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Tuesday, 1 October 1935

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has explained this matter fully.

Mr Ward - Where is the Prime Minister ?

Mr WHITE - He has been called away to deal with most important Government business. At the inauguration of federation there were seven Ministers, but I point out that these were Ministers with full portfolios, and the total amount of their salaries was £12,000, or a salary of £1,650 for each Minister holding a full portfolio and slightly more for the Prime Minister. In 1915, the number of full portfolios was increased to eight, and £1,650 was added to the appropriation. Whenever an additional full Minister has been appointed, just as Parliament is now being asked to do, Parliament has been asked to vote an extra £1,650, representing the salary of the individual Minister. In this case a similar sum is involved but is affected by deductions under the Financial Emergency Act.

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), whom I congratulate upon his appointment to the post to-day, pointed out that there are five honorary Ministers in the present Cabinet. These are paid by the other Ministers. That fact is news, perhaps, to a lot of honorable members, as it was news to me when I became an honorable member. Without referring to my income tax return, I could not now fix the amount which I have received during the last twelve months as a Minister, nor do I care particularly, because it has given me some satisfaction to know that I have been discharging a high public duty.

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), and another honorable member, have stated that they do not see any of the present Ministers languishing, and that all of the present Ministers seem to have plenty of time to do their work. It has been claimed,, also, that some departments are neglected and that others are not. But ministerial duties cannot be evenly allocated. Some Ministers have more ' work to do than others.

Since federation there have been 29 Trade and Customs portfolios, which have been held by 20 different Ministers. Mr. Tudor, who occupied the post on four occasions, held this portfolio the longest, and only two of my predecessors haveheld the post longer than myself, although I have held the position for only threeyears. I point out these facts merely toshow that changes in the Cabinet are inevitable, some being caused by changes of government, and others by breakdowns of health. Ministers do not state these facts in any spirit of complaint; none of the present ' Ministers has beenheard to complain. Nevertheless, I feel sure all honorable members will agree that the work of Ministers, and particularly those associated with financial and' trade portfolios, is immeasurably greater than was the case at the time of federation. Owing to tariff changes, quota systems and intense nationalism arising out of the war, the work of Ministers concerned with trade matters has changed immensely within the last decade. This has called for greater and greater application to work, and I feel sure that, had' a similar proposal to that embodied in this measure been advanced to cover extension of work in other spheres, it would have met with approval. The Prime Minister has informed the Housethat the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has done his work " exceedingly well," and I am glad that honorable members opposite agree that he has earned a full' portfolio as Treasurer. No suggestion has been made for a reshuffle of portfolios.

Mr Ward - No one now in the Cabinet will get out.

Mr WHITE - No Minister has beeninvited to get out. Perhaps the honorable member does not realize that there are such things as loyalty and a desire to serve one's country.

Mr Ward - Especially if one is well paid to do so.

Mr WHITE - Loyalty and a desire to serve one's country actuate many honorable members irrespective of emoluments. For some time as a Minister I have not asked for travelling allowances. I touch on this point because honorable members opposite have hinted that the amounts received by Ministers for travelling allowances have been more or less covered up. However, information on that point is to be found in Hansard in replies given to questions asked from time to time by honorable members.

Two honorable members representing Queensland electorates have referred to the fact that in the new Cabinet no full portfolio will be held by a Queenslander. Queensland's interests have been well looked after so far as Cabinet representation is concerned. I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work achieved by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), when he was Assistant Minister for Defence. As a member of the Cabinet, he was always a great supporter of Queensland's interests.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I am afraid the Minister's remarks are verging upon the irrelevant.

Mr WHITE - The Prime Minister has informed honorable members and he was very definite upon the point, that the duty of allocating portfolios fell upon himself. Now he is seeking the authority of this Parliament to enable him to create another full portfolio.

Mr Beasley - If the Government's sole desire is to provide for the cost of raising the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the status of a full Minister, an amount of only £400 would be needed. We desire to know why the Government is asking for approximately £1,000 in addition to that sum.

Mr WHITE - When an Assistant Minister becomes a full Minister, his parliamentary salary is reduced from £825 to £640. He does not receive a full parliamentary salary. The five Assistant Ministers in the present Cabinet are paid the difference between the parliamentary salary and their present salary by the full portfolioed Ministers. The amount paid to them is strictly a matter for the Cabinet. What the full portfolioed Ministers pay to the Assistant Ministers has not been disclosed in the case of any Cabinet since federation, and I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) not to press his question on that point.

Mr Curtin - We are not asking for details, but merely the amount which each Minister will receive. The point is that the Government is now asking for an amount which greatly exceeds that which would be necessary merely to promote the Assistant Treasurer to Treasurer.

Mr WHITE - I thought I explained that point. Whenever an additional portfolio has been created, the Government of the day has asked for the granting of an amount equal to the salary of a full portfolio Minister. In this case, it is £1,650. which is reduced by deductions under the financial emergency legislation. Of course this means that the full Ministers will be called upon to pay less to the Assistant Ministers than previously.

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