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Thursday, 18 October 1956

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) (Minister for Supply) . - I am asked to say to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) that the remarks that he has made will be noted and due consideration given to them.

I do want to make a brief reply to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), first of all. about Senator Amour

I have some diffidence about discussing this matter. Senator Amour is undoubtedly in bad health. He has my sympathy, and I am sure "he has the sympathy of every one here, because that condition is the sort of thing that overtakes many of us, and we know what it means.

Representations were made to me, as the honorable member for East Sydney said, that because Senator Amour was incapacitated with some arthritic condition he should be permitted to have a car to take him between Sydney and Canberra during the parliamentary session. The first step that was taken was this: Because of his disability, instructions were given that he should be treated as an incapacitated member - as several other members of this House who are partly incapacitated are treated - and given a car from his home to the airport at any time when travelling to and fro on parliamentary business. I should have thought that that was at least something.

Then the question was asked as to whether he should have a car, all the time, to and fro from Sydney. After all, no matter how sympathetic we may be towards individual members, we in this House are the custodians of the public purse. We have an obligation to the people for the proper disposing of public moneys. It was pointed out that Senator Amour could come overnight by sleeping car on the train to Canberra. In reply, it was pointed out that the trains were not convenient. I then asked, " Can he not come by the very comfortable diesel car which, leaving Sydney about 8 o'clock in the morning, comes to Canberra every day and returns to Sydney? He would be brought by car from his home to the station for that purpose? " It was said to me, " That is not comfortable enough for him ". My reply was, " I cannot really understand how it can be more comfortable to spend four and a half or five hours bouncing up and down in a motor car between Sydney and Canberra instead of coming by comfortable diesel train ". So, because it costs about £60 a week to bring one member up and down each week by special car-

Mr Edmonds - Sixty pounds?

Mr BEALE - lt costs between £50 and £60 a week.

Mr Edmonds - Explain how it would cost that amount.

Mr BEALE - I do not explain it. I assert, as a fact, that that is what it costs. Therefore, in the interests of public economy, I decided, and the Government decided, that this thing could not be done. I ask any reasonable man in this House: " Is it to be expected that any member who is sick should be catered for in that way? " I do not believe that any Labour government or any Liberal government would acquiesce in that sort of expenditure of public money. For that reason, with all the sympathy in the world for a man who is undoubtedly indisposed, we decided that it could not be done.

Mr Cope - You penalize him for his war service.

Mr BEALE - I know all the rubbish that is talked about penalizing people for their war service. I did not argue the question of whether or not his disability is due to war service. I do not know whether it is or not, and it does not matter. I see him as a sick man, but I say that, sick or not, the public purse has to be protected, and it was decided - and I think rightly decided - that we could not provide th facility for an individual member of the Parliament.

Mr Cope - What about the transport of wives of Ministers?

Mr BEALE - Do not drag this business of Ministers' wives into it, because if members of the Opposition want to get really difficult about government motor cars, they will be the first to suffer, make no mistake about that. This Government has done more for private members in the way of car facilities than any other government ever did before, and there are members of the Labour party who are prepared teconcede that. As for this nonsense about Ministers' wives, the wives of Ministers in the Labour government, notably the wifeof the honorable member for East Sydney, enjoyed the privilege of government transport. That honorable gentleman sent ;i car to Brisbane for his wife's luggage.

Mr Edmonds - All right. The fight ison now.

Mr Ward - I challenge the Minister to prove that from the records.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The House will come to order.

Mr BEALE - We are quite prepared to drag up the records of everybody.

Mr Ward - I challenge the Minister to produce them.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I must ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting.

Mr BEALE - I suggest that that sort of childish talk about individual Ministers and their wives should stop. Ministers and their wives have enjoyed the privilege of the use of government cars for their purposes from time immemorial under all governments, Labour and anti-Labour. And it is right that it should be so.

I hope I have conveyed that we approached this matter in a sympathetic spirit and decided that, on principle, and having regard to public finances, the facility sought could not be provided.

Now, as to the furphy of the honorable member for East Sydney about the bomb, all I can do is to repeat that the scientific safety commitee said that the bomb went off as predicted, that the atomic cloud was as predicted, that the safety conditions were as arranged, and that there was no danger whatever to anybody.

Mr Ward - What about the aircrafthat were grounded?

Mr BEALE - I repeat that no aeroplane in Australia was either grounded or diverted during that explosion.

Mr Ward - Make the records available. Table them?

Mr BEALE - If the honorable member for East Sydney says that he does not believe me, that is his privilege.

Mr Ward - Make the records available. Table them in the Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I must ask the honorable member for East Sydney to refrain from interjecting.

Mr BEALE - I merely repeat, as Minister in charge of this matter, that no aeroplane was grounded or diverted, that there was no danger whatever to any citizen, or to any stock or property in Australia, as a result of this explosion. 1 think that that disposes of the matter.

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