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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I have already asked the honourable member to relate his remarks to the Bill before the House. It deals with parliamentary allowances.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - I will abide by your ruling, Sir, but I could not let this opportunity pass without letting the people of Australia and the House know the conditions under which members in Brisbane are working. Furthermore, of course, I support the Government's Bill on this occasion.

I do hope, as I said at the beginning, that we as members do more than just say that we want more money in the form of allowances. I think a more realistic attitude has to be adopted so that we have the type of assistance that will enable us to represent the people in our electorates as effectively as possible, and so that when we come here we will know what we are talking about and will not just jabber on for something to say, as unfortunately happens at times.

Dr KLUGMAN(Prospect) 15.6]- I have listened to the remarks of the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) with interest. I support many of his propositions, especially the proposition that every honourable member should be provided - or supplied, I think he said - with a junior girl. I do not know if this is part of the Bill or whether the Government could really provide this. However, under the proposed amendments to the National Service Act I suppose it just might be possible. I think that the question of parliamentary allowances is a fairly important one on the general issue, and not so much on the amendments that are being put today.

I was almost forced into this debate after ] read a report of one of the Canberra correspondents, Stan Hutchinson, in the Sydney Morning Herald' on 1 2th May. Amongst other things he said:

Watchers from the galleries will have lo remain alert to notice the Parliamentary Allowances Bill slipping through.

To me the implication there was that parliamentary allowances were to be raised and that parliamentarians were the sort of people who objected to discussing this in public. I think the implication is quite clear in this article. I wrote a reply to the 'Sydney Morning Herald' but so far it has not been published. May I make it quite clear that my own income is being reduced by $600 per year, as is that of 10 other honourable members. As far as I know no honourable member in this House receives an increase in income arising from this legislation. So it is obviously wrong to suggest that we would rash this through because there is some benefit to one or more of us in this House.

I also feel a bit more confident in speaking on this subject because I have only recently become a member of this House and I have taken a significant drop in in come. I do not object to this because the position was known to me when 1 nominated for Parliament. But I do ask people who know better and who value parliamentary democracy not to spread falsehoods about political incomes. The following passage from a report on parliamentary salaries is significant:

In his statement announcing the appointment of the 1951 Committee the Prime Minister -

That is Mr Menzies, as he then was: said: "There are many grave misapprehensions about Ministerial and parliamentary salaries and privileges." the 1955 Committee - lt has been referred to earlier today: complained thai the general public, without full information and often in complete ignorance of the facts, tended to offer unreasonable opposition to any alteration in parliamentary allowances; that little attempt was made to inform the public or lor members of (he public to seek accurate information; and that much of the publicity given to the matter was deliberately distorted. We have observed the same phenomena. The Prime Minister's announcement of 17th January, 1959, was followed by comments (in some newspapers and in letters to the Committee) of the familiar kind, in which phrases loaded with false and abusive implications were freely used, misstatements abounded, and malice took the place of judgment.

As I have said previously in this House, democracy is a fairly fragile institution everywhere and generally its supporters should not attack it falsely. To some extent parliamentary democracy will depend on attracting reasonable and able people with at least some sense of public service. This does not imply that 1 think parliamentarians have to have any spec : al education - tertiary education - though this will probably increasingly be the case. But it does mean that those selected and elected would be able to enjoy a fairly high standard of living if they do not enter Parliament. I may add that 1 do nol mind being abused or attacked for my views on issues, but what I do object to is being depicted as a lazy Tammany Hall type of politician who is in politics for the money. I do object to the present haphazard method of fixing salaries, although I can see the difficulties involved. There have been at least 3 committees of inquiry during (he 1950s on this matter. The 1955 Committee, of which Sir Frank Richardson was Chairman, said:

A periodic review of parliamentary salaries is necessary irrespective of the way in which changes are made and, in fact, whether any changes are made.

The then Prime Minister, who was at that time Mr Menzies, said:

In the course of the last Parliament, my colleague the Treasurer, the Right Honourable Harold Holt, in his capacity as Leader of the House, intimated to members that a review of these matters should be made early in the life of each new Parliament and, subject only to quite abnormal circumstances, the conditions then determined should apply unchanged throughout the life of that Parliament. That is the view of the Government.

It is obvious to me that that is no longer the view of this Government because the last change was made in 1968 and apparently none is proposed in the near future. I think that it is important to emphasise that being an MP is a full time job, or it is certainly a full time job for most members of Parliament. I would like to quote a finding by the 1959 Committee of Inquiry: lt is contrary to the interests of the community that members of its Parliament should be underpaid to the point of financial embarrassment.

The results, in our opinion, would be that:

(a)   Men of education and quality, but without private means, would be deterred from entering public life.

(b)   Parliament would be composed of men of wealth, persons subsidised by and acting as mouthpieces of vested interests, and men whose capacities were so low that they could not obtain well-paid positions in private life. (el conditions favourable to corruption would be created.

The salary of a member should be fixed at an amount which is not so low as to deter a man of good attainments and abilities who has no private income from entering or remaining in Parliament.

The report of the 1955 Committee stated:

We do not believe that anyone should seek election to Parliament for personal profit nor do we believe that anyone should be debarred from a seat in Parliament simply because he cannot afford the financial sacrifice.

I appeal to the House and to the Government to devise some method of varying parliamentary allowances. This should be a method which will appear to the general public to be just. Whilst saying this I find it rather hypocritical of newspaper proprietors to lead the attack on parliamentarians. When Sir Frank Packer applies to an independent authority for permission to increase the cost of the 'Daily Telegraph' by 40%, as was done recently, I shall be more impressed. It appears that he could not even persuade Messrs Murdoch and Fairfax that such an increase was justified.

Let me deal quickly with one of my pet subjects. Part of the expenses of honourable members are election expenses. These expenses are increasing continuously, not necessarily as far as each individual member is concerned but as far as political parties are concerned. The cost of political advertising on television, radio and in the Press is enormous. I feel that we are not a true democracy unless all political parties can get their view to the market place. This is not peculiar to this country. In all the Western countries the cost of elections is tremendous. American presidential elections cost up to $100m, including the primaries, and this is rising rapidly. This means that contestants are either limited to multimillionaires or become dependent on contributions from large corporations, and this is obviously wrong. This is bad for democracy. The difficulty there has not been to raise money for these election expenses, but to raise money from enough people so that the amount of pressure that any one contributor could put on the political party to which it contributed would be insignificant. A committee presided over in the United States by Senator Russell Long proposed that there should be a $1 per year surcharge on every taxpayer's return for political purposes. This was finally rejected, mainly because of the argument as to distribution.

I suggest that we might consider at some stage in this country a 20c surcharge every year on every one of Australia's 5 million taxpayers. This would raise $lm per year for political purposes. We should provide for the right to contract out. But I feel that few Australians would begrudge 20c per year to make democracy more effective. The obvious point there is that most of that Sim raised would finally finish up with the owners of the mass media for advertising and they would be likely to give us a reasonably good run on that sort of proposition.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order!I suggest to the honourable member that he come back to the terms of the Bill which deals with electoral allowances.

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