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Wednesday, 16 November 1938

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- I am amazed at the audacity of the Government in bringing down a measure of this description. Of course, a recent crisis in its own history clearly indicated the reason why it was decided that it was essential to have an extra Minister. Had that crisis not arisen, in all probability there would have been no claim for an additional amount of money to enable the Government to placate an individual supporter whose claims for ministerial rank were an embarrassment to it. Political expedients of the kind contained in the bill do more to harm the principles of parliamentary government and democratic institutions than anything else that could be devised. Unfortunately, however, men are prepared to use place and position to remedy a difficulty which threatens them at the expense of public revenues. The claim made by the Government for additional funds to pay the salary of an additional Minister is unwarranted, because the amount paid into the ministerial fund to-day is greater than it was even during the peak period of prosperity that was experienced during the Bruce-Page Administration. No claim has ever been made before by a Prime Minister on behalf of his government for the amount of money, exclusive of that which is now sought, that is now paid into the ministerial pool. The special plea by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that some of his Ministers are overworked is all " eyewash ", and the Prime Minister knows that it is, because within the last six months three Ministers have been away from Australia, and, in their absence, their work -was carried on by other Ministers. No suggestion was made then that the Ministers who were doing, not only their own work, but also that of the absent Ministers, were subject to an over-pressure of work. Not only have we a Cabinet of Ministers, who are alleged to be overworked, but also there are two Parliamentary secretaries.

Mr Francis - Only one now.

Mr MAKIN - That is true, but I have no doubt that another Parliamentary secretary will be appointed. The vacancy will not long be allowed to remain unfilled. What I have said substantiates my claim that there is no need for another Minister; but, if it be conceded that the Prime Minister has the right to appoint another Minister, if he feels itnecessary, in common decency his salary should be paid out of the existing ministerial fund. Only recently the Government brought down a bill which increased by £1,600 the amount voted by Parliament to be shared by the Ministers. Furthermore, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has rightly said, the Ministers had previously received £S00 a year as their ordinary parliamentary allowance, and that amount was increased to £1,000. There is a limit to the claims that can be made, and at a time like this the Government is not justified in asking Parliament to support a proposition of this character. If the Prime Minister wishes to make peace with members of his party and of the other governmental party, and if he desires to ensure his own political future on a basis of a little more comfort, he must not expect to be permitted to do it at public expense. This sort of thing has brought public life into disrepute in other parts of the world, and we shall not allow it in this country without serious opposition. The people of this country will know why the members of this Opposition refuse to sanction what the Government seeks to do. This bill will be contested at every possible stage, because it is an unwarranted claim on . the Treasury at a time when additional expenditure can be ill afforded. I join with the honorable member for Capricornia and other members of the Opposition in strongly opposing the proposal.

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