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Thursday, 1 May 1902

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - It is always a delicate and extremely difficult task to have to deal with the remuneration of an important office after it has been filled. Upon the present occasion it is unusually so, seeing that the office in question is filled by a gentleman who has endeared himself to every section of the community. Indeed, I hope that the Government were not relying on the well - known and well - merited popularity of our present Governor - General, when they submitted to us a proposal which I scarcely think they can hope to justify upon any other ground. I admit at once - and I think it will be conceded all round - that our present Governor-General has been subjected to an extraordinary expenditure of a non-recurring character during his first year of office. In the first place, before he had any responsible advisers, he very properly took up his residence in the oldest and most populous of the States. Then he had to incur the expense of removing to Victoria when the Parliament opened in this city. As we all know he must have been involved in a verv large expenditure in upholding the dignity of the Commonwealth upon its inauguration in Sydney. He was also put to further expense in entertaining the Duke and Duchess of York, and receiving them in a manner that was worthy of the Commonwealth. We must remember that that reception and hospitality were tendered by him to our future king and queen. I think we will all agree that the Commonwealth does not expect the Governor-General to pay this extraordinary expenditure out of his own pocket. If the Government had submitted a proposal to reimburse him to that extent, I for one should have been very pleased to support it. But virtually what we are asked to do is to permanently increase the salary attaching to the position, and to make that salary apply to future occupants as well as to the present occupant of the office. Assuming, for instance, that the federal capital site is selected next session - and that is the earliest possible moment at which we can expect the selection to be made - it will take some years to provide the necessary accommodation for the Governor-General, the Parliament, and the officials of the various departments, and by that time the Governor-General's term of office will in all probability have expired. I should be very pleased, of course, to see the same gentleman re-appointed, but we must regard the matter in the light of the Constitution. In all probability another Governor-General may be in office by that time, and we could not reduce the salary after the appointment had been accepted at the higher rate. Besides, it appears to me that a great deal of the proposed expenditure is altogether unnecessary. When the Federal Constitution was adopted, an honorable compromise was arranged as to the State in which the capital should be fixed. It was agreed that the permanent Federal capita] should be in the senior State, but that the Parliament should meet in Victoria until the Federal capital had been established. It was not considered necessary to provide in the Constitution that the seat of Government must be in Victoria, during the whole of the term in which Parliament met in that State, any more than it was considered necessary to provide that the seat of Government should be always in New South Wales after the capital had been established. If it is considered necessary, while the Parliament sits in Victoria, to keep up a vice-regal residence in Sydney during a portion of the year, is it not equally reasonable to suppose that Victoria may make a similar claim after the seat of Government has been removed permanently to New South Wales ? How can we support one claim without lending some countenance to the other? Would it not be just as reasonable for Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, and Hobart, to make similar claims to the vice-regal presence ? I quite concur with the honorable member for Bland in the view that the GovernorGeneral should not be expected to spend so much on functions. There is a great deal more in this matter than appears on the surface. It may be said that £18,000 a year is not a large sum for the people to provide for the Governor-General ; but when we are fixing salaries we must necessarily compare one with another, and. grade each in proportion to the duties performed. If we fix the principal salary unduly high, scores of other salaries may be affected. I sincerely hope that the Government will reconsider this matter, and not put the House in the very disagreeable position of having to vote on the Bill. The Government would be well advised if they withdrew the Bill and came down with a reasonable proposal to recoup the Governor-General for any extraordinary expenditure he may have incurred during the first year of the Commonwealth.

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