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Thursday, 17 November 1938

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- I question very much whether this change is necessary or worth while. The Cabinet reconstruction has been forced upon the Government by public opinion, and, if it is ineffective, public opinion will force still another reconstruction. ~\ hope that it may be effective, and I wish the Government well; but at the same time I believe that no extra 'members were needed in the Cabinet. I have always felt that the Defence portfolio, which has brought the Government so much censure, and has been responsible for the reconstruction, should have been held by a full Minister aided by an Assistant Minister able to devote his whole time to the task, preferably a Minister in charge of aviation, in the person of an honorable member such as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn). If there had been a proper allocation of work and an appropriate division of labour amongst Cabinet Ministers, such an addition to the Cabinet as has recently been made would not have been necessary. Some Ministers obviously have too little to do, while others have too much. I say, advisedly, after six years' experience . in the Cabinet, that had there been such an allocation and had the work been more equably divided, this bill would not have been necessary. There are many ways in which the work of the Cabinet could be expedited. One is by the adoption of business-like methods. If matters in Cabinet were discussed as a business board would discuss matters of importance, the work would be expedited, and there would be less call upon Ministers to spend so much time in Cabinet, with tho result that they would have more time to spend in their departments. Increasing the Cabinet in size, making it fifteen in number with Assistant Ministers, brings it to such dimensions that therein one gets a form of cave, cabal or junta such as is illustrated at present by the inner group which will decide policy for all Ministers who will have to share equal responsibility for whatever happens. Does any one in this chamber say that in the days of the early Cabinets in Australia, the work was done less efficiently than now? Up to the seventh Parliament, only nine, and for the greater part of the time, only eight, Ministers sat in Cabinet.

The CHAIRMAN - I remind the honorable member that the committee has already agreed to tho number of Cabinet Ministers. We are now dealing with the amount of money to be provided for ministerial allowances.

Mr WHITE - A matter discussed while this bill was before the House was whether the emoluments were sufficient, and whether members of the Government should hold directorships. I believe - and it is only my own opinion - that English practice in that respect is that when a member of parliament is called to the Ministry he gives up all directorships he may hold. I make no boast when I say that I did that when I was called to the Ministry.

Mr Holt - Should a Cabinet Minister give up his farm?

Mr WHITE - I think there is a vast difference between owning a farm and being a director of a large enterprise, company or corporation which might indirectly benefit from the association of one of its directors with the Cabinet. It has been laid down by successive British Prime Ministers as a rule of prudence, if not of law, that, in the interests of the State, a Minister should surrender any directorships he ma.y hold in order to demonstrate that he is giving unselfish service to the State and not prospering his own interests by his association with the Cabinet. I believe that the increased allowance proposed in this bill is unnecessary. I believe that the work of Cabinet Ministers could have been re-allocated in such a way as to have made this proposed increased expenditure unnecessary. At any rate, I hope that the Cabinet reconstruction may be helpful, but, as I have said, I warn the Government that as the reconstruction was forced by public opinion, if it proves futile, public opinion will force a further reconstruction.

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