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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - The explanation of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) does not square with time, space, cash, or common sense. A commission is to be appointed and every member of it will have certain responsibilities to carry out. For the life of me, I cannot accept the contention that the chairman, no matter who he may be, will have duties so onerous that they will be, on a cash basis, four times as great and four times as valuable to this Parliament as those of the ordinary members. That argument does not make common sense. I shall not criticize the report of the joint committee. I did not speak on the second reading. I do not think it is of much value in this place at present to speak on the second reading of any bill. But if this discrepancy be allowed to exist we shall establish a precedent for which Parliament will probably be sorry before very long. The Minister referred to other commissions which have been appointed by Parliament. In my experience, thedifference between the remuneration of a private member of such a body and that of the chairman has usually been 25 per cent. In this case, it is to be over 400 per cent. The Minister will have some difficulty in explaining that. It must be recognized that the chairman of the commission does not work in such close contact with the PostmasterGeneral as the chairman of the Food Council does with the Minister for Supply and Development, who has to carry out important obligations in the provision of food in this country. The Food Council is a new institution, and it might well have been established a couple of years ago. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, however, has been in existence for many years, and its reports have been discussed in this Parliament from time to time. In my view, it is one of the most extravagant institutions in Australia, and shows much less consideration for the taxpayers than many other public bodies. As a Minister in other governments, I had experience of such governmental bodies, both in peace-time and in war-time, and I say without hesitation that I know of no other organization that has spent money as lavishly as the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done. I am not an admirer of the present commission. It is an incompetent body, and, therefore, I am not willing to see salaries of the magnitude proposed paid for the kind of work which has been done by the commission in the past. We should set out very clearly the duties required of the commissioners, the chairman, and the deputy chairman. The Minister cannot argue reasonably that the duties which devolve upon the chairman in arranging meetings and business programmes, and in carrying out decisions, when he has a competent general manager and a large staff to assist him, are such as to warrant the payment of a fee four times as great as that of a private member of the commission. The Government's case is untenable. This clause is based on one of those bad recommendations in the parliamentary committee's report which must have been agreed to on a warm afternoon. I leave the matter at that, but it will not rest for all time. We shall have an opportunity to deal with it again.

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