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Friday, 9 July 1915

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) .. - I welcome this short measure as far as it goes, but I do not think it goes far enough. It would be better, in the interests of the Commonwealth, to make clause 2 read, " the number of Ministers of State may exceed seven, but shall not exceed nine." Although we are bending all our energies to the successful conduct of the operations connected with the war, the business of the country must' go on. It could go on far better if still another portfolio were created in addition to the one provided for in the Bill. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, virtually acknowledged the necessity for such a course, but said it was a matter for future consideration. We are making two bites at a cherry. It would be better to do all that is required in one measure. I believe the majority of honorable members of both Houses agree with the view I am putting forward. I am not going to oppose the Bill or move an amendment, but

I state definitely my opinion that in addition to a Minister of Home Affairs there ought to be a Minister of Works, or, as he could be called, a Minister of Works and Railways. There has been a great deal of grumbling, not only by honorable members of both Blouses, but by the public, that certain things were not being done in connexion, not only with the Department of Defence, but in connexion with the Home Affairs Department. It is complained that information cannot be got as quickly as it should be. The reason is plain - that the Minister of Home Affairs is also overworked, and while the duties of Ministers are being re-allocated, it would be far better to do the job thoroughly. Senator Millen said it was the intention of the Government to which he belonged to create additional portfolios. He did not say an additional portfolio, and I take it that had that Government stayed in office another portfolio, as well as the one now contemplated, would have been created. This shows that if such a measure had been brought down by the present Government it would have had the approval of at least the leading members of the Opposition. In addition to nine Ministers with portfolios, it would probably be advisable to have one Honorary Minister in each House, so that there would always be one man ready to take the place of a Minister who, through sickness or other cause, might be unable to attend to his duties.

Senator Millen - The Minister of Defence has no time to be sick.

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