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Wednesday, 16 November 1938

Mr PATERSON ('Gippsland) . - The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) endeavoured to refute the contention that certain Ministers are overworked. Nevertheless, it is undeniably true that they are overworked. The former Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) was working for many months at a rate which brought him to the point of almost complete physical and mental exhaustion. He is an able administrator and had proved his capacity in State departments before his election to the Commonwealth Parliament. He also showed his ability as an Assistant Minister prior to being given the Defence portfolio. He is a physically strong man, with great mental endowments; yet I have seen him, more than once, almost at the point of complete breakdown. Undoubtedly, the division of duties in connexion with the Defence Department was absolutely essential and I congratulate the Prime Minister on what he has done in this connexion.

Reference has also been made to the Department of the Interior. I remind honorable members that during -the depression the former Department of Home Affairs and the former Department of Works and Railways were amalgamated. Because of the very few public works in hand during that period, the complete cessation of migration, and the general stagnation, compared with the tremendous activity of recent years, it was possible, during the depression, and for some little time afterwards, to administer these two departments together. Yet such a multiplicity of almost entirely unrelated activities came under the control of the Minister for the Interior, that with the increased activity which followed the depression, it became physically impossible for any one Minister to give adequate attention to them. The Minister for the Interior was required to deal with all works throughout the Commonwealth, including those for the Defence, Customs, and Postmaster-General's departments. He was also responsible for Commonwealth railways, and for the Northern Territory, which in some respects is like a State Government administration, in that it has to deal with lands, mines, education, aborigines, and half a dozen other matters. He was also charged with the responsibility of supervising all matters associated with the Australian Capital Territory, which, at one time, were under the control of the Federal Capital Commission. In addition to all these matters, he had to deal with immigration and passports. The Minister is also the chairman of the River Murray Waters Commission and of the Canberra War Memorial Commission. He has a dozen and one other responsibilities which I could enumerate. With the arrival of better times and the consequent renewal of many activities which had been in abeyance it became absolutely essential to relieve the Minister of some of these duties. I personally paid the price of a complete breakdown in health after having been in charge of the Department of the Interior for three years.

Who would say that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is not very often a much overworked man?

It lias been said that the distribution of portfolios as between the parties supporting the Government is inequitable. 1 do not wish to incur the displeasure of the Chair, but perhaps I may be permitted to observe that during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, the Country party, which was the smaller of the two Government parties, held the portfolios of Treasurer, Works, PostmasterGeneral, and Markets. To-day it holds the portfolios of Commerce, which was formerly Markets, PostmasterGeneral, and Works. In addition it holds the portfolio of the Interior, which is less important than that of Treasurer. It will be seen, therefore, that the position to-day is somewhat similar to that which obtained when the Bruce-Page Government was in office. It is absurdin my opinion, to suggest that Ministers are overpaid. Several honorable gentlemen who hold portfolios in this Government have made great sacrifices in order to discharge their public duties. To my knowledge, the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) surrendered a medical practice which was worth at least three times as much per annum as he is receiving as a member of the Government. I suppose the same could be said of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). The increased payment now proposed represents less than one -six teen th of a penny per head of the population per annum, and less than 2d. per annum aggregate contribution from the whole of the Opposition. The antagonism to this measure is entirely unworthy of those who are voicing it. I strongly support the bill.

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