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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - T must point out to the honourable member, as I pointed out to the honourable member for Griffith, that this is not a debate related to member's secretaries or accommodation. It relates to electorate allowances.

Mr COHEN - It should include a research officer either paid for by the Parliament or by us. An enormous amount of material is being made available to honourable members, much more than there was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. There is a much more scientific approach to a much larger number of problems. I have found since I have been here 'that information is being pumped at me from all directions. All of a sudden after 6 months I am supposed to be an expert on everything, including science and technology, the Army, the Navy, defence, repatriation, wool and wheat. I am supposed to make decisions on all these matters. I do not have the time or the capacity - I do not think any honourable member has - to absorb all this information. What one needs to have in these allowances is a provision for a research officer.

I will ask the Minister or someone in this Parliament to make available for showing in the Parliamentary Library a film that was produced about 3 years ago which compared the life of a senator in the United States Congress and the provision of facilities for him, what he did in his electorate, his staff and so on, with that of a member of the House of Commons. Compared with the House of Commons we arc almost spoilt. In that parliament members get a locker and that is about all they do get. Their salaries are worse than ours. I do not think we should say that because Westminster is worse off than we are that is a basis for comparison. We should have that film shown in the Library so that we may compare what is offering to Congressmen in the United States of America with what is offering to members of the House of Commons in Great Britain so that we may get an idea of the assistance that is available to members of Parliament. I can recall that the average Congressman in the United States of America, although the provision did vary considerably, had as few as 10 on his private staff and anything up to 25 or 30 who did research work for their member and provided him with speeches. We may find that we have suddenly to make 10 different speeches in 3 days. In my electorate on Monday morning I addressed architectural students on urban development. The next day I spoke on something else. The next day I spoke on the problems of civilian widows and on repatriation. It is impossible to keep up with the constant flow of information with which we arc provided, to research it, to prepare speeches and at the same time do our other duties in the Parliament and attend social functions in the electorate. I hopeI have kept my promise to the Minister to be brief.

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