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Tuesday, 19 December 1905

Senator Lt Col GOULD (New South Wales) - All I desire to know is that all parties have been treated alike, and that the payment has been made on the authority of both Houses. Can the Minister state the total amount paid in this way ?

Senator PLAYFORD(South AustralianMinister of Defence). - I am informed that the Cabinet' decided to pay £100 to each of the four gentlemen I have mentioned. That money was paid, on the Cabinet resolution, out of the Treasurer's advance account, and Parliament is now asked to approve of that action.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales). - I see that, according to these Estimates, the Senate is debited with £95 for postage and telegrams, as against£411 debited to the House of Representatives under a similar heading. I take it that the postage and telegrams referred to are those supplied at the expense of the Commonwealth to members of either House using the Post and Telegraph Department on public business. I do not cavil at either amount, but, in my opinion, it would be much better if a fixed allowance was paid to each Member of Parliament on this account, instead of leaving matters in such a way that, while one gentleman may spend £5, another may not spend 5s. in this connexion.

Senator McGregor - A fixed allowance would be most unfair, because, while some honorable senators have much correspondence, other honorable senators have little or none.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - It appears that a record is kept of the expense incurred in this way by each individual senator; and I should like to know whether a similar practice is followed inanother place.

Senator Playford - I cannot say.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I am told the rule is, that where the hand-writing is known, the postage is debited accordingly, whereas if it is not recognised, the expenditure is charged to general account. This record places some honorable senators in an invidious position, because, while one may not have to write more than halfadozen letters a session to his constituents, or on public business, another may require to send forty or fifty. I think it would save a good deal of unpleasantness if the whole of the cost were charged to one general fund, reliance being placed on the discretion of members of the Parliament to use the Post and Telegraph facilities only when absolutely necessary.

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I think this is really a matter for the consideration of the Joint House Committee. It would never do to have a fixed allowance in the way Senator Gould first suggested. Any telegrams or letters which a Member of Parliament has to send on public business connected with his constituency, are paid for by the Commonwealth. Some Members of Parliament have a vast amount of correspondence, whereas, in my own case, for example, a few shillings will cover the cost of the telegrams, and less will cover the cost of postage on letters that I have sent during the four or five years of Federation. That is owing simply to the fact that I am able to go to Adelaide every week, and see my constituents and others, and have, therefore, no special call for heavy correspondence. I can imagine, however, that senators from Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland, who cannot see their constituents frequently, are called upon to send many letters and telegrams. No hard-and-fast rule can be made in a case of this kind, but I think it is a subject which might well be inquired into by the House Committee.

Senator Lt Col Gould - I hope the Minister will use his influence to have this business conducted in such a way as not to give rise to invidious distinctions.

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