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Wednesday, 16 November 1938


Mr BRENNAN (Batman) . When the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) proceeded to examine the ministerial offices I had an uneasy feeling that he intended to go through the whole list; but, having dealt with moderate success with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), he proceeded without misadventure as far as the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), when h'e crashed. During the Minister's speech a Government supporter interjected to an honorable member on this side, that as he had never been AttorneyGeneral ' he ought not to interject. For an all-too-brief period I was AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth. I say " all too brief " for, like the PostmasterGeneral, I am thinking of the interests of the nation rather than of my own. When I hear of the Attorney-General being overworked and call to mind his exertions in this chamber, I am amazed at the temerity of his colleague.


Mr ARCHIE Cameron - I did not say that the Attorney-General was overworked, but that he had an onerous task to perform.


Mr BRENNAN - The Minister is now retracting his statement.


Mr Archie Cameron - Not at all.


Mr BRENNAN - Although the PostmasterGeneral spoke of the work of the Attorney-General that has to be done, the Attorney-General does not do it. I have had a fairly long parliamentary experience, but I have never known a Minister who, in racing parlance, has been so little extended as the Attorney-General has been. It has always appeared to me that the right honorable gentleman is a little bored at holding an office which gives so little scope for the display of his undoubted talents. If the right honorable gentleman will recall the days when he was working for himself at the bar, and compares his labours then with his labours now in the interests of the nation, he must surely be impressed by the fact that he is enjoying an extended holiday. Ithas been said by the PostmasterGeneral, but not by the Attorney-General, that the latter has to examine every bill tomake sure that it is constitutional and without legal defects. I know that that is not so, although it may be true that the Attorney-General has to examine every bill introduced by the PostmasterGeneral. But special cases of that nature do not establish a universal rule. I admit that when I held the distinguished office of Attorney-General I frequently boasted to my overworked colleagues that I had the best job in the Cabinet. "When we speak of the colossal labours of Ministers, it appears to be forgotten that Ministers, who come and go with disquieting frequency, and at times unexpectedly, have at all times the support of a highlytrained and expert Public Service. Thus it is that honorable gentlemen like the Attorney-General are free to engage in private practice while holding public positions under the Crown. ThoughI do not think that the right honorable gentleman has given much time to private concerns sinceI so roundly berated him for taking a private brief when he was representing the Commonwealth in London, I have no doubt that he is free to do so, and sometimes does.

Mr.Ward. - The right honorable gentleman still has a few directorates.


Mr BRENNAN - It is not for me to make this debate a personal one.


Mr Menzies - Why not? The honorable member generally does so.


Mr BRENNAN - I have never done so. I have never criticized the AttorneyGeneral or any other honorable gentleman in this Parliament except on grounds of policy, and in connexion with the discharge of public affairs. I conceive it my right and duty fearlessly to do so, although it is unpleasant, since it involves criticism, perhaps unkindly, of men whom I should prefer to praise. On general principle, I have no objection to handsome salaries, generous salaries, and, certainly, adequate salaries, or to increases of salaries, although I adopt in its entirety the argument of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr, Ward), who pointed out that the moneys for the increased salaries come out of the Treasury, and that it is ironical that we should be compelled to compare the conditions of the working class outside this chamber with the lot of those who draw handsome salaries as Ministers, and, if you like, as members of Parliament, within this chamber. Generally, I do not attack salaries; they should be adequate, and this country should be able to provide adequate and even generous wages to its people. My argument, therefore, is not at all directed on penurious lines, or upon pinchpenny lines. My argument against this measure is directed broadly to the view that this bill is really a ministerial device, one of a succession of ministerial devices, intended to cover up embarrassment arising from disunity within the ranks of the Ministry and from competition within the ranks of the supporters of the Ministry, as the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) has pointed out, for place, position, honour, and pay. Therehas been, and continues to be, an inept diffusion of the work which has to be done by Ministers, and I am satisfied that the appointment of an additional Minister arises not from the necessities of the case, but from a desire, amounting to a necessity, indeed, on the part of the Prime Minister to placate his critics on his own side of the House and to keep them as working supporters of his Government. That state of affairs inevitably arises out of what is known as a coalition government. If there were on the Treasury bench a team of men holding similar political and economic views, and subscribing to doctrines which each one was not merely prepared to support, but also driven by conscience to support, there would be a government coherent in itself supported by a coherent and loyal party. But when it becomes necessary, as it has become necessary in this Parliament, for the party, which previously held the reins of government by its own strength, to enlist the support of those who have nothing politically or economically in common with it to maintain the Government, the seeds of disunity are sown. Then, immediately, begins that condition of unrest which is exemplified to-night, that which leads to the appointment of another Minister to placate another member of the party. That is why, especially, I strongly criticize and oppose the passage of this bill. Parliamentary government is on its trial, and, in my view, for parliamentary government to be successful, its executive should be as small as possible, and its parliament as free as possible. As soon as it becomes the practice of a democracy to create an executive - call it what you will - to overawe Parliament, you enter a system of the invasion of the rights of Parliament, and finally an invasion of the democratic rights of the people who create Parliament. Therefore, I view with grave suspicion and disquiet this tendency on the part of the Ministry to gather to itself additional strength by additional numbers. That is a policy of placating supporters ; a policy of creating hopes in the breasts of supporters that they will be admitted some day to tho charmed circle.

Whereas I have sometimes had occasion to criticize the Government for the fact that few, if any, members of the Ministry are to be found upon the front bench when, in some cases, millions of pounds of money are being passed, or, in other cases, when most important measures are being passed, to-night I must, with other honorable gentlemen, congratulate the Ministers, who have presented a united front on the front bench for the purpose of defending the oitadel of their pecuniary interests.

If, for a moment, we examine the offices which Ministers fill, it becomes apparent that, if the educated Public

Service is to be utilized, some of these Ministers, half Ministers, assistant Ministers, and secretaries, and, if I may say, " hangers-on if not all, could very well be done without. It would be pitiful if, for instance, we were led to suppose that a Minister like the honorable gentleman who now alone decorates the front bench, the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Thompson) could do in the Department of Commerce work which could not be well done by a trained officer of the Public Service in that, department. Of course, we all know that he can do nothing of the kind. We could not hope that one would be an efficient public servant in an office who, in the Parliament itself, fulfils a purely decorative, rather than a useful, purpose. Much of the alleged additional work of the Cabinet arises from the half-baked measures introduced by the Government itself. It no sooner introduces a measure than it desires to amend it in response to the public clamour which rises in protest against it. Does any one suggest that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) is overworked? If he is, he is merely overworked in making propositions which are unacceptable to the head of the Government, or in correcting a course which he takes from time to time, which i9 not acceptable to the Prime Minister. It is this radical departure from Cabinet responsibilities - this inept management and failure to hold the Government team together - which makes it, apparently, necessary, when it is not really necessary, to increase the number of Ministers. Why was this departure from past parliamentary practice made in the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries, who, after having been appointed, have not been employed to attend to some of the extra work which, it is claimed, is a justification for the appointment of another Minister? I criticized these appointments in a speech which I made the other day when I pointed out that in the House of Commons. Parliamentary Secretaries are appointed and take responsibility at the table, and also answer questions and generally represent in one chamber a Minister who may be carrying on his work in another chamber of the mother of parliaments, which, by the way, presides over, not 7,000,000 people as does this Parliament, hut 40,000,000. Here Parliamentary Secretaries have been appointed, and that is the last we have heard of them, l t does not appear that they render any service whatever for Ministers; no justification whatever has been advanced for their appointment.

The Postmaster-General has said that the Prime Minister is over-worked. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Baker) made a sufficient answer to that statement when he referred to the work discharged by the right 'honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when he was Prime Minister. It seems that the present Prime Minister is over-worked, but it is mainly in running from one Minister to another, appointing new Ministers, and reconstructing in order to hold his tottering Cabinet together and not in doing administrative work in the interests of this country. The position is not entirely one of money, but the fact remains that if one makes a comparison between Minis- ferial salaries of to-day and those in the trough of the depression, when it was the misfortune of myself and my acting leader to be members of the Government, one finds the annual appropriation for the payment of salaries of Ministers, inincluding their salaries as members, is approximately £15,000 more. That is a substantial sum, and it has rightly been pointed out by another honorable member that, in any circumstances, it is proposed under this measure to allocate an amount which is greater than the salary proposed to be paid to the new Minister. Apparently that sum "will go into the Ministerial pool. All I can say about the whole matter is that, in a parliamentary sense, this action smacks to me of very grave indecency. The time for such action is peculiarly inappropriate. Prom the Government's point of view, at least, it is said that we are in grave danger in a national sense, and that we must work harder and make greater sacrifices for the safety of- the country. A lot of that talk is, of course, mere hysteria and make-believe; it is part of a policy of terrorization that should be discountenanced. However. it is the point of view of the Government, which adds to its salary as its part of the sacrifice. It appointed a new Minister for Defence. That, I think, was a change for the better. A new Minister for Defence having been appointed, a very convenient opportunity was afforded his predecessor to take a well-deserved rest on the back benches. Instead, however, the Government has taken advantage of the occasion to create, with a great flourish of trumpets and war-mongering fervour, the idea that it is necessary to give the exMinister for Defence a large number of other activities, all of which are, more or less, associated with the business of warhysteria and war-mongering.

By this time honorable members opposite, I believe, must regret that this measure has been introduced at all. It leaves an unpleasant taste in the palates of the electors. I doubt whether the Treasurer himself could possibly have approved of it, and one does not know to what degree opposition was raised to it individually, because the matter is obviously one for settlement in the party room rather than in the Parliament. At all events the Opposition claims the right to express its views, and for the reasons submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members on this side, I intend, with great enthusiasm, to vote against the measure.

Debate (on motion by Mr. McCall) adjourned.







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