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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator CORMACK (Victoria) .- Honorable senators will recollect that at this time last year a similar Bill was brought into the Senate and dealt with rather speedily because it was on the eve of the end of that sessional period. The same thing has happened this year. I rise to make some conments on the Bill in order to put it in a new light altogether. I have spent the last week or so going over the debate that took place on similar legislation in the Senate last year. I was heartened to read the undertakings which were given by Senator Paltridge, who then represented the Treasurer in this chamber, that the matter which I raised, in relation to depriving the Presiding Officers of access to the ministerial fund, would be examined by the Government, lt was also pointed out that, in the event of a revision of this legislation, the matter would be considered. I note that neither in another place nor in this place did the Minister in his second reading speech make reference to the matter. I see that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Henty) is consulting his advisers, but I wish to inform him at once that I have no intention of pressing the case that I pressed in May of last year, In fact,

I wish to say to the Senate that I retract unequivocally any claim that I made that the Presiding Officers should be included in the ministerial fund. I will explain why in a moment.

I have looked through the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act of 1959 and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act of 1964, and I have carefully examined this Bill. It disturbs me to find in all these measures, which relate to members of Parliament, provision being made for the Ministry. It is most disturbing to find that Ministers, who represent the Executive in the Parliament, have embodied in Bills, which relate to the retiring allowances of members of Parliament, provisions for their own retirement. I do not object to Ministers having retiring allowances. I think that, poor creatures, they are entitled to them, but the allowances should be contained in a bill or an act dealing with Ministers. Ministers are of a dual nature. They are members of Parliament and they sit here only with the permission of the Parliament. They have another role, that of Her Majesty's Ministers. If Her Majesty wishes to make provision for them, the Crown must make provision in a separate Act.

One of the things that disturbs members of Parliament - it has been disturbing them over the last few years - is that not only in Australia but also in other areas of the world where the parliamentary system of government exists, increasing power which is being embodied in the executive government is exerted against both the Crown and the Parliament. It varies in degree from one country to another, but there is no doubt in my mind that there is being embodied in the executive elements of Government vast powers of patronage which overbear Parliament and certainly overbear the Crown. I am making the general statement that there is a tendency in the parliamentary system of Government for the executive component to overbear both Parliament and the Crown, which is the source from which executive government draws its authority.

Senator Wright - Permit me to say by way of interjection that it exists here to a disturbing degree.

Senator CORMACK - Senator Wright may care to elaborate on the matter afterwards. I am merely making the com ment that in these circumstances in the twentieth century this dangerous element is beginning to grow in other parts of the world and also here, as Senator Wright suggested. That is not what I propose to discuss, but there is an illustration that the thin dividing line which must exist between Parliament and the Executive is not acknowledged in this Bill.

I shall take a minute or two to remind the Senate of how Parliament rose to a position of authority. History records the rise and fall of constituent elements of government. The example that comes most readily to my mind, of course, is the source from which a great deal of the authority of government in Western Europe has originated. The first great attempt to create a national forum was in Rome wilh the creation of the Senate. Rome rose to power and greatness under the Senate. Its decline began when the young Octavius, who became the Emperor Augustus, set up the Principate and began to castrate the Senate. From the growth of the Roman concept of the Principate came the system of rulership in Western Europe embodied solely and arbitrarily in the Crown, and it existed for 1,000 years. From there began the peculiarly Anglo-Saxon institution of Parliament which set out to wrest power away from the Crown. Beginning in 1620 and culminating in the Civil Wars and the English Revolution, Parliament asserted its authority against the Crown. Parliament also discovered, in that process, that Parliament can never govern; nor should it attempt to govern. Parliament may rule, but not govern.

In the time of the early Georges, the Cabinet system developed and Cabinet began to operate as the communicating link between the authority of the Crown on the one hand and the authority of the Parliament on the other hand. But from that day onwards, there has been a constant evolution in which power has tended to pass away from the Parliament into the hands of the executive components of Parliament. That power has tended to a substantial degree to move entirely away from the Crown and embody itself in the executive government. So, we have a third echelon of government.

The executive Government is providing in this Bill for the needs of its Ministers upon retirement. I agree that they should be provided for. But the executive Government embeds that requirement for providing pensions for the Ministry in a parliamentary bill, whereas it has always been the practice in our history for the Ministry to be rewarded by the Crown, outside the ambit of Parliament. I think this is a dangerous intrusion into the parliamentary sphere, and that a clear line of distinction should be kept drawn between the Executive and the Parliament.

J feel sorry that there are embodied in this Bill provisions for the Leaders of the Opposition in another place and the Leaders of the Opposition in the Senate. I am disturbed by the minor point that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) and his deputy, Senator Kennelly, have become, if I might use a term from the grazing industry of which I have a great deal of experience, the barrowers on the shearing board for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) in another place. When the mighty guns have stopped shearing sheep during the lunch hour, the barrowers take over the shears and try to learn how to shear as expeditiously and efficiently as the shearer who is sitting down rolling his cigarette. I do think that, without applying any flattery to the Leader of the Opposition or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, they are men of the highest distinction and quality who do just as much work as the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place. I think it is a derogation of the Senate for the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber to be reduced to the ranks of political barrowers.

Opposition Senators. - Hear, hear!

Senator CORMACK - Yes, I agree with the Opposition from time to time.

Having said that, I want to refer to another element which also adds to the danger that I envisage. It is this: The Bill is not the final Bill in relation to this matter, and the Act can be amended by any future Parliament. Recently the news was bruited abroad that it is the intention of the Opposition in another place to form what is called in Great Britain a shadow Cabinet. What is there to say that once this principle is admitted into the Parliament, the next amendments to this Bill will not contain provision for the payment of pensions for members of the Opposition shadow Cabinet.

Senator Ormonde - That would be all right.

Senator O'Byrne - The honorable senator might get a pension at the end of his term here.

Senator CORMACK - Well I am quite sure that this, will be the next provision to be included. If the Opposition party cannot say that it will have a shadow Treasurer, it will say that there is to be a First Deputy Leader of the Opposition for Treasury or, to take another example, the First Deputy Leader of the Opposition for External Affairs. In this way, a whole system of patronage will be set up inside the Parliament in which the Crown can thoroughly overbear Parliament by making special provisions for members of Parliament inside the Parliament.

Senator Wright - The honorable senator may be sure that that position will not come unless there is a quid pro quo.

Senator Hannaford - There is no substance in a shadow, after all.

Senator CORMACK - What does the honorable senator mean?

Senator Hannaford - Can the honorable senator move a shadow? Can the honorable senator penetrate a shadow?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- Order! The Senate will come back to the Bill.

Senator CORMACK - I beg your pardon, Sir. I certainly cannot envisage what is going to happen in the night in the future. But I know my fellow men and their actions are reasonably predictable. It is not my intention to oppose the motion for the second reading of this Bill, nor to oppose it in Committee. But I draw the attention of my fellow senators to the explosive situation which I seem to think is embedded in the Bill and the way its predecessor was presented to Parliament in May of last year and the way in which this Bill is presented at this time.

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