Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator WOOD (Queensland) .-- At the outset of my remarks, I should like to explain that I was not present yesterday at the meeting of my party when this matter was brought forward. I was engaged on other important matters. It was not until I had a discussion with Senator Paltridge last night, while the Senate was debating other matters, that I first knew of the details of the Bills now before us. It was almost midnight when the Senate adjourned, and in view of the early commencement this morning there has not been much time for research into this matter.

We have before us legislation which affects what I might call the two sections of the Parliament - the private senators and members and the Ministers. In the case of private members and senators, salaries are to be increased by £750 per annum, and in the case of senators the electoral allowance is to be increased by £250. An alteration is to be made to retiring allowances which will, I think, represent a considerable forward step. It is fair to say that we are to receive very generous treatment. The increased' retiring allowances will entail, on the part of those who remain in the Parliament, a considerable increase in their contributions from £5 to £7 14s. lOd. I think it will be generally acknowledged that the retiring allowance now is particularly generous, amounting on the average to £34 1 0s. a week, up to 65 years and in the case of retiring at the age of 65, I think it runs out at £37 10s. I do not think anybody can cavil at a retiring allowance of that amount.

Senator Mattner - It is subject to income tax.

Senator WOOD - All income is subject to tax. In speaking of the retiring allowance, I am speaking only of the gross amount because every section of the community has to pay income tax.

There are three aspects of this matter which mainly concern members of this

Parliament. It is some years since parliamentarians have had an alteration of their salaries and allowances. In view of the period of time that has elapsed, I think most' people will concede that, whilst the present increases may be considered to be generous, there is considerable merit in them. In considering these increases we should look at the difference between the position of a private member and that of a Minister. The salary of a private member will be increased by £750 and that applies also to the salary of a Minister in his capacity as a member of Parliament. But, Ministers are to receive a further increase - that is, to their ministerial salaries - ranging from £150 for a junior Minister and £1,000 for a senior Minister a year. In all a junior Minister will receive an increase of £1,500 a year and senior Ministers an increase of £1,750 a year. 1 do not want anyone to think that I make this content because of vindictiveness towards the Ministers or a disregard of their responsibilities. Among our Ministers, we have some very capable men. I believe the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge), for example, is a man of great ability who probably would go even further if he were in another place. I pay my respect to some of our Ministers. However, when salaries are increased, persons with larger incomes should not receive the same proportionate increase as those with smaller incomes because there are some basic requirements in living and other aspects to be considered. I think recognition should be given to the fact that those with larger incomes do not require as great an increase. 1 would have liked the Ministry to make a gesture - and I believe Senator Wright indicated this - so that the Ministers would have accepted a smaller increase in ministerial salaries since they are receiving the same increase in members' salaries as do the ordinary members of Parliament. Of course, a decision has been made and we have it now before us.

I turn now to the retiring allowances and the new aspect that has been introduced by the provision of a special retiring allowance for Ministers. I am not in favour of this proposal. It is entirely new and represents an alteration in the existing structure of the retiring allowances scheme.

The proposal is that a Minister or the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, who contributes £4 5s. a week, will receive after eight years a retiring allowance apart from the allowance he will receive from the senators' and members' retiring allowance fund. A person over 65 who has been a Minister for eight years will receive, on retirement, approximately £37 10s. plus 19. If the retiring member has served as a Minister for 14 years or more and is over 65 years of age he will receive £21 a week in addition to the £37 10s. making a total of £58 10s. a week. That is a very good retiring allowance.

I realise that some of the bigger business concern in Australia are making similar ample provision for their executives but there is a principal involved in the parliamentary proposal which interests me. Smaller amounts are to be provided for the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, who are to contribute £2 2s. 6d. a week, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate who will contribute £1 3s. 3d. a week. But in respect of the top stratum, there is a principle involved about which I feel strongly. Take the case of a person who has held ministerial office for 14 years. If he pays £4 5s. for one or two weeks or a month or whatever the time may be and then retires, he will be entitled to a retiring allowance of £21 a week as a minister in addition to the amount he will receive from the senators and members retiring allowance fund. I believe that is a wrong basis upon which to start.

I realise that if a man has served in the Ministry for such a term it would be unfortunate if he did not get the appropriate retiring allowance. This could be attributable to an unfortunate circumstance of time and it could happen to Ministers and others in various ways. Honorable senators will recall senators and members of Parliament and former Ministers who retired without an allowance such as that provided in this measure. That is unfortunate but it does happen. However, I think we are starting on a wrong basis in providing that qualification for this new ministerial retiring allowance will pertain to service and not to the length of service and contribution. I believe that the qualification should commence from the time that a person begins to contribute to this fund. Otherwise a person can get a flying start towards qualifying for a big retiring allowance in return for a small contribution.

An honorable senator retired from ministerial office not so long ago. He had served as a Minister for more than 14 years. He probably did not have any inside knowledge of these proposals but if he had waited just a few months and retired next month, he would have received an extra £21 a week for a contribution of a few pounds. I do not wish to look far to the right of me in this chamber but honorable senators might guess to whom 1 am referring. Now, because of the time factor and because he was not briefed, that honorable senator who now sits as a back bencher will not receive this increased retiring allowance although he served in the Ministry for more than 14 years.

I mention that as a case in point. I emphasise this aspect because I think there was a fairer way to make this provision. As a matter of fact, I am not at all keen about it. This proposal was recommended by the Richardson Committee in 1959 and was discarded by the Government. I am surprised to see it revived. I think such matters should be arranged on a different basis and that the period of service should begin from the time the persons concerned began to contribute to the special fund. As a Senate we do not want to see discrimination between Ministers and private members or senators. We do not want distinctions so that one stratum is more privileged than another. That sort of thing can happen when a scheme is introduced without discussion. A study of the legislation shows that there is discrimination.

It is interesting to note that the widow of a senator or member on a retirement allowance will receive only five-twelfths of the husband's allowance. A Minister's widow will receive five-sixths of the rate of pension that would have been paid to the retired Minister.

Senator Wright - That is not my understanding. I hope that the Minister will clear up the point.

Senator Paltridge - It is a common fivesixths.

Senator WOOD - The Bill states-

11.   Section nineteen of the Principal Act is amended -

(a)   by omitting paragraph (a) of sub-section (2.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph: - " (a) a pension, during her lifetime but ceasing upon her re-marriage, at a rate equal to fivetwelfths of the rate of the parliamentary allowance to which the deceased person was entitled immediately before he died or became entitled to pension . . .

Senator Wright - It states " parliamentary allowance " not " parliamentary retiring allowance ".

Senator WOOD - I take it means parliamentary retiring allowance.

Senator Wright - No. It is the equivalent of five-sixths of the retiring allowance.

Senator Branson - They are both £28.

Senator WOOD - It states clearly - 22K. (2.) (a) (i) a pension, during her lifetime but ceasing upon her re-marriage, at the rate of fivesixths of the rate of the pension that was, or would have been, payable to the deceased person;

There it is, unless I do not understand plain English.

Senator Paltridge - It is five-twelfths of the allowance.

Senator WOOD - It seems I have gained the wrong impression. The Minister and my legal friend say that I am wrong, so I stand corrected. However, I think that the principle I referred to at the commencement of my address is wrong. I do not agree with it. I feel that it is something that should be looked at and that the ministerial retiring allowance should be linked to the period of payment into a special retiring allowance and also to the period of service. I have expressed my views on this matter. As to the difference between payments to senators and Ministers, I think we should always recognise the desirability of not having too great a discrimination between Ministers and senators in respect of their emoluments and the various activities of this chamber.

Suggest corrections