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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - This bill proposes to increase the number of paid Ministers from nine to ten. I was not privileged to hear the second reading speech which the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) made on Friday, but I have gathered from the two speakers who have preceded me to-day, that very little in the way of a genuine explanation of the reason for the change has been made. Those speeches have been in direct opposition to the measure.

I propose to discuss the matter from a slightly different angle. The first question that must be answered is, what particular additional duties warrant raising the number of paid Ministers from nine to ten? At the last general elections the Prime Minister made a special point of the subject of unemployment. The right honorable gentleman then suggested that it was necessary that the Commonwealth Parliament should shoulder a greater measure of responsibility in regard to the matter. He said that it had been left largely to the States, which had not by any means satisfied the demands or requirements of those who were affected, and that the need had arisen for it to be grappled with by the Commonwealth in a much more serious and determined manner. In order to establish the bona fides of the Government party, he said that a full-time Minister would be deputed to give close attention to the matter. At the time the belief was generally held that many of the ills from which we were suffering had their genesis in the enormous degree of unemployment which prevailed, and that, if that matter were satisfactorily handled, and adequate provision were made for the unemployed, many of our difficulties would be almost entirely removed. Those with whom I was associated took the stand that opposition could not be offered to whatever additional expenditure might be involved in the strengthening of the Ministry for this purpose. Lengthy discussion of the matter is useless unless accompanied by a sincere desire to apply practical remedies. "We applauded the scheme proposed, while condemning the Government for its previous inactivity. The mandate which the Government was given involved the taking of action along the lines mentioned, and a suggestion that the number of paid Ministers should be increased for that purpose would have encountered no opposition. But a full-time Minister was not deputed to deal with the matter. When we directed questions to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), we were told that the duties which had to be discharged were to be delegated to different Ministers. As late as this afternoon, the answer given to a question stated that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and the Post master-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) had been asked to handle matters arising out of unemployment. Any one who has had experience of administrative functions must admit that unemployment is the major problem in Australia as well as in the majority of other countries. The task of co-ordinating the activities of the States and, in the words of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), of getting down to the root causes of the problem, requires the full time and attention of probably more than one individual. It may be a fact that Ministers are overworked. Admitting that to be so, I yet contend that much of what they are called upon to do arises out of the unsatisfactory handling of the unemployment problem. To one man should be delegated the responsibility of devising means to co-ordinate the various activities of the States, and to plan, not only for the immediate present, but also for years ahead.

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