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Thursday, 20 May 1920

Mr STEWART (Wimmera) (1:35 AM) . - I am loath to prolong the debate, but I was absent when the motion submitted by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) was debated, and I desire to place my position before the House. I may say at the outset that I am going to vote against the Bill, though I agree with the statements repeatedly made this evening, that the parliamentary salary is not sufficient. I do not think £600 a year is a fair remuneration, and I have already intimated to my constituents that, as a public man, I shall give no donations, a practice which I think very few honorable members have adopted. And I do not think my constituents think any the less of me. While I am on this subject I may add that the continual requests to parliamentary representatives for donations for this and that movement comprise an important part of every honorable member's correspondence. Yet those who send begging letters to their elected representatives are often the very people who at meetings of certain associations condemn honorable members when they endeavour to secure an increase in salary that will enable them to meet some of these demands. I believe it would be in the interests of clean politics if it were made an offence against the law for any person to solicit donations from public men, or for any public man to give donations. I sympathize very much with the position of honorable members from other States. It is not fair that representatives from such distant constituencies as Capricornia and Maranoa, in Queensland, and Dampier in Western Australia, should be on the same level, as far as reimbursement is concerned, with members representing metropolitan constituencies of this State. Old parliamentarians tell us that we cannot make any distinction in this matter, but I do not see why some extra allowance could not be made to members from distant portions of the Commonwealth. I am prepared, now to advocate a proposal to increase the emoluments in that direction and give to honorable members from, say, Tasmania, South Australia, and New South Wales £100 per annum for travelling expenses, and honorable members from Queensland and Western Australia £200. I believe that that would be an equitable arrangement, and certainly fairer than the proposal now before the House.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would that be fair to yourself? You represent a country constituency.

Mr STEWART - I am about to state my own position. Some honorable members, in support of the motion last week, furnished the House with details of their election expenditure. If I have to thank one section of Wimmera voters more than another for my return to this House, I have to thank the working farmers, chiefly the struggling electors in the new areas. They subscribed every penny of my election expenses. Despite that fact, I frankly admit that the present allowance is no good to me, since it does not allow of any savings. I oppose the proposed increase for the reason that during the election campaign from every public platform I advocated economy, and stressed the necessity for sacrifice on the part of all sections of the community. We have been told that our financial position is very grave, and we know that it is. Some honorable members have declared it to be almost desperate. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is at present in London on a mission with which we are all familiar. We are trying to borrow money in England. If we do not succeed, we shall have to float a further loan in Australia. We have a huge war debt, heavy interest bills, and obligations of great magnitude in respect of repatriation, war pensions, and invalid and old-age pensions. Our obligations are piling up in every direction, and it is absolutely necessary, therefore, that we should economize. This is essentially a time of sacrifice for all sections of the community, and this Parliament should set an example. If this Bill be passed, the discontented sections of the community will be keener and more insistent in their demands. They will say that Federal members are looking after themselves, and will insist upon recognition of their own claims. I oppose this Bill because I advocated economy and sacrifice on the part of all sections of the community, and intend to continue to do so. I am not going to urge that all other sections of the people should adopt a course of action which I myself am not prepared to take.

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