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Tuesday, 12 December 1911

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if there is' any of our legislation which contains a provision committing Parliament to the payment of a. certain salary ranging between a minimum and a. maximum? There is no doubt that it is desirable that an office of this kind should be created, and that somebody should be appointed to the position. I should also like to know from the Minister whether Mr. Stewart, whose capacity and application I recognise equally with him to be very great, is in the employ of the Commonwealth solely ?

Senator McGregor - Yes.

Senator KEATING - He is doing no work for the State of Victoria?

Senator McGregor - Not that I know of ; he is employed in the High Court.

Senator KEATING -- We should also know the present scope of Mr. Stewart's duties; how much he is receiving ; how far will the scope of his duties be increased by the passing of this measure, and to what extent we shall be justified in increasing his present salary.

Senator Stewart - What is he getting now ?

Senator KEATING - That is what I want to know. These are matters which should really be discussed on the Estimates. I do not think it is fair that Parliament should consider this matter, and say, " This is an office created by Parliament, and a person is appointed thereto, and his minimum salary is so much, and his maximum "so rauch." This is a totally different position from that of the High Commissioner. It is an ordinary position in the Public Service, and why should we be asked to ^commit ourselves not merely to the establishment of an office, but to the granting of a minimum salary? In the case of nearly every other public servant, his salary appears on the Estimates, and it is competent for a member of either House to question whether Parliament is justified in passing a certain sum per annum for the performance of the duties associated with the position. Why then should we be compelled in connexion with this particular appointment to an office for the performance of duties, the measure of which we cannot possibly estimate - whether they be large or small - to say that all future Parliaments shall be bound to give the occupant not less than so much, or not more than so much? It is a distinctive case, I think, in connexion with our legislation, and we should have some justification for the provision. I do not for one moment question Mr. Stewart's qualifications for the duties of the office ; but I do say that we should know more about the work associated with, the office than we do know at present, if we are to be asked to commit this Parliament, as well as future Parliaments, to the payment of a salary ranging between the amounts named.

Senator Lynch - We are not committing future Parliaments.

Senator KEATING - We are, because an amendment of this measure would be required.

Senator Lynch - Future Parliaments will be elected to repeal and pass Acts.

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