Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 23 November 1905

Senator CROFT (Western Australia) - Perhaps the Minister or Senator Baker can tell us under what heading the corresponding expenditure of the House of Representatives is placed.

Senator Sir Richard Baker - I have just found it.

Senator CROFT - Although I do not know the figures, I feel quite sure that the other House must spend a good deal more in this connexion. When Senator Clemons emphasizes the fact that the money was spent on cabs, he might have explained what the cabs were used for.

Senator Clemons - I do not know.

Senator CROFT - The honorable senator knows as well as I do, that the cabs are used to facilitate the business of the Senate. The matter rarely affects me, because I travel very little, but I am aware that it enables honorable senators to stay in this chamber until the last moment, and then to leave for the railway station with their luggage. The honorable senator, however, has left it to be supposed by those who read Hansard that honorable senators are in the habit of riding about the city in cabs for their pleasure.

Senator Clemons - I never thought of such a thing.

Senator Sir RICHARDBAKER (South Australia). - I have been asked a question. I have just been given information, which I think is correct, that all cabs for the House of Representatives are paid for under item No. 12, " Incidental and petty cash expenditure, £150."

Senator CLEMONS(Tasmania).- My reply to that is that item No. 9 of subdivision No. 2, which is now under consideration, contains the very same heading, only that the amount is different, namely, " Incidental! and petty cash expenses, £50," the amount expended being ^29. The corresponding item on the other side, for the! House of Representatives, shows that the estimate was ^150, and that the actual amount expended was ,£109. More was spent by the House of Representatives than by the Senate, and while, of course, I understand that Senator Baker believes the information that has been given him-

Senator Sir Richard Baker - I have just bean given the information.

Senator CLEMONS - Assuming that Senator Baker believes the information, I have very grave doubts as to whether it is correct. I ask, then, if, under this heading in the House of Representatives, the estimated provision has been made for cabs, what provision has been made for the Senate; in other words, I ask what " Incidental and petty cash expenditure " in the Senate means? It does not mean cabs, because there is a special provision for travelling expenses ; and the explanation given is very unsatisfactory.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - It seems very inadvisable and misleading that there should be an item of this sort for travelling expenses, if it merely means, as I understand the Senate is informed, cab hire, which is not travelling expenses in the ordinary sense. It does seem to me that the matter requires explanation. I can understand cab hire being put down under incidental expenses, as appears to be done in the House of Representatives. It does not necessarily follow that the whole of the £150 is spent in cab hire; it may be that only a small portion is thus spent; and, therefore, we may not be doing the House of Representatives justice in saying that their expenditure on cabs is larger than our own.

Senator Sir RICHARDBAKER (South- Australia). - The statement made to me by the officers is that the bulk of this ,£29 was spent on newspapers provided in the rooms and offices of the Senate.

Senator CLEMONS(Tasmania).- Does Senator Baker still adhere to the opinion that, under this item in the House of Representatives, provision was made for the payment of cab hire?

Senator Sir Richard Baker - It is not my opinion ; it is what I have been informed.

Senator CLEMONS - I know that, but I ask Senator Baker if he still believes the information to be good?

Senator Sir Richard Baker - *Yes.

Senator CLEMONS - Then I call the honorable senator's attention to .the fact that in every division throughout thd Estimates there is a similar heading of " Incidental and petty cash expenditure."

Senator Sir Richard Baker - What is the point?

Senator CLEMONS - The point is that it is extremely doubtful whether this item, in the case of the House of Representatives, does cover cab hire, when it does not, and cannot possibly, cover cab hire in ninety-nine other items 'and sub-divisions.

Senator Sir Richard Baker - I express no opinion on the matter.

Senator CLEMONS - I think a very poor explanation has been offered to us.

Senator Mulcahy - Has the Minister no details of the! expenditure?

Senator CLEMONS - That is what I want to know.

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The item of " Incidental and petty cash expenditure," will, of course, vary with each Department. Im one Department the expenditure will be in one direction, and in another Department, in another direction. I should imagine that under this heading, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, there is perfect right to charge the cab hire necessitated by the conveyance of the luggage Of honorable senators to trains and steamers.

Senator Clemons - Then what is " travelling expenses " if this item is for cab hire?

Senator PLAYFORD - I admit that under ordinary circumstances " travelling expenses " would not cover cab hire.

Senator Clemons - Then tell us what the item is?

Senator PLAYFORD - Cab hire is "travelling expenses" in a sense; it is the " expenses " incurred in carrying honorable senators with their luggage.

Senator Clemons - Cab hire cannot come under both headings; the Minister must choose'.

Senator PLAYFORD - As I have said, one Department may expend this money in one direction, and another Department in another.

Senator Sir RICHARDBAKER (South Australia). - Surely it is, or is not, a fact that out of the .£150 the House of Representatives has spent .£109 in cabs. I cannot say whether or not it is a fact ; all I can say is that I am informed that the House of Representatives pays for cabs out of this vote. Whether that is done, rightly or wrongly, I express no opinion. As to the ,£29 which we have spent, I have already said that the bulk of it was for the newspapers provided in the rooms and offices of the Senate.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - I think that this matter is really becoming more and more unsatisfactory. If newspapers are obtained for the supply of the rooms which we use, the cost ought to be put down in the Estimates under a heading which we can understand.

Senator Pearce - That is done in the case of the House of Representatives, under the heading, " Supply of newspapers, £35-"

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Then the same course ought to be taken in connexion with the Senate. To what was devoted the balance of this incidental expenditure ? I do not quite see the same extent of impropriety as Senator Clemons does in regard to the cab hire, which, I suppose, means one cab on two days a week to go round and collect members' luggage.

Senator Clemons - At a cost of ,£63 per annum !

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not believe that every shilling of the ,£63 was for cab hire. It appears that there were no travelling expenses in the House of Representatives. A sum of ,£25 was voted for this purpose in that House last year, but not twenty-five farthings was spent.

Senator Mulcahy - There is a sum of £9,000 provided " for the conveyance of Members of Parliament."

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That, I take it, means the cost of our railway passes.

Senator Playford - It means the cost of Tail and steamer travelling.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - I do not know what travelling expenses there can be in the Senate. Why should a single shilling be spent for travelling in connexion with the Senate, while nothing is spent in connexion with the House of Representatives ?

Senator Sir Richard Baker - There is some expenditure in connexion with the House of Representatives.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - Senator Bakeris mistaken. We ought to have some particulars of this item from the responsible Minister.

Senator Sir RICHARDBAKER (South Australia). - I can give honorable senators full particulars now of the travelling expenses in connexion with the Senate.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - As to every shilling?

Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER - Yes. The honorable senator made an assumption which was not correct, that I stated that the whole of the provision for travelling expenses was for cabs.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That is what the honorable senator did state.

Senator Sir RICHARD BAKER - No. The money spent for cabs for senators was £50 16s. 66. Then there is an item of £10 ios., which I spent myself on sleeping accommodation in travelling to and fro between Melbourne and Adelaide. I consider I was perfectly justified in spending that money, and I did so.

Senator CLEMONS(Tasmania).- I am sorry that Senator Baker considers that he has fully accounted for this expenditure. We have, however, arrived at the conclusion that, out of the ,£63, the sum of £50 1 6s. 6d., and a further sum of £10 ios., have been spent in the way just indicated. But, even so, I point out that that does not fully account for .£63, the total expenditure mentioned by Senator Baker being ,£61 16s. 6d. The difference is not so much; but Senator Baker confidently announced, in tones of self-congratulation, that he could account for every shilling. But for that fact I should not have directed attention to the difference. I now, however, state publicly, and advisedly - I would not think it outside, or say it outside - that, in my opinion, there is no justification for the President of the Senate, whoever 'he may be, spending £10 10s. of Commonwealth money on his own comfort in travelling. I oppose that expenditure openly and frankly, though Senator Baker admits that it was his. In my opinion, the expenditure is wrong, and I shall vote in the direction of reducing the item. When, however, I come to consider the method in which it ought to be reduced, I see that the estimate this year is ,£50. Are we to assume that the expenditure will be ,£50 1 6s. 6d. ? In that case, Senator Baker is going to forego this expenditure of ,£io ios.

Senator Sir Richard Baker - We cannot tell ; we do not know what will be the length of the session.

Senator CLEMONS - I suppose we may assume that the coming session will be more or less the length of the present session. At any rate, we have the fact that the last actual expenditure, on which the future estimate ought to be based, Avas £60 odd - namely, £50 for cabs, and ,£10 10s. for Senator Baker. Is the estimate of .£50 foi cabs, or is it intended to include the expenditure for the extra sleeping berths which the President thinks he is justified in incurring out of public money ? If Senator Baker assures me that he will no longer charge those travelling expenses, I shall leave the estimate as it is, because, apparently, it is based on the actual expenditure for cabs. Of that expenditure I personally do not approve, but the majority of honorable senators appear to think it is right. If Senator Baker does not assure me that he intends to forego this travelling expenditure, I shall move that the item be reduced by .£10 10s.

Senator Sir RICHARDBAKER (South Australia). - I am not prepared to give any such guarantee. I consider that I should be placed in the same position as Ministers of the Crown so far as travelling is concerned, and I understand that they also obtain an extra berth.

Sir WILLIAM ZEAL (VICTORIA) - I do not think so.

Senator Six RICHARD BAKER - I think so, and, as a matter of fact}, I know that it is done. I may say that I do not participate in any wa.y. in the amount spent for cabs, as I always pay for my own cabs. So that some honorable senators get it one way and some another way.

Senator Mulcahy - The best thing to do is to abolish it altogether.

Senator CLEMONS(Tasmania). - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out item (The Senate) "Travelling expenses, £50. "

That will enable the Committee to test the advisability of voting money for the hire of cabs which I do not approve of, but which some honorable senators think is reasonable. If mv proposal to make that request is defeated, I shall then move that the House of Representatives be requested to' reduce the amount by* £10 10s., the expense incurred by Senator Baker.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - Senator Baker has said that he thinks he is entitled out of the Commonwealth public money to have an extra berth, costing £10 10s. per year, equally with Ministers of the Crown. The honorable and learned senator has also said that some people get it one way and some another way. That is not a satisfactory argument, from my point of view. I was a Minister of the Crown, and I draw a very strong distinction between the position of the President or Speaker and that of a Minister of the Crown, who may have to carry with him a number of papers, and may be obliged to make of his compartment in the train a sort of travelling office, if he lives away from the Seat of Government. I was resident in Adelaide whilein charge of a Department, in connexion with which many papers were handed to me at the moment I left Melbourne, and I was obliged really to turn the compartment I occupied into a travelling office; but I should add that I have paid out of my own pocket for the extra berth. I thought it was right to do so, though I should have been quite prepared to reconcile to my conscience the charging of the extra berth to the Department, because I required it as a convenience for the performance of public work. However, I cannot understand why the President of the Senate, who undoubtedly occupies a very distinguished office, should be in any different position from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and during the four years of the existence of the Commonwealth Parliament Sir Frederick Holder has always travelled amongst the rest of us, and has never, so far as I am aware, charged the public taxpaver a single farthing for an extra berth and the seclusion of a whole compartment to himself. He has no public business to transact which would require the special convenience. If I thought for a moment that it would increase the status of the President or the Speaker, I would say that this should be done by all means ; but I do not think that the extra sleeping berth adds in the slightest degree to the dignity of the President. I think that Sir Frederick Holder's dignity is preserved just as effectually by sharing his compartment with me or any other member as it would be by travelling in solemn isolation.

Suggest corrections