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Friday, 9 July 1915

Senator O'KEEFE - The honorable senator no doubt speaks from bitter experience, because he was Minister of Defence when the war broke out, and so much additional work was thrown on his Department. I have heard the present Minister of Defence say that he was working up to the full limit of any man's physical capacity. We know that he has been working beyond the limit of an ordinary man's capacity, doing far more work and devoting far more hours to his duties than any man ought to be called on to do. That is not necessary, and if we believe there should be two additional Ministers, we should decide the question at once in the best interests of the country instead of making two bites at a cherry. The Commonwealth works to-day are enormously greater than they were at the establishment of Federation. The Constitution provided that the number of Ministers of

State may not exceed seven, but that was intended to apply to a time when the work undertaken by the Federal Government was not one-fifth of what it is to-day. Fourteen years ago the work the Federal Parliament and Federal Government had to do was not nearly so great as it is now. The expenditure that had to be handled by the Federal Government of that day was, I suppose, not more than one-tenth of what it is now.

Senator Gardiner - We were told in New South Wales that the cost of Federation to the people would not be more than the price of registering a dog - 2s. 6d. per head.

Senator O'KEEFE - The honorable senator is quite right. It was estimated, in the Convention, that the total additional cost that would be put upon the people of Australia by creating the Federal Parliament, over and above the cost of the State Parliaments, would be only £300,000 per annum. That figure has been far exceeded, and the work in every direction is infinitely greater than was contemplated at that time. We should no longer go blundering along in the same old way, hoping to come out right somehow, but should take the necessary steps to right matters at once. As I understood Senator Millen, he said that the Bill suited him, but did not go quite far enough, that the re-allocation of the duties in the Defence Department would not work out entirely to the satisfaction of the Department or the public, and that the work of attending to the supply of munitions would be greater than the present Minister, even with the assistance of the additional Minister, would be able to handle satisfactorily.

Senator Senior - We may yet need a Minister to control munitions.

Senator O'KEEFE - We may. But to-day we are face to face with the fact that we need a Minister of Works and Railways, because the work of the Government and the business of the country must continue, even though we are in the throes of this terrible war, and even though, the greater part of our energies are devoted ito its successful prosecution. The obligations of the war should not debar us from carrying on the internal work of the country as well as we possibly can. Therefore, I repeat that it would have been better had the Bill provided for nine portfolios instead of eight. I admit that such an increase would involve an alteration of clause 3, which provides the payment for the new portfolio, but, after all, in the present state of affairs, that would be a minor consideration. If the majority of honorable senators should think that it would be unwise to largely increase the payments for Ministerial service during the present strain upon the finances, the amount that will be set apart under this Bill for the payment of eight Ministers could be distributed over nine Ministers. The main question, however, is whether eight Ministers will be sufficient to effectively conduct the affairs of the country, and handle the enormous amount of work under which the Departments are now staggering. I say that the work would be better done if there were nine portfolios, and an additional Honorary Minister.

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