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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Electorate allowances, yes. As I was saying, if members of Parliament were paid more by way of electorate allowances, they would be able to hire more accommodation space outside Government offices. That is where I draw the comparison. I am very sympathetic towards you, Sir, because the office which you must use in Brisbane is not what I would regard as suitable for a member of your calibre and a man of your standing.

Further. I wish to make reference to the 1970s. The Australian national Parliament commenced on the 1st day of January 1901. Here we are, nearly in the middle of 1970, and I would say with great respect to you, Sir. that as far as conditions of and assistance for members of Parliament are concerned, we are back in 1901. As most honourable members realise, I was in the United States of America recently. I paid my own costs on that trip. I went to the United States and to other countries to learn what is being done in them. 1 could not help but be impressed by the realistic attitude adopted by the Government of the United States in relation to providing assistance for members of Congress. I readily concede that, as some of our electorates have 60,000 voters on their electoral rolls while some country electorates, such as the electorate represented by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), have approximately 32,000 voters, that no comparison can bc drawn between our city electorates and most of our country electorates and the 300,000 to 400,000 constituents in United States seats. But the point is that when we take it on a population basis the American Government has a far more acceptable and realistic attitude.

Members of the United States House of Representatives are provided with research workers and more than just one secretary. As a member of the Federal Government representing approximately 120,000 people in my electorate, I have just the one girl in Brisbane to take care of things while I am hire and to help me with my work when I am back there. I would suggest with great respect that this is completely unrealistic. For a start, each member should be supplied with a junior girl. This of course depends on how a member of Parliament runs his electorate. If he does not care a tinker's damn about his constituents and does not try to keep abreast of things he probably would not need anybody. He could probably bring in his aged mother-in-law on 1 afternoon a week when he is out playing golf. But if he is a conscientious member who wants to do the right thing he cannot get by with the present facilities.

I return to the point that I made about United States Congressmen, who are provided with research workers. I feel great pity for members of the Labor Party, particularly for those who make up the front bench, because every time they wish to make a speech they have to prepare it in opposition to Ministers and they have a minimum of help. In this field more assistance should be given. As I say, it should be given to all members of Parliament if they so desire. I know there have been cases in the past where some secretaries have not been usefully employed. Perhaps the Government could introduce a system whereby members of Parliament could be given additional assistance on the basis that they pay a percentage of their allowance towards the cost of the person's salary, if they genuinely believe that they need this assistance, and the Government make up the rest of the salary. We live in a changing world. The papers which come to my table every day, both in Canberra and in the electorate of Griffith en the southern side of the Brisbane River, is absolutely amazing. Those organisations which take so much trouble to prepare literature to forward to us do not know just how much is thrown into the rubbish bin and never looked at. It is absolutely impossible for members of Parliament to do anything about it.

We are referring, of course, to the matter of parliamentary allowances, and I realise that you are about to draw my attention to that fact, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), who is a member for the Opposition, told me that during his first 3 years in this Parliament - I have not spoken to him lately about it - he was well and truly out of pocket on the expense allowance. 1 am not saying he was complaining. I do not think I make money or lose money. But I do believe that it is high time that we as members on both sides of the House commenced strong and united agitation for an improvement of the conditions and facilities under which we work. Even a tally clerk at the local fish markets at the other end of my electorate has a bigger office than the bathroom size office that I have. I know it will be said that I am being offered a different office but, Mr Deputy Speaker, might I tell the House what the Department of the Interior was about to offer me? It was about to say: 'Your secretary can move out of your office.'

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