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Tuesday, 23 June 1903

Mr SALMON (Laanecoorie) - I am rather astonished to find that there is any apologist for the perpetuation of a system which in the past has been condemned throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I am also surprised to find some honorable members who are opposed to pensions for certain branches of the public service advocating that they should be granted to the very highest paid officials of the State. I fail to see any consistency in that. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that we are making precedents, and the Committee should establish a precedent in this case which the States could well follow. We can also set a precedent in the matter of salaries, because these, in my opinion, are fixed too high in the Bill, and I shall have something to say upon that when we reach the clause dealing with them. It is our bounden duty to remove altogether from the Federal public service any hope that its members, and especially those receiving high salaries, will have pensions paid to them when they leave the service, though in some of the States the pensions paid nearly equal in amount the salaries which the officers have been receiving when in full service.

It is the duty of those who are in receipt of regular and sufficient payment from the State to make provision for the time when they will not be receiving salary. We can set an example, which some of the States very much require to follow, by wiping out altogether from our annual charges the pension list which, in the past and at present, is in the States proving a terrible, burden upon the taxpayers of Australia.

Mr. BRUCESMITH (Parkes).- I should like the Committee to consider whether the position in which we find ourselves now is a fair one. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is endeavouring to have a division taken upon this clause, without first trying whether it cannot be made acceptable to a majority of the Committee in the way suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney. The speeches made so far suggest that there is a very large number of honorable members who are disposed to accept this clause with some modifications, but the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has candidly said that he desires to take a division upon the clause as a whole, because he fears that, if the Committee has an opportunity of modifying it, it may be made acceptable, and he will lose his opportunity of strangling the proposal. The honorable member's suggestion is the same as if, upon the second reading of a measure, it were assumed that it would be unalterable, and that we should, therefore, take a division upon it in the condition in which .it is first submitted to the House, and without the understanding that, in passing the second reading, we have an opportunity of making the measure acceptable in Committee. Why should we not modify this clause if there is some chance that it may be made acceptable to the Committee ? It will be open to honorable members subsequently to express an opinion upon the whole clause after it has been modified.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - We do not go into Committee upon the Bill before we pass the second reading. We take the principle first, and then deal with the modifications.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is trying now to put the cart before the horse. He is endeavoring to take a final division upon a clause with the expectation and the knowledge that we shall not have an opportunity of making it acceptable to the Committee. We can safely agree to the second reading of a Bill, as we have done in the case of the very Bill now under consideration, on the understanding that we can amend any part of it in Committee.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Suppose the second reading is lost.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the second reading is lost there is no chance of amending the measure afterwards, but honorable members frequently vote for the second reading of a Bill with the full knowledge that they would not accept it finally in the condition in which it is submitted. If the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne Forts is agreed to, the whole clause will be negatived, although I have formed the opinion from the speeches which I have heard that many members of the Committee at the present time are willing to accept the principle if the conditions arc modified in the way suggested by the honorable member for North Sydney. If there is not a majority willing to have the clause in a modified form we shall find that out very shortly, but if there is, by adopting the course proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne Forts, we shall be presenting a majority in the Committee accepting the principle in a modified form, merely because the honorable member has chosen to take the clause by the scruff of the neck, in order to kill it at the first stage of discussion. I submit that unless honorable members desire to do that in the face of the majority, an opportunity should be given to fashion the clause so as to make it acceptable.

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