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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) (1:45 AM) . - I desire at the outset to announce that if this Bill be passed I do not propose to give away any part of my increased allowance. I have never given any money away - that is why I am so rich ! The Sydney Daily Telegraph, in an article commenting on this proposal, while not going into raptures on the subject, said that if members were to receive any payment for their services that payment should be adequate. It proceeded to ridicule the suggestion that it should be left to the people to determine what the allowance should be.

Mr Maxwell - Is it an advocate of the principle of the referendum ?

Mr MATHEWS - That was not the point involved. The Sydney Daily Telegraph pointed out that, under the Constitution which had been accepted by the people, the Federal Parliament was given power to determine what should be the allowance received by its members. The people accepted thatprovision in the Constitution, recognising that if members fixed their remuneration at too high a rate they would " get the order of the boot. ' ' The idea that the question should have been brought before the people in connexion with a general election was ridiculed by the newspaper. It pointed out that at a general election the issues are already sufficiently clouded, and that it was quite undesirable that any further issue such as this should be raised. If it were, I am satisfied that we should have the meanest scum in creation returned to this Parliament by the meanest people in the community. The " boss " never thinks that he is giving too low a wage to his employees. We are told that we are here as the servants of the people, and, while my constituents are as largehearted as any other section of the community, I am satisfied that if this issue were raised at a general election their feelings would be played upon to such an extent by the yellow press of Australia that they would say to members, " We will give you nothing at all." If that were the verdict of the people, I could not remain in Parliament.

Let us contrast the attitude of the Sydney Daily Telegraph with that of the Melbourne newspapers. I have nothing to say of the criticism indulged in by the Argus, since that newspaper has always been opposed to payment of members, and openly admits that it is against what I would describe as a democratic form of government. It believes that the legislation of a country can best be promulgated by wealthy men. The Age newspaper, on the other hand, indulges in such low-down criticism that it is a wonder to me that its readers believe there is any truth in any statements made by it. The Age is run by men who in private life are all that could be desired. No one can point the finger of scorn at their actions as private citizens; but even the yellow journals of the United States of America could not get into the gutter to the extent that the Age does in respect of this and practically every other proposal to which it is hostile. The Age tells us that if we do not think the present remuneration adequate we are not compelled to remain in Parliament. But what is the position of those who have to advertise in the Age? It is undoubtedly a great advertising medium, and, whether I like it or not, I have to purchase it. This journal has increased its advertising charges by some 300 or 400 per cent., and business people are compelled to advertise in it whether they like it or not. It gives the public only about an inch of news for every 50 inches that are devoted to advertising. Yet it has the temerity to talk about honesty. Why, these newspaper robbers have stolen from the people of Victoria about £100,000 during the oast few weeks.

Mr Nicholls - Why talk about, that?

Mr MATHEWS - -I intend to deal with this question in my own way, and the honorable member may do just what he likes. So scurrilous is this mighty organ, the Age, that it does not hesitate to attack a man when he is prevented from replying to its attacks. If he attempted to reply it would either refuse to publish his letter or would cut it up in such a fashion that he would be unable to recognise it. This is the journal which stigmatizes honorable members as robbers merely because they propose to adopt the constitutional method of increasing their salaries.

Mr J H Catts - The Sydney Morning Herald has increased its honour-roll advertisements from 2s. 6d. to 7s. 6d. per inch .

Mr MATHEWS - And the Age newspaper has increased its inmemoriam charges by about 300 per cent., though' the impost falls upon the mothers and wives of our men who died at the Front. This is the journal which has the effrontery to prate about honesty. It should be ashamed of itself. It presumes to dictate to the people of this country the political policy of. the Commonwealth, and it is enraged because during the past Tew years it has been unable to dictate even the policy of Victoria. It now seeks to pander to the narrow-minded crowd who love to attack members of Parliament.

An Honorable Member. - If I were the honorable member I would not' waste so much breath upon the newspapers'. .

Mr MATHEWS - I prefer to deal with this matter in my own way.

Mr Brennan - How long will it take the honorable member to do that ?

Mr MATHEWS - At every election campaign in which I engage I make it a practice to devote half an hour each night to a criticism of the newspapers of this city. The mean, contemptible leaders of the Age, and its inspired letters, are supposed to injure public men like myself. I have no fear of that journal, though there are many persons who are' afraid to oppose its dictum. I know that quite recently it has robbed every one of its subscribers of 13s. per annum. I do hope that some pf the representatives of the country districts of Victoria will fight this horror as we have had to fight it in the city.

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