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Wednesday, 16 November 1938


Mr LYONS (Wilmot) (Prime Minister) . - I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

The object of this measure is to amend the existing legislation relating to the number of Ministers of State, and to the annual appropriation of Ministers' salaries. The present act provides that the number of Ministers of State shall not exceed ten, and that the annual appropriation for the payment of their salaries shall not exceed £16,950. Honorable members will recall that, when 1 announced the personnel of the present Government, I pointed out that a division of the duties of the Minister for Defence was intended. Complaints had been received from honorable members, and from people outside, that the amount of work that fell upon the Minister for Defence was too great for one individual to undertake, particularly in these difficult times. So it was decided that relief should be given to the Minister for Defence by separating from the defence portfolio the control of defence works and the administration of the Civil Aviation Department. The present bill provides for an increase of the number of Ministers to eleven, and an increase of their salaries from £.16,950 to £1S,600. The extra sum of £1,650 will provide for the remuneration of the additional Minister. I do not think that it is necessary for me to enlarge upon the necessity for this bill. Much of the criticism recently levelled against the former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby), if it were justified at all, was justified on the ground that his duties were too heavy, particularly under the conditions which were recently experienced, and which prevail to-day.


Mr Brennan - Some Ministers have too much to do, and others have too little.


Mr LYONS - I am not altogether sure that there is not some justification for that comment. It is somewhat difficult to allocate the duties evenly among the various Ministers, but I have tried to distribute the work so that each Minister will have real responsibility. In one or two instances, a Minister has become an assistant to a portfolioed Minister, and has taken a subordinate position, having no particular work allotted to him for which he is responsible. Now, however, each Minister is responsible for some particular portion of the administration. Quite apart from defence matters, an increasing responsibility has recently been thrown on the shoulders of Ministers by reason of the developments within their own administrations, and, consequently, the appointment of an additional Minister will not only relieve the Minister for Defence, and enable him to pay close attention to the vital matters that come under his supervision, but also relieve Ministers generally, and enable them to make a better distribution than in the past of the duties and responsibilities attaching to ministerial office.

A new portfolio is being created, and provision is being asked for the annual appropriation of the salary of the additional Minister. Actually there are now ten Ministers, for whom financial provision is made by legislation; yet eleven have been regarded as having full portfolios, and have been remunerated accordingly. Financial provision has been made for the eleven Ministers without an appeal to the Parliament for an additional appropriation ; but to-day the Parliament is asked for one additional ministerial salary, although there will still be one Minister whose salary is not, an extra charge on the Treasury.


Mr Forde - Has the Vice-President of the Executive Council been paid the full ministerial salary?


Mr LYONS - Yes. He has been regarded as a full Minister, and he will b*e remunerated to the same amount as other Ministers. The Minister for Works will be Minister for defence works a-d -all other works. In addition, he will be the Minister for Civil Aviation, and in that way relief will he given to the Minister for Defence. The Minister who, in the Senate, represents the Minister for Defence, will also be associated directly with some part of the defence portfolio, and by that means we hope to give that relief to the Minister for Defence that will enable him to do his work adequately and efficiently, from the point of view of the Government and of the country.


Mr Forde -Which Minister will represent the Minister for Defence in the Senate?


Mr LYONS - Senator Foll. He will co-operate with the Minister for Defence and the Minister forWorks.


Mr Collins - Does not the right honorable gentleman himself consider that he should be relieved of some of his ministerial duties? It has been recognized for some time that he has been carrying too heavy a burden for one man.


Mr LYONS - I am not asking for any relief at all.

Following the decision of the Government to separate the Department of Works from the Department of the Interior, I have arranged that the Department of the Interior shall continue to control the following branches and activities : -

Assisted migration.

Astronomy.

Australian War Memorial.

Co-ordination of Australian Transport Services.

Elections and Franchise.

Emigration of children and aboriginals.

Forestry.

Immigration.

Indentured coloured labour.

Meteorology.

Naturalization.

Northern Territory.

Oil investigation and prospecting (encouragement of).

Passports.

Prospecting for precious metals (assistance for).

Solar Observatory.

Railways

Administration of Australian Capital Territory. (The present functions of the Canberra Services Branch and the Civic Administration Branch).

Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

A new Department ofWorks is to be established under the control of the Minister forWorks, and it will have charge of the following matters : -

Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board.

Geodesy (International map of the world, and 129th meridian).

Lands and survey - including all activities at present carried out by the Property and Survey Branch.

Properties (transferred, acquired and rented) .

Public Works, Defence works, and Services - including the installation, maintenance and operation of electric light, water and sewerage services in the Australian Capital Territory.

Rivers, roads and bridges.

River Murray Waters Commission.

It is unnecessary for me further to elaborate the grounds which justify the introduction of this bill. If only for defence purposes, it is essential, and I have no hesitation in commending it to the support of honorable members generally.







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