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Thursday, 17 November 1938

Mr CLARK (Darling) .- We are called upon to pass judgment as to whether or not the provision of an extra amount in order to make possible the appointment of an additional minister is justifiable or desirable. In being asked to consent to such a measure, the House should feel quite confident that the appointment of an additional minister is definitely justified and desirable. I believe that Ministers should be amply remunerated, but I do not consider that at the present time it is necessary to appoint an additional minister. As a matter of fact, some Ministers have very little indeed to do, and the duties of the Government could well be divided up amongst the present number. One of the chief complaints that I have against Parliament granting power to appoint an additional minister is that which is felt by the citizens of this country, namely that the power to govern this country is being taken away from this Parliament and is being handed to the Ministry and to the Public Service. Ear too much power is being taken away from the Parliament. The authority of honorable members to govern is being deliberately restricted by the present Ministry. The electors send representatives to this Parliament to speak on their behalf, to deal with national problems which arise from time to time, and to secure for them a greater measure of happiness and economic security. Parliament meets very little indeed; one month, or probably two months, would cover the whole of the sittings throughout the year. The Parliament is not being consulted from time to time on matters of major national importance. Unfortunately, also, the practice of submitting matters of government policy to the full Cabinet for consideration is also being discontinued, for an inner council of seven members has been appointed to which is referred subjects that should be considered at least by the full Cabinet, if not by the whole Parliament. Four members of the inner junta could force their views upon the other members, and the inner group could then go to the full Cabinet and insist upon its policy being adopted. It must be apparent to all honorable members that this departure from the recognized parliamentary practice of this country is deserving of strong condemnation. We are well aware also that government by regulation instead of by Parliament has developed enormously since this Ministry has been in office. This has resulted in grave errors of national policy. For example, the Government not very long ago, adopted a restrictive trade policy in respect of Japan without giving Parliament a proper opportunity to consider the subject. This had an adverse effect upon the country and seriously restricted the sale of Australian wool to Japan with the result that millions of pounds was lost to our wool-growers and to the country at large. The publication of proclamations and regulations in the Gazette instead of the introduction of legislative measures in. Parliament is subversive of all principles of democratic government. In fact, it is not too much to say that democratic government is being challenged in Australia to-day. It is the wish of the Opposition that well-recognized principles of parliamentary procedure shall be adhered to, and that an inner Cabinet group shall not be permitted to filch the rights of the elected representatives of the people.

I oppose this bill because I do not believe that Ministers are being overworked. At one period, four members of the Ministry were abroad at the one time, yet the business of the country was carried on as efficiently as if they were here - though I do not wish it to be under- stood that I regard the members of the present Ministry as efficient. It is noticeable that in consequence of the dislocation in the Cabinet the Prime Minister has been called upon to discharge extra duties in an endeavour to preserve his position as Prime Minister. As a matter of fact, the right honorable gentleman has lost the confidence of his party, but that is no reason why we should permit him to divert additional public money to enable him to caulk the holes in his leaky ship. I am opposed to the bill.

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