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Friday, 9 July 1915

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - On the second reading I said I accepted the Bill as offering a small modicum of relief, but not as a serious effort to deal with a real difficulty. When I made that statement I was under the impression that it was intended to strengthen the Ministerial team, but I understand that since I spoke the Minister of Defence has made a statementthat it is not intended to add -to the number of Ministers already acting. If that is so, the plain fact remains that the Bill will afford no relief to 'Ministers, but will simply add to Ministerial salaries.

Senator Stewart - All it does is to give a " screw " to brother Jensen.

Senator MILLEN - That" is its simple purpose. If the Ministerial team is to continue to embrace only the gentlemen who formed it. before,, the sole effect of the Bill is to enlarge the amount which will be paid to them from the Consolidated Revenue. I take no exception to that payment. I entirely indorse Senator Lynch's remarks in that regard. If there is one thing in which the Democracy of Australia is making a fatal mistake it is in following the Democracies of other parts of the world in trying to pay their public men sums of money which would be laughed at in other callings.

Senator Maughan - I do not think that is the general desire -of the Democracy.

Senator MILLEN - We have seen ii in other countries, and I have heard in the Parliament of my own State a proposal to give a little over £2,000 a year to the finest railway administrator Australia ever saw bitterly fought and contested ion the ground that the salary was excessive. I hope the Democracy of Australia is growing out of that failing. The Bill was a disappointment to me this morning. It is made more so this afternoon by the Ministerial announcement. That, however, is a matter for which the Government must take the responsibility.

The burden is there. If they are content to continue with only the- physical and mental strength they had before, that is their responsibility. I would draw attention to the fact that the present allocation of duties of Ministers is not entirely satisfactory. I am accepting the Bill merely as an expedient to meet an emergency. It does not seem to me now to do even that, but this was the view I took of it when I first read it. I would point out to Senator Newland that, if we are going to alter the number of Ministers now proposed, we ought to do so in circumstances which will enable us to review all the Ministerial positions and the duties allotted to them. The time is not opportune for that. It would be rather disappointing to the people outside, and of little benefit to us, if we attempted to-day to consider the re-allotment of Ministerial duties. It has always appeared to me to be an absolute necessity that the Prime Minister should be free from the cares of a Department. The Prime Minister has enough to do now to keep in touch with his various colleagues and the Ministerial work under their control, and to look after those big public affairs, and very often, if you. like, those big public functions, at, which it is necessary for him to appear, without taking into his hands any administrative work, except, those communications which must pass through his hands between the; Government and the- Imperial authorities. If we leave with the Prim© Minister the foreign or external affairs we shall give him sufficient work, if he has to carry with it all those multitudinous, but indefinable, duties attached to his position as. Prime Minister. The difficulty is that we cannot have a Prime Minister with no Department without raising the question of whether he is entitled to- any salary. The sooner we alter our Constitution - if that is necessary - to enable us to say that, with the growing administrative work of the Commonwealth -

Senator de Largie - What! more referenda ?

Senator MILLEN - I am not frightened of' referenda on sensible proposals. All1 1 object to is harassing the people on proposals which are not- sensible: The sense of the Houses is with me on this subject. I have discussed it with many honorable members, and the sooner the idea is> ventilated, and the people understand the necessity for the change, the sooner the time will arrive when we can effect it. At present the anomalous position is that the Prime Minister is compelled to accept a Department, in actuality or appearance, in order. that there may be no possible question of his- right to draw a share of the Ministerial salary. We have not many people in this country whose resources enable them to devote themselves to public work, and at the same time sustain themselves out of their own means. We have not that class here, and, perhaps, that is one of the glories and advantages of Australian politics. When the number of Ministers is being altered the question of the Prime Minister's duties should be adjusted. It has always been an anomaly to me that we allocate to the so-called Minister of External Affairs things which are really internal. Surely the Northern Territory is not an external affair. The real external affairs are those which pass beyond Australia, and the only man entitled to talk on them should be the Prime Minister. If we hand over to him those things which are truly external we shall have no room for the Minister of External Affairs, and the duties he now discharges could be properly brought under Home Affairs. The functions of the Home Affairs Department so far as. they relate to works could then form the proper subject for a Works Department.

Senator Maughan - A former Prime Minister held the office of External Affairs.

Senator MILLEN - Originally that was so, and if the- Prime Minister has a portfolio at all he should have only that dealing with affairs' external to Australia. Whilst Senator Newland's proposal is in the right direction-, it would, if adopted now:, open' up. a tremendous call for readjustment of all our administrative duties, and in that way the purpose of the Bill to meet an immediate emergency would be defeated.

Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The trouble is that it does not meet it.

Senator- MILLEN.- I admit that it does not. I have said that the Bill is a disappointment to me, especially since I have; learned that the Government are going- on with the- same number of members as before^ and that the sole, effect of the Bill is that the taxpayers will be called on to bring their emoluments- a little- nearer to a reasonable figure. In the circumstances Senator Newland might agree not to press the amendment; otherwise we shall he in the awkward position indicated by Senator Pearce. I firmly believe we ought to have a reconsideration of the whole of the Ministerial positions, but I do not see how it can be done now.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - The Bill is in our hands.

Senator MILLEN - Of course honorable senators can tie the Bill up.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - We are here to deal- with it, to give our best attention to it, and improve it.

Senator MILLEN - Surely the honorable senator does not think that we can to-day, within the scope of the Bill, properly go into the matter of the reallotment of Ministerial duties and re-adjust the whole position? Things will not be satisfactory until we can deal with the subject properly. We could not, under this Bill, deal with the question of the Prime Minister's duties, which I regard as the starting point of a re-adjustment of Ministerial duties generally.

Senator Lt Colonel O'Loghlin - That can wait.

Senator MILLEN - Then the other can wait. I do not think we are paying our Ministers or many of our high public officials enough, but we must remember the announcement of the Minister of Defence yesterday that it is necessary to make some levy on the material resources of the country. I do not think 'a"e should be setting a good example, or that our action would be hailed as a genuine indication of the desire and intention of Parliament to share in these privations, if, at this juncture, we unduly loaded the civil list. In the circumstances, I would urge Senator Newland to follow Senator Pearce 's advice and withdraw the amendment.

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