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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr COHEN (Robertson) - Like other honourable members, I shall be brief. I must say that it is rather unique to be able to agree with the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess). I thought his contribution this afternoon was the best I have heard from him since I entered the Parliament. 1 intend to speak to his bank manager with a view to keeping the honourable member here, at least until the end of his present term. I want to refer to one or two matters touched on by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). These are matters that have caused me some con cern since 1 came to Canberra. I do not object to working about 120 hours a week, as I now am. I started with nothing and built up a fairly successful business before entering Parliament. 1 thought I was working fairly hard; I was making a fairly good income. But since entering Parliament my hours have been 3 times as long as they were in private business. To cap it all, I notice that the 'Daily Mirror' recently accused parliamentarians of spine bashing.

1.   support what other honourable members have said today. I have never worked as hard as I do now that I am in Parliament, and I think I worked fairly hard before t came here. Now I am considered - 1 hope that you will excuse the term - a bludger, whereas before 1 was considered to bc a hard-working business man. I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, have tried to restrict the debate to the matter of allowances, but it is hard to differentiate between salaries and allowances because they overlap a great deal. I think that the salary and allowance of a member of Parliament amounts to about $13,000.

Mr Pettitt - Less than that. The honourable member will find out.

Mr COHEN - In my case it is a little more than $12,500. An executive - say a sales executive or the manager of a reasonably large company - is provided with a car and an allowance for operating costs. A member of Parliament has to provide his own car and pay for his petrol. In the 18 months since I purchased my present car 1 have travelled 45,000 miles. About 98% of that travelling was on electoral business. This is about double the milage 1 was doing when I was a business man. At my present rale I estimate that I will give about $1000 a year in donations. A further $1000 goes in superannuation and about $2000 in tax. In private business the car, the donations and many of the other expenses would be paid for by the company. Nobody asks a business executive to run his own car or to make donations from his own pocket. His golf club expenses and entertainment expences are provided by the company, but we have to pay such expenses out of our own pockets. The public has an erroneous impression of the amount of money we get.

We are reminded that we have a gold pass. Big deal. So far I have used mine 3 times to see Sheffield Shield cricket matches, it has saved me about $3.50. I will not get wealthy at that rate. The Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) never needs to use his gold pass. He does not cross a bridge in his travels and so does not need to show his pass to save the toll. He never needs to use his pass to see a cricket match or a football match. He is a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club, so his gold pass does not save him one cent. We have travel warrant books. We can go all over Australia, having a magnificent time. So far I have used my travel warrants only to travel between my electorate and Canberra. I have never used them for any other purpose. It does not look as if I will get an opportunity to use them except on parliamentary business.

Recently I visited the electorate of Gwydir. In my view anybody who represents some of our outback country places should have his salary doubled. When I saw the roads with which the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) has to contend I said to him: 'When I get an opportunity 1 will support you in a move to get further Commonwealth assistance for country roads'. Country roads are shocking. They are a scandal. I recently travelled through the electorate of Darling. The honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) should have his allowance trebled and his salary doubled for having to represent such a large electorate. I took my car on a trip with a committee on Aboriginal Affairs and did about 2.000 miles. I ripped the insides out of it; it took me 3 weeks to get the dust out of it. We get not a cent for that sort of thing. We toured Walgett, Collarenabri Brewarrina, Bourke, Lightning Ridge, most of it in the electorates of the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) and the honourable member for Gwyder (Mr Hunt). In the electorate of Darling we travelled -400 miles between villages. The allowance is quite insufficient. I am not in the situation of the honourable members 1 have mentioned. I am fortunate; my electorate is a semi-country and semimetropolitan electorate and runs about 80 miles from one end to the other. There does not seem to be any consideration for honourable members such as those I have mentioned. In my opinion they are entitled to a much larger allowance for the type of electorate they represent.

The final point 1 want to make - I did promise the Minister I would be brief - is not on the question of allowances. It concerns the point that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) made. He does not make many good points but this is one of them. The worst feature I find here is that we are provided only with a private secretary. We on this side are supposed to be preparing to run the country; honourable members on the other side are supposed to be running the country. I will not enter into the rights and wrongs of that. This is the role we are supposed to be playing and we are given a secretary. [ do not know what work one could prepare or what research one could do with one private secretary.

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