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Friday, 22 June 1906

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia) . - I think that a discussion like this will have a good effect, because, undoubtedly, there is an. impression outside that the Members of this Parliament obtain some perquisites to which they are not entitled by reason of their membership. It is just as well that it should be thoroughly understood that we have to pay for everything which we obtain at exactly the same schedule of prices as any one would pay at an ordinary refreshment house in Melbourne. Senator Walker has asked why we cannot run a parliamentary refreshment-room ais well as a private individual could conduct such an establishment? The answer is perfectly obvious. In the first place the two Houses of this Parliament adjourn for dinner at the same time. There are iri. members, or a lesser number, who all want their meals simultaneously. That involves a large staff of waiters being employed. In the second place, only two meals per day are supplied, which makes a great deal of difference in regard to the staff, the waiters being paid so much per meal, instead of being engaged by the week or month. In the third place, as Senator 0! Keefe has pointed out, we have meals on only three or three and a half days during the week. These facts dispose absolutely of the suggestion that members of this Parliament obtain some advantage, in view of the fact that the refreshment-rooms are managed at a loss, whereas a private individual could conduct them at a profit.

Senator Gray - Was it intended that the refreshment-rooms should earn a profit?

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I do not know that it was so intended. The object of the refreshment-rooms is the convenience of members. We have to adjourn for an hour for lunch or dinner, and in the stress and hurry of legislation, it is necessary for us to have rooms close at hand where meals can be obtained. Verv few members, I think, devote the whole of the hour to the meals, or to friendly intercourse, because they may have authorities to consult in the Library, or notes to arrange in view of a forthcoming debate. Last year, I understand, the refreshmentrooms showed a loss of something like £800; but I ann prepared to say that that is less than the loss shown under a similar head in most of the States Parliament.

Senator de Largie - I think the loss is ^2,000 per annum in New South Wales.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I think that is so. In the Victorian Parliament, I understand, the extra cost of the refreshment-rooms amounts to something like ^1,000 per annum. However, one great reform has been effected in connexion with our own refreshment-rooms. I was not a member of the House Committee at the time, but it was decided to close the rooms, altogether during the recess. The keeping of the rooms open at that period of the year was a great source of expense;, but, in consequence of the reform I have mentioned, I believe that this year the loss will be reduced by, at any rate, one-half under ordinary circumstances. The question has been asked why the tariff is not raised. But when the tariff was raised on a former occasion, the result of the experiment was that members went elsewhere for their meals. This seems to be a Parliament, the members of which are not only teetotal, but also devoted to plain living and high thinking; and they, wisely, decline to pay a high price for the plain food they require. It has been decided by the House Committee to call for public tenders, under the conditions which obtain here for meals ; and when those tenders are received, we shall see whether the rooms have or have not been more extravagantly managed by the Government officials than they can be by private individuals. The Committee were well advised in deciding to call for tenders; and the result will disclose whether, under our exceptional circumstances, the management has been associated with economy and foresight. I should Tike to point out thai the balancesheet of last year did not disclose quite the correct state of affairs. The cost of the refreshment-rooms included the up-keep and cleaning of the billiard-room and corridors. A great part of the time of the attendants in the refreshment-rooms is devoted to keeping the suite of rooms in good order; and if the refreshment-rooms had been closed, one or two of these attendants would still have been required. The salaries of these attendants should pro.perly be debited to the up-keep and cleaning of Parliament House; and had that been done the cost of the refreshment-rooms would have appeared much less than it did last year.

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