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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- I oppose this measure, which providesfor the expenditure of an additional sum of money by way of remuneration to Ministers. I listened carefully to speakers on the Government side of the House in the hope that some adequate justification would be advanced for the step the Government is proposing. I cannot agree that Ministers are suffering any injury from overwork, having regard to the fact that Parliament has been closed up for months, and that four Ministers have been absent from the country for a considerable time attending the Jubilee functions overseas.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must not deliver a second-reading speech, but must confine himself to the discussion of clause 4.

Mr WARD - This clause provides for additional expenditure, and naturally the people expect some return for it. I maintain that there will be no corresponding benefit to the public, which has to find the money. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), when introducing this measure, made some reference to the severe strain imposed upon Ministers by their arduous duties. I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not see fit to remain in the chamber to hear the criticism of his measure, and to answer the points raised. If I am any judge of the matter - and I am supported in my view by the fact that several Ministers were able to remain overseas for months at a time without affecting the work of their departments

The CHAIRMAN - If the honorable member transgresses again, I shall ask him to resume his seat.

Mr WARD - You are making it very difficult for me, if you compel me to confine my remarks to the mere wording of the clause. I heard previous speakers refer to such matters as the way in which titles are handed out, and the reasons why they are given and accepted. I thought, therefore, that I might be allowed to refer to the work done by Ministers of State, and to say why, in my opinion, they are not entitled to any extra remuneration. Although it may appear that the extra sum to be provided is to be paid to one Minister, we know that, in fact, it will go into a common pool, and all the Ministers will share it.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member is in order now.

Mr WARD - The work of the departments which Ministers are supposed to supervise is carried on principally by public servants, and the Ministers, in many cases, are only figure-heads. When honorable members on this side of the House seek information, the questions are answered by Ministers, it is true, but the answers have been prepared by permanent officers of their departments. I do not propose to deal with individual cases, but if it were necessary I could name certain Ministers who have been so lax that they have not even troubled to attend at their offices with any regularity. This extra expenditure is not warranted, especially in view of the fact that social services have been reduced under the Financial Emergency Act. Far from being in any danger of breaking down through overwork, Ministers are in greater danger of injuring their health by overeating and over-drinking. I think I read somewhere that the Prime Minister, while abroad, attended 30 banquets in a fortnight. The people did not elect this Government to office so that it might close Parliament, and send half the Cabinet on a trip overseas to attend to matters that were of no concern to them or to Australia. It ill becomes the Government to provide an additional £1,320 for distribution among a chosen few, when it has refused to restore social services to those whose need is so much greater. Besides their ordinary allowances, Ministers receive a liberal allowance for travelling expenses. Despite that, however, I believe that certain Ministers think that the allowance should be increased from two guineas a day to £2 12s. 6d. Travelling allowances are paid for seven days a week when Ministers are travelling either in Australia or abroad, and no record is required of how the money is spent. A Minister need not even spend the full allowance, but may save part of it for himself, and no questions are asked. If it is believed to be necessary to raise the Assistant Treasurer to full ministerial rank, there is already sufficient money in the ministerial pool to compensate him for the additional work. I have been given to understand that this matter has come before Parliament only because the Government was unable to induce any member of Cabinet to stand down so that his position might be given to the Assistant Treasurer. It was, therefore, necessary to alter the law so .as to create a tenth Cabinet position, and then it was deemed desirable to enlarge the financial pool so that the avaricious desires of all might be satisfied. The members of my party would not lend themselves to a decision of this kind. No doubt the Government has a sufficient majority to ensure the passage of the measure, but Ministers will_ eventually have to answer to a higher tribunal than Parliament - the tribunal of the people. I am convinced that when the Government goes before its masters at the next election, it will not be able to justify its action in involving the country in this extra expenditure.

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