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Thursday, 20 May 1920


Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) .- As a new member I am liable to make mistakes, but I hope that any mistakes I may make in my few remarks on this Bill will, tot some extent, be overlooked. I have just contested an election on the understanding that £600 would be the amount of the allowance of the successful candidate; and the proposed increase at the present time is to my mind a very serious matter. We have to remember that there are thousands of people throughout the Commonwealth who are in a far worse position than we are; and if we increase the parliamentary allowance, and so set an example to Australia at large we shall have to meet many deputations in favour of very substantial increases in other directions. For instance, there are oldage pensions, Wages Board and Arbitration Court awards, and so forth, and if we start at the ton of the tree, and increase our own salaries to the extent proposed, we must be prepared to improve the position of all, from A to Z, throughout the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite call out, "Hear, hear" ! - Very well. The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) made a very able speech the other night on the finances of the Commonwealth, when it was proposed to vote a few paltry pounds to assist returned soldiers in starting certain industries. We were told by the honorable gentleman - and another place was told by Senator Millen - that the finances do not warrant such a vote ; but I remind the House that if this Bill be passed, we shall be called upon to make increases in all quarters involving an expenditure of many millions, and not merely of hundreds of thousands.

As to the cost of living, the newspapers tell us to-day that in America there is a very considerable decrease, and the chances are that, with a reasonable season, and a return to normal conditions, that cost will gradually, even rapidly, come down' in Australia. We here are, therefore, I think in a much better position to meet the present circumstances than are the ' industrial workers. As to the time devoted by honorable members to attendance in this House, I may say that my own has been fairly constant, though that of quite a number of other honorable members has hot. Do those honorable members expect the increased pay for half their time ? Of course, they do. This is a raid not only on the Treasury, but on Australia as a whole, and .if it be agreed to we shall deeply regret it.


Mr Blakeley - Will the honorable member accept the increase if it is carried ?


Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - Will the honorable member hold his tongue ?


Mr Blakeley - The honorable member intends to accept the increase, but has not the courage to vote for it.


Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - I know that the honorable member, if the amount were double what is proposed, would willingly accept it. Then, how many members of the House are entirely dependent on their salaries? I venture to say that there are very few indeed - that the bulk receive a good deal more than their salary from other sources. The Bill is a monstrous proposition which I shall vote against.







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