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Thursday, 17 March 1904


Mr CONROY (Werriwa) - I must dissent from the motion moved by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I think he overlooked section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that -

The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called "The Parliament," or, "The Parliament of the Commonwealth."

We must give a strict reading to that section, or we can give no meaning to section 48, which says -

Until the Parliament otherwise provides, each senator and each member of the House of Representatives shall receive an allowance of four hundred pounds a year, to be reckoned from the day- on which he takes his seat.

If the strict reading adopted by the honorable member for Coolgardie were applied to section 48 it would have no meaning whatever. Section 45' refers to " any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth." The services rendered by the honorable member for Wakefield are not rendered to the Commonwealth ; they are not even rendered to the Parliament, but to the members of this House. Furthermore, the duties discharged by the honorable member for Wakefield do not come within the scope of the phrase " services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State." Therefore, it seems to me that the objection raised by the honorable member falls to the ground. Section 1 of the Constitution furnishes us with a definition of the Commonwealth. It provides that -

The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is hereinafter called "The Parliament," or "The Parliament of the Common weal th. "

The services of the Speaker are, therefore, not rendered to the Commonwealth, but to the members of this House, who are perfectly within their rights in determining what fee or honorarium shall be given to him for such services. If the extended construction suggested by the honorable member for Coolgardie were given to section 48 it would have no meaning, because we could not make any allowance to honorable members. In cases where, in the event of an extended meaning being given to one section, another would be deprived of all meaning, the limited meaning must be given in the first case, so that both sections may be allowed to have force. If the House agreed . 'to give a person some consideration for services rendered whilst he was not a member and the payment were deferred until he became a member, we could not say that his acceptance of the payment would involve a breach of section 45. If, on the other hand, the honorable member for Wakefield received consideration for services rendered whilst he -was not a member section 45 could not in any way apply to him. A payment made to an honorable member would come within the scope of section 48. There is nothing in that section to disentitle us, as a House, to vote what we like to any individual member as an allowance for special services. The words of the section are -

Until the Parliament otherwise provides each senator and each member of the House of Representatives shall receive an allowance of four hundred pounds a year, to be reckoned from the day on which he takes his seat.

Parliament has otherwise provided, and it appears to me that it has acted quite within its rights. If it be contended that we ought not to single out one member for special treatment that is an entirely different question. I submit that we have done nothing contrary to the Constitution Act, but if we had placed the honorable member for Wakefield in a false position I take it that we should not, under the circumstances, stultify ourselves by making him suffer from a fault that was not his, but ours. There is no necessity, however, for us to fall back upon that. We cannot apply to the Constitution the narrow meaning claimed by the honorable member for Coolgardie, unless we at the same time agree that not one member of this House is entitled to any allowance from the day he becomes a member until he takes his seat. I am very thankful to the honorable member for having brought this question before the House. When the Appropriation Bill was before us I thought there was a very sound constitutional objection to be taken to the course proposed by the Government, and it was not until I had referred to section 1 of the Constitution, which defines the word " Commonwealth," and had read sections 45 and 48 in conjunction, that I formed a different opinion. I commend section 1 to the honorable member's attention. - If we had placed the honorable member for Wakefield in such a position as the honorable member for Coolgardie would have us believe, it would be our duty, in justice to the Speaker, to strain the law if necessary. That, however, is not necessary, so far as I can see. I have no hesitation in voting against the motion.

Mr. MAHON(Coolgardie).- I am afraid that I have not been able to follow the honorable and learned member for Werriwa through his argument. I see nothing in section 1 of the Constitution, except a definition of the repository of the legislative powers of the Commonwealth. There is nothing in that or in any other section of the Constitution which entitles us to whittle down the prohibition contained in section

45.   Section 48 is also very clear. It allows this Parliament a certain amount of latitude in regard to the payment of allowances to members - both as to the amount and also as to the time at which the remuneration shall commence.


Mr Conroy - Suppose that the honorable member for Wakefield takes his allowance as a member who has been specially singled out, but still as a member.


Mr MAHON - An honorable member under the Parliamentary Allowances Act, is entitled to his allowance from the date of his election.


Mr Conroy - The Speaker simply receives more than do other members ; that is the only difference.


Mr MAHON - Not at all. Whilst I appreciate the Prime Minister's skill in dealing with this matter, I am not able to accept his conclusions. Whatever the reasons were for inserting in section 45 the words "fee or honorarium," he has not conclusively shown why in this case their plain and obvious meaning should be disregarded. The Prime Minister has endeavoured to draw a distinction between a " fee or honorarium " and salary, but the main point is" that the money, whatever name we may give it, paid to the honorable member for Wakefield, was given for services rendered to the Commonwealth by a member at the time when he was not qualified for the position to which that particular allowance was attached. That is the whole point. I do not think that I need discuss the other aspects of the question, because the Prime Minister has admitted that the foot-note to an Act is not part of the law. Therefore, from my point of view, that amount has been illegally paid. The Speaker's 'allowance is fixed in the schedule at £1,100 per year. The authority for paying portion of it during the period when he was not Speaker is the footnote to which I have referred, and the Prime Minister himself has admitted that that authority is illegal.


Mr Conroy - No; the Appropriation Act itself is the power which grants it.


Mr MAHON - Can the honorable and learned member point to anything in that Act which declares that the Speaker shall be paid during the interregnum between the dissolution and the creation of a new Parliament, when he is not Speaker?


Mr Conroy - Then no penalty can fall upon him. He is paid the salary as a member and not as Speaker.


Mr MAHON - I beg to differ from that view. If the honorable member for Wakefield had been paid his salary as a member he would have drawn only £400 a year.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister stated in a previous debate that the honorable member for Wakefield was paid as Speaker, and not as a member.


Mr McCay - He was paid because he was Speaker.


Mr MAHON - When the honorable member for Wakefield drew his allowance up till the period of the dissolution, he drew full payment for the services which he had rendered.


Mr Conroy - Those services were rendered to the Commonwealth.


Mr MAHON - No; the services rendered up tillthat period were rendered to the former House of Representatives. Any services performed by him after that House ceased to exist, and before this Parliament came into being, must have been services rendered to the Commonwealth. That is the point which has not been fairly grappled with. The Prime Minister has contended that as the allowance in question was salary the House had power to continue it.


Mr Deakin - Either to continue it, or to pay it in advance, whichever it preferred.


Mr MAHON - That might be so, had the money been paid before the dissolution took place. Seeing that it was received in instalments, and that portion of it was paid after the honorable member for Wakefield had been re-elected, I contend that his action in accepting it has brought him within the penal sections of the Constitution. However, I brought this matter forward, not with a view of forcing it to a division, and of placing any honorable member in an unpleasant position. I recognised that if I failed to prove my case to the satisfaction of the House, no more need be heard of it. If, on the other hand, I had made out a good case, and nothing satisfactory had been advanced upon the other side, I felt sure that the fine sense of dignity and honour possessed by the honorable member for Wakefield would have induced him to do* what was proper under the circumstances. Therefore, there is no necessity to press the motion to a division, and, with the concurrence of the House, I shall withdraw it. Motion, by leave, withdrawn.







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