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Friday, 26 September 1902

Mr WATSON (Bland) - I move-

That the item, "Secretary and Parliamentary Draftsman, £800," be reduced by £50.

Honorable members will see from the schedule of Estimates laid before them that the sum of £50, which last year was voted as an allowance to the parliamentary draftsman on account of extra duties discharged by him, is this year added to the permanent salary of that officer.

Mr Deakin - The committee asked that that should be done last year.

Mr WATSON - I for one objected to it. The allowance last year, as I understand it, was given because this gentleman had been put to a great deal of trouble owing to the length of the session and the pressure of parliamentary drafting. In consequence of the large number of Bills that were introduced, it was said that he had had to do a great deal of extra work. I must say, however, that, judging from the expert opinions given by members of the Commonwealth Parliament qualified to express an opinion upon the drafting, it has not been such as to reflect any wonderful credit upon the person intrusted with it.

Mr L E GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Yes; on the whole it has been very good.

Mr WATSON - I have heard a considerable number of complaints lay some honorable members as to the drafting. The right honorable member for East Sydney yesterday referred to the drafting of the Inter-State Commission Bill. This is part of the work for which the Secretary to the Attorney - General's department is responsible, though whether he did it himself or not I do not know. I do not for a moment say that he is incapable of good draftsmanship. I have rather reason to believe the contrary. But the best Act we have put through Parliament, so far as mere draftsmanship is concerned - and this has been pointed out by some very high authorities - is one with which this officer had nothing whatever to do. I refer to the Customs Act. However, I do not express any particular opinion on that point. The point I take is that there is no possible justification for giving a higher salary to the Secretary to the Attorney-General's department any more than for increasing the salaries of the secretaries of the various other departments. The strength of the argument is all the other way. Allowing that there is required as Secretary to the Attorney-General's department a gentleman who has professional experience, as well as other qualities, we must still remember that the number of individuals over whom he has to exercise control is small ; and even when you add to that work the matter of parliamentary drafting, there is no reason for giving him a larger salary for it, because in many cases he gets some one else to do the actual work. There is, therefore, a wide distinction between the position of this officer and that of the Secretary to the department of Home Affairs, or that of Secretary to the depart- ment of Defence.

Mr CROUCH (CORIO, VICTORIA) - We pay the Secretary for Defence £900 a year.

Mr WATSON - That is because we could not pay him less. He was. taken over with the transferred department, and the Minister for Defence told the House that he could not transfer this officer at a lower salary than he was formerly receiving. But in the case of the Secretary to the department of Home Affairs, we have an officer who has to deal with an expenditure of about £170,000 a year, who has an enormous number of officers scattered throughout Australia, and has a large and growing department to control. Yet he has to be satisfied with a salary of £750 per annum. I do not wish for a moment to increase that salary, but I think the same amount is quite enough for an officer who has a very small department to control, involving a total expenditure of only some £2,600.

Mr Deakin - Does the honorable member think this department can be measured by its expenditure 1

Mr WATSON - I have just said that the department is not to be measured alone by that consideration, but that is one of the features which has to be remembered. We have to contrast the duties of this officer with those of the head of a department which has a number of sub-branches and an enormous number of officers over whom control has to be exercised.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member forgets that the secretary to my department advises every other department of the States, and touches the whole of the other expenditure.

Mr WATSON - I thought the AttorneyGeneral was supposed to do all that.

Mr Deakin - He is the AttorneyGeneral's chief officer.

Mr WATSON - That is an argument for doing away with the office of the AttorneyGeneral altogether, and saving £2,000 a year.

Mr Deakin - I said that this officer was the Attorney-General's chief officer.

Mr WATSON - Are we to pay several other officers to do the work ? Admitting that the Secretary to the A ttorney-General's department occupies a responsible position, I say, nevertheless, that his work is not so responsible and does not involve so much work, care, and anxious consideration as do the duties of the secretaries of some of the other departments.

Mr Deakin - I take the liberty of differing from the honorable member entirely..

Mr WATSON - I suppose there is nothing like leather, and I can quite understand the magnifying effect of the glasses through which the honorable and learned gentleman looks at anything connected with the law. But, in my opinion, judging not only from the affairs of the Commonwealth, but from those of the other States as well ; and comparing the Law department with the department of Home Affairs and the Defence department - and especially with the Customs department - I say that the duties of the permanent heads of those departments involve responsibilities which justify their receiving at least as much, or even more, than the Secretary to the AttorneyGeneral.

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