1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I dosire to ask the Minister for Tradeand Customs,without notice, when the proposed Patent Design and Trade Marks Bill is likely to be introduced 1 I ask this question because I om informed, on good authority, that the revenue of the State Patent Offices is falling off, business both in the States and abroad being held back in the expectation of the early introduction of the measure, which, as applying to the whole Commonwealth, will, it is believed, materially reduce the present charges.
– It is not expected that it will be possible for the Government to introduce the Bill before next session, though the matter has been considered, and a rough draught of the measure’ has been prepared by a conference of officers.
– In the Age this morning there appears a paragraph which has been telegraphed from Sydney, and relates to the position of affairs in the New Hebrides. There is a great feeling of unrest among the people of the Commonwealth in regard to this matter, who desire that our shores shall be kept safo from the danger which would undoubtedly menace them if these islands became the property of the French Republic. I ask the Prime Minister if he has anything to say which would tend to reassure them?
– I had an opportunity to look at our standing orders last evening, and, although I have not finished going through them, I cannot find that they make any provision for the asking of questions without notice. I would, therefore, like to have your ruling, Mr. Speaker, upon this practice. It ‘is a matter for consideration whether this practice should be created.
– There is no direct provision in our standing orders for the asking of questions without notice, but, as there is no prohibition of the practice, if a question is asked without notice and the Minister to whom it is addressed chooses to answer it, I do not think that I should object.
– I understand that in some of the State legislatures the practice has been to obtain the- permission of the Chair before putting a question without notice. I think that the proper rule for a Government to Jay down on this subject, ii/nd an effective rule for all Governments, is that it will answer questions without notice only when they concern some matter so urgent that ‘the Minister feels justified in giving information upon it immediately. .As to the letter to which the honorable member for Laanecoorie has drawn my attention, I would say that it is a very difficult thing for me to deal with, because the writer of it has chosen to communicate its contents to the press before it has reached my hands, which I consider a grave discourtesy. I think honorable members “will support me in the statement that it is not an advisable thing that those who correspond with Ministers should make public what they have written, before the Ministers have had ah opportunity to read and consider their letters. That, however, is the position with- regard to this letter, which has not yet been delivered, unless it has come by to-day’s express. It is a warning letter, relating to the New Hebrides, which has been published in the Sydney newspapers under the heading “ French Designs,” and a paragraph relating to it appears in this morning’s Aye. In reply to the question which the honorable member has asked in regard to it, I think it is fair to make this answer : The matter has received my earnest and continuous consideration, and I have been for some time engaged in correspondence and telegraphic communication, through the GovernorGeneral, with the Secretary of State for the Colonies in connexion with it. The nature of those communications it would be very unwise to disclose, because its disclosure would probably frustrate the object in view, which is - not to unduly suspect the French Government upon any ex parte statement whatsoever of a design to engross and possess the New Hebrides, but to invoke the consideration of the Imperial Government towards a fair method of dealing with disputes arising in those islands. The agreement of 1888 provides for a joint commission, consisting of the captain and two officers of the English and the French menofwar visiting the islands, to deal with such disputes ; but, as honorable members know, the most proline source of disputes in all times and in all countries has been the ownership of land, and the agreement to which I refer makes no provision for the settling of such disputes, but, on the contrary, prohibits the commission from dealing with them. Upon this and other matters relating to the New Hebrides the Government has been in correspondence with the Imperial Government, and I think that all I need say to my honorable friend to reassure him is that the matter is under the kindly and favorable consideration of that Government. More than that, in the face of confidential communications, I am not at liberty to say.
– May I ask the Prime Minister if he will take into consideration the advisability of coming to an understanding with the Imperial Government to the effect that, before any determination is arrived at by it with regard to the future of the Pacific, Australia will be consulted ? ‘ Mr. BARTON. - I have already addressed a communication to the British Government exactly on those lines.
– Referring to the point of order which was raised just now, I wish to call attention to Standing Orders 94 and 95, which read as follows : -
In putting any such question no argument or opinion shall be offered nor any facts stated, except so far as may be necessary to explain such question.
In answering any such question a member shall not debate the matter to which the same refers.
Those standing orders will apply to questions asked without notice, by permission of the House, as well as to questions of which notice has been given.
– I have to inform the House that this morning I received the following letter from the Clerk
I do myself the honour to inform you that for reasons of a personal nature I desire to resume my office of Clerk of the Parliaments of Victoria at the earliest opportunity, and for that purpose I beg to request that I may be relieved of the duties of my office of Clerk of the House of .Representatives on Saturday next, the 6th July instant.
In tendering my resignation of the high office which the Prime Minister of Australia conferred upon me, and which I regard as one of the most honorable and distinguished positions I can hope to fill in my life, I desire to say that I shall ever look back with feelings of the deepest pride and pleasure on my connexion with this honorable House.
With greatest respect to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all honorable members, I beg to subscribe myself,
Your most faithful servant, GEORGE H. JENKINS,
Clerk of the House of Representatives.
I om sure that Mr. Jenkins takes with him to the State Parliament the best wishes of all the members of this House.
– Perhaps honorable members will allow me to pursue a course which is not usual, but which is justified by the circumstances of the case. Mr. Jenkins has given his services to the Commonwealth in the arduous and difficult work of initiating our proceedings entirely without remuneration, and I consider that he has placed the Commonwealth under an obligation to him. I therefore move, with the concurrence of honorable members, without notice -
That the thanks of this House be tendered to Mr. Gr. . H. Jenkins, C.M.G., for his able and gratuitous services to the Commonwealth in respect of the inauguration of Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee (consideration resumed from 2nd July, vide page 1895):
Postponed clause 44 -
Subject to the provisions of this Act every probationer before the confirmation of his appointment and every officer shall effect with some life assurance company or society registered and currying on business in the Commonwealth an assurance on his life providing for the following benefits, namely : -
The payment of a sum of money on his death if it occnrs before he attains the age of sixty years ;
The payment to him of an annuity until death if he survives the age of sixty years ;
The payment to him, if he retires from or ceases to be a member of the public service before attaining the age of sixty years, of a sum of money equal to the whole amount of premiums paid byhim to the company or society unless he elects to continue paying the premiums on his policy ; and
For the increasing from time to time of the amount assured as may be prescribed.
– I understand from the Attorney-General that an amendment is to be moved in this clause to limit the assurance provided for to approved assurance companies.
– I believe that the object desired is to be obtained in another way.
– Then I move-
That, after the word “society,” line 4, the words “approved by the Governor-General in Council “ be inserted.
– The honorable member cannot move that amendment, because the committee has already decided that all the words of the clause, down to the word “ namely,” shall stand as they are.
– Seeing that the desire of some members that the State should take up the matter of life assurance was not carried last night in committee, I wish to give a few reasons why I object to the clause as a whole. Failing the Government taking up the matter, I believe the provision will be found to be utterly in adequate, and will result, in connexion with clause 45, at any rate, in a break-down. It is necessary some provision should be made for those who are engaged in the service of the State. Various expedients have been tried in the past in order that those who give their lives to the service of the State should not be placed in a condition of distress after they leave that service. The first and most ready expedient seems to be to adopt the system of pensions ; but that is like drawing on futurity. To those who are in authority this expedient made itself more tasteful than any other proceeding, because they were not asked to make themselves personally responsible. But there has been so much abuse that it has beenfound necessary to devise other means. Various other measures have been adopted at various times having the same object in view, namely, some provision for the old age of those who have been engaged in the service of the State. In Victoria it is somewhat instructive to watch the course of events. Pensions were in vogue up to theyear 1 881, when it was found that the pension list was increasing at such an alarming rate that it was necessary, in the interest of the taxpayers, that something should be done in order to stop the drain on the resources of the country. A life assurance principle was then adopted. W e had members of the public service who entered after 1881 compelled to assure their lives, and under the regulations they were compelled to assure for an amount double that of the maximum salary which they were to receive in the class or grade in which they were servants. Supposing a member of the public service entered a certain department, the maximum salary in his class of which was £100 a year, that man would be compelled to assure his life for a sum of not less than £200. In course of time he would become promoted, and receive a higher salary, or enter a class which carried a higher salary. He would then be compelled to effect a further assurance on his life equal to double the amount of salary he then was receiving. This system was found to work badly, for several reasons, but especially for one reason. A man could not help his age accumulating, and his ability to take out a policy on good terms diminished year by year. A man of 45 or 50 years of age, who had served for 20 or 25 years, found it almost impossible to effect the necessary assurance on his life, the amount of premium charged being really more than he could bear. This burden was too heavy for the public servants to cany, and seven or eight years ago an alteration was made in the regulations which provided that a member of the service should not be compelled to assure his life for a sum greater than the maximum of the class in which he entered the service. We now have the reverse position presented in “Victoria. We have a large number of members of the public service whose lives have been assured for the paltry sum of £100. These men have complied with the Act and the regulations, but they do not take any further trouble, and in years to come the State of Victoria will undoubtedly find itself compelled to devise some means of relieving the distress that must occur amongst those persons who are at the present time serving the State. I am told that some of these public servants are actually drawing the bonuses on those small policies of £100. They do not allow .the bonuses to accumulate, in more than very few instances, but draw them either for their own use or to apply to the payment of the premiums. That is simply futile - it is simply 2>altering with the question. If the Commonwealth is going to carry out such a system they will not be providing at all for the necessities of those who have served the State. I am aware that clause 45 states that such assurance shall be continued by the assured and not allowed to lapse.
– Does not clause 46 cover that? Public servants cannot draw the bonuses under that clause, can they? Are these policies not kept intact in every respect?
– Clause 46 provides that the policy must not be charged in any way either wholly or in part.
– That clause could be altered. *
– I take it that that clause means that the bonus will not be attachable by the policy-holder, but that he will be compelled to allow the bonuses to accumulate. I would point out, however, that clause 45 falls into the error into which the Victorian Government fell. It compels the public servant to assure his life from time to time for an amount equal at any rate to the salary which he is receiving, or a portion of the amount, as the clause states. That means that the man who enters the Commonwealth public service to-day and finds he can assure his life for £100, will effect the necessary assurance. But in twenty years time he would be called on by the Government to effect a further assurance in order that clause 45 may be complied with. 1 would point out the great difficulty there is in effecting these further assurances. The rates are so heavy in many cases, either through ill-health or for other reasons, that men find it absolutely impossible to effect assurance. What is going to happen ? The State must step in and assure the public servants. I am sure the Minister will see that if an assurance company ten years hence refuses to take a member of the public service the Government will have to do it - they will have to give the man the benefit which-the Government say they are providing under the Bill. Under the circumstances it would be better for the Government to start at the very beginning. I am not, however, going to press this aspect of the question, because I see it is useless for us to expect to engraft on this Bill the principle of Government or State assurance.
– State assurance could not be run on an actuarial basis, if others beside public servants could not be assured.
– As was pointed out over and over again during the debate yesterday, the Government will be compelled to take all the bad cases. The Government will not take bad cases in the first instance, because no man will be admitted to the public service unless in perfect health, as is provided in the Bill. But in connexion with the second assurance, rendered necessary by clause 45, the position of the public servant would be very different. It might. be impossible to find a company to assure the man at all, and the Government would be forced to take up the work. I have pointed out why the Victorian system broke down, and also why the present Victorian system is utterly unsatisfactory, because it is inadequate. The present system does not provide forthe servants of the State that amount of money or the security which we desire they should have - the security that they will not be left, after they have departed from the State service, absolutely penniless. My objection to the pension scheme is mainly the terrible tax that it is on the community. The ideal scheme, in my opinion, would be one which would provide means whereby the servants of the State who are desirous of doing so - and they should all be desirous - may put aside, from time to time, small sums of money, which will insure them a certain return when they leave the service ; or, should they die in the service of the State, insure to those dependent on them a certain sum during the time they require it, a widow during her life, and children, until they become of an age to support themselves. That, I think, would be an ideal scheme. It could be carried out without one single penny’s cost to the general community. The whole of the money would be contributed by those who are to participate in the benefits. Notwithstanding what the Attorney-General said last night, when I mentioned a superannuation scheme - that it was neither more nor less than a pension - I submit that no word-torturing could possibly- twist such a scheme, as I then suggested, into a State pension scheme as we know it. It would be a pension scheme, but it would be a scheme in which the whole of the money is contributed by those who participate in the distribution.
– What I said did not relate to that particular scheme.
– Then I misunderstood the Attorney-General. The scheme I would like to see adopted is the scheme I have already alluded to as being in operation in South Australia. I have obtained a couple of copies cif the tables which are in use, and the regulations which govern the scheme in that State, together with some information with regard to its operation during the last ten years. There have been two quinquennial reports, the first of which was a very good report, and the second of which is described as being an excellent report. These reports were not made by an officer of a State, but by the actuary of the A.M.P. Society, “Mr. Black, and, the last one, by Mr. . Carment, who, I am informed, is the best actuarial expert in the whole of Australia. This scheme, which is controlled by a board, is limited to the Education department, but a Bill has been prepared in South Australia to extend it to the rest of the public service. In addition, a Royal commission has been inquiring into the question, and has prepared its final report. Although I have seen an advance copy of the report, it has not yet been laid on the table of the South Australian Parliament, and therefore, must be regarded as confidential. But I feel justified in saying that that Royal commission strongly recommends the extension of the superannuation scheme, which is in use and has been in use for the last ten years in the Education department of South Australia, to every branch of the public service in that State. The Royal commission is perfectly satisfied in regard to the solvency and workableness of the scheme !
– “What is the basis of the scheme ?
– The basis is that every entrant into the service shall become a subscriber. The subscriptions are varied, the maximum being £16 per annum ; but a member if he so desires, may pay only a quarter, a half, or three quarters of that amount, his benefits, of course, being exactly in proportion. ‘
– What does the public servant get for the £16 a year?
– No one is allowed to participate in the benefits until after five years’ complete membership. After that time, the member who pays £1 6 a year, gets £52 a year.
– And what is paid on death?
– The member gets £52 a year on leaving the service. This is a super- ‘ annuation scheme, and if a member leaves the service after five years’ membership, he gets £52 a year for the rest of his natural life.
– Irrespective of the age at which he leaves ?
– Irrespective of the age at which he leaves.
– His total contributions would be only £80 altogether. How could he get £52 per annum?
– The honorable member will agree with me, that it is not usual for a man to leave the public service after only five years’ service.
– After twenty years’ service how much does the public servant get ?
– He may be 38 years in the public service.
– And he only gets the same amount 1
– No. If he has been 38 years in the service lie will get .£180 *i year.
– Can he leave of his own accord at the end of five years, and get £52 a year t
– He must be retired, and there is an agreement between the board and the Government that no officer is to be be dispensed with whose services are still worth the salary which he is drawing from the State.
– There is no much actuarial basis there.
– The honorable member may consider that an actuarial basis like Mesopotamiaisa blessed expression, butsurely he will take the practical experience of eleven years of the State where this system has been in operation. The honorable member will surely pay some attention to the very careful investigation that was made of this question by a Royal commission, and to the two reports that have been made by two talented members of the profession of actuaries - both actuaries of the Australian Mutual Provident Society - the second gentleman being no less a person than Mr. Garment, who is recognised as the leading expert in the whole of Australia. Neither of these gentlemen point out that there is any defect at all in the basis of calculation. The governing body consists of a board comprising the secretary of the department, one representative of the subscribers, and a member of the public, who is outside of the department altogether. These three gentlemen control the investments. There is a proviso made that if the returns fall below 4 “6 per cent, there shall be a reduction in the benefits. There has been one reduction since the scheme was inaugurated, owing to the decrease in the value of investments in South Australia. The whole thing is under the supervision of the Government, and the whole of the books, papers and securities are examined every year by the
Commissioner of Audit. With regard to the guarantee, I made a mistake when I stated that the Government of South Australia guaranteed £10,000. It was desired that they should guarantee that amount, but they did not do so. I stated that there has been no necessity to call up any of the guarantee ; but the position is even better than I put it, because they have been able to do without a guarantee altogether. All new appointees are compelled to subscribe. It is optional with other members of the public service, but an arrangement was come to, whereby others who were entitled to receive pensions were allowed to come in under the superannuation scheme, and a large number have availed themselves of this provision. The government found the pensions to which they would be entitled, and paid a certain amount into the fund. They did not pay the whole amount in a lump sum, but they put it in in the shape of interest on the amount to which the members of the public service would have been entitled had they remained in the service, and claimed their pensions. There is one point in regard to which I think this superannuation scheme completely out-classes the scheme of life insurance. It is this ; that when a man leaves the public service he begins to draw a certain allowance. He knows what the allowance will be. He is not limited to one policy, but may take out more policies if he so desires. Therefore, it will not be necessary for him to commit suicide in order that his widow and family may obtain the benefits of the money which he would otherwise have been paying into a life insurance society for years. It will not be necessary for him to dispose of his policy - as is sometimes done - at a very serious loss, thus depriving his widow and children of their means of subsistence in time to come. Should the man die, there will not be a lump sum, say, of £100 left to his widow and children for the rest of their lives, but there will be an amount paid to the widow so long as she remains a widow, and should any of the children be under eighteen years of age when the widow dies, then those children, until they attain that age, would participate.
– It is purely a pension scheme. They never get the principal.
– They can get the principal. There is a provision in the Act by -which a man retiring may draw an amount equal to the surrender value of his policy, just the same as is done in connexion with life insurance societies. But that is a method which I should not care to see adopted.
– Could he not buy a farm? . Mr. SALMON. - I have lived in the country all my life, and would strongly recommend any member of the public service, when he is past work in the service, to refrain from buying a farm. The expense of management of such a scheme as I am suggesting is extremely small, in fact it is almost nothing. The expense of management of life insurance business is nothing to the societies ; but it is the societies who get the benefit and not the State.
– What about mutual societies, where the policy-holders participate in all the profits ‘(
– The custom in Victoria is - as I have already stated - for the policy-holders to draw the bonuses as they accrue and use them for various purposes, and thereby the object which Parliament had in view is defeated.
– The bonuses are not usually drawn.
– I have just come from an interview with an accountant of one of the- largest departments of the State where this system is adopted, and I can assure honorable ‘members that that gentleman told me that the system very largely obtains. In fact he gave me to understand that in most cases the bonuses were drawn.
– They are not drawn in the Australian Mutual Provident Society.
– The- Australian Mutual Provident Society does not do all the business in connexion with life assurance. I was pointing out the cost of management. The insurance societies, I repeat, get the benefit of the State officials in Victoria, at an)’ rate, by merely using the officers of the State for the purpose of collecting their premiums. In the Railway department the custom is to collect the whole of the premiums and send them to the insurance society in a lump sum. In other departments I am told that when a premium falls in arrear it is the custom of the society to drop a note to the Public Service Board, which immediate])’ notifies the accountant of the department, and the money is at once paid and deducted from the next month’s salary of the officer concerned. It is a very” simple matter to the insurance society, and saves them a great deal of money. But this benefit could easily accrue to the State. We should find that we should not have to do a bit more work, and the results would be satisfactory.
– Supposing that an officer voluntarily retires at any period, does he get all the accrued interest ?
– I am sorry I have not all the papers in connexion with the scheme.
– If a man has an ordinary policy, and he retires from the service, his rights under that policy are not mixed up necessarily with the Government ? ‘ Mr. SALMON. - If a member of the public service retires he takes his policy with him, and continues paying until the time comes for himself or his family, or his administrators, to draw the amount for which his life was insured. But this is provided, I think, in South Australia only in the case of those officers who serve their time, so to speak, with the Government, who give the whole of their -lives to the work of the State. It is these whom we desire to assist. But should any officer be incapacitated, say even within six years, he certainly would be entitled to draw the allowance I have already indicated - namely, not less than £52 per annum. I presume that officers who left the State service of their own accord would come under the section of the Act which provides that any subscriber may draw the surrender value of his policy. That is to say, he would be able to withdraw about two-thirds of the amount he has paid in premiums.
– What company allows twothirds ?
– This scheme provides that two-thirds of the amount paid in premiums shall be repaid.
– That* scheme has not yet been adopted.
– This scheme has been in operation in South Australia for eleven years.
– They have to make a levy whenever a man dies upon all the rest of the service.
– The honorable member is misinformed. I have gone through the whole thing carefully this morning with an ] officer who has had practical personal experience of the matter. The funds now amount to something between £40,000 and £50,000.
– I thought the honorable member was alluding to the civil service mutual society.
– I am talking of the Education department fund which was instituted eleven years ago in South Australia, and which has been a marked success. I would like to see a similar scheme adopted by the Commonwealth. Without detaining the House any longer, I wish to express the hope that even if it is found impracticable at the present juncture to engraft this system on the Public Service Bill, Ministers will give some attention to it. The Government of Victoria will this week consider in Cabinet whether the system should be adopted with regard to the State public service. J have had opportunities of discussing this matter with experts, who speak most highly of the system that has been adopted in South Australia ; and I feel sure that the desire which we all have is not so much in reference to what companies the public servants of the Commonwealth shall have their lives insured in, but is rather to secure to .them, after they leave the service, means whereby they can live without becoming a charge upon the State. We have seen too often in the past men who have loyally served the State - men who have regularly drawn the salaries to which they were entitled, but who through extra demands upon their resources, through circumstances over which they had absolutely no control, through sickness, through death, through responsibilities which they themselves had no .hand in incurring - who have been compelled, after leaving the service of the State, to seek charity. We do not desire to see that under the Commonwealth. It was never intended under clause 44 to shift the responsibility from the shoulders of the employer on to the less strong shoulders of the employe. The sole object was to insure that in years to come we should not see a repetition of the scandalous exhibitions which we have unfortunately had in the past in this young country, and that we should by every means in our power not only secure to a man who gives loyal and leal service to the State during the best years of his life something which will assist him to some comfort in his old age, but should also make some provision for his wife and children. This is not charity, or anything of that sort, but it is something which will provide a fund into which a man may pay small, sums by way of contribution which will insure him relief and assistance in his old age, and give that help to those who are dependent upon him which, unfortunately, they too often require.
– I do not think that upon the explanation the honorable member has given the committee can adopt the suggestion that has just been made, because it is altogether different to a proposal for life assurance. It may work well in South Australia, and may, as the honorable member says, have worked well for eleven years, but I should certainly want to make some further investigation before I would be prepared to say anything in its favour. What I particularly rose to say was, that a suggestion has been made to me by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Piesse, which I am rather inclined to think is a good one. He has suggested that the clause should be amended to read as follows : -
Subject to the provisions of this Act, every probationer, before the confirmation of his appointment, and every officer shall effect with some life insurance company, registered and carrying on business in the Commonwealth, or otherwise as may be prescribed, an assurance on his life, providing for such benefits as may be prescribed, and for increasing from time to time the amount insured.
That would be the whole of the clause, and we should leave out paragraphs (a), (/>), and (a).
– The Government would require to approve of the policy in that case.
-Yes. Regulalations would have to be framed, and it may be necessary to introduce some slight amendment in clause 71, to provide for the case. There is doubtless some difficult)” in connexion with paragraph (c) in reference to the point that was raised at the time of the previous debate. I have a communition from the actuary or the manager of the Australian Widows’ Fund, in which he says -
The provision undersection (c), is that which requires most consideration, as it renders a life assurance society liable under certain conditions for a, payment in excess of the amount held in reserve against its liability under a policy. From one point o£ view, it stipulates- for a larger surrender value than a life assurance society would be able to pay ; but, on the other hand, it may be regarded as an additional benefit, which could be provided for by charging a somewhat higher premium.
– That means higher premiums.
– This is what it comes to. I do not think we wish that, if we can avoid it. I have also a similar communication from another company, as far as this paragraph (c) is concerned, and it seems to me, therefore, in view of the debate that has taken place, that it would be better to allow this matter to be thoroughly considered. I admit, as I have said before, that as far as the amendment that was proposed last night is concerned, it will be many years before any great number of the public servants will be affected.
– About 1,500.
– The number was stated at about 1,500, but if Ave take the result of theworking of the New Zealand system they have only had 290 policies issued under the compulsory clauses in the course of six years.
– That must be a mistake.
– Is the honorable gentleman sure it is compulsory 1
– Yes, I looked up the matter last night.
– It must be compulsory only as regards avery few officers.
– This would only affect the new servants as they come over from the States, and therefore itwill be a long time before the operations become very large, under the suggestion that is made by the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Piesse. The scheme could be very much better carried out after a conference with actuaries, and ascertaining exactly what has been done in South Australia. We could also get further information from other sources on thewhole subject, and then by means of regulation decide as to what course Ave had better take. . I think that this ought to meet theviews of those memberswho are so much opposed to ordinary life assurance, because, as I said last night, the Government are not opposed to the State taking the matter in hand, and thiswill give a further opportunity to the Government to consider it. If it did not look too serious a matter, the Government could undertakewhatis outlined in the new clause in the first instance, and they could arrange for a general life assurance system in the future.
– The amendment proposed does not limit assurance to approved societies.
– No ; but I think that should be done. An attemptwas.made to propose an amendment in that direction, but the clause had got beyond the point where such an amendment could come in. If, however, the committee will agree to the suggestion to amend the clause in theway I now propose, Iwill see that the other amendment is made in its proper place. Just a word or two in reference to clause 49. I think honorable members are somewhat mistakenwith regard to that clause, because it has been referred to many times as a clause underwhich the Government would have to provide forwhat has been called the derelicts. Honorable members,however, will find that this is avery small matter, and that a very small proportion of the officers would come under that clause.
– But the principle is the same.
– Iwill just tell the honorable member what the principle means. It means that certain sums would be paid by thosewho could not be assured exceptwith a loading of five years, and the Statewould undertake to pay that money back againwithin certain periods,with interest added. All that the Statewould losewould be the cost of dealing with and looking after that money. It would not amount to any great sum, and, therefore, I say that it is a very small matter indeed. In dealingwith this clause, I obtained the information that, in order to make it pay the State, after the payment of five premiums, Ave could return only21/2 times the premiums. That is, Ave should be at a loss of 21/2 times the premium, in five years ; in ten years Ave would be at a loss of sixtenths; in twenty years at a loss of threefourths, and in twenty-five years, four-fifths.
– I do not see the application.
– That is we obtain from the individual a certain amount of money, and guarantee that thewhole of that money is’ to be paid back, and we should lose the difference between that amount and the amount that Ave could afford to give to make it pay the Commonwealth, as an insurance officewould make it pay. I admit that it is a very small matter, and I do not think it is one that any stress should be laid upon.
– A man at 25 years if loaded might have to pay the rate for a man of 30.
– Yes, but I am not including the loading at all. Now we have had two nights’ discussion on this particular question, and I think that those members who last night voted in favour of the State dealing with this matter should extend their support to the present proposal, because it will give the Government time to prescribe what shall be the course of action taken, and will give an opportunity for the consideration of all the Arguments’ used, and such information as can be obtained from actuaries and other sources.
– I am inclined to support the Minister for Home Affairs in the amendment proposed, but it appears to me that in conferring upon the Government the power to provide for a system of assurance, and in prescribing the nature and the amount of the policies, the public servants must be to some extent protected, by limiting the proportion of their salaries that they will be compelled to pay in premiums.
– That would be done under this proposal. If the honorable member looks at clause 71, paragraph (m), he will see .that regulations may be made prescribing the lowest .amount for which the lives of officers shall be assured, having regard to their annual salary.
– I only want to make certain of it. I think our experience has been that officers as a rule do not care to be burdened with the payment of premiums exceeding at any rate move than about 5 per cent, of their annual salaries, and I question whether all the benefits- that are contemplated’ by the provisions as they appeared in the original Bill could be secured for 5 per cent. However, provided that we have the assurance of the Attorney-General and the Secretary for Home Affairs that the public servants will be protected- against being called upon to pay an excessive portion of their salaries as premiums, I would be inclined to support the new clause that has been suggested. I prefer a system of compulsory life assurance to any system of superannuation such as that outlined by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, Mr. Salmon. It seems to me that all the States have found it impracticable to carry out their superannuation schemes.
– It is just the reverse in South Australia.
– But that refers to only one department.
– But it is to be extended to the whole service.
– I understand that the honorable member for Laanecoorie quoted the results achieved in one department, and saw that, owing to the success achieved there, it was proposed to extend it to the whole service.
– - -Yes ; on the report of a Royal commission which inquired exhaustively into the whole system.
– I am bound to say that I do not see any special reasons why State servants should be required to adopt any other method of providing for their old age, or for the support of those depending on them after death, than that followed by other citizens of the Commonwealth, i think the Government has a perfect right, and is within its legitimate functions, in seeing that a reasonable provision is made against old age or death, and, so long as we insure that the provision made is the same as other good citizens are making for themselves, I think we are doing all that we are required to do.
– We do not compel private citizens to insure.
– But most of them insure of their own accord.
– And so might some of the public servants.
– That is quite possible, but the Commonwealth is quite within its rights in requiring that all public servants shall do what the best and most prudent of our citizens do, thus preventing them from hereafter becoming claimants for Government assistance. But I am not prepared to go beyond a system of compulsory life assurance. I prefer that to any system of superannuation, and if we receive a guarantee from the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister in charge of the Bill that the public servants shall not be required to submit to excessive taxation in the way of premiums, I am inclined to vote for the amendment outlined by die Minister for Home Affairs. .Mr. HUME COOK (Bourke).- Some of us are not quite clear as to the terms of the amendment which the Minister proposes to accept, and as to its exact meaning. As I understand the proposal of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Piesse, it is to omit paragraphs (a), (b), and («), and to substitute for them a provision which will have the effect of . allowing the Government to take up the business of insuring its public servants, or, if it chose to prescribe certain assurance companies with which the public servants shall assure.
– And certain forms of policy.
– Under the amendment the Government might even adopt a superannuation scheme.
– I am inclined to support that amendment, but I would suggest that the Government, at the same time, should accept the proposal which has been put forward by both the honorable member for Coolgardie and the honorable member for Bland, that only purely Australian and mutual assurance societies shall be prescribed.
– That is what the amendment means, and if after it has been carried it is seen not to have that meaning, I shall have the clause recommitted.
– I wish to know what the position of the public servant who has mortgaged his policy previously to entering the service of the Commonwealth will be. Is there any provision for assisting him to pay the extra premium? Under the Bill he would have to take out a second policy.
– There is nothing in the Bill which would allow the Government to advance money to an officer who had mortgaged his policy before entering the Commonwealth service.
– But such a man would have two premiums to pay, and only a certain amount of salary to pay them with.
– The Government could not advance money to an officer to enable him to pay off the mortgage, nor could it increase his salary to enable him to do so. An officer entering the service would have to satisfy the Government that he was able to comply with the requirements of the measure in regard to assurance.
– During the whole course of my public life, 1 have advocated that public officials should be paid salaries which would enable them to insure their lives and to make provision for their old age. Persons in private employ do not get larger salaries than public officials, and they are required to do this, because private employers cannot afford to pension their servants when they become unfitted for their duties. But although I am opposed to the giving of pensions, I shall support the proposed system of insurance, though I hope that a Bill will be introduced in which the whole question will be dealt with on sound and broad lines, and which will allow private individuals as well as the employes of the Commonwealth to participate in the benefits of a Government insurance system.
– I am sure that honorable members who are anxious that an opportunity should be afforded to try the experiment outlined in the. proposal of the honorable member for Bourke last evening will support the amendment, and that they will also support the suggestion that only purely Australian and mutual societies shall be prescribed. Avery large amount of money is now sent out of the Commonwealth to payfor life insurances, and in my opinion we should keep as much money here as we can.
-It is always a great pleasure for any one who sits on this side of the Chamber to be able to congratulate the Government, and I think that we are entitled to congratulate them upon having seen a virtue in the numbers that ranged themselves on these benches last evening. I think that the Minister has shown a wise discretion. I had intended to propose the addition to the clause of the following words -
But such company or society shall be one of which the head office is within the Common- . wealth, and shall be conducted wholly on the mutual principle, and shall when required so to do permit the Minister to authorize an indepen-. dent valuation of its assets.
– I have given instructions this morning for’ the preparation of a Bill dealing with all the companies.
– In that case I shall not move an amendment. But I would like to ask the Minister what provision he proposes to make for persons who leave the public service or who are dismissed, and are compelled to surrender their policies.
– Such persons should be allowed to go on paying their premiums.
– But they may not be able to do so. At the present time, if a man who is insured surrenders his policy, he will not get back more than 30 per cent, or 40 per cent, of what he lias paid in premiums ; the actual amount depending upon the liberality of the company and the length of time during which he has been insured. According to the Australian Banking and Insurance Record the total liabilities, under the head of life endowment and annuity funds, of the twelve Australian insurance companies last year was £30,100,000 odd, and of that amount nearly £500,000 represented surrendered policies. I do not know whether the £500,000 was the face value of the surrendered policies or the amount which the cornpanies repaid to those who surrendered ; but the figures indicate that iii these tunes a large number of people find, themselves obliged to surrender their policies, and that being so, 1 think we should make provision for the return of a larger proportion of the premiums where a policy has to be surrendered than is returned now.
– I think that could be provided for only by loading the premiums in the first instance:
– I wish to know if the Minister for Home Affairs is prepared to accept the suggestion that the companies approved of shall be purely mutual.
An Honorable Member. - He said so.
– I do not think that we are justified in prescribing other than mutual offices, because we know that the operations of such offices are carried on solely with a view to the protection and benefit of their members, whereas, when a company is being managed to obtain profits for shareholders, there is a temptation to an over valuation of assets, and unsafe dealing, which does not exist where mutual societies are concerned. I would point out that in prescribing certain companies the Government will practically guarantee the payment of the amounts insured in the event of the failure of those companies, and it will be impossible for them without a very complete Act to make a thorough investigation of the Affairs of the various societies so as to ascertain which of them are solvent and which are not. A number of these institutions have only recently ‘ come into existence, and are in a comparatively easy position because of their new business, but how long they will continue in that position it is difficult to foresee. I trust that the committee will insist that only mutual societies shall be prescribed. Unless that is done I shall feel inclined to vote against the set of clauses providing for insurance, and allow the public servants to make provision for their futures as best they may. * In any case they will have nothing to thank us for, if we require them to pay the premiums out of their salaries, and .unless we can give them absolute security 1 do not think we are justified in asking them to make these payments. I would ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether he cannot see his way to consent on behalf of the Government to a limitation of approved societies to those which are conducted on the mutual principle ? Otherwise I shall feel inclined to vote against the whole set of clauses.
– I think the effect would be as the honorable member states, though it is really not stated in the Bill, that if the Government approve of a company as one in which officers can insure, the Government will be bound to’ stand behind the officer. That would make the Government very cautious as to the insurance companies of which they approve. I am quite agreeable to the provision that the offices approved should be Australian offices, and I should feel inclined to agree with the proposal that they should be mutual offices. I should like, however, this latter point to remain over until the clause is recommitted. I do not know what companies there are, but if a proprietary company were very strong, and there were no danger, I really do not see any reason’ why such a company should be excluded. I feel inclined, however, to agree to the proposal that the companies should be mutual companies, but I shall be able to say definitely when the clause is dealt with on recommittal.
– Does the Minister for Home Affairs say that he is in favour of the Government approving of mutual societies only ‘!
– No. I said J felt that unless a company that was not absolutely a mutual company, was a very strong company, I should feel inclined to agree that it should be excluded. But I desire to refrain from giving an absolutely definite reply until the clause is recommitted.
– I quite agree with the honorable member who spoke before the Minister, that if we are going into any of these distinctions at all, the suggestion is a very good one. There is no doubt that the effect of being in a mutual society, if it be a sound society, is to assure to the person assured all the money which he is entitled to - all the benefits and all the money. No doubt these assurance companies have to frame a scale of charges which provide for a margin of safety. In a mutual society, as we all know, the individual assured is given the benefit of that margin afterwards, in bonuses. It seems, therefore, a suggestion, worthy of consideration. The proposals which the Government have seemed to accept, namely, that we should assure only in Australian societies, suggests to me the fact that it is our own fault that these large British and American companies are not Australian societies. If our legislation were as it should be, we should attach to their operations in Australia conditions which would make them Australian societies. In other words, we would require a proper deposit of their funds in Australia, and we would have the right to inspect their books, which conditions would also be extended- to other Australian societies. I do not like to use the word “ foreign “ in respect of British societies for instance, because I suppose that would be obnoxious even to a Victorian protectionist, and I will speak of them as “ outside “ societies. But I should like to say that we are all delighted with the result of the division which was taken here last night. We now have discovered how to galvanize the Government into prompt action. “We must just give them a majority of one, leaving them safe, while what we want is achieved. That is I should hope the ideal in the present Parliament. The Government, as the result of what happened last night, evidently spent -no time in sleep, but held a midnight Cabinet meeting, and suddenly agreed on a matter which was very much in doubt until that division. The Minister is prepared now to say that already this morning. - what hour of the morning we do not know - the whole of this gigantic scheme was set going. That is a great encouragement to honorable members opposite, who occasionally come to this side on a division, because they will find they will sometimes do a great deal of good so long as they leave a safe margin, and insist on a majority of one. As in some of the parliamentary meetings we have heard of, it has the effect of a grand declaration of independence without any annoying instability to our political institutions. Mr. Watson/. - The right honorable gentle- man is speaking from experience, I suppose.
– He is speaking of the party to which the honorable member’ for Bland belongs.
– I feel we should not intrude too much here on experience in New South Wales. But I hope the Government will as soon as possible take up the matter of the insurance companies in Australia, in the sense of requiring those companies who do business here with head offices elsewhere to safeguard their financial position here in a proper, businesslike way. ‘ The inspection which we should apply to those societies and the conditions we should apply to them, we would probably be willing to apply to our own societies. I think the books of all these bodies should be open to Government inspection at any moment, and that there should be thorough oversight and thorough inspection in the interests of the public. A great deal of confusion has arisen, and a great deal of time has probably been wasted over this clause, owing to the fact that the true object of the clause does not appear in the position in which it ought to appear. We have been talking about life assurance for a long time, but the object of the clause is not life assurance at all. The object of the clause is to make provision in the shape of an annuity, and I suppose ninetenths of the observations which have been made are absolutely wide of the clause we are discussing. It is a very proper thing - in fact, it is inevitable - in life assurance that somebody should get some money when the person assured dies. There is nothing novel in that feature of the clause ; but the real object is not found in sub-clause (a) but in sub-clause (&.) We desire that when officers attain an age at which they must retire from the public service, and are suddenly deprived of an income of a regular and stable character, something should be done to give those persons cast adrift from the public service means of supporting themselves and their families in’ decency. That is the object of the provision - the payment of an annuity from the age at which the officer retires until the time when he dies. That object must be constantly kept in view. We do not at all save the public servants or the Government from the evils which we wish to avoid if we assure an officer with the result that when he dies his family are entitled to a certain amount, because he has to live decently after he leaves the service until he dies.
– It is an endowment assurance
– With an annuity.
– With an annuity. The principle is that the assured may draw either at 60 years of age or at death.
– I am glad to hear the word “ endowment “ at last. It is like a flash of sunshine over a dreary waste. I have heard nothing about “endowment” until now, though, I suppose, it may have been mentioned in a former debate. That is really the true object of all these clauses, although it is a word never, I think, used in connexion with these debates, except of course by the honorable member for Echuca. Let us keep clearly in mind the object of these provisions. We know that in some of the States, when public officers arrive at the time when they should retire, they are kept in the service when they cease to be useful rather than that they should be driven into the streets - to beggary. That is the state of things which has compelled some of the States to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in abortive superannuation schemes. We shall find ourselves put to exactly the same trouble and expense with all these fancy schemes of assurance, unless provision be made for the support of the public officer and his family when he must retire. Take the case of a man who is sent out of the public service without an income, .but with an assurance policy for a certain amount payable at death. I suppose there will be a provision to the effect that the benefit under the policy shall not be liable to mortgage, Otherwise this starving man would naturally have to mortgage the policy which ought to be a provision for his family at his death, in order to keep himself and his family alive, so that when death did come, the policy would be gone. The main object of the provision is clearly to keep the public servant and his family in a state of decency in the interval of old age between his retirement from the service and his death. That object cannot be too clearly kept in view. At the same time, it means a much higher premium, and I must say frankly that, unless -with very young officers, I do not see how any annuity which would be of a reasonable amount and calculated to keep a man and his family in decency, can be secured except with a very large premium. The provision about returning to a man all he has paid in if he ceases to be. a member of the public service - for that is introduced into the scheme as shown in the clause - would be an intolerable wrong to the great body of public servants. Not one in 50 would be in that ‘ position, but the insurance companies would load that 50 with much higher premiums, because of the risk of the whole 50, or one of them, or a large number of them, ceasing to be members of the service before the proper time and applying for the return with interest of what they had paid in.
– Mutual companies do that now if the assured has been long enough in the society. The policy has a surrender value after a certain time.
– We are familiar with the principle of surrender value, but I neverheard of a surrender like this - paying a man back with interest everything he has . paid in.
– Not with interest.
– If a man pays for it he can get a policy of any kind.
– That is what I am pointing out. It is a mere matter of money. With foreign societies, though not with Australian societies - in that case it is patriotism. . . If that be made a feature of the arrangement the charge will be much higher in order to provide for a casual event, an accidental event which would happen only once in a hundred cases. 1 feel sure that the Government, even at the risk of spending another sleepless night, will take this matter into consideration, so that’ we shall have a thoroughly sound system. The salaries of public servants are not very high, and we do not want to load them in any injudicious way. I should like to have the benefit of the views of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr Piesse, who has taken such a deep and useful interest in this matter. Would it not tend to load the payment by the public servant, if the condition be attached that ‘when a man leaves the service all he has paid is returned to him with interest - that that may happen to any man who is assured.
Mr. PIESSE (Tasmania).- I am afraid I shall not be able to follow my right honorable friend in admiration of the little fairy tale ho told us in the earlier part of his remarks. It is hardly true that this plan was thought of only this morning, or that the Minister for Home Affairs made up his mind so suddenly.-
– I forgot that the honorablemember is an honorary member of the Cabinet.
– However, I will turn to the question which the right honorable member for East Sydney has done me the honour to submit to me. I believe he is quite correct in assuming that, in order to secure the benefit of the return of all premiums, those who are the subject of insurance, namely, the public servants, would have to pay more. That is, I believe, understood by every assurance society which has considered the subject. They would have to make an extra charge to all who are the subjects of the provision.
– Would it not be very hard on the great bulk of the public servants ?
– That could be done either by the Government undertaking to make the payment for the public servants, or by the servants who have the benefit of the provision paying for it themselves.
– If a man starts early it is a small matter.
– Quite so. We know that in some cases that the amount returned equals the premiums paid.
– The assured gets it back in bonuses.
– The honorable and learned member for East Sydney has hardly quite correctly quoted the position. There is no mention of interest.
– It is the mere return of the premiums, and, of course, that would make a very great difference. After a considerable number of years the capital may very well be returned, because the interest will have made up for the risk. I hope that this question will be settled in a way that will meet the views of those who advocate State life insurance. At the same time I feel that State life insurance is hardly attainable within the time in. which it is necessary that some provision shall be made. There will be civil servants appointed very shortly, and, unless the Government are ready with their scheme, those officers will not be able to have their lives assured immediately they enter the service. If we accept the proposal, with some slight modification, I think that the clause might be made to read as follows : -
Subject to the provisions of this Act, every probationer, before the confirmation of his appointment, and every officer, shall effect an assurance on his life, either with some Australian mutual life assurance company, registered and carrying on business in the Commonwealth, or as may be prescribed.
Thus there would be an alternative presented. The Government can then insist upon an officer who is appointed before they are ready with their scheme, insuring his life with some company which is registered and carrying on business in the Commonwealth. They will thus be able to prescribe the benefits that areto be obtained either from the company in which such an officer is insured or under the scheme which they themselves promulgate.
Mr. McCOLL (Echuca).- No public officer assures for death only if he is compelled to insure by the Government. All the policies which public officers take out are endowment policies. The question of death does not enter into the matter at all.
– If a certain amount is payable at 60 years of age that is scarcely satisfactory as an annuity; because we know how money goes very often, and how it leaves the assured just as poor as ever.
– I do not think that the suggestion that public servants should be compelled to assure only in colonial mutual companies is wise at the present time. The Government should not put its imprimatur upon any company until it has made the strictest investigation into the affairs of tha,t company. It might be found upon inquiry that what are termed “ foreign companies “ are very much better for assurers than are some of the colonial mutual societies.
– How can we investigate the affairs of foreign companies ?
– In just the same way as we can investigate the affairs of others, if they are allowed to do business here. But, as a matter of fact, some of what are termed foreign assurance companies doing business in Victoria have to submit yearly to the most searching investigation by a Government actuary that is conducted in regard to any assurance company in the world. In the State of New York there is a superintendent of assurance, who has to value the assets of every company doing business in that State. He has to consider every mortgage, and every penny that is laid out on security of any kind has to be specially valued by him, and he tells us in a public document what is the value of the property on which the money has been lent, and also the amount that has been lent upon that property. That is the system of supervision that we require here. Until we get that system it will be very unwise for the Government to put its imprimatur upon any office, Australian or otherwise. Our first aim should be to secure a strict inquiry into all the offices, in order to ascertain whether we cannot have a system of Commonwealth assurance. I believe that such a system must come. It has been a great success in New Zealand, and it must in time come here. It is perhaps a little premature just now, and the discussion that wehave been indulgingin has been largely academic and doctrinaire. I wish to point out that there are mutual companies doing business here who are paying over 200 per cent for their new business. They arepaying two years’ premiums in order to get one policy. Therefore, we ought to be extremely careful in what we do at the present time.
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie). - The suggestion made by the Minister for Home Affairs can be accepted by me, at any rate. feel that investigation will only show him the manifest advantages of the system which I have endeavoured all too feebly and incoherently to lay before the committee. It s a system which has borne the strictest investigation, and one with which I am very much in favour. I feel sure that after investigation on the part of the Minister, that system will so commend itself to him that we shall soon find him bringing down to the House a Bill which will provide for its initiation in the Commonwealth.
Clause 45 -
Such assurance shall be continued by the assured and not allowed to lapse, and the amount thereof shall be increased by the assured from time to time in proportion as nearly as practicable to his salary as may be prescribed.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).This clause provides that the amount of the assurance may be increased from time to time. In order to protect the employe, who has to take out several different policies, I desire to move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - “ Such increased assurance may be effected with any approved company without regard to the original policy or policies.”
It has been found that where a person who had insured with a certain company when young, afterwards had to go to the same company, he has been loaded much heavier than would have been the case had he been at liberty to assure with some other company. I think that the words which I have proposed will afford protection to the employes without in any way hampering the working of the Bill.
– I would point out that this clause makes it mandatory that the increase shall take place. I have endeavoured to show the committee what the result of that system has been in “Victoria. The result was that the burden which had to be borne by the members of the public service was too heavy for them. Astheir salaries increased, their ages also increased, and their effectiveness as members of mutual insurance societies had correspondingly decreased. They could not take out policies on anything like the same terms as those upon which their first policies were taken out. I ask the Minister if it is intended to penalize the members of the public service for every promotion which they receive 1 So soon as they are promoted from one class to another they will, under this provision, find that a further demand is made upon them in the way of an assurance premium. Those who are better able to discuss this matter than myself, by reason of their further personal experience, will bear me out that the time will naturally arrive when men will find it impossible to effect assurances on the highest scale at their increased ages. Under the circumstances, we are asking the public servants to do something which they are incapable of doing, and the result will be that which has been so often outlined, viz., that the State will be compelled to take up this matter. I hope that the Minister will allow the clause to be struck out altogether. Under the amendment made in the previous clause he will have full power to deal with this matter, and I think it is better to leave it in his hands until a full and comprehensive scheme is brought down to the House.
– I think the difficulty can be got over to some extent if the amount of the assurance according to salary were prescribed in the first instance so as to give the person who assured for the first time the option of assuring for the higher amount. Any prudent man, if he could pay the premiums, would adopt the course rather than trust to being able to assure when he was much older.
– There would always be an option of that sort.
– It appears to be man datory that he should increase” the amount from time to time, irrespective of what the first amount may be. If an officer assured for an amount proportionate to the larger salary in the first instance, he ought not to be required to increase the amount as he grows older.
– The rule is that a man must insure for the maximum salary of his class.
– But he might go into another class. He might assure for maximum of the next class.
– I wish to ask the Minister if it is intended that this life assurance shall apply to the general division as well as to the clerical division ?
– May I direct the honorable gentleman’s, attention to one particular point. In clause 44 there is no provision as to the amount of assurance, and, as far as I can see, the provision for prescribing the amount is in clause 71.
– I said just now that if my suggestion with regard to clause 44 is carried out, clause 71 will have to be amended to meet it.
– In what way ?
– Because it does not give sufficient power in the making of regulations.
– But it appears to be confined to the clerical officers, because clause 71 says that the regulations shall, prescribe the lowest amount for which the lives of officers shall, having regard to their annual salary, be assured. That provision will not cover wages. I think that the Minister ought to be very careful that the words used shall cover the general division as well as the clerical division of the public service.
– I wish to point out to the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Poynton, that his amendment assumes a great many things that have not yet been determined. For example: he uses the words “approved companies.” Clause 44 does not suggest that there shall be approved companies, and indeed I think it would be unwise to say that companies should be approved.
– We can leave out the word “ approved.”
– But for what the honorable member for South Australia said, I should not have thought that these clauses implied that the increased assurance must be effected in the company in which the original assurance was effected. I think that the clause carries no such implication, and that the danger which he apprehends is purely an imaginary one. There is no fear of the Government falling into the error of compelling a man to increase his assurance in the same company when everybody knows that by doing so the assured might be placed in a very unfair position.
– It cannot do any harm.
– As it is drawn the amendment might do a great deal of harm. I might take exception to other words . in the proposed amendment, but I do not wish to do so. There is no use in providing for protection against danger in a clause where danger does not exist.
– I would ask the honorable member to withdraw the amendment, because under the clause as it will be framed when recommitted there will be power to give effect to exactly what he wishes ; and as far as lam concerned I will take care that that is done. It would be very unfair to compel a man to go to the company in which he originally assured in order to increase the amount of his life assurance policy, because the company might try to load him beyond the extent to which he should be loaded, and he might be able to go to another assurance company and get his policy increased at an easier rate.
– Supposing he could get the additional assurance at a cheaper rate from an equally sound company that does not happen to be an Australian company ‘
– I will make a statement regarding that on clause 44.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. SALMON (Laanecoorie). - I invite the Minister in charge of the Bill to say whether he considers we are justified in passing a clause which will be mandatory - which will not be optional - under which a member of the public service, in order to retain his position, will be absolutely compelled to effect a further assurance on his life when he gets an increase of salary. I do not for one moment doubt the advisableness of the course in so far as it will help a man to meet the responsibilities which he will encounter after he leaves the service; but that is not the question so much as the ability of the man himself to comply with the requirements of the clause. I contend that it will be found impossible- - and the Minister knows well enough that it will be found impossible - in some eases for a man to effect any further assurance on his life. I have already referred to the breakdown that occurred under the Victorian system, which had to be altered some eight or nine years ago. That was a system of increased assurances with every addition to salary, but it was found impossible to carry it into effect, and it had to be abolished. Now the system is just as bad, because it requires an assurance equal to the amount of salary which a man receives on his first appointment to the service. If members of the Commonwealth service are to be burdened with such conditions as these, they will prefer to be out of the service altogether. I really think that Ministers have not sufficiently considered the matter.
– The words “as maybe prescribed” are sufficient - that is the safety valve.
– But that is only the proportion which may be prescribed.
– It is not only the proportion, but also relates to the increases.
– Of course, I take the Attorney-General’s opinion as to the meaning of the clause ; but certainly it did not appeal to me in that way. I should be very sorry indeed to see the committee fix conditions in a Bill like this, which would be found impracticable, and which it has been found impracticable to carry into effect in Victoria.
– Surely the principle with which we start any assurance at all must be carried out as a man’s salary increases, and if the additional assurance is fixed in an absolutely fair proportion, there is no more reason to cavil at it than at the assurance itself at the outset. The increases must be in keeping with the principle of assurance that may be adopted in the first instance, whether it be under a system of State assurance or of assurance with outside offices. The point is that a man on his retiring from the service should have an amount provided for him, equivalent to the salary attached to the position which he occupied in the service. Because, after all, in some positions £100 a year wouldbe nothing to a man who had been accustomed to certain luxuries. It seems to me to be perfectly fair, under any circumstances, now that we have decided to await further developments from the Government’s consideration of this matter, that we should pass these clauses as they are.
– I do not see how the hardship comes in in the way the honorable and learned member for Laanecoorie would persuade us that it does. Where a man has £100 a year, and £10 is deducted from his salary for life assurance, he is more hardly dealt with than is the man who has £200 a year, and who has to pay £20 out of it for life assurance.
– How do we know that a man would get the extra assurance for an additional £10 ; it might cost him £30?
– Even if the contention of the honorable and learned member be correct, the hardship would not be very great. If the principle of life assurance is sound - and we have agreed that it is - the officers ought to add to their assurances as their salaries increase.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clause 46 - (Policy not assignable, and to be exempt from insolvency laws,&c).
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).There are two small amendments required in this clause, one of which is the insertion of the word “ policies “ instead of “ policy “ in the first line.
– I have looked into that matter, and find that there is no occasion to put that in.
– Is it perfectly clear that the bonuses under the assurances must accumulate, and that the persons assured cannot touch any of the money?
– Oh, yes.
– I would like the Minister to state whether he has considered what is to be done with the policies of officers transf erred from other States ; whether those policies will remain subject to the laws under winch they were effected, and if they are not to remain subject to those laws, whether it will not be necessary for him by regulation to prescribe in what way those policies shall be maintained. It is a matter of very serious moment.
– I have a new clause framed to deal with that matter.
Clause agreed to.
Postponed clauses 47 to 49 agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted afterclause 21 : -“ The Governor-General may on therecommendation of the commissioner transfer to the general division :any officer in the professional or clerical division who has been found incapable of performing his duties in any such division.”
That is the clause that it was promised should be submitted to meet the case of art officer who had been in the clerical or professional division, but who was found’ to be unfit for the position he was occupying. Under the Bill as it stood before, there was no other course but to get rid of him ; but this new clause will give power to have him put in the general division in the position which, perhaps, he ought to have been in from the very first.
– I should bike to have an understanding, about that. Is it intended that the officer should retain his salary ?
– No; it is intended that he should be put back into a position at a salary in keeping with the work he is called upon to perform.
– He will be put in a suitable position at a suitable salary 1
– Yes. This clause is intended to obviate the necessity of dealing harshly with an officer who has not the power to do the work that he has been asked to do.
Mi-. BATCHELOR (South Australia).This new clause gives power, as I understand it, to reduce an officer from the clerical to the general division. But I would ask the Minister whether there is any power to reduce an officer from the professional to the clerical division.
-That would not be a reeduction, but a transfer.
– It might- be a reduction.
– Not necessarily. A good many officers in the clerical division are paid more than are some of those in the professional division, and vice versa.
– Similarly, arguing on the same lines, some of those in the general division will certainly be getting higher pay than some of the officers in the clerical division. Would it not be better to widen the scope of the provision, so as to permit of men being taken from one division to another %
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the following proposed new clause be inserted after clause 21 : - “ The GovernorGeneral may direct that any officer in the general division, who shall have served for seven years, shall be paid the salary of £110 per annum, provided that the commissioner shall recommend on the ground of good conduct and efficiency that such officer shall receive such salary.”
– I presume that the amendment which, has just been moved is intended by the Government as a fulfilment of the promise that they would consider an amendment which I- moved the other day upon clause 1 8, and which, as amended, to meet the wishes of the Government, .now stands upon the notice-paper in my name : -
No male person who has served for seven years in the general division, and whose services are fully employed therein, shall be paid a lower salary than £110 per annum.
The proposed new clause, however, does not meet the desire of the committee, because it gives too much power to the GovernorGeneral in regard to ‘ the granting of this salary. A very different provision was’ inserted in clause 21 in regard to members of the clerical division, sub-clause (6) of which says : -
Every officer shall be entitled on reaching- the age of 21 years to a salary of £110 per annum.
– Does the honorable and learned member wish to provide that a man either must get £110 a year or be, hunted out of the service %
– I wish to insist that the Government of the Commonwealth shall pay a fair wage for a fair amount of work, inasmuch as some of the State Governments require outside employers to do so. In my opinion the amendment which I have proposed is the least which the committee will accept.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I am surprised that the Government have not brought forward a more liberal proposal. I had an idea ‘that they were in favour of fixing a minimum wage at least as high as that now in force in New South Wales and in most of the other States.’ But, under this proposed new clause, a man who may have entered the service at the age of twenty or thirty years must remain in it for seven years before he is entitled to the minimum wage of £110 a year.
– That is not so. The intention of the proposed new clause is that no man who has served seven years shall receive less than £110 per year unless through his own fault. It has been pointed out by a number of honorable members that there may be a number of men who, through no fault of their own, may not have a chance of earning more than £S0 or £90 per year, and it was contended that a minimum wage should be fixed to provide for such cases. The proposed new clause provides that no one who has been a certain length of time in the service shall receive less than £110 per year.
– In the clerical division every officer who has been in the service for three years will be entitled to a salary of £110 per year upon reaching the age of 2.1 years, but with regard to the general division the Government provide that an officer must be seven years in the service before he can. obtain that salary, and there is no limitation of age to 21 years. I understand that the principle underlying the idea of a minimum wage is that if you employ an adult you must not pay him less than a living wage, which in this case is fixed at 7s. per day. If three years is long enough for an officer of the clerical division to serve to become entitled to £110 per year, no person in the general division should be compelled to serve seven years. “What was intended by the committee was that no public servant who had reached the age of 21 years, and had been any length of time in the public service, should receive less than £110 per annum, and that being so, the proposed new clause will not meet the views of honorable members.
– The proposed new clause does not seem to get us anyf urther ahead, because the Bill already provides that the Governor-General., on the recommendation of the commissioner, may increase a man’s salary whether he has or has not been seven years in the service. But, as I understood the desire of the committee, it was that there should be no question of “ may,” but that it should be absolutely imperative that every adult person in the service should receive at least 7s. a day. I know of cases in New. South Wales where men who have been nine or ten years in. the public service are only receiving £78 a year.
– Tj know of a man who has been eleven years in the service ofVictoria, and who is receiving only £1 5s. a week.
– There are a number of cases like that in all the States. They are disgraceful.
– I would suggest that, instead of accepting the proposed new clause, we should repeat in regard to the general division the provision which we have passed in regard to the clerical division.
– The members of theclerical division must subject themselves toexamination, to prove their fitness for theirpositions.
– The very fact that a man is continued in his position must be taken to show that he is doing his work properly, and if a man is 21 years of age, and has been in the service for three years, he should not receive less than 7s. a day. If he is not fitted for his position, the commissioner can easilydispense withhisservices.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that if the commissioner thinks that a man is not fitted to do his work he had better dismiss him?
– Certainly; I think that that should be one of the governing features of the measure. We do not want the public service to become an asylum forincompetents.
Mr.Reid. - Hear, hear. And the sooner we can get rid ofthe idea that it is an asylum for incompetents the better.
– I am Sure the great majority of the public servants would not thank us for encouraging that idea-. We should insure that a man shall be decently paid for the work he does, and if he is not fit for his work he should go. I trust that the Minister will see the wisdom of providing that as soon as a man who has been a reasonable length of time in the service reaches the age of 21 years he shall bepaid the minimum wage.
Siu WILLIAM LYNE. - The position of the men in the general division issomewhat different from that of the men who comeunder clause 21. The officers of the clerical division have to establish their qualifications by passing examinations.
-. - But we cannot examine the men in the general division upon thekind of work they do.
– Quite so, and therefore the circumstances are different. If we provide that a man who has been three years in the service shall receive £110 a year, men who are under the age of 21 years, and who entered it at the age of sixteen, will be entitled to that wage.
– Then limit it to those who have attained the age of 21 vears.
– I am prepared to do that, and I move, in. substitution of my former amendment -
That the following proposed new clause be inserted after clause 21 : - “Any officer in the general division who shall have served for three years, and shall have attained the age of 21 years, Shall be paid the solar)’ of £110 per annum.”
– Would it not be better to make it read -
Who shall have attained the age of 21 years’ and wild has not been less than three years in the service.
– I do not think so. The sense is the same in either case. I have omitted the last sentence of the original amendment, because -we have already provided that if an officer is not competent the commissioner ma)’ recommend that his .services be dispensed with.
– I would suggest the substitution of the words “ or . shall “ for the words “ and shall.” Under the proposed new clause, as it now reads, it will be possible for a man of any age to be in receipt of a salary of less than £110 per year. I think the idea of the committee is that no man over the age of 21 -years should receive less than £110 per year.
– If he has served three -years. He must have served three years, and that is the minimum. .
– If a man is not fit to receive £110 a year, and is over 21 years of . age, he is not fit to be in the public service.
– Quite so. This is the minimum, and most of them will have 7s. a day directly.
– While I have been to a certain extent amused (by the performance of the Ministry over this Bill during the short period I have been here, I think we have now arrived at a pass at which one must take a more serious view of the matter. Here is a Bill, supposed to have received the anxious . attention and consideration of the whole of the members of the Federal Ministry, who have had the benefit of the -whole of their skilled and competent advisers. This is a Bill which was heralded . as one of the most admirable measures ever -conceived by the human intellect. After riddling the Bill with hundreds of .amendments, it being difficult to dis.cover who is the quickest - the one who moves the amendment or the Minister who accepts it - we are now faced with an extraOrdinary situation. The responsible advisers of the Governor-General, who are supposed to have thought this thing out from every point of view, come down here with this proposal, having had the advantage of gauging the opinion of the House in committee on the Bill from first to last. As originally framed, the proposal read -
The Governor-General may direct that an officer in the general division, who shall have served for seven years, shall be paid a salary of £110 per annum, provided that the commissioner shall recommend on the ground of good conduct and efficiency that such officer receives such salary.
As there worded, it was practically a maximum salary provision. It was practically fixing a standard in this unfortunate general division in which there are none of the annual increments that attach to the clerical division. In connexion with the clerks in the public service of Australia, we have a most ingeniously devised scale of constant increases of salary until a certain maximum is reached. That is a provision of this Bill carefully classified and thought out by the Federal Ministers. It is a provision carefully inserted that every one of the young gentlemen who pass an examination, which a youth of ordinary education would be able to pass, should in three years time receive a salary of £110 per annum. That is the provision with reference to the clerical branch of the federal public service. But here is a carefully thought out provision that the bone and sinew of the federal service - men in the general division may enter the service as able-bodied men at the age of 30 years, 35 years, or 40 years.
– Or fourteen years.
– Able-bodied men are not usually fourteen years of age.
– No, but plenty of men have entered the service at fourteen years of age.
– I am speaking of able-bodied men.
– The clause applies to boys also.
– Of course, the clause applies to boys ; but the honorable gentleman has forgotten that it also applies to thousands of able-bodied men who do partial manual work and clerical work, and almost certainly brain work.
– They get seven shillings a day to start with.
– I have no amendment to propose - if I had, my friend would be quick to accept it.
– That depends.
– I am simply inviting the attention, not only’ of the committee, but the attention, of a much wider constituency, viz., the people of Australia.” It is all very well for “honorable members, when they face their constitutents to bow down and worship the people, and when reference is made to the people in Parliament to sneer and laugh. That sort of thing is all very well, but it will not deter me from pointing out what it is my duty to point out. Here is a deliberate proposal that the able-bodied men in the federal service of Australia - men perhaps 30 or 40 years old - should serve a period of seven years, rather a scriptural sort of period it sounds like, of good, faithful, and effective service before they can look forward to what is the wages of the unemployed of New South Wales to-day. The standard wage of the unemployed man thrown out of work yesterday in New South Wales, who goes to the Minister of Works for employment is exactly seven shillings a day, or about £110 per year.
– But there are no three weeks’ holidays there.
– There are no three weeks’ holidays, but they take holidays half the time some of them.
– For which they do not get paid.
– For which they do get paid. The honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Piesse, is not accustomed to the fine arts of more civilized communities. I can assure the honorable member that, whilst the great bulk of the unemployed no doubt give a fair and honest day’s work for all they get, it is well known that there is a considerable fringe of worthless persons who hang on to the genuine and honest unemployed, and simply make a farce of the work from one week’s end to the other. These casual unemployed labourers get seven shillings a day, and here is a proposal that the labourers of the Commonwealth after seven years’ faithful service, shall be able to look forward to the same magnificent return. Is the Cabinet a mere clerk who comes to the table every afternoon to be instructed by any member who likes to get up and say a few words 1 Can we have anything like wise legislation if the policy of a clause or of an Act is changed every moment by every conceivable influence which causes an amendment to be interjected? Is that the way in which legislation is to be conducted ? I have passed by, as honorable members have passed by, a number of instances of this kind. This is a matter which one would think had been fully thought out. But here is a proposal which has only to be mentioned to be scouted. You do not need to pose as a Collingwood democrat to scout a proposal of this sort. Any man, whatever his position in politics, would look -on a wage of 7s. per day in the federal employment as a fair minimum wage. While I cannot express the feeling I have as to the mischief which is done to the community by giving higher wages to unemployed persons than are paid to persons in the ordinary steady employments of the country - wages which come out of the pockets of those unfortunate employed working men - while I cannot speak too strongly against a suicidal policy of that sort, which tends to make the ranks of the unemployed a popular resort for the genuine labourers of the country, there is a wider distinction to be drawn between questions of that sort and the standard which is set up for the persons employed in the Commonwealth of Australia. I do not suppose I raise questions as to politics when I say that I do not suppose there is a man in Australia, even the rankest conservative, who would contend that 7s. a day is too high a minimum wage for an able-bodied man in the service of the Commonwealth. It is right the Commonwealth should set up a high standard - it is right the Commonwealth should be the best employer, because the Commonwealth want to have the best services and the best men.
– We have been saying that.
– What does the honorable member say to the proposition of the Government t
– We have already said what we have to say. The honorable member for East Sydney is too late.
– I have not risen now. to deal with this particular matter, nor did I rise to make any sort of political capital out of it. Honorable members will recognise my proper position in this Chamber, and will admit that 1 have just as important a duty to discharge sitting on this side of the table, in the working of the Constitution, as the Ministers, with their private secretaries, have to discharge. I hope honorable members will recollect that. In the performance of my duty as a censor and critic of the actions of this Ministry, it is time I pointed out that, after the most ample opportunities for thinking this matter out, the Government have come down - I am sure they have shown a most complaisant and liberal desire in every way - and asked the House to accept a monstrous proposition of this sort. While a boy who has just attained the age of 21, and who drives a quill pen, is to get 7s. a day, a man in the general division of the service has to serve seven years before he gets the same remuneration. This is a monstrous piece of inequality deliberately thought out by the Ministry. Are we to understand that the Ministry simply fly kites here in the shape of amendments to attract the notice of members in order to have members put the amendments right ? Is that the function of Ministers ? Is that not exactly the state of tilings we are reduced to ? The moment this monstrous proposition was understood by honorable members the democratic influence behind the Ministry volleyed and thundered, and the democratic influence in front volleyed and thundered, and nothing was left of the gallant 600. We find two Ministers troubling over one another at the table in order to effect a transformation scene - in order to bring the amendment into some sort of harmony with the structure of the Bill. I want to know, and I hope the Minister for Home Affairs will enlighten me - or if he does not feel equal to it, perhaps his learned and gifted colleague will do so - how it is that, with reference to the clerical division, this thing has been so carefully thought out in all its gradations, while in reference to the great bulk of the working men under the Federal Government this proposal was thought good enough.
– It was exactly the same in connexion with the clerical division, but the honorable and learned member was not here.
– Was it ? I can accept the authority of the honorable member. Then I understand there was an equal fiasco in that ?
– No fiasco.
– That is what the honorable member means.
– Because if a similar state of things occurred with reference to the clerical division, does it improve the position of the Government to say that the Government are always doing it? It is a wonderful piece of political justification when one has to criticise a Government for evident want of thought in a most important matter, affecting the interests of several thousands of persons, and when a Government supporter thinks it a sufficient reply to say that the Government have been doing the same all the time; If they have been doing the same all the time, the honorable member has incurred a grave responsibility. When they tried this on the honorable member, it was found too much. But I wish to call the attention, not only of this House, but of the whole public of Australia, to the way in which these matters are being dealt with.We spent days and days over this question of life assurance-
– The right honorable and learned member has not been here.
– I have not been here, and it would have been better for the country if the honorable gentleman had been away, too, perhaps. At least I am not doing mischief when I am away, and that is more than the honorable gentleman can say when he is here. Instead of this being a Bill, the lines of which have been wisely settled by the members of the Administration in such a way that their own supporters - who are likely, I suppose, to put the most favorable construction upon everything they do, and properly so - could accept it-I do not say accept it entirely, because I admit that in any measure of this sort a certain amount of amendment is unavoidable, but after making every fair allowance for a proper degree of amendment, we have been reduced to this position : that the drafting committee, the true authors of the policy of the Government, are notin the Cabinet, but are in this Chamber. Is that the theory of responsible government % I think not. I simply draw attention to this as a most important matter.
-. - It is a mere detail.
– It is to honorable members, whose salaries of £400 a year are guaranteed by the Constitution, but it is not a mere detail to the working men in the Commonwealth of Australia. Was the question of the life assurance of public servants a mere detail? We have been wasting on that detail, hours, and hours, and hours-
– Perhaps that is the wrong terra to employ, but I think we all agree that the matter need not have taken quite such a long time as it did.
– Whose fault was it that it took so long?
– Well, I have not been here. It is of no use abusing me for taking up time in one breath, and abusing me for not being here in another. Even Ministerial supporters must not give way to logic of that sort. But if this were a mere trifle there would be an excuse for it Why, this Bill which I have before mo is full of black-letter provisions with reference to one class of the service. There the clauses are, most carefully reconstructed. The original proposal of the Government has got into another form. Most careful provisions have been inserted, and at the end of the Bill this clause is thrown at the committee in such a form that Ministers have had to abandon it without the slightest delay. The Attorney-General - a gentleman whom we all respect as a very good political navigator - tried to stem the tide with some ejaculation about “Oh, these gentlemen have to undergo an examination.” That is a position which the honorable and learned gentleman suddenly dropped ; because, what a farce it is to try and discriminate between two classes of men in the Commonwealth, by saying that one class passes some examination as to where a certain island is in the German Ocean, or as to how one wouldparse a certain sentence. Because something of that sort is done, is it to be suggested that that makes the most marvellous difference, and that the matter therefore requires the most careful consideration? The Attorney-General puts that forward as a reason for compelling, men in the general division to serve seven years in order to get £110, and then as a certificate of extraordinary merit on the part of others, he ejaculates “ Oh, but there is an examination !” He has given that position away now. He abandons this feeble little attempt to keep alive that utterly hollow distinction between one class of the service and another - between the clerical and manual division - and after abandoning that utterly ridiculous attempt we find Ministers within five minutes turning the proposal absolutely inside out. If honorable members do not understand the difference between a man having to serve seven years in order to get £110 per annum, and having to serve three years in order to get it, I think that the men themselves do. I think that the time has come when Ministers should carefully think out matters of this sort before submitting them for the consideration of this House. May I suggest, too, that if honorable members opposite - who have been doing all they can to help the Ministry - could only spare a little time to consult with the Government before these measures are introduced, it really would result in valuable saving of the public time. The less carefully a Bill is drafted the more time will necessarily be required to consider it. Whilst we are taking up time on this Bill–
– Hear, hear.
– Yes, whilst honorable members opposite have been droning out their opinions about life assurance they were perfectly happy. They thought that an astonished world was listening tothem. But now that another honorable member, who has not spoken for a month, and who, I may say, possibly represents a larger number of members than the individual members to whom I refer-
– That is a little bit low.
– I do not think it is, because it is a little bit low to endeavour to interfere with a man in my position when he is discharging his dutv. That is mv idea of the matter. Of course, some honorable members would like to go on in this quiet state of mutual admiration, but that is not the condition that should characterize any Parliament which is properly conducted. I have given way to it till I reached this-
– The honorable and learned member could not stand it any longer.
– I do not wish to engage in a conversation with the honorable member, because that is a misfortune which I am not compelled to undergo, butI do beg the Government, in the interests of the public time, to think these things out more carefully before they submit them to this. Chamber. Time will be saved by the few minutes which I have occupied this afternoon. And now that the matter has been put to the Minister for Home Affairs, I would ask him if he can give a single reason why he submitted this proposal? It will be more satisfactory to the House and to the country if the honorable gentleman will be good enough to reply to this one question, with which I conclude my remarks, “Can the Minister give one single valid reason which will appeal to any intelligent member why this proposal was put before this Chamber”?
– The right honorable and learned member has had his little say, and blown off steam a little bit. I am not at all surprised, knowing him as I do of old. I knew by his maimer yesterday that something of this sort was coming. The right honorable and learned member has made an attack on the Government. He is the gentleman who, as Premier of New South Wales, paid the workingmen wages as low as 5s. a day. I raised that amount to 7s. a day, a condition of things which he was afraid to bring about, and lam not likely here or anywhere else to attempt to bring the wages of the labouring man of the Commonwealth “down to 5s. per day. If the right honorable and learned member had been in his place, and had known what led up to this position, he would know perfectly well that the principle was acquiesced in by the Government. I have had a great deal on my hands whilst the Bill has been under consideration, and have not been able carefully to analyze every amendment or new clause submitted to me. This new clause was prepared hurriedly, and the object of the draftsman was no doubt to deal with cases where boys came in at thirteen or fourteen years of age. We had no time to print these amendments, or I should have submitted them in printed form. I received them just as the House met. and did not have an opportunity of going through them in order to ascertain whether their wording carried out the intention of the Government. The moment that I saw this proposal did not carry out that intention I accepted the condition and agreed to the amendment.
– They are very sorry that the honorable gentleman did.
– Possibly they are. 1 agreed the other night that the minimum wage to be paid should be 7s. per day or £110 per year, and the Government are not going back on that promise. But the draftsman tho tight that the Bill had to be safeguarded in the case of boys, and thus the trouble arose. The right honorable and learned member for East Sydney twits honorable members with gung before their constituents and talking about a minimum wage, whilst sneering at the matter when they come to deal with it in Parliament, behind the backs of the electors. That is a nice thing to say in a committee of this kind. The right honorable and learned member then turns to the scale in the schedule at the end of the Bill. If he had been here earlier he would have known that there was an amendment submitted which obviates the necessity for altering that schedule. It can be altered in certain cases by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the commissioner, but it was not thought wise to put that into the schedule, and therefore his remarks have no point. I should not be one in the future, any more than I have been in the past, to ask men to do work such as was done under the right honorable and learned member’s Government in New South Wales at 5s. and 6s. per day. That work was not done by the general unemployed, but by men who had irregular work created for them. Honorable members will very soon know how much weight to attach to the right honorable and learned member’s remarks when he assumes a virtuous and indignant manner. He has twitted me with accepting the recommendations from the committee. What is a Bill submitted to a committee for? It is not to be supposed that a Minister or Government can provide for everything that is to be seen afterwards in intricate measures of this kind - one of the most important and intricate Bills that could be submitted to Parliament. As long as the committee do not interfere with the main principles of the Bill I am only too glad to accept suggestions which may improve it. If I refused to do so, I might just as well not submit it. The right honorable and learned member has said that the Government should have this Bill in a better and more complete form than that in which it appears at this particular stage. But be forgets that he submitted a Bill dealing with the public service of New South Wales which was riddled from beginning to end with amendments, ten times more so than this Bill has been.
– And dealing with only one State.
– Yes ; although there are a great many amendments in the Bill, there are only half-a-dozen or so of any importance. The others are merely consequential, yet the right honorable and learned member takes up the Bill and flutters it as if the black type showed important amendments. He knows very well that it is not so. It is only a little way that he has.
I do not think the Bill has been so very seriously altered from the main principles that were brought clown for the committee to consider. I say again that I do not wish to be speaking to the gallery here, and I do not wish at this early stage of the Commonwealth to commence speaking to the public outside - when there is no occasion for any such thing - as we heard the right honorable gentleman doing a few minutes ago. I wish to deal with legislation seriously, and to ask the committee to assist us in improving it in every possible way. If that is done it must be in the best interests of those whom it is going to affect; - in this case a very large section of the public servants, and when I refuse to consider ordinary and useful recommendations by the committee - many members of which have, perhaps, had more intimate dealings with this question in all its intricacies than I have had - I shall not be fit for the position which 1 occupy at the present time. I hope that we shall not again see an exhibition such as we have had from the honorable member opposite to-night, as I think we should allow all such matters to remain in abeyance and deal with legislation in a common-sense business-like ‘way.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I should like to make one observation in reference to a statement b)r the honorable Minister for Home Affairs. I never hold him seriously responsible for any statement about facts, but there is one statement the honorable member made in his excitement which I must correct. The honorable member has stated that when I was at the head of the Government of New South Wales I paid 5s. a day wages for labour under the Government.
– So the right honorable member did - for painting the railings.
– The statement is untrue.
– ft is perfectly true.
– The statement is absolutely untrue, and I am sure if the honorable member knew the facts–
Honorable Members. - Chair, chair ! Order, order !
– I am sure the right honorable and learned member will see that he has infringed the standing orders in making a statement that the Minister has told an untruth.
– It is the interruption, Mr. Chairman, that has made you take that view. I was going on to say that if the honorable gentleman had any knowledge of the facts he would think differently, when I was interrupted by honorable members on the other side, who seem so ready to surround the Minister, as if he could not take care of himself–
– I beg to draw your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that the right honorable gentleman has not withdrawn what you declared to be a disorderly remark.
– If the honorable member for Corio will allow me, I will go on. I may say that I was interrupted by disorder, in the middle of a sentence, and that it was made to appear, not designedly, that I was making a disorderly remark. I was not allowed to finish the sentence. I was “about to say that if the honorable member had a knowledge of the facts - and surely it cannot be said that there is anything offensive in that remark - the honorable member cannot be personally aware of the multitude of facts regarding which he makes statements, and the last thing I would impute to the Minister, or to any member of the House, would be the ability to make a statement knowing it to be untrue. What I desire to say is that the statement is untrue, not that the honorable member is untruthful; the honorable member has been true to himself in every respect. The statement is untrue, and it is mischievously untrue. It is a piece of political electioneering, which might have been left in the State where it has served its turn. The fact is that in all my administration of the public affairs of New South Wales I have laid down the principle that Government servants of all ranks should receive the highest and the best wages ; but, rather than leave a number of embarrassed and poverty-stricken persons without anything to do - I refer to the time alluded to by the honorable member - I provided work for them. At one Christinas time - I think it was then - there were two or three or four hundred old men, who were incapable of doing any hard manual work, and, in order to put a few pounds into their pockets, I gave them employment which left them probably 5s. a day. I say it was much more courageous to give these men some work they could do, at the rate of 5s. per day, than to have paid them a higher rate. 1 could easily have given them 7s. a day. A blackfellow could do that if he were in power. I could easily have given them 10s. per day, but I knew my duty to the country better. I did not wish to make the ranks of the unemployed more attractive than steady employment, but that is what the honorable Minister has done, and he has left behind him a legacy of disaster, winch will probably be acknowledged to-day when the results of the polling in New South Wales are known. I say we should always, in this Commonwealth, draw a line between steady and fixed employment under the Government and methods of relieving casual distress. I did so in New South Wales, and I am sure that honorable members will do so here. Now, in reference to the remarks of the honorable member that no main principle of this Bill has been altered, I would say that there is not a member of this Chamber who does not know that that statement is another mistake. The honorable member has fallen into another mistake, because this Bill, as it was introduced in committee, was radically and in its principles a different Bill from what this committee has made it. In that vital point as to the true centre of authority in the service, the Bill, as it came to this Chamber, provided, for three possible conflicting authorities - the head of the department, the commissioner, and the Governor-General, which really means the Ministry. That was the vital basis of this Bill as it was brought down to this Chamber.
– Far from it.
– I admit I. must be wrong if ;he honorable member says that.
Mi-. McCay. - I am glad the honorable gentleman feels that.
– I should like to say that I have had the ad vantage of looking at the alterations made in the Bill, and although I lack the confidence of the honorable member for Corinella - I am- not offended at the honorable member’s confidence at all, because it is perfectly characteristic - so far as I can observe the alterations in the Bill, I consider that a very radical change has been made, and a wise change - a change that will be invaluable in working this measure - and that is that the commissioner has been placed, with reference to the head of the department, in a vastly different position from that which he would have occupied under the Bill as it originally stood. I think this is a vast improvement in the Bill. As I said before, I do not at all complain of the Government listening to any amendments - I do not complain of their ready desire to listen to amendments, and to accept all those that are useful ; but what I do complain of is that there have been a multitude of matters, some of them perhaps matters of detail which ought to have been foreseen, and which, if they had been foreseen, would have saved a great deal of discussion. That was the criticism I ventured to make.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I must confess - whether it be clue to my eyes alone, or my eyes with my imagination added - that I have seen a great deal of difference in the mode o’f conducting the business in this Chamber during the present week as compared with previous weeks.
– Hear, hear. I should think so.
– And the right honorable gentleman is responsible for it.
– I hope so.
– The right honorable gentleman congratulates himself upon it, and no doubt from his point of view it is a matter for congratulation, but from my point of view, and from the point of view of the public, it is far from being a subject for congratulation. When the Ministry brought down tins Bill they told the House frankly that it was not a party measure, and that they looked to both sides of the House to assist them in making, it perfect. The acting leader of the Opposition, adopting the same- view, said that as far as he was concerned, and he believed as far as the Opposition was concerned,, it would be regarded as a non-party measure.
– Hear, hear.
– The Ministry further stated that suggestions coming from any part of the House- would be welcomed, and would be given due weight and consideration, and ‘ever since the Bill has been in committee until yesterday we had no speeches that bore a party complexion. Since then, however, we have had continual reminders from the right honorable member for East Sydney, who has told us half-a-dozen times that he was sitting on that side of the table instead of on this side. We all know that it was a most deplorable mistake on the part of the Commonwealth that the right honorable member should be on that side of the House instead of this, and we are all still at a loss to understand why such a disaster should have been permitted. Further, we are not altogether without hope that some of the consequences of that disaster may be averted, and that the Commonwealth will still be able to survive that inevitable shipwreck, which to the keen eye of the pilot on the other side, seems impending. We hope the chance may arise which will put the helm of State in the right hand, and we cannot accuse the right honorable member of losing any chance of seeing that the right is done and the wrong is remedied. He has done his best to bring this matter, which was beyond the realm of party politics, within that realm, which is the very worst place it could be in. I rise, not to pursue the work the right honorable member has been doing, but because I think that in the interests of the public service of this Commonwealth and of the Commonwealth itself, the sooner we learn whether the right honorable leader of the Opposition, is going to allow measures to come into this House as non-party measures, the better it will be for the Parliament and every one else concerned. If the honorable member persists in the attitude he has adopted during the last day or two it will be distinctly against the interests of the whole community.
– Why last night I was as amiable as I could be.
– A man may be perfectly amiable and still be pursuing his own objects as well as by being irate or excited. That is understood, and the honorable member’s amiability of manner is no guide as to the amiability of his intentions. I say that the right honorable member has half-a-dozen times, in connexion with proposed amendments and remarks he has made, drawn attention, not to the faults of the Bill, not to the thing which ought to be done in the interests of the Commonwealth, but to the faults of the Government and to the bad way in which they are doing their work. We are not so much concerned with the merits or demerits of the drafting of the Bill as with the merits or demerits of the Bill as it may leave the committee, and I think the honorable member even without reflection will realize that. We all know that there is a certain game that some honorable members play - that there are two parties, the ins and the outs, and that the outs are always trying to secure the places of the ins. That is an aspect of politics which was well known in New South Wales whilst it was a colony, before it became a State, as well as now, and it is an aspect of-politics that the right honorable member for East Sydney is perfectly well acquainted with, because we have heard from him continual resurrections of the dead bones of past politics in New South Wales. This Parliament has heard as much of New South Wales politics during the last month - I admit that it was the same even while the right honorable member was away - as it has heard of Commonwealth politics. I believe that it will be as injurious to the interests of the community for honorable members of the Opposition to draw inferences as to the willingness of the Government whenever an amendment is suggested to them to accept it, as it will be for honorable members on this side of the Chamber to allow their allegiance to the Government to blind them to the demerits of the measure. I believe that the leader of the Opposition has on halfadozen occasions during the last few days made remarks about the G overnment which, whether true or false, were not in the least degree calculated to produce good legislation. But I trust that in the future we shall deal with the measure in the businesslike manner in which it was originally . proposed that we should deal with it, and that we shall not have cause to feel, whenever an effort is made to improve the Bill, that an opportunity will be taken to attack the position of the Ministry. Let us deal with the Bill and not with the Ministry. Let us have more of the fact that we want to enact’ a good law than of the fact that we want to have surprisingly good men at the head of the Administration.
– I am sure that the leader of the Opposition must be very much obliged to the honorable and learned member for Corinella for his exceedingly kind and wise advice, and I have not the slightest doubt that it will have its due effect upon him.
– I doubt that.
– The honorable and learned member when he talks about party tactics seems to forget that it is quite possible to deal with the Bill in a non-party spirit, and still hold the Government responsible for bringing it before us in proper form. The honorable and learned member is quite content to accept the measures of the Government in whatever shape they bring them forward.
– I have not shown that I am.
– He appears to be quite satisfied with slipshod Bills, so long as however battered, tattered, and torn they may become, they are in the end brought into harmony with his way of thinking ; but it does not occur to him that his attitude is quite as much dictated by party spirit as is that of the members of the Opposition when they feel it their duty to criticise the Government for bringing forward ill-digested legislation. The Minister for Home Affairs has absolutely failed to reply to the criticism of the leader of the Opposition, and to show why, when it was fired on from the labour benches and by members on his own side, he abandoned the clause within ten minutes of bringing it forward. Although, like the leader of the Opposition, I have not been here during the last week or two, I have read the report of the debates very closely, and I have come to the conclusion that the Government are absolutely without a policy, and are prepared to adjust their measures to suit honorable members in any part of the chamber whose amendments appear to command a majority. In my opinion the leader of the Opposition was perfectly justified in calling public attention to the want of backbone on the part of the Government, and to their lack of intelligence and knowledge of the subject with which they are dealing. It is no excuse for Ministers to tell us that these Bills were prepared by the draftsmen in a hurry, and were introduced before Ministers could make themselves thoroughly familiar with their provisions and with the difficulties to be met with. We know that there has been ample time to consider these Bills, and Ministers must be held responsible for any ill-digested legislation they introduce. I shall vote for the proposed clause as amended, and I am quite satisfied to let this little game go on, because the inevitable result will be that the people of the Commonwealth will see - as they are beginning to see already - that the intelligence of the Chamber is not centred in those who occupy the position of Ministers of State. In saying this I do not mean to deny that a considerable amount of ability has been shown by certain Ministers in the discharge of their duties; I am referring only to the maimer in which certain measures have been introduced and amendments have been accepted from all quarters by this exceedingly accommodating Government. I hope that they will continue to accept the amendments which are thus showered upon them. The particular matter with which we are now dealing is one which the committee might have expected would receive consideration at the hands of a professedly democratic Government above all other matters. We have seen in New South Wales, in Victoria, and in the other States, what great dissatisfaction results from making distinctions in matters of salary and privileges between officers of the clerical and officers of the general division of the public service. I believe that in connexion with the administration of the public service in New South Wales this has been a great source of dissatisfaction, and as Ministers have this experience to warn them, one would have thought that they would have approached the question with special caution, and would have provided that persons in the general division should not be subjected to difficulties and disadvantages which are not imposed upon persons in the clerical division.
– I am very glad to see that we have an Opposition here to-day, because yesterday there was not a man-jack on the Opposition benches, but I cannot allow the remarks of the leader of the Opposition to pass without notice, seeing that the provisions of a measure which he fathered in New South Wales have been the cause of the difficulties and hardships which have induced the Government to insert this clause. Many employes in the general division of the Government service of New South Wales found that they could not get their salaries increased beyond £70 or £S0 per year, and they have asked members of this Parliament to See that, when this Public Service Bill is passed, persons in their position will receive consideration. I am surprised, that the leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members, who are so busily criticising this Bill at this advanced stage of its consideration, do not see that the clause will give relief to those who are complaining of the want of a minimum wage provision in the Public Sendee Acts of the States, and that it meets with the unanimous approval of the committee. The honorable member for Lang division, states that he has read all the speeches which have been delivered, but, although he comes back dissatisfied with the Bill, he has no amendment to propose. The Government have received no assistance from the Opposition, and the leader of the Opposition has neither spoken upon the second reading nor offered any suggestions for improving the Bill.
– I should like to know what-the honorable member has done.
– I have discussed the clause with other honorable members round about me as much as any honorable member in the Chamber.
– I have not been so rigid in the performance of my duties as perhaps I ought to have been, in allowing this debate to proceed, because, as every honorable member is aware, the rule is that in committee the discussion must be confined entirely to the question before the Chair j but, having allowed the leader of the Opposition to make a statement, I thought it due to the Minister in charge of the Bill that he should be allowed to reply. I recognise, however, that if the discussion is allowed to proceed further it may lead to confusion and disorder, and, therefore, I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the clause.
– I think that we might peaceably come to a division now. The passing of the clause as amended will satisfy the people to whom I have referred that there is a provision in the Bill making it emphatic, and not problematic, that they shall receive consideration.
Proposed new clause agreed to. Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - AttorneyGeneral). - I move -
That the following new clause be inserted after clause 42 : - “ When any charge against an officer is submitted to a board of inquiry, such board shall have the right to direct that the inquiry shall be held in private. In any case where such board finds that the charge is not proved the board may recommend that the reasonable expenses, or any part thereof incurred by such officer in meeting such charge, be paid, the amount of such expense to be mentioned in such recommendation. Every such recommendation shall be considered by the Governor-General. In any case where a charge against an officer is submitted to a board of inquiry a copy of all the documents intended to be used at such inquiry shall be furnished to such officer at least seven days before such inquiry is held.” This new clause is to meet an understanding arrived at in committee, and I think it embodies every suggestion made in reference to the improvement of the procedure of boards of inquiry as provided in the Bill.
Mr. REID (East Sydney).- - Free as we must all be from party feeling, I am very much afraid that the language which the Attorney-General has used in the clause is scarcely strong enough to meet the object in view. I understand the object is that if any officer against whom a charge is laid so desires, he will be entitled to have the inquiry in private. , . .
– - -No ; that was expressly rejected in committee.
– Then what is the use of the officer having the right to demand that the inquiry be held in private 1
– It is left to the judgment of the board whether the inquiry shall be held in private.
– It is entirely within the judgment of the board.
– Is it not provided that the officer charged shall have the right to demand that the inquiry be held in private 1
– That is not so.
– It is very inconvenient not having copies of the proposed clause.
– The Bill is to be recommitted, so that there will be further opportunity for challenging the provision. This clause is drawn to carry out an understanding arrived at with practical, if not absolute, unanimity in committee ; and though there has not been time to have it printed and. circulated, it was considered not worth delaying the Bill on that account.
– I see the clause provides that the board shall have the right to direct that the inquiry be held in private. The provision as to expenses is really in tine nature of giving a certain award as to costs. Would regulations be sufficient ‘ authority for the recovery of the costs ? The mere fact that the board awards an officer a certain amount does not give the officer the money, and some procedure is required in order that payment may be compelled.
– - -It is the State which is liable for the costs under the circumstances, and the State is bound by its own Act.
– Then there will be no necessity for any machinery of that kind. The intention is that expenses will be paid from the public funds, if directed by the board ?
Mr.’ WATSON (Bland).- I think the expression used in the latter part of the proposed new clause is that an officer charged shall be furnished with all documents intended to be used. I was wondering whether that is sufficient to cover a case in which confidential reports might be used, reports which, though having no direct connexion with the particular charge, might influence the head of a department in causing an inquiry. It ought to be laid down that everything in writing against an officer should be submitted to him.
– Everything but confidential reports. This point was discussed the other night, and it was decided that, in the interests of the inspector, confidential reports should not be submitted. I then stated that I would not agree to prepare a clause to allow confidential reports to be submitted, but only such documents as are provided for in the new clause.
– The board does not see confidential reports.
– It depends to some extent on the constitution of the board. So long as the board does not contain among its members any officer who has had access to those confidential reports, there is no objection. I do not know whether there is any provision to insure that no such officer shall be one of the board.
– No such officer concerned would be appointed on the board.
– I do not mean the officer making the charge, but some officer who has had access to confidential reports some time prior to the charge being investigated. If there is any possibility of such an officer getting on the board it would be a bad thing, unless the officer charged had an opportunity of replying to confidential reports. What I desire to insure is that any officer will have a chance of replying to any charge which is the subject of investigation.
– That is provided for.
Mr REID (East Sydney).- I think the honorable member for Bland has raised a very important point. The suggested clause provides that a copy of all documents intended to be used shall be furnished to the officer charged, and I quite understand the difficulty there is in the matter of showing confidential reports. At the same time, it seems to me that an officer is scarcely put in a fair position by the present terms of the clause, which will amount to a warrant to the head of the department to select papers.
– We will suppose that a permanent head makes a charge against an officer, and that the matter goes to a board of inquiry. The position of the head of the department is that the law will tell him he may select documents - “documents’ intended to be used,” because he will practically be the prosecuting authority making a charge against a subordinate. If the words “ documents intended to be used “ remain, the permanent head will select the documents he intends to use, and will say that the Act places him in a position to do so. The Act -will point out to the prosecuting authority that he lias the discretion of selecting documents to use against the officer.
– What he does not select, will not be used against the officer.
– But perhaps documents not selected would be of the greatest value to the officer charged.
– The officer could get them.
– How ?
– Because the officer charged is entitled to prepare his case- as much as are those who make the charge.
– Does the Attorney-General mean to say that an officer charged could get confidential reports ?
– No; but he can get any other documents.
– What is the use of the Attorney-General saying that the officer charged could get documents which I was pointing out were beyond the reach of the officer? I admit the difficulty of breaking through the rule of the public service that certain documents must be confidential. It is a serious difficulty, but, at the same time, from any experience I have had - and I have had a fair amount of experience in the public service - I doubt whether the expression in the clause may not be used in such a sense as scarcely to bring about a full investigation of the matters in dispute. Is there anything in the Bill which entitles an officer charged to demand, as a matter of right, copies of all documents? We all know that even permanent heads are human beings, and may perhaps be put on their trial - that a trial although nominally that of a subordinate, may really be the trial of a superior officer.
– Take the case in the Statistician’s department in New South Wales, where there was a dispute between a subordinate and the head.
– Honorable members will see that the under-secretary of a department may practically be involved in the matter, the subject of investigation. He is in a position of authority, and he, under the words of the clause, may say, “ I intend to use these documents a, b, and c.” There may, however, be a document d, which this particular officer may think it unnecessary to produce, but which, if produced, might enable the person accused to bring the strongest possible evidence in his favour against the particular officer. It would seem as if an officer who is bringing a charge would practically have an advantage over the accused person, and that, I think, is unreasonable. A superior officer has sufficient advantage over an inferior officer at all times ; and an under-secretary bringing a charge against an. officer in his department, starts with a certain additional force which the man below him cannot exercise. I Appeal to the Government to consider whether a man, who is being practically tried for his life - because it may be a charge involving his dismissal and degradation - should not be entitled to see all documents which in. any way relate to the particular charge.
– He may, so far as I am concerned ; but certainly not confidential documents.
– I would point out how much this power could be abused by the head of a department, who, knowing that confidential documents must not be produced, may put into confidential documents all sorts of things, which practically place an officer on his trial. An accused person may ask for a minute, which is perhaps a minute to a Minister. I do not know what the machinery will be - whether the permanent head will report to the Minister.
– The permanent head will report to the commissioner.
– I do not think we would say that the commissioner should not see such confidential documents. Surely the commissioner will have a right to see every document ; and yet, if the commissioner has this right, the accused person would be in the odiously unfair position of being tried by a judge, who has in his possession documents relating to the accused, but whichthe accused person himself cannot see. That would be an intolerable’sort of inquiry. What would be said if such a state of things existed in any court of justice?
– That is just what exists at this time. Orders may be made for discovery of documents.
– May I point out to the honor- able and learned member that a Judge sitting on the bench does not get confidential reports from the person who is prosecuting a man on trial. A J udge does not get confidential reports to guide him in trying a man while that man is not aware of the documents.
– The board of inquiry is not supposed to see any of those documents.
Mr.REID. - Surely the worldly experience of the honorable and learned member is sufficient to enable him toknow that thepermanent heads of departments have many ways of letting the inspectors know things. In a matter of law, I should have the most profound deference for the opinion of my honorable and learned friend ; but having been twenty years in the public service, I perhaps have gained some little knowledge of the ordinary incidents of the life. Perhaps my friend will allow me, on a subject of this sort, like Middle wick on the subject of “ Dosset,” to have a certain amount of experience. My own experience teaches me that even the best of permanent heads are liable in matters of this sort to come into close touch with high officials, and I do not know that it is an improper condition that they should be able to have communication with the man in’ the position of chief inspector. Of course the board might be a perfectly independent body apart even from the inspector, but I certainly think that there should be some provision by which an accused person would be enabled to see every line that has been written connected with the offence with which he is charged. I, do not mean that he should see every line that has been written after the case has begun, because then he is upon his trial, and has no right to see the brief of the other side. But all the documents relating to the charge which is brought against him, and which are upon record in the department, should be accessible to him. . I think it is a question, at any rate, for serious consideration whether an accused person should be kept in the dark as to a single word that has been written in connexion with his alleged offence.
– Would the right honorable and learned member apply that to all accused persons ?
– It is sufficient at present to deal with this particular matter. I do not think that the question of the honorable and learned member for Indi is a relevant one: I would further suggest that the right of an accused person to see everything that has been written against him, would be likely to exercise a healthy effect. If that were his right, men would be less likely to put upon paper things which were prejudicial to an officer. Every man who puts his pen to paper for the purpose of injuring another ought not to know thatby the use of the little word “ confidential “ that paper can be screened from the observation of the man whom he accuses. If he knows that it cannot be so screened from the accused, it is one of the strongest securities we can establish for a satisfactory state of things.
-For want of discipline.
– If a man is being tried practically for his life we have to consider his position a little. It is not a mere matter of discipline, but a matter of character.
– What does the right honorable and learned member suggest to get over the difficulty?
– I suggest that not a single document on record in the custody of a public department relating to a charge against a man should be withheld from that man. If that were the rule established by the law, people who make charges against public officers would make them with more care and discretion, and with more regard to the consequences. Do we not know the difference in the ordinary affairs of human life between referring to a man under the word “ confidential,” and in a letter that is written otherwise ? In the ordinary affairs of human life it makes all the difference in the world, although I admit that it ought not to. But the supreme interest in this matter is the interest of the accused, who has a right to know all that is alleged against him. Let me put a case. Let us suppose that in a confidential report to a Minister an under-secretary makes two distinct charges against an officer, and that the Minister approves of one of those charges being sent on to an inquiry. The Minister might perhaps say to his under-secretary - “ I think you have been led away to make charge number one against this officer. It revolts my better feelings. I do not think it is right, and I will not allow you to put it.” Then the under-secretary goes before the board of inquiry with one charge, whereas it is of the greatest importance to the accused to be able to show the board that the under-secretary was so inaccurate in his treatment of him that the Minister had actually refused to proceed with one of the charges.
– How would that affect the matter ?
– Surely the honorable and learned member for Indi is not a tyro. Surely he can see that an under-secretary’s evidence as between himself and his inferior, is of greater weight. At any rate, there is a tendency to attach greater weight to it. Let us suppose that an undersecretary put his own testimony against a subordinate’s - and we know very well that many of these charges may not be the subject of documents at all. They may refer to a matter which relates to an interview between the under-secretary and this officer. The two give their evidence. Let us further suppose that the subordinate has no opportunity of getting behind the evidence of the under-secretary in order to show the history of the occurrence, and to prove that the under-secretary had been accusing him of matters that the Minister would not let him bring before the board. Surely that would be important for the board to know in such a case. The genius of the matter is, I think, that there should be the fullest inquiry. There is inconvenience, I admit, in submitting confidential documents, but I think that in matters affecting a man’s position the inconvenience is not so great as the injustice of keeping that man in the dark. It is not. as if these matters were matters of international policy. After all, it is only a question of a charge between A and B, but still it is a matter of very great consequence to both A and B. As one who has had a good deal of experience in connexion with the public service, I feel that the subordinate deserves all the information he can get to enable him to show that the charge preferred against him is not a correct one.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - AttorneyGeneral). - May I point out to the right honorable and learned member for East . Sydney that he is not only conjuring up almost impossible cases, but I do not think that he has quite gathered the course of procedure which is to be adopted. I do not wish to refer to the procedure in New South Wales in regard to such cases, because I am not sufficiently well acquained with it. But our own procedure in Victoria, so far, has been very satisfactory indeed.
– Is the Victorian procedure adopted in this Bill?
– Yes; the Victorian system, very much improved in the interests of the accused. There are honorable and learned members in this House who have practised before boards in Victoria, and who will say that these scrupulously independent boards, unacquainted as they are with any facts, except such as are officially laid before them, have adjudged in the case of civil servants almost invariably with great satisfaction.
– To the man who has been dismissed as well 1
– Yes, so far as having a fair trial is concerned. There has been no difficulty in regard to the production of documents. We have placed in this measure a power which has been found almost invaluable in the interests of public servants, viz., the power of being represented by any attorney or agent.
– But the accused wants the evidence also.
– The accused’s attorney or agent is perfectly competent to decide what papers are necessary for his case. It has been the practice in Victoria to place practically the whole of the papers before the attorney or agent.
– It is not so provided here.
– I have not come to the procedure yet. I am only pointing out that on the whole the Victorian system has worked satisfactorily. But in this Bill we have greatly improved upon that system. Under its provisions we have an outside body appointed’ to. constitute a special board . of inquiry which knows nothing of any charges except those that are placed before it, and that board, consisting of honorable men, will refuse to know anything beyond such charges.
– I want to put a case to the Attorney - General. Supposing that an accused is represented by counsel, and that the accuser in the person of the permanent head of the department is in the box under cross examination. If the accused wishes to ascertain the statements made in any confidential report in order to show malice and to prove that the permanent head had preferred another charge against him, which the Minister had refused to entertain, could not the witness in reply to a question, say - “ I refuse to answer,” or “ I am not allowed to divulge the contents of a confidential report”?
– The Victorian practice in such cases has been that if any importance is attached to a document of that sort, application for it is made to the Minister, and in nineteen cases out of twenty the document is given. But under this Bill we have provided that each man upon his trial shall have a man chosen from his own division of the service as a member of the board of inquiry. The other two members of the board are selected from the public service, and selected fairly. The man from the accused’s own division of the service, who will, so to speak, judge him, is there to take care of the interests of the accused.
– He cannot see these documents either.
– He sees everything that comes before ‘the board. If he asks for more papers they are rarely refused. The board are allowed to see all the documents. We have also accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for Bland, and have inserted a provision to enable copies of the whole of the papers to be placed in the hands of the accused seven days before the inquiry.
– That is all I ask.
Mi-. DEAKIN. - Of course I mean all the papers except confidential papers.
– Then they are not all the papers.
– There may be a case in which a confidential report is involved, and in which we could not permit the document to be brought forward. In such a case, however, the report would not influence the board. The board know nothing about it.
– It implies that there is something behind.
– Not at all. In a case, in which a confidential document is refused, that point is used with very good effect by the counsel representing the accused, just as the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney invariably does with a jury, when some piece of evidence which he has called for is refused him, and when he makes a mountain out of a molehill. n appealing to an independent board, the officer is perfectly safe. If the honorable member for Bland turns to the power for making regulations, he will find that the laying down of the procedure of the court and all the circumstances in connexion with the board of inquiry are provided for by regulation. Those regulations will be drawn, if the present Government remain in office, upon the most advanced lines in this regard, and care will be taken that absolute justice is insured in regard to the conduct of these inquiries by every reasonable latitude that can be allowed. Our practice
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 July 1901, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1901/19010703_reps_1_2/>.