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Tuesday, 1 October 1935


Mr JAMES (Hunter) .- After moving the second reading of the bill, the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. lyons) left the chamber, and honorable members had to rely upon the information given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) who clouded rather than clarified the issue. The Prime Minister has made the intentions of the Government fairly clear, but his explanation is unsatisfactory. I admit that if an additional Minister is appointed, he should receive the same allowance paid to other Ministers; but if the appropriation is not increased, the allowance which each Minister receives is necessarily reduced. At present, the Assistant Treasurer is receiving £300 or £400 less than a Minister with a portfolio, but if he is appointed Treasurer why should it be necessary to appropriate an additional £1,320? When the Financial Emergency Bill was under consideration in 1931, Ministers submitted to a reduction 2£ per cent, greater than in the case of private "members, and even after a restoration of 2^ per cent., for which the budget has provided, they will still be subject to a reduction of 17^ per cent. But this bill provides for an additional allowance for Ministers through the medium of their pool. Is this a snide and cunning way to regain some of the money of which they have been deprived? It is looting the Treasury.


Mr Lyons - I regard the honorable member's statements as offensive, and ask that they be withdrawn.


Mr JAMES - I withdraw them. I shall say that it is a shrewd move on the part of Ministers to recover a portion of the allowance of which they were deprived under the Financial Emergency Act. The Prime Minister, who insulted the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) by saying that there were only two members in the House of which he took no notice, and that the honorable member was one, should be the last to ask an honorable member to withdraw such a remark as I made.

The annual appropriation for Ministers of State is £12,240, whereas this bill provides for an increase to £13,560, or £1,320 in excess of the amount voted last year. As the Assistant Treasurer is the only Assistant Minister to be elevated to full Cabinet rank at a cost of an additional £400 or £500 a year, what is to be done with the balance? Clearly it is to go into the Cabinet pool. The Prime Minister himself has admitted that the money provided for Ministers of State is pooled. Do Ministers propose to cut it up among themselves? If that is the intention, instead of suffering a reduction under the Premiers plan of 17-J per cent., the salaries of Ministers will be reduced by less than the 15 per cent, cut now applied to private members. When the Premiers plan was first evolved and the financial emergency legislation introduced in this House, it was only with the assistance of the Prime Minister and members of his party who were then sitting in opposition that it was brought into force. At that time the promise was made that immediately the financial position of the country improved, invalid and old-age pensions would be the first to be restored. The Prime Minister himself made that statement, but the pensions have never been restored to their former level.


Mr Lyons - Is the honorable member able to prove that I made the statement that the invalid and old-age pensioners would be- the first to have their cuts restored? I challenge the honorable member to prove his assertion.


Mr JAMES - I can prove it. At a deputation which I introduced at th,e Commonwealth Bank in Sydney, and which was attended by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings), the Prime Minister said that immediately the financial position improved, restorations would be made, and that invalid and old-age pensions would be the first to be restored.


Mr Lyons - I said nothing of the kind.


Mr JAMES - I know it is of no use expecting the Prime Minister to admit that:


Mr Jennings - The honorable member's statement is incorrect.


The CHAIRMAN - Order ! This extraneous discussion must cease.


Mr JAMES - In fairness to all concerned it must be admitted that those who suffered under the financial emergency legislation should have been the first to have had their cuts restored. That policy was expressed freely by those who helped to place the financial emergency legislation on the statute-book. As I see it, the proposal is to give the Assistant Treasurer £400 or £500 and to cut up the balance among the other Ministers.


Mr Jennings - By way of a personal explanation, Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has said that, at a deputation which I attended, the Prime Minister made a statement that the first restoration to be made would be a restoration-

Mr.Ward. - On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I desire to know whether the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) is entitled to make a personal explanation at this stage. Does the honorable member for Watson say that he has been misrepresented?


The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The remarks to which the honorable member for Watson takes objection took place during extraneous discussion which I ruled out of order.


Mr Jennings - The honorable member for Hunter alleges that at that deputation the Prime Minister stated that the first restorations effected would be made in the invalid and old-age pensions.


Mr Garden - On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, the honorable member for Watson cannot claim that he has been misrepresented. The only statement made by the honorable member for Hunter was that the honorable member for Watson was present at the deputation.


The CHAIRMAN - That is no point of order.


Mr Jennings - The statement made by the Prime Minister-


Mr Garden - On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I want to emphasize that the statement made by the honorable member for Hunter was only that the honorable member for Watson was present at the deputation.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Garden) has already submitted his point of order and I have already ruled it out. I desire to hear the honorable member for Watson further.


Mr Jennings - On the occasion to which the honorable member for Hunter refers, the Prime Minister said, to the best of my knowledge and belief, that restoration of the invalid and old-age pensions would be considered when the condition of the finances of the country warranted it.


Mr Ward - That is what the honorable member for Hunter has contended.


Mr James - On a personal explanation, I repeat that the honorable member for Watson was present when I introduced a deputation to the Prime Minister asking for a restoration of salaries. On that occasion the Prime Minister said that a restoration of the pension was not warranted, but immediately the position of the country improved, the pensioners would receive first consideration.


Mr Lyons - I think I am entitled, Mr. Chairman, at this stage to make a personal explanation, in view of the two statements made by the honorable member, both of which are contradictory and both of which are incorrect. The honor-, able member for Hunter said that when the deputation was interviewing me and on another occasion I made a statement that the first to receive the restoration of their cuts would be the pensioners.


Mr James -I qualified my statement.


Mr Lyons - The honorable member qualified it because he knew it was incorrect. The honorable member then tried to suggest that I made the stupid statement that, though the financial circumstances would not then permit of restoration, as soon as sufficient improvement had taken place I would restore the pensions first. The honorable member has too much common sense to imagine that any one would make such a statement. It carries on its face its own contradiction.


Mr James - Nevertheless, I repeatthat the honorable gentleman did make that statement. The honorable member for "Watson has also said that he made it.







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