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Thursday, 17 November 1938

Mr McCALL (Martin) .- I support this measure. The Opposition has objected to it on two main grounds. First, it claims that there is no need for an additional Minister, and then it says that, if an additional Minister is to be appointed, his remuneration should be provided out of the existing fund. As for the first objection, I believe that there does really exist a need for an additional Minister. The demand for his appointment has come, not only from this parliament, but also from the public, who recognize that, because of the increased duties which have devolved on the Minister, for Defence, the administration of defence matters should he divided amongst two Ministers. We are all agreed on the principle that members of this Parliament should be remunerated for their services, and it follows that Ministers should also be remunerated for the duties they have to perform. I fail to see how any objection can be taken on principle to the Government's proposal. There can be no doubt that the duties of government have increased with the years. Government is now concerned with many important phases of social and economic life that in the past lay outside the sphere of governments altogether. It is only reasonable, therefore, that this increasing work should be divided among a more numerous body of Ministers so that none of them shall be overloaded.

I believe, however, that the present system of paying Ministers is wholly unsatisfactory. I do not blame this Government for it, because the method of payment is prescribed in the Constitution, section 66 of which provides -

There shall be payable to the Queen out of the Consolidated Revenue fund of the Commonwealth, for the salaries of the Ministers of State, an annual sum which,until the Parliament otherwise provides, shall not exceed £12,000 a year.

That provision is unsatisfactory because, if an additional Minister is appointed, it becomes necessary to pass an act of Parliament in order to provide for his remuneration. Then if, at a later date, that Minister resigns, or is put out of office, the additional amount of money still remains in* the fund. It is not obligatory on the Ministry to reduce the fund by the amount of his salary.I believe, as a matter of fact, that when the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) resigned, the money intended for his remuneration was paid back into consolidated revenue. Of course, that is the proper thing to do, but the Government is not obliged to do it.

In Great Britain, there is a much better system in operation, one which might well be followed here, though the great difficulty is that it would be necessary to amend the Constitution. The British act provides that the salary of the Prime Minister shall be £10,000 a year. There is no mystery about what he shall receive, as there is here. It is set down for everybody to read, and that is as it should be. The relevant section of the act states that each Minister of the Crown named in scheduleI shall, subject to the provisions of the act as to number, receive £5,000 a year. The section goes on to state that Ministers named in schedule 2 shall ' receive £3,000 a year each, while those named in schedule 3 shall receive £2,000 a year. At the present time, there are eighteen Ministers of the Crown in the British Cabinet, but there are several other Ministers who do not sit in Cabinet. Their remuneration is also prescribed in the act, and salaries are provided for parliamentary undersecretaries, which is not the case here.

In the circumstances, this Government has no choice but to make provision for the payment of the additional Minister. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to divide the work of the Defence Department into two sections, and I congratulate the Government on its choice of a Minister for Defence. I believe that the present Minister (Mr. Street) will make a success of the job,' particularly as he is prepared to see the other man's point of view. I do not believe that the public will object to the increased expenditure involved, despite the fact that honorable members of the Opposition have taken exception to the proposal on this ground. I am convinced that the Government will be well served by the new Minister, and I have no doubt that it has acted wisely.

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