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Monday, 18 December 1905

Senator STEWART (Queensland) - It is fortunate that this question, has been brought up. The whole question of the allowances of Members of Parliament in regard to travelling and postage, appears to me to be in a most unsatisfactory condition ; and if the action taken by the AuditorGeneral leads to some better arrangement being made, it will be an excellent thing. The Melbourne press is persistently carping at Members of Parliament about their " perquisites," and all that sort of thing. Much has been said, for instance, as to the Commonwealth being charged for our postage stamps. I want to know what the position is. Are we servants of the Federation? If we are, I think that when conducting correspondence on public business, we ought not to pay postage out of our own pockets. Are we public servants? If we are,_ we ought to be placed in exactly the same position as other public servants*. Does the Commonwealth ask the clerks ir. the Department of Home Affairs to pay the postage on official correspondence?

Senator Fraser - We are not officials; we are representatives.

Senator STEWART - We are in the position of directors of the joint stock concern known as the Commonwealth of Australia. That is exactly the position, and it ought to be made a great deal clearer to the public than it is. Senator Fraser is himself, I believe, a director of various companies. When he attends a meeting of a board he is paid a fee, and when he travels he is paid travelling expenses, probably in addition to the fee.

Senator Fraser - If the board authorizes it.

Senator STEWART - When Senator Fraser conducts correspondence on a company's business, he does not pay the postage out of his own pocket, nor does he pay for telegrams sent on behalf of the company. In short, when he is engaged on a company's business, he is recouped all these expenses.

Senator Fraser - Certainly.

Senator STEWART - I cannot do better than instance the visit paid to New Guinea by Senator Smith, as contrasted with the visit paid to the same place by Mr. Atlee Hunt, secretary to the Department of External Affairs. Senator Smith is an official of the Commonwealth, just as is Mr. Atlee Hunt.

Senator Pulsford - Senator Smith is not an official.

Senator STEWART - Senator Smithis just as much a Commonwealth official as is Mr. Atlee Hunt.

Senator Fraser - No, no !

Senator STEWART - The honorable senator will excuse me ; both the gentlemen I have mentioned, during the period they occupy their present positions, are officers of the Commonwealth.

Senator Story - One is elected and the other is appointed.

Senator STEWART - That is true, and there are a number of disadvantages connected with election. I ask honorable senators to focus their attention on the point that, so long as they hold their present positions, they are as much servants df the Commonwealth as any man in the Public Service. When Senator Smith went to New Guinea he got his fare as far as Thursday Island.

Senator Givens - One way.

Senator Staniforth Smith - A single fare for two trips.

Senator STEWART - All Senator Smith's expenses in New Guinea were defrayed by himself.

Senator Givens - And also on the journey.

Senator STEWART - And also on the journey. On the other hand, when Mr. Atlee Hunt travelled he got, not only his salary and steamer fares, but an allowance every day for expenses. When members of the Senate travel on public business they, no doubt, are allowed their railway fares, but that allowance does not Gover their food and other expenses.

Senator Givens - There are the tips which they have to give.

Senator STEWART - Tips are not compulsory, and in that respect honorable senators may please themselves. But a man must eat if he has to work ; and this brings me to the question whether the payment to Members of Parliament is an allowance for expenses, of a salary for services rendered.

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