the press, and a section of this House will be called on by the newspapers and by the Taxpayers Association to nail the flag of economy to the mast and kill this proposal. Members, however, should not be fearful. The man who fears to do what he knows to be Tight, fair, just, and reasonable, ought not to be here. The Commonwealth Parliament has cost the country nothing. Prior to Federation, gold was minted in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, but after the union of the States the Commonwealth was permitted to issue its own silver and' bronze also. The silver we got coined for us in England, and imported it, paying for it the current price of the metal plus the expense of coining it. As for a long time silver was worth .only about 2s. an ounce, and silver coinage had a face value of 5s. 6d. an ounce, this arrangement was very profitable to us, but during the past twelve months the price of silver having risen to between 5s. and 6s. an ounce, the position now is not so good.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - In London they have taken steps to meet the increase in the cost of silver by increasing the alloys.

Mr BAMFORD - According to the Commonwealth Tear-Book, our profit on the coinage of silver was £334,338 in 1916-17, and on the coinage of bronze in the same year £19,938, a total of £354,276. In 1917-18 the .profit from the coining of silver was £209,952, and from the coining of bronze £19,426, a total of £229,378. In this year the Commonwealth Parliament cost £270,568, but of that amount £26,893 was the cost of the Governor-General's establishment, so that the net cost of this Parliament, including £87,000 for the expenses of an election, was £243,675, which amount, deducted from the profits on coinage which I have given, made a net profit for the year of £153,000. Moreover, in the year 1917-1S Parliament cost the people only 13.2d. per head, and I think that if the matter were submitted to the people there would be no difficulty in securing approval for 'my proposition, seeing that it has cost so little to maintain a Parliament which has done such very good work. In the early days of Federation, when Tariffs were under consideration, members had only to put out their hand' in the lobbies to get all the money they wanted. It is to the credit of our Parliament that the slur was never cast on any member, either directly or indirectly, that he had taken a bribe, or had accepted money for his vote. All honour to this Parliament that its members have not accepted the opportunity which was theirs to enrich themselves improperly. In other places we hear of Tammany practices and of money being spent freely to secure parliamentary votes. Money might have been taken by members of this Parliament, but no member of it has ever been accused of accepting improperly for his services even as much as the value of a postage stamp. I believe that the Government will give this matter their sympathetic consideration, and that my proposal will be carried. We may rest assured that if it is, the Government will give effect to it.

I have only, to say, in conclusion, that throughout the elections my attitude in regard to this matter has been well known. I have never hesitated to express from the public platforms in my electorate the opinion that the allowance which we receive by way of salary is too low. As far back as 1910 at an election meeting which I was conducting in one of the largest centres in the division, Captain Blank, who with his lady friends sat in the front seat, rose as soon as question time was reached and said, "Mr. Bamford, will you tell me why you voted to increase your own par- liamentary allowance from £400 to £600 per annum?" I replied, " Captain Blank, I did not vote to increase my parliamentary allowance." " What i Do you mean to tell me that you did not vote for it?" asked my friend. "I do," said I; " I did not vote for it. As a matter of fact, no vote was taken. The proposition was carried on the voices. Further than that, let me tell you and the meeting that I was not in favour of £600 a year. What I wanted was an allowance of £1,000 a year. I am wanting it yet, and I hope to secure it." At the last meeting that I held in connexion with the recent general election, I was asked whether I was in favour of the payment of members. My reply was, " Certainly I am. If I were not in favour of it I would not be here, and what is more, were it not for the payment of members the other fellows ' would not be chasing me for my job." I have never made any secret of my views on this question, and I do not intend to do so. I am voicing my sentiments to-day as publicly as it is possible for me to do.

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