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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - This bill raises one or two interesting points ; it opens the way to a general discussion on the Ministry. Two effective criticisms could be levelled against the Government, not in its departmental aspect, but in its collective capacity as the Administration of the Commonwealth. First of these is the continual change which is taking place in the allocation of portfolios throughout the life of a parliament. It seldom happens that more than a few months elapse before some re-allotment of portfolios and of Ministers' duties takes place. I do not consider that such a state of affairs can be conducive to the best work inside the departments. It may be quite all right for the Cabinet itself; but, so far as the departments are concerned, Ministers should, as far as practicable, be left in control of them for a considerable time. The other point is that raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) in regard to State representation. Personally, I think that the attempt on the part of every Prime Minister to secure representation of the several States in his Cabinet must lead to a weakening of the Cabinet as a whole.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the bill. I remind him that what he complains of would not be affected in any way if the bill were passed in its present form, or if it were amended or even rejected.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Very well, sir. The other point I make is that in regard to honorary Ministers, to which several honorable members, speaking before me, have made fairly extensive reference. I think there should be a very early discussion on the part of the Government as to whether the employment of honorary Ministers should be allowed to continue as a definite part of the functions of the Commonwealth Government. If there is sufficient work inside Cabinet to warrant the inclusion of honorary Ministers,then they should enjoy a different status from that which they have to-day.

I express myself in complete agreement with the point made by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), that it is the absolute right of the Prime Minister to allocate his portfolios once the Cabinet has been formed. I believe that the office of Federal Treasurer is of sufficient importance, and must entail a sufficient amount of departmental drudgery, to warrant the appointment of a fully-paid Minister. In my opinion, that Minister should have very little else to do. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the head of the Government should be relieved of all responsibility in regard to departmental administration, so that he can exercise a general review and a general control over the policy of the Government which' he leads. I hope that the time may not be far distant when the Government will give greater consideration to the whole question of the direction and functions of the federal departments. I know it is quite a common thing to-day to criticize Minister's for what they have done, or for what they have failed to do - I have done a little bit of that myself - but I consider that the time is ripe to indulge in just a little more criticism. In connexion with the present Administration, one initial mistake was made after the last election. That was by the innovation of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Employment - something entirely foreign to the functions of the Federal Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member's remarks are not relative to the question before the Chair.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - These matters have been discussed quite a lot during the present debate.

Mr SPEAKER - I have called several honorable members to order for irrelevancy. The honorable member must not question the ruling of the Chair.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The whole question of public administration is one which vitally concerns the taxpayers of this country. "While we have, on the one hand, continual arguments for the extension of social services and demands on the part of the producers for the intervention of the Government in matters of trade and commerce, we have, on the part of others, very serious criticism of any increase in governmental activities, and also of their cost. It stands to reason that, while we increase our activities in different directions, there must be also an increase in the cost of government, and also from time to time justification for increases in the number of Ministers required in order to give effect to what, after all, is only the popular will.

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