1st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m, and read prayers.
Mr. HIGGINS presented a petition from T. W. Slater, a manufacturer of paper patterns, Carlton, praying that tissue paper might be exempted from Customs duty.
– laid upon the table
Coloured immigrants admitted to the Commonwealth - Amendment of return presented 12th March.
– In reference to the reply given by the PrimeMinister to the deputation from the Chamber of Commerce which waited upon him in Sydney, that he expected shortly to sign an agreement with Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co., in regard to the New Hebrides mail service, I should like to know if that agreement will be submitted to Parliament?
– The proposed new agreement, like the New South Wales agreement which the Commonwealth took over, will contain the provision that the contract, although for the term of ten years, shall cease if Parliament withholds or refuses to grant the money necessary for the carrying out of the service. The agreement will be laid upon the table, and, if Parliament refuses to vote the necessary supply, must lapse.
– I wish to know from the Minister for Home Affairs, whether, in reply to the questions asked yesterday on my behalf, he can let me know what are the specific preferential or discriminating railway rates complained of ?
– The information will take some trouble to obtain and some time to compile. Indeed, I am not sure that full information on the subject can be obtained, because there will be some difficulty in getting information as to rates from some of the railway commissioners. However, I shall make inquiries, and obtain what information I can.
– Can the Treasurer furnish honorable members with a return showing the revenue derived from the duty on kerosene since the imposition of the Tariff, as distinguished from the revenue from other oils ? In the returns which he has furnished the revenue derived from all duties upon oils is shown under one heading.
– I doubt if I can get that information before the discussion to-morrow ; but I shall send telegrams to the various States and endeavour to get it.
– I understood that the Commonwealth offices in the capitals of the various States were to be supplied with copies of all measures, returns, and papers laid before this Parliament ; but, on Monday last, when I made application at the Sydney office, I was unable to get any information regarding the Tariff, except a copy of the original proposals introduced last October.
– I shall look into the matter at once, so that there may be no further cause of complaint. Arrangements are in progress by which I hope a full supply of all Commonwealth parliamentary publications will be obtainable shortly at the Government Printing-office in each State.
– I also made inquiries at the State Parliament House, but I could not get what I wanted there. I think the information to which I refer should also be supplied to the officers of the State Parliaments.
– Copies of all Commonwealth publications are, I believe, supplied to the Government of each State, and could probably be obtained in the offices of the Chief Secretaries. The matter rests largely in the discretion of the President and Mr. Speaker, with whom I shall be glad to communicate, so that there may be no further trouble.
– Although the Committee of Ways and Means decided that all chains should be exempt from duty, and the Treasurer informed the committee that cycle chains were included, I have been informed this morning that the Customs officials in Melbourne wish to charge duty upon cycle chains. Will the right honorable gentleman see that effect is given to the intention of honorable members?
– I understood, and the officer in charge of the department informed me, that cycle chains would be included in the exemption. I shall make an inquiry into the matter as soon as I can leave this Chamber.
asked the Minister repre senting the Postmaster-General, uponnotice -
Service transferred from any State to the Commonwealth ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster - General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
I have been asked - the present limit being 50 - whether there is any objection to more than 50 coming down in one ship, and I have replied that, within the limits of the arrangement, I have no objection to the number being exceeded, so that the matter may be closed as quickly as possible. I understand that about 106 will come down in one vessel shortly, and I believe that they will complete the number to whom passports and permits have been issued.
– On a former occasion the right honorable gentleman said that the number to whom passports and permits had been issued was 208 ; but, according to the figures he has given, over 300 have come in since December.
-When I gave the number as 208 my information may not have been quite accurate, and I shall cause further inquiries to be made. The agreement with the Japanese Government extends only to those who have received passports or permits.
– Yester day I pointed out that I thought we should do less work by adjourning on Thursday next week and coming back on the following Wednesday, thus breaking into two weeks, than by sitting continuously until the end of this week. On behalf of honorable members on this side of the House I now suggest to the Government that we should meet to-morrow morning, and, if necessary, sit continuously until Saturday ; or, if we can get through the items of the Tariff which have not yet been dealt with - I do not refer to those which have to be recommitted - by Friday, we might adjourn then. I would commend to the Prime Minister the consideration of the question whether by sitting continuously this week we should not do more than if we were to have two broken weeks.
– I will take my honorable friend’s request into consideration, and if he will renew it at a later period I shall be prepared to give him an answer.
In Committee qf Ways and Means :
Consideration resumed from 12th March (vide page 10920).
– In view of the fact that tomorrow I propose to ask the committee to deal with the postponed items in the Tariff, two of which, if not more, are purely revenue items, involving a very large amount, I have circulated for the information of honorable members the fullest details that I have been abl e to obtain as to the operation of the Tariff up to date. Honorable members will find that I have given them the returns received from every item in each of the States, except Western Australia, from the 9th October to 31st January last. I have not yet obtained the details of the revenue collected during February, but I have been able to show the total received under the different divisions during the month. I have also given separately the gross amounts received from the 9th to 31st October, and in each of the months of November, December, and January. I regret extremely that I have not been able to publish the figures relating to Western Australia. I was particularly anxious to obtain them for my own information, and in order that honorable members representing that State might know the revenue derived from each particular item there. I have applied for the information from time to time through the Customs department, and I believe that during the day I shall receive the details of the revenue collected there during the last month. If I do I shall be glad to submit the manuscript copy to honorable members from that State, as it will be possibly some guide to them. There seems to me to be some confusion in keeping the accounts in Western Australia. Unfortunately they have been placing to the credit of what may be termed the special Tariff the whole of the receipts from every item. For example, the duty on spirits under the Commonwealth Tariff is 14s. per gallon, while under the Western Australian Tariff it is 16s. per gallon. The Customs authorities of Western Australia have been crediting the whole 16s. to the Special Western Australian Tariff, thus making it appear that the extra amountreceived by Western Australia has been very large indeed. As a return that I have in my possession gives the proportion of the Inter-State trade for the month of February, I have adopted the same proportion in making up an approximate return of the duties received under the Uniform Tariff. I think that item is fairly correct in relation to Western Australia, while so far as the other items are concerned the figures which I have circulated are as supplied to me by the Customs department, and they agree practically with the amounts received by the Treasury. There is usually a difference between the figures of the two departments, because sometimes the Customs include in their returns receipts for portion of a day which may not be received by the Treasury until the following day. I have also circulated an epitome of the amount collected for the quarter ending September, under the old Tariffs of the various States, and some particulars of the revenue received from the 1st to 8th October. Then I have given details of the revenue collected from the 9th to 31st October, and during each succeeding month so far as possible in order that honorable members may have an opportunity of studying how the Tariff has worked out. I have had to make an estimate of the revenue likely to be received between 1st March and 30th June next. I have done so on the basis of thelast four months’ receipts. I have, however, taken into consideration, the fact that November, December, January, and February are usually good months from a revenue point of view. March is also a good month, but April, May, and June are not. As honorable members who have had experience know, stock-taking takes place in June, and it is a particularly bad month, while the winter months make a very large difference in the returns from some of our excise duties. I have made a very small deduction on account of these circumstances, and I think my estimate will be found to be as nearly correct as possible. It may be that, with the Tariff settled, stocks that have been in bond will be taken out before June to a larger extent than I have allowed, but on the whole I think it will be found that my figures are fairly correct. The total Customs and Excise revenue for the current year is now estimated at £8,587,453, as against my original estimate of £8,009,000, showing an increase of £578,000. That is a considerable difference, but having regard to the total the percentage is not large ; and in view of the many disturbing elements,’ I do not know that it can be said that my first estimate was very far out. I do not want to deny that the experience of the last few months - which, by the way, are not very good months to take as a basis for judging the permanent results of the Tariff - shows that I under-estimated my receipts.
– Do these figures allow for the difference between the duties fixed originally and as amended ?
– Some duties have been struck off, while others have been reduced, and we know that there is a theory that when the duty on any particular article is reduced, the revenue from that source is increased. I am not going to claim that as a reason for the larger rereceipts, because I do not agree with that theory. Some portions of the calculations are in respect of duties which have been taken off altogether ; but, even although my original estimate has been exceeded, the revised estimate is still £355,000 below what I expect to receive for a normal year.
– Does the Treasurer mean pro ratâ for a normal year
– I do not think that we shall have a normal year until 1903-4, when the Tariff will be in full working order, and when we shall probably have the increased production which we hope will take place as the result of protection, as well as the greater interchange between the States which will undoubtedly occur. Honorable members must not forget that, in connexion with this year’s revenue, we have to take into consideration the large loading up in the different States, and the fact that goods have been left in bond, which makes a considerable difference in the amount received. I wish to impress upon the committee that we must not deal with the aggregate. It is not the total revenue collected in the Commonwealth in which we are so much interested, but the amount collected in each State, because it is to that which we have to look in order to see what the effect of the Tariff is likely to be upon each of them. I anticipated that there would be a very large increase of revenue in New South Wales. I now take it that the revenue for the year will be £2,711,000 as against my former estimate of £2,360,000 ; so that I originally under-estimated the receipts from that one State alone by £351,000. Even in New South Wales the amount collected during the year will be £517,000 less than our estimated receipts for a normal year. In making our calculations for this year we probably allowed too much for overstocking. No doubt large stocks were laid in, but I think that to a considerable extent they had to be sold. The time within which it was expected that the surprise Tariff would be introduced was exceeded,’ and where these stocks were sold goods had to be taken out of bond to replace them. The Collector of Customs in New South Wales. who prepared these figures, reports to me that the increase has taken place in items in relation to which all the overstocking had largely taken place. That is the state of affairs in New South Wales, and money has been received in respect of duties on goods from which we did not anticipate to obtain very much. Our revised estimate of receipts for Victoria during the current year is £2,424,000,’ while my previous estimate was ±’2,410,000, so that I was £14,000 out in my first calculation. The expected receipts fall below what we expect to receive in a normal year by £189,000. It is peculiar that in Victoria nearly the whole of the sugar consumed has been imported, and Customs duty has been paid. We have collected about £112,000 from customs on sugar imported into this State during the last four months, although .we did not anticipate receiving anything like that amount. If the sugar used had been liable to excise - in which case there would have been a difference of £3 per ton - the amount collected would have been considerably under what I anticipated. We know that in regard to tobacco, spirits, kerosene, and other articles, there has been a heavy loading up in Victoria. That will probably rectify matters, and, so far as the receipts from this State are concerned, they will be found to closely approximate what I estimated. We find an unfortunate condition of affairs in Queensland. I estimated that we should receive £1,404,000 from that State, but as a matter of fact we have received only £1,281,000- a shortage of £122,000. No doubt the serious falling off which has taken place may be accounted for by the drought, and by the fact that very little, I think, has been paid in respect of excise on sugar, the su gar for home consumption having been taken out before the excise could come into operation. With regard to South Australia, the present estimate is £683,985, whereas previously we expected to receive £665,000. In that State, therefore, it is anticipated that we shall receive £18,985 over the amount previously estimated ; but, comparing this year with a normal year, the receipts are practically the same as we anticipated. In Tasmania, the figures very closely approach those originally submitted, the present estimate being £378,639, and the original estimate £370,000, the difference being only £8,639. Compared with a normal year, however, there would be a gain of £25,200, so that it appears from the receipts that the revenue is coming in somewhat better than we anticipated. The most extraordinary position of all is to be found in Western Australia.
-The right honorable gentleman is a little bit out in his calculations in the case of that State.
– I admit that I am absolutely out in my calculations in regard to that State, and I cannot understand it. The estimate for this year was £800,000, a larger amount than we expected to receive for a normal year, whilst the receipts, so far as the figures submitted to me and the approximations I have made will show, amount to £1,107,321, or an increase of £307,321 over the estimate. If we add to these figures the special Western Australian duties amounting to £250,000 or £275,000 we shall find that the population of Western Australia are, contributing to the revenue through customs and excise to the extent of about £7 per head. That is an abnormally high rate of revenue, and I do not think that the representatives of Western Australia will contend that that state of affairs will continue for any length of time.
– It should appeal to the right honorable gentleman.
– In regard to the State of Western Australia our calculations have been absolutely astray, and up to the present time I have received no satisfactory explanation of the discrepancy. I do not think that the present high rate of receipts can continue, but, looking at the matter from the Treasurer’s point of view, I hope it will.
– Is it possible that they have added the Inter-State duties to the revenue received from Customs duties on imports from over the seas?
– No. I received detailed information for the month of February, and not being able to obtain details for the previous months I assumed that the revenue collected under the Commonwealth Tariff and the additional revenue collected under the Western Australian Tariff would bear similar proportions to those which obtained in that month, namely, that the extra duties would yield a revenue of from £20,000 to £21,000 a month.
– Are there any special revenueyielding items in Western Australia that would account for the large receipts ?
– I have not been furnished with all the details, and I must confess that I am not able to enlighten the committee on that point. Western Australia has undoubtedly received a very large revenue, for which I cannot sufficientl y account. When I made the Budget statement I presented a comparison, to which honorable members can refer, of the amounts which the States willprobably receive in the form of revenue under the Tariff in excess of, or less than, the actual receipts for the year 1900. I took the receipts for the year 1900 as the basis upon which we ought to provide for the requirements of the States, because it was the year immediately preceding the coming into operation of federation on the 1st January, 1901. Instead of the figures I then gave, New SouthWales will receive £926,078 more from customs and excise duties than she derived from the same sources in the calendar year 1900. Victoria will receive £81,744 more, and South Australia £44,981 in excess. Western Australia, instead of receiving less, as we anticipated, will gain £162,575, whilst Tasmania will receive £110,512 less, and Queensland will lose £280,066, as against £157,486 which we previously estimated. We are now comparing the financial year 1901-02 with the calendar year 1900, but if we compared it with the financial year 1900-01 the increases would be less in comparison, because the receipts during the financial year 1900-01 would be much higher than those for the calendar year 1900. I do not think, however, that that would be a fair comparison, because in the latter part of the financial year 1900-01, there was a very heavy stocking up and large withdrawals of goods from bond in view of the duties to be imposed under the Federal Tariff ; consequently the revenue was very largely increased. I think honorable members will now see the object I have in view in asking them to look at the States and not at the total receipts from Customs. I wish them to consider the serious position in which two of the States are likely to be placed; namely, Tasmania with a loss of £110,000, and Queensland with a loss of £280,000.
– That is money that they will not now collect from the people.
Mr.Watson. - Yes ; the money will still be in the pockets of the people.
– That may be ; but it will be very difficult to obtain that money in any other way. However, I do not wish just now to enter into an argumentative discussion which we may very well reserve till to-morrow. I wish honorable members to have these figures in their minds when we deal with the Tariff to-morrow. I shall propose to make certain reductions in the postponed duties. I consider the duty on rice too high, and I also propose to reduce the duty on tinned fish from 2d. to1d., in order to carry out a promise I practically made to the honorable member for Barrier. These reductions will result in a certain loss of revenue, but not to so large an extent as to seriously affect the finances of the States. The duty on tea represents to New South Wales a revenue of £1 14,000, and the duty on kerosene £47,000, or a total of £191,000. To Victoria the tea duty represents £115,000, and the kerosene duty £50,000, or a total of £166,000. In Queensland the tea duty represents £52,000, and the duty on kerosene £25,000, or a total of £77,000.In South Australia the tea duty realizes £34,000, and the kerosene duty £16,000, or a total of £38,000 ; whilst in Tasmania the duty on tea amounts to £15,000, and on kerosene to £4,000, or a total of £19,000. These are the estimates of the duties derived from tea and kerosene, as given in the original statements submitted to the House.
– The duty on tea was altered.
– Yes ; but I do not know that the alteration makes very much difference. The present duty will bring us within £10,000 or £20,000 of the total we should have received under our original proposals. Although the revenue received from high class tea is not so great, the receipts from the duty upon low-classed teas are higher. In addition to these matters, we have to take into consideration the question of the rebate on sugar. This will not amount to anything very considerable during the present year, but during next year, or within a reasonable time, it will become a serious factor in our calculations. I have endeavoured to find out what will be the effect of the alterations made in some or the duties. We know that some duties have been abolished, and that a direct loss of revenue will result in these cases. We estimate that upon cocoa beans we shall lose £5,000, upon mustard seed £7,000, iron £41,000, tanks £7,000, insecticides £10,000, printing paper £25,000, and explosives £27,000, making a total of £123,000. We have to add to this the loss of revenue resulting from the reduction of the duties on cotton and linen goods, amounting to £180,000, the total thus being £300,000. In addition to this, we have placed upon the free list a large number of articles such as tools, and some classes of machinery, and a considerable loss of revenue will result from these exemptions. I am not in a position to give any estimate as to the approximate loss, but there will certainly be a considerable reduction in our receipts. Against these reductions we have increases in the duties upon opium, which will bring us in £25,000, upon spirits, which will yield £40,000, and upon cigarettes, which will yield £20,000, making a total of £85,000. I propose to ask for an excise duty on matches, which will give us a certain amount of extra revenue. In many cases the duties have been reduced from 20 per cent, to 15 per cent., and from 25 per cent, to 20 per cent., but I have not been able to ascertain, and I do not know that anyone could say, what the effect of these reductions will be. In view of the reductions, we shall probably have larger importations, but on the whole I believe that in the end we shall find that as far as the finances are concerned these alterations will make little if any difference. Therefore, I have not taken them into consideration. I believe there will be an increase in the imports, but I do not know that it will be such as to yield us more revenue than we originally estimated. I hope there will not he any very substantial increase, because I wish to see manufactures carried on here instead of allowing the work to go to other places.
– In making the original estimates, did the right honorable gentleman contemplate any reductions?
– No. I had fondly hoped - but I have been disappointed - that the committee would have passed the Tariff as it was introduced. I have now given honorable members a short exposition of the figures which I have placed before them, and I desire to impress upon the committee that any calculation made at the present time, on the information which is now available to us, cannot be looked upon as absolutely reliable. We have had the Tariff going on from week to week, and month to month, with importers hanging back as long as possible, and then taking out their goods as soon as the items affecting them have been passed. It has therefore been impossible to arrive at a fair basis of calculation. I place these figures before honorable members in order that they may have an opportunity of looking at them tomorrow morning before we are called upon to deal with a number of the items mentioned. I do not propose to make many alterations in the postponed items. So far as glucose and sugar are concerned, I do not propose to make any alteration. With regard to matches, I propose to leave the customs duty as it stands, and to ask for an excise duty at the rate of 4s., as against the import duty of1s. I propose to admit free of duty rice that is imported for starch making, and to place an excise duty of1d. per lb. on the starch made, because I find that among the ingredients of starch is included a number of materials other than rice, leaving the import duty at 2d. per lb. I shall propose a duty of 6s. per cental on the cleaned rice, and an impost of 4s. per cental, not on the uncleaned rice, but upon the rice produced from that imported in an uncleaned state. That will make a difference of 2s. between the dressed rice and that which is dressed here. We do not propose to make any alteration in the duties on tea, which will remain at 3d. per lb. on ordinary tea, and 4d. per lb. on packet tea. We shall also leave the kerosene duty as it is. We propose to leave match boxes subject to a duty of 3d. per gross as at present. So far as the timber duties are concerned, I think strong arguments have been adduced why ash, oak, and walnut, undressed, should not beplaced on the exempt list, whilst other and cheaper kinds of timber are dutiable. We propose to make New Zealand white pine dutiable, but to allow a drawback upon all butter boxes which are exported. I will circulate to-night if I can, or as early as possible tomorrow, information as to what we desire to do in regard to the very few items which it may be necessary to reconsider principally in order to carry out promises I have made to honorable members. I have stated all I wish to say at present. If honorable members desire further information I shall be only too glad to give it, if it is in my power, because I think that honorable members ought to be placed in possession of all the facts at my command.
– I wish to thank the Treasurer for the very full information which he has supplied to honorable members. Upon every occasion he has given the committee all possible details, and to that fact I think is due the marked rapidity with which we have disposedof the Tariff. Seeing that the items referred to by the right honorable gentleman were postponed to allow honorable members an opportunity of ascertaining the revenue derived from the operation of the various duties, I should like the Chairman to consider whether it would not be well to allow a little latitude during the early part of the discussion to-morrow, so that we may deal with the question of the revenue as a. whole. I do not see how the idea of the Government can be carried out unless honorable members are allowed a similar latitude to that which has been given to the Treasurer to-day, because the postponed items will need to be discussed in the light of the duties which have already been passed .
In Committee (consideration of Senate’s amendments resumed, vide page 11005).
Clause 63 -
If an officer occupies, for the purpose of residence, the whole or part of a building belonging to or occupied by the Commonwealth, the GovernorGeneral may direct that a fair and reasonable sum as rent therefor be deducted from such officer’s salary, and the amount of such sum shall be fixed by the commissioner, or by officers specially or generally appointed for the purpose by the commissioner. In calculating for any purpose the rateof salary of such officer, the amount so deducted as rent shall be deemed and taken to be part of his salary.
Motion proposed -
That the committee disagree with the Senate’s amendment to omit the clause.
– I should like to know the views of Ministers in regard to this amendment, which is a very important one. The questionof the rent chargeable to officers residing in Government buildings has been a vexed one in Victoria for years past, and considerable litigation has resulted in this connexion. I think that the matter of whether or not officers who occupy Government buildings should be entitled to the free use of those buildings, should no longer be left in doubt, but should be definitely settled by legislation. If this clause be struck out the matter will still remain in doubt. We ought to declare either that these officers are entitled to the free use of Government buildings, or that they shall pay a reasonable rent for the use of them. Personally I think that the clause should remain in the Bill.
– I ask the committee to disagree with the Senate’s amendment. A great deal of difficulty has been experienced in the past - especially in Victoria - in connexion with this matter, and I agree with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo that it ought to be definitely settled by statute, so that no quibble may arise hereafter. At the same time I am disposed to hold that wherever an officer is compelled to occupy a Government building, he should be charged a reasonable, but not an exorbitant rent, for the use thereof. The task of determining the rent to be charged might very well be left in the hands of the commissioner.
– I do not see why the committee should pass this provision, simply because trouble has been experienced in Victoria. No such difficulty, I understand, has arisen elsewhere.
– Yes ; there was a case at Newcastle, New South Wales.
– The matter has not been contested, so far as I know. But I wish to point out that in New South Wales as much dissatisfaction with the present arrangement exists as is the case in Victoria. In the former State, the salary paid to an officer includes the rental charged for his occupation of any Government building, and this plan works out in a variety of anomalous ways. For instance, very frequently the size of an office has no relation whatever to the amount of business transacted in it, or to the rental charged to the officer. A man in receipt of a salary of £300 a year may have quarters very much inferior to those occupied by an officer receiving only £200 per year, and yet be charged a much higher rental for it. That is grossly unfair. I think it would be well to omit this clause, and to allow the commissioner to initiate a system de novo, after having ascertained the wishes of the officials themselves. In the interim, I do not think that any rent should be charged for officers’ occupation of Government buildings. I say this after having looked into the matter very closely. In very many instances, Government officials are tied to their offices in a way that no bank manager, clerk of petty sessions, or roads officer, is tied. Seeing that we compel these officials to remain in their offices continuously, I do not think that we are justified in charging them rent. It is a well-known fact that in many places the business of a post-office is carried on during the whole of the 24 hours. Mails arrive at all hours of the night, and it is necessary for the postmaster to be on the spot. Very often, he is at his office from 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. and again very late at night, because the regulations require him to take over the cash from his subordinates, and also the keys. When I was Postmaster - General in New South Wales, a case of supposed embezzlement was brought under my notice. Certain money was missing, and it wasproved that this money was missed when the postmaster was off duty. Because that officer did not remain in the office to take over the keys from his subordinate a recommendation was made that he should be required to make the deficiency good. In that case I had no hesitation in breaking away from the regulations, and insisting that the postmaster should not be required to make up the deficiency. Even if no residence were attached to these post-offices, the postmasters would still, under the regulations, have to remain upon the premises. Sincewe compel these officials to act as caretakers of the property and mails of the Government, it is unfair to charge them any rent. Ithas been said that an officer in receipt of a high salary, and enjoying good quarters, may be removed to a place where there are no quarters, and that he may thus suffer a great injustice. In such cases however, a sufficient allowance might very well be made to him to cover decent quarters. I should like to mention one other matter in this connexion : Very often a post-office is built with very elaborate quarters, and the officer sent to occupy them is thus saddled with the responsibility of furnishing apartments, which are altogether beyond his means. Seeing the difficulty that exists in equitably regulating the salaries of officers, where the rent chargeable is such a disturbing element, it would be wise to omit the clause altogether.
– It seems to me that this is purely a matter of administration, and that the committee should decline to reinstate the clause. We have already burdened the measure with a number of details which will seriously hamper its administration, and this is a matter which might well be left to the officers of the department. The reasons given by the honorable member for Parramatta seem to me very conclusive. Quarters which may suit one man may be wholly unsuitable for another, and it would be absolutely unfair to charge a man £30, £40, or £50 a year for unsuitable premises.
– I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that postal officials should not be charged rent for the premises which they are compelled to occupy. Not only is their occupancy of those buildings a protection against fire and against robbery of the Government money ; but in many of the country towns the officers are called up in the exercise of their duty at all hours of the night, and are therefore absolutely compelled to reside on the premises. We are often told that we should copy the ways of the mercantile community, and I, therefore, point out that none of the banking corporations charge their officers rent for the premises which they occupy, because, no doubt, experience has shown them that it is to their advantage that their property should be protected by the continual presence of their officers. Furthermore, I would point out that in the Defence department it has been the custom to allow a certain sum of money for quarters to officers who are not living in barracks. We do not want to place it in the power of the commissioner to say that one officer shall pay rent and that another shall not
– The clause which the Senate wish to omit does not require that rent shall be charged ; it simply gives the commissioner power to charge rent. The honorable member for Dalley spoke of the practice of the banking institutions : but I should be sorry to see the public servants paid the miserable salaries which are given to those connected with banks, even taking into consideration the fact that they are not charged rent where they occupy bank premises.
– The provision may have the effect of making the properties ratable.
– I think that as Commonwealth properties they cannot be rated. Serious difficulties have taken place in Victoria ; and, although the trouble has not been so acute in New South Wales, we have had trouble there. A case of the kind occurred at Newcastle, perhaps two years ago, with which I had to deal.
– That case occurred since the New South Wales Public Service Commissioners brought into force an arrangement similar to that here proposed.
– The commissioners made the arrangement general : but it existed before. The clause now under discussion gives the commissioner a discretionary power. Where a single man has to occupy a building too large for his requirements, it is not to be supposed that he will be charged full rent for it. No doubt large rents have been charged in many cases where they should not have been charged ; but in every case which came before me, when Premier of New South Wales, I reduced the rent to what I ascertained from local assessors to be the ordinary rent for similar buildings in the neighbourhood.
– The honorable gentleman had no right to do that, unless he made the arrangement general.
– So I did. I hope that the . committee will agree to reinstate the clause.
– The question we have to consider is, how shall we deal with the salaries of public servants t If a public servant occupies a house owned by the Government, that fact must be taken into consideration in fixing his salary. Of course, an injustice may arise where a man is required to occupy a larger residence than he wants, but such cases can be rectified by those administering the department. It is purely a matter of administration whether the salary shall be fixed wholly according to the work of the office, and rent charged where a residence is provided, or whether the salary shall be fixed in consideration of the fact that a residence is provided. In a complicated service no general rule can be laid down, and I think that the clause is a good one, because itgives the commissioner discretion, and he can thus prevent injustice being done. If the principle is that the salary shall be fixed according to the service then it is purely a matter for adjustment between the officer and the commissioner. In most cases the buildings occupied by these officers will be in proportion to the status of their office, and I think it would be better to have the clause as it stood originally.
– The Minister puts forward as an argument for the retention of this clause that it is purely discretionary with the commissioner whether or not rent shall be charged.We know very well, however, that when the commissioner is appointed he will be anxious to do his best for the department, and will act accordingly. One aspect of tin’s matter, to which sufficient attention has not been given, is that an officer may be sent to a certain office, and compelled to remain there practically for the whole 24 hours of the day. The Minister does not take into account the fact that that requirement is a deprivation to most men that makes up for any advantage which they may enjoy in occupying a postal building for residential purposes free of charge. Many officers object to live in the official buildings. I know of cases in which men are being debited with £30, and as much as £40 a year in respect of rent for quarters attached to post-offices. On the Western Australian gold-fields thepost-offices are, for the most part, galvanized iron buildings, and rather than occupy them officers would prefer to take an increase of £10 a year, and be permitted to erect their own camps which they could make much more comfortable. It would be a double injustice to compel an officer to live in a building in order to protect Government property, and, in addition, to make him pay rent for it. I doubt whether this clause is necessary, because if the rent of these buildings is to be taken into account that can be readily done in adjusting the salaries. I favour the excision of the clause.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).Under this clause the Governor-General may direct that rent shall be charged in some cases, and not in others.
– According to the circumstances.
– Then I fail to see the necessity for the clause; because we may still have distinctions made in the treatment of officers. It will not do away with the injustice of allowing one officer free quarters in addition to his salary, while another officer, doing exactly the same kind of work, does not receive any such concession. In many cases in the South Australian departments the salaries are lower than they would otherwise be, simply from the fact that the officers receiving them have the right to quarters.
– They will be raised.
– That maybe; but these officers have rights which I do not wish to see taken away from them until I know what they are to receive in return. In many cases, officers are compelled to live in postal buildings, although they are situated in most undesirable places for residential quarters, and to charge rent in such circumstances would be a great injustice. I think the clause should be omitted.
– Our plain duty is to do what is right between the Commonwealth and its employes. An injustice would be done if we were to lay down a rigid rule incapable of being moulded to the varying circumstances of the case. Illustrations have been brought forward which present circumstances of hardship and injustice. On the one hand we have individual cases in which officers are compelled to occupy buildings which are not convenient to them or their families. On the other hand, we know perfectly well that there are fine buildings erected by the State which are necessary for public purposes, and which would be welcomed as places of residence. What are we to do in these cases ? Some honorable members suggest that the matter should be left to administration. How can that be done, except by a clause such as this, which leaves it to Ministers to decide according to the necessities of the case, and under the watchfulness of this House what policy they shall put in force in order to carry out the plain requirements of justice? In nine cases out of ten, postal buildings are occupied by officers for the purpose of residence as well as for the purpose of duty, and the Governor-General may, or may not, according to the circumstances, direct that a fair and reasonable sum be deducted from their salaries in respect of rent. “We know that in certain parts of Western Australia and Queensland there are postal buildings which have no attraction whatever as residential quarters ; but I am sure that the Governor-General would not direct that any sum should be deducted from an officer’s salary in respect of rent for the occupation of such a place. Not only the officer’s status, but his pension rights are preserved under the clause, which is elastic in ite provision, and may be administered according to the varying circumstances of the case. If it were blotted out, an officer called upon to occupy one of these undesirable buildings in Queensland or Western Australia would be in exactly the same position, so far as the question of salary was concerned, as a man better situated in some settled locality. That would be unfair. This is a fair proposal, and actually meets the requirements ,of those who think that the matter should be left to administration. I do not know how one part of the clause will operate. Under it the amount of rent to be charged will be left absolutely to the commissioner: I would much rather see it fixed by the Governor - General in Council upon the recommendation of the commissioner. The Ministry would then take upon themselves the responsibility of fixing the amount upon that officer’s recommendation. Of course if the forms of the House will not permit of the adoption of my suggestion I have nothing further to say, but it would be of advantage to the Commonwealth, as well as to the officers, if it could be done.
– It would tend to secure uniformity of reward for public servants if this clause were reinstated. Honorable members are aware of the varying circumstances in which postal officials find themselves placed. In many cases the residences provided are such that the officers should be prepared to pay a reasonable rent, but in other instances the rent fixed should be very small indeed. It is not the desire of those who are arguing in favour of the reinstatement of this clause to do anything to place the officers of the Commonwealth in a lass advantageous position than they at present occupy. At the same time the mere fact of their transfer from the State to the Commonwealth should not give them any special advantage. If any grievances require to be remedied they should receive the fullest attention, but on general principles I think that the clause should be reinstated in order to allow the authorities the fullest discretion in dealing with the varying conditions under which public officers are provided with quarters.
– I do not think there is any desire on the part of the servants of the Commonwealth to escape a charge for rent where quarters are provided. I do not see why rent should not be charged. Enormous sums of money should not be spent upon the erection of buildings providing accommodation beyond business requirements, unless the. premises are to be occupied and bring in some return. If some honorable members had their way, many of the officers of the Commonwealth would receive advantages for which they would have to make no return. I admit that the amount charged as rent has been altogether too high in some cases, but that is no reason why a reasonable amount should not be paid by the officer. The privilege of occupying quarters practically adds so much to a man’s salary, and we may depend upon it that the commissioners, in making appointments and fixing salaries, will take into consideration the nature of the quarters that are to be occupied by the officers, and reduce or increase the salaries accordingly. It is much better to have the allowance or charge for quarters clearly fixed, so that the officer may know what proportion of his salary is absorbed in that way.
– A number of officers in my constituency are sent into the back blocks, hundreds of miles away from any habitations, except those of the line repairers. It is only fair that- they should, in such cases, be provided with reasonable accommodation, and that the Commonwealth should bear the expense. Public officers are very often provided with quarters, not for their own convenience, but solely in order to serve the purposes of the departments. They are expected, not only to act as custodians of the property of the Government, but also to be always on hand, so that they may attend to the requirements of the public at any hour of the day or night. Under these circumstances, they should not be subject to any heavy charge for rent, but on the other hand should, in many instances, be allowed to occupy the premises rent free. The hardships attached to residence in the outlying districts are sufficient under the most favorable conditions, and officers so situated should not have any additional burdens placed upon them. I am very glad to learn from the Minister for Home Affairs that special allowances are to be made to postal and telegraph officials who are sent to outlying stations in the tropical parts of the Commonwealth ; but that does not in any way affect my contention in regard to the rent charged for quarters provided by the Government. I hope that the Senate’s amendment will be agreed to.
– I hope the clause will be reinstated, because all it does is to give an optional power to the Governor-General in Council to charge rent in cases where it is right and proper to do so. Surely it is only right that rent should be’ charged for the quarters occupied by public servants who would otherwise have to pay for accommodation in private houses. We have to think not only of the Government officers, but of the great body of taxpayers.
– I think the honorable member for Maranoa will, on reflection, see that if the clause is retained it will enable those who are administering the Act to do justice in such cases as those to which he has referred. It is not desired to penalize men who go into the back blocks and take up miserable quarters, but to make those who occupy valuable quarters pay a reasonable rent for the accommodation they enjoy. We should endeavour to hold the scales of justice evenly between all parties. We are not here to represent the interests of any one class, but of the taxpayers generally ; and if those who have to administer the Act are not empowered to charge rent for the quarters occupied by public officers, I fail to see how they will be able to do justice either as between the taxpayer and the public servant, or as between the public servants themselves. Two officers may each be receiving £500 a year, and one man may be occupying a residence worth £100 a year, whilst the other may have to pay rent for a private residence. Would it be fair to allow matters to stand in that way without making the officer occupying Government premises pay something in the form of rent ? A provision similar to this was made in the Victorian Act at the request of the civil servants themselves, because it was considered ‘ that it would be fairer to charge rent out of their own pockets. Other men, who were doing precisely similar work, were receiving a less salary with free quarters. Upon the face of it there was a sort of rough and ready justice in that, but in computing the retiring allowances or pension rights of such officers, honorable members will see that an element of unfairness came in. One officer had his pension rights or retiring allowance computed upon the higher scale - that is, upon the total salary which he received, and out of which he had to pay rent - whilst the other had his pension rights or retiring allowance computed upon the lower salary, without taking into consideration the quarters, which were nominally free, but which were actually provided in addition to that lower salary. Hence the public officers requested that the salaries should be adjusted proportionately to the work done. That was perfectly right. Accordingly, the salaries of those who occupied free quarters, were raised by the amount represented by those quarters, and their pension rights and retiring allowances were computed upon their salaries plus the rent paid. In no single case did this arrangement act prejudicially to their interests. I have never heard a civil servant complain of being compelled to pay rent, but I have heard many complain bitterly that whilst the value of their quarters was taken into consideration in fixing the amount of their salaries, it did not appear as a portion thereof, and consequently their pension rights and retiring allowances were curtailed by that amount. The only effect of this clause will be to enable the administration to mete out even-handed justice to all classes of the Government service. 1
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- Some honorable members have declared that justice must be done to the public servants. The light honorable member for Tasmania, Sir Edward Braddon, said it was only right that rent should be charged to Government officers in order that the Commonwealth might be recouped for the expenditure incurred upon palatial buildings. I am not here to plead that civil servants should be allowed to occupy Government buildings rent free, but I intend to answer the contention that the charge made for their use should be proportionate to the value of the building occupied. It has been urged that the Government should receive a reasonable return for the outlay involved in the erection of these structures. In the first place, I wish to say that I am utterly opposed to the erection of palatial post-offices. I contend that public servants, by residing in the buildings belonging to the Government, give a much higher return to the State than can be obtained from them in the shape of rent. When it is urged that a reasonable rent should be charged, I would point out that a civil servant drawing £200 a year may occupy a building which is assessed at £80 a year. Indeed, to give the Government a reasonable return upon some of the palatial buildings which have been erected, it would be necessary to charge at least £200 per annum. I would further point out that whilst £80 a year might be a most reasonable rent from the Government point of view, it might constitute a most unreasonable one from the stand-point of the official concerned. Are honorable members content to allow the commissioner to define what is meant by the term “ reasonable”? I favour the excision of this clause.
– In connexion with this matter a considerable amount of truth has been stated from both sides of the Chamber. We all know that palatial buildings have been erected, as a result of which officers - especially in New South Wales - have been called upon to pay more than they should have done. But themoment we look into this matter, we see that it is beset with difficulties. A post-office must be a large building, and it is impossible to have a shed erected alongside of it for the residence of the postmaster. In my judgment, if this clause be not retained, we shall be doing a distinct injury to the postal officials. Of course, I am aware that one man may occupy a “humpie,” which is erected by the State, whilst another may live in a weatherboard building, and a third may occupy a palatial residence. But it is impossible to secure uniformity in this matter. As far as the public officers themselves are concerned, I think that the matter of whether or not they are charged rent is as broad as it is long.
Mr. L. E. GROOM (Darling Downs.)The section in the Queensland Act from which this clause is apparently taken carries out the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Indi. It provides that when an officer is. supplied with a residence he shall pay a rent to be fixed by the Board, with the approval of the Governor in Council. I hope that the rule suggested by the Minister will not be laid down that a deduction shall be made from an officer’s salary for the building which he occupies equivalent to the amount of the average rent charged in the district. Such a rule would operate very harshly indeed. In my judgment it is far better to leave it to the commissioner to deduct from an officer’s salary what in his discretion constitutes an equivalent of the value of the building to the officer himself. Honorable members have also to recollect that public officers do not reside in Government buildings for their own convenience, but for the protection of the property from fire, the safety of public moneys, and the convenience of the public. Postmasters in particular have to be constantly on the premises to answer calls. I hope that it will be left to the discretion of the commissioner.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta). - I understand from the speeches of honorable members representing Victorian constituencies, and particularly from that of the honorable member for Gippsland, that they wish to see the clause re-inserted in order to insure that the computation of pension rights shall be made upon an equitable basis. The honorable member for Darling Downs suggests that in all cases the rent should be fixed according to the value of the buildings occupied.
– No. I said that the Minister’s suggestion was that the rent should be fixed according to the average rental in the district.
– But the clause provides that the rent shall be part of the salary, and therefore the condition and the value of the building occupied will determine the amount of the salary, and form the basis of the computation of pension rights. Under those circumstances, an officer whose work is worth £150 a year, and occupying a building worth £15 a year, will be considered as drawing a salary of £165 a year, while another officer in the same grade receiving £150 a year, and living in an office worth £30 a year, will be considered as drawing a salary of £180 a year, and the pension rights of the two officers will be calculated on that basis.
– No. The rents will be deducted.
– In each case the salary, for the computation of the pension, would be £150.
– No ; the clause says the rent is part of the salary. The rent of the premises occupied is-to be fixed according to their value. Is that fair 1 1 know, from actual experience in New South Wales, that a provision: of this kind- cannot be-worked equitably, because of the accidental differ^ences in the value of’ the buildings, which upset all calculations. A similar provision has caused great dissatisfaction in New South Wales.
– Because, in many cases, the buildings- are rated too high.
– They must be rated uniformly if £he pension rights are to be determined by the salary which includes rent.
– The clause provides that the rent is to be deducted from the salary, which means that; in the computation of’ the pension, no difference shall be made between officers of the same class.
– What is meant by the words “a fair and reasonable amount 1 “ Does that mean the amount which the buildings are worth ?
– Then one man may be paying the same rent as another, but living in a house worth twice as much as that occupied by the other. The rent charged must be made uniform to officers- in the same grade:
– That is expressly provided against. The rent is to be fair and reasonable according to the circumstances-.
– Then how is the salary to be determined for the computation of pension rights ?
– That is fixed in another part of the Bill. This clause merely provides that the deduction of rent from a salary shall not prejudice an officer’s pension rights.
– The- clause says that the rent shall be fixed as part of the salary, and the pension rights will be computed upon the salary. Such a provision must inevitably break down in administration, for the simple reason that the departmental buildings are not of. uniform value, and the rent charged therefore cannot be uniform.
– What would, the honorable member suggest 1
– I should like to see the clause struck out. The difficulty which exists in New South Wales- has arisen only since rent, has been deemed by the Public Service Commissioners there, to be part of the salary. All sorts of anomalies have crept in under that arrangement. The Minister has told us that, when Premier of New- South Walas; he rectified some o£ them himself.
– That is the fault of the New South Wales- system.
– The New South Wales system is- the same as this system in the Bill.
– Common sense has- to be exercised in appraising the value of- the accommodation.
– The Minister is to say. what is a fair and reasonable charge; He may thus determine that one- building was wortii £15 a- year, and another worth £30 a year, and, therefore; under- this pro? vision, if two officers, each receiving £150 a year for his’ work, were occupying.those buildr ings they would be regarded as receiving, respectively, salaries- of £165 and £.180 a year. Since postmasters are required, for the protection of the public’ revenue, and for the convenience of the postal, service, to reside in Government buildings, I do not think- they should be charged rent, as- they have’ been in the past.
– To save time I accept the suggestion of the honorable and learned member, for Indi; and move -
That the words “Governor-General on the recommendation of the” be inserted after the word ” by “ in line 7.
The- provision will enable any one who has-a grievance to go to the Governor-General, or to come to this House and protest against an unjust assessment by the commissioner. In reply to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, I wish to say that I have not suggested’ a uniform system of charging.rent according. to the average rent ia the district. What I said was that cases- had- happened within my recollection in New South Wales, particularly at Newcastle, in which it was complained that the rents charged were too high, and,havingascertained from agents- and. other qualified persons in the- neighbourhood what rents were paid for similar properties by private individuals, I reduced the charge accordingly.
The carrying of this amendment will enable a fair and reasonable rent to be fixed, taking into account all the conditions surrounding the occupancy of the building, such as the family of the officer, the nature of his work, and the value of the accommodation.
– Why not make the rental a fixed percentage of the salary?
-Ido not think that that should be done. The honorable member for Parramatta tried to show that the provision will cause trouble in determining pension rights and the status of the officers affected. The intention of this clause is clear. Honorable members- will see that the salaries to be paid in certain classes are set forth in one of the schedules to the Bill, and they cannot be interfered with under this clause so far. as they affect the question of pensions, gratuities, promotions, or anything of the kind. Then we have the question of residence. In Victoria there are cases in which persons tender to conduct the business of a post-office, and pay either the whole or portion of the rent required for a building suitable for the purpose. So far as I know that has not been the practice in New South Wales, but the Government have either to erect or rent buildings for postal purposes. It is rather too much to say that an officer having possibly a large family should occupy quarters free of charge, while in another case an officer is compelled to rent private premises without receiving any consideration. This elastic provision will enable each case to be dealt with upon its merits, and allow a fair rent to be charged. If a man is entitled to £250per annum, and has to pay £15 a year for rent of quarters, he will receive £235 in cash, but his salary would be calculated at the rate of £250 per annum, if any question dependent upon the amount were involved. I hope that honorable members will allow this matter to be tested now. As the clause will stand, any serious trouble that may arise can be ventilated in the House. It has been suggested that it is probably intended to make this provision retrospective ; but that is not the case.
Question - That the Senate’s amendment be disagreed to - put. The committee divided -
Ayes … … 33
Noes … … … 13
Majority … 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment disagreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the words “ Governor-General on the recommendation of the “ be inserted after the word “the,” line 7.
– I opposed the retention of this clause, because I recognised that in a number of oases considerable injustice has been done to officers in New South Wales owing to the fact that the rents charged for their quarters have been altogether out of proportion to their salaries. If he had freedom of. choice, an officer receiving £200 a year, for example, could readily obtain premises suitable for his purpose in most country towns at an annual rent of £25, and merely because there happens to be a palatial building there - the mere occupationof a portion of which entails additional expense in the way of furnishings - I think it is unfair that the officer should be compelled to pay a higher rent than his salary justifies. As we are amending this clause, an additional provision should be inserted that the rent charged shall in no case exceed a certain percentage of the salary of the officer. I think that perhaps 12½ per cent. would be a fair rate to adopt: That would represent a charge of £25 per annum upon an officer receiving a salary of £200. If a provision of this kind were inserted, the interests of the department would be Safeguarded, and injustice to officers would be prevented. In some cases in New South
Wales the officers have suffered, owing to the high rents charged for premises which were entirely beyond their needs. I think that 12½ per cent., or perhaps 10 per cent., would fairly represent the proportion which an officer receiving an income of £200 a year should be asked to pay in the form of rent for a residence.
– I quite recognise the difficulty of trying to establish any mechanical system which will apply justly all round. In the case of a postmaster with no family, it would be unjust to compel him to pay rent for quarters comprising eight or nine rooms in some large building. On the other hand, a postmaster with a large family would no doubt be glad to pay a reasonable rent for commodious quarters. I would suggest that rent should be charged according to the value of the actual number of rooms occupied by the officials. Some post-office buildings contain so many rooms that no official could be expected to occupy all of them ; and in such cases the officer should have the option of selectinga smaller number of rooms and of paying a reduced rent accordingly.
– I feel disposed to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for North Sydney, but I think 10 per cent. would be a sufficiently high rate to fix. In the meantime, I desire to withdraw the amendment now before the committee.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the words “not exceeding 10 per cent. of the salary of such officer “ be inserted after the word “ sum,” line 6.
– I am glad that the Minister has consented to make this limitation, and that public servants are not to be charged rents based upon the full value of the quarters in which they are compelled to reside in order that the public convenience may be served.
– I quite agree with the Minister that we should not charge more than 10 per cent. upon the salaries of public servants. At the same time, I hope that we shall not find that the rent of the premises occupied is to be fixed according to the salaries paid to the officers without reference to the accommodation provided.
– I am very glad that the Minister has adopted the view which honorable members of the Opposition have been urging for the last hour. I hope that those honorable members who have desired to hold the scales of justice evenly are now satisfied that we are safeguarding public servants against being called upon to pay rents based upon the cost of erecting palatial quarters.
– I submit that the present procedure is entirely contrary to custom, and that it is not in accordance with the standing orders. Having disposed of the amendment of the Senate, we have no right to amend the original clause in the way now proposed.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “Governor-General on the recommendation of the “ be inserted after the word “ the,” line 7.
– I rise to a point of order, with the object of emphasizing the words which have fallen from the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, as to the. unconstitutional action of the committee. We can accept an amendment proposed by the Senate, with an amendment, or we can reject it ; but if we reject the Senate’s amendment, as in this case, by reinstating the clause, we cannot alter the original clause.
– I submit that the right honorable member for Tasmania cannot raise a point of order upon a. matter which has already been dealt with by the committee. If the right honorable member had raised the point whilst the matter was under discussion, it might have been considered and determined, but now he has no right to introduce the matter.
– I do not think there can be any question that the proceedings of the committee are out of order. We disposed of the amendment of the Senate when we reinstatedthe clause, and now we have amended theoriginal clause. When we are asked, under Standing Order 198, to give reasons for disagreeing from the Senate’s amendments, we cannot refer to the amendment now inserted in the original clause, because it has nothing whatever to do with our reasons for rejecting the Senate’s amendment.
– A point of order relating to any amendment that has been adopted by the committee cannot now be entertained.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. V. L. Solomon). - It is quite competent for any honorable member to raise a point of order, but, at the same time, I am of opinion that the action of the committee is quite authorized under Standing Order 196.
Clause 67. (Leave of absence for recreation.)
Motion proposed -
That the committee agree to the Senate’s amendment to insert after sub-clause (1 ) the following new sub-clause - “(1)a. The Minister may grant to any officer leave of absence for recreation for any period not exceeding the number of days’ leave of absence for recreation which the chief officer might have granted to such officer during his service under this section not so granted by the chief officer.”
– In my judgment this amendment by the Senate is in direct contravention of the whole principle which we have laid down in this Bill. Hitherto any aggrieved officer has been allowed an appeal to the commissioner. The amendment, however, proposes to allow an officer to appeal from the chief officer of a department, over the head of the commissioner, to the Minister. It thus sets aside the position of the commissioner as a court of appeal in all matters connected with the service.
– The clause as it left this Chamber provided that, unless otherwise directed by the Minister of a department, the chief officer of such department should be allowed to grant certain holidays. Therefore, the Minister had power to instruct the chief officer not to grant this leave. Now, the Senate has inserted a sub-clause providing that if the chief officer refuses to grant recreation leave to an officer, the Minister may step in and say that such leave shall be given. In the one case the Minister can direct the chief officer not to grant leave, and in the other case he can instruct him to grant it.
– The chief officer of any department is responsible for the transaction of the business of that department. He is, therefore, very properly possessed of the power to refuse leave of absence for recreation purposes when it cannot conveniently be given, having a due regard to the interests of the department.Whilst it may be right to allow an officer to appeal upon such a small matter as is here involved, it seems to me highly improper to allow him to appeal to the Minister. As Ministers are free from a great deal of responsibility in connexion with public service appointments, so also they should be free from any obligation in regard to the discharge of the daily duties of members of the service. If the committee agree to the amendment I hope it will be in a form which will provide for an appeal to the commissioner instead of to the Minister.
– Probably I should take the view of the acting leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Tasmania, were it not for the fact that the point referred to is already embodied in the previous part of the clause. If this matter had been brought under my notice before the Bill left this Chamber,. I should probably have consented to its amendment. But I would point out that the sub-clause inserted by the Senate introduces no new principle. It simply gives the Minister power to see that justice is done in cases where it has been refused by the chief officer of a department.
– I think that there is a great deal of force in what has been said by the right honorable member for Tasmania. But in a Bill of this kind we shall necessarily find anomalies. We cannot expect a measure which has been dealt with by two Houses in the way this Bill has been, to be absolutely perfect and consistent in every part. The Minister for Home Affairs is quite right in saying; that the amendment of the Senate is in accord with the rest of the clause. The previous portion of this provision gives the Minister power to prevent the chief officer of any department from granting leave of absence for purposes of recreation. It also provides that the Minister in case of illness may grant extended leave not exceeding three months, and that the GovernorGeneral may grant leave not exceeding twelve months upon such terms as may be prescribed. The only missing case is that provided for by the Senate, in which the chief officer refuses to grant recreation leave. To give the Minister the power proposed will only make the clause more consistent. But I would point out that it is one thing to make the commissioner all important as regards the appointment of officers, the fixing of their salaries,&c., and quite another thing to intrust him with the actual working of the departments. PersonallyI think that this amendment should be agreed to.
– Thisamendment was moved by a private senator, and he gave as his reasonsfor moving it theintentionto empower the Minister to allow leaveto be accumulated, so that an officer who did not take, say, the eighteen days allowed in one year, could take 36 days in the next. Inthe Indian publicservice, and elsewhere, the accumulation of leave is allowed, and proves of great convenience to officers, and is,I think, beneficial tothe service.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- I am inclined to agreewith the last speaker as to thereasons forthe amendment ; but it does not accomplish the intention of the mover, because it islimited by the earlier part of the clause,which fixes the leave at eighteen days for any oneyear. Moreover,the clause does notsaythat the appeal to the Minister is to be uponthe refusal ofthe chief officer to grant leave. What it really says in effect is that the Minister or thechief officermay grant leave of absence for anyperiod not exceeding eighteen days in oneyear. If the object is to confine the granting of the leavebythe Ministerto cases in which it has been refused by the chief officer, the clauseshould be amended to read: - “The Minister, on refusalbythechief officer, may grant.”
Amendment agreed : to.
Amendments ‘in clauses 68 and 70 agreed to.
Clause 71 - “The following days shallbe observed as holidays inthe public offices, namely: - 1st day of January, being Commonwealth day…..
Amendment, inserting after the word “days,” line 1, the words “or any days prescribed under the law of any State to be observed in lieu thereof in that State,” agreed to.
Motion proposed -
That the committee agree to Senate’s amendment, omitting theword”being,” line3.
– I wish it to be understood that inproposing to agree to theSenate’s amendment, I donotwish to have another holiday created, because I do notthink we should multiply the public holidays. In New South Wales recently there has been great trouble amongst ‘the business people because of the number of public holidays proclaimed. Two years ago, when I was Premier of New South Wales, I found that it was impossible under the
Bank Holidays Act to gazette less than a whole day as apublic holiday, and I therefore had an Act; passed allowing the proclamation of half-a-day -as a holiday. Very often half-a-day is quite as much as is required for holiday purposes. I hopethat some day which is already a public holiday will be taken as Commonwealth Day, and I know of no better day to observe than the 1st of January.
– The Senate’s amendment adds a public holiday to the list.
– I wish to point out that the amendment just agreed to would allow the Commonwealth offices in one State tobe closed while those in the other States remained open. That would cause a very awkward state ofthings to, arise in connexion with the transaction ofbusiness by commercial men.
-It usedfrequently to occur under theold system.
– Yes; but then each State had its own Customs and Postal departments, whereas now all these departments are under the Commonwealth. In South Australia, holidaysfalling on Satur days are generally kept up on Mondays.
– In South Australia all holidays, excepttwo or three which are specially named, are kept up on Mondays.
– It is the same in Victoria.
SirWilliamLyne. - And inNew South Wales.
– At any rate the practice should be uniform throughout the Commonwealth.
– Will clerical and nonclerical employés be dealt with in the same way in regardto these holidays?
– Although the Commonwealth mayproclaim a certain day CommonwealthDay, each State may proclaim some other day.
-As a matter of factthe 1st January is Commonwealth Day.
-No day has been proclaimed Commonwealth Day.
– The 1st January is the day upon which the Commonwealth came into existence.
Amendment agreed to.
Remaining amendments in clause 71, and amendment in clause 77, agreed to.
Clause 79 -
The Governor-General may make, alter, or repeal regulations ….
for regulating and determining the scale or amount to be paid to officers for transfer or travelling allowances or expenses orfor living in or near the tropics or in mountainous localities or in places where, owing to their situation, the cost of living is necessarily high …..
Amendments in paragraphs (d) and (e) agreed to.
Motion proposed -
That the committee agree to the Senate’s amendment omitting the words “ or near the tropics or in mountainous localities,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ localities where the climatic conditions are severe. “
– I am not sure that we ought to agree to this amendment. The clause, as it stood originally, was more specific. If localities where the climatic conditions are severe are alone to be considered, it may be decided, for example, that Port Darwin is a most healthy country, and that no special allowance should be made to an officer there. I know of some public servants who are very strongly against any special allowance to men stationed in the Northern Territory, on the ground that that part of the Commonwealth is a very healthy place. It would be better to leave this paragraph of the clause as it stood originally.
– The amendment entirely alters the scope of the paragraph. It is in mountainous localities especially that the ordinary cost of travelling is increased. In Tasmania we are blessed with a climate to which no objection can be taken on the score that it is severe, but there are tracts of hilly country there where the cost of travelling is very high. That may be the case to a still greater extent in other parts of Australia.
– I think that the amendment is an improvement, and I hope that the committee will adopt it. In New South Wales most officers would prefer to be sent to mountainous localities rather than : to be sent out west. The difficulty at present is that the departmentshave drawn a certainhard-and-fast line, which does not meet with the requirements ofthe case. Under the clause as amended heads of departments wouldbe able to lay down a fair rule, which would be confined to no particular district, but could be varied according to the circumstances in which officers were placed. In districts out west the cost of living is exceptionally high owing to their remoteness. I think that the paragraph as amended would allow little concessions to be made, and meet every requirement.
– I hope that the committee will adopt the Senate’s amendment. There is no part of the Commonwealth in which the climatic conditions are more severe than in Western Australia, and more particularly in the north-west of that State where the temperature goes up to 120 degrees in the shade. There are also mountainous districts in Western Australia where travelling is extremely difficulty and costly.
Sir EDWARD BRADDON (Tasmania). - My purposewill be met if we agree to this amendment, but disagree with further amendments by the Senate omitting the words “ owing to their situation,” and substituting the word “ exceptionally “ for “necessarily.”
– I will agree to that.
Amendment agreed to.
Remaining amendments in clause disagreed with.
Amendment in 2nd schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 21 -
Motion proposed - “That the committee agree to the Senate’s amendment omitting the words “ shows by passing the prescribed examination,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “ provided that he satisfies the commissioner.”
– In accordance with the promise which I made last night, I have circulated a printed statement ofthe figures which I quoted in connexion with the consideration of this amendment. It was statedyesterday that the return ordered on the motion of the honorable member for Yarra had not been laid on the table, and I promised to obtain, if possible, an approximate statement. Ifind that from time to time applications havebeen made to the various State authorities for theinformation required, but that it is not yet forthcoming. I have an approximate estimate of the additional expenditure which would be necessary in order to pay the increases involved under these amendments, and particularly under clause 25. The statement is as follows : -
The compilation of a return showing the effect of the £.1.10 minimum clause on the General Division officers for next j;ear, and each succeedyear, will require considerable time, but as an approximate estimate it may be set down at about .£10,000. That is to say £35,000 will be involved this year i£ the Act comes into operation, and subsequently an amount increasing yearly by about £10,000. There are no statutory increments under General Division in any State except South Australia, consequently whatever extra amount becomes payable must be regarded as increased expenditure due to the Public Service Act.
That statement supplies an answer to the question put last night as to whether the sum of £45,000 would be increased each succeeding year. So far as the return asked for by the honorable member for Yarra is concerned, I have been able to obtain only a statement in relation to Victoria. The return is as follows : -
These are all the particulars I was able to obtain to-day, I was very anxious to place honorable members in possession of all the information possible, and I set to work half-a-dozen officers, whose labours up to half-past two o’clock are embodied in this return. Irrespective of what may be done regarding this clause, I shall obtain similar information from all the other States, and fuller information from Victoria, and make it available to honorable members as soon as possible. The results shown in the return are worse than I anticipated, and the matter is one which should be brought before the commissioner as soon as possible, in order that reasonable treatment may be meted out. We find that one man has spent nineteen years in the service and is getting only £90 per annum, and there are other cases which are equally bad. It is extraordinary, to my mind, that so many officers should have been in the service for a long term without being able to secure a higher rate of remuneration.
– They have tried by every means in their power, but their efforts have been frustrated by officers who ought to have helped them.
– I shall pay particular attention to this matter.
– It is a matter to which the committee should pay attention. We should place it beyond the possibility of neglect by any Minister.
– I knew, when I moved for a return embodying information which has been partly supplied by the Minister this evening, that the facts would surprise honorable members. If the whole of the figures from all the States relating to this matter could be presented, honorable members would be still more impressed with the amount of sweating which has been carried on in the State departments. I have taken the trouble to work out from the figures in the return presented to us earlier in the day, showing those who have been over three years in the service, and who are receiving less than £110 per year, the salaries paid to some of the employes who will be affected by the clause now under discussion. I find that in South Australia they have fourteen females in the clerical division who will receive increases of pay amounting to £1,000 per annum. That would represent an increase of £7 1 1 0s. each. That means that they must be receiving at the present time less than £39 per annum. No one desires that such a state of affairs should exist in any of our public departments, and I hope that we shall do everything that we can to remedy it.
– I think there must be some mistake in regard to those figures.
– I am inclined to that opinion ; but if the figures are incorrect we may assume that the amount required to provide for the necessary increases under the’ minimum wage provision will not reach the amount of £45,770 as estimated. Therefore the case of the officers affected will be so much the stronger. The figures for Tasmania show that eleven men in the unclassified or general division will receive increases amounting to £464, so that their average salary cannot amount to more than £68 per annum. I find that eight females in the same division are to receive increases amounting to £165 per annum, so that their average salary must amount to £S9 per annum, or a considerably higher rate of pay than that given to the males. A similar analysis of the figures relating to the New South Wales and Victorian services shows an equally deplorable state of affairs. The females employed in Victoria who would be affected by the minimum wage provision are apparently receiving on the average £10 per annum more than are the females similarly situated in New South Wales, but the males in both States receive practically the same wage. I regret that the Government have accepted the amendment proposed by the Senate. We have passed a resolution affirming that provision should be made in all Government contracts for the payment of a minimum wage, and the AttorneyGeneral has stated that the Government were prepared to deal with the public servants in the general division in the same way as with those employed in the clerical division. All we desire is that in every case where it is practicable a minimum wage of 7s. a day, or £110 per year, shall be given to those who have to perform work for the State. In some cases men have been in the service for seventeen years, and are receiving less than £90 per annum. This is a disgrace, because if men are not worth a higher wage than that, they should be dismissed from the service. I know of some men in Victoria who are acting as relieving postmasters and telegraph operators at a salary of only £90 per annum. In New South Wales there are also many very bad cases, and I hope that we shall do everything we can to prevent the continuance of such an undesirable condition of affairs. The provision that the officers who are receiving less than the mimimum wage shall satisfy the commissioner that they are capable of doing the work of an office to which the salary of that amount is attached considerably weakens the clause, and I hope that it will be passed in its original form.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South AustralianNo arguments have been advanced against the principle of the minimum wage of f:,1-10per annum except that its adoption will involve an additional outlay of £4’5,700. Are,we to be told that ‘no matter what injustice is being i perpetrated in the1 various States, no matter what sweating is going on, these wrongs are not to be .righted because their reform will involve an expenditure of £45,000 annually ? ,1 am not here:to sanction legislation of that kind. I intend to raise my voice against the continuance of the sweating which is being carried on, if the paper that I hold in my hand ‘is reliable. We are told that in the clerical branch of the South Australian Post-office there are. fourteen females employed, and that to pay them a minimum wage, of £110 annually, will involve an increased expenditure of -£1,000 a year. What does that mean ? It means, as will be seen -from an analysis of the figures, that these women, who are all over 21 years of age, and have been in the service for three years, receive on an average the magnificent salary of £3S .per year. I should not like to -suggest that this return has been “cooked,” but I can scarcely believe that there are fourteen women over .21 .years of age occupying responsible positions, and receiving upon an average only £3S 10s. per year. I hope that the committee will not sanction the continuance of such a -state of things if it exists, which I can -scarcely credit. I think there must be a mistake somewhere, hope that the task of determining upon the minimum -wage to be paid will not be left to the discretion of a commissioner, who will necessarily be interested in curtailing expenditure wherever he can do so. I do not say that the heads of departments intententionally countenance sweating. But they always have before them the necessity for -cutting down their estimates, with the result that the men and women in :the lower branches of the service have not the same opportunities for making known their special needs. The case of these women employes in South Australia who are engaged in responsible work, -and are apparently receiving such wretched salaries, is nothing short of a scandal. I hope that the committee will re-affirm .its previous decision in connexion with -this matter.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling) - I wish to point out to the committee that where the management of a department is intrusted to a commissioner there is always a danger that his actions will be influenced by considerations of cost. I am -satisfied that if we had the whole of the ..facts before us in regard to the -smaller salaried officers throughout the Commonwealth they would prove even more startling than those which have already been presented. I know of the case of a telegraph messenger who was in receipt .of the munificent salary of 15s. per week, and who performed the whole- of the work of the office in which he was engaged. He attended to the money order work, issued licences, and made up the books every month. If we do not establish a minimum wage I am certain that the. previously-declared intention .of the Government will be defeated. -Surely if in Victoria, where there is a powerful Public Service Association, with the influence of Members of Parliament pressing upon Ministerial heads, it has been impossible to secure justice for officers who are sweated, we can scarcely expect to obtain it at the hands of a commissioner. I strongly urge the Government to disagree with the . amendment, which is really a loop-hole by means of which the intention of this committee can -be defeated. I would not trust the best commissioner in the world to deal with those underpaid officials who cannot approach him except through their -superior officers. I earnestly trust that the Minister, -in view of the information which has been given, will take a different view of this matter, and will not countenance the Senate’s - amendment. Let us make it mandatory that a minimum wage shall be paid, and then ‘the people of the Commonwealth will be obliged -to provide decent salaries to their officers. Some of the salaries paid to public servants are utterly inadequate. I know of a man with a wife and family who is living 350 miles west of Sydney, who -has been, eight or1. ten years in- the service, but who receives only the sum of ‘£80 annually. Moreover, he has to keep a horse, and has been refused a living allowance. Yet such people are expected .to act- honestly, despite the sweating to which they are subjected. I -repeat that it is not fair to leave this matter-in the hands of the commissioner.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I sincerely hope that the Minister for Home Affairs will not agree to -the amendment of the Senate. If we desire to defeat the provision, for the payment of a minimum wage let us do so .in a straightforward fashion, and not in any indirect way. I have had sonic experience of the way in which the Public Service Act-has been evaded in Victoria. That Act contains a -section which provides that; the1 Governor in Council may grant furlough to a public servant upon the recommendation of the Public Service Board. That appears to .be a very simple provision. Yet I know that an officer went to the Public -Service (Board, and said - “I want you to recommend that I shall be granted furlough. I have been 27 years in the service, and have not yet had a holiday.” Thereupon the Board replied - “ We have orders from the Minister to make ‘no recommendations.” The position was that the Minister used the ;Public Service Board as a buffer between himself and his officers.
– :Had he the power to give -that order 1
– When a Treasurer -is impecunious it. is wonderful how the heads of departments will find it convenient not to exercise their powers. The amendment is only one of the many devices adopted for evading the will of a majority by inserting words which enable ‘the Governor-General in Council ‘to evade his duty. I sincerely hope that if we come to the conclusion that £110 per year is too much to pay adult public officers we shall say so ; and that, if we decide otherwise, -w.e shall prevent evasion.
– Subclause (6) of clause 2.1 seems to call for some amendment. .As it -stands the clause, where operative, is likely to be confined within such rigid and narrow limitations .as to be practically worthless. -Sub-clause (1) provides that all new appointments to the clerical division shall be made to the first subdivision .of the 5th class, and that the rate of the salary of the ..person appointed shall be £40 a year. Under sub-clause (2), this salary, at the expiration of not less than six. months, is to be increased to the rate of £50 a year, and :at the .expiration of .a further period of not less than six months, to the rate of £60 a year. Then, under subclause (3), the officer will be entitled, under the certificate of the .commissioner, -to receive an increase of £.20 a year : at the end of every succeeding twelve months -until -his salary has reached £160 a year. .But subclause (4) provides that -
During the month of March in each year the permanent head of each department shall furnish to the commissioner a report upon the conduct, diligence, and general efficiency of each officer in the 5th class of the clerical division.
Such report .is to be made, in the first instance, by the immediate superior of the officer .reported upon, and then forwarded by the permanent head with such amendments as .he may think .fit. Upon the receipt of the report, and upon obtaining any further information which may be necessary -
The commissioner shall determine whether such officer is entitled to’ the full .amount, or any part of ‘the prescribed increase, as a reward for earnest application to duty and meritorious public service.
Therefore, whether the officer, gets the increase of £20 a year after -his twelve months of service will depend upon the approval of the commissioner. “But sub-clause (6), which the Senate has amended, says that -
Every such officer shall be entitled, if of the age of-21 years, to a-salary of -£110 per annum, provided he has been employed for a period of not less than three years in the public service, of which one year has been in such division, and shows by passing-the-prescribed examination that be is capable of doing the work of an office to which the salary of that amount is attached.
The Senate have amended that sub-clause by substituting for the words “shows by passing the prescribed- examination,” the words “provided that he satisfies the commissioner.” I ,propose to move the omission of .the word “such” at the beginning of the sub-clause. It is pretty clear that as the clause originally left this .committee it provided .that officers whose .conduct had been approved by the commissioner should upon passing the prescribed examination be entitled to a salary of £110 per year, but the recommendation of the Senate quite alters its meaning by requiring officers to satisfy “the commissioner a second time. As it .originally stood, every officer upon -whose conduct, diligence, and general efficiency a report had been made, upon .which the commissioner .had determined that he was entitled to the prescribed increase, as a.reward:for -earnest application .to duty and meritorious public service, would get that increase, but now the Senate wish to add a further ^restriction. The clause is practically made to read that “ Every officer who has -satisfied the commissioner that ‘he is entitled to the prescribed increase, shall .get that increase provided that he satisfies the commissioner.” Such a provision is, on the face of it, absurd and tautological. Moreover, the amendment restricts the operation of subclause (6) to certain persons in the clerical division. “Whereas clause 25 provides that 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 a salary of not less than £1 1 0 a year, an officer in the clerical division is to receive that salary only upon passing the prescribed examination, and further satisfying the commissioner that he is entitled to it. It is in the last degree unjust that an officer in the clerical division should be in a worse position in regard to this increase than an officer in the general division. As a matter of fact if a man were degraded from the clerical division to the -general division - as he could be by the commissioner - he would obtain a salary of £110 a year after he had been- three years in the service and had attained the age of 21 years, whereas if he had remained in the clerical division he would have had to be satisfactorily reported upon, and the commissioner would then have to determine that he was entitled to the increase as a reward for earnest application to duty and meritorious service. Standing Order 192 says that -
No amendment shall be proposed to an amendment of the Senate that is not strictly relevant thereto.
I contend, however, that the amendment which I wish to propose is relevant to the amendment of the Senate, because the. amendment of the Senate affects the meaning of the sub-clause to such an extent as to render an amendment necessary. The amend.ment ot the Senate sets up a condition of things which makes the restriction already in the clause absolutely absurd. I move -
That the word “ such,” line 1, be omitted.
– It seems to me that the possibility of moving such an amendment involves a rather important question as between the two Houses. Upon general principles, where a clause has been amended by another Chamber it ought to be possible to move any amendment which might have the effect of modifying the view of members of that Chamber. Anything that would modify or extend the proposal made in that clause might have a material effect upon the view taken by the other Chamber, and anything in the nature of a compromise, whether it affects the words immediately altered by the Senate or not, would seem to be quite revelant. If we are confined to alterations of the mere words of the Senate’s amendment, and if we cannot present any alternative proposal, we shall be debarred from doing anything beyond accepting or rejecting in globo the proposal they have made. I contend, however, that the amendment which the honorable member for West Sydney has proposed is perfectly admissible. The honorable member contends that the effect of retaining the word “ such “ is to restrict the operation of subclause 6 to those officers who are mentioned in sub-clause (5). I do not know whether it does that or not, but it, at least, has the effect of confining the operation of the sub-clause to those who are newly appointed to the service, and who are mentioned in sub-clause (1). If it has that effect, it will materially reduce the number of officers to whom the provision fixing the minimum salary at £110 is to apply. If this consideration had the effect of constraining any member of the Senate to vote for their amendment, it is quite possible that the elimination of the word “ such “ as now proposed would cause them to change thenattitude. I submit that as long as an amendment opens up an alternative procedure, and minimizes or extends the operation of the clause, it is practically an alternative to the amendment which the Senate has forwarded for our consideration, and as an alternative, would to a greater or less degree, have an effect upon the minds of senators. Therefore, it must be relevant.
– The procedure tobe followed by this committee in dealing with amendments made by the Senate, and transmitted for our consideration, is clearly laid down. It is prescribed that an amendment made by the Senate shall be agreed to either with or without amendment, or disagreed with, or that its consideration shall be postponed, or that the Bill containing it shall be ordered to be laid aside. We are confined strictly to the amendment itself, whether the amendment be the omission or insertion of words, or to any words relevant to such omission or insertion. The practice of the House of Commons would be absolutely against any such practice as that which the honorable member suggests. The honorable member proposes to omit the word “ such “ from sub-clause (6). In my opinion, that word governs all the preceding sub-clauses. The intention of the clause is to deal, not with the whole of the officers in the service, but with the new appointees to the service, and the sequence is carried right through the whole of the sub-clauses. If this amendment were permitted, it would have the effect of making the sub-clause apply not to one particular class of officer, but to every class of officers, of whatever grade or division. May is very clear upon this point. If honorable members will look, at pages 477-8 in May they will find it stated -
An amendment made by one House to an amendment made by the other, should be revelant to the same subject-matter. And if an amendment be proposed to a Lords’ amendment, not consequent on or relevant to such amendment, the question will not be put from the chair. A departure from this rule was permitted under peculiar circumstances in the case of the Bolton Police Bill, 1839, but the Lords agreed to it, with a special entry in the Journal that it was not to be drawn into a precedent ; and a protest was signed by five influential peers against agreeing to the amendment. It is also a rule- that neither House may at this time leave out or otherwise amend anything which they have already passed themselves ; unless such amendment be immediately consequent upon the acceptance or the rejection of an amendment of the other House. In 167S, it was stated by the Commons at a conference “ that it is contrary to the constant method and proceedings in Parliament to strike out anything in a Bill which hath been fully agreed and passed by both Houses,” and in allowing consequential amendments, either in the body of the Bill or in the amendments, the spirit of this rule is still maintained. So binding, indeed, has it been held, that in 1850 a serious oversight, as to the commencement of the Act, having been discovered in the Pirates Head Money Bill, before the Lords’ amendments had been agreed to, no attempt was made to correct it by way of amendment, but a separate Act was passed for the purpose.
Any amendment that the honorable member for West Sydney might propose upon the Senate’s amendment, either by way of omission or insertion of words, would be in order, but the honorable member is not in order in proposing to omit from the clause a word which was assented to by this House previously, and which has not been dissented from by the Senate. Under the circumstances I have no other course but to rule that the amendment is not admissible.
– I move-
That the committee dissent from the ruling of Mr. Chairman that it is not in order to omit the word “such,” in line 1 of sub-clause (6), such word not being contained in an amendment submitted by the Senate.
I consider that the ruling is not satisfactory for several reasons. It appears perfectly clear that clause 21 is capable of at least two readings. The clause deals, in the first place, with new appointees. Then subclause (4) relates to the diligence and general efficiency of “ each officer “ in the 5th class of the clerical division. Are we to assume that “ each officer “ means each newly-appointed officer, or each officer in that division of the service, whether newly appointed or not 1 If it means each officer in the ser.vice, irrespective of whether he is newly appointed or not, sub-clauses ( 1 ), (2), or (3) cannot govern or apply to the following sub-clause. If the whole clause deals with only new appointees, it is clear that both this committee and the Senate have made an egregious error. It was intended to apply to all the officers in the service. I understand the Chairman to say that the effect of my amendment will be. to alter the meaning of6 tho whole clause as it now stands ; I do not deny that; but I fail to see that, under the decisions given in May, it is incompetent for us to make such an amendment in the clause as will alter its whole meaning. The Chairman’s ruling implies that we may only effect an alteration within the scope of the very words contained in the Senate’s amendments ; that is to say, that we may do nothing save in the way of striking out or inserting words in the Senate’s amendment. I do not think that what is laid down in May will bear out the ruling given by the Chairman. It is stated in May -
If a Bill be returned from one House to another with amendments, these amendments must either be agreed to by the House which had first passed the Bill, or the other House must waive their amendments ; otherwise the Bill will be lost.
That coincides almost word for word with Standing Order 1.91, which says -
The amendments made by the Senate shall be agreed to either with or without amendments or disagreed to ; or the consideration thereof postponed ; or the Bill ordered to be laid aside.
May goes on to say that sometimes one House agrees to an amendment with amendments, to which the other House agrees. What does that mean 1 An amendment is an amendment of the whole clause, and not merely of some of the words of it. The effect of the amendment of the Senate is to alter the whole of this clause, and I submit that it is perfectly competent for the committee to make any amendment which is relevant to the Senate?s amendment, and which comes- within the scope of Standing Order 192. Oar. power, is governed only by relevancy to the Senate’s amendment. If it be. true, as is ruled by the Chairman, that the whole matter is- governed by sub-clauses (1),- (2.), and (3), my contention falls to the ground, and-the intention of the committee is not! carried .out in the amend? ment. I have in.my:hand a return which shows that, to pay the- minimum wage of £110 annually to all officers in the clerical division will involve an. increased expenditure of- £10,638. Obviously- that return does not apply to new appointees,- but to officers already appointed. If “ every such officer “ means only every officer, who has been approved by the. commissioner for earnest application to - duty and meritorious service, it does not mean “ every officer.” The- amendment of the Senate has the effect of rendering the clause as it stands perfectly ridiculous, because under its operation an officer would first have to satisfy the commissioner that he is worth the minimum remuneration, and afterwards satisfy him that he is capable of. doing the work. It appears- to me that the- intention, of: the committee was that this minimum salary should apply to every officer in the division without any qualification whatever^ and not to “every such. officer.”
– It seems to me that the- remarks- of the honorable member for West Sydney dealt with two very diverse subjects, one being, the intention of this committee with regard to sub-clause (6), .and the other the propriety of the Chairman’s ruling, from which he- has dissented. So far as the meaning of sub-clause (6) is concerned, I am strongly of opinion that it applies to all officers of the 5th class of the clerical division. The honorable member for West Sydney says that the two Houses have left an ambiguity which he wishes to clear up. He proposes, therefore, to make an amendment, and submits that his proposal is within the competency of - this committee. Upon the latter, point’ I’ am utterly unable to agree- with him. To my mind, his proposal, is absolutely beyond the competency of this committee. In support of my contention, I will point out that under Standing Order 190 we are merely, considering the Senate^ message, and not-the Public Service Bill. We are: considering a message from the Senate relating to certain matters in the Public. Service Bill, and it is not competent for us, outside the limits of Standing Orders 190 to 192, to deal with that Bill at all. Standing Order 191 explains what we can do in regard to the Senate’s amendments. Then Standing Order 192, which is the crucial one in this connexion, says : -
No amendment shall be proposed, to an amendment of the Senate that is not’ strictly relevant thereto. .
The amendment which the honorable member proposes is clearly not an amendment of the Senate’s amendment: Then the standing order continues -
Nor can an amendment be moved to the Bill unless the same be relevant to or. consequent U:Pol either the acceptance or rejection, of a Senate’s amendment.
To make the honorable member’s amendment ih order, he must show that it is relevant to or consequent upon the aeceptance or- rejection of the Senate’s amendment. Now the Senate proposes to omit the words “shows by passing .the prescribed examination,” and > to insert in lieu thereof the words- “ provided that ‘ he satisfies the commissioner.” That proposal- does not affect in the least degree the number of officers concerned, or the question whether the- sub-clause, applies- to new appointees only or to all servants in the 5th class. Irrespective of who the servants are, it proposes to impose one of the conditions under which they shall receive a certain salary. ‘ The Senate has neither cleared, away the ambiguity nor deepened it. It. has left it’ untouched. There is a class- which, for the sake of convenience, we will call X. This sub-clause ‘ says that upon the satisfaction of’ certain conditions the officers in class X shall receive a minimum salary. Let us suppose that’ those conditions are A, B, C, and D. The Senate’ says that the officers- of class X shall receive a minimum salary upon satisfy^ ing conditions A, B, C, and E. All that the other Chamber asks us to do is to alter one of the conditions under ; which the officers of’ that class are to receive a minimum wage; A consequential amendment to a Bill- upon ‘acceptance or rejection or partial adoption ot a Senate’s amendment is, I take it, not an alteration to clear up a doubt which is untouched by the Senate’s amendment: The only thing that’ would seem to me consequential would be an amendment which was necessary to make any other portion of the Bill harmonize with the alteration caused by the Senate’s amendment. At this stage we cannot possibly deal with a question that is not raised directly or indirectly by the Senate’s amendment, and is neither consequential upon nor relevant to that amendment. Therefore it seems to me that the Chairman’s ruling is absolutely in accordance with all precedent and with the standing orders under which we are working.
Mr. WATSON (Bland). - I need hardly say that only the importance of this question has caused the honorable member for West Sydney to take the extreme step of dissenting from the ruling of the Chair. The fact that that ruling would probably have the effect of limiting the freedomof honorable members in dealing with amendments made by another place, alone prompts me to support such a motion. The whole effect of the argument of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is that there can be no suggestion put forward in lieu of the Senate’s amendment. The whole point is - What constitutes relevancy? I hold that any amendment; the effect of which is to produce a modified proposal which may meet with a. readier acceptance by those who made the original proposal, can be moved. If the omission of the word “such” will have the effect of increasing or diminishing the number of persons affected by the sub-clause, the amendment will have a very important bearing upon the attitude, of some at least, ofthe members of the other Chamber. I contend, therefore, that it is relevantto the actual subject matter of the issue, though, perhaps, not verbally relevant to the mere words of the Senate’s amendment. It seems to me that the case cited by you, Mr. Chairman, from page478 of the 10th edition of May, is not a case in point. May says -
In 1850a serious oversight as to the commencement of the Act having been discovered in the Pirates’ HeadMoneyBill, before the Lords’ amendments had been agreed to, no attempt was made to correct it by way of amendment, but a separate Act was passed for the purpose.
There is, however, nothing to show that the commencement of the Act in which the oversight occurred had been amended by the Lords, or whether, if that part of the Act was amended, an amendment rectifying the oversight would have been relevant to the amendment of the Lords. In this case the clause has been amended, and the amendment of the honorable member for
West Sydney is absolutely relevant to the subjectmatter of the amendment. Standing Order 194, says that an. amendment cannot be moved to a Bill -
Unless the same be relevant to, or consequent upon, either the acceptance or the rejection of a Senate’s amendment.
It seems to me that an amendment can be moved so long as it is relevant to the subject matter of the Senate’s amendment. The effect of the ruling, if upheld, would be to prevent any alterations being made at a conference of the two Houses in anything but the text of the amendments of the Senate.
– A conference can go back upon a Bill for the purpose of arriving at an agreement in regard to it, but neither House can depart in its amendments from anything that it has previously decided.
– I know that the rule to which the right honorable gentleman refers has generally obtained in. regard to conferences; but I have failed to notice any provisions in the standing orders relative to conferences which allowmoretobedone there than canbe done during the sittings of a committee. It seems to me that, wherever a more liberal interpretation of the standing orders will increase the possibilities of a reasonable compromise upon the principles at issue, that interpretation should be placed upon them rather than a more restricted interpretation, which will not so readily provide for a compromise. I trust that the committee, to insure harmonious working in thef uture, will see the necessity of dissenting from a ruling which will undoubtedly hamper the relations of the two Houses.
Mr. BARTON (Hunter- Minister for
External Affairs). - As this is purely a question of order I trust that honorable members will treat it in a spirit of loyalty to the rules of the House, which are for all of us of more importance than any immediate advantage which can be gained by any side or party. It is laid down by May that -
An amendment made by one House to an amendment made by the other should be relevant to the same subject matter. And if an amendment be proposed to the Lords’ amendment, not consequent on, or relevant to such amendment, the question will not be put from the chair.
Further on, it is stated that-
It is also a rule, that neither House may, at this time, leave out or otherwise amend anything which they have already passed themselves ; unless such amendment be immediately consequent upon the acceptance or the rejection of an amendment of the other House. In 1C7S, it was stated by the Commons, at a conference, “ that it is contrary to the constant method and proceedings in Parliament, to strike out anything in a Bill which huth been fully agreed and passed by both Houses” ; and in allowing consequential amendments, either in the body of the Bill, or in the amendments, the spirit of this rule is still maintained.
The spirit of that passage in May is amply maintained in our standing orders, wherein it is .provided that -
The amendments made by the Senate shall be agreed to either with or without amendments; or disagreed to.
And that -
Jio amendment shall be proposed to an amendment of the Senate that is not strictly relevant thereto ; nor can an amendment be moved to the Bill, unless the same be relevant to, or consequent upon either the acceptance or the rejection of a Senate’s amendment.
In those standing orders we have crystallized the practice of the House of Commons. The effect of the proposed amendment would be to, rightly or wrongly, extend the scope and the application of sub-clause (6). Clause 15 provides that the public service shall consist of four divisions, one of which is the clerical division ; and clause 21 is the first of a number of clauses dealing exclusively with the clerical division. The first sub-clause of clause 21 provides that all new appointments to that division shall be made to the first subdivision of the 5th class, and specifies the rate of salary of the appointee. Sub-clause (2) provides for increases of that salary at the expiration of stated periods, and sub-clause (3) provides for further increases upon the certificate of the commissioner at the end of every succeeding twelve months. Then in subclause (4-) we are told that during the month of March in each year the permanent head of each department shall furnish to the commissioner a report as to each officer in the 5th class of the clerical division. Whether the words “ every such officer,” in sub-clause (6), refer to all new appointees, or whether they refer only to certain officers in the 5th class of the clerical division is immaterial for the purposes of my argument. At any rate, they apply to a certain defined and prescribed class, and to strike out the word “such” indubitably enlarges the class, and widens the scope of the sub-clause. Unless the amendment enlarges the class, it can have no effect whatever. But the rule of Parliament is that -
Neither House may at this time leave out or otherwise amend anything which they have already passed.
By enlarging a class we are going back upon a provision to which both Houses have already agreed. Furthermore, it is proposed in the sub-clause as it stands that the officer referred to shall, by passing the prescribed examination, show that he is capable of doing the work of an office to which the salary of £110 is attached. The purpose of the Senate’s amendments is to substitute for the passing of an examination the satisfying of the commissioner. How can. the omission of the word “such” be called relevant or consequential upon the Senate’s amendment 1 The matter has not only to be relevant or consequential, but relevant to or consequential upon the passing or rejection of the Senate’s amendment. The clause is intended to apply to a certain large class of public servants, and the effect of the amendment must be to enlarge its application. How can that be said to be relevant or consequential upon the proposal to substitute the satisfaction of the commissioner for the passing of an examination wilh regard to that class which both Houses have already decided shall be the class operated upon ? It seems to me that the position is a reasonably clear one, and that, quite apart from our wishes as to the form in which the clause should pass, the matter is one upon which the decision of both Chambers has been taken. It will be a stretch of imagination, and not of reason, to say that the enlargement of the class to which the provision applies is consequent upon either our consenting to or dissenting from the amendment of the Senate.
– I must support the ruling of the Chair. We should be departing altogether from our standing orders if we were to go beyond the acceptance or rejection of the Senate’s amendment, and we should certainly not alter the drafting of the clause to such an extent as that desired by the honorable member for West Sydney. The provisions in the standing orders are intended to give finality to the decisions of either Chamber, and all we are entitled to do is to deal with the amendment transmitted to us by the Senate. The mere omission of the word “ such “ would not have very much effect, because if we look at the final words of the sub-clause, we shall find that it is intended to apply only to the particular class which is previously referred to in the clause. Moreover, we can see by reference to the schedule that the clause can affect only that class, because immediately an officer passes from it he will be in receipt of a higher salary than that provided for in sub-clause (6). I think we ought to closely follow out our standing orders, as otherwise a great deal of confusion might arise.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne). - It is well that this important matter should be satisfactorily settled. I think the principle which the Chairman has laid down, and which the Prime Minister has supported, is absolutely unimpeachable. At the same time I believe that it would be possible to make the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney relevant, without in any way infringing our rules. The desire of the honorable member for West Sydney is to omit the word “ such.” The Senate has proposed to substitute the satisfaction of the commissioner for an examination as a condition. It may have been that the Senate resolved upon substituting the judgment of the commissioner for an examination, because it thought that the clause related only to new appointees. It would have been very reasonable to say that they would not put the old servants under the heel of a new officer such as the commissioner, but that newlyappointed officers should be under his control. We might then point out that there was a . word in the clause which might have misled the Senate. We might make it clear that the clause as it at present stands applies to officers already appointed, and that it would be more reasonable to render all officers subject to an examination, instead of to the sweet will of the commissioner. Although that is my view, I think that an amendment in that direction would be immaterial, because the language of the various sub-clauses makes it reasonably clear that the 6th sub-clause applies to every officer in the 5th class of the clerical division, whether or not he is newly appointed.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I trust that the committee will not ‘ agree to this amendment. I was hoping that some compromise might have been arrived at in regard to this clause, but after the
ruling which has just been given by the Chairman, I am afraid that any such arrangement is entirely out of the question. I do not suppose any honorable members will attempt to defend the state of affaire that has been disclosed by the Minister for Home Affairs as existing in the public service. It is humiliating to find amongst the employes of the Federal Government men and women who have been as long . as 23 years in the public service receiving salaries of only £60 or £70 a year, or a little over £1 per week. Our experience in the States will lead us to the conclusion that those who come under the immediate notice of the head officers of their department receive every consideration in regard to their salary, but that the% rank and file of the service cannot rely upon the good-will of or recognition of their general ability by their official superiors. When the Railways Act was passed in New South Wales, a provision was inserted that every right as to increments, grades, and positions in the railway service should not only be preserved to those in the service, but be perpetuated under the new rule of the railway commissioners, and Parliament went on its way rejoicing, imagining , that it had safeguarded the interests of ihe railway employes. In regard to increments it was provided that the commissioners should issue certificates that the men had qualified for the receipt of the higher salaries, but no examinations were ever held at which men could qualify. From 1888, when the Act was passed, up to the present time, there has not been an examination under which these men could have qualified themselves to receive the increments to which they were entitled. One of the railway officials, selected by the Railway Employes Association, sued the commissioners for the increments that he was apparently entitled to under the Act. The court then held - and I think very properly, as far as the law was concerned - that the men were not entitled to any increments, inasmuch as they could not produce the certificates issued by the commissioners. They, however, had had no opportunity of qualifying for a certificate, because the commissioners had never held an examination. If the satisfaction of the commissioner is to be the condition upon which an officer is to depend to entitle him to receive the minimum wage of £110, we may take it for granted that, except in a very few instances, there will be no increase in the salaries of the individuals affected. A few of the employes may be granted increases, and held up as an example of the good work accomplished by the Minister ; but the great mass of the employes of the State will continue to receive starvation wages. We find that letter carriers, assistant telegraphists, and others who have the handling of money - and who are discharging the most responsible duties, are subject to all sorts of temptations, and yet we give them the paltry salary of a little more than £1 per week. The circumstances of the Commonwealth do not justify us in asking for any such sacrifices from our officers. Are we, who boast to the nations of our wealth and resources, going to admit that we are so absolutely hard-up that we cannot pay a mere living wage to those who do our work 1 We have plenty of money available for this and many other purposes, and even if a little extra taxation were required, I am sure no person would object to submit to it in order that we might pay a fair wage to our servants. The trouble is to get anything like fair treatment ‘“for those at the bottom of the ladder. We may rest assured that no matter how ‘ scarce money may be, the Ministry will always find sufficient to provide- increases for the gentlemen at the top. In New South Wales, even when the finances were supposed to be in a very parlous condition, it was held to be a very proper thing to give officers who were receiving £900 and £1,100 a .year increases of from £50 to £100, as the case might be. But before we consent to the raising of any salaries of that description we should insist that a minimum wage is paid to officers in the ruck. I believe in giving the greatest freedom of action to the commissioner who is placed in charge of our public service. I believe in freeing him absolutely from political influence. But consistently with that, we have a right to lay down broad lines of policy in regard to matters in which the interests of our public servants and our taxpayers are at stake. One of these matters has reference to the lowest wage upon which an adult’ can- exist with decency and comfort. To me it is quite evident that the figures quoted by the Minister for Home Affairs are not reliable. But even if the amount involved represented an increased expenditure of £100,000 I should still insist upon nothing less than 7s. per day being paid to adult public servants. According to the figures given in the table .which has been printed for our consideration the total amount involved in the proposal to -which this committee assented some time ago represents £45,700 for the present year. Yet to-day the Minister says that upon further inquiry he finds that the total increase involved for this year is £35,000, and that for each succeeding year another £10,000 will be necessary to provide for those who are qualifying foi- the minimum wage.
– Will the honorable member permit me for a moment’ ? I said yesterday that I would endeavour to obtain approximately the increased amount which will be involved in the payment of the proposed minimum wage. To-day I presented an approximate statement, prepared by my under-secretary from the information at his disposal. I said that £35,000 represents the increased expenditure which will be involved in the payment of a minimum salary of £110 per year to all. adult public servants who have been in the service for three years, and that with the ordinary increments accruing for this year the total increased expenditure will be £45,000. Of that amount, £10,000 would represent the ordinary increments.
– There would be an increase of £10,000 then, even if this minimum wage were not agreed to 1
– The Minister admits that £10,000 out of the £45,000’ increase is made up of increments that would accrue independently of the adoption of a minmum wage. But I would- point out to him that after this year there will be no similar increase.
– Doubtless after this year we shall get only a proportion of those who are maturing foi1 the three years.
– The information just elicited from the Minister goes to show that the first return from the Postmaster-General’s department must have been very inaccurate’. Surely it was not a fair thing to burden a new proposal with ordinary increments, which were quite independent of that proposal. Moreover, the printed document which I hold in my hand applies only to the Postal department.
– In the other cases the increase represents only about £1,300.’.
– I am inclined to think that even an estimate of £35,000 will be found to be above the mark. Still, the question of the actual amount involved does not affect my attitude in the slightest degree, and I do not think it will affect the opinion of those outside the service or of the taxpayers generally. Indeed, the public have always expressed themselves in favour of the State setting something like a reasonable example so far as the payment of salaries is concerned. If that applies to the ordinary person who performs only semi-mechanical work, surely it applies with additional force to officers in the Postal department in particular, who have absolutely responsible duties to discharge, who are intrusted with the custody of valuable documents and money on behalf of the Government, and who are every day subject to temptation. I trust that the committee will insist upon the clause being carried in its original form, both as regards the clerical and the general division.
Mr. POYNTON (South Australia).During the discussion of this Bill at an early stage of the session, I took a very active part in connexion with the proposal to establish a minimum wage. My own experience had taught me that a large number of our public servants are miserably paid. I am convinced that if we had before us the whole of the figures relating to the salaries of members of the clerical and general divisions throughout the Commonwealth they wouldprove such a revelation that there would be no hesitation on the part of the committee in passing this clause. In Victoria alone there are 47 men who have been from six to thirteen years in the public service and who are receiving less than £80 per year, whilst there are no less than 232 who have been in the service from nine to nineteen years and who are receiving only from £80 to £90 annually. When this measure was introduced there was no limit to the time it might take any officer in the service to obtain a living wage. Before it left this House we endeavoured to lay down two principles. We laid down the principle that officers should not be required to devote the best part of their lives to the public service before they obtained £2 per week. The other principle which we adopted was that when once they were in receipt of a living wage, capacity should be the only factor determining their advancement.
We insisted that a man should be entitled to receive £110 per year if he had been three years in the service, and was 21 years of age. But if the amendment of the Senate be carried, the great majority of officers will remain in their present position. Only a fortnight ago, I received a letter from a man who has been three years in the service, and who is receiving the munificent salary of £39 a year. He is engaged in responsible work, and receives Government moneys every day. His living costs him more than he receives, and, but for some of his relations, he could not remain in his present position. In my judgment, the Ministry should oppose the amendment. If the members of the Senate had received the information which we have obtained to-night - scanty as it is, considering that the Government have had five weeks in which to obtain it, when a fortnight should have been quite sufficient - they would not have inserted the amendment which we are discussing. They would never, with that information before them, allow it to be said that they desire the present condition of affairs to continue. I hope the committee will reject the amendment.
– When this clause was first being considered by the committee, the provision which we are discussing was agreed to upon the voices, and I find by referring to Hansard that the amendment which has been made by the Senate was agreed to on division by a majority of one. Originally, I looked at the proposal in the clause with considerable alarm ; but it seems to me that the allegations which have been made in regard to the number of insufficiently paid public servants are amply proved by the figures which the Government have produced. Although I am of opinion that it would have been better to provide for a sliding scale, or at any rate for some more moderate scheme than that now proposed, I recognise that, as the committee agreed to the provision in the clause by an overwhelming majority, we should not accept an amendment which will practically nullify it. Unless there is a chance of our altering our minds, there is, therefore, no need to repeat the debate upon the main question. In my opinion, an able and just commissioner, administering the measure in a humane and sensible way, might to a large extent achieve the end towards which the clause is directed, but, inasmuch as the opinions of a large majority of the committee were in favour of the provision embodied in the clause, we should adhere to that provision, and not allow it to be amended by an insidious proposal, which, to my mind, will nullify our intentions.
– I hope that the committee will adhere to its original determination. I certainly share the sentiments of the honorable member for Bland that if it is a matter of justice to the employes of the Commonwealth that the expenditure which has been referred to should be incurred, we must not hesitate to incur it, but last night I asked the Minister to furnish the committee with information which would enable us know what the actual cost per annum of the proposed alteration would be. I pointed out that the cost during the first year would be no criterion as to the cost during future years. It appears from the figures which have been furnished that the provision in the Bill will lead to a yearly increase of £10,000. An additional expenditure of £45,000 must be provided for in the first year, of which £10,000 will be an expenditure occurring every year, leaving £35,000 as a special expenditure for the first year. For the next year the special expenditure will be only £25,000, for the third year £15,000, and for the fourth year only £5,000. The information before us clearly shows that there are a number of officers, male and female, in the Commonwealth service who are receiving what, I have no hesitation in saying, is a sweating wage, and it- is our duty to wipe that blot out as soon as we can. I have no doubt that the people will support us in doing so. According to the figures given by the Minister, there are in Queensland 27 officers who, under this provision, will receive £360 a year in addition to what they now receive. Throughout Australia we shall have to pay 7s. 6d. a week extra in the clerical division, and 10s. a week extra in the -general division, during the first year, and the amounts diminish each year as I have shown. The Senate has not quarrelled with the. provision in the clause, and the Government do not quarrel with it. No one ventures to suggest its elimination. Therefore, we should make its operation certain, and not intrust it to the administration of a commissioner who is to be satisfied we do not know when or how. I see no better way of doing that than by the provision as it stands, and, therefore, I strongly urge the committee to reject the Senate’s amendment.
Mr: HUGHES (West Sydney;.- I hope that the Government will recede from their present position, and vote for the rejection of the Senate’s amendment. I am utterly at a loss to understand why they did not in the first instance ask the committee to reject the amendment. Not only did they accept the provision in this Chamber, but the Postmaster-General, when speaking in the Senate, said that he proposed to offer no opposition to it, or to limit its application in any way. Anything less drastic than the provision in the clause will fail to effect our purpose. It is notorious that there are men in New South Wales - to say nothing of the other States - who, although they are 30 years of age, and have been in the service for many years, receive only £70 or £80 a year upon which to maintain their wives and families. But if we provide that their salaries shall be raised to £110 per year only if they satisfy the commissioner, we know that, as has been the case in the public service of that State, satisfaction will not be given if the increase is likely to affect the financial position of the departments.
– I am at a loss to understand the action of, the Government in this matter. They offered no opposition to the provision either in this Chamber, in the first instance, or in the other Chamber. They know that it was agreed to almost unanimously, and yet they have allowed four or five hours to be spent in discussing whether the Senate’s amendment shall be accepted. I do not think any member of the committee would do more to secure economy in the conduct of the affairs of the Commonwealth than I should be willing to do ; but we must avoid the injustice that would be done if we did not put an end to the condition of affairs which is illustrated by the returns which have been laid upon the table yesterday and to-day. In the State Legislatures measures have been passed for improving the condition of the workers outside the Government service, and it is scandalous that in the service of the Commonwealth there should be men who are insufficiently paid. Numbers of men in subsidiary positions have asked me to try to better their positions. Only recently, a young man who said that; he had been for eight years in the New South Wales Postal department, and was getting only £90 a year, asked me to do something for him. I told him that if he had any energy he would leave the service, and go out into the world, because I felt sure that he would better himself by doing so. I have never been more thankful for anything than I am because my father, who had a chance of doing so, did not permit me to enter the public service. It seems to be looked upon by many as a refuge for the destitute, where the worst class of labour is employed, and, judging by the returns which we have before us, the smallest payments given. The true and successful management of the affairs of the Commonwealth must depend upon our having an effective public service, and we cannot obtain -that if we pay wages lower than would be paid to private employes. The rates of wages disclosed as being paid to some of our public servants are disgraceful, and no Government department could expect to maintain an efficient service under such conditions. I am opposed to the principle of a minimum wage, but judging from past experience these unfortunate workers will be exposed to special dangers unless we make special provision for their protection. I shall therefore support the clause in its original form.
– The objection taken by the Senate was not so much to the minimum wage as to the age fixed as one of the qualifications for the receipt of the minimum wage. It was also urged that economy should be exercised in the administration of the service, and that the Commonwealth could not afford to pay the amount involved in the proposed increases. It has been shown, however, that not only will the amount of money involved be very much smaller than .was at first supposed, but that the Commonwealth can very well afford to pay the increased rate. The Victorian Government, by means of the wages boards, and the New South Wales Government, by means of an Arbitration Act, are practically providing for the payment of a minimum wage to all those engaged in outside work, and we should adopt a similar principle in regard to the servants of the State. These increases will be received for the most part by officers in the Postal department, many of whom are engaged in discharging very responsible duties, and it is only right that upon a man reaching man’s estate, and having a man’s responsibilities to meet, he should receive at least a living wage. In all trades the apprentices on completing their indentures are entitled to full journeymen’s wages, and we should place State servants in a similar position. If it is necessary to exercise economy, we might very well commence by reducing the salaries of the most highly paid of our officers. It has been truly said that those officers who are immediately under the eye of the Minister, or of the heads of departments, may depend upon their interests being well looked after, whereas the rank and file of the service do not receive the attention and consideration they deserve. I hope that the Minister for Home Affairs will recognise the desire of the committee to retain the clause in its original form, and will give way.
– When the Minister for Home Affairs told us yesterday that the effect of this provision would be to entail an additional cost of £45,000 a year, I regarded the matter as very serious. It now appears, however, that the cost will not be so large as was at first anticipated. It is expected that it will amount to not more than £35,000 for the first year, £25,000 for the second year, and £15,000 for the third year, and £5,000 for the fourth, year, and that it will afterwards entirely disappear, except in regard to new appointments, which will not be very numerous. If we adopt the proposal of the Senate it will be within the power of the commissioner to block these increments, and to create discontent in the service. It is of the utmost importance in the interests of true economy that our public servants should be contented, and anything that would operate in a contrary direction would be against the interests of the Commonwealth. True economy consists in paying a reasonable wage, and in securing fair work from the servants of the State, and I hope, therefore, that the committee will restore the provision to its original form.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable and learned member for Indi, and the honorable member for Gippsland, have apparently misapprehended what the Minister for Home Affairs stated as to the additional outlay involved in the proposal to fix the minimum wage at £110 per annum. What the Minister intended to convey was that the first cost would be £45,000 per annum, and that that amount would be a continuing charge. In addition to that he stated that there would be an annual increase of £10,000 required to provide for the officers qualifying themselves in each succeeding year. Not only so, but in addition to this the ordinary increments will have to be provided for yearly. Against this it is only fair to say that a certain proportion of those provided for ‘under this sub-clause would step into other classes of the service, and possibly these promotions will balance the £10,000 additional outlay in connexion with those who qualify for the receipt of the minimum wage. The increased expenditure will not be so serious as at first sight appears. Supposing that a boy of seventeen years entered the service at £40 per annum, it is provided that on the certificate of the commissioner he shall have an annual increment of £20, and thus upon reaching the age of 21 years he would be in receipt of £10 more than the minimum provided for in the sub-clause now under discussion. This sub-clause provides only for cases in which the ordinary annual increments are checked. When an officer has shown his qualification to earn a certain salary, we should give it to him, because it is not his fault that no opportunities are afforded for his promotion. It will be an act of the merest justice to pass this subclause in the form in which it was originally sent to the Senate.
– If honorable members will recollect, when the Bill was first before the committee the question of the minimum wage was very fully discussed. At that time it was not supposed that such a large sum of money would be involved. When, however, it’ was found that the outlay would be so large, the Senate agreed to the amendment which we are now discussing, and to another to which our attention will shortly be directed, giving the commissioner certain discretionary powers. Some misunderstanding seems to have arisen in the mind of the honorable member for Gippsland. There is no doubt that the amount required in the first instance will be somewhere between £35,000 and £45,000, if all those who are affected by the provision become qualified to receive the minimum wage. Most of the increased expenditure will be caused by jumping up the present salaries from £40, £50, £60, £70, and £80, to £110. An additional £35,000 will thus have to be paid the first year, and a largeportion of it the second year. After these officers receive the minimum wage of £110, the only increased expenditure involved will be represented by the difference between the increments upon the higher salaries and those upon the lower salaries. What that will amount to it is impossible to say. Of course each year a number of officers will be reaching the end of their three years’ service, and will thus become entitled to the minimum salary of £110. On the other hand, some of those included in this large increase will probably be passing into other grades. That will lessen the increase which would otherwise be involved by reason of officers reaching the three years’ service limit. I only put the matter in an approximate way because I have not the most reliable figures upon which to base my calculations. There is just one other matter to which I should like to call attention. The fear has been expressed that the adoption of this proposal will prevent women from being employed in the Government departments. I do not hesitate to say that such a danger undoubtedly exists. My ambition has always been to provide women with light work, such as we can offer in the Post-office, wherever they can efficiently discharge the duties involved. I can see very clearly, however, that a large majority intend to vote against the Senate’s amendment. I must throw the responsibility of this action upon the committee, and if honorable members find subsequently that women are not taken on in the service they cannot blame me. The Government have no desire to press the matter to a division, but will be content to take the decision upon the voices.
Amendment disagreed to.
Amendments in clause 23 agreed to.
Clause 25. - (Minimum salary after serving three years.)
Motion proposed -
That the amendment of the Senate adding the words “provided that he satisfies the commissioner that he is capable of doing the work of an office to which such salary is attached” be agreed with.
– After the debate which has already taken place, and which really had reference more to this clause than to clause 21, I ask the committee to disagree with the amendment of the Senate.
Amendment disagreed to.
Reported - that the committee had agreed to some of the amendments of the Senate, disagreed with others, and amended others.
Resolved (on motion by Sir William Lyne) -
That Sir PhilipFysh, Sir William McMillan, and the mover be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for not agreeing to certain of the Senate’s amendments.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn .
– From what I can gather, it is more in consonance with the views of a good many honorable members that the arrangement made by the Government in connexion with the Easter holidays should be carried out, than that my alternative proposal should be adopted. I do not, therefore, propose to repeat it.
– There is a little matter of a somewhat personal character concerning myself and several other honorable members, about which I wish to say a word or two before we adjourn. It affects those of us who are members of the party to which I belong in this Parliament. In this morning’s Argus there appears the report of an interview with the Attorney-General of Queensland, in the course of which he said -
I think that the employment of railway passes by federal members, for the purpose of travelling around Queensland to advocate the election of certain candidates for the State Parliament, amountedtoa gross abuse of the privilege, which the State Government would be justified in curtailing.
I was always under the impression that the railway passes that honorable members of this House possess were paid for by the Federal Government, not by any State Government, and I think the remark of the Attorney-General of Queensland is not only a piece of gross impertinence, but that he was decidedly out of place in mentioning the matter. When an honorable member of this House was standing as a candidate for Darling Downs, the political morality of the Government of which the AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Rutledge, was a member, was not of so high a standard as to lead them to hesitate to send one of their Ministers, as well as their supporters on their railway passes to the district, for the purpose of trying to defeat the honorable member to whom I refer,with the object of endeavouring to reverse the policy which had been adopted by the Federal Parliament - or, at all events, to reverse the feeling of Queensland towards that policy. Mr. Rutledge accuses certain members - and I know that he refers especially to members of the labour party - of going up to assist candidates at the recent Queensland election. I hold that, as a representative of Queensland in the Federal Parliament, I have just as much right to go there as Mr. Rutledge has, and, as a citizen of Queensland, I shall go there just as often as I am able on the federal railway pass which I possess. As long as I possess it I shall use it in the interests of the party to which I belong. It comes with ill-grace from Mr. Rutledge to make such a remark, when we know that another honorable member of this Chamber left Melbourne to go to Queensland in order to record his seven plural votes in the interests of the present Queensland Government. I refer to the honorable member for Oxley. We do not find Mr. Rutledge saying anything on that score. Again, I should like to remind the House that Mr. Rutledge is not very particular when there is a good fat Government brief knocking around, about marking it at a high figure. We often find him holding such a brief in the courts of Queensland. When Mr. Rutledge starts to talk about members of this Chamber possessing the privilege of a railway pass, he ought to recollect that he lives in a glass house himself and ought not to throw stones ; because I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that if we liked to go into the history of the Government with which he is connected it would not come out very clean. It is, I venture to say, one of the most corrupt Governments that Queensland or any other State of Australia has ever had.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Home Affairs at what time this side of the day, of judgment we are likely to have sent out the Government Gazette as promised about six months ago ?
– I am sorry I was not present during the early part of the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy. If the honorable member will fix a day I shall be glad to participate in a discussion on the point he has mentioned ; but I think it improper to take up the time of the House at this time of night. Probably the honorable member who raised the question intended that the discussion should be cut short by the fact that honorable members would be too impatient to debate the subject.
– As the principal culprit in this case - because I am the man that the Hon. Arthur Rutledge, AttorneyGeneral of Queensland referred to - I wish to say a few words upon. it. If the hour were two o’clock in the morning, I should feel bound to speak upon what I consider one of the grossest breaches of parliamentary etiquette I have ever heard of. If I thought this railway pass which I hold in my hand was a privilege from the Queensland Government, I would sling it into the fire. That is how I feel about it. I venture to tell Mr. Arthur Rutledge that I can pay my fare in Queensland quite as well as he can. and perhaps a little better. But as long as I hold this railway pass I shall use it as I think fit. When the honorable and learned member for Brisbane says that we are deliberately shirking discussion in this matter, I deny the statement. I ask him what he thinks of his great friend, the Attorney-General of Queensland, making such a statement as that quoted by the honorable member for Kennedy? What about the position of those members of the Queensland Parliament who, some time ago, were lobbying here for several months, travelling on their Queensland railway passes - not federal passes, that are paid for - attempting to influence the action of this Parliament with regard to certain legislation ? The honorable member for Kennedy has referred to one of the members of this Chamber going to record his seven or ten plural votes in Queensland. What is more, he addressed a public meeting on the side of the Philp Government. But we were labour men, and Mr. Rutledge thought this was an opportunity for having a good “clutch” at us. We are, however, just as much labour men in Queensland as we are in the Federal Parliament. I do not care what Mr. Rutledge, or Mr. Philp, or anybody else says. They can have a shot at me as often as they like. The honorable and learned member for Brisbane can also get up and have “ a go “ at me if he likes.
During my tour in Queensland, I have seen upon the Barcoo, reminiscences of the honorable and learned member for Brisbane. There is a cairn which he erected in memory of his deeds as an explorer in that district. Let him say of me anything that he likes, and I shall be able to reply to him.
– I have not expressed any view on the subject.
– The honorable and learned member said that the honorable member for Kennedy had brought the subject on now so as to avoid discussion. The labour party court discussion. They have nothing to hide. They have always been fair and above board. If we have done wrong the honorable and learned member has the same chance as has any other honorable member of saying so. The Federal Government pay for my pass, so that I am under no compliment to any one - not even the Premier of Queensland. I would be quite willing to pay my own fare on the Queensland lines rather than that the Government of Queensland should carry me for nothing ; but they do not do that, and so long as I represent Maranoa, I shall exercise the privileges to which I am entitled as a member of this Parliament.
– The honorable member for Maranoa is to some extent correct and to some extent incorrect in the statement which he has made. On. the 23rd August, 1901, an agreement was come to between the Federal Government and the railway commissioners of the States that we should pay them a certain lump sum of money for the conveyance over their lines of the members of this Parliament, and they agreed amongst themselves that of the whole amount Victoria should take 40 per cent., New South Wales 30 per cent., South Australia 12½ per cent., Queensland 7½ per cent., Tasmania 5 per cent., and Western Australia 5 per cent. The yearly sum to be received by Queensland is £6,600, and on the 16th January last I received a letter from Queensland asking for the payment of that amount. Of course the money will be paid, and if the Queensland authorities press for payment a cheque will be sent to-morrow, if necessary ; but the Treasurer is of opinion that the amount is one which should not be paid from his Advance Vote, and we have, therefore, been waiting until the House can pass the Estimates and provide the. money. Surely the State Governments have sufficient confidence in the Federal Government to know that money due under an agreement of this kind will be paid so soon as it can be voted by Parliament. With regard to the distribution of the Commonwealth Gazette, to which reference lias been made, I understand that instructions were given for its distribution, but the matter is one which is controlled by the Prime Minister’s depart ment, and I shall therefore convey to the Prime Minister the complaint which has been made.
Question resolved in the affirmative:
House adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 March 1902, viewed 7 November 2016, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1902/19020319_reps_1_8/>.