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Thursday, 26 November 1931

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) . - Having served more years in parliamentary life than any other honorable member in this House, I take this opportunity of asking whether it is not possible to make Parliament a much better machine than it is at present. I have not occupied much of the time of this Parliament in the making of speeches, for I have realized that my chief and his party have faced great difficulties, and I have, therefore, kept quiet. I do not know whether I have been right or wrong in so doing. For 39 years I was very closely associated with the unemployed of this country ; hut when a man reaches the age of 77 years, he feels that the burden of this work should_ be left to younger men. I thank, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), who will, I hope, be returned at the coming election with a very large majority, for having mentioned the plight of these unfortunate people.

Of you, Mr. Speaker, I wish to say that I have been a keen admirer. I loved you, as one man may love another, when

I first met you, and we have become firm friends. No Speaker, in my experience, has held the scales more evenly than you. In fact, few have even approached; your standard in that respect. The Chairman of Committees and the Temporary Chairmen have all done their work splendidly.

I have always admired the men who record our speeches, and on many occasions I have had to thank them for furnishing a better report of my speeches than was deserved. I think most honorable members could say that. Of the other officials of the House, whether messengers or highly paid servants, I wish to say that no body of men could have been more loyal or dutiful, irrespective of whichever political party happened to be in power.

But is Parliament the splendid machine that it should be? I unhesitatingly answer " No." There is a revulsion of feeling against Parliaments and parliamentary procedure by the people, because they feel that it is not giving full effect to the wishes of the democracy. There are nine dictators in the world to-day who have upset parliamentary procedure in their countries. It has been asserted in this House that Australia needs a dictator, and that if it had one things would be better than they are. I believe that there is not a dictator in the world who would allow thousands of his fellow people to want for food, shelter and clothing. Yet that is the case in Australia, although this Continent produces more food per inhabitant than any other country in the world. We know very well that "gold diggers " - men who seek place and pay - are not unknown in Parliament. Every party is more or less tinged by their influence. « Honorable members know very well that this is the truth. What can we do to put an end to such infamy? The best way to do it would be to place Ministers and members alike on a standard rate of pay. The amount might be £1,000 or- it might be £800, but whatever it is, it should apply to all members of Parliament. This would do away with the "gold diggers." Ministers should have at their command every appliance that science can make available to them to help them in their work, and they should have the best motor cars that can be bought in, order to save their time. All private members should be attached to public departments. We have twelve Ministers and Assistant Ministers. I believe that it would be wise to divide the number of private members of Parliament evenly among the departments they administer, and oblige every member of the Senate and the House of Representatives to give six hours' service a day for five days a week in the department to which he is attached. This would be of help to the departments. It would be a good thing, too, if the example of the former Prime Minister, Mr. S. M. Bruce, were followed. When that right honorable gentleman became Prime Minister, he withdrew his attention from the SOftgoods business in which he was interested, and put a man in his place there to do his work. If honorable members of Parliament, who have other occupations apart from their parliamentary duties, whether they be doctors, lawyers, or anything else, would do the same thing, and devote the whole of their time and energies to the discharge of their parliamentary duties, it would be in the best interests of the country. On to-day's notice-paper I had the following question which I desired to ask the Prime Minister : -

1.   Has his attention been drawn to the Tribune of the 12th instant, in which it is stated that Signor Mussolini lias planned for work for fifteen years in the City of Rome alone, and that he has also organized for works on the marshy lands, the harbour, the roads, and the cities of Italy for continued employment for many years, although so many thousands have been employed; and that many millions are to be further expended on the State and .secondary railways, post offices, telephones, and telegraphs?

2.   In view of these great organizing efforts for many years' work' to meet the unemployment problem, will the Prime Minister organize a five years' public works policy to employ every man and woman who needs work?

I am sure that the honorable gentleman would have furnished me with a reply, had the exigencies of the situation permitted him to do so. I believe that one of the first duties of Parliament is to ensure that work will be found for all the citizens of the country. How far would the £250,000 mentioned by the honorable member for Adelaide go in thi* direction? It would make available only about 12s. 6d. each to the moro than 400,000 men and women who are unemployed in this country. What good, in God's name, would that do? In Great Britain the Government provides every week 15s. for every woman, and 17s. for every nian out of work.

I come now to a consideration of Australia House. Oan any one defend the expenditure of £1,000,000 on that building and the land on which it stands? And for what? God only knows; I do not know myself. I have been in England three times, and I never met a man who could give any sound reason why we should go on maintaining that institution. It has cost over £1,000,000 to maintain since it was built. We are shortly to have an election. Why could we not place before the electors, by way of referendum, one single question, asking whether or not they favoured the continuation of Australia House. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) has on the noticepaper a motion for the abandonment -of Canberra, which is a financial ulcer, draining the resources of Australia; yet the people have no opportunity to put an end to it. No opportunity is provided for the discussion of that motion, because the rights of private members have been taken away from them.

There is also my motion on the noticepaper regarding the institution of the initiative, the referendum and the recall. Of this I speak with all reverence, as if I were indeed in the presence of my Maker. If God be God, He never created anything His equal. He never allowed any created thing to make itself His equal. Why should the citizens of Australia, whose creature this Parliament is, be compelled to accept Parliament as something greater than themselves? On one day in three years they control Parliament, and on that day only. They should control Parliament every day in the year. I have given to my constituents for the last 42 years the right to drag me out of Parliament at one day's notice, provided a demand, signed by one over half the number who voted for me, is served upon mp. If we ever have the referendum, initiative and recall, there will be no need for these absurd elections. A member could keep his place in the House only if he were of good behaviour, and honoured the pledges he made to his constituents. The constantly recurring expense of elections would be avoided.

I strongly object to the rights of private members being filched from them. Private members from all parts of the House have tabled motions in the vain hope that they would be afforded an opportunity of speaking to them. I intend to ask the electors from the platform not to vote for any candidate unless he will give his constituents the power to recall him in the event of his not honouring his pledges. I shall say to the electors that they, the creators of Parliament, should have the power to control Parliament. When the people have that power they will not allow any Government, whether Labour, Nationalist, Country or Liberal, to leave 400,000 men, women and children - in need of food and shelter in a continent that grows moVe food in proportion to its population than any other continent in the world.

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