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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator HENTY (Tasmania) (Minister for Civil Aviation) . - in reply - The Bill proposes some amendments of legislation which passed this House last October. It was interesting to hear Senator Benn say that he objects to the legislation but will not oppose it.

Senator Benn - That is a Party decision.

Senator HENTY - He registers his objection but does what he is told to do by his Party. He voted for the legislation of last year and no doubt he will vote for this Bill on this occasion. The Bill proposes certain alterations to correct some anomalies in the legislation which was passed last year. Senator Benn cited certain figures. He said that a Minister of the Crown, after eight years in that position, will receive an additional pension or superannuation - call it what you will - of £9 a week. He then said that an age pensioner couple receive £12 a week. He forgot to say that a retired senator will receive £32 a week. He did not compare that pension with what an age pensioner receives. He concentrated on Ministers.

Another thing he forgot to mention was that Ministers make an additional contribution of £18 10s. a month and become qualified for the additional pension only after being in office as Ministers for eight years. I mention that point because the Richardson Committee recommended that after six years service Ministers of the Crown should receive a special additional pension without being required to make any additional contribution. The Government rejected that proposal and notified the Parliament that it would introduce ministerial pensions on the basis that additional contributions would be made by the Ministers concerned. That was accepted by the Parliament - a point which Senator Wright forgot.

Further, the Government took steps to introduce this scheme just prior to an election. If that is not an example of acting in good faith, I do not know what is. Just before facing the people again, we announced our proposals. The legislation was debated and was written up in the Press throughout the country. In Senator Benn's own State of Queensland there was a great Press campaign about this matter just prior to the election. If the Government's action on that occasion also was not an example of acting in good faith, 1 do not know what is.

In fairness and justice one should consider two things. First, I suppose it would be fair to say that an ordinary senator entering this House would spend six years as a private member before attaining ministerial rank. I think that is shortening the period somewhat but let us suppose it takes only six years. He then has to be a Minister for eight years before he can qualify for the additional £9 a week, so that he has a total of 14 years service. For this additional pension he makes a contribution of £18 10s. a month over and above the £20 a month he contributes for his ordinary pension.

Senator O'Byrne - He can always resign.

Senator HENTY - If the honorable senator will stop interjecting flippantly I will reply in all seriousness, because the point was raised, I believe, in all seriousness. The second point that I think it is fair to take into consideration is that we are all liable to income tax and, quite frankly, at least one-half of the ministerial pension will go back to the Government in the form of income tax.

Senator Cavanagh - The contribution is deductible.

Senator HENTY - Just as everyone else's is deductible. I am not claiming that it is not deductible. The real point I want to make to the Senate is this: Having served for six years as a private member and eight years as a Minister, any man who owned his own business before entering the Parliament would find it almost impossible to succeed when he tried to enter again the competitive business world of today. As a result of the complexity of growing responsibilities of government, to which Senator Wright referred, he has had to devote his full time and energy to his ministerial duties. This is the very point which the Richardson Committee took into account. If the Opposition ever became the Government, I am sure that Senator Benn, who is interjecting again, would never attain ministerial rank. With his outlook, which is as wide as threepence, Senator Benn would never be a Minister so he can never know what ministerial service entails. Ministerial service in the Commonwealth Government today means total service if a Minister is going to conduct the department under his administration efficiently. It is a full-time job; make no mistake about that.

Senator Marriott - A Minister has to resign his directorships and so reduce his income.

Senator HENTY - That applies to some and not to others. I am speaking of general principles and I do not think I should refer to individual cases. Ministerial work is a full-time job. A Minister cannot conduct a private business as well. He cannot leave the Senate for business commitments; he has to be here. A Minister cannot earn money outside and he cannot treat his membership of this House as only a part-time job. A Minister has to give full-time service to the Parliament.

I would like to see honorable senators opposite trying to go back into competitive business after working as Ministers for 10 years. They would then see whether they could resume activity in the business world. This difficulty was recognised in the Richardson report. I know that Senator Wright opposed this proposal previously. I have read his speech a number of times and I do not think he took that into account fairly and squarely. As a result of modern developments in government and the responsibilities of a Minister, he must give all his time and attention to ministerial activities and the Richardson Committee recognised that a Minister cannot resume private commercial activities after 10 years in office. A senator who is not faced with ministerial responsibility can still conduct his own business. He can draw his salary as a senator and still earn money elsewhere. That cannot be done by a Minister in charge of a senior department.

Senator Wrightcorrected the figures that were quoted by Senator Benn. Senator Benn began by saying that after eight years a Minister qualified for an additional pension of £21. That is quite wrong. I shall quote the correct figures so that those who want the facts may be properly informed. After eight years of service as a Minister - which is the qualifying period and was' not attained by many until this Government came to office - a Minister receives a pension of £9 a week for a contribution of £18 10s. a month. The pension paid for the same contribution for longer periods as a Minister rises as follows: Nine years, £10 10s.; ten years, £12; eleven years, £14; twelve years, £16; thirteen years £18 10s.; fourteen years or more, £21. Much has been made of the contribution by the Government. In these days any normal company considers this a primary responsibility to its employees. There are many superannuation schemes in private enterprise which are more attractive than the scheme we are considering.

Senator Hannaford - Would it be comparable with the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme?

Senator HENTY - Yes, it would be comparable and there again there is a Government contribution. I think I have answered all the questions that I can be expected to answer and have corrected the misstatements that have been made by some honorable senators. I have put a fairly reasonable point of view, in my opinion. A Minister who has had 14 years or more ministerial service would have been a member of the Parliament for 20 years. Could he be expected to return to the commercial world after being out of it for 20 years?

Senator Morris - How many of them would live long enough?

Senator HENTY - Yes, how many would qualify? It is only common justice to take these things into account as was done by the Richardson Committee. Senator Benn might have objected to the recommendations of the Richardson Committee, but I know of only one man in this Parliament who ever took steps to divest himself of an increase in salary. I say to Senator Benn: It can be done if it touches your conscience to receive the emoluments recommended by the Richardson Committee. You can divest yourself of any part of it to bring yourself down to what you think you are worth. The only man in the Federal Parliament who did so was the present Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). Wages were pegged and when the Labour Government increased parliamentary salaries from £1,000 to £1,500, the present Prime Minister refused to take the increase until he had been to the people. He said: " Wages are pegged and therefore our salaries should be pegged ".

Senator Morris - So did I.

Senator HENTY - I was speaking in a federal sense.

Senator Kennelly - Moses Gabb refused an increase, too.

Senator HENTY - I did not know. So there were two of them. Whether one or two refused, I say to Senator Benn with great respect if he feels so bitterly about this: " Go thou and do likewise ".

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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