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Friday, 9 July 1915

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I have listened with a good deal of care and attention to what the Minister had to say in introducing this Bill. I quite agree with everythinghe said, and it is largely because of my agreement with him that I . am in disagreement with the provisions contained in this Bill. The Minister's statement, coupled with knowledge already in the possession of every honorable senator, makes it very apparent that the Ministers- - not only the Minister of Defence, but all the Ministers - are at the present time very much overworked. I think that, has been well understood by everybodyIf any corroboration were necessary, it has been supplied by what the Minister has said this morning. Yet this Bill provides for no relief whatever for these overworked Ministers. Not a single additional Minister is1 to be appointed to assist the Government.

Senator de LARGIE - As far as the Act of Parliament will permit, we are going to give them relief.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - -We give them no relief at all by this Bill. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that much of the work the Assistant Minister of Defence, or whatever his title may be, will have to do in the future could have been delegated to him, under present circumstances, by the Minister of Defence.

Senator de LARGIE - We are not abolishing that position.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - 1 do not lose sight of that fact, but my contention is that we are not providing any additional' .assistance. We are simply giving a man who has been in temporary occupation a permanent billet. Mr. Jensen has been doing this work up to the present, under the authority of the Minister of Defence-, though not with the power to tackle any question and settle it definitely. All he has been in a position to do in regard to any big question has been to deal, with it up. to a certain extent and to communicate his suggestion to the Minister of Defence. He has not been in a position to attach his signature to any document. All that he will be able to do in the future that he cannot do now will be to sign documents himself. Are we afraid of. the expense of going, further? I am not afraid of meeting the expenditure that would be incurred by the appointment of several more salaried Ministers. I do not contend that any expense is absolutely necessary, but is the present, when Ministers have more work than it is possible for them to do, the time to consider questions of expense? If we look at the British Parliament we find that there the question of expense has not been considered in making the appointments of additional Ministers. Members of the Opposition have been taken into the Cabinet and appointed to salaried positions. A Minister for Munitions has been appointed at a salary of £5,000 a year.

Senator de Largie - Has the total amount been increased ?

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not think there is any doubt about it.

Senator Turley - Only one additional Minister has been appointed.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Large salaries are paid to these men in. England, and the question of expense in connexion with their appointment has not been dwelt upon. It seems to me- that we are afraid of appointing an additional Minister to carry on the tremendous volume of work that, has fallen upon the Government as "the outcome of the war. We are told that the time ia not opportune for the appointment of additional' Ministers, and that we should wait until the1 war is over. '.Is it suggested that we should* wait until the need is over, and then tackle- the question ? I think not. If ever there was an occasion in the history of any country when Ministers should be saddled with responsibility, and when any Assistant Minister who is appointed should take full responsibility for everything that passes above his' name, the time is the present - not the f uture, not when the war is over. At all events that is my opinion. I have no doubt at all that if we had taken in certain honorable members of the Opposition, and formed a Coalition Government, there would have been no objection to the payment of salaries to those honorable members of the Opposition. At all events, I do not think there would have been any objection from this side, and I am confident there would have been none from that. At the same time, I am confident that honorable members sitting on this side are just as capable of managing the affairs of the .country as they would have been had honorable members of the Opposition been called in to help. So that I do not see that we should have been in any better position had we formed a Coalition Government. The present Government are doing the work of the country to-day, and there is no reason why ample salaries should not be paid if in the opinion of this Parliament it is considered necessary that they should be paid. I hope that Senator O'Keefe will move the amendment that he has suggested. He contends that it is absolutely necessary to have a Minister of Works and Railways. At the present time our works are distributed over all the Departments. The Defence Department carries out its own- works; the Department of External Affairs carries out its own works ; the Post Office carries out its own works. These works are carried out in a haphazard way, and it is admitted that they are not carried out in a successful way. I think that a Works Department should be created; also a Railway Department. It is proposed to appoint a Committee of members of both sides and of both Houses in connexion with the prosecution of the war, a step which should have been taken some time ago, and the creation of this Committee will in itself be sufficient justification for the appointment of another Minister. The Government, in this regard, seem to display fear, or else they have not thoroughly awakened to the seriousness of the position. They propose to wait until the war is over before they appoint other Ministers and set their house in order. If ever there was a time in which they should set their house in order it is the present. I regret that it was not done months ago, but even now it is not too' late to do so, and the amendment suggested by Senator O'Keefe will effect something in that direction. Not only should we have two additional Ministers; we should also have two further Assistant Ministers appointed. I never entertained the idea that another portfolio should be created without the appointment of other Assistant Ministers. Because the work that Ministers have to undertake is rapidly piling up. We learn to-day that the Vice-President of the Executive Council is to be taken from the Postal Department where he has done good work, and where undoubtedly there is sufficient work for a second industrious and capable Minister, and put in the Defence Department. I have no fault to find with the proposal to take Senator Gardiner away from the Postal Department, and place him in the Defence Department; but I am anxious to know who is now going to help the Postmaster-General, because, if another Honorary Minister is not to take the place of Senator Gardiner in the Postal Department, it will mean that a Minister will be deprived of the assistance that he is now getting. In fact, unless other Ministers are appointed, the Government will be in a worse position than the present, and I therefore trust that they will take this matter in hand immediately, and not put it off until the war is over, when the urgency of the bulk of the work will be gone. In hoping that Senator O'Keefe will submit his amendment, I am not pleading for further expenditure, but I am pleading for greater efficiency.

Senator MAUGHAN (QUEENSLAND) - We cannot have greater efficiency without expenditure.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There would be certain expenditure in the matter of salaries. The only advantage the country will get from the Bill before us is that £1,650 will have been added to the expense of the Government.

Senator Lynch - It should be a great deal more.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I would have no objection to increasing the amount. If the Bill had provided salaries for two or three additional Ministers, I would agree to it with a great deal more cheerfulness than I support the measure in its present form, and if Senator O'Keefe is not prepared to move an amendment I shall do so, in order to show that I thoroughly believe in the need for increasing the number of Ministers. However, as Senator O'Keefe was the first to make the suggestion, I hope that he will stick to his guns and submit the amendment, for then we shall learn whether or not Honorary Ministers are to be appointed to take some of the work off the shoulders of Ministers.

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