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Thursday, 1 May 1902

Mr WATSON (Bland) - I think that . the present position demonstrates the wisdom of the principle which has been followed ever since the initiation of responsible Government, and which is embodied in the Federal Constitution ; namely, that the salary of the Governor-General shall not be altered during his continuance in office. That is the spirit as well as the letter of the Constitution, and I would point out to the Prime Minister that all his statements about the report of the finance committee at the federal convention go for nothing, in view of the fact that the convention did not adopt the report of' the committee. They carefully excluded from the Constitution the mention of anything beyond the £10,000 per annum. We are not bound by the tentative report of the committee of the convention, but by the Constitution, which is the result of the matured judgment of the convention as a whole. I regret as much as any one the necessity the Government have placed upon us of discussing the Governor-General's salary and allowances. The only time this should be done is after the departure of a Governor-General, or before the appointment of the Governor-General to whom any alteration is intended to apply. The Prime Minister stated that at the time of the federal referendum people outside understood that the Governor-General's salary was to be £15,000 per annum - £10,000 as salary, and £5,000 as allowances. I deny, first of all, that 'any great number of people ever heard of the estimate of the convention committee; further, speaking as one who opposed the Bill in New South Wales, I do not remember one opponent of the measure - besides Dr. McLaurin, and one or two others, who were opposed to federation on any terms - who mentioned the question of finance so far as the new expenditure was concerned. There was no objection to pay the Governor-General £10,000 per annum, nor was any opposition shown with regard to the other necessary expenses attached to federation. But grave exception was taken to the provisions of the Braddon clause, which necessitated the raising of a larger amount of revenue than was actually required. Other objections of a. constitutional character were urged by those who opposed the Bill, but this question of the GovernorGeneral's salary was. never brought up.

Mr Higgins - It was too small.

Mr WATSON - It was too small a question in relation to the matter at issue, that was, federation itself. But it is not too small a question for our cognizance at the present time. The Prime Minister told us that the Governor-General was now spending at a rate of something like £20,000 per annum. That is to say, that if he were granted the amount now proposed to be voted under the Bill, he would still be out of pocket to the extent of several thousand pounds per annum. If that is so, I think it is about time that the members of this Parliament, as representing the people of Australia, and beyond all, the Prime Minister and the members of the Ministry as the official representatives of Australia, should inform the Governor-General that we do not expect him to cater for a number of sycophants who crawl about Government House. We vote £10,000 to the Governor-General as salary, and he is entitled to keep every penny of that for himself if he chooses.

Mi1. Mahon. - How much do the poor people get out of it ?

Mr WATSON - They do not want anything out of it. They do not want to go to the entertainments at Government House. I regard the Governor-General in the same light as any other private gentleman of means. If His Excellency cares to invite his friends to dinner with him, let him have them by all means; but I say most distinctly that the people of Australia - speaking broadly, and not merely of a few persons either in Sydney or Melbourne - do not expect the GovernorGeneral to entertain on their behalf on a scale that involves loss to himself. The sooner Ministers, who are the advisers of His Excellency, recognise that the people will be satisfied with the proper discharge by him of his gubernatorial duties, the better will it be for the social life of Australia, and the general utility of the Governor-General. Whilst the people of New South Wales will always be glad to welcome His Excellency amongst them as the representative of the old land, I am sure that they dd not expect him to make any large financial sacrifice in order to reside in Sydney for any great portion of the year.

If it be true that the occupancy of Government House, Sydney, involves the GovernorGeneral in loss, I say that, under such circumstances, the people of New South Wales do not expect Lord Hopetoun to reside there. The Prime Minister hasalluded to the passage through the New South Wales Parliament of a Bill to contribute an additional £3,600 as that State's share towards an additional £10,000 which it was proposed to pay to the GovernorGeneral. But if ever' a Bill was put through the House in secrecy, and with complete ignorance, so far as the bulk of honorable members were concerned, it was the Bill in question. It was introduced at a time when, as every one knows, all-night sittings were the rule and not the exception. I admit that I was asleep, but those who were awake inform me that they understood that the Bill provided for an instalment of the £10,000 salary which was guaranteed to the Governor-General under the Constitution. They were under the impression that, as the Federal Government was not in existence at the time, the various State Parliaments were jointly advancing the £10,000 required.

Mr Barton - I have looked at the New South Wales Hansard, and there is not the slightest warrant for any such statement.

Mr WATSON - I repeat that what I have stated was the general impression.

Mr Barton - Sir William Lyne said nothing to create such an impression.

Mr WATSON - No; he carefully said nothing about the matter, for fear of waking up those who might oppose the Bill. If the Bill had been de-, bated, and a division taken upon it, it would not have had the faintest show of passing. I can assure honorable members that it was carried in ignorance of its effect so far as a large number of members were concerned. There is another matter to. which I would direct the attention of the Prime Minister. Amongst the Estimates for the department of . External Affairs ta which we have already agreed is a sum of £2,000 for the purposes of the GovernorGeneral. In division 11, sub-division 2, will be found " Official printing, stationery, travelling, telegrams, and other incidental expenditure for Governor-General, £2,000." That amount was agreed to, and I am not objecting to it. I contend, however, that that expenditure is quite sufficient. Then, again, the Prime Minister should recollect that some of the expenditure to which he has referred is brought about by entertainments at Government House. In this connexion I might instance the item of £750 for stationery. This expenditure is incurred in giving entertainments for which there is no demand on the part of the people, and which benefit only a few individuals who are already sufficiently favoured by fortune. When the Tariff was under discussion, authorities and precedents in profusion were cited by Ministers, the assumption being that we should be guided by the average of precedents. Canada was cited in this connexion as evidencing the extreme moderation of the Ministry, and as showing that that country went much further than did the proposals of the Minister for Trade and Customs. If in other things we are justified in following the example of Canada, it seems to me that in this case we are amply justified in adopting a similar course. The salary paid to the Governor-General in Canada is practically £10,000 a year. The population there is considerably larger than is the population of Australia, and I believe that its expanse of territory is also larger. In Canada the allowances to the GovernorGeneral total under £2,000.

Mr Barton - They aggregate 30,000 dollars, which is equal to £6,000.

Mr WATSON - I have in my hand a list of the allowances to the GovernorGeneral, and they do not exceed £2,000.

Mr Barton - It happens that in a past despatch, the allowance to the GovernorGeneral of Canada is mentioned, and is put down at 30,000 dollars.

Mr WATSON - The authority for my statement is to be found in the Canadian Estimates for the financial year ended June, 1901.

Mr Barton - I hope that the honorable member will not persist in that statement, because I am pretty clear that I am right.

Mr WATSON - I am equally clear that the Canadian Estimates disclose the true position of affairs there. I do not know whether the inference to be drawn from the Prime Minister's statement is that he has had suggestions from the Colonial-office in regard to the Governor-General's salary. If he has not, I do not understand why he should be in receipt of despatches upon the subject. It is a peculiar thing if the Colonial-office has been applied to in regard to this matter.

Mr Barton - It has not.

Mr WATSON - I regret very much that this question has been brought forward. I should have been much better pleased if there had been no necessity to discuss .it. If the Governor-General was put to large expense- as I believe he was - in connexion with the reception of the Duke and Duchess of York, I am willing to vote a fair amount to recoup his outlay. I do not think that we should ask him to entertain our guests at his own cost. But I will oppose any proposal to increase the GovernorGeneral's salary by adopting an extravagant system of allowances. I regard the£10,000 which is provided for in the Constitution as a salary pure and simple, and His Excellency is entitled to retain every penny of it above his ordinary living expenses.

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