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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr RYAN (West Sydney) (2:15 AM) . - Notwithstanding the desire of honorable members to brins; this somewhat protracted debate to a close, I do not wish to give a silent vote on the question. It is one of some importance, and its discussion has induced some honorable .members to express their views rather strongly in addressing themselves to it. I regard the question as one which we may discuss, anc! which indeed we ought to discuss, without imputing any improper motives to those who are for or against the proposal. For my part. T do not feel any grudge against the press for taking a particular view of any action of mine in this House, on this or any other question. Payment of members is a principle for which Democracy stands. The question as to what is adequate and proper payment for members of this House, for those holding Ministerial positions, or for the high and honorable position held by Mr, Speaker, is for this House to determine in the same way as it determines any other question that is the subject of legislation. lt has been made so by the people who have specifically given the Parliament the right to deal with the question of the remuneration of honorable members. I saw in yesterday morning's newspapers that a message was received from the' GovernorGeneral recommending to the House of Representatives an appropriation of revenue for the purpose of a Bill for an Act relating to the allowances of members of each House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. This is a recommendation from the GovernorGenera] to this House. As I view the matter, the only question is whether the remuneration at present fixed is adequate. I have heard honorable members almost universally admitting that it is not adequate. But some say that, because they have given some pledge, or because the matter was not mentioned at the election - and I do not know whose duty it was to mention it if it was not. their duty - they feel bound to oppose the Bill.

Mr Riley - But also to accept the increase.

Mr RYAN - I am not much concerned as to whether they accept the increase or not, nor am I much concerned about some of the arguments used to the effect that members could make more outside Parliament. There is no compulsion, upon them to be in Parliament. If one can make more outside Parliament he has the option of staying outside. I view the question in quite an abstract way, and I ask is the position worth the salary proposed ? In my opinion it is. The position of a member of the National Parliament of a great country, and one that is destined to become a greater country, is such that, in my opinion, it should attract the most capable men in- the community. It will not do that unless the allowance is increased beyond the amount paid at the present time. I am entirely in favour of the increase to the amount mentioned in the Bill before the House. It has always been the argument of the capitalist that there should be no payment of members, or that it should be as small as possible. I see no difference between this House dealing with the question of fixing tha salaries of honorable members and dealing with any agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. That Was not be-fore the people, and was not mentioned to them, at the last election, yet we have passed legislation in regard to it. I have to accept responsibility for every speech I make in this House and every vote I give in it in just the same way as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and any other honorable member who opposes this Bill. We are all over the age of twenty-one years. We are not infants, and we know that we take responsibility for our public acts. I am prepared to do that. I think we ought to be prepared to acquit ourselves like men in a matter of this sort. There are some honorable members quite anxious for the Bill to be passed, but they do not seem to have screwed up their courage sufficiently to vote for it. It costs me my full salary in expenses, and I do not know how I would get on if it were not for what I earn from my profession. But I certainly do not make the income from that profession which I am credited with making by certain sections of the press, who indulge in misrepresentations with regard to me as well as other honorable members. According to one newspaper my income was £8,200 itv one year.

Mr Maxwell - It is amusing -to hear the opinions of outsiders as to the incomes earned at the Bar.

Mr RYAN - It is amusing; but these figures were supposed to be obtained from an official source. It is the first time I have heard that I was earning such an income, and I. invite the Commissioner of Taxes to look into the matter. As a matter of fact, my income other than the parliamentary allowance is not one-sixth of the amount mentioned. I feel that the position occupied by honorable members of this House is sufficiently important to warrant the payment of the allowance provided in the Bill, and for that reason I shall support the measure^ Is there any honorable member who proposes to vote { against the Bill who will say that the salary mentioned in the measure is too high?

Mr Bell - It is far too high.

Mr RYAN - Every honorable member knows that there is an overwhelming majority in the House in favour of the Bill. There are some honorable members who do not think that the salary should be raised, and I give them credit for holding those views, but those who do think that the salary should be raised ought to record their votes in favour of the Bill, and should not walk out of the chamber, before a division is taken. Above all, do not let us make political capital out of a measure of this kind. I am prepared o accept the responsibility for my speeches and my votes, and on this question I am inclined to think that the electorates of Australia will stand by those who do what they conceive to be the duty which has been intrusted to them by a higher authority than Parliament, namely, the people of this country.

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