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Thursday, 17 November 1938

Mr CHAIRMAN - Th e honorable member is getting wide of the subject.

Mr WARD - I shall get back to the genuine unemployed, the honorable members of the Cabinet. They have yet to prove to the satisfaction of Parliament that they are overworked. It is ridiculous for them to claim that they are, because it could not bo imagined that, without experience, they could take up the administration of a public department except under the guidance of senior public servants. Any one would imagine, however, from what they say that they work day and night in order to become conversant with the activities of their departments. "To prove that they do not, it is only necessary to cite the fact that when they are asked questions in Parliament, unless their attention has been recently directed to the subject-matter of flic question, they ask that the questions be put on the notice-paper. The next day they read to the House the typewritten replies which have been prepared by public servants. That is the way in which the business of public departments is transacted. I do not say that there is not plenty of work in some departments for Ministers to undertake if they are sufficiently interested or capable, but, generally, it is not undertaken. Some

Ministers are merely rubber stamps. Some of them receive deputations and sign letters on behalf of senior members of the Cabinet.

I realize that the Prime Minister, in his anxiety to overcome difficulties between the parties which make up the Government, is always anxious to increase the number of Ministers. I was amazed that clause 3 was allowed by the Government to pass without amendment. I should have expected that the figure " eleven " would be replaced by " fortyfive". Then all members .of the two parties opposite could have been in the Cabinet ; probably, that is the only way in which satisfaction- could be given to members of the warring sections.

What concerns me at the moment is the way in which members of the Government and honorable members of the parties ' opposite expend the. public moneys without regard for those who have to pay. It is all right to vote a few thousand pounds now' and then for this purpose and that. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that this, increase of the appropriation for the Ministry would cost each taxpayer a fraction of a penny, but I suggest to him that he should take an entirely different point of view. This Parliament and members of the Government should set an example to the rest of the community. Thousands of men are being displaced from employment and evicted from their homes and little children are denied sufficient food, but when the Labour party asks that something be done to assist them the reply of the Government is that its finances will not permit it. If . that be the case the Government should not be dipping its hands into the public coffer to increase Ministerial salaries.

It was indecent for Ministers to participate in the last division. They should have had sufficient decency to leave the chamber when a division was taking place on a question which concerned their own financial benefit, and the decision should have been left to other honorable members who have no pecuniary interest in- the matter. Instead of that, every member of the Government voted in the division. Ministers have displayed an unusual interest in the proceedings of

Parliament when their financial interests have been under discussion. And lined up with Ministers on the side of the Government in the division were honorable gentlemen who, although they have no immediate financial interest in this bill, hope, when some further reconstruction of Cabinet takes place, to achieve cabinet rank. I hope that honorable members of the Opposition will go, not only into their own electorates, but also into those of honorable members opposite, and tell the people how honorable gentlemen opposite, like the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), talk one way and vote another.

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