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Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) . - I wish to make two points in regard to the Bill before the Senate. The first point relates to the increase in Parliamentary salaries and the second point relates to the method used to increase Parliamentary salaries. In my 18 years in parliaments I have never discussed a salary bill. On this occasion I am neither opposing nor supporting the increase. I think it is highly improper for anyone who has an outside source of income to discuss what his fellow members of Parliament should receive. For that reason I do not discuss the question of what is a proper parliamentary salary. However, I feel that the whole question of the salary increase is slightly indecent when considered in relation to our status as members of Parliament. I fail to see why the Government cannot tie parliamentary salaries to a structure such as the salaries of heads of departments, the basic wage, or to some such system, so that if there is an increase in the structure to which parliamentary salaries are tied, they are automatically increased. This system would be advantageous, especially in regard to adjustments to the cost of living or the basic wage.

I think there is nothing worse than the fact that each time parliamentary salary rises are discussed we arouse the intense hatred of the rest of Australia. Last night I had to go to Melbourne and in the short time I was away from Canberra I was bombarded by people who are completely opposed to the increases in Parliamentary salaries. This is nothing new. Everyone is opposed to increases in salaries for members of other professions. If doctors wish to increase their fees, immediately there is an outcry. If the salaries of civil servants are increased, again there is an outcry. If the workers at General Motors-Holden's Pty. Ltd. seek increases in pay, again there is an outcry. As soon as members of Parliament wish to put up their salaries, a similar outcry occurs. Everyone believes that his own professional or group salary should be increased, but that no-one else's salaries should be increased. It is the way of the world.

I do not subscribe to the view that increased pay will bring about better representation. For so long as there is a pre-selection system it will not be possible to obtain better people for Parliament by increasing parliamentary allowances. For that reason I oppose such a view. It is my own private view that an increase in the salaries of members will not result in better people being nominated. It may happen but, of course, candidates must face the hurdle of party preselection and those who are subservient to the local committee obviously receive first preference. Therefore I doubt that better representation will be obtained because of increased pay. I am totally opposed to the view that members of Parliament are philanthropists who, year after year, suffer economic hardship and just cannot continue on their salaries. I often feel like weeping for these unfortunate people, except that they are philanthropists, because it is said that, year after year, they are losing money; but when the next general election comes up, the first people to nominate are these members of Parliament in order that they can get back to Parliament and lose more money. I do not hold with the hypocritical view that members of Parliament must have an increase in salary because they cannot carry out their duties on the salary at present allotted to them.

Another aspect to which I wish to refer is that we are quite happy about increasing Parliamentary salaries, but we forget about everybody else in the community who cannot get salary increases. We are also very generous with our superannuation benefits, but we are not generous to anyone else. It is taxpayers' money we are using, as Senator Wright so ably pointed out. Our contribution to the fund - £5, or £7 in future, or whatever it is - is very small indeed when considered in relation to what we are to receive in the long run. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) resigned from the Ministry many years ago because he felt that there should be a national superannuation scheme. It is very hard to believe in the honesty of the Government in increasing parliamentary retiring allowances when it does not introduce a national superannuation scheme for the whole of the Commonwealth. As I have said, I neither oppose nor support the salary increases. 1 do not think I should enter that field of discussion, although I express my own opinion that if everyone else gets salary increases, there is no reason why members of Parliament should not also get salary increases.

I come now to the method of increasing parliamentary salaries. It is the method which has irritated the public immensely. I have not spoken to one person on this subject who has not referred to the indecent - indeed, suspicious - haste with which this has been done. We have often heard in this chamber that, justice must not only be done but must appear to be done. I am afraid that in this instance justice does not appear to have been done. We have spoken about the fact that Parliament in its sovereignty sets down the salaries of members of Parliament. That is true. But honorable senators did not hesitate when they thought things were wrong to set up a committee - a farcical committee, if I may say so, although I was not in the Federal sphere at that time - which decided magnanimously to raise their salaries. Admittedly it was a committee of advice, but is there any reason why the Senate could not have had the committee, in a slightly altered form, come forward again? This haste raises suspicion against the Government, particularly when just recently the Government, for political reasons, gazetted with undue haste regulations to help a particular company. Now members of the Parliament very smartly are moving through the process of having a bill passed by both Houses to increase their salaries.

If I write a letter to a Minister, it takes me on an average two months to get a reply. Here we are considering legislation fixing higher salaries within a day or two of the decision having been made. Not being a member of a party, I was told only yesterday afternoon after the Senate met that the Government had agreed to salary increases and that the Bill would bc introduced in the lower House immediately. We can talk in this chamber about other matters without getting any action taken. I have raised the subject of single women with babies not being entitled to medical benefits. You call yourselves Christians, but you sit here smugly and could not care less about these people. Such assistance means a lot to this sort of person, but you do nothing about it because it does not affect you. But when your salaries are concerned you are unanimous and speed things up as much as you can. I have raised the position of pensioners who are inmates of mental institutions. Everybody else in this chamber and everybody else that I know of agrees that an alteration should be made, but you do nothing about it. But when 3'ou come back to your salaries, the matter is attended to quickly.

This sort of action annoys the public. Without question, members of the Parliament are entitled to an increase. I think everybody agrees that particularly those who have been here for a long time are entitled to an increase. But why can we not again set up a committee to investigate the matter? Such a committee should be independent. It should have as its members people who can assess the economic position of members of Parliament. Indeed, the committee could make an economic survey of what members of Parliament earn and what they have to spend. I do not believe - probably other honorable senators are of the same opinion - that members of Parliament should have to subscribe to every club or organisation that writes and asks them to become its vice-president or patron. There are thousands of clubs in the community. Such requests are utter blackmail. If members think they should become vicepresidents or patrons of clubs, that is their business. If they feel that they must do that to retain their seats and their incomes, that is their business and is not the concern of anybody else. But that sort of thing should not be taken into account in an economic survey of the amount of money that members of Parliament should get.

I know that many members of another place and of this place agree with me when I say that this measure is being stampeded through. The public does not like that. No one will disagree with me when I say that you have a right to an increase in salary. But why can you not do it as you did it in the past? Any increase granted as a result of an investigation by a committee could be made retrospective to 1st November.

Senator Ormonde - That would cause a row.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - It would not cause a row if we brought the matter out into the open and said that we proposed to increase our salaries. I know that increases are not popular, but why not give the public a chance to learn about them in advance? Anyhow I do not think you should increase your salaries until the next election. You should come out into the open before an election and say: " We propose to increase our salaries ". It would not matter, because people have to vote for either the Liberal Party or the Labour Party, except in Tasmania.

Senator Branson - We are on the eve of an election.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - But it is not an election for both Houses. Members should wait until there is to be a general election and then say: " We propose to increase our salaries". Then they would be doing it openly and, theoretically, no-one would have a kick against them. If members of the Parliament are entitled to a higher salary, they have nothing to be ashamed of. They should set up a committee to advise them, especially in regard to the points raised by Senator Wright. I do not know whether an actuarial statement has been prepared. I presume one has been prepared. Is one available, Mr. President, for us to see? If one is available, it should be tabled or put in the main party rooms and in my room and the party room of the Australian Democratic Labour Party so that we can study it. From what Senator Wright had to say it would seem that the figures produced are not correct. They might be correct, but that could easily be determined by reference to an actuarial report.

Senator Cavanagh - Senator Wright did not suggest that they were not correct. He said that he did not know.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - -Well, Senator Wright does not know; he is very doubtful about it.

Senator Cavanagh - He would not suggest that they were not correct.

Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - He may not have suggested that they were not correct, but he thought it possible that they were not accurate. In any case, Senator Wright may raise the point himself at the Committee stage. The need for an increase in salaries should have been placed before a committee. Both of the major parties could have said to the public: " We propose to increase our salaries. We intend to submit the matter to a committee for consideration, and propose to date the increase as from 1st November". I do not think there would have been any complaint about that. That is how this matter should have been handled.

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