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Tuesday, 13 October 1931

Mr GABB (Angas) . - I second ihe amendment with pleasure. I shall not repeat the statements that I made when the Estimates were being considered, but what I then said still holds good. At the present time particularly, there is no need for either of these committees. I can say of the Works Committee, at any rate, that it has a very able secretary. He could carry out all the investigation that is required, and obtain as much information as can the committee. As a matter of fact, I believe thathe marshalls the evidence under existing conditions. He could examine witnesses, and make whatever recommendations were necessary.

I have read very carefully the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the disabilities of South Australia, and believe that in themain it has been compiled from other reports on the subject. There was not the slightest need for the members of that committee to take a trip across to the west coast of South Australia to obtain the information that it gathered.

This bill is the outcome of a promise that was made by the Prime Minister when the Estimates were under discussion, to counter the move that was then launched to wipe out this committee. The right honorable gentleman has said that this is not a party question, but that it is a matter for the House itself to decide. I hope that he will not rally his supporters behind it, but will allow each member to vote as he thinks fit.

Mr.Scullin. - I did not make that promise with a view to preventing the honorable member from moving his amendment. He did move it, and the matter went to a division.

Mr GABB - But as a result of the Prime Minister's saying that the number of members on these committees would be reduced,he obtained support that otherwise would have gone for their abolition.

Mr Scullin -I took the opinion of the House on it.

Mr GABB - That is so. But the right honorable gentleman alienated support from the abolition proposal by stating his preparedness to bring in a bill to reduce the number of members.

Mr Scullin - That showed that honorable members were in favour of reduction and not abolition. We have been guided by that vote.

Mr GABB - The Prime Minister's statement is correct; but victory for him was made possible only because he had the support of every member of the Ministry, and, unfortunately, every honorable member who at that time held a position on one or other of these committees, and did not want to lose it. It would have been more to their credit then had the matter been left to the decision of those who were not financially interested, and the same principle will operate when this vote is taken. I have long held the opinion, based on what I have heard and seen, that positions on these committees arc in the nature of consolation stakes for those members of the Government party who fail to obtain ministerial rank. It is high time that these consolation stakes were withdrawn. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) expressed the correct view when he said that these committees could be abolished without injuring in any way either the work or the prestige of this Parliament. The present is the time to practise economy. It can be practised in this case without causing harm, because the loss of the 30s. for each sitting day that members of the committee receive would not mean hardship to them, seeing that they are in receipt of £800 a year.

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