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§ 156. “Allowance.”

The system known as payment of members has found a place in the Constitution. Each senator and each member of the House of Representatives is entitled to receive an allowance of £400 a year, to be reckoned from the day on which he takes his seat. But neither the principle nor the amount of payment are permanent constitutional provisions. Without an amendment of the Constitution, the Federal Parliament may at any time either abolish payment of members or reduce or increase the allowance which each member is to receive, or alter the method of apportioning the allowance, providing that each member shall be paid according to the distance which he travels or the attendance which he gives at the sittings of his House.

Payment of members of Parliament is not a modern political innovation. It was known and practised in the early history of parliamentary representation in England. (See Hearn's Gov. of Eng. p. 526, cited infra.) It was adopted in the Federal Constitution of the United States. (Art I. sec. 6.) It has been the subject of prolonged controversy in British colonies during the last forty years, and it is now generally regarded as an essential condition of democratic government, especially in young communities. It is in force in most of the responsible government colonies, although in several instances it was not carried without bitter opposition and memorable contests.

In the Dominion of Canada each member of the Senate and of the House of Commons is entitled to an allowance of ten dollars per day for his attendance at Parliament during a session not exceeding thirty days in duration. For a session lasting longer than thirty days each member is paid $1000. In addition to this remuneration, a member is allowed ten cents per mile expenses in travelling from his division or electorate to the seat of government, and return once during the session. If a member fail to attend the sittings of his House, and his absence is not caused by illness, eight dollars for each day on which he does not attend are deducted from his allowance. Members of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales (elected) are paid £300 per year, in addition to which they are allowed to travel free on the government railways and tramways. Members of the Legislative Council (nominated by the Crown) are not paid, but they have similar privileges on the railways. Members of the two Houses of the Victorian Parliament (elected) have respectively remuneration and railway privileges similar to those of New South Wales. Members of both Houses (elected) of the South Australian Parliament are paid at the rate of £200 per year, and in addition enjoy railway facilities. In New Zealand the members of the Legislative Council (nominated by the Crown) are paid at the rate of £150 per year, whilst members of the House of Representatives (elected) receive £240 per year. Members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland (elected) are entitled to £300 per year, and in addition an allowance of 1s. 6d. per mile on expenses for travelling by land, and the actual cost of travelling by sea for one journey per session from their electorates to the place where the Parliament meets and return. Queensland Legislative Councillors (nominated by the Crown) receive no remuneration. The members of both Houses of the Parliament of Tasmania receive £100 per year, with free passes over the government railway lines. In the United States of America the salary of a senator, representative or territorial delegate in Congress is fixed at $5000 per year with travelling expenses at the rate of 20 cents per mile for one journey per session, from the member's State or electorate to the seat of government and return.

“Another change that time has wrought in the Commons of the Plantagenets relates to the payment of members for their services. This practice, like that of resiancy, was coeval with representation. The writs de expensis levandis date from the reign of Henry the Third. In subsequent reigns they were issued with as much regularity as the writs of summons. The payment was levied on the several constituencies; and was calculated


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for the actual period of attendance, and for the time spent in going or returning, according to the distance in each case of the representative from the place at which Parliament met. At first the rate of wages varied according to the rank of the representative or the dearness of the season or other considerations. A Knight by order was paid more than an Esquire, and the latter more than a citizen or burgess. Finally the rate settled down at four shillings a day for Knights of the shire, and half that sum for representatives of towns. Few questions of those times excited greater interest than this payment of members.” (Hearn's Gov. of Engl. p 526.)

“The reign of Elizabeth may probably be taken as the period at which honorary service in Parliament became general. The importance of the House of Commons had greatly increased. The wealth of the country had also increased. Four shillings and two shillings were much less important sums to the subjects of the Tudors than they had been to the victors of Cressy or of Agincourt. The remuneration in honour thus became a sufficient inducement to serve, without the inducement in wages. It is of course impossible to fix a precise date for a change which was probably gradual.” (Id. p. 529.)

“But although the right has long been in abeyance, the legal obligation of constituencies has never been removed. In the Long Parliament of Charles the Second the arrears due to members must have amounted to a considerable sum. Accordingly when one of its members, Sir Thomas Shaw, sued out his writ de expensis against the town of Colchester, a general alarm was excited; and a bill was introduced to exonerate the electors from the payment of wages to any member of that Parliament. This measure, however, did not become law; and the old common law right still remains. The last instance in which it was exercised appears to have been in 1681, when, in the fourth Parliament of King Charles, John King sued out his writ against the burgesses of Harwich. It thus appears that by our ancient constitutional usage no persons were bound to serve in Parliament gratuitously; that the payment of members was a charge upon the communities which those members were chosen to represent; that this payment was originally intended merely as an indemnity and not as a source of gain; and that the disuse of this practice is due to the influence of social changes, and not to any formal alteration of the law.” (Id. p. 530.)

By s. 2 of the New South Wales Parliamentary Representatives' Allowance Act, 1889, “every member of the Legislative Assembly now serving or hereafter to serve therein” was to receive an allowance, which was to be payable “to every such member of this present Legislative Assembly now serving … and to every such member hereafter elected, from the time of his taking his seat, and in every case until he shall resign, or his seat be vacated, or until Parliament shall be dissolved, or shall expire by effluxion of time” :—Held, that for the purposes of the Act the Legislative Assembly must be regarded as a permanent body, and that the allowance was intended to be made to members of future Assemblies as well as of that which existed when the Act was passed. (Att.-Gen. New South Wales v. Rennie, 1896, App. Ca. 376.)

Privileges, &c., of Houses.

49. The powers, privileges, and immunities157 of the Senate and of the House of Representatives, and of the members and the committees of each House, shall be such as are declared by the Parliament158, and until declared shall be those of the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom, and of its members and committees, at the establishment of the Commonwealth.

CANADA.—The privileges, immunities, and powers to be held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Senate and by the House of Commons, and by the members thereof respectively, shall be such as are from time to time defined by Act of the Parliament of Canada, but so that the same shall never exceed those at the passing of this Act held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and by the members thereof.—B.N.A. Act, 1867, sec. 18.

HISTORICAL NOTE.—Clause 8, Chap. I. of the Commonwealth Bill of 1891 was to the same effect. In Committee, several members thought that the word “powers” was too large; and Mr. Wrixon suggested that it should be declared that the powers should


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not exceed those of the House of Commons. A proposal by Mr. Adye Douglas, to omit “powers,” was negatived. (Conv. Deb., Syd. [1891], pp. 585-7.)

At the Adelaide session, 1897, the clause was introduced in substantially the same form, and in Committee some verbal amendments were made. (Conv. Deb., Adel., pp. 635, 1189.) At the Melbourne session, verbal amendments were made before the first report and after the fourth report.

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