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Wednesday, 21 April 1915

Mr THOMAS (Barrier) . - I move -

That the item "Clerk of the Senate, £1,000," be reduced by £1.

As I said on Friday, I was not in sympathy with the proposal of the honorable member for Brisbane to reduce this salary by £100 as an intimation to the Government that no salary above £300 per annum should be increased during the continuance of the war. But I am not in favour of increasing the salary of the Clerk of the Senate by £100. There seems to be a principle at stake in this particular item. I understand that, during the term of office of the last Government, the President of the Senate demanded that the Clerk of the Senate should be paid exactly the same salary as that received by the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Now I am not in favour of the principle of equal pay, unless there is equal capacity, equal experience, and equal work - unless, of course, the principle could be made general, every person in Australia receiving exactly the same salary, and rendering to the community right to his utmost capacity the service of which he is capable. When such a state of affairs comes about, there will be a happy time in Australia, but I do not think that it will come about in our time. In the meantime, if we are not prepared to follow on those lines, we must, in fixing salaries, take into consideration a man's capacity for work, the work he has to do, and the experience he possesses. I have no desire to pit one House of Legislature against another. The people of Australia by a referendum have decided on the adoption of the bi-cameral system of legislation, though, by the way, I may say that, with the honorable member for Brisbane, I hope that the time will come when we shall have only one Chamber.

Mr McWilliams - Which House would you retain?

Mr THOMAS - I should prefer to retain the Houes of Representatives, but if the people said, " We shall retain the Senate, and abolish the House of Representatives," well and good, for there would then be only one House. However, I think that the people will hardly decide in that way. I have always been in favour of having a single chamber of legislature, but that system has not yet come about, and as long as we have two Chambers, our duty is to work them as amicably as possible. The position taken up by the President of the Senate in demanding that the Clerk of the Senate should be paid a salary equal to that paid to the Clerk of the House of Representatives, is very unfair to this House. Every man is anxious to receive as much salary as he can get, and if one officer is to get only the same salary as that paid to another officer, who has a great deal less work to do, he will naturally be anxious to get the position where there is less work to be done. If I could get exactly the same salary by being Clerk of the Senate, I would ask to be sent to the Senate, because there is not so much work to do in that Cil amber.

Mr Mcwilliams - Do not your remarks apply to members of Parliament?

Mr THOMAS - Honorable members are not paid a " salary." They receive an allowance for. out-of-pocket disbursements. I can realize that senators have to pay more out-of-pocket expenses than members of the House of Representatives, and therefore I can conceive that senators should receive a greater allowance.

Sir John Forrest - Do you advocate that course?

Mr THOMAS - No; I leave senators to advocate it. Undoubtedly the Clerk of the House of Representatives has more work to do. He works longer hours and has more worry than has the Clerk .of the Senate. In this House we have heated debates, whereas in the Senate everything is done calmly and smoothly. The fact that three different parties have control of the fixing of the salaries which appear on the Estimates brings about a great anomaly. The Public Service Commissioner fixes the salaries for the Public Service, Ministers fix the salaries of heads of Departments and a few others, and the Speaker and President fix the salaries of the officers connected with Parliament. We have considerable anomalies in the Estimates before us. The salary of the Secretary to the Treasury, who looks after the finances and advises the Treasurer, is £900 a . year ; whereas the Clerk of the Senate, who, one would imagine, cannot have as much responsibility and work to do as the Secretary to the Treasury has to undertake, is to receive a salary of £1,000. The Secretary to the Defence Department, who has to do a great deal of work, and has a great deal of responsibility, is paid a salary of £900, which is also the salary paid to the Secretary of the Home Affairs Department, Colonel Miller, who rendered great and distinct services in South Africa, and who, according to his friends, is a born organizer and a great administrator, and who has been intrusted by three Ministers of Home Affairs - one Liberal and two Labour - with the task of going to the Federal Capital with a fairly free hand to lay the foundations of that city. Yet the Clerk of the Senate is to receive a salary of £1,000. The salaries paid to our various commandants are shown in the Estimates in a lump sum, but I understand that that of the commandant in Victoria is £775. ' I cannot say whether all the commandants are paid exactly the same, but certainly uo commandant, except perhaps in New South Wales, would receive a salary greater than that paid to the commandant in Victoria. A State commandant, particularly during this war, has a great deal of responsibility, yet he is paid a salary of only £775, while the Clerk of the Senate, whose salary is already £900, is to have an increase of £100. And so I might go on. The Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales is in receipt of a salary of £850, and the Deputy Postmaster-General in Victoria is paid a salary of £800, while other Deputy Postmasters-General receive smaller salaries. We hear a great deal about the Post Office. We can have Commissions, and we can talk in Parliament as much as we like, but a great deal of the successful running of the Post Office depends on the Deputy PostmastersGeneral, yet Parliament says that the salaries paid to these officers are quite sufficient, and, according to the information we received on Friday last, unless the Clerk of the Senate is paid a salary of £1,000, the Senate is going on strike. The Chief Electoral Officer has a great deal to do, and has a great deal of responsibility, and he does his work very well. At any rate, we have no reason to complain. We have all been returned to the House.

Sir John Forrest - Do you mean to insinuate that the Chief Electoral Officer favours any one?

Mr THOMAS - No. He is a very honorable man, and does his work very well. I say that we have no reason to complain, seeing that we are here. At any rate, his salary is only £700.

Sir John Forrest - It is not enough.

Mr THOMAS - He has to work long hours during an election; he has no long recess. In New South Wales, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly is paid a salary of £1,000, but the salary paid to the Clerk of the Legislative Council is only £740. I understand that in Victoria the Clerk of the Legislative Council is paid a salary of £1,000, and that the salary of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly is only £900, but I understand that the latter is also paid £100 a year as Clerk of Parliaments. I quite agree with the honorable member for Indi that the work of the Clerk of Parliaments is of a very skilled character, and requires special knowledge, because, if errors were made in the wording or punctuation of our Statutes, there might result endless litigation. The clerks of our Parliament are competent and courteous officers, and I have not a word to say against them. One of the principal duties of the Clerk is to be responsible for a Bill leaving the Chamber in exactly the form Parliament has decided upon. That work is done by the Clerk of the House, in which the Statute originated. Nine out of ten of our Bills originate in this chamber, and consequently the Clerk of this House has nine times as much responsibility in that way as the Clerk of the Senate. When the Estimates were being introduced last year by the right honorable member for Parramatta, I asked why increases had been given to the clerks in this House, when a number of other responsible officials in the Commonwealth Service were kept on the £900 mark 'i The right honorable member replied that he did not know why that policy was followed. I am not here to ask that the salaries of highly-paid officials should be further raised. Like the honorable member for Brisbane, I rather stand for those who are lower paid, but I recognise that those in high and responsible positions would naturally feel that their work was not being properly appreciated if we refused them the increments which were given to other highly-paid officers. I have in mind the position of the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs, We have excellent administrators in Papua and the Northern Territory, but. nevertheless, the Secretary of the Department of External Affairs has to carry a great deal of responsibility; yet we say that £900 is a sufficient salary for him, but the Clerk of the Senate must be paid £1,000, or something serious will happen. I intend to give the Committee an opportunity of voting on this item. Unless we are prepared to adopt the principle of giving to all officers in a class equal pay, irrespective of capacity, experience and age, I am not willing to allow that the salaries of the officials in this chamber and the Senate should necessarily be on an equality.

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