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Thursday, 29 October 1964

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - in reply - I begin my reply by expressing gratification at the response of honorable senators to this measure. There has been general agreement about the proposals with, not unexpectedly, a variation in the enthusiasm with which they have been received. This indicates in very certain terms the nature of a parliament in a democracy. The debate has thrown into sharp focus the complexity of the problem of trying to equate the needs of various members and of ensuring equity in the various proposals that are advanced.

We have as members of this democratic Parliament men from all walks of life. Some of them are more fortunate than others. I am sure Senator Turnbull will not mind my quoting his case, because he himself quoted it. He said: " I am a man who practises a profession. I have access to funds in addition to my parliamentary salary." We have, on the one hand, men who are in the same category as Senator Turnbull. But on the other hand we have in the Parliament men who, in order to satisfy themselves that they are doing their job satisfactorily, have voluntarily given up their profession. Very much the same situation obtains in relation to members who obtain their income from sources other than professional practice. So we have a wide variety of incomes to consider when facing up to this problem. I speak in a purely personal way when I say that I have always regarded it as being a basic principle that rates of parliamentary pay and allowances should be pitched to cater for the needs of the man who is less fortunate than those who are practising a profession or have another source of income. If I may adopt a thought expressed by Senator Lillico, only by adopting this as a basic principle can we hope to have available the services of men who can stand for truly democratic principles without any fear about their future or the future of their wives and kiddies.

I take the view that the Richardson committee proposals which were adopted by this Parliament some five years ago were not in any sense luxurious. I regarded them as being realistic but no more. If we want proper representation by men who are appropriate for the task, then I believe that the salary scale that we adopted in 1959 was realistic. The proposals which are currently before us, and which do not seek to make any alteration to the structure of parliamentary salaries and allowances, are restrained, reasonable and moderate. There is nothing luxurious about them. I take the view, Mr. President, that if a review of salaries and allowances had been referred to a tribunal, as has been suggested in some quarters, then the rates recommended might have been in excess of those we are now considering. I point out to my friend Senator Wood, who had something to say about ministerial salaries, that my remarks in this connection apply generally to members' salaries and ministerial salaries and allowances.

I think we can isolate what seems to be the one point at which any substantial criticism has been raised. That is in respect of the establishment of ministerial retiring allowances. It has been suggested that this was a departure from the usual adjustments - from the adjustments which had occurred - that it was the introduction of something new. If it was, then it was introduced not without its having been considerably discussed and considerably considered both by members of the Parliament and by the Government. If one looks to the beginnings of that sort of thing, one must necessarily come back to the Richardson report, and I should like to read the relevant paragraphs on the proposal, which was made five years ago by the Richardson Committee -

When, after many years in Parliament, including a number of years of highly responsible, arduous and health-destroying service as Minister or of equally exacting and scarcely less responsible service as Opposition Leaders, such men retire from politics, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for them to obtain other employment at all in keeping with their needs. There has been outside politics, in the last fifteen years or more, a growing recognition by public bodies and private employers of their obligation to make full provision for the superannuation of their employees, and the provision made invariably increases with the importance and responsibility of an employee's position. No such provision (except the meagre benefits of all Members under the contributory Retiring Allowances Scheme) . . .

That is as it was then, in 1959 -

.   . has hitherto been made for ex-Ministers and Opposition Leaders and their widows. More than one instance could be given of an ex-Minister of the Crown, who, after devoted, self-sacrificing and invaluable work as a senior Minister, lost his scat at an election, and was forced to the position of a junior clerk earning little more than the basic wage; and of widows of ex-Ministers living in poverty.

I do not want to put too fine a point on this, but I am sure that every senator sitting in this chamber has in his own mind as I read those words examples of former Ministers living in very poor circumstances indeed, not at all in conformity with that which would be expected for an ex-Minister or indeed what an ex-Minister with years of service might himself expect. The report continues -

We think it would be a reproach to the people of Australia if proper provision were not made so that ex-Ministers and Opposition Leaders who have served as such for at least six years will be able to keep themselves in modest dignity and meet the obligations which they will necessarily have; or if adequate provision were not made for their widows.

Accordingly we propose the provision of noncontributory retiring allowances for ex-Members who have served, whether as Ministers or Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives or Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, for an aggregate period, in the case of service as Minister or Leader of the Opposition, of six years, and a longer period in the case of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives; also for pensions to the widows of such persons.

I mention that as being the expression of the view of a Committee which sat as long ago as 1959. In that year, the recommenda tion of that Committee, which was not proceeded with, was that there should be a non-contributory scheme and that there should be a qualifying period of six years. What the present proposals embrace is a contributory scheme with a qualifying period of eight years, and I suggest that having regard to what goes on in the world of industry or commerce the proposals which are made do no more than what can be regarded as usual in Australia today.

Senator Woodindicated that there could be instances here of presently serving Ministers gaining some advantage because they have already served a qualifying period of eight years. Indeed, some of them have served almost twice that period. The advantage would be gained if, for example, they ceased to be Ministers for any one reason within a very short time of this scheme becoming effective. This I must acknowledge, but if one looks at the scheme as a whole,, one sees that while this advantage might accrue at one end, at the other end some Ministers - I cite my colleagues Senator Anderson and Mr. Chaney - have no advantage of that sort to gain and must serve eight years - an inordinately long period in Australian politics - 'before they become eligible for these retiring allowances. But in any case I think it must be obvious that a scheme of this sort has to be started. One has to make a start line somewhere, and the start line is the position as it exists today. When we apply this principle to this particular retiring allowances scheme, the Parliament does no more than was done back in 1949 in respect of the members' retiring allowances scheme.

Senator Morris - And elsewhere, too, in the States, the position is exactly the same.

Senator PALTRIDGE - Yes. In 1949 there were sitting members of this Parliament who ceased to be members very shortly after the passage of this legislation out who benefited by the establishment of the retiring allowances scheme. In all the circumstances, I think that this is a reasonable and proper, and indeed the only practical way to get such a scheme under way.

Other points which were made, to which I listened with particular interest, were one or two references to the discrepancy between senators' allowances and the allowances paid to members of the House of Representatives. My own personal experience leads me to certain very firm conclusions in this respect. I know that the use to which a member or a senator puts his allowance varies very greatly indeed as between person and person and the type of service that is given to the electorate or the State. I have also noted with great interest that in the House of Representatives the only thing that is or can be recognised is not the type of service, which differs as between one member and another, but the size and the difficulties of the electorate represented.

There are two or three categories. The representative of an electorate like Kalgoorlie, for example, will receive a much higher allowance than will the representative of a Melbourne metropolitan electorate. The adoption of this principle in the House of Representatives seems to give reasonable satisfaction. In the Senate, however, we have a flat rate. Apart altogether from the validity of the differentiation against a senator because he is a senator, if we were to adopt in this place the same principle as it adopted in the House of Representatives I think we would end with the situation in which the senators from Queensland and, I would think, from Western Australia, would, for the purpose of this allowance, be treated rather more generously than are the senators from Tasmania or from Victoria.

Senator Benn - You are speaking now as a Minister.

Senator PALTRIDGE - I am speaking as a senator.

Senator Benn - It all sounds false to me.

Senator PALTRIDGE - It is not a bit false.I do not think the honorable senator has been following my argument. I am arguing that if the principle that is applied in the House of Representatives were applied in the Senate the senators from the larger States would be treated more generously than are the senators from the smaller States.

Senator Hendrickson - What would be wrong with that?

Senator PALTRIDGE - I am merely commenting on a suggestion that was made in a couple of speeches, and I hope that I am directing the attention of honorable senators generally to what might be a method of approach to a problem which affects senators particularly. That is all. I am not commenting on whether this is right or wrong.

Senator Hendrickson - Seeing that the Minister is a member of the Cabinet, it is a bit late now to be commenting on it.

Senator PALTRIDGE - That might well be so, but the honorable senator should not forget that years ago these allowances were the subject of representations from all parties to a certain committee, and the committee made certain proposals which we adopted and which the Opposition in turn adopted. What I am saying now is that if the Senate wants to look at this matter in the same light as the House of Representatives looked at it, there may be a case for so doing. But if that is so, now is not the time to do it. The time to do it is in the quiet that follows the passage of a bill like this, when everyone has time to reflect on the equities or inequities of the existing system.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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