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Friday, 9 July 1915


Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - If the Minister of Defence would give honorable senators an assurance of his willingness to consider another view that I' propose to put, he would make the position much easier for some of us who would be placed in a difficulty if asked to vote upon this question. During the second-reading debate I suggested that provision should be made for an additional Minister, but I did not intend to submit an amendment. If this amendment be pressed to a division, then I certainly shall not be found speaking in one way and voting in another. It may be, however, that Senator Newland would be inclined to accede to the Minister's request if he received from him an assurance that another Honorary Minister will be appointed. Such an appointment would not involve any further legislation on the subject. When this matter was raised some time ago, I think most of us were under the impression that the object was to insure that Ministers should be no longer overworked. Ministers certainly are overworked, with the result that a number of members of Parliament cannot obtain from them that attention for which they are frequently pressing. This is not the fault of Ministers themselves. They are only human, and, as Senator Pearce has said, cannot work beyond an ordinary man's physical capacity. If the Bill be allowed to pass as it stands, that position will not be improved. I gather from a statement made by Senator Pearce before we adjourned for lunch, that it is not proposed to appoint an additional Honorary Minister to take the place of the honorable gentleman who is to be -given the portfolio of Minister of Marine. This means that there is to be no addition to the Ministerial strength - no additional Ministerial power to .be spread over the Commonwealth.


Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - In other words, there is simply to be a rearrangement.


Senator O'KEEFE - Quite so. That is entirely "disappointing to a number of honorable members of both Houses. .Senator Millen. - And on both sides.


Senator O'KEEFE - Yes. I was under the impression that another Honorary Minister would be appointed to fill the place vacated by the honorable member who is to take office as Minister of Marine, and who has been ably discharging the functions of Assistant Minister. This, however, is not to be -done. The Minister of Defence will probably find that a number -of honorable senators will consider that they must vote for this amendment, unless he can give them an assurance that the Government will reconsider its .decision not to appoint another Honorary Minister. If such an assurance be given, Senator Newland may .be inclined to withdraw his proposal, although it would be very wise to provide for the appointment of an additional Minister whenever the necessity arises.


Senator Findley - Will not the Government do that when the necessity arises ?


Senator O'KEEFE - It would be a simple matter to provide in this Bill for the number of Ministers of State being increased to nine, whenever the necessity arises. That would render it unnecessary later on to bring in an amending Bill. There should be an additional Honorary Minister to take the- place of any Minister in charge of a Department who may .unfortunately fall ill. Such an oc currence has been by no means infrequent in our experience. Hardly a month passes without a Minister being absent from his Department for a few days owing to illness due to overwork. It is always as well to have an understudy for important positions, and it is most advisable to have an Honorary Minister in each House ready to step in at a moment's notice to take up Ministerial duties.







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