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Thursday, 17 November 1938

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- I am opposed to the proposal that the bill should come into operation on the 7th day of November, 1938, or, indeed, on. any other date; but inasmuch as the House has decided . that the bill, in principle, is to become law, I move the following amendment: -

That the words " the seventh day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirtyeight " be Omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words "a date to be fixed by proclamation, not earlier than two years after the seventeenth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight ".

It is possible that, by the date I have suggested, not only will a better frame of mind have developed in the legislature, but also that then, or about then, general elections will be held. If the elections are then over, it is possible that a new Government will be here, and that the issue of the proclamation will then be further postponed; but, if, on the contrary, the general elections have not taken place, then my honorable friends opposite, being so soon to face their masters, may exhibit a change of spirit more consistent with the policy, if I may adopt the disrespectful phrase of my friend the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), of " dropping the loot ".' The reasons for the hostility to this measure on the part of His Majesty's Opposition have been very well stated by honorable members on this side of the chamber, and I must not refer to the terms of the debate further than to say that, in my opinion, if any earlier date than that which I' have suggested were fixed for the bill to come into operation, it would create a scandal in the electorate and would be in the nature of an affront to the electors as a whole.

Mr Ward - Hear, hear!

Mr BRENNAN - I am pleased to know that that view finds very general acceptance in the ranks of the Opposition. Why the 7th day of November, 1938? Why should this bill be deemed to come into operation on a date earlier than the passage of the bill? This is the 17th day of November, and the bill is not yet law; these salaries have not yet been approved, and the Government is so eager in the pursuit of an unearned increment to the salaries of Ministers that, not content with making the bill come into operation from the date on which, in the ordinary course, it might be expected to receive Royal assent, Ministers want to draw fourteen days' back pay in respect of this measure. Fourteen days retrospective payment to gentlemen on £2,000 a year, and not one penny available for Christmas relief for the unemployed of this country!

Mr Casey - The honorable member accepted retrospective increase of his own allowance.

Mr BRENNAN - Is the Treasurer happy about it; is he in need of the money ? These are the questions, or some of them, which I desire to have answered. I have the gravest objection to .retrospective legislation of any kind, and I think it is only in special circumstances, for the purpose of redressing some obvious grievance, of restoring some acknowledged right, or of establishing some unanswerable principle of rectitude, that retrospective legislation should be agreed to by this chamber. Is this bill for the purpose of establishing some acknowledged right? It is not. It is for the purpose, I would like to say if I. were permitted to do so, of making a very gross invasion upon the taxpayers' resources for the purpose of bettering the conditions of certain gentlemen opposite. These gentlemen are now to draw £15,000 or more in the present circumstances of the Commonwealth's finances than was drawn by Ministers in the trough of the depression when the Scullin Government made an honest endeavour to correct the unfavorable trade balance.

Mr Stacey - That is not correct.

Mr BRENNAN - It is, and I challenge the honorable member to cite the precise figures. Does the honorable member know a single thing about it, or is it not a fact that he is solely being voted into this in the party meeting, and is recording a silent vote in this chamber? He has not addressed himself to the subject at all, not a word has he uttered about it.

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