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Wednesday, 28 March 1973
Page: 823

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - I rise in the Committee stage to respond to 2 points made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his speech on the second reading of the Bill in relation to the changes in the salaries recommended by the Kerr committee of inquiry. There are a number of changes, other than those affecting the leader of the third party in the House of Representatives, which have been made. The 2 most significant changes are in the allowances pertaining to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. If one turns to the recommendations of the Kerr committee of inquiry one finds that the special allowance recommended for each of those positions was $1,800. The amount that the Government has decided now to provide in the Bill is $4,230. When that is compared with the recommendations in respect of the leader of the third party, namely, $1,400 a year, contained in the Kerr committee's report, one sees the marked dissimilarity between the increase from $1,400 to $1,500 granted to the leader of the third party and the increase from $1,800 to $4.250-

Mr Daly - What page is that on?

Mr SINCLAIR - That is on page 54 of the Kerr committee's report, recommendation 14. The second point is that in the correspondence dated 5th February 1973 - I misstated the date before - from the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Country Party, the Prime Minister stated:

In the expectation, however, that the Act will be amended to take account of changed circumstances, I have authorised the same payment lo you as to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition . . .

The point I seek to make-

Mr Whitlam - You may as well read the rest of the sentence.

Mr SINCLAIR - It reads: . . - an additional salary of $5,000 p.a. and allowance of $1,500 - as from 5th December.

I was not seeking to obscure that increase but there was an indication at that stage that legislation was foreshadowed. My Party believes that in these circumstances there is justification for change and that the letter from the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Country

Party justifies that expectation. My Party does not seek to move an amendment in Committee. It believes that the principle for which it has voted strongly and which it supports vehemently has been adequately expressed in this place and I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) and the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for their contributions. However, we believe that the Government party is the villain of the piece. It is the Government which is ignoring the rights and the difficulties of persons representing country areas. We have no quarrel with our colleagues on this side of the chamber. We believe that together there is every reason to expect that, come the next election, we will again be the government and can formulate policies which will be to the betterment of persons in country areas, unlike the policies being implemented today by the Labor Government.

It is of concern that there should be this variation in the salary level payable to the Leader of the Australian Country Party. The Country Party believes quite strongly in the principle that this is a position symptomatic of the status of the Party. It is not the money alone but the position which is important. It is for that reason that we believe that in a salary adjustment there should be a recognition of the changed circumstances. We are all conscious that although there has been reference to a recommended increase in the salary allowances payable to the leader of the third party, the Kerr inquiry did not consider the circumstances existing at that time. Circumstances are quite different for a third party in opposition to those of the Labor Party being, as it was, one party in opposition. On the earlier occasion of a change of government one can see a consideration of exactly the same circumstances. In other words, at the time Mr Justice Kerr made his recommendations he was considering the Leader of the Australian Country Party as the Deputy Prime Minister. He was not considering his responsibility or his status in terms of the role he performs in opposition. There is a distinction which needs to be recognised in this legislation. Because the letter which the Prime Minister wrote to the Leader of the Country Party might be pertinent to this debate I seek leave of the House to table the document.

Mr Whitlam - Let us incorporate it. It would be easier and it can be read in Hansard.

Mr SINCLAIR - I seek leave to incorporate the letter dated 5th February 1973 in Hansard.

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