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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 988

Senator POYSER (Victoria) - As it is now obvious to everybody that I am the senator to whom Senator Webster has referred I should like to thank him for raising this matter. I brought it to the attention of the Minister for the Interior some time ago and also raised it with the former Prime Minister, Mr Gorton. I approached the amenities committee within the Australian Labor Party and I understand that recommendations were made some time ago to the Minister for the Interior to have something done.

Last week, after arriving by plane from Perth, I had to wait until 9.25 p.m. for a train to Geelong. It was a very slow train and did not arrive at Geelong until 11 p.m. Despite the fact that I live in Victoria the result of this delay was that I was the last of all members of that Committee to reach home. Because of this stupid rule that a member of Parliament shall not travel by Commonwealth car more than 30 miles to his home I am forced to leave for Canberra on a Monday evening if I wish to attend a committee meeting on the Tuesday morning. This costs the Government an additional $15 in living allowance - small as that amount might seem to be at present - merely because it will not provide a car outside a 30-mile radius. My alternative when travelling to Canberra is to rise at 4.30 a.m. to catch a train leaving Geelong at 5.25 a.m. The Government then supplies me with a car from Spencer Street Station to the airport, a trip which takes about an hour, which is about the same time that it would take that car to bring me from Geelong to the airport. The situation is so stupid as to be almost laughable; but it is serious when a member - I speak not only for myself - has been away for a whole week engaged in committee work. As Senator Webster said, the Committee worked extremely hard during 3 sessions a day. Its members had a very tiring job trying to interrogate and listen to witnesses late at night after being in session from 9 o'clock in the morning. When I returned to Melbourne last Friday I had to wait in the extreme cold of the railway station for a slow train to take me to Geelong.

It is not humorous that members of Parliament should be treated in this way particularly when an officer from Duntroon, to take one example, can fly to Melbourne on the same aircraft as myself and have a Commonwealth car waiting to take him to the Staff College at Queenscliff, which is 20 miles further than my home. In this respect we senators are being treated as second class citizens.

Senator McManus - On salaries we are.

Senator POYSER - Yes. In the matter of salaries and allowances, too, we are treated as second class citizens. We are demeaned to the extent that a reasonably junior member of the Public Service can have transport anywhere within the State if he is travelling on Public Service business. But this benefit is not available to a member of Parliament. It is not as though this matter has not been raised before. There is this hard and fast rule which will not allow Mr Scholes or myself - we both live in Geelong - to travel by car to our homes. Yet the Government pays air fares for public servants to travel to Cairns, Townsville or wherever it may be and then provides cars to take them to their homes or offices. The situation is so ridiculous that it is laughable.

I have correspondence on this subject from the former Prime Minister saying that the rule is a rule and that this is the way it is going to be. I felt reluctant to raise this matter because it would have appeared that I was seeking something for myself. I am grateful to Senator Webster for saving me that embarrassment. He has shown how ridiculous we appear in the eyes of public servants who lord it over us in almost every aspect of our working conditions. I hope, not only in my own interest but also in the interests of other members of Parliament, that this silly rule will be eliminated and we will be treated equally with those who work within the Public Service.

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