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Thursday, 13 May 1920


Mr J H CATTS (Cook) .- I second the motion. The Constitution casts upon the Parliament the obligation of fixing the salaries of its members, and consequently the matter is one that must be submitted to discussion. I propose to submit a statement covering my experience as a member of this Parliament for thirteen years. The statement is as follows : -

Statement of Income as Parliamentary Salary for Thirteen Years - December, 1906, to December, 1919 - together with Expenditure in earning such Income.

 

 

In my thirteen years of political life, I have had to contest six elections, or an election on an average every two years. Two hundred and fifty pounds is the lowest amount on which I can conduct an election campaign. At the recent general election I spent the last penny on which I could lay my hands in fighting the seat, and my expenses on that occasion ran into £165. Friends had to assist with the balance. There are thirteen polling booths in the Cook electorate, and my friends demanded that at every polling booth there should be a motor car in attendance. Honorable members are aware that it is impossible to hire a car for less than £10 a day. I had thus in respect of that item alone to incur an expenditure of £130.

The Electoral Act provides that the election expenses of a candidate shall not exceed £100, but it is well that it should be said publicly that that provision is a piece of absolute hypocrisy. In a contested election no man could confine his expenses to £100. There is, as a matter of fact, what may be described as a " catch " in the Act itself, since the provision in regard to the maximum expenditure of £100 relates only to certain items, and does not cover such an item as the hiring. of motor cars.


Mr Gregory - Would not such an item be a statutory expenditure?


Mr J H CATTS - No. The provision as to expenses not exceeding £100 relates only to certain statutory items. Quite apart from those items, there are necessary expenses which, in my case, have brought my expenses up to the total I have given. Some years ago I interviewed the Chief Electoral Officer, and told him that it was impossible for me to run my election campaign on an outlay of £100. He then pointed out to me that the provision in the Electoral Act to which I have referred did not cover such items as expenditure for the use of motor cars to convey electors to the polling booth.


Mr McWilliams - Nor does it cover personal expenses.


Mr J H CATTS - That is so.


Mr Considine - It does not cover the cost of motors used in conveying a candidate to the different parts of his electorate during an election campaign.


Mr J H CATTS - There is nothing to prevent the use of motor cars on election day as long as the cars are free to any one who likes to enter them for the purpose of going to a polling booth. No person who has asked for a lift to a booth hasbeen refused in my case provided there has been room for him in the car.

I come now to the item of travelling expenses. On the average, we travel to and from Melbourne for six months in the year. Honorable members may easily work out for themselves what that involves. It costs about £3 a week for train expenses to Melbourne, and back to Sydney,as well as for hotel expenses while in Melbourne. The Federal Taxation Commissioner has recognised that £100 is a reasonable deduction to allow for travelling expenses in the assessment ofincome tax.

I need make no further reference to the items in the statement relating to Federal and State income tax, because honorable members are quite familiar with the subject.

As to the item of £50 a year for electorate expenses, I admit quite candidly, that I have had to spend money in what is known as pre-selection campaigns, which are quite apart from a general election. In many cases, Labour members have a pre-election campaign which is fought out probably more strenuously than is a general election. Then, again, the one referendum campaign, and two conscription campaigns referred to in the statement were quite independent of general elections. They do not relate to a referendum contested concurrently with a general election.

In thirteen years as arising out of my public duties I have been served with six writs for libel, have had seven prosecutions under the War Precautions Act, and have had to take part in a number of State elections. These expenses I have not included.

As this matter is to be publicly canvassed, let me say that I consider it necessary for an honorable member, in conducting an election campaign to make sure that he holds his seat. I have known seats that were considered to be safe for Labour to be won by the other side. My friend,. Mr. Yates, who represented Adelaide in the last Parliament had, for instance, a seat which looked as safe for Labour as my own. Where is he to-day? He thought he was absolutely safe; but he made a mistake. Many seats which have been held for Labour as strongly as my own, have because of some mistake, probably because of insufficient expenditure in respect of organizing work, been lost to us. I have always felt that, since I have given my life to a parliamentary career, I cannot take that risk.

It was put in the New South Wales Supreme Court not long ago by the presiding Judge, that a certain member should be able to earn a considerable amount apart from his parliamentary salary. I want it to be known throughout the length and breadth of Australia that if there is any work that I can do, in addition to my ordinary parliamentary duties, I am open to accept it. Every one knows that I am an industrious man, and that I can get through as much work as any man, in Parliament or out of it. If there is any work offering that I can do, I am ready to take it.

An Honorable Member. - If you have the time to attend to it.


Mr J H CATTS - I have a word or two to say on that subject. My constituents expect me to be in Sydney every week. Representatives of New South Wales can beaT me out in the statement that there is not sufficient sitting room in the Commonwealth Offices, in Sydney, to provide for my constituents who come to interview me every Monday.


Mr Mahony - It is the same with all of us.


Mr J H CATTS - They are to be seen standing along the passages, twenty or thirty at a time, waiting to interview me on public business. I am expected to be at the Commonwealth Offices, Sydney, every Monday morning, and I have to work very hard to attend to the business of my electorate. Every Monday evening, under the present sitting arrangements, I have to leave for Melbourne, in order to attend Parliament. Otherwise I have to leave Sydney for Melbourne every Tuesday night. Train travelling, as honorable members know, takes a good deal out of one. It takes a lot out of ' me. I am not at my full physical capacity the day after I have travelled from Melbourne to Sydney, or vice versa. The only work that a member of Parliament can take in hand, apart from his ordinary parliamentary duties, is that which can be done while he is sitting in the House. Even then he must neglect the examination of Bills and public documents.

In 1906, when I entered this House, I had a good position, which I could have retained for life if I had not turned my mind to parliamentary matters. In addition, I had a business 300 miles up country which returned me some income. but I found it impossible to manage it along with my parliamentary duties, and had to sell it. The other position I could not hold, because it was the policy of the Labour movement that no member of the party should occupy two paid positions. For a little time I waa on the Price Fixing Board, and by living on about a third of the ordinary expenses, I saved a little money; then, in the case of the little company matter I mentioned, 1 managed by working on Sundays and holidays to get together £600 or £700. If I had not made a few pounds from the sale of my business, and working as I have described, I should, with the little trouble that came upon me later 2 have been bankrupt, and unable to retain my seat in this Parliament. I tell young members, who have not had this experience, that if the breeze blows adversely, and they are compelled to face what I consider the ordinary responsibilities and emergencies of life, they will find there is no margin whatever in the parliamentary salary to carry them over.

On one occasion only, about ten years ago, has any offer of money been made to me in connexion with my public career. A man who had some dispute with the Customs Department as to the classification and duty of some goods he was importing, said that I could have half of the monetary result if I was successful in obtaining a decision in his favour. I immediately told him I could have nothing to do with his case. I am proud to say that I have never known in my experience in this Parliament even the breath of suspicion against any honorable member of improper conduct, for mone- tary reasons, in connexion with his public duties.

There are, of course, honorable members who are wealthy, and they do not feel the position as men like myself do; but I ask them to consider the items I have submitted, and say whether they could, without their private incomes, have done any better than myself. It is unpalatable that these matters should be canvassed in Parliament, but I think it my duty to make this statement before the House, the public, and the newspapers. Any one is at liberty to criticise it in any way they like; I only know that none will be able to show that my statement contains the slightest exaggeration.







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