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Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator LILLICO (Tasmania) . - Mr. Deputy President,I rise to support the Bill. Members of this Parliament and of the other Parliaments of the Commonwealth, and, I think, the people of the

Commonwealth in the main, have accepted a certain principle in respect of parliamentary government. Sixty years ago - perhaps more than that - parliamentary representation was the prerogative of the wealthy section of the community. Only the people who could afford it represented their constituents in Parliament. I suppose they did as a labour love, out of a feeling of patriotism. There has gradually grown up the idea that parliamentary emoluments should be such as to enable people of all walks of life to enter Parliament, if they so desire. I repeat that that is a principle which has been accepted. 1 believe it should be accepted. I believe that the Australian people accept it. If the principle is accepted, the idea must also be accepted that from time to time, due to variations in conditions, there should be adjustments to parliamentary salaries. The present adjustment is one of them.

I suppose I am a little careless about this proposition, inasmuch as I have now only one dependant and it would not have been a very great hardship for me to have continued on the conditions existing to date. But so often today the cry is for young men with growing families and the attendant responsibilities. I think adjustments to salaries are necessary from time to time, but I cannot understand why the spotlight is so much on this Parliament. I was associated with a State parliament which, only recently, has considerably increased the salaries of its members. Some years ago, by a more generous system than we propose to adopt in relation to parliamentary retiring allowances in this Parliament, the same State parliament increased its parliamentary retiring allowance from £12 or £14 to £30. So far as I am aware, those increases did not cause the slightest ripple in public opinion. If they did, I did not hear of it.

The focus of attentions seems to be this Parliament. This morning I read of a comment by the President of the Taxpayers Association in Victoria to the effect that the present adjustments to salaries and retiring allowances - and they are only minor adjustments - would cause inflation. I listened with interest this morning to Senator Wright - I think I can quote him correctly - when he said that he wondered why there should be any connection between industry's ability to pay a certain rate and all the other conditions upon which the Commonwealth Con ciliation and Arbitration Commission bases its findings, and the emoluments paid to members of Parliament. Had it been considered that rates of pay should not be increased unless they would not cause inflationary pressure in the community, it is certain that there would have been no adjustments since 1939 because the threat of inflationary pressure is always with us. I believe that this Parliament has taken the right and proper course in adjusting parliamentary emoluments.

The theory has been advanced that the matter should have been referred to an outside committee for investigation and arrival at an independent decision. In my view, the experience of this Parliament in referring such matters to a committee has not been fortunate in all its aspects. The present adjustments are based on the report of the Richardson Committee. That report advanced the proposition that all senators should receive an electorate allowance of what I believe to be a completely absurd amount. Of course, it was less at the time of the report, but at present it is £1050. The report stated that a member of the House of Representatives who, in all probability, represents a pocket handkerchief electorate, should receive a bigger electorate allowance of £1,100. [ cannot understand why honorable senators did not do something to rectify this anomaly a long time ago. What parliamentary experience would members of the Richardson committee or any other committee have had? How would they know what was involved? They would know only what they were told in evidence. What practical experience would they have had of the duties and responsibilities that devolve upon honorable senators? I do a tremendous lot of country work in the little State of Tasmania; I travel more than 20,000 miles a year. That means that I need a new car every three years. If one takes into account depreciation and running expenses, one notes that the amount designated in the proposed adjustment will be barely sufficient to cover the expenses incurred.

I believe that I must go along with this proposition. When I first looked at it, I wondered whether the added emoluments would be worth the controversy that they would cause. As Senator Scott said, although a considerable percentage of the increase in salary will go to a superannuation fund and will eventually come back to members of the Parliament or their wives, the immediate increase in salary will be only £293 a year. That is not a very big increase for the private member. Should we wait until all the factors that are used as an argument against the granting of adjustments are smoothed out? If we are to tie our wagon to the position of the less fortunate people in the community, if we are to say that the emoluments should not be adjusted until, as senator Turnbull suggested, pensions are paid to the inmates of mental institutions - probably that should be done; I do not know - if we are to wait until we reach a Utopian state in the community, then there will never be any adjustment of parliamentary salaries and allowances.

I support the measure. In the prevailing circumstances the adjustment - that is all it is - is moderate. It should not provoke the undue criticism that has been levelled against increases in past years. 1 repeat that I have much pleasure in supporting the proposal.

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