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Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator COLE (Tasmania) (Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Parly) . - In 1959 the Australian Democratic Labour Party very strenuously opposed the proposal to increase salaries and pensions of members of Parliament. The attitude of the Party to the Bill now before the Senate is similar to the attitude we adopted in 1959. At that time, we opposed the increases on the ground that an independent tribunal had been set up.

Senator Sandford - Hypocrites.

Senator COLE - The honorable senator should not be silly. We opposed the increases in 1959 on the ground that an independent tribunal had been set up. It had been our policy over the years, opposed strenuously, of course, by the Australian Labour Party, to have an independent tribunal investigate pension payments to the aged and invalid members of the community and to improve the position if possible. We thought that if it was proper to set up an independent tribunal to decide our own pensions it would be equally proper for the Parliament to set up an independent tribunal to devise a decent standard of living for the pensioners of this country. That is the attitude we took on that occasion. We did not say that the increases were not justified. In fact, we said they were justified.

Although my Party at this moment is totally opposed to increases in parliamentary salaries and pensions, there seems to be quite a difference between the legislation now before the Senate and the 1959 legislation. As I have said, on that occasion an independent tribunal dealt with the matter. On this occasion the Parliament is acting directly to increase salaries and pensions, so this is a different situation altogether. 1 think that for a long time senators and members of the other House have been treated throughout the country - and even by the Parliament itself - as second-class citizens. It is time that we raised our status in the eyes of the people of Australia. As far as salaries and amenities are concerned, we are really only second-class citizens in the community. That position should be changed. A simple instance is the provision of travelling facilities. The members of this Parliament are the most important people in this capital city. Canberra re-ally revolves around us, yet the ordinary backbenchers have very few privileges. It is up to the Parliament to improve the status of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Why should not a member of the Parliament, if he desires, have the use of a motor vehicle to enable him to carry out his Parliamentary work? Why should he not have a car to take him home in the cold small hours of the morning? Why should he not have the right to such amenities? Not very long ago, I was unfortunate enough to have to leave this place and go to a hospital. There are no amenities in this House for anybody who is taken ill.

Senator Dittmer - The honorable senator had expert attention here.

Senator COLE - I had expert attention, I must admit that, but there were no facilities for a continuation of that expert attention here. These things should be looked into. As members of the Federal Parliament, we should have certain amenities.

The Government has decided that there shall be an increase of parliamentary salaries and pensions. I have no quarrel with that. Although, as I said, my Party strenuously opposes the increases - I think a lot of people outside are opposing them - I believe that the circumstances now are different from those that obtained at the time of the last increase. We are trying to raise our status. Under the circumstances, I support the measure. I do not agree however, with the statement that we are doing this as a Parliament. I think that we are accepting a fait accompli. On future occasions, I believe a parliamentary committee comprised of members of all parties should bc appointed, and it should bring its findings before the Parliament. If that were done, the decision would truly be a parliamentary decision. That has not happened in this instance. I did not know that this legislation was to be introduced until lunch time yesterday. Under the circumstances, I think we are following the right lines, but a lot more could be done to raise the status of members and senators.

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