Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 13 May 1920

Mr HIGGS (Capricornia) .- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) thinks it indecent on the part of certain honorable members to have talked of their private affairs as they have done. In my opinion, ' those who had the courage to do so deserve the admiration of the House, and I, for one, admire them. The honorable member has suggested dishonesty on the part of those who intend to vote for the amendment.

Mr Maxwell - No. I said that, from my point of view,- it would be dishonest to vote for it; that it was a matter of satisfying one's own conscience.

Mr HIGGS - If the honorable member will permit me to say so, I have a very high opinion of his ability, and of his desire to serve the public, but had he during the electoral campaign told his constituents what his earnings are, and how he occupies his time - that he is one of the most successful criminal lawyers in the country, and earns a large part of his income by defeating the ends of justice - he would not have found a seat in this Chamber.

Mr Maxwell - That was cast up at me at almost every meeting.

Mr HIGGS - I have been in Parliament for a very long time. Before entering Parliament I was, as a journalist, more or less successful. Since entering Parliament I have not earned a penny by journalistic work, though I have often been asked why I do not write. I have given all my time to my public duties. There are some professions, like the law and journalism, that run in company with a parliamentary career. The delving to ascertain facts and figures which is necessary for parliamentary work often produces matter for an article or for a speech in the Law Courts. The honorable member will forgive me for pointing out to his constituents that he neglects his parliamentary duties. He was not present at the Caucus meeting of his party when the Repatriation Bill was being discussed, and when he entered the chamber he knew nothing whatever about it. We do not carry out our duties in that way; we devote all our time to them.

Mr West - Our lives.

Mr Maxwell - I told my constituents that I could not undertake to devote all my time to parliamentary work.

Mr West - You represent a lot of city people.

Mr Maxwell - The honorable member is calling my honesty in question. I say that I told my constituents exactly how matters stood with me.

Mr HIGGS - The honorable member has said that common honesty would dictate to us the carrying out of our bargain with the electors.

Mr Maxwell - I said that it would dictate to me a certain course.

Mr HIGGS - What is honest so far as the honorable member is concerned must be honest so far as others are concerned.

Mr Maxwell - What may be necessary to satisfy my conscience may not be necessary to satisfy the conscience of others.

Mr HIGGS - Twenty years ago, when I went to Darling Harbor to speak in favour of Federation, I was met by a howling mob, which threatened to throw me into the dust-bin; but, after a while, finding that I was not anxious to speak, they invited me to do so. A certain gentleman was then addressing a gathering from an opposite hotel. I was denounced as a "blackleg" for having voted for Federation, and when it was arranged that I should speak he told me to stick to the Bill. I replied, "No, I will explain my vote," and I told the audience that I voted as a matter of conscience. To that the gentleman rejoined, "Mr. Higgs says that he has a conscience. What would be thought of an officer who, being told by his Commanding' General to charge, excused himself on the ground that he had a conscience? Why, he would be shot immediately." That, of course, was no argument, but I have never since then referred to any vote of mine as dictated by conscience.

This question is a most unpleasant one to have to talk about, but the public are not in a position to judge what salaryshould be paid to members. It is impossible for the public to know what is the work of a member of Parliament, the time occupied in dealing with his correspondence and in interviewing constituents. They can only trust members of Parliament- as the vast majority have always done - to do what they consider is a fair thing. I have never known a member of Parliament to be turned out of his position because he voted for an increased parliamentary salary. Those who intend to oppose this motion should place themselves in the position of those who give the whole of their time to their parliamentary duties. They should' ask themselves whether they do not see a difference between the work done by the latter and those who are able, while attending to the work of Parliament, to carry on their professional duties. A public man, in my opinion, must devote himself wholly to his public work if he wants to make a success of it. If he tries to run a business at the same time, either his public work or his business must suffer. The one or the other must go. If he divides his attention between the two he is a failure, either as a public man or as a business man.

Suggest corrections