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Friday, 9 August 1946

Mr MARTENS (Herbert) .- This is the last opportunity I shall have to speak in. this chamber. After eighteen years' service as the representative, of the people in the electorate of Herbert, I retire with a record, of which I am not ashamed. When I was first elected to theNational Parliament, in February, 1928, I made a promise at the declaration of the poll that I would do my very best to represent the interests of. the electors of Herbert fairly and fearlessly as long as T continued to hold their confidence. I believe I still hold their confidence, but' certain things have happened, over which I have no control, as the result' of which another Labour candidate will contest the Herbert seat at the forthcoming -elections. I have no doubt that the Labour Government will be returned to office because of its splendid record in one of the most difficult and trying periods in the history of this nation.

On more than one occasion I have been called' a unificationist. I believe in the National Parliament being clothed' with full powers. I do not desire that the State parliaments should be .abolished, however, until either cantons or local governing provinces with clearly defined powers are created to take their place. This Parliament should be clothed with supreme authority, the cantons or local governing provinces being- vested, with delegated powers to give effect to decisions on matters of. national policy made by this Parliament. A written constitution is- not sufficiently flexible to meet the changing conditions of our times. Our Constitution was based on the American model, and ' the greatest difficulty has been experienced in altering it to meet changing circumstances, because the people have been swayed too much by opposing factions in the National and State parliaments. Irrespective of what government has been in office, I have supported every referendum of the people which has had for its object the clothing of this Parliament with additional powers. In ' every State the capital city is the centre on which every thing converges. It is true that some attempt has been made in Queensland to decentralize- governmental activities, but not much has yet been . achieved in that direction. With the exception of a- break of three years, Labour governments have been in office in that State since 1915. For economic and other- reasons' the- State governments will not easily yield to the Commonwealth the powers they now possess. I regret that, because I believe the time has arrived when there should be- a complete redesigning of our legislative machinery. As long as the State Parliaments retain their legislative powers Labour will continue to govern in Queensland because of the hopeless muddle which surrounds the- parties now in that State. That is also true of New South Wales and will continue to be so long as Mr. "Ernie" White- " Winalot " .White - remains associated with the Liberal party in that State.

Some time ago, an Australian traveller mentioned, on his return from a visit overseas, the excellence of the amenities provided for members of the legislature1 of the countries which he had visited, and the comparatively generous allowances paid to members. Few people realize the enormous expense which members of Parliament incur in looking after the needs of their constituents.. Some people believe, that members are served with meals at the refreshment rooms free of charge, and that the parliamentary allowance of £1,000 a year represents the net return to the member. Nothing could be further from the truth. After eighteen years membership of the national Parliament, I leave, it no better off than when I- joined it.. I know men who have been members of Parliament for a much longer period, who during the period of their service have held Ministerial office, and who have retired from active politics, absolutely penniless. The common belief that this Parliament is a sort of rich man's club is very wide of the- truth. The amenities provided in this building are a disgrace to- the nation . There is npt one room set aside in thi? building where members can conduct private interviews with' their constituents or friends. They have to conduct their private business in the King's- Hall or the lobbies, or perhaps obtain the use of a room from- one pf the more fortunate senators. . I trust that when the new Parliament assembles improved amenities will be provided in. this building and that consideration will he given to an increase of the parliamentary allowance. Consideration might also be given to the granting of special zone allowances to those members who represent large constituencies in which they have to travel many thousands of miles to contact but a. small proportion of their electors. I understand that members of the United States Congress ' are paid an allowance equivalent to £2,000 per annum, and th at a move -is now being made to increase the allowance to the equivalent of £3,150 per annum. I do not suggest what would be an appropriate allowance to pay to members of the national Parliament of this country, but I do urge that, whatever rate may be fixed, an additional allowance should be paid to members who represent the larger electorates. The electorates of the honorable members for Kennedy (Mr! Riordan) and Maranoa (Mr.. Adermann) cover 300,000 and 200,000 square miles respectively. The greater part of those electorates is not served by rail and their representatives are compelled , to travel many thousands of miles by motor car, yet they receive no allowance to compensate them for the running and upkeep of their motor vehicles. \

I am glad of this opportunity to say a word or two to the people of Herbert. Fortunately the proceedings in this House are being broadcast to-day and thus my words will be heard by many more people than they could otherwise reach. To those who elected me to this Parliament in 1928, I give' my sincere thanks. I was returned in that year with a majority of 154. At the following election in October, 1929, my majority had grown to over 3,000. Since the preferential system of voting was adopted, I have been returned with majorities ranging from 14,000 to 19,000. The major portion of the work of a member of Parliament is done outside this building - interviewing electors, dealing with complaints, answering .correspondence, endeavouring to have anomalies -adjusted, and undertaking all the work associated with the conduct of election campaigns and the like. A parliamentary career is a .fulltime job, and after twenty years as a member of the Parliament, I must confess that I am a little glad to be on the eve of retiring. From the bottom of my heart I thank the people of Herbert for the trust and confidence they have reposed in me and for having given to me the opportunity and privilege to represent them in this Parliament for such a long period.

I propose now to say a few words about the parliamentary staffs. In the Hansard staff we have a body of men whose worth we all recognize; they write very good speeches for us, and invariably express our thoughts in polished language. Every new member coming into this House has received the greatest assistance from the Hansard staff, from the Principal Parliamentary Reporter down to the newest recruit. Their courtesy and- the excellence of their work are helpful to all of us. We are fortunate to .have a highly skilled library staff which never fails to supply the information that we seek. The officers of the House of Representatives have invariably been most helpful to honorable members. In my dealings with' departmental heads in the Public Service - often referred to as bureaucrats by honorable members opposite - I have always received the utmost courtesy and consideration. To you, Mr. Speaker, I pay tribute for the assistance that you have always rendered to me and the courtesy that you have shown to me. I also thank honorable members generally for their kindly co-operation throughout my association with them. I have found that my opponents hit hard but always, or nearly always, above the belt. In turn they have been hit hard, but have borne no rancour. It is a glorious recollection that I have clashed with opponents many times but have found them big enough to accept my hand of personal friendship after the heat pf the political battle has waned. I shall leave parliamentary life with no feelings of regret at my stage in life, knowing that 1 have been given a "fair go" by practically everybody in the Parliament. I leave it at that, saying a political goodbye to all.

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