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Wednesday, 24 June 1903

Mr WILKS (Dalley) - I understand that clause 53 is now before the Committee, but there seems to be a general discussion on the question of pensions. I do not intend to take part in that general discussion, butdesire simply to remind the Committee that this question was decided by a test vote lastnight, when the provision for pensions was struck out by twenty-nine votes to twenty. We are told by the honorable member for Wentworth, who seems inclined to impute motives at this juncture, that there were honorable members who voted against pensions because the high-water mark of salaries was, in their opinion, £400 a year. I object to any one, whether he be a Minister or private member, imputing motives to others. Are we to understand that the twenty honorable members who voted in favour of pensions are the " pure merinos" of the House? If I chose to impute motives I could turn round and say that the honorable member for Wentworthvotes on lines of social caste. Every honorable member, I take it, has reason for the votes he records, and the reasons of those who voted against pensions were fully given last night. Personally, I am opposed to pensions on principle . The honorable and learned member for Parkes seems to be actuated by a regard for the Judges.

Mr Conroy - Is the honorable member for Dalley against old-age pensions?

Mr WILKS - The Judges in New South Wales get pensions of £2,450 per annum, which is quite beyond comparison with any proposal for old-age pensions, which generally amount to 8s. or 10s. per week. Every member of the community, including the Chief Justices, and even the honorable and learned member for Parkes being entitled to the sum. And, judging from his past history, the honorable and learned member for Parkes would be quite as quickly at the Treasuryas any man who is really in need of a pension of 10s. per week. Those who vote for very large salaries ought to consider that it is not their own money, but the money of the people which is being expended. Some reference has been made to what is termed the popular cry for economy ; but it must be remembered that a cry for large salaries and pensions may be popular from a social and club life point of view. If honorable members will " sling mud " they must expect mud back again ; and the honorable and learned member for Parkes ought to be the last to oppose those who are fighting against the exploitation of the Treasury. I have no doubt that the twenty honorable members who voted for pensions are quite as keen to catch the public ear as are the honorable members who voted in the contrary direction. The honorable member for Melbourne, I dare say, is very keen in organizing for his return, and in feeling the pulse of the electors.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - I would not abandon my opinions in order to gain the vote of an elector. I would not be under the whip of anybody.

Mr WILKS - I shall go further and state, without any disguise, that my desire is to kill the Bill.

Mr Watson - A number of honorable members are in the same position.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member for Wentworth spoke of Mr. Eddy, the New South WalesRailway Commissioner ; but when the honorable member voted for the salary for that gentleman, he did not stipulate for any pension.

Sir William McMillan - I did not mention Mr. Eddy's case.

Sir Edmund Barton - Mr. Eddy's was only a seven years' appointment, and a pension would not be provided in such a case.

Mr WILKS - I am against any special pensions being granted. It has been argued that barristers 'eligible for the position of Judges earn from £9,000 to £10,000 per annum. It may be that a barrister can earn £S0O in one month, and nothing the next ; and I can assure the Committee that this battle was fought over and over again in the Parliament of New South Wales, and the present Minister of Lands in that State issued a challenge, when the case of Sir Frederick Darley was under consideration, to those concerned to prone that he earned £9,000 or £10,000 per annum. The Chairman of Committees in this House has a salary of £900 per annum, and if the House sat for six months, I should be justified in saying that he received £1,800 per annum, if earnings are to be computed as in the case of the barristers to whom I have, referred. By this train of reasoning, a banister might swell his income up to £1,000,000 per annum, and then say he was willing to take the position of Chief Justice at a salary of £3,500, with the pension. I should not have risen but for the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth. The vote taken last night was not a snatch vote, more than two-thirds of the members of the House taking part in the division. I trust that those honorable members who were against pensions last night will remain firm.

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