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Tuesday, 23 June 1903

Sir EDMUND BARTON - I have had no consultation with the honorable member for Bourke, nor, so far as I am aware, has he consulted with any member of the Government, with regard to the questions of which he has given notice. Neither I nor, so far as I am aware, any member of my Cabinet knew of his intention to give notice of these questions until they appeared on the business-paper. The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follow : -

1.   It is not correct to. say that the State Governments do not receive the returns of revenue to which they are constitutionally entitled, or that they do not receive all that in honour and reason ought to be paid to them.

(a)   The Commonwealth is bound by the Constitution to return at least threefourths of the total net Customs and Excise revenues to the States.

(b)   It is bound in honour and reason to return, beyond such three-fourths, any surplus after the requirements of the Departments of the Commonwealth have been economically providedfor. During 1901-2, the only year for which complete figures are available, a sum of £888,742 over and above the necessary three-fourths was returned to the States. 'The subjoined table shows the exact figures : -


2.   It is not correct tosay "that dozens of officers whose positions were sinecures under the States were transferred to the Federal serviceat largely increased salaries." This statement, besides being unjust to gentlemen who occupied onerous and. responsible offices in the service of the States, is inaccurate in so far as it refers to the Commonwealth service.

It is true that some officers who were transferred from the States are receiving under the Commonwealth higher salaries than they received under the States ; but this is in every case because they occupy higher and more responsible positions in the Commonwealth service. It is also true that the salaries attached to the higher offices referred to are in nearly every case less than the salaries attached to corresponding offices in the State services.

In justification of the statement referred to in the honorable member's question, the paper referred to published the following list, to which I have added, to illustrate the unfairness of the statements in question, the columns showing the salaries paid to the holders of similar offices in New South Wales and Victoria : -



In correction of the figures in the Age, I might say that the salary of the President of the Senate is £1,100, not £1,500 ; that the State salary of the Clerk Assistant to the House of Representatives was £560, including two allowances, not £450 ; that the former salary of the Secretary to the Treasurywas£700, not £600 ; and that the State salary of the Comptroller-General of Customs was, including an allowance of £200, £1,200, not £1,000. It should also be explained that the salary of £600 named in the table as attached to the position of Chief Parliamentary Reporter in Victoria is not fairly comparable with the salary of £700 paid by the Commonwealth, as the work controlled under the Commonwealth by this, officer is, in Victoria, distributed between two officers, whose aggregate salaries amount to £1,210. To continue my answer to the honorable member's question -

As to these officers, with reference to whom it is suggested that "they do little or no work for months while Parliament is out of session." it is pointed out that this list includes nine Parliamentary and six non-Parliamentary officers. It is not correct to sa}' that the Parliamentary officers have no work to do while Parliament is not in session : and it is also incorrect to say that Departmental officers, such as the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, the Secretary to the Treasury the Secretary to the Post-office, " do little or no "work for months while Parliament is out of session." It should further be stated that the salaries paid to the officers named are, in most cases, less than those attached to similar offices in Victoria or New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I rise to a point of order. I desire to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the course now being adopted by the Prime' Minister is not an abuse of the ordinary method of questioning Ministers and eliciting replies ?

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