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Tuesday, 10 June 1902

Mr WILKS (Dalley) - Honorable members and the people generally must admit that this is a sorry bit of business altogether. The honorable member for North Sydney appealed to the committee not to tarnish our good name. It is the members of the Ministry, not us, who are doing that, and they have now done so on two occasions.

Mr Mauger - Honorable gentlemen opposite are making a party question of the matter.

Mr WILKS - No, we are not. That was said when the Governor - General's Establishment Bill was before us, but, although any honorable member might have made that a party measure, by moving that it be read " this day six months," nothing of the kind was done. I do not intend to refer to the Governor-General personally ; my remarks will have relation simply to his office. The honorable member for Gippsland has spoken of the peculiar and regrettable circumstances of the case, and tells us that we have no alternative. I am tired of those words. We have the alternative in regard to this item that we have in regard to other items, and if we do not believe that the people of the Commonwealth are committed to the payment of the money, we can vote against it. In the first place, the Government asked us to vote an annual allowance of £8,000, to cover certain expenditure by the GovernorGeneral, but, in committee, the Bill was dealt with in such a way that, if it had been a State measure, the State Government introducing it would have resigned, and in the rarer atmosphere of federal politics the same action should have been taken by the Commonwealth Government. As I voted against that proposal, I shall vote against his. £8,000 a year is equivalent .to £16,000 for two years; but now we have voted £10,000, and we are asked to vote another £5,000, all within eighteen months of the Governor-General taking office, so that this is only another way of getting round the stump. Not withstanding the general expression of opinion in regard to the Governor-General's Establishment Bill that no action of this kind should be taken before Parliament had been consulted, we find the Ministry again pledging Parliament to the voting of £5,000. When allowances to the public servants are proposed, they are dealt with relentlessly, and why should we act differently when allowances for the highest public servant in the land are proposed? The Treasurer told us that this sum was to cover expenditure upon lighting, fuel, entertainments, and so on, and the items which he read out might well make one think that he was listening to the accounts of the household of Aladdin, instead of to the expenditure of the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, where the press are everywhere clamouring for economy, and the needs of the States actually demand it. As representatives of the people, we should not be more mealy-mouthed in speaking upon a subject like this than we should be if the allowances of a head messenger were at stake. When the subject of allowances generally was under discussion, the Ministry promised to withdraw them, and by that promise probably extricated themselves from a defeat upon a motion for adjournment. If there had been in our public life a dignified leader like the late Sir Henry Parkes, the present Ministry would not be in power to-day. The Commonwealth Parliament should set an example te the State Parliaments, but we have not done so in regard to this matter. The leader of the labour party and others have shown that the Governor-General has received the astounding amount of £35,000 or £40,000 for eighteen months' service. He was voted £10,000 for the entertainment of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. We can pass that by, because the expenditure was national expenditure. They were invited by the people, and therefore the expenditure was of a national character, but at the time that our Royal visitors were here, the public were under the impression that they were being entertained by the Governor-General. I do not see why the Parliament should be called upon, after having al ready voted Hi s Excellency £10,000, to give him another £5,000 to meet purely domestic expenses. Honorable members might as well put in a claim for an allowance in consideration of their having been detained in Melbourne for a longer time than they had anticipated. Yet a proposal in that direction has been consistently scouted by the press. The Treasurer tells us that the greater part of the expenditure for which we have been asked to provide has been already met out of the Treasurer's advance account, and the Government should be compelled to take the responsibility of the payments. The present proposal is an attempt to overcome the difficulty created by the refusal of the House to pass the Governor-General's Establishment Bill in the form in which it was originally introduced, and I hope that honorable members will not support it.

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