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Wednesday, 5 May 1993
Page: 108

Senator BISHOP (10.51 a.m.) —This is a classic example of the old adage, give them an inch and they will take a mile. There were those of us who objected very strenuously to the precedent being set of a man who was not a Minister with the responsibilities of a Minister being given the trappings of a Minister—let alone the pay of one. There were those of us who saw the use of our Constitution to swear them in as members of the Executive Council, simply because there is no provision to have junior Ministers, as a way of giving de facto pay increases to the favoured ones who dipped out on having a ministry.

  The point we are discussing here is that, come 1 July, the Government will have only 30 senators in this chamber. Therefore, Ministers will have to carry an extra load because the Government could not attract enough votes to get more senators. There is no reason why we should not examine the proposal to have Ministers from the lower House who are responsible for expenditure attend at estimates committees in the carriage of the debate concerning the proper expenditure of taxpayers' money. That is a much better proposal than having someone, who is merely categorised as a Parliamentary Secretary in order to be given lurks and perks, carrying on as if he or she were truly a Minister.

  The bottom line is that if we agree to this sort of motion, we will be complicitous in this charade that the Government is now seeking to perpetuate. We granted Senator McMullan certain status as a singular and isolated example where there was a demonstrated need to grant that particular position.

Senator Kemp —He was the only one who knew anything about finance.

Senator BISHOP —That is the point. There was a paucity of Ministers on the other side with any knowledge to deal with matters at hand. We agreed to that proposition because he was the Manager of Government Business. The Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services (Senator McMullan) is now seeking to use that one-off example as a precedent for having as many Parliamentary Secretaries as the Government wants.

  For heaven's sake, there is nothing to prevent the Government having all the Government senators declared Parliamentary Secretaries with the status of Ministers. It makes a mockery and laughing stock of the Government's position of having a so-called small number of people who constitute the Ministry. As there are 40 in the Ministry now, will it be 50 next time and maybe 60 the time after that, with de facto pay increases?

  This motion is being brought on in this chamber for the simple reason that there will be only 30 senators on that side. If the Democrats vote with the Government on any particular issue, it will no longer be enough to give it the numbers. The Government will either have to get the concurrence of the Greens or Senator Harradine in order to get legislation passed. We have to acknowledge exactly what this is: it is a grab at a de facto increase in the number of Ministers.