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Thursday, 13 May 1920


Mr BELL (Darwin) .- -Even at the risk of becoming unpopular with my fellow members, I have to face my responsibilties, and speak exactly as I feel on a matter such as this. I must oppose the proposition submitted by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford). I have every sympathy with those honorable gentlemen who have been members of Parliament for a great number of years, and I see no reason why the honorable member for Herbert should become unpopular with his electors for having submitted his amendment. He is perfectly justified in advocating an increase in members' salaries if he considers it necessary; and I am particularly pleased that, if the matter had to be brought forward at all, it should have been submitted by the oldest ' honorable member here. However, I am in a different position. I do not know as much about the cost of living at the Seat of Government as older honorable members know, but I hope to be able to live within my parliamentary allowance. If not, my only alternative will be to retire from politics. I have a great deal of sympathy for those honorable members who represent distant States, such as Queensland and Western Australia, and cannot get home at weekends - in fact, can scarcely get home at all during a session; but I feel that if I had to live at the Seat of Government, I would have no cause for complaint about the inadequacy of the present allowance. Being a young member, I am not in a position to counter the claim put forward that it is insufficient; but my objection to the present proposal is that it has come at the wrong time. Such a proposition should be brought forward before an election, and honestly submitted to the people. I do not question the honesty of honorable members who have spoken in support of the proposal to-day, but it would be a better 'test of honorable members' honesty of purpose if they would go before the people and claim that £600 a year is insufficient, and that the allowance should be at least £1,000 per annum. Let them stand or fall by that, and there would be no question as to their honesty. Every day we hear pleas put forward that we must economize, and undoubtedly one of the supreme necessities of to-day is economy in administration of public affairs. We also say that the people should economize in order to counter the high cost of living. But while we are continually preaching on these lines, claiming that the only way in which the high cost of 'living may be reduced is by a reduction of expenditure on the part of the people, what will the public say if at the same time we advocate an increase in our allowance? I COuld not do it consistently, and I do not think that at the present time we are justified in asking that our allowance should be increased. If we, as legislators, are to retain the full confidence of the people - our success depends very largely upon it - we can only do so by submitting to them any questions that concern us personally before we propose to carry 'them out, or, at any rate, before we decide to do so. I can only be persuade-d to support an increased allowance on the ground that there would be a corresponding reduction in the number of members; but this, I take it, cannot be brought about except through the people, after recommendations from the Federal Convention, which we are told is to meet next year. The honorable member for Herbert says that he represents a district covering eight and a-half State electorates. I believe that I could represent two- Tasmanian electorates in this House just as well as I represent one, and it might be a toss up between the representative of a neighbouring electorate and myself as to who should retain the combined seat.


Mr Watkins - If the honorable member represented the whole of Tasmania he would not represent a larger electorate than some of those in other States.


Mr BELL - I can only speak for the State I know. Other honorable members who represent electorates in larger and more thickly-populated States can speak for the States they know. We find that little , more than half the members vote on important divisions in the House. In the circumstances, I am justified in saying that we could do the work just as well if we had only half the present number of members. I could only be persuaded to vote for an increased allowance if the number of members was also to be reduced, and it was made compulsory that a member must be in attendance in the House at all times, or forfeit his allowance. I hope that the matter will not be pressed to-day, and that we shall wait until the Federal Convention is held, and the amendments to the Constitution are submitted to the people. The question can then be honestly put before the electors. If I find from my experience of living at the Seat of Government that it i3 necessary to have an increased allowance, and if I am a candidate for election, I shall go before the people and advocate an increase.







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