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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) .- The Opposition has decided to oppose this measure, not that it believes that Ministers should be overworked, but because it contends that there is no necessity for the appointment of an additional Minister. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) could, by a re-allotment of portfolios, arrange for the work of Ministers to be carried out quite satisfactorily with the present number of Ministers. Looking back over the past years since federation, I find that a number of variations have been made in the number of Ministers. Originally, there were seven Ministers in the Barton Ministry of 1901-1903, and two Ministers without portfolios; in the Deakin Ministry of 1903-1904, there were seven Ministers; in the Watson

Ministry of 1904, there were seven Ministers; and in the Reid-McLean Ministry of 1904-1905, the number remained the same. In the Deakin Ministry of 1905-S there were seven full Ministers and three without portfolios, and in the Fisher Ministry of 1908-9 there were seven full Ministers and one without a portfolio. During the war the number of full Ministers was increased to nine and in the Hughes Ministry of 1919-23, that number of full Ministers was maintained with three honorary Ministers. Successive governments have not increased the number of Ministers with portfolios.

Despite the very difficult times which were then experienced, the Scullin Ministry was composed of only nine full Ministers and four honorary Ministers. I know that the task of the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has been rendered difficult in this matter because of the presence of four Country party members in the Ministry, and I believe that his action to-day has been dictated more by political expediency than by any genuine feeling that it is impossible to carry on with the present number of full Ministers. For instance, it is not necessary to have three Ministers controlling the Department of Commerce, but the right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), as Minister for Commerce, is assisted by an honorable senator in another place, and by an honorary Minister (Mr. Thorby). In the Scullin Ministry I was, for seven months, Minister for Trade and Customs, as well as Acting Minister for Commerce, or as the latter portfolio was then called, Minister for Markets and Transport. To-day there are three Ministers doing this work. I have no objection to the promotion of the Assistant Treasurer to full ministerial rank because I believe he has worked very conscientiously for the Government, and that he deserves such promotion. If a re-shuffle of ministerial positions were made in the ordinary way, the Assistant Treasurer would need to be promoted at the expense of another Minister, who would have to stop down in his favour, as was done when the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) sacrificed his portfolio as Minister for Commerce on the altar of political unity. It was then claimed that in the cause of unity between the United Australia party and the Country party, that gentleman should stand down and, I understand, he did so voluntarily, being relegated to the back benches as Parliamentary UnderSecretary for Employment.

In view of the many directions in which the money now expended to provide for the increased number of Ministers could be spent, I have not heard any valid reason for this proposal. When the Scullin Government was in office salaries of Ministers amounted to £11,858 per annum, whereas now ministerial salaries are to be increased to a total amount of £12,545. This latter figure does not take into account increases incurred in the cost of trade and other missions, engaged on which two Ministers are still abroad. This Parliament is entitled to a more lucid explanation by the Leader of the Government as to why an additional Minister is to be appointed. It cannot be admitted that the existing number of Ministers cannot carry out the work now devolving upon the Ministry. Half of the members of the Cabinet were absent for seven months but the work was carried on without them. I submit that the Leader of the Government has not made out a convincing case, and suggest that were he candid enough, he would admit that he has adopted the course of asking Parliament to assent to the appointment of an additional Minister rather than cause any friction in the Cabinet which would undoubtedly follow a re-shuffle. I submit that in the present circumstances there should be a re-shuffle of portfolios - omitting one Minister and appointing another - as is done in the ordinary course of events, and I reiterate that the appointment of an additional Minister is not justified. The Opposition, therefore, opposes such a course.

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