2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 5) presented by Sir John
Quick, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
Mr. MAUGER (Melbourne Ports).I desire to direct the attention of the House to a series of gross misstatements which are contained in a leading article of the Argus of to-day. Amongst other things, the article to which I allude, in referring to myself, says : -
He quoted from a “series of articles,” culled from, he did not say where - (Mr. Mauger’s researches never, go deeper than a newspaper cutting) - the statement that since the law in question came into foTce the number of acres under cultivation inNew Zealand had risen from over- 11,000,000 acres to over 13,000,000 acres. Members’ almost gasped at the outpouring of these merry millions, but Mr. Mauger protested that his authority was reliable. Mr.’ Fuller stepped to the table, opened Coghlan, and showed that the total number of acres under cultivation in New Zealand, including grass land, does’ not nearly equal Mr. Manger’s alleged increase, and Mr. Mauger scoffed at Coghlan.
The facts are that I gave my authority for the statements which I made. I mentioned the exact page upon -which the information was to be found, and I invited honorable members to look at it for themselves and to verify the correctness of my quotation.
– My authority was a. statistical review which has been compiled from official sources by the Registrar-
General of New Zealand. The accuracy of my statements is further confirmed by the New Zealand Year-Book for 1903, an official publication, which states that, “the total area in grass, crop, and fallow is 13,504.004 acres.” Moreover, Coghlan himself states -
If, however, the land artificially grassed - which is a species of cultivation - be included, the total will come to 22,592,000 acres.
– Is not that the area under cultivation in Australasia?
– Yes, of which New Zealand claims 13,000,000 acres, as is shown by the official Year-Book of that State, and by the figures compiled by the Registrar-General, Mr. Von Dadelszen. All that I wish to make clear is that my authority for the statements which I made is unquestionable, that my quotation was absolutely correct, and that the writer of the article in question must have known that I was not quoting from newspaper cuttings.
– As a matter of personal explanation, I wish to reply to some statements which were made by the honorable member for Grampians yesterday afternoon. The honorable member did me the courtesy of notifying me that he intended to challenge certain statements which I had made in this Chamber, but, unfortunately, I was prevented from being present, at the time he spoke. I find from Hansard, however, that he took exception to the following remarks, which were made by me on the 6th July : -
Will the honorable member for Wentworth tell me that the shearers, mechanics, and engineers form the only industrial organizations? There are other industrial unions in existence. What about the Pastoralists’ Union ; and what about their funds? Do they not use their funds for political purposes, and do they not make special levies for political purposes?
At that stage the honorable member for Grampians interjected, “ I never heard of it,” to which I replied -
The honorable member has never been a member for Riverina or he would have heard of it. If the honorable member has never heard that there is a fund in connexion with the Pastoralists’ Association which is used for political purposes, I can only wonder -where he has been during the last ten years.
The honorable member then placed himself in communication with the Pastoralists’ Associations of New South Wales and Victoria, for the purpose of ascertaining the accuracy or otherwise of my statements.
From the secretary of the latter organization he received the following reply : -
With reference to Mr. Chanter’s statements in Hansard which you showed me, I beg to inform you that the Pastoralists’ Association has no funds for political purposes, that it has never made a special levy for political purposes, and that not a penny of its funds has ‘ever been given for political purposes.
The secretary of the New South Wales Pastoralists’ Association wired-
Chanter’s statement that the Pastoralists’ Association has a fund for ‘political purposes, and makes special levies for political purposes, is absolutely without foundation so far as Pastoralists* Union of New South Wales is concerned.
I notice that the author of this telegram is very careful not to affirm that the Pasto’ralists’ Association does not use its funds for political purposes. He merely says that it has no special political fund, and does not make special levies for political purposes. In reply to these statements, I repeat that the experience which the honorable member for Grampians has had of the Riverina district must be very limited indeed, if he is not aware of that of which everybody else is cognisant, namely, that- the Pastoralists’ Association in that portion of New South Wales has taken a very lively interest in political matters for some years past. I should like to ask the honorable member who has challenged the accuracy of my statement, and who is a member of the organization in question, whether he will undertake to produce its books, and to prove that no portion of its funds has been used for political purposes?
– I am afraid that the honorable member is travelling beyond .the limits of a personal explanation.
– I confess that I find myself in a difficult position. I shall be compelled to leave the House very shortly, and as the honorable member for Grampians has questioned my veracity, I desire to take the first opportunity of proving my statements, if I may be privileged to digress a_ little.
– Mov - Move the adjournment of the House.
– I have no desire fo waste the time of honorable members by adopting that course.
– I would point out to the honorable member that he is at liberty to make an explanation concerning any statement of his own. That, however, does not confer upon him a right to issue a challenge in regard to the statements of any other honorable member, or to ask that certain questions shall be answered at a later stage. The honorable member is quite in order in justifying himself in any way he may think fit.
– Probably I shall have an opportunity of entering into details upon another occasion. From my own knowledge of the circumstances which obtain in the Riverina district, I unhesitatingly affirm that during the past twenty years the funds of the Pastoralists’ Association have been very largely used for political purposes. I am assured, on the authority of a very reliable man, who is himself a pastoralist, that at one election in which he was interested, the Association engaged a special train to run from Melbourne, for the purpose of conveying voters to the poll with a view to furthering the interests of the candidate who was a member of their body. These facts are within my own knowledge. I could multiply such instances, but the rules of the House prevent me from doing so on this occasion. I merely mention them to show that I have good grounds for my belief. Later on, I shall give further similar illustrations, and I shall ask the honorable member for Grampians to satisfy the House and the country as to the truth or otherwise of my statements by producing the books of the Association.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer what steps, if any, he has taken for carrying on the work which was initiated by the honorable and learned member for Balaclava, in connexion with the consolidation of the States public debts ?
– I think the honorable member will admit that the matter to which he refers is a sufficiently large one to require a little more attention than I have been able to bestow upon it thus fats I do not anticipate being able to do anything in the matter until I have an opportunity of considering it during a recess.
–I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether he has anything to report concerning the negotiations which have taken’ place between the Premiers of the various States for the abolition of competitive railway rates?
-The agreement which was entered into between the Railway Commissioners of the various States is now being considered in detail. Since I last reported to the House upon this subject, no further communication has taken place between the Premiers of the different States and the Government.
– I desire ‘to ask whether any arrangements have yet been made with the States Governments, under which State officers will be able to collect and revise the Commonwealth electoral rolls ?
– Yes. I think that a week or two ago I reported to the House that in the case of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, arrangements had been made for the collection and revision of the rolls by the police. So far as the other States are concerned, the arrangements are not yet quite complete.
– I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether any new regulations or instructions have been issued concerning the introduction of coloured alien labour into the pearling industry on the northern coast of Australia, and, if so, whether he will lay copies of such regulations or instructions upon the table of the House?
– In reply to the question of the right honorable member, I desire to say that about a week ago, in answer to an inquiry by the honorable member for Herbert, I stated that no further permits would be issued to any coloured persons for the purpose of enabling them to engage in the pearling industry. That statement applies to the coloured aliens engaged in that industry on the northern shores of Australia, as well as to those employed at Thursday Island. No regulations have been made. Simple instructions have been sent by wire to the various officers at the different ports, to the effect that applications for permits must be referred to me. One such application has been received, and particulars are being asked for in connexion with it.
– Will the honorable gentleman lay a copy of the telegram upon the table?
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of the following message : -
The Senate requests that the House of Representatives will give leave to the Honorable Austin Chapman, a member of such House, to attend if he think fit, and be examined as a witness before the Select Committee of the Senate on the case of Major J. W. M. Carroll.
Motion (by Mr. Watson) agreed to -
That the House authorizes Mr. Chapman to attend accordingly, if he think fit.
The Clerk laid on the table the following paper : -
Return to an Order of the House, dated 26th May, 1904, relating to the Travelling Expenses of the General Officer Commanding and State Commandants.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether the Western Australian Government has made the Commonwealth Government any special offer connected with the proposed Transcontinental Railway ; and, if so, whether the Minister has any objection to making the terms public?
– The telegrams on this subject between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Western Australia were laid on the table of this House, and ordered to be printed, on the 19th and 20th May. There has been no further correspondence since that date.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The whole of the questions refer to matters that are entirely within the discretion of the Public Service Commissioner. The Commissioner is obtaining the necessary information to enable him to furnish replies.
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 1006), on motion by Mr. Hume Cook -
That j in the opinion of this House, there should be established a Commonwealth Life and Accident Assurance Department under the control, management, and guarantee of the Federal Government.
.- I do not wish to debate the motion at any length, because the members of the Government have not had sufficient time to consider the details involved to be able to pronounce an opinion as to whether any immediate action can be taken for the establishment of a Commonwealth Life and Accident Assurance Department. Personally, I have always favoured the establishment of a State Department of Assurance. I believe the establishment of such a Department to be of extreme moment to the community. The guarantee which the State could give for the solvency of such a Department would render the idea of life assurance much more attractive to the community generally than it is under present conditions. As things are now, the public are assailed by the canvassers) for the various societies and companies with all kinds of conflicting statements as to their solidity, and as to their possible bankruptcy. Probably, if a Government Department were established, there would be a great increase in life assurance, and habits of thrift would thus be encouraged in the population-
– Why not make a beginning with the Commonwealth Public Service ?
– The view I took when the Public Service Bill was under discussion was that such a start should be made. I have not yet had time to consider this question with the sense of responsibility which attaches to my actions as Prime Minister, but when the Public Service Bill was in Committee, and it was being insisted upon that our officers should insure their lives against old age and death. I was of the opinion that the Government should establish a Department of Assurance, and thus save the canvassing expenses which are inevitable in connexion with private companies and societies. If such a Department were established, it might afterwards be extended so as to take general life assurance business. At the present time the cost of life assurance is materially increased by the expenses necessitated . by the competition between the various companies and societies.
– Far more than the public have an idea of.
– Yes. It is not until one examines the results of the working of these offices, and sees what- it costs them to obtain new business, that one begins to appreciate the magnitude of that expense. We have in Australia, in our mutual life associations, two or three splendid examples of the co-operative movement, and I do not wish to derogate in the slightest degree from the credit attaching to their management. I am a member of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, which is now managed in a highly efficient manner, and has, I believe, always been so managed. That society, however, like other offices carrying on the same business, has to incur a vastly greater expense in obtaining new Jives than would have to be incurred if the whole business were in the hands of the State.
– Advertising alone costs a great deal.
– Yes. I believe that the first year’s premium is swallowed up by the expense of getting the policy taken out.
– That expense is less, so far as the Australian Mutual Provident Society is concerned, than it is with the New Zealand Government Insurance Department.
– The Government Insurance Department of New Zealand has to compete with private institutions, just as the Australian Mutual. Provident Society has to do, and until the Government Department absorbs all other life offices, there is not likely to be much saving in the expense of canvassing, advertising, and so on. But the New Zealand Department shows, under all the circumstances, a splendid record both as regards its cost of management and the interest which it returns on its investments. Its interest returns are practically equal to those of any private institution, while its expenses are lower than those of any other institution, with the exception of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, doing business in Australia. It must be remembered that the New Zealand Department has a smaller volume of business than the Australian Mutual Provident Society has, and, therefore, its expenses of management must be proportionately greater; but, notwithstanding that fact, they are only very little higher than the expenses of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. Moreover, the New Zealand Department has a population of about 800,000 only to work upon, while the Australian Mutual Provident Society is an older institution, and has a very much larger constituency.
– I do not think that the New Zealand Department canvasses.
– Yes, it does. It commenced in 1869 without canvassing; but it was gradually discovered that if it wished to obtain the volume of business necessary to enable it to be cheaply managed, the Department could not afford to stand idle, and ignore the competition of private institutions.
– I hope that the Government will go further than the establishment of a State Department of Insurance. I am sufficiently radical to hold the view that insurance should be made compulsory.
– Perhaps that may come in the future. The point I wish to make is that, taking all the circumstances into consideration, the New Zealand Government Department has given practically as good results to its policy-holders as have been obtained by the members of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, and better results than have been obtained by those interested in the great majority of other similar institutions. There is a difference of about 3 per cent, between the expenses rate of the Australian Mutual Provident Society and that of the New Zealand Department, while the expenses rate of other similar institutions is very much higher.
– The Australian Mutual Provident Society is very conservative.
– I do not think so. It was sufficiently enterprising to advance money on property in Sydney upon which it subsequently lost.
– I mean conservative in the acceptance of lives.
– That may be so; but every insurance institution should be conservative in that respect. It should accu rately ascertain the condition of the wouldbe policy-holder before accepting his proposal. The Australian Mutual Provident Society takes proper precautions by insisting on a medical examination. But while the New Zealand Department has given to its policy-holders advantages which are practically equivalent to those obtained by the members of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, the former have enjoyed the further advantage of absolute security. Even if the Department were unable to meet the claims upon it, the policy-holders or their representatives would not lose, because all claims are guaranteed by the Government of New Zealand.
– The fees of the Australian Mutual Provident Society are higher than those of other societies.
– That is a relative matter. It depends upon a comparison of the benefits given. Although some institutions quote lower rates than- are given by the Australian Mutual Provident Society, they do not give the same proportionate returns. It would be invidious for me, in my position in Parliament, to compare one society with another. I wish, however, to emphasize the fact fhat catastrophies and disasters may occur with the best’ managed societies. Even in the case of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, with all its careful management, and its fifty years of existence, there has always been the possibility of a sudden drop in the values of securities, and of the consequent inability of the Society to meet its engagements. It has met them handsomely up to the present, and to-day has an immense reserve which, in all human probability, will prove sufficient to meet all possible demands that may be made upon it. There is, however, always the contingency that such a set of circumstances may arise that any privately -controlled institution will be unable to meet its engagements. No such risk could occur in connexion with a Government Department. Possibly a Government Life Assurance Department would not give the policy-holders the same profits upon their investments, but it would afford a greater degree of security. I fail to see why a properly managed Government Department, free from political influence and from the suggestion of control by members of the Government, and with experts at the head of it having a free hand, consistent always with responsibility as to the detailed management of the institution, should not be worked in an economical fashion, and at the same time give the best results to the people immediately concerned. In my view, an active influence in deterring people from engaging in life assurance at the present time is exerted owing to the fact that, if a man allows it to be imagined that he is prepared to insure his life, he is immediately surrounded by a dozen canvassers representing different societies. Each of these canvassers does his best to convince the intending assurer that all the other societies, except the one he represents, are rotten, and that his own is not only solvent, but is throwing money away ; that it is, in fact, a philanthropic institution, which ..is attempting to give something for nothing all the time. That is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs whenwe recollect the importance of life assurance. If the public are led to believe that these societies are unfinancial, by a multitude of counsellors in whom there is no wisdom, the result must be regarded as most unfortunate.
– That occurs to a large extent in connexion with fire insurance.
– Fire insurance as a form of piracy has been developed to a far greater degree than has life assurance.
– The fire insurance companies have established a ring.
– The honorable member is quite correct. They have, I believe, a complete understanding among themselves and, so far as New South Wales is concerned, I know that those who desire to insure have for some time past been called upon to pay very dearly for the privilege. It will be interesting to watch the way in which the New Zealand experiment in this direction works out. So far as our position in Australia is concerned, I am not prepared to put forward any scheme for the establishment of a State Life Assurance Department at the present time. The matter is one that will have to be considered on business lines, and we shall have to adopt very careful safeguards before it will be wise for the Commonwealth to embark upon any such undertaking.
– There are much more pressing matters to be dealt with.
– Perhaps there are, but the motion is now before us for consideration, and upon its merits I must express the utmost sympathy with it. At the same time, I do not think it is reasonable to expect that, with the other matters pressing on the attention of the Government and of Parliament, we should be prepared to take up the matter at the present moment. I feel that throughout Australia evidence is fast accumulating in favour of the Government taking charge of a number of enterprises, which can be, and which should be, more effectively worked by the Parliament on behalf of the community than by any set of private individuals. I should, however, prefer to take some time to think over this matter, in common with other large problems which must come up for consideration. In the meantime, I certainly feel that we could, during next session perhaps, bring forward some proposal which would at least provide for the assurance -of the lives of public servants by the Government. Our public servants are compelled under the Public Service Act to assure their lives, and we have by regulation named a number of approved societies in which public servants may effect their assurances. I think it would be much preferable, and that we should achieve much better results, so far as our public servants are concerned, if they were freed from the necessity of carrying on their backs a portion of the expenses incurred in canvassing carried on by the privately conducted societies. We have some 12,000 public servants at present, and, although the whole of them may not be required to assure their lives, because many are interested in various pension or superannuation allowances under State Acts, as the years go on we shall gradually arrive at a condition of affairs when every public servant will be required under the Public Service Act to assure his life. Therefore, it would be much better for the Government to establish a Department for assurance purposes, and simplv make a deduction from the salaries of its officers. By this means we should save all expense beyond that entailed by the simple bookkeeping involved. Of course, arrangements would have to be made for investing the money contributed to the assurance fund, but that could be arranged for in some form or other by a Government Department. As I have stated, I have no objection to the motion, but I cannot undertake, on behalf of the Government, to give effect to it for some little time to come.
– The debate being closed, I desire to say a few words in reply to some criticisms which have been levelled at the motion, and also to refer to the observations which have just fallen from the Prime Minister. Not for a moment did I expect that immediately upon the carrying of this motion the Government would regard it as incumbent upon them to bring in a Bill to carry it into effect. I recognise that time must be allowed for consideration in a matter of this kind, and that those who occupy positions of responsibility must be thoroughly assured of the reasonableness of a proposition before they can be expected to take any steps to carry it out. Therefore, I regard the statement of the Prime Minister as perfectly satisfactory. He has accorded the motion his general approval, and has promised that next session, if possible, a measure shall be introduced which will provide for the establishment of a Government Life Assurance Department to meet the requirements of the Public Service Act, and possibly something more. My proposition was. and is, that the assurance of the lives of the public servants of the Commonwealth should be made the nucleus of the scheme. I contended, when the Public Service Act was before us, that provision should be made in that measure for the establishment of a Department for the assurance of the lives of public servants. My present suggestion is that an institution should be established on lines somewhat similar to those adopted in New Zealand ; that a commencement should’ be made with the few thousands of Public Servants of the Commonwealth, whose lives require to be assured, and that the scheme should gradually be extended to embrace the general public along safe and sound businesslike lines, such as have been indicated by the Prime Minister. I do not propose that the Department should be conducted merely as a philanthropic institution, and therefore I am satisfied with the indication given that action will be taken by the Government at no very distant date. The honorable member for North Sydney adopted a critical attitude towards my proposal. He threw some doubt upon the statement that I had made, that the premiums demanded by the New Zealand Life Assurance Department were very much lower than those required by the mutual life assurance societies in Australia. Since my last speech I have made a comparison of the rates demanded by the five great Australian companies and those required by the New Zealand Department. I find that not only was my statement correct, but thatthe difference is very much greater than I had supposed. I have here a comparative statement of the annual premiums charged for an assurance of£100, according to the last published investigation reports. This table includes ‘ the rates paid by all the companies doing business in Australia, but I propose only to quote the rates charged by the large Australian societies. The Australian Mutual Provident Societv for an assurance of£100 charges an annual premium of£117s.5d. That is the highest rate charged by. any of the Australian societies. The Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society charges £117s. 4d.; the Mutual Life Association, £1 17 s. ; the National Mutual Life Association, £1 16s. 9d; and the Australian Widows’ Fund, £1 16s. 9d. The New Zealand Life Assurance Department charges £1 15s. 7d., or1s.10d. less than the rate demanded by the Australian Mutual Provident Society. That difference amounts, roughly, to 5 per cent. This statement was compiled from official sources, and I think that it affords the best proof of my statement as to the lowness of the premium rates of the State institution. The difference of 5 per cent, in the premiums may not mean much to an individual assurer, but it represents a very large amount in profits to such a society as the Australian Mutual Provident Society, whose annual premiums total something like£1,750,000. Since this motion was brought forward, the Argus has published an article in which reference is made to the wonderful growth of life assurance business in Australia during the last twenty-one years. The accumulated funds of the societies are set out, and the growth of their reserves is favorably commented upon. But the writer of the article does not view with favour the proposition which I have put forward. He seeks to prove that the companies now managed by private individuals have done their work so well that there is no occasion whatever for any interference on the part of this Parliament. Nevertheless, the following extraordinary statement is made in the article under notice. It was published in the Argus of the 27th June. This is the statement -
At first sight, the expenses incurred by most of the societies proportionately to their income appear to be heavy, but they are largely accounted for by the initial cost of new business. This cost is enhanced by the keen competition that exists, and it is desirable that a limit should be fixed.
We all know that the cost is enhanced by the keen competition that exists; but I hardly expected to have the Argus as an ally in my advocacy of this class of “ Socialism.” I did not anticipate that that journal would be prepared .to urge that a limit should be placed on the expenses that a company may incur in securing business. I am glad to receive the assistance of the Argus in this respect, for I am strongly of opinion that a limit to these expenses should be fixed. In this particular the best way to bring about that result would be to’ institute a Government Life Assurance Department, which would con-, duct its business under a much better system than that adopted by any of the life assurance companies now carrying on operations in Australia. The article proceeds to show that the New Zealand Life Assurance Department is not all that it is believed to be, and some of the remarks which it makes are scarcely fair. It sets out that -
The New Zealand Government Life Insurance Department is practically only a Department in name, for its ample funds form the only security its policy-holders require. Its expenses relatively to income are more than half as much again as those of the Australian Mutual Provident, and association with the Government is not, therefore, in that particular a benefit.
– The difference between 10 and 13 per cent.
– Quite so. The article continues -
There is, in fact, no warrant for the interference of Government in a business that has been brought to a high degree of perfection by private enterprise and skill.
The sting, as usual, is in the tail. The statement is true so far as it goes, but unfortunately it is not a full exposition of the facts. The truth is that, whilst the expenses of the New Zealand Department exceed those of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, they are yet very much lower than those incurred by any other office doing business in Australasia. ‘It should also be borne in mind that the annual income of the Australian Mutual Provident Society is about six times as great as the income “of the Department under review. Proportionately speaking, therefore, the New Zealand Department is really the most cheaply conducted of all the offices. The proof is readily forthcoming. It will thus be gathered that the interjection made by the honorable and. learned member for Corio, that proportionately the Australian Mutual Provident Society is conducted on more economical lines, is not correct. Coghlan gives a table showing the percentage of expenses to premium receipts of the companies which I have already mentioned, and from a perusal of that table, it will be found- that the percentages are as follow : - The Australian Mutual Provident Society, 13`4 ; New Zealand Life Assurance Department, 204; National Mutual Life Assurance Company, 247 ; Colonial Mutual Life Assurance -Company, 25”o j Mutual Life Assurance Company, 277 ; and the Australian Widows’ Fund Life Assurance Company, sc-‘o. Had the *Argus desired to place the full facts before the public, it should have pointed out first of all that the premium receipts of the Australian Mutual Provident Society are more than six times as great as are those of the New Zealand Life Assurance Department, and that, proportionately, its expenses are greater than those of the New Zealand Department. It should also have fairly pointed out that, compared with any other society whose business is of anything like the same volume, the New Zealand Life Assurance Department is conducted on very economical lines indeed.
– According to the last published returns in regard to purely life assurance business in New Zealand, the percentage was 10 per cent, in the case of the Australian Mutual Provident Society and 13*27 in the case of the Government Department’.
– That is quite correct, but those figures apply to New Zealand only. Those I have given relate to life assurance business in Australasia. I wish to show further that the Argus article conveys a misconception, inasmuch as it does not point out the efficacy of the New Zealand institution from our point of view. What we ask is that those who desire to assure their lives shall obtain greater security. It is not so much a question of bonuses as it is of security. One of the best means to judge of the popularity of the security offered by the various societies is to look at the number of policies which they issue, and to ascertain their general volume of business. There are ten companies conducting life assurance business in New Zealand, and out of 99,908 policies taken out in that Colony, 42,406 were issued by the New Zealand Department. In other words, almost one-half of this business was secured by the Government Department, 57,502 poli,cies being divided amongst the nine other institutions conducting operations there.
These figures show that the Government Department is not only regarded as a safe and sound institution, but that it is extremely popular, and is catering for a class of business for which a large number of life assurance offices in Australia have no regard. It is the institution of the poor man and of the middle classes. According to the latest return as to the policies issued by the several companies doing business in New Zealand, it would -appear that the average policy issued by the Austalian Mutual Provident Society in that Colony is ,£227, while the average policy issued by the New Zealand Department is £137, a difference of £90 on every policy.
– Hear, hear; consequently the working of the Government Department must be more costly.
– The most important point is that the poorer classes of the community are assuring their lives in the Government Department of New Zealand. Its volume of business is larger, the number of policies issued by it are in excess of those issued by any other company, and, consequently, as the Prime Minister interjects, the ratio of expense must be greater. But, notwithstanding that disability, it is second on the list of life assurance institutions in Australasia, so far as the cost of management is Concerned. Further than this, annuities representing a total of ,£45,668 have been issued by various institutions in New Zealand, and of that amount the annuities issued by the Government Department represent .£36,392, so that practically the whole business in annuities -in New Zealand is being done by this Department. These facts and figures are very interesting, and the impression they convey is so vastly different from that which one would form from a perusal of the Argus article, that they are worthy of presentation to the House, if only in order that the true position of the New Zealand Department may be clearly shown. Since I last addressed myself to this question I have been fortunate enough to have had sent to me a small pamphlet entitled, A Brief Survey of New Zealand’s State Life Insurance, specially prepared for distribution at the World’s Fair, St. Louis, by Commissioner J. H. Richardson, F.F.A., F.I.A.V. Mr. Richardson is the Commissioner for the New Zealand Life Assurance Department, and the ‘ facts and figures which he gives in regard to its business management and methods are exceedingly interesting. With respect to these, he says -
The Department is conducted almost exactly on the same principles as those generally adopted by private mutual life insurance offices. All the usual classes of policies are issued to those who can pass the customary medical examination, and the colony is vigorously canvassed by travelling agents, who obtain the vast bulk of the new business, now amounting to nearly three quarters of a million sterling per annum. The expenses and taxes are borne by the policy-holders, who share the whole of the profits, just now accruing at the rate of between ^60,000 and ^70,000 per annum.
Then, dealing with the investment of the funds, he points out that -
The investments of the Department are controlled by a Board, consisting of the Colonial Treasurer of the Colony, the Solicitor-General, the Surveyor-General, the Commissioner of Taxes, the Public Trustee, and the Government Insurance Commissioner, three of whom form a quorum. The investments are mainly .confined to New Zealand ‘Government securities, loans to local bodies (secured by special rate), loans to policyholders on the security of their policies (limited to 90 per cent, of the surrender value), and loans on mortgage of real estate (not exceeding threefifths of the valuation). No loan can be granted to a local body without the joint concurrence of the Board and the Governor. The Board must be unanimous before any loan on mortgage can be granted, and not more than ^10,000 can be lent on any one real estate security, nor more than that sum to any one person or company.
The distribution of cash bonuses from 1870 to the present time, according to this pamphlet, amounts to £1,001,285. These figures show that ‘ the Department is not only financially sound, but a magnificent profit-earning institution, ‘ and they warrant some attention at the hands of the Government, who now promise something more than a mere acknowledgment of their belief in this class of business being conducted by the State. The only other matter to which I desire to draw attention is that relating to the position of the public servants of New Zealand. At first members of the Public Service of New Zealand were not compelled to assure their lives with this Government Department. It was not until 1893 that an Act was passed compelling all persons who joined the service from that date to assure with it; but it is somewhat remarkable that, before this date, the bulk of the public servants of New Zealand had voluntarily taken advantage of the Government institution. From the figures supplied by Mr. Richardson, it appears that the premiums received from the civil servants of New
Zealand amount to , £40,300 per annum. This amount is made up of premiums paid by railway employe’s and officers connected with the Post and Telegraph Department, the Education Department, the Police Department, and other branches of the Public Service. Of this total, no less than £37,000 represents premiums in respect of policies voluntarily taken out by members of the Public Service, only , £3,300 being in respect of policies issued as the result of compulsion on the part of the Government. This is a very valuable fact. I do not quite agree with the interjection made by an honorable member, who said that this subject of State life assurance is not a very important one, and that there are very many matters of far greater significance to be dealt . with by the Government. Life assurance has entered sp largely into the political economy of the nation, and constitutes so large a proportion of the financial operations of every country, that it is becoming more and more apparent that the time is ripe for State action. Older countries, such as Germany and the United States of America, are already moving very rapidly in the direction which I desire the Commonwealth Government to take. They recognise that the wage conditions of the working classes are such that it is almost impossible for them to acquire a competency or to provide against old age, except by means of life assurance or of some such plan dovetailing with a system of old-age pensions. Notwithstanding that Australia is supposed to be the richest country in the world per head of the population, the wage conditions here are such that a man in full and constant employment and receiving the ruling rate of wage in almost any industry that might be named, finds it almost impossible to provide against old age if he rears a family and does his duty by it. In these circumstances many persons are beginning to recognise that the best thing for them to do is to endeavour fo secure an annuity, or to assure their lives for the benefit of their families. I believe it to be part of the dutv of the State, therefore, to see that this class of business is safeguarded- in every possible way. The man who makes a life assurance department his savings bank should have a guarantee that his savings will not be interfered with in any manner. Those who have read the article to which I have already referred will have learned that, notwithstanding careful management, many societies in other parts of the world have gone to the wall. We all know of the case of the Scottish Provident Society, whose dissolution brought disaster to the homes of thousands and thousands of persons in the United Kingdom. In later times there have been two or three other failures. Admitting that a great number of the Australian institutions are brilliantly managed, and that in all human probability - as was stated by the Prime Minister - there can be no failure in connexion with some of them, I still hold that what I have urged again and again should be kept in view. i do not look to these institutions for immense profits. I do not ask that their policyholders shall receive large bonuses as the result of their contributions, but I do say that what is paid into them should be absolutely safeguarded - that the investment which married men make on behalf of their wives and families should be irrevocably secured to them. Under all the circumstances, I think that I am more than justified in asking for State action on the lines I have indicated. Consequently I was more than delighted to hear what the Prime Minister stated to-day. I shall welcome the proposal which he intends to submit next session, inaugurating a system of State life assurance, with the public servants as its nucleus, and I shall be prepared to help him to extend that system along the lines which I have projected when the time is ripe for such an extension to take place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr.Mcwilliams (Franklin). -I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, any clauses relating to navigation proposed to be added to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill should be remitted to the Royal Commission appointed to take evidence in connexion with the proposed Navigation Bill for consideration and report.
In submitting this proposal I desire to say that I had no wish to move a special motion of this character. I found, however, that it was the only possible way in which I could get the question dealt with. When the particular clauses to which the motion has reference are being’ discussed in Committee, they can only be either negatived or affirmed. It would not then be possible to submit a proposal in favour of referring them to the Navigation Bill Commission, because Parliament conducts its proceedings somewhat on the lines -adopted by little girls when they are “playing ladies” - it pretends not to know a great deal of what is going on around it. Consequently, I am obliged to submit this motion in its present form. I wish specially to impress upon honorable members the necessity of doing what I think is a simple act of justice to one of the States of the Federation. I claim that, at least, we should afford those who think that the adoption of the clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill relating to oversea ships will detrimentally affect their interests, an opportunity of presenting their case to this House through the medium of the Navigation Bill Commission. The passage of those provisions, I am convinced, will very seriously hamper one of the most important industries of one of the States. In dealing with this motion, I am, unfortunately, precluded from trenching upon ground which is already covered by the Bill now before the House. On a former occasion the Prime Minister, in discussing this matter, said that if any honorable member could show that) that Bill would work injustice to any particular State he would be prepared to give the question his very serious consideration. I anticipate also that the Prime Minister, and those who support the Government, are quite open to conviction in this respect. I maintain that we should not pass legislation which -will seriously affect one of the States of the Union, without first affording that State an opportunity to present its case through the medium of the Royal Commission which has been appointed, so that the House may judge of its merits or demerits. In demanding that, I am merely asking for what is reasonable and just. The honorable member for Fremantle discussed one phase of this subject, which commanded the favorable consideration of the practical members of the House. The object of the navigation clauses in the Arbitration Bill is to do one of two things. It is intended to afford protection either to the shipping companies or to the seamen. I claim that in the form in which it has been drafted, it is not possible for the Bill to confer any material measure of protection upon the seamen. How will it be possible under any legislation which we may enact to enforce the payment of a certain rate of wages by oversea vessels trading on the Australian coast, when those vessels ‘ are not within the jurisdiction of Australian Courts? For example, a seaman in Ger many might sign articles under which he is to receive ^3 10s. per month for the round voyage to Australia. Consequently he would be paid off at the port from which he sailed. If we enact that the moment a vessel which wishes to engage in the Australian trade touches at Fremantle, she must pay the Australian rate of wages, the captain will assuredly say - “ Well, I am prepared to pay those wages whilst I am on the Australian coast.” But as soon as the vessel leaves that coast what will happen? The rate of wages will be reduced to such a level as will make the total equal the sum originally agreed to be paid during the round trip. Can any one imagine a German sailor applying to a German Court to disregard articles which were signed in Germany, and which were varied under an Australian law ? If the object of the legislation proposed is to raise the wages of foreign seamen whilst they are engaged upon the Australian coast, it will signally fail. If that be not the object of the Bill, what is it? As the honorable member for Fremantle pointed out, the measure will not render one iota of assistance to seamen .employed upon oversea vessels trading in Australian waters. It is not possible for us to affect the wages of foreign seamen.
– T - The honorable member has missed the whole point of my remarks. I repeat that if a crew signed articles in Germany, under which its members were to receive ,£3 10s. per month for the round trip to Australia, and if our laws provided that whilst the vessel upon which they served was in Australian waters, thev should receive £6 per month, the captain would probably say, “ Very well, I will pay it.” Everybody knows that seamen are not paid weekly or monthly. They usually receive just enough from the captain to enable them to enjoy a holiday on shore, and the balance of their wages is reserved until the end of the trip.
– Does not the honorable member think that their own organizations are quite capable of looking after them ?
– If the captain of an over-sea vessel, the crew of which have been engaged at £3 10s. per month, is required to pay them £fi per month while on the Australian coast, their wages will be reduced the moment his ship leaves Aus- tralian waters, to the extent necessary to provide the exact amount stipulated at the commencement of the round trip. Fancy the position of a German seaman, applying to a German Court to disregard his articles which were signed in Germany, simply, because a local law, passed in a certain part of the world, provided that he should be paid £6 10s. per month.
– That might occur for one trip, but it would not continue.
– It would recur so long as men signed articles, which declared that they should be paid a certain rate of wages for a whole voyage. If the object of the proposed legislation is to improve the condition of foreign seamen, it will utterly fail. But to me there is a very much more important point involved in these clauses which may materially restrict the trade of our own people. The main advantage which some of the States hoped to obtain from Federation was the free interchange of products. Up to the present time’ the little advantage which Tasmania has derived from Federal union, and the only advantage which she hopes to secure for a very considerable period, can be spelt in the words,- “ Inter-State free-trade.” That is all she hopes to gain for some time to come from the heavy additional expenditure which Federation is costing her.
– How is Federation costing Tasmania more than she was paying previously?
-Because that State is not receiving nearly as much from the Federal tariff as it did from its own tariff, and because every one of the transferred Departments, for which it pays, is now costing a great deal more to administer.
– If the people do not pay the money, it is still in their trousers’ pockets.
– No, it is not. Our local post and telegraph service gave us a distinct and clear profit of from £14,000 to £18,000 a year.
– That was because of Tattersalls sweeps.
– I am speaking of a time before we had those sweeps. That service is now being carried on by the Federal Government at much greater expense than it cost . when controlled by the State Government, so that we have to bear a dead loss of from £12,000 to £14,000 or £15,000 a year upon it.
– And the honorable member considers the new service burdensome?
– Yes. The new Federal expenditure amounts to a great deal ; but I do not wish to go into that matter now. The only advantage which we hope to get from Federation for a considerable time to come is Inter-State free-trade.
– Does the honorable member say that that is the only advantage?
– It is the only advantage which we have received up to the present time.
– I think that the honorable member’s view is limited.
– It may be; but I am dealing with facts. If the honorable member will take the opportunity to show us what other advantages Tasmania, or for that matter, some of the other States, obtain from Federation, his speech will be a very interesting one. If the Government wish to test the matter, let them at the next Federal elections take a referendum on the question.
– Most of the members of the Ministry opposed the adoption of the draft Bill.
– The Prime Minister was in exceptionally good company when opposing that Bill.
– Would the honorable member vote to smash up Federation now ?
– I would. During the past fortnight I have heard two or three speeches in this Chamber which have given me very great pleasure. I refer particularly to those delivered by the honorable member for Echuca and the honorable and learned member for Bendigo. . Though I do not see eye to eye with the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, in his proposal for the establishment of a Federal Department of Agriculture, it is a source of great gratification to me to know that leading members of this House recognise that we shall never have a Commonwealth worthy of the name of Australia unless we foster our great producing interests. We must be very careful that what has been one of the greatest curses of the United States does not grow up in Australia. There the general public, producers and consumers alike, are in danger of being ground, as between two millstones, between the trades unions, on the one hand, and the monopolists on the other. We do not wish to repeat in Australia the history of trusts which they have had in America. But nothing will give a trust such a grip on the public, or place it in a better position to do incalcu- lable’ injury to the community as a whole, than legislation tending to create monopolies.
– Then the honorable member should vote to put down the tobacco monopoly.
– I am prepared to do so under certain circumstances; but I ask those who wish to put down the tobacco monopoly not to pass legislation which would create an even larger monopoly, and a monopoly which would control Inter- State commerce. The Prime Minister has stated that it is not the intention of the Government to pass laws’ dealing with arbitration and navigation which will create inequality. We must indeed be careful not to pass laws relating to navigation which will have that effect. There is no equality in the conditions of the various States in respect to facilities of communication by sea. The position of New Zealand in regard to navigation laws was referred to in a recent debate, but there is no comparison between the position of that colony and the position of Tasmania.
– Tasmania does not enjoy such good legislation as New Zealand enjoys.
– Unfortunately, we have neither as much territory nor as large a population as New Zealand possesses ; but we have the legislation we desire. If the honorable member will set about reforming Victoria by giving its people the Tasmanian franchise, he will do very well. In Tasmania we have adult suffrage for the House of Representatives, which is as far as most of the States have gone up to date, and is the Federal franchise.
– Has Tasmania adult suffrage for both. Houses?
– I do not think any State has gone so far as that. Tasmania’s only communication with her outside markets is by sea, and we depend for our connexion with the mainland upon two shipping companies whose (managers are in perfect accord, so that there is no competition between them. It has been said that if it can be shown that there is no competition in circumstances like these, legislation will not be passed to create a monopoly. But, if the Navigation Bill is referred to a Royal Commission, I give my guarantee as a public man that it will be proved indisputably that there is no competition between the two shipping companies whose vessels ply between Tasmania and the mainland.
Furthermore, we are under the disadvantage of having no direct communication with South Australia, Western Australia, or Queensland.
– Because there is not sufficient traffic.
– There is not sufficient traffic for a regular service, but if we can obtain an intermittent service, whyshould this Parliament, or any other body, try to prevent us from doing so? Whyshould we be compelled to ship all our produce to Melbourne for transhipment there, at a cost of 50, 75, or 100 per cent, higher than the direct freight? During last season the steamers of the Federal Houlder Line called at Tasmania. The company which controls those vessels is under contract with the Government of New Zealand to carry out a service between that Colony and England, and an arrangement was made between Tasmanian shippers, the New Zealand Government, and the directors of the Company, that the vessels should come to Tasmania, and on their way from Hobart to South Africa, call at Fremantle. This arrangement was made, of course, for the advantage of Tasmanian shippers, but it is an equally advantageous arrangement for the people of Fremantle, and of Western Australia. We are now opening up a very considerable trade in jams, preserves, and apples, with Western Australia, whose population, being largely engaged in mining pursuits, consumes such products very largely. One of the chief advantages held out to the people of Tasmania, whenthe acceptance of the draft Constitution was advocated, was that Federation would give us such a market. It is, of course, to the advantage of the people of Western Australia, as well as to our advantage, that they should be able to get cheap fruits and preserves. The following comparison between the rates charged when- produce is shipped direct from Tasmania to Western Australia, and when it is sent via Melbourne has been obtained from one of the largest shippers in the State, whose name I can give to’ any honorable member who wishes to investigate the matter further. He informs me that the freight on general cargo from Hobart to Fremantle, if sent by the vessels of the Union Steamship Company to Melbourne, and there transhipped into the vessels of the Australian United Steam Navigation Company, Howard Smith, or other local companies, is 31s. a ton for forty cubic feet, and the rate on apples, 2s. 4d. a case. But when general cargo is sent direct from Hobart to Fremantle by the steamers of the Federal Houlder line, the charge is only from 17s. 6d. to£1 a ton, and the rate for apples1s. 3d. a case.
– I thought that the honorable member said that there was no competition.
– There is no competition between the local companies. Will any one say that 31s. a ton for general cargo from Hobart to Fremantle is not too high a rate?
– The Union Steamship Company of New Zealand is not an Australian company. All its vessels are registered in New Zealand.
– The Union Steamship Company of New Zealand bought out the old Tasmanian Steam Navigation’ Company, and paid the shareholders of the latter company, in shares, so that the shares of the existing company are held by other than New Zealand shareholders. If the English boats are prevented from carrying produce from Hobart to Fremantle, the shippers of apples will have to pay 2s. 4d. per case for the carriage of fruit which is not worth more than 4s. per case at the port of delivery. .
– The apples are worth a good deal more when they reach us.
– Of course they are, and high freights are accountable foi at least some of the high prices. It was only towards the close of this season that we were able to obtain freight to Western Australia, and therefore the people of that State have not reaped the full advantage of the new service. A contract for three years has been entered into between the Tasmanian Government, acting on behalf of the Tasmanian shippers, and the New Zealand Government for the new service, which has had the effect of reducing by one-half the freights between Hobart and Fremantle. I ask honorable members whether they are prepared to require that shippers of apples shall -not send their goods by oversea boats, but shall throw the whole of their trade into the hands of the Australian ship-owners? That would be tantamount to saying that every bushel of apples and every ton of potatoes that it was desired to ship to Queensland or Western Australia should first be sent to Melbourne and transhipped there. Such an arrangement would involve all the risk of damage attaching to the second handling, and that would affect the returns from perishable cargo to an even greater extent than the increased freight charged on the goods. ‘A co-operative company was recently formed in Southern Tasmania, and one of its objects is to secure a line of steamers to trade between Hobart, and Brisbane en- route to England and Europe. This is intended to afford Hobart fruit shippers an opportunity to open up the market in Queensland in the same way that they have done in Western Australia. Surely it is in the interests of the great majority of the people, that direct means of communication should be provided between the tropical and the temperate parts of the Commonwealth. It is almost impossible for the ordinary working man in Tasmania to taste a pineapple, because the price, of that fruit is prohibitive. Eighteenpence has to be paid for a’ pineapple such as would be sold in Queensland at the rate of 3d. to 6d. per dozen. By the time that the pineapples are shipped to Sydney; and there ‘ tran: shipped to Hobart, the shippers have to make so much allowance for loss by damage that . the prices become almost prohibitive. Tasmania produces that which the people of Queensland, require, and if there is anything in Federation, if it is desired to bring the people of Australia into closer communication, surely every opportunity should be afforded for the interchange of products between the two States. Such opportunities must operate. to the advantage of both producers and consumers. I would warn honorable members not to throw any obstacles in the way of a free interchange of products between the tropical and temperate parts of the Commonwealth. I am not asking honorable members to reject the proposals of the Government. I do not desire that one comma in’ the proposed new clauses should be altered. What I urge is that before passing such legislation, which would inflict serious injury upon Tasmania, an opportunity should be afforded to the people of that State to go before the Royal Commission, and stand.or fall upon the . evidence which they are able to produce. One of the first axioms of our judicial system is that no one shall be condemned unheard. Therefore, I am not asking for anything unreasonable. I urge that, instead of passing these provisions and afterwards making inquiries, we should first obtain all the information we can with reference to their . probable effects. I have no fault to find with the personnel of the Navigation Bill Commission, because I believe that any body of men selected from this Legislature would act fairly and . justly if they were asked to undertake the responsibility of such an inquiry. Ministers have very properly declined to deal with the Navigation Bill without first taking evidence as to its effect upon the trade of Australia, and I ask them not to restrict the scope of the inquiry by failing to remit to the Commission a matter which is of the most vital importance to the producing interests of Australia. I can solemnly assure honorable members that if they include in the Arbitration Bill any clauses which will have the effect of restricting shipping in the direction I have indicated they will inflict very serious injury upon one of the most deservng classes in the Commonwealth. I do not wish to drag my constituents before this Parliament upon every conceivable occasion, but I should be wanting in my duty if I permitted their requirements to be overlooked for the lack of representation. I have lived amongst them, and I know of the terrible battle they have had, and the hard work and hard living which they have undergone, . in order to establish their little hemes and obtain a bare living from the produce of the soil. They have had hard times this year, and both growersand shippers have lost very heavily indeed. The loss of the shippers this season has amounted to , £50,000.For every bushel of apples which we send to England, we ship two bushels to other parts of the Commonwealth. We have shipped nearly a million bushels of. apples to the Commonwealth alone during the present season. Apple-growing has now become a very large industry, in fact, it is almost the only industry that is pursued in the southern portion of Tasmania, from the upper reaches of the Derwent southward. I would therefore appeal to honorable members to pause before they pass legislation which would inflict a grave injustice upon those engaged in that industry. Tasmania has never asked for any special consideration from the Federal Parliament.
– She has never leceived any.
– She has never asked for any. When a suggestion was made by the late Government that certain assistance should be given to Tasmania in order to help her through the troubles caused by the operation of the financial clauses of the Constitution, the people of that State, with one voice, said that they did not wish Tasmania to be regarded as a pauper State. They were prepared to pay their share of any obligations that might be cast upon them, and they did not wish for any special consideration at the hands of the Federal Parliament. I hope that they never will do so, as long as I am a representative of the State. I would rather, a thousand times, see Tasmania out of the Federation altogether than that it should appear as a pauper State. We have asked for nothing in the past, and all we desire now is that legislation shall not be passed which would hamper one of the chief industries of Tasmania until an inquiry has been made by the Royal Commission. I think that the request is reasonable, and that the sense of justice of honorable members will induce them to accede thereto.
– The honorable member for Franklin has represented the dangers to which some of the people of his State will be exposed if the navigation clausesi proposed by the Government are incorporated in the ConciSiation and Arbitration Bill, and I think that the request now made is a most reasonable one. The Government by their action have practically closed to the Navigation Bill Commission one. of the most important branches of the inquiry which should be undertaken. The” discussion which has taken place upon the Arbitration Bill has been sufficient to show that further evidence is required with regard to the probable’ effects of. the proposed new clause’s.’ Some honorable members have discussed them from a State aspect, others from a Commonwealth aspect, and still others from an Imperial aspect. I cannot allow . the motion to pass without referring to the probable effects of the proposed provisions upon Port Jackson, which is the terminal port of most of the oversea liners. The Prime Minister should have realized that they would have a very serious influence upon the shipping trade of Sydney and upon those engaged in the various industries depending on that trade. Not only the P. and O. and Orient liners, and steamers belonging to other well established lines make Sydney their final port, but nearly all the tramp steamers resort to it for docking and repairs. It is only right, therefore, that an appeal should be made on behalf of the interests of New South Wales. I do not say that these provisions should not be embodied in the Navigation Bill, but I urge that, as the Government have already referred the measure to a Royal Commission, they would be guilty of discourtesy if they declined to accede to the request now made. I do not wish to refer to individual members of the Commission, but we all know that it comprises many men noted for their judicial temperament and wide experience in commercial life. It should, therefore, be able to furnish the House with valuable information on all the points that have been raised during the discussion of these clauses. The feeling of dissatisfaction with the Federation is not confined to any one State ; it has become Australian in character. Some of the States expected to receive from the union greater. benefits than they have derived, and it is absolutely certain that no advantage whatever has been secured by New South Wales. If. as the result of the passing of these clauses,- serious injury were done to the shipping interests of Port Jackson, I should not, in the circumstances, care to hold myself responsible for the results. It has been pointed out by the honorable member for Franklin that this question is of vital importance to the producers of Tasmania, and it may well.be said that it affects the producers of Australia generally. They are anxious to secure the best means of communication with the markets of the old world4 and if the means of communication which they already possess were restricted in any way, very serious consequences would follow. In the circumstances, it is surely reasonable to ask the Government to refrain from calling upon honorable members to pass these clauses until they have been dealt with by the Royal Commission. Let me now view this subject from an Imperial stand-point. Many persons are anxious to knit the Empire still more closely together, and I would ask honorable members what those persons will think of a proposal to penalize British shipping. Are we to penalize British vessels, and (o allow those of foreign countries engaging in our trade to be free from any restriction? Are foreign steamers to be allowed to enjoy a special advantage over British vessels in the Australian trade? If they are, then all that has been said of the desire for preferential trade, and of the wish of the people to draw the bonds of Empire more closely together, must go for naught. It is somewhat strange that Australia, one of the brightest gems in the British Crown, should be about the first to propose to .penalize the shipping interests of Great Britain. This question has an Australian as well as an Imperial aspect. I do not intend to anticipate the discussion that will take place on these clauses when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is once more under consideration, but I agree that the honorable member for Franklin has rightly availed himself of an opportunity to. put before the House the desirableness of referring a question of a most difficult and complex character to the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill. Whatever may be the attachment of honorable members to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, they should consider this question from a broad stand-point, and allow these clauses to stand over for further inquiry. I am not yet satisfied that they would be rightly embodied in a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Many arguments for and against the Government proposal have been advanced ; but no one has been able’ to advance sufficiently strong reasons in support of the Government proposals to satisfy me, as well as other honorable members, that they should not first be referred to the Commission. The Prime Minister is familiar with the qualifications of the members of the Commission, and should therefore have no hesitation in referring these clauses to their consideration. When an honorable member finds that the interests of the State which he represents are likely to be imperilled by any proposed legislation, he is perfectly justified in fearlessly stating his objections to it. We are constantly told that we should not deal with any question f from a parochial stand-point ; but I find that honorable members are without exception ever ready to watch the interests of, the States they represent. The suggestion that an honorable member who seeks to safeguard the interests of his own State is guilty of parochialism is merely the cry which those who disagree with him find it most convenient to adopt. To many, parochialism spells “ patriotism,” while in the minds of others it conveniently suggests the parish pump order of politics. In my opinion every honorable member has a right to watch over the interests of the State he represents. The honorable member for Franklin has pointed out what in his opinion are the objections to the Government proposals, and I have endeavoured to show that the insertion of these clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would endanger the shipping interests of New South Wales, and more particularly of Sydney. I do not wish to refer to the cost of Federation, but no one can deny that New South Wales has borne more than her full share of the Federal expenditure, and she will Be careful to see that no further invasion of her rights occurs. The inclusion of these clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would, in my opinion, be resented by the mother State.
– New South Wales has paid only her proper share of the cost of Federation.
– And she happens to have the money to meet that expenditure.
-; - What about the advantages she has secured ? What about the increase in her manufacturing industries ?
– I can only say that the unemployed of New South Wales are now more numerous than ever.
– According to the report of the Labour Commissioners, they are not.
– The figures to which the Prime Minister refers were faked.
– That is a mere assertion.
– I can only say that the district which I represent has never been in a worse condition industrially than, it is to-day. Its population consists chiefly of those who earn their livelihood in the iron trade and the shipping industry, and I feel that if I allowed this opportunity to pass without stating that in my opinion these clauses should first be considered by the Commission, I should not be faithful to my constituents, or to the interests of the people generally of New South Wales. I find that honorable members stand up for the interests of their respective States whenever it is necessary to do so. If a representative of Victoria neglects, this duty, the newspapers next morning remind him of his omission in such strong terms that he is not thereafter guilty of any failing in that respect. The materials in my possession satisfy me that these clauses would be a menace to the shipping interests of Port Jackson, and, therefore, I think that before we attempt to pass them into law, the matter should be fully inquired into By the Commission. I have no desire to deal with this question from a party stand-point; but I would point out that the Commission would be able to ascertain whether the competition between oversea vessels and the Australian shipping in the coasting trade was what it has been reported to be. It would be able to show whether the producing interests would be affected by these proposals, or whether our rela tions with the outside world would be prejudiced by them. It would further be able to deal with the question whether these clauses would penalize British ships, and thus confer an additional advantage on the subsidized steam-ships of foreign countries. The Prime Minister- may feel that he is bound to embody what he terms “these radical provisions” in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but I would seriously ask him whether we are not asked, in vulgar parlance, to “ bite off more than we can chew ?” Radical as I am, I still believe that it is time that Australia had an opportunity to improve; her political digestion. I have no desire to change the diet, but I think that the number of her political meals should be reduced. I honestly believe that serious difficulties might arise if, without further investigation, we inserted these clauses in the Arbitration Bill. If the Government yielded to our request, it would satisfy the press and public that it was anxious to allow the fullest opportunity for inquiry, and to ascertain whether there was any foundation in fact for the statements of those who oppose these provisions, The delay that would necessarily take place by remitting the matter to the Commission would not reflect any discredit on the Government. At the present time we are simply in the dark as to what would be the probable result of the passing of these clauses. The doubts of those who oppose the Government proposals might be removed if the matter were referred to the Commission. I would ask the Minister of External Affairs, who, as the representative of West Sydney, is closely associated with shipping interests, and with those who earn their livelihood at the waterside, whether he does not consider, on reflection, that he would be’ justified in joining with those who support this motion. If he had any evidence to show that the passing of these clauses would not be detrimental to the interests of Port Jackson, I should be glad to hear it ; but I am satisfied that he has not. I therefore ask him, as the representative of a district closely associated with shipping interests, to consider whether it would not be wise for him, notwithstanding that he is a member of a Ministry pledged to a certain policy, to join in the demand for the remission of this matter to the Royal Commission? I appeal to the Government not to penalize British shipping to the advantage of foreign shipping. I think that the honorable member for Franklin is amply justified in submitting this motion. I regard it as one -which is well timed, because it affords the Government an opportunity to present their views upon this question to the country. I trust that they will see the wisdom of referring the proposals to which the motion refers to the Navigation Commission for investigation and report.
– I intend to say very few words in reference to this motion. I do not propose - nor would you allow me, sir - to enter into the merits of the clauses which form the subject of the discussion. I think that this motion gives the Prime Minister an opportunity of assenting to the remission of these clauses to the Navigation Bill Commission, which, I think, should deal with the questions involved, if it is to deal with any question affecting navigation. I am aware that the proper place to press this matter is not in connexion with the motion under consideration, but in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill itself. Nevertheless, an opportunity is now presented to discuss the que - tion’ upon general lines. The Ministry are also afforded an opportunity - after the discussion which has taken place - to recognise the consensus of opinion in this Chamber, and to adopt what I think would be a sensible course.
– - There is a principle underlying these clauses.
– There is a principle underlying most clauses. I desire to point out that these provisions really constitute an excrescence on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The measure at present provides for the submission of maritime disputes to arbitration.
– I would ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I do not intend to discuss it. I merely wish to allude to certain facts in connexion with the measure as reasons why these clauses should be referred to the Navigation Bill Commission. It is proposed in the Bill to provide that seamen’s disputes shall be submitted to arbitration.
– Can we make that provision in the Navigation Bill ?
– It is proposed,’ in addition, to insert these clauses as a protection to seamen, and since provision for arbitration has been made for them in a Bill’ relating to arbitration, it would be as reasonable for shearers to say that the wool they . shear should . be protected from the competition of countries where there is no arbitration law in existence.
– -I rise to a point of order. I have no desire to raise the question whether the motion is in order or not, but I do say that the limits within which honorable members may discuss it without infringing upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill are so .narrow that any reference to the principle of arbitration is distinctly out of order. It appears to me that the honorable member is not in order in picturing what might be done under the Conciliation, and Arbitration Bill in the case of the Shearers’ Union. That is a matter which can properly be discussed when that Billis under consideration. The motion before the Chair simply proposes to . refer the provisions contained in part Va. to the Navigation Bill Commission. I am unable to see how. that argument can he advanced’ without trenching upon ground which is properly delimited to the other debate. I certainly . contend that the honorable merrie ber is out of order.
– I submit that the honorable member for North Sydney is entirely in order j and for this reason : Iunderstand) him to be referring to the competition of persons who axe engaged in carrying wool with others who. are not fettered in any way by legislation of this character. I should like to know whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill does not deal with this and cognate matters-? Clearly,’ if it does - and we all know that it doss, .because that has been the very point which has been discussed in connexion with the whole of these clauses - , then any motion which deals with these specific provisions must be entirely relevant to the Bill.
– We are not discussing the Bill.
– I am aware of that$ but we are debating certain suggested action with regard to some of the clauses in that Bill. If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, with his acute mind, can separate the two matters, I confess that I cannot. I claim that the honorable member for North Sydney is entirely in order in making incidental reference to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, more particularly as his reference relates to the clauses in question.
– I desire to say :a few words in reply to the arguments of the Minister of External Affairs. The anotipn under consideration reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, any clauses relating to navigation . proposed to be added to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill should be remitted to the Royal Commission appointed to take evidence in connexion with the proposed Navigation Bill, for consideration and report.
According to the arguments of the Minister of External Affairs, no mention must be made of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill - no reason assigned why these clauses should be removed from that measure, and remitted to the consideration of the Navigation Bill Commission. I contend that it is quite impossible tb debate this motion in the form in which it appears upon the business-paper without alluding to that measure.
Mr.Hughes. - That merely proves that the present motion is outof order.
– That is quite another matter. The motion appears iupon the business-paper, and it is quite impossible to discuss it without referring ito the reasons why the provisions to which the motion relates do not properly find a place in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– If reasons can be given -and certainly they can be - why these clauses should be remitted to the Navigation Bill Commission instead of being retained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, to which it is proposed to confine them, surely the honorable member for North Sydney is in order in referring, by way of illustration, to an analogous case. The honorable member merely wished “to show that under similar circumstances, clauses ‘ applying to some other industry should be omitted from the Bill, and dealt with in some other way. It seems to me that once we are allowed to discuss the omission of the clauses, any analogous case can be admitted by way of illustration..
– Shortly before the honorable- member called attention to the point of order, I had directed the honorable member for North Sydney not to pursue the course which he was following, and I agree with him that in pursuing a similar course a few moments later the honorable member was not in order. He was also not in order for the reasons adduced by the honorable member for Parramatta, because the matters with which he was dealing were matters connected with the Arbitration Bill, which has been referred to a
Committee of the whole House, and may be discussed only during the consideration of that Bill in Committee. Those matters cannot be discussed on the motion before us, as such a discussion would be an anticipation of the discussion in Committee. The only matters which can be discussed on this motion are matters which could not be discussed in Committee on the Bill, or on any proposed amendment of the Bill; that is to say,, whether any clauses relating to navigation should or should not be referred to the Royal Commission for consideration. That question could not, by any possibility which I am able to conceive, be resolved in Committee, and mav, therefore, be discussed now, since its discussion would not anticipate any action elsewhere. It is the only matter which may be discussed now.
– I submit that it would be in order in Committee to say that these clauses ought not to have been’ included in the Arbitration Bill, that they ought to have been, and are properly part of a Navigation Bill. It would not be in order, during the discussion of the Arbitration Bill, to move that they be referred to the Commission on the Navigation Bill, but it would, be in order to say that they should not be taken out of the me’asure. Therefore, any other reference to that matter seems to be one which may not be made here.
– On that point I must rule against the Minister, although, of course, honorable members cannot now discuss any specific clauses which may or may not be before the Committee on the Bill. The motion does not refer to specific clauses. To refer to clauses the insertion of which may have been moved by any honorable member, or which may be before the Committee, would be quite irregular.
– It seems to me that we are in this position in connexion with the motion, that, as every reason which it is possible to put forward for referring the matter to the Navigation Commission could be given in Committee on the Arbitration Bill, all we can do now is to say in so many words that the matter should be referred to the Navigation Commission. I. was only stating that these clauses would be entirely out of place in an arbitration measure, and that if they were in place it would be quite proper, to insert in such a measure provisions to protect all those who were affected by the Bill, from the lower wages- which might exist in other services, that is, lower wages in comparison with those fixed by the Arbitration Court for
Australia. I was not going to elaborate that argument, and now that the matter open for debate has been narrowed down to such’ an extremely small limit, I can only say, as every other honorable member can only say, if he speaks on the subject, and thinks with me, that the motion should, in mv opinion, be agreed to.
– I need hardly say that I sympathize with the honorable member for Franklin in the motion which he has brought before the House; but I think that, under the circumstances, the best thing he can do is to withdraw it. An ample opportunity will be afforded in due course for the discussion of the subject dealt with in the motion, and I trust that when we have gone thoroughly into it honorable members will see that certain proposed clauses are likely to inflict serious injury upon Tasmania, and probably upon other States as well, and will, therefore, vote overwhelmingly against them.
.- I I do not propose to enter into a discussion of the general question involved. It seems to me that there is no justification for the motion. It was a question with the Government whether we should introduce a lop-sided system of arbitration, which would impose restrictions upon our own shipowners exclusively, or whether we should subject all ship-owners trading on the Australian coast to the same conditions, as the Court might think fit. I cannot conceive how honorable members opposite can ‘favour the application of arbitration to local shipowners and not to foreign ship-owners.
– What does the honorable member mean by foreign shipowners ?
– Ship-owners whose vessels are not registered in Australia are, technically speaking, foreign ship-owners. Of course I do not regard the owners of British vessels as foreigners in the conventional sense, but they must be distinguished from local ship-owners. Some honorable members appear to wish to place upon our local ship-owners restrictions which they would not place upon other ship-owners. I cannot conceive how those who believe in arbitration can take that attitude. We can quite understand the position of the honorable member for Wilmot. He is one of the few honorable members who have been consistent in this matter throughout. He is against the proposed legislation altogether. But it seems to be assumed by the honorable member for Franklin that the adoption of the proposals of the Government will injure his constituents, and that the people of Tasmania will not be able to take advantage of the facilities which they now enjoy in the export of their apples to Fremantle. He gave us a great deal of very interesting information as to the freights now paid for the carriage of apples from Hobart to Fremantle; but he failed to show how the existing arrangements would be interfered with by the proposed legislation. I represent a producing district, and would therefore be the last person to propose to interfere with the facilities for sending produce from the country districts to a market. Every one recognises that it is essential, if Australia is to be settled by producers, that reasonable facilities shall be provided for the conveyance of produce to market. But is it in the interests of the producers that another maritime strike should occur, and that every vessel on the Australian coast should be laid up, so that they cannot send their produce to market? I did not hear any one say in 1890 that the strike which was then in existence was of advantage to the producers, dr that the apple growers of Tasmania were put in a better position by having no steamers in which to send away their produce.
– We do not wish that to happen.
– Of course we do not; but the right honorable member is not prepared to take steps to prevent it from happening. That is the charge I bring against him.
– As the House will doubtless shortly go into Committee to further consider the Arbitration Bill, which has been introduced for, amongst other things, the prevention of maritime strikes, is the honorable gentleman in order -in discussing the Question now?
– I ask the Prime Minister not to discuss the Arbitration Bill. I have no doubt that he purposes not to discuss it. I might say, to remove misapprehension on the subject, that by no possibility which I can conceive could any motion be moved in Committee on any Bill to refer any portion of the measure to a Royal Commission, Select Committee, or any other body, and therefore the motion before the House in no sense trenches upon the power of the Committee in respect to the Arbitration Bill. It proposes to do something which no Committee could have power to do. From that point of view, but from that point of view only, is it open to discussion. No discussion will be in order now which could be taken in Committee upon a Bill, or upon any clause of a Bill.
– To the ordinary mind it is extremely difficult to distinguish where the motion is in order. It presented itself to me in the first instance as being absolutely out of order. It would not have been in order under the rules of debate to which I was subject in the Parliament of New South Wales.
– I would remind the honorable gentleman of a fact which he has perhaps overlooked, that when a certain Bill, to which reference is made in the motion, was referred by this House to a Committee of the whole, there were in it no clauses relating to navigation. If such clauses had been in it, I could not allow a discussion in regard to them. But as no such clauses were in it, there is no reason I know of under the Standing Orders to prevent their discussion at this stage. The honorable members for Franklin and Dalley both discussed the motion without my having to call their attention to any transgression of the rules of the House, and if the Prime Minister will keep along such lines as they followed, he will be quite in order.
– I did not desire to discuss the propriety of your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I merely wished to intimate that I am not as closely acquainted with the Standing Orders of this House as I was with those of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, though in no case would I presume to place my opinion on a question of order before yours. What I wished to emphasize was the difficulty of discussing that aspect of the motion which is in order without trenching upon those aspects of it which are not in order. ‘ That is a difficulty which was discovered by the honorable member for North Sydney. I thought I was justified in saying that there was some degree of urgency in this matter. The Government would not, under ordinary circumstances, object to the proposed legislation being inquired into by a Commission such as that which has just been created for the consideration of the Navigation Bill, but honorable members who have looked into the matter without prejudice “know that such a course would mean a considerable amount of delay.
– The course which the Government are following with regard to the Bill also means delay.
– I do not think it necessarily means delay. It certainly does not mean the same amount of delay. The honorable member knows that whatever is contained in the Navigation Bill after it has been passed by this Parliament will be subject to reservation for the King’s assent, and will receive detailed and comprehensive attention at the hands of the Imperial Government. I do not complain of that, but I mention it as a matter of fact. It will certainly take a much longer time for the Imperial Government to advise the giving of assent to a Navigation Bill than it will take them to advise the giving of assent in regard to the shipping clauses which it is proposed to insert in the Arbitration Bill.
– My point is that the insertion of those clauses in the Arbitration Bill may delay its passing, and that the Government were not shut up to the course which they are now following. They could have passed the Bill without those clauses.
– I know that. But we had to contemplate the possibility of an alteration of existing considerations in maritime callings at perhaps an early date. We have had communications on that subject for some time past.
– An alteration in what direction?
– In the direction of a reduction of wages. Tentative attempts were made in that direction only a short time ago, but although an agreement has been patched up for the time being, we are informed that there is still a desire among employers to reduce wages. A reduction’ of ros. a month was agreed to by the seamen, but’, as they received only j£-j a month, it was a large proportionate reduction. There, may be, therefore, within a very short time, need for some such legislation as we are proposing. The danger is that the seamen on Australian vessels may be asked to submit to a reduction of wages because even lower rates of wages are being paid to the seamen on other vessels engaged in the Australian trade.
– We have had no evidence of that.
– We know that the seamen on British and foreign vessels receive lower rates of pay than are given to the seamen on Australian, vessels.
– But there is no competition.
– It is said by those who are interested that there is competition. If there is no competition, there is no danger in giving the Arbitration Court power to consider the whole question before making an award. If we do not pass these provisions, we, shall not thereby prevent the Court from taking the matter into consideration, to the detriment of employes, because it will naturally look at the amount of competition, and . have regard to the rates of wages paid by shipping companies which are competing ‘with the local shipping companies. The Court will thus have the power to bring all down to the. same level, but it will: not have the power to raise all up to the same level.
– The Court will look at the books of the local, companies, and see the - profits which they are making.
– I hope so. I do not wish to create or foster any monopoly of the shipping trade in Australian waters. That would be the last thing I should attempt to justify. But, in my view, it would be most unfair to pass the Bill without the clauses which the Government propose to insert. An inquiry such as that suggested by the honorable member’ for Franklin would inevitably mean a long delay. The Navigation Bill Commission must sit for some months before it can come to any decision in regard to the great variety of subjects referred to it, irrespective of this particular matter - matters of great moment and interest to the community as a. whole. It must sit for several months, and after its sittings- have been concluded, a reasonable time must be allowed to enable the Ministry to consider its recommendations. Therefore, fully six or seven months must elapse before the Bill can be introduced. If the introduction takes place within that time, we shall have done very well.
– There is not the faintest chance of that being done.
– One of the honorable members . of the Commission states that there is not the faintest chance of the Bill being introduced within six or seven months, and I am inclined to take the same view.
– How many meetings have the Commission held?
– We have had one sitting.
– The Commission very soon arrived at the conclusion indicated by the honorable member.
– Yes ; we. did.
– In view of the fact that the Bill embraces 430 clauses, all of them important, and some of them-
– Most of them are’ machinery clauses.
– Still, such clauses will require a great deal of consideration in many cases,, and the members of the Ministry, who, with the Attorney-General, have charge of the work of altering the Bill, according to the recommendations of the Commission; or apart from such recommendations, will have plenty of work for some time after the recommendations are received. Therefore, we cannot expect the Bill to be dealt with within a short period. Is it to be expected that a Bill affecting the important interests indicated, and consisting of something under 500 clauses, will be passed through two Houses of Parliament’ within a short space of time ? Such a measure is not likely to appear for the last time, so far as Parliament is concerned, for at least twelve months from the present. If we pass the measure within, that period, we shall have worked very expeditiously. Then the Imperial authorities will necessarily subject the Bill to 1 long and searching . survey. Therefore,if we folloAved the suggestion of the honorable member for Franklin, undue delay. would occur in bringing the shipping in: dustry under control. I feel that the course taken by the Government is a right one. We had to consider the claims of the people engaged in the shipping industry,whether as owners or- as employes, and also, in myview, the claims of those Avho have to use ships,whether as passengers or as consignors, thatwe should, if possible, take steps to prevent such a dispute arising in the shipping industry aswould detri-‘ mentally affect the Commomvealth as a whole. These claims could be properly recognised only by, at the earliest possible moment, seeking to add to the Bill in the direction indicated. The Government have proposed something Avhich, in their A’ieAv, will make the Bill harmonious and effective at the earliest possible date, and the responsibility of rejecting such provision’s must liewith’ honorable members.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).In reply to the observations of the Prime Minister, I ‘ desire to say that Avhatever urgency there may be for- the passing of the Arbitration Bill, in so far as it may affect seamen, such urgency does not, I submit, relieve us of the obligation to see that justice is done in connexion with all our legislation. I cannot conceive of any urgency being sufficiently great to override that supreme test to which all our legislation must be submitted.
– If the honorable member can prove injustice, of course he is correct.
– -I do not propose to prove injustice. All that I need do is to prove that we have been deluged with conflicting statements with regard to the Government proposals, which, above all things, require investigation at the hands of an impartial tribunal. We are told, on the one hand, that the ship-owners wish to reduce the wages of their seamen, because they cannot compete with the oversea companies.
– There is no evidence of that.
– I was just about to say that no evidence whatever has been submitted in support of that assertion. On the other side, however, abundance of proof has been given that the oversea steamers do nol seriously compete with the Inter-State vessels, and that the statements of the InterState ship-owners are very wide of the mark. It has been incontestably proved by official figures, published by the Australian shipping companies themselves, that they are not by any means in the impecunious position that they have sought to represent, when they have been discussing questions of wages with the officials of the Seamen’s Union. On the contrary, their own published statements show that most of the companies are doing exceedingly well, and that they could well afford to increase the wages under present conditions.
– Why did they recently reduce the wages of the seamen by 10s. per month ?
– Why do capitalists generally obtain their labour as cheaply as they can?
– In order to increase their profits.
– Exactly. No evidence has been furnished to show that that reduction of wages was justifiable. But, on the other hand, ‘the facts presented to us show conclusively that the ship-owners could well afford to revert to the old rates of pay, or even to increase them. Therefore, I submit that unless it can be shown that the “ship-owners are in a fearsome condition, owing to the competition of the oversea cqmpanies,. we’ ought not to be told that this matter is of such urgency as to prevent the possibility of any further investigation with regard to the contradictory statements made. Abundant evidence has been produced to show that the great ocean mail steamers are not making much profit. We have this upon the authority of the Government themselves, because they say that one of the large mail companies wants a very much larger subsidy, on the ground that it cannot afford to keep its boats running under present conditions.
– The mail companies want all they can get.
– Of course they do; but why do the Government believe one set of ship-owners, whilst they are not prepared to credit the story told by another section ?
– No member of the Government has contested the statement that the mail companies are not making money. All we say is that they are competing with the Australian ship-owners.
– It is alleged that the Australian trade of the P. and O. Company is very far from payable. Therefore, most of the competition with the Inters State steamers, which is stated to be unfair, is carried on at very great loss. The fear which is entertained by those honorable members who are directly interested in keeping open the great highways used by the vessels which carry the produce of Australia to the home markets, that the action contemplated by the Prime Minister may have a disastrous effect upon the interests of the producers, appears to be quite justifiable, and there is every warrant for the request that the conflicting statements which have been placed before us should be the subject of a searching investigation. On the one side fears are expressed that the wages of the local seamen will be reduced unless the legislation proposed by the Government is regarded as of paramount importance. But there is no evidence to ‘ justify that apprehension. On the other side, there is a well - grounded ‘ fear that the clauses which it is proposed to embody in the Arbitration Bill will have a very disastrous and far-reaching effect upon Australian producers as a whole. I represent a constituency which is very largely interested in fruit-growing and in farming, and I think that I am abundantly warranted in supporting the motion, which merely asks for further inquiry before any legislation is passed. We are entitled to know what possibility there is of bringing up the wages of the seamen to the point of a fair living wage - which all honorable members desire - without inflicting injury upon our producing interests. I hope, therefore, that the Prime Minister will consent to the remission of the proposed new clauses to the Commission for further investigation. I cannot conceive that such a proceeding would in any way invalidate or destroy the effect of the Arbitration Bill as a whole.
– I hope sincerely that the Government will not accept the motion. I am quite confident that it will be many months before the Navigation Bill Commission, however indefatigable and however careful it may be in economizing time, can present its report. Such a large number of witnesses will have to be called, and such a large amount of information will have to be assimilated, that the members of’ the Commission are almost appalled at the magnitude of the task before them. If the motion were carried it would involve unwarrantable delay, which would be fraught with great danger. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that the reduction recently made in the wages of the seamen was unjustifiable. Does not this tend to show that even when the affairs of the ship-owners are prosperous the seamen are not safeguarded against a reduction of wages ?
– The Bill proposes to safeguard them.
– But not completely. What guarantee have we that if something of the kind is not done similar steps will not be taken by the seamen? There may be no danger, but there is a feeling of unrest on the part of the seamen and officers engaged in the Australian coasting trade. In their interests and in the interests of the consumers, for whom my honorable friend is appealing-
– He. is appealing for the producers.
– Producers on the one hand are consumers on the other, and even from their point of view I hold that the passing of these clauses should not be postponed. To refer them to the Royal Commission for inquiry would be to shirk responsibility. The whole question has been debated again and again. The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill really owes its birth to the unfortunate Maritime strike, which was attended with such disastrous results. It is now proposed, after we have discussed the Government proposals for some time, to shelve them bv referring them to a Royal Commission in order that they may be reported upon at some distant date.
– It would mean a delay of twelve months.
– It would mean a still greater delay. If there be a danger of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill being reserved for the Royal Assent, the Navigation Bill will certainly be reserved for a still longer period.
– It is somewhat surprising to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who is a member of the Royal Commission, objecting to the extension of the scope of its inquiry.
– Does not the honorable member think that the scope of inquiry is already wide enough?
– I admit that it is evident that the Commission will be called upon to make a most exhaustive and exacting inquiry. Those who are approaching it recognise its importance, and strongly desire that it should be in every respect complete. I. and other members of the Commission, strongly resent the action of the Government in removing these clauses from the scope of its inquiry.
– When have other members of the Commission objected?
– Members of the Commission have individually objected to the action of the Government.
– Not in this House.
– I think the honorable member will find that those members of the Commission who share my views, have entered their protest againt the action of the Government. The representatives of commercial interests have intimated their objection by petition, as well as by letters to the Government. It is said that, to refer these clauses to the consideration of the Commission would be to bring about a delay of twelve months. I agree that the inquiry, if it is to be exhaustive, must ex. tend over a very long period.
– And after the inquiry has been completed other stages will have to be passed.
– It is highly desirable that a thorough inquiry should take place, even if the Commission be occupied for twelve months in dealing with the matter. Having regard to the magnitude of the issues involved, such a delay would be comparatively trifling. I would point out that, in attempting to embody these clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Go- vernment and those who support them are jeopardizing the speedy passing of the measure into law. If those clauses were inserted, the Bill would probably be reserved for the Royal Assent.
– Would not the Navigation Bill also require to be reserved ?
– It might be held by the Crown that these provisions should not form part of an Arbitration Bill.
– We are prepared to risk that contingency.
– -If the Prime Minister and those who support him are sincere in their desire to see these provisions passed into law without undue delay, it is ridiculous for them to propose to embody them in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The Prime Minister states that he cann.it understand the attitude taken up by those who oppose his proposal. I would reply that I cannot understand the persistency with which many honorable members opposite urge that these clauses should be embodied in the Industrial and Arbitration Bill.
– Their action is due to the threats of the ship-owners. That is what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said.
– - No; it is because of the danger of the situation.
– I shall not attempt to analyze the pressure behind the movement to embody these clauses in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but I feel satisfied that it will result in placing in a false position those who protest that they wish the Bill to become law with” the least possible delay. I rose only to express my regret that a member of the Royal Commission should not consider that the whole question of navigation should be submitted to its consideration.
– The honorable member has not shown how the scope of the inquiry would be narrowed down by the Government proposal.
– That it would be narrowed down, if the Government proposals were accepted, is so self-evident that any explanation I might make on the subject would not be of any assistance to the honorable member.
– If these provisions were embodied in the Bill, in what way would the Commission be deterred from inquiring into -matters relating to them? They would be within the scope of the inquiry.
– If the Parliament decided that they should be embodied in the Bill the Commission could not legitimately deal with them. I only wish it to be understood that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has not expressed the: opinions held by a number of the members of the Royal Commission.
– The motion: that we are now discussing precisely indicates the position assumed in the last Parliament by all the representatives of Western Australia, and the attitude which I took up when before the electors. I am therefore compelled to support the proposition. I have listened with attention to the arguments brought forward in opposition to the motion, and it appears to me that, in spite of the evidence which has been adduced, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is under the impression that seamen on Australian coasting vessels are confronted with serious competition on the part of seamen engaged on oversea vessels. He is evidently afraid that if a case relating to Australian seamen were brought before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court a decision would be given against them, because of the competition of those , engaged on oversea steamers.. Let us examine the situation. We recognise, of course, that the persons who would complain of the competition of these oversea vessels would be the owners of the Inter-State steamers, and they would urge the existence of this competition as a reason for a proposed reduction of wages. They would be called upon, however, to show where that competition existed, and of what it consisted. Up to the present moment no attempt has been made to show that there is any competition of the kind. All the evidence is in the opposite direction. Speaking from the common-sense point of view of a layman - and that view is adopted even by Courts of Justice - it seems to me that the Court would first of all inquire of the owners, “Are you justified in demanding a reduction of these men’s wages in so far as the relations between you arid them are concerned”? The ship-owners, in my opinion, would be asked whether the profits they made did not allow of their paying the existing rates of wages, and, if evidence were called, there would be no hesitation whatever on the part of any Court ruled by common-sense principles in giving a decision in favour of the men. It has been proved again and again, and in various ways, in this House, that the profits in connexion with the InterState shipping of Australia are such as I believe to be unequalled in any other part of the world. No attempt has been made to controvert the evidence brought forward in support of that contention. It has been shown that for the carriage of a ton of cargo from Sydney to Melbourne an InterState steamer receives more than double the amount paid to the owner of an oversea mail steamer in respect of the carriage of a ton of cargo from Sydney to Europe.
– They make good the loss by the passenger rates.
– Has the honorable member listened to the evidence in regard to passenger fares?
– Order ! The honorable member cannot refer to another debate.
– Does the honorable member think that the Government proposals would impair the good service which the State he represents at present ‘enjoys ?
– I am certainly of opinion that these clauses would, if carried, be injurious to the interests of every individual in the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member regard the present service as a good one?
– So far as Western Australia is concerned, the service is certainly capable of improvement, but, naturally, we do not wish to see it seriously impaired, as it undoubtedly will be if these clauses are adopted. In the interests of the poorer class of travellers between Western Australia and the eastern States, I have no desire to see a reversion to the old conditions which passengers upon intercolonial vessels were compelled to endure. I could recall some of my own experiences as a steerage passenger upon those steamers which would seriously interfere with the appetite of honorable members for dinner. I could give particulars as to the accommodation, the sanitation, and the food provided for steerage passengers in some instances, which would justify every honorable member in voting against the proposals of the Government.’ Until those conditions have been very materially improved, we have no right to impose restrictions upon the oversea vessels. Those vessels are immensely superior to the intercolonial steamers in every respect.
– The steerage accommodation is pretty bad.
– It is a perfect paradise compared with the accommodation provided upon many of the Inter-State vessels. I shall support the motion of the honorable member for Franklin, in the interests of the seamen themselves, and because it embodies my own attitude upon this question from the very inception of the trouble that we are now discussing.
– The arguments of the last speaker afford ample evidence that this Bill should be passed at the earliest possible moment. The adoption of the motion under consideration will saddle the Navigation Bill Commission with such an additional amount of work that the presentation of its report must be delayed for ‘several months. I quite understand the statement of the honorable member for Perth that the steerage accommodation provided upon the Inter-State vessels is very defective. That is one reason why we should do everything in our power to enable the Navigation Bill Commission to complete its labours at as early a date as possible. As we are all . aware, it is much cheaper to travel by boat than by any other means. A man who was not “flush” of money, and who desired to reach Townsville, would scarcely think of travelling by rail to Gladstone, and. thence by steamer to his destination. If he did his trip would cost him nearly £20. The right . honorable member for Swan, and the honorable member for Perth, have convinced me that honorable members would be. very unwise to support the proposal of the Government for the survey of a route for the Transcontinental Railway.
– The honorable member must be very hard up . when he argues that as an excuse.
– That is how the matter appeals to me. If we construct, a line of. railway to Western Australia, no improvement will be effected in our present means of communication.
An Honorable Member. - Surely, that is not so. -
– No doubt such an undertaking would be welcomed by those who enjoy free passes, or who are possessed of ample means.
– According to the same argument a railway is not required between Melbourne and Sydney.
– That is an entirely different matter, because at the termini of that line some 500,000 inhabitants are settled. I regard this motion as an insult to another branch of the Legislature. I claim that the Senate is an integral part of this Parliament, and that no motion of this character should be submitted unless it contains a request that the other Chamber should concur in it. It appears to me that in introducing this proposal, the sole desire’ of the honorable member’ for Franklin was that he should be able to tell us the price of apples and the wages paid in the district from which he comes.
– The wages paid there are very low.
– Yes ; I understand that they are the lowest in Australia.
– That is one of the beautiful results of a protective Tariff.
– I have no’ desire to be drawn’ into a discussion upon the fiscal question. I merely wish to point Out that, if this motion is to have any effect, it should be transmitted to the Senate with a request that that Chamber should concur in it. Otherwise, the Government have no right to refer these clauses to the Navigation Bill Commission.
– The same- argument will hold good in regard to every Bill that is postponed.
– The motion merely affirms that certain clauses shall be referred to the Commission. We are not asked to postpone their consideration, but we are invited to’ refer them to the Commission to deal with them. I say that we have no right to adopt that course without the consent of the Senate. . In following the method that is proposed upon this occasion there is a danger that the Senate may get its “ back up.” It may ‘ take umbrage at our action in referring these provisions to a Royal Commission without consulting it. I am quite convinced that the right honorable member for Swan, as an old parliamentary hand, would not dream of adopting a similar procedure in the Parliament of fhe State which he represents. I repeat that this motion merely affirms the opinion of the House. If the Government do not choose to act upon that opinion, how will the clauses in question reach the Commission? They cannot reach that body without the consent of the Government. We have often seen motions of a private character which have been carried by Parliament ignored by the Government in power. When the right honorable member for Swan was a member of the
Government, the honorable member for Darwin moved a motion in favour of the creation of a Federal old-age pension system, to which was” attached an instruction to the Attorney-General to draft a Bill to carry it into effect. The Government, however, made a strong fight against the carrying of that instruction. They said that they were in favour of old-age pensions, but that they did not wish that portion of the motion which instructed them to bring in a Bill to be passed, though it is reasonable to suppose that, had no such instruction been attached to it, the Government would not have acted upon the motion, even had it been passed. The motion of the honorable member for Franklin will also have no effect. The clauses which the Government propose to insert in the Arbitration Bill may be considered and dealt with, whether the proposed reference to the Royal Commission is or is not made. As a matter of fact, that Commission has now ample authority, without any enlargement of their instructions by the Governor-General, to inquire into their effect. They can make the most thorough and searching investigation on the subject that they may desire to make, and, therefore, there is no need for the motion at all. I do not believe in passing a motion which does not instruct the Government to do what the House wishes.
– The honorable member had better add such an instruction.
– No. But I intend to move an amendment to provide for the forwarding of the motion to the Senate for concurrence.
– Would the honorable member have the clauses inserted in the Bill, and then ask the Royal Commission to take evidence upon them?
– The clauses will be accepted or rejected by the Committee whether the motion is or is not passed. But if the members of the Royal Commission wish to inquire into their effect, they have ample authority to do so. I regret the difference of opinion which seems to exist between two members of the Commission. When the honorable member for Kooyong makes one statement, and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports another, it looks as though matters would not gosmoothly during the sittings of the Commission. I hope that this difference of opinion will not lead to delay in the production of the Commission’s report.
– I do not think it will.
– Ido not intend to speak on the motion at any greater length, because I believe that an early division on the proposed clauses is desired. No doubt the right honorable member for Swan is anxious to show us that the proposed inquiry is necessary, and that not only should the clauses which have been referred to be left out of the Arbitration Bill, but that they should be shelved altogether. That, in my opinion, is what is at the bottom of this motion. No doubt he will probably tell us that it would be better to have rail communication with Western Australia.
– The honorable member is not now in order.
– I shall not pursue that line of remark, because I see that you, sir, are getting uneasy. I think that, as the powers of the Senate are almost coordinate with our own, that body should have an opportunity to consider this motion. I therefore move -
That the following words he added, “ That the resolution be forwarded to the Senate for their concurrence.”
– An addendum such as has been moved is somewhat unusual. My experience is that, after a House has passed a resolution in which it desires the concurrence of another Chamber, the usual procedure is to pass a second resolution to that effect. The motion now before us is a difficult one to discuss, because of the restrictions placed upon our remarks in regard to it by our Standing Orders. It has been argued that the course proposed to be taken may lead to dire results, inasmuch as it may cause delay in placing upon the Statute-book a measure which is intended to meet certain difficulties likely to arise in the future. There is no doubt that if the clauses referred to are inserted in the Arbitration Bill, delay will ensue, because the measure will be reserved for the Royal Assent. Delay will also occur in the passing of those provisions into law if they are referred to the Navigation Commission for consideration and report. But those who wish that the Arbitration Bill shall be passed as quickly as possible should oppose the insertion of unnecessary provisions, and of provisions whichare not urgent. It has not been sought to be shown that there is any necessity for placing in the Arbitration Bill the clauses which the honorable member for Franklin wishes to remit to the Royal Commission on the Navigation Bill, and those who are really desirous of pre venting strikes will not encumber that Bill with provisions which, however useful they may be in the future, have not been shown to be in the least degree either necessary or requisite at the present time.
– I realize that the issue involved in this motion is a very important one, though it will be more fully debated in Committee on the Arbitration Bill. It is, of course, out of order for me to refer to that measure; but the attitude of the Government seems to me extraordinary. It is extraordinary that the Government should, after requesting a number of gentlemen to undertake an important inquiry as to the extent to which shipping and other interests will be affected by the Navigation Bill, seek to embody in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill provisions which would very seriously restrict the scope of the . Commission.. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has assured us that many months must elapse before the Commission can p”resent its report.
– There is no doubt about it.
– I admit that the inquiry will be an important one, but I cannot understand why the honorable member should support the Government in the action they . have taken in practically taking out of the hands of the Commission the questions involved in their proposals in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– There is plenty for the Commission to do, without considering those matters.
– Honorable members are being called upon in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to deal with a certain phase of the matter which has been remitted to the Navigation Commission for inquiry. Suppose that the Commission were to have presented to it certain evidence, having an important bearing on the provisions to which the motion relates. Suppose, further, that it were shown that the provisions would operate very injuriously upon our producing interests. It would be fully twelve months before honorable members would have an opportunity for reconsideration.
– That is pure conjecture.
– I think I am justified in assuming that such circumstances might be brought about. . The Government themselves, admit that they have not sufficient information to enable them to deal with the question upon which we are to be asked to legislate.
– We do not say that in regard to the proposals made in connexion with the Arbitration Bill.
– I am referring to the legislation affecting navigation generally. Will it not be competent for the Commission to deal with the questions involved in the proposals brought forward by the Government in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?
– Not if they are dealt with previously bv legislation.
– If the Commission are not to be permitted to take any evidence upon these questions, the Prime Minister has misled not only . honorable members but the country. The Government delegated to the Commission the power to inquire into every phase of the question of legislating for the control of shipping.
– I said all along that it was not necessary to hold an inquiry into the matters with which the Government proposals deal.
– No stipulation was made that the Commission should not inquire into these particular matters. The Commission was vested with general powers, and now an attempt is being made to restrict the scope of its inquiry. The honorable member for Perth advanced very good reasons why the consideration of the Government proposals should be delayed. -The honorable member knows that some of the great steam-ship companies only want an excuse, to withdraw from the Western Australian trade altogether.
– We have only secured the services which they conduct after vears and years of effort.
– The honorable member for Franklin has shown that the interests of the producers of Tasmania arei seriously threatened by the Government proposals, and I think that it is very desirable that some- inquiry should be made before we proceed any further. It is imperative that in dealing with this question we should consider the producing interests of Australia, and we should therefore await the report of the Roval Commission.
– Whilst I am perfectly in accord with the general spirit of the motion, because it is in keeping with the sentiments I have already expressed in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I think the honorable member for Franklin would act wisely if he consented to the consideration of this question being postponed. I can clearly see that the passing of such a motion at this stage would anticipate the action which the right honorable member for East Sydney intends to take in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. That is why I favour the suggestion that its further consideration should be postponed. I should like to point out a very strong reason why the Government proposals in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill should be referred to a Royal Commission, namely, because the introduction of the proposed clauses into the measure will necessitate an alteration of the title.
-The honorable member is discussing a certain Bill and certain clauses which it is proposed to add to that Bill. I would remind the honorable member that there is no Bill under discussion at present, but that honorable members are considering whether certain proposals should be referred to the Navigation Commission.
– I was merely explaining my reasons for Supporting the . proposal to refer certain questions to the Navigation Bill Commission. However, in view of your ‘ ruling, I shall not proceed on those lines any further. At page 570 of the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth there appears a paragraph which seems to me to apply to this case. Although it is intended to apply to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth over Australian waters in the matter of fisheries, it seems to me that it also applies with equal force to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth over waters outside our territorial limits in all matters relating to oversea shipping. The paragraph refers to the reports of the debates at the Convention held in Sydney in 1897, page 1073,and reads as follows : -
In the absence of a definition, it was said complicated questions might arise in practice, as to how far from the Australian coast “ Australian waters “ might be deemed to extend, and whether at a given time a fishing boat was within those waters. More important still was. the innovating proposal to give the Federal Parliament power to legislate respecting fisheries beyond its territorial limits. Outside those limits the ocean was the highway of all nations, and no country could claim to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the high seas. It was not conceivable that any law affecting fisheries outside the territorial limit would be legally operative. It was not sufficient to say that the Imperial Parliament would give the Commonwealth power to legislate in respect of matters occurring beyond those limits. The Imperial Parliament could not effectively grant the Commonwealth a power which,, according to the law of nations, it did not possess. Suppose the Federal Parliament passed such a law, and the captain and crew of a foreign ship violated it, in contempt and defiance of the Commonwealth, would not the law in that case be made a laughingstock ?
If these remarks are applicable to laws relating to fisheries beyond the three-miles limit of territorial waters, they must also, in my opinion, be applicable to shipping of every description. No invidious distinction can be made between British and foreign shipping engaged in fishing, or in any other branch of trade or commerce beyond territorial waters. It seems to me, therefore, that if these arguments be based upon a sound foundation, they must have an important bearing upon the proposal to insert these clauses in the Navigation Bill, and form another very good reason why they should be remitted for investigation and report by the Royal Commission before any legislative action is taken in regard to them.. I have always held, and continue to strongly hold, the opinion that the Bill in which these clauses are embodied, which will have to be reserved .for the Royal Assent, will- be invalidated on account of these clauses, and that they will be declared to be ultra vires of the British Merchant Shipping Act. Here, again, I am glad to find that the Opinions I have already expressed have teen supported by the right honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, and other sound legal authorities. I do not .pretend to have any legal knowledge of the question ; but on -ordinary commonsense principles alone-
– Common-sense is very often bad law.
– That may be so in some cases, but we endeavour not infrequently to bring ordinary processes of reasoning and of logic to bear, without any legal assistance whatever, on questions submitted for our consideration. When these common-sense views are supported by sound legal authorities, who have made such questions their special study, there is seme reason to believe that they are worthy of consideration. I would strongly urge upon the Ministry that they are taking a very serious step in endeavouring to pass these clauses into law ‘before the power to enforce them has been thoroughly investigated. I understand that I would not be in order in referring to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and I shall therefore be compelled to allow another argument that I intended to submit for the considera tion of honorable members to stand over until a more fitting opportunity presents itself. I feel strongly tempted to move the adjournment of the debate - -
– The honorable member cannot do that. It is open to any honorable member who has not spoken to move the adjournment of the debate, but not after he has made a speech.
– While I am in perfect sympathy with the object which the honorable member for Franklin has in view, I would suggest to him that he should withdraw the motion. That would not necessarily mean that the clauses in question would not ultimately be submitted for the consideration of. the Royal Commission.
– So far, we have heard only one side of this question, . and no reference has been made by honorable members opposite to the way in which this motion would affect Australian seamen. All the information that could be gained by a Royal Commission, in regard to these clauses, is already before the Government, and it seems to me that those who support ‘this motion desire to delay, if not to wholly prevent the passing of certain legislation designed to benefit the Commonwealth. I have listened patiently to the debate, in expectation of hearing some argument advanced in support of the motion ; but as yet I have heard none. There has been much talk of the number of tons of apples exported by Tasmania, and the quantity of produce exported from other parts of the Commonwealth, and honorable members have been led tq believe that if these clauses were passed without first being referred to a Royal Commission the carriage of produce between Inter-State ports and from the Commonwealth to other parts of the world would cease. That is an absurd suggestion. As we are satisfied that no new evidence in regard to the effect of these clauses would be brought to light by the Commission, and that we may be faced with the danger of serious trouble between the seamen and the ship-owners, the less delay that takes place in passing the legislation necessary to deal with such a contingency the better it will be for the Commonwealth. Honorable members on this side of the House have quite as much consideration for the producers) and are just as anxious that every facility for the carriage of their produce shall be afforded, as are honorable members opposite.- I am quite sure that no such legislation as is proposed would have been introduced had it been thought that it would be injurious to any part of the Commonwealth. Do honorable members mean to say that the Court would not do that which it- is proposed to ask the Commission to do? Would not the Court inquire fully into any matter submitted to it ? These clauses would do no more than justice to the seamen, the ship-owners, the producers, and the public generally, and I think the honorable member for Franklin would be well advised if he withdrew the motion. When I remember the attitude which he has taken up in regard to various amendments moved in relation to a certain Bill, I cannot think that he is sincere in the belief that there is no other way of protecting our producers than by referring this question to a Royal Commission. The Government have given the matter serious consideration. Had they thought it proper to refer the whole question to a Commission, they would have done so. When the reasons for the Ministerial opposition to the motion are explained, it will be found that they are much sounder than are those on which the Opposition support it. I am totally opposed to the motion.
– It is simply a proposal to shelve our responsibility.
– Of course, it is. It would be a mere waste of time to refer this matter to the Commission. Honorable members have been familiar, not only for months, but for years past, with every phase pf this question. The manner in which proposed shipping legislation has been discussed in this House has satisfied me that honorable members are thoroughly conversant with every aspect of the question, and know full well the extent to which shipping interests and those of the producers and seamen would be affected by the passing of these clauses. The honorable member for Franklin has carefully refrained from saying anything about the position of the seamen, and his supporters have been equally guarded in that respect. If the question were put to him, he would doubtless say that he had every sympathy with the seamen.
– Hear, hear.
– The men want something more than mere sympathy.
– I have already pointed out that the Government proposals would not affect tramp steamers, or those of the German line, a snap of the finger.
– The honorable member’s interjection that he sympathizes with the seamen reminds me of the story of a man who was once in a comfortable position, but who came down to selling pies. Whilst engaged in that occupation he met a former friend, who said, “ What ! selling pies? You have my sympathy.” “Hang your sympathy,” replied the man, “buy a pie.” The seamen expect something more from the honorable member than mere sympathy. What they need is practical help.
– How would the passing of this motion affect the seamen ?
– If the motion were carried it would mean the exclusion of seamen from the benefits of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– Not local- seamen.
– Undoubtedly. Seamen would be excluded from the benefits of legislation now before the House. We are told by the right honorable member for East Sydney that there is some likelihood of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill being hung up if its provisions be extended to seamen.
– To seamen employed on ocean-going vessels.
– I can understand the position taken up by the right honorable member for Swan. He does not wish to see any legislation of the kind, and consequently welcomes any motion calculated to delay it.
– I do not wish to see the country injured.
– I am judging the attitude of the right honorable member by the opinions that I have heard him express. The only reason why he showed any sympathy with such legislation was because his colleagues in the late Government supported it.
– The time has now arrived when, under the sessional order, this business must stand over. Perhaps the honorable member will ask for leave to continue his speech?
– I do so, sir.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Public Service Classification.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and’ that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the House some matters connected with the Public Service classification scheme. ‘ I . think that the subject is worthy of consideration. I have no wish to bring forward any grievances on behalf of individual members of the service who believe themselves to be adversely affected by the scheme. Rather do I wish to deal with it in a broad and general sense by presenting a comparison of disparities which appear to me to exist between the salaries paid to officers in different States, and having relation more particularly to New South Wales and Victoria. The officers to whom I refer are engaged in similar occupations, and are performing similar work. I do not in any way desire to reflect upon the impartiality or the competency of the Public Service Commissioner. I recognise that in classifying the Public Service he undertook an extremely onerous - indeed, a most formidable - task. I recognise also that, with every desire to be perfectly fair and to mete out justice to all, there must necessarily, in a classification involving so very large a number of officers, creep in some anomalies that will subsequently require to be adjusted. It is with a view of calling attention to those matters, which seem to me to merit re-adjustment, or call for explanation, which probably will be easily forthcoming - matters which, at first sight, to the ordinary observer, savour of injustice - that I introduce the subject. I understood that the idea of the Commissioner, in dealing with the Public Service was, on the one hand, to avoid, as far as possible, dismissing employes, and, on the other hand, to avoid, as far as possible, reducing existing salaries. But, whilst recognising that those are very good guiding principles to follow, it seems to me that some other considerations which might have been held in view were not taken into account. It is from no feeling of unfriendliness towards the Commissioner, nor from any lack of appreciation of the tremendous nature of his task, and the extreme difficulty involved in fulfilling it satisfactorily to all classes, that I approach the question. With a view of enabling the House to see that disparities do exist, and in order that, if honorable members see fit* they may ask for an explanation, I shall submit a comparative statement. In passing, I may remark upon the significant fact, which ought not to be lost sight of, that, whereas in 1895, in the State of New South Wales, the members of the Public Service were subjected to a drastic scheme of retrenchment, in order to enable the Ministry of the day to show a saving of a quarter of a . million upon that year’s finances, on the other hand the Victorian officers had, just prior to the act of Federation, been the subject of special legislation, with a view to give them an increase in their salaries.
– So had the New South Wales officers, as the Commissioner points out in his report.
– I understand that that is not correct, at any rate so far as the Customs officers of New South Wales are concerned. It is with that Department that I intend more particularly to deal. The Customs officers at the present time are suffering from the same disability as they suffered from previously. That is to say, whilst the reduction in salaries to which I have referred was made to meet the exigencies of the situation then existing in New South Wales, no attempt was subsequently made to restore their salaries to the amounts which were paid prior to the reductions being made. In September of last year, the honorable and learned member for Illawarra called the attention of the -House to disparities then existing. Since that time those officers who consider that they are injuriously affected have been looking forward with hope to this scheme of classification, to relieve them from what they believe to be an injustice. Examining the comparative statement, which I have before me, it seems that there is real ground for believing that a change ought to be made, at any rate in regard to some officers. I do not wish to complain that the Victorian officers are being paid too highly. I suppose that it is only reasonable to assume that if they are receiving high rates of pay in comparison with those received by similar officers in New South Wales, the Victorian officers earn their salaries. But if what the Victorian officers “are receiving is a fair remuneration for the work they are performing, it is reasonable to argue that New South Wales officers who are performing exactly similar duties are entitled to the same rates of pay.
– They may have been a shorter time in the service.
– That may be one explanation.. Indeed, I believe that in many cases some of the Victorian officers have been a longer time in the service than the New South Wales officers. But it must be recollected that they are in exactly the same grade as are the New South Wales officers.
– Would it not necessarily follow that, the New South Wales officers having been ‘ a shorter time in the service, they are at the bottom of their grade ?
– That argument does not appear to me to hold good throughout, though I am free to admit that in some cases it is sound. I may say at once that I am not personally interested in this question. I am not voicing any individual grievance. I know very few of those who are connected with the service personally. I have not been approached in this matter. I have certainly had conversations with one or two friends of mine who happen to be in the service, and have asked for and obtained certain particulars from them, but so far as concerns the general body of those who are interested, they are absolute strangers to me, and I have had no communication with them of any kind. I will pass immediately to a statement of the difference that exists, and which seems to me to require explanation. I have here a comparative statement, showing the Customs and Excise revenue collected in New South Wales and in Victoria during the financial year 1902-3, and the amount estimated to be collected in the financial year 1903-4; together with the salaries paid to a number of “ officers performing similar duties in each State. In New South Wales the Customs and Excise collections for the financial year 1902-3 amounted to £3,478,742, and for the year 1903-4 the estimate was £3,125,000. In Victoria last year the amount of revenue collected was £2,499,014. There was an excess of revenue collected in New South Wales of .£979,728, or, roughly speaking, close upon a million over the amount collected in Victoria. According to the estimate for this year, Victoria was expected to yield £2,400,000, as against £3,125,000 in New South Wales; showing a surplus in the estimate of revenue for New South Wales of £825,000, or considerably over three-quarters of a million. These figures I obtained in June, but the actual revenue returns .for 1903-4 have since been published, which show the New South Wales revenue to be £789,057 in excess of that of Victoria. Seeing that the amount of revenue collected in New South Wales is so much larger than the amount collected in Victoria, one would naturally suppose that there must be a larger amount of work performed in New South Wales than in Victoria. Yet, I find that the cost of collection in Victoria is far in excess of the cost of collection in New South Wales, and in most instances the salaries paid to Victorian officers are on a much higher scale than those paid to New South Wales officers. There are, however, some exceptions.
– The Victorian officers complain that the grievance is in the opposite direction.
– I will give the House the figures, so that honorable members, may judge for themselves. The one noteable instance to the contrary is that of the salary paid to the Collector of Customs in New South Wales, as compared with the salary paid to the Collector of Customs in Victoria. I find that prior to the presentation of the classification scheme the salary of the Collector of Customs in New South Wales was £920 a year. Under that scheme it remains at the same figure. I do not complain of that. If, however, the work which requires to be done in this Department in Victoria is of a more arduous character than that which needs to ‘be performed in New South Wales, it seems very peculiar that the Victorian Collector ‘ of Customs should receive a very much lower salary than the New South Wales Collector, especially as the whole of the officers under the latter receive very much smaller salaries than do those who are under the former. That” is one point which requires explanation. I do not say that it is not capable of a reasonable explanation. I merely contend that the House is entitled to know the reason for this peculiar discrepancy. The salary which was paid to the Collector of Customs in Victoria prior to the classification scheme was £750. Under that scheme he will receive £800 - an increase of £50 a year.
– Does the honorable member think that this House is capable of entering into all these details, and satisfactorily adjusting them?
– I do not say that. I merely wish to show that these discrepancies exist, and I think that the Commissioner might be asked to supply the House with information relating to them. I have no doubt - seeing the immense amount of work which that officer has undertaken in the compilation of the classification scheme - that he will be able to offer a reasonable explanation of them, and one which will allay the large amount of irritation which undoubtedly exists in the Customs service in New South Wales at the present time.
– Was not Dr. Wollaston the Collector of Customs in Victoria prior to Federation ? The present occupant of that position was not the Collector at that time.
– I only know that the Collector of Customs in New South Wales and the Collector pf Customs in Victoria do not receive anything like the same salaries. The latter draws very much less than the former, whereas the general officers in the Customs Department in Victoria are in receipt of much larger salaries than are officers in the New South Wales Department.
– The honorable member quoted the salary which is paid to the present Collector of Customs in Victoria and that which was previously paid to him. I think that Dr. Wollaston received a much higher salary. The individual referred to by the honorable member was not the Collector when Federation was accomplished. Mr. JOHNSON.- That is a matter beyond my knowledge. I can only deal with the figures that are before me, with the salary that was paid just prior to the classification scheme - irrespective of the identity of the individual who occupied the office - and with the salary which is now paid. Then, in Victoria there is an inspector of accounts, whilst in New South Wales there is no such officer. This official receives a salary of £650 a year. There appears to be no similar post in New South Wales. When we add together the salaries of these two Victorian officers, we find that they receive . £1,450, as against £920 received by the. Collector of Customs in New South Wales; Presumably the Collector in that State has also to perform the work of inspector of accounts. That is another matter which requires explanation. In the instance to which I have referred, it will be seen that the salaries paid to Victorian officers exceed those paid to New South Wales officers by £530. I find, also, that in the correspondence branch in Victoria there is a chief clerk, whereas in New South Wales, where a larger amount of revenue has to be collected, and where presumably more work requires to be done, there is no such officer. In Victoria the Chief Clerk receives a salary of £750. He received the same salary prior to the classification. In this State there is also a clerk who receives £360 a year. Thus a total of £1,130 is divided between these two officers. As against that, there is no chief clerk in the correspondence branch in New South Wales, but there is a clerk who is paid £350 per annum. That officer has received no increase since the classification scheme was gazetted. I come now to the payment of inspectors in another branch of the Customs Department. I do not know whether there are any first-class inspectors in New South Wales. I am informed that, though they are classified as such, there is really no such grade. At any rate, an inspector in one class in New South Wales receives £700 per annum. Prior to the gazetting of the classification scheme a first-class inspector in Victoria received £560 per annum, but since then he receives £580 - an increase of £20 per annum. Another first-class inspector in this State draws £520, whereas previously he was paid only £460. These two Victorian officers, therefore, receive £1,100 annually - an excess of £165 over the aggregate salaries paid to similar officers in New South Wales. I understand that the general idea of the classification scheme is that where large salaries were previously paid to Victorian officers, as compared with officers performing similar work in New South Wales, the latter should be allowed to work up’ to the level of the salary received by the former. If that be so, it does not seem to be borne out by the results, because the average increases all through the Victorian grades are on a very much higher scale than are the average increases paid in- New South Wales. In the case of second-class inspectors,I find that under the classification’ scheme the same salary continues to be paid as formerly, namely, £485 and £450 respectively. These officers’ have to ‘ perform the same kind of work as is performed by the first class inspectors in Victoria, at least so I am informed, who receive £580 and £520 respectively, one’ of whom has received an increase of £20 per annum, and the other an increase of £60. That seems to me to ‘furnish another case which requires explanation. Why should second class officers in New South Wales, who are in receipt of a lower rate of. pay, be called upon to do exactly similar work to that performed by first class officers in Victoria, who were previously in receipt of a much higher salary, and who have been given a further increase under the classification scheme, whereas the New South Wales officers have been granted -no increase what- ever? My attention has been also directed to the case of one officer in this Department, with whom I am not personally acquainted. There seems to be a unanimity of opinion amongst’ those in the service that this officer, who, as a second class inspector, receives £485 in New South Wales, is one of the smartest, if not the smartest officer in the Customs service. I understand that he is a Victorian transferred officer.
– Does the honorable member know his name?
– I do not.
– Is he one of the three Victorian transferred officers?
– I understand so ; but I cannot say with certainty. I notice that the “ Excise inspector, first class,” prior to classification, received £300 per annum, and that he is now to receive an increase ‘ of £60, whereas the officer who. occupies a similar position in Victoria received £535, prior to classification, and that under that scheme he still retains that salary. Although the New South Wales- officer has received an increase of £60, under the classification scheme, his salary stands only at £360, as against £535 which. is paid to the Victorian officer holding a similar position. That is to say the latter receives £175 in excess Of the former, whose work is apparently very much heavier. It must also be remembered that the New South Wales officer . collects , £250,000 more revenue than does the Victorian official, besides having sole control of the collection of the sugar bounty* which represents about £40,000 per annum. I understand, further, that he has to discharge other duties connected with the sale of duty stamps, which the officer holding a corresponding position in Victoria is not called upon to perform. In that case the official who is receiving the smaller salary is apparently doing a much greater amount of work. I am prepared to recognise that, owing to the protective duties which operated in Victoria during the period when New. South Wales enjoved practically a free-trade tariff, there may have been very much more work to do in the Victorian Customs Department prior to Federation than there was in that Department in New South Wales. But since the imposition of uniform duties ‘there has been a very large increase in the work imposed upon officers in the New South Wales Department. That fact is apparent from a perusal of the comparative statement which I hold in my hand, and it is con firmed by the reports of those who are engaged in that service. ‘ They have been; obliged to work much longer hours, and In many cases they have not received anything whatever in the nature of overtime payments for their services. In the accounts branch, I find that the accountant in New South Wales at present receives £450, which was the amount of his salary prior to the compilation of the classification scheme. In Victoria, prior to the classification, a similar officer received £485, but his salarv has now been advanced by an increase of £15 to £500, .
– The Victorian officer has had five years’ more service than the New South Wales officer has had.
– That may be the explanation.
– The same explanation may apply, to a number of ‘these cases.
– It may. That is what I wish to get at.
– If the honorable member will refer to the classified list, he will see there the reason for these differences.
– I believe that, in a number of cases, the explanation given by the honorable member for Yarra does not apply.
– Why does not the honorable member; interview the Commissioner on the subject? He would explain everything.
– The disparities in regard to other officers in the accounts branch are not so great as to call for special notice. Taking the clerks in the warehouse branch, I . find that, prior ‘ to the classification, the salaries of the New South Wales officials ranged from £500 to £50, and of the Victorian officials from £485 to £235. The. Commissioner has given increases of £20, £5, and-£io respectively to three of the clerks in New South Wales, whereas four of the clerks in Victoria have received increases of £15, and three others increases of £25, so that the total cost of the Department in New South Wales is £1,645, while the cost of the Victorian Department is £2,890. Therefore, similar work costs £1,285 more in Victoria than it is done for in New South Wales. My view is that invidious distinctions should not be made between officers who are similarly engaged.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the boy who is getting £50 in New South Wales is doing the same work as the man who is receiving £260 in Victoria ?
– I am not prepared to assert absolutely that the two officials are doing similar work. The point is one upon which I am willing to be set right, though I am informed by the officers of the Department that the work is the same. I do not propose to refer in detail to the salaries paid to the officials in the long room, beyond stating that the total salaries paid in New South Wales since the classification amount to £1,680, as against £2,085 paid m Victoria. The same number of officers are engaged iri each State, and the work performed is similar ; but the- Victorian Department costs £405 more than the New South Wales Department. In the Statistical branch there are similar disparities. I do not know even the name of the gentleman who occupies the position of clerkincharge in New South Wales, though I understand that he was formerly a Victorian officer. Prior to the classification he re- ‘ceived £325, but his salary has since been increased by £35 to £360. He is, however, doing exactly the same work as a brother officer in Victoria, and I understand was singled out, on account of his exceptional ability, to visit the various States, and instruct the officers there upon the manner in which the statistical work of the Customs Department should be performed. The Victorian officer whom he thus instructed in his duties was receiving, prior to the classification, £360 per annum, and his salary has been advanced by £20 to £380 per annum. In the Jerquer’s branch, the clerk-in-charge in New South Wales receives £285, as against £380 paid to the Victorian officer; and an increase of £5 has been made to the New South Wales salary, as against an increase of £20 to the already much higher Victorian salary. The disparities in regard to boarding inspectors and examining officers, both in regard to the number and rates of . increases paid to Victorian officers as compared with those given to New South Wales officers are very great. In New South Wales, fortyseven officers do for £14,415 what fortynine officers in Victoria do for £19,255 ; the increases granted in the former State amounting to £34°, and in the latter State to £576. That seems to be a strange way of putting New South Wales officers on a level with Victorian officers. The Chief Clerk and Inspector of Accounts in Victoria receive £750 and £650 respectively. If those officers are necessary in Victoria, they would appear to be necessary in New
South Wales, because I understand similar work is done by the branches in the two States, but there are no such officers in New South Wales. In Victoria, thirteen examiners receive £5,120, while in New South Wales the same number are paid only £4,290. In Victoria the Excise Inspector is paid £535, ‘while in New South Wales a similar officer gets only £360. Moreover, in New South Wales the assistant inspectors, who, prior to the classification, were paid only £170 a year, now get £185 a year, while the Victorian fourth-class inspectors, who, prior to classification, were paid £210 each per annum, now get £235 per annum, an increase in the first case of £15, and in the second case of £20.
– Does the honorable member contend that the two classes of officers do the same work, and have the- same responsibilities ?
– I cannot speak from actual knowledge, but so far as I understand, the assistant inspectors in New South Wales have to discharge much more onerous duties than have the fourth class inspectors in Victoria. That is the’ reason why my attention has been called to the disparity in the salaries, There is only one first class inspector in New South Wales at £7 00 Per annum, whilst, in Victoria, there are two. This is strange, in view of the fact that the volume of work in New South Wales is much larger than in Victoria. The Victorian officers receive salaries of £580 and £520 respectively, or a total of £1,100, and perform less work than has to be undertaken by one official in NewSouth Wales at a cost of £400 per annum less ; at least, that is the position as I understand it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the one officer in New South Wales does more work than the two officers in Victoria?
– I am informed that the work of the officer in New South Wales is heavier than that of the two officers in Victoria. Even though the work were equal, there would still be a very large margin of difference in the remuneration. There are two second class inspectors in New South Wales, at salaries of £485 and £450 respectively, making a total of £935. These officers, I find, are not down for any increase, although they do work similar to that performed by two first class inspectors in Victoria, who receive salaries amounting to £1,100 per annum, and who are down for increases of £20 and £60 respectively.
– What is the source of the honorable member’s information?
– I have every reason to believe that it is reliable, but I do not wish to give names.
– I do not desire to hear any names, but I would point out that there may be unconscious bias on the part of the honorable member’s informant.
– I am perfectly free to admit that possibility, but my information comes from reliable officers connected with the service, and I think that it is my duty to direct the attention of honorable members to the facts, so that they may deal with them in whatever way they think fit.
– Does not the honorable member think it would be better to lay them before the Public Service Commissioner ?
– I have already had a conversation with the Commissioner on some of these points, but I have not been able to enter into all the details with him. It is in the interests of the Commissioner, as well as of the Public Service, that reasons should be forthcoming for the discrepancies which have given rise to so much dissatisfaction in all branches of the service. I do not wish to bring any personal grievances before the House until the right of appeal by public servants has been exercised. So many appeals are likely to be brought forward that fully two years will elapse before they can all be investigated, and I think that, in the meantime, honorable members are entitled to have some information with regard to the apparent anomalies in the classification. If such information were made public it might lead to the withdrawal of some of the appeals already sent in or induce some officers to abstain from appealing.
– Does the honorable member propose to ask the House to make an investigation ?
– No; but I think that the matters to which I have referred should be brought under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner, in order that he may explain disparities which to the ordinary observer may appear singular.
– Why not allow the Commissioner to finish his work?
– I do not see how I am interfering with the Commissioner. I have no desire to reflect upon him, or to even appear to do so. I am not in any way hindering him in his work, but, rather, I am providing material which may assist him in his investigations. He may, of his own volition, think it right to make inquiries, and to apply any remedy that may be necessary before the appeals are dealt with. I think that in furnishing these figures, I am supplying the Commissioner with information which will probably be of service to him.
– Does the honorable mem- ber assume that he knows more than the Commissioner about the salaries which should be paid?
– I am not assuming anything of the -kind, but I am directing attention to cases which have come under my notice, and which appear to me to require explanation. The Commissioner must admit that in carrying out such a large work as that involved in the classification some injustice may have been done, even with the utmost desire to act justly, a desire by which I believe him to have been actuated.
– That is why provision was made for appeals.
– Quite so. But there will be so many appeals that if they are taken in rotation many protests which have no justification will occupy a great amount of time to the exclusion of appeals, which will probably be sustained. It would be unreasonable to expect the Commissioner to know everything about every individual case. He must have had to rely to a very large extent upon the reports of his officers, and in connexion with such reports, we have to take into account the possibility of conscious or unconscious bias creeping in and swaying an officer’s judgment in making a recommendation. I think that the figures which I have quoted will enable the Commissioner to investigate certain cases, and, perhaps, apply the remedy without any further trouble. I do not propose to deal with the Excise Department in detail, because another honorable member will address himself more particularly to that branch of the service. It will be noted that the Victorian fourthclass excise inspectors are paid salaries higher than those provided for the third class inspectors in New South Wales. For example, the highest salary paid to a thirdclass inspector in New South Wales is £260, whilst the highest salary paid to a Victorian officer in the fourth class is £325. The same disparity exists in regard to the lowest salaries. The smallest salary paid to a third-class inspector in New South Wales is £140, whereas the lowest salary paid to a fourth-class inspector in Victoria… is £235. , There is” only one firstclass examining officer in New South Wales at a salary of £360, whereas in Victoria there are nine examining officers of the first class. ‘ The. .lowest salary paid ‘to such officers in Victoria is £20 higher than that paid to the first-class examining officer jil. .New South .Wales;, the Victorian -salaries’-: ranging . .from. £380 to £48.5. it1. .’ is r. .worthy ?. of .’consideration that although there is only . one first-class examining officer in New South Wales as against nine officers of similar grade in Victoria, the former State collects more excise duty than any other two States. Fully 75 per cent, of this duty is collected on the basis of the work done by the examining and excise officers, who are peculiarly exposed to temptation to enrich themselves at the public expense.
– There must be other officers in New South Wales, under different designations, who perform the same class of work that is undertaken by the firstclass examining officers in Victoria.
– If so, I have not been ;able to discover them. Officers who hold positions such as I have described, must be implicitly trusted, because if they were disposed to dishonesty they could seriously defraud the revenue.
– I hope that the honorable member is not using that as an argument. I expect every officer to be trustworthy, whatever his salary might be.
– I am using that as an argument in favour of the payment of higher salaries to the New South Wales officers. That is a consideration to which attention is paid in commercial life, and experience has shown that officers holding responsible positions in banks and mercantile houses at inadequate salaries have, in many cases, proved most expensive to their emplovers. Passing now to the Post Office department, the position of postmasters who are compelled to work overtime on Sundays, without receiving any additional pay, is also worth v of consideration. I do not know what is the position in Victoria, but I presume it is the same as that which prevails in New South Wales. There many postmasters cannot leave their offices on Sunday afternoons. They have to remain on duty for hours collecting and sorting mails for despatch by various carriers and do not receive one penny in the way of additional remuneration. On the ‘ other hand, -those employed in going from office to office to collect the mail-bags on Sundays are granted overtime. This savours somewhat of an invidious distinction between two classes of officers. If it be right to pay one class of officers overtime in respect of Sunday ‘work, it is surely reasonable that other officers should be treated in the same way. Many postmasters occupy Government premises, and a percentage reduction by way of rental is made from their salaries.
– - Only 10 per cent.
– We have to remember, however, that they are held responsible for the care of the building. They have to see that the properties they occupy are kept in proper repair, and to undertake responsibilities usually devolving on caretakers. Tenants of private properties are not expected to have regard to these matters. A landlord is generally supposed, to attend to repairs.
– They formerly had the full rental deducted from their salaries, but in consideration of the facts which the honorable member has just mentioned, it was determined that a reduction of 10 per cent, should be made from their salary by way of .rental.
– I was not aware of’ that, and I am glad to have the honorable member’s explanation, because it seems to place another aspect on this question.
– The whole question was debated when the ‘Bill was before the House.
– Although I have considered it advisable to bring these various points before the House, I recognise that in a scheme of classification of this magnitude, some injustices are unavoidable. I have been reminded that there are officers in the Customs Department who to-day receive salaries that were paid to them twenty years ago. That certainly seems singular. I mentioned the matter to the Commissioner, and he gave me the explanation that when these salaries were paid twenty years ago the officers receiving them had to perform duties that were actually more arduous than they are now called upon to discharge ; that whereas, these officers then had to do all the work relating to their branch of the service, they have now many assistants who relieve them of a large part of these duties. As against that aspect of the case, we must remember that these officers have now the responsibility of supervising the work, of the additional employes, and the increased responsibility attaching to the expansion of the volume of trade. If an officer be fully capable of satisfactorily performing his duties, and no complaint can be made against him, it seems on the face of it to be rather hard that he should still be receiving the salary that was paid him twenty years ago. Whilst I recognise, so far as I have been able to judge, the generally satisfactory condition of the work of the Public Service Commissioner, I think that even he will be prepared to admit . that in so extensive a work as the classification scheme some anomalies and injustices must occur, and that they are capable of re-adjustment without resort being had to the right of appeal. I also recognise that of the great mass of appeals that will be lodged probably 90 per cent, will be found to be groundless and will be disallowed. It may be that, as is very often the case in other walks of life, those who are really better off than ever they were before, or had any right to expect to be under the classification, will be loudest in their complaints. I have no sympathy whatever with such officers. When their cases come before the Appeal Board - if they are so rash as to push their appeals to that tribunal - they doubtless will, on examination, be relegated to the place to which they properly belong. In many cases it will probably be found on investigation that officers, even in the lower grades of the service in New South Wales, are receiving higher salaries than, their services are actually worth, while in others the appeals will, no doubt, be allowed. There are, on the other hand, however, many cases in New South Wales which deserve fuller investigation,- and more liberal treatment than they have yet received. I have ventilated these matters in the hope that the Commissioner will take them in hand; and also because of a desire to give the Chamber some information that I considered might be of interest.
– I have no intention to discuss the work of the Public Service Commissioner, but I cannot allow what I consider an unfair charge to be made against him without offering some reply.
– I make no charge against the Commissioner.
– The arguments used and the quotations made by the honorable member suggest that in his opinion the Commissioner is either incompetent or has been guilty of favoritism in his treatment of Commonwealth officers in Victoria.
– Not necessarily.
– No other conclusion could be formed from the arguments of the honorable member. In view of the fact that the Public Service Commissioner comes from New South Wales, and therefore ought to be immaculate, and, so far as that State is concerned, has acted on the advice of an inspector who comes from New South, Wales, and . therefoie should also be immaculate, it is unfair even to assume that the work of classification has not been carried out by him in an intelligent way. The honorable member has complained that there is a difference in the salaries paid in the Customs House, Melbourne, and the Customs House, Sydney, and has urged that this is an evidence that there is something wrong about the classification.
– I repeat that I have no desire to impute unfairness to the Commissioner.
– The honorable member has referred on more than one occasion to the revenue collected at these Customs Houses, and I am therefore led to assume that, in his opinion, the salaries of the - officers should be based on the takings of the respective Customs Houses in which they are employed. If that were not the honorable member’s view, what was his object in referring to the revenue of the two Customs Houses? Had he Interviewed the Public Service Commissioner he would have learned in the course of five minutes the reasons for the differences to which he has referred. The ‘ classification scheme has been in our hands for some time; and we have been able, to see for ourselves the salaries paid to various members . of the service. It does not follow that because there is a difference in ‘ the salaries paid to officers in one State, as compared with those received! by officers doing similar work in another part of the Commonwealth, the scheme is unfair. The honorable member for Lang must surely realize that the Customs House, Sydney, is so to speak, a comparatively young institution. Prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth, we had what was largely a free-trade policy in New South Wales, and only a limited number of officers was employed in the State Department of ‘ Customs. On the other hand
Victoria has had a protective Customs Tariff in operation for very many years, and consequently the officers of the Department in this State must have been longer in the service than have those in the Sydney branch. The honorable member must surely be ignorant of the fact that under the States laws public servants receive increments from time to time, according to their length of service, and that the rights of officers under those laws were not interfered with in any way when they were taken over by the Commonwealth. Officers, in the Customs House, Sydney, cannot have had the lengthy experience of many officers in the Customs Department in this State. Would the honorable member say that a number of men in the Sydney branch who are young in the service should receive the same salaries as are paid to Customs officers in Victoria, who have been many more years in the Department? He must surely recognise that the introduction of new officers in the Department is responsible for the differences in salary to which he has referred.
– Is that the reason for these anomalies?
– It- is the reason for the differences in salaries.
– Who has given it as the reason for the difference?
– I have better authority for the statement I make than has the honorable member for Lang, who has been acting on the assertion of certain officers who, because they do not receive as much as others under the classification scheme, consider that some mistake has been made. This, in my opinion; is not the proper place in which to deal with complaints by officers. The honorable member said that he had no desire to name any special case, but he put forward a group of officers in a way that made it easy to recognise who were the men referred to. In the Public Service Act we provided for the appointment of an independent Commissioner in order that political patronage might be abolished, and that the claims of individual officers should not be ventilated before Parliament, which necessarily has not an opportunity to ascertain the full facts of every case.
– Does the honorable member argue that we have no right to consider the classification scheme?
– The honorable member for Lang did not discuss the basis of the scheme ; he simply brought forward certain facts, showing that there is a difference in the payments to officers in two States, and he assumes that a mistake has been made, or that there is favoritism. He has claimed that he has done a service by calling attention to anomalies, just as if they had escaped the notice of the Commissioner. The Commissioner has gone into every one of these cases in -detail, and is perfectly well aware of the difference in the salaries paid to different officers. He could have given a reason for those differences if he had been asked. It is not fair to an officer who has had to discharge most onerous duties to take an ex parte statement by some one whose name we do not know, and to make out from it that favoritism has been shown. If the honorable member had asked the honorable member for Melbourne Ports for an explanation as to why higher salaries were paid in Victoria, possibly he would have been told that higher wages are generally paid in protectionist countries. I commend that view to the honorable member for Lang. Possibly on reflection he may come to the conclusion that the fact that New South Wales has been until lately a free-trade country accounts for the lower salaries paid there. The fact is, however, that officers who have had longer service naturally receive higher salaries. It has also to be remembered that recently a number of youths have been put into the Customs House in Sydney. Consequently, in the aggregate, the forty-nine officers in the Sydney Customs House receive lower salaries than the forty-seven officers in Melbourne. When a favorable opportunity presents itself it will be legitimate to discuss the general basis of the classification scheme. We shall then be able to consider whether it is a proper principle that a man who has been twenty years in the service shall have the same salary as a man doing the same work who has been in the service for a shorter period, or whether a fixed salary without increments should be attached to a certain office. It is a fair thing to discuss whether there should be some recognition of the time an officer, has served, and the experience he has gained. We undoubtedly have a right to review the work of the Commissioner. But to bring forward individual cases is possibly to present the whole matter in a very unfair light. If an individual officer can show that some mistake has been made in his case, and submits a statement to that effect, the Commissioner will deal with it. In every case there is an Appeal Court to which an officer can resort if he does not receive consideration from the Commissioner. So that, if unfairness can be shown in any case, the officer has a remedy. Officers have spoken to me about this subject, but I should never think of bringing their cases before the House without making an inquiry. I endeavour to find out the facts; and I must say that I generally discover that the Commissioner is right. It must be recollected that when we took charge of the Public Service the Commissioner found officers who had been transferred from six different States, and who had been working under six different laws. They had been treated in different ways, and had different privileges which the Commissioner had to recognise. Probably it is a fact that some officers received higher salaries than others who were doing similar work. Possibly some received too much, whilst others received too little. The Commissioner had to adjust his classification scheme to these cases as well as he could. I simply desire to enter a protest against the inference that will probably be drawn from the statement of the honorable member for Lang. It is a mistake to bring up the subject in this manner, and to cast a reflection on probably the most important officer we have in the service, one who is administering the affairs of the service under an Act which we endeavoured to make as effective as possible. From statements which have been made to me by many officers, there seems to have been an expectation that the scheme would result in an all-round increase in salaries. That was not a reasonable expectation. The object of the Commissioner was to do justice and to remedy existing anomalies. I believe that he has done as much as he could do in that, direction. Whether he has been completely successful can only be ascertained from an exhaustive and careful examination, based upon the principles of his scheme. We may differ as- to its basis. Some honorable members may think that a different method ought to have been adopted. But, in fairness to him, we should first ascertain whether he has carried out his own principles. I do not feel that I am in a position to say more about the general question. But I know something about the Public Service Commissioner and his experience. I have the utmost confidence in him as a man who will endeavour to see fair play and justice rendered. I am certain that he has shown no favouritism to any one State or group of officers, but that whatever has been done is easily explainable. Individual cases, which appear to merit reconsideration, may be found. That was to be expected in any case. But I for one refuse to believe that such things as the honorable member has inferred could have taken place under the gentleman who is now holding the position of Public Service Commissioner.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Darling, in his speech, has repeatedly stated that I charged the Public Service Commissioner with unfairness, and that I imputed favoritism to him. I distinctly stated at the commencement of my remarks that I had no such intention or desire. I wish to say emphatically that I made no charge, nor did I intend to insinuate any unfairness against the Commissioner, who is, I believe, a gentleman of the strictest probity. From the little I have seen of him, I believe him to be a gentleman who will command the universal respect of all classes of the community.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable member for Darling has tonight again been successful in fulfilling the role, which I understand he has assumed during the past few weeks - that of a kind of mentor to the whole House.
– That is quite a new character.
– I understand that during the progress of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill he has been acting the part of a political referee.
– He has been exercising his right to speak.
– Has he really ! I am .delighted to hear that ! May I say to the honorable member for Bass that I never suggested anything to the contrary ? I was merely remarking that the honorable member for Darling has exercised his undoubted right to put everything on a proper basis in connexion with matters under discussion. But in attempting to lecture another honorable member he appears to me to have carried his right to excess. The honorable member for Darling had not been exercising his right to speak for more than five minutes in protesting against what the honorable member for Lang had been saying on the ground that that honorable member did not know anything about the subject, when he told us that he also knew nothing about it. But notwithstanding that, he essayed to put the whole matter right, and to furnish the explanation for all the anomalies himself.
– Because I took the trouble to inquire.
– May I suggest that the honorable member for Lang has just as much right to put his view of the matter as the honorable member for Darling has? There is no room for recrimination on the subject.
– Who is lecturing now ?
– The honorable member has lectured the honorable member for Lang, and accused him of making a charge against the Commissioner. That can only be a figment of his own imagination. I listened carefully- to the honorable member for Lang, and I heard no such thing said. Rather I heard a series of impersonal statements such as I believe would be of the greatest possible service to the Commissioner in connexion with the appeals which must undoubtedly be made in reference to the classification scheme. In the New South Wales Parliament the honorable member for Darling was one of the foremost in criticising both the Public Service Commissioners and the Railways Commissioners. The honorable member’s late leader used to make what we called his annual Railway speech, occupying sometimes two or three hours in pure criticism of the Railways Commissioners. I may add that the railways in New South Wales are under an Act which is very much more stringent than the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I speak as one who has as high an admiration of the Commissioner as has the honorable member for Darling: I think he has produced a most able document, for which he is to be most warmly congratulated. But in this matter, affecting the whole continent, and faced with the task - important, almost ‘ impossible - of co-ordinating the whole service and unifying it as far as possible, the Commissioner had an almost insuperable work. There must be many mistakes, and consequently there must be many appeals. Surely, in connexion with the general appeal, which is to be made - one hears nothing but the word “ appeal “ in all the States - any one who can throw any light on any anomalies in the classification scheme is rendering the Commissioner a service, and is not necessarily making any charges of unfairness. All that requires to be done is to see that the discussion is carried on in a purely im personal manner ; and that condition, I submit, has been observed in the speech of the honorable member for Lang. Therefore he did not deserve the castigation. which this mentor of the House has seen- fit to administer to him. Knowing what I do of the Public Service Commissioner, I am sure that he will not regard the criticism which has been levelled against his classification scheme in the way that has been suggested. I speak as a friend of that officer. He was my Under Secretary for twelve months, and there is no more able and devoted public servant to be found in the whole of Australia. I do not think that a better man could have been selected to. undertake that very important task.
– The honorable member will not be his tormentor.
– If I had any cause to torment him I should not hesitate to do so. I am quite sure that the Public Service Commissioner will not regard the criticism which has been indulged in tonight in the way that has been suggested by the honorable member for Darling. He will read it, and no doubt he will extract from it all that is of value. The remainder he will cast aside. I listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Lang, and in pointing out anomalies, I take it that he was merely endeavouring to straighten out the’ tangle into which the Public Service of the Commonwealth had got under the different systems in vogue in the various States.
– The honorable member for Lang has dealt with this matter so fully that I propose to add only a very few words to what has already been said upon it. I brought this question before the last Parliament a couple , of years ago, and after the anomalies which then existed had been pointed out to the then Minister of Home Affairs, I understand that the officers of the Public Service anxiously looked forward to the time when those anomalies would be removed. I quite agree with the remarks which have been made by the honorable member for Parramatta regarding the Public Service Commissioner. I have had the pleasure of being personally acquainted with that officer for many years, and I hold him in the highest esteem. If I do not misjudge him, he will warmly welcome the debate which has taken place to-night, and the manner in which his classification scheme has been criticised by the honorable member for Lang. In my judg- ment, the honorable member for Darling was not in any way justified iri accusing the honorable member for Lang of levelling <a charge of nepotism against the Public Service Commissioner. At the same time, it does appear most extraordinary that, “under the classification scheme, there should be such a great disparity between the salaries which are paid to officers performing similar duties in Sydney and Melbourne. It is not a question of Sydney versus Melbourne in any shape or form. I contend that unless the officers engaged in our great Commonwealth Departments are satisfied that justice is being meted out to them, we shall never obtain an efficient Public Service. I have every confidence that the Public Service Commissioner will do his best to remedy existing anomalies. Whilst the honorable member for Lang was speaking the honorable member for Yarra interjected that an officer’s length of service was a factor in determining the salary which should be paid to him. I was under the impression that when the Commissioner undertook the stupendous task of classifying the officers of the Commonwealth service, the salaries to be paid to them were to depend more upon the duties and responsibilities of their offices than upon their length of service.
– The Public Service Commissioner informed me that that was the basis of his classification scheme.
– When this matter was before Parliament upon a former occasion, it was pointed out that, whereas the Government Analyst in Sydney, who had more than twenty years of service to his credit, received £265 a year, the officer occupying a similar position in Melbourne, and who had only just been appointed, was paid £300 a year. It is well known that the officersin the Excise Department of New South Wales collect as much revenue as is collected in any two of the other States. When we take into consideration the relative work performed by officers occupying corresponding positions in Sydney and Melbourne, it does seem very difficult indeed to understand the way in which their salaries have been determined. As this matter has been ventilated by the honorable member for Lang, the attention of the. Public Service Commissioner will be called to it. Personally, I regard the classification scheme submitted by that officer as one of the ablest documents ever produced in Australia. I also recognise that Mr. McLachlan is so thoroughly imbued with a desire to mete out justice, to every officer in our Public Service that if on further consideration he concludes that the apparent injustices which have been pointed out ‘need remedying, he will see that, officers occupying positions in Sydney, obtain their just reward.
– I think that the honorable member for Lang has gone through the classification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner chiefly with a view to ascertain how many officers employed in Victoria are in receipt of higher salaries than those which are paid to officers in New South Wales. Personally, I have not had time to examine the document very carefully. We all know, however, that the Public Service Commissioner is not. a Victorian. If we take the officers who have been appointed as heads of the various Commonwealth Departments,’ what do we find? An honorable member interjects that Victoria has not received one of. those appointments. Victoria has received more than one of them. But do we not know that the Secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, the Chief Clerk of that Department, the head of the Electoral Department, and the Secretary and Parliamentary Draftsman in the Attorney-General’s Department all hail from the. State of New South Wales? I should not have raised this question had the honorable member for Lang not been at such pains to point out that Victorian officers are receiving larger salaries than are being paid to officers occupying similar positions in New South Wales. To my mind it is nearly, impossible to ascertain what officers are performing similar work in the various States, because hitherto they have not been designated by the same titles. The honorable member for Lang pointed out that the officers in the Victorian Customs Department are in receipt of much larger salaries than are paid to officers filling corresponding positions in New South Wales. I find, however, that in the New South Wales Customs Department there are 309 officers employed, as against 260 in Victoria.
– That was on the date of the transfer of that Department, was it not?
– No; that is the number given in the classification scheme. I have not yet consulted the supplementary list, and I’ do not know whether the figures contained in that list . would alter these figures.
– Has the honorable member compared the aggregate salaries paid in the two States?
– I have not had time to do so.
– What would that prove, anyhow ?
– It would not prove very much. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra has said that in determining the salaries to be paid to the various officers in our Public Service, he understood, that ability alone was to count. I was under the impression that under the Public Service Act, where two officers were possessed of equal ability, length of service would be taken into consideration. The honorable member for Lang has stated that, by passing an Act immediately prior to the accomplishment of Federation, Victoria gave to her transferred officers larger salaries than they would.otherwise have received. I believe that the Public Service Commissioner has absolute^ ignored that Statute. Upon pages 25, 26, and 27 of his report, he deals with this very matter. He points out that Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and New South Wales all passed similar Acts. As he was .formerly a New South Wales officer, and had the whole of the details at his fingers’ ends, I have no doubt that his statement is correct. Upon page 27 of his report, he says -
A large number of New South Wales officers were also raised in status just prior to the transfer of his services.
– Quite a number of those officers had their salaries reduced a few years before.
– The same thing had happened in Victoria; there had been percentage reductions here.
– The Public Service Commissioner does not say so.
– I am a Victorian, and I happen to know that their salaries were reduced four or five years prior to the accomplishment of Federation. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports can bear out my statement. Section 19 of the Victorian Act, to which reference has been made many times, merely declares that transferred’ officers shall receive the same salaries that are paid to officers performing similar work in any other State. If that salary exceeded £156 a year, they were not to be granted even that consideration. The honorable member for Lang also took the trouble to deal with the salaries which are ‘ paid in the Postal Department. But I would point out that the lowest amount paid to any mail officer in New South Wales is £192 per annum, and that the salary ranges up to £294. In Victoria the salaries of mail officers run from £198 to £210. In New South Wales one of the mail officers receives £294, while no similar officer in Victoria receives more than £210. Then, in the former State, some of the mail drivers are paid as much as £150, while the highest payment made in the latter State for such service is £140 17s. I mention these cases by way of reply to the endeavour of the honorable member for Lang to show that Victorian officials have received better treatment from the Commissioner’ than has been received by officials in New South Wales. As hundreds of appeals are now being sent to the Commissioner, it would be better for honorable members to wait until they have been dealt with before criticising his work, and I should not have risen to speak to-night had it not been for what I considered the unfair comparisons of the honorable member for Lang. “Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby- Minister of Home Affairs). - The Government are not disposed to complain’ of honorable members exercising to the fullest their right to discuss the classification of the Commissioner, especially when the object is to ascertain if possible the principles which governed him in arriving at his conclusions. I shall take care that a copy of the official report of the debate is sent to him, so that he may be able to attach what weight he thinks proper to the statements which have been made. Of course, there are anomalies.
– There are bound to be anomalies.
– There must necessarily be anomalies in the classification of such an immense service as the transferred and new departments of the Commonwealth ; but the Commissioner is to be congratulated because there has not been more discontent. On the whole, his work has given pretty general satisfaction, and I think that both the House and the service may be thankful that we have, in the gentleman who holds the position of Commissioner, one who is excellently qualified for the performance of the duties attaching to that office-.
– I have no desire to prolong the debate, but, in view of the magnitude of the work, and the. large number of persons affected by the classification, the Minister might have stated distinctly what, in his opinion, is the proper method of bringing grievances under the notice of the Commissioner. If all grievances are to be ventilated in this House, members have a very big task before them. It appears to me that the better course would be to make our public servants understand that the Act provides a certain method for approaching the Commissioner, and that they must avail themselves of it before complaining to members of Parliament. We know, and I believe most of the officials are aware, that the representations made to the Commissioner will .receive full consideration at his hands. If we do not lay down some such rule, many nights will be wasted in the discussion of the classification scheme. I reserve to myself the right to fully criticise the Commissioner’s work ; but I do wish not to do so until he has had an opportunity to consider the representations which will be made to him from all parts of Australia. I do not indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta in reference to the speech of the honorable member for Darling. I understood the latter to take exception, not so much to what was said by the honorable member for Lang in regard to particular salaries, but to the fact that his speech revived the old State jealousy of New South Wales and Victoria. I hope that honorable members will discourage, as much as possible, comparisons between those two States. It should be remembered they are not the only States in the Union. It was rather amusing to hear the way in which the honorable member for Parramatta lectured the honorable member for Darling for a lecture which was not a circumstance to his. The only satisfaction I received from the speech of the former gentleman was that it showed that he is back to his old form. I hope the Government will make it clear that they expect the public servants of the Commonwealth to approach the Commissioner, not through Parliament, but in the manner provided for bv the Act.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I am sure that the Public Service Commissioner will not take exception to any remarks which have been made by honorable members in this debate. I have known him for a good many years, and can bear testimony to his fairness and ability. The Government could not have obtained a
better man for the position. Every officer who appeals to him will receive justice, and no one could ask for more than that. One satisfactory feature in connexion with the classification is that the Commissioner has adopted an altogether different principle from that which has been followed on similar occasions in New South Wales. In no case does he seem to have reduced the salary of an officer.
– A good many reductions have taken place through the discontinuance of allowances.
– The Commonwealth service is a very large one, and differs from a State service, where the conditions are more or less uniform, inasmuch as the conditions of various parts of Australia vary greatly. Hence the Commissioner must have had great difficulty in obtaining reliable information, though I am sure that he has endeavoured to do so. No doubt there are anomalies in the classification, and perhaps hardships are created by it ; but Parliament has wisely provided that, no matter what the position of an officer may be, he may appeal to the Commissioner. I understand that the Commissioner has invited the members of the service to exercise that right of appeal, and to make any representation which they may think desirable. I am sure that every consideration will be given to such appeals. I did not know, until informed by the Minister, that reductions had been made by the discontinuance of allowances. I know that in a number of cases the Commissioner has fixed the salary of a particular office at a lower rate than that which is being paid to the officer now performing the duties appertaining to it. But I understand that, as vacancies occur in higher grades, such officers will be promoted to them. Where reductions have been made by the discontinuance of allowances, the circumstances should be fully inquired into; but neither Parliament nor the Commissioner has any wish to deal harshly with any member of the service.
– In some cases allowances to the amount of £120 or £130 have been discontinued.
– Such cases should be considered very closely ; but I am sure that the Commissioner will be only too glad to do justice to the officers affected. It is impossible for him to travel through each State, and make personal inquiries into the conditions of the service there ; but he is assisted by a number of intelligent and capable inspectors, who give him a great deal of information. Of course, even with the knowledge thus obtained, he is liable to make mistakes, and may unwillingly act unjustly. We are all liable to do that, and often say in de bate things which we are afterwards sorry for, especially when they happen to be ‘ of a personal nature. I think it cannot be too publicly announced that in all cases public servants have the right of appeal, and that they should freely exercise it. If they adopt this course, I am perfectly sure that full consideration will be given to their claims. I do not know to what extent the allowances referred to have been deducted. I understand that some of the postmasters in New South Wales have been discharging duties in connexion with the State Departments, and that they have in the past received certain allowances. If the officers are still required to perform these duties, they should not be entirely deprived of all consideration “ in respect of them, and I hope that their cases will receive the attention of the Commissioner. I do not think it is desirable that we should deal with the details of the classification at the present stage. After the appeals have been made and dealt with, we shall be able to judge how far justice has been done, and shall be able to take the steps necessary to remedy any grievances that may exist.. Personally, however, I have every confidence in the Public Service Commissioner, and expect that he will act fairly in all cases.
– It must be satisfactory to the public, and especially to the public servants, to hear such testimony as has been given with regard to the ability and fairness of the Public Service Commissioner.
– I have had thirty years’ experience of him. -
– The public servants will gather that they may confidently rely upon a fair consideration of all their grievances. I was especially pleased to hear the remarks made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in this respect. I think it will be well for the public servants to exhaust all their rights of appeal before the details of the classification scheme are discussed in Parliament. The Public Service Commissioner has had a most difficult task to perform, yet no serious complaint has been preferred. Although the Government can claim no credit for his appointment, they are none the less pleased to know that they have such a capable officer in charge of so important a Department. It is also a matter of some satisfaction to the Ministry that notwithstanding all the fears that were expressed vith regard to their administration, neither to-day nor on the last grievance day, have honorable members had any charges to make against them.
– I have nothing whatever to say with regard to the action of the Public Service Commissioner. I desire. to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to one small matter which comes within his Department. Perhaps in the absence of that Minister, one of his colleagues will make a note of my remarks. As honorable members may know, a few years ago Tasmania was in comparatively embarrassed circumstances, and economy was the order of the day. At a small township, called Chudleigh, the post-office was placed in charge of a lady, who transacted the public business at her own residence. She still retains the position. She has been paid a salary similar to that allotted to other persons performing like work, and up to the present she has received no consideration by way of rent or allowance for the use of the premises in which the post-office business is conducted. I think that she has a fair claim to a small increase of salary, or some allowance in the shape of rental. I feel sure that the Postmaster-General will cause inquiries in be made, and that he will remove any cause for” grievance at the earliest opportunity-
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh)’.- I agree with other honorable members that this is not the time to enter into an exhaustive criticism of” the classification scheme. I was a member of the Royal Commission which inquired into the state of the Public Service in South Australia some time ago, and I find that many of the anomalies then pointed out are perpetuated to some degree under the classification scheme. No doubt the whole of these matters will be looked into in connexion with the appeals, and after they have been dealt with it will be time enough for us to indulge in any criticism that we may consider necessary. I should like to direct attention to one matter which is not provided for by the Public Service Commissioner in the classification scheme. The letter-sorters who travel on the railways are allowed only 2s. 8d. per day, as compared with 6s. which they for- merly received. The former’ allowance was not a penny too much. It is impossible for an officer lb be away from his home all day, and to pay for. three meals and a bed out of such an allowance; and it is hardly creditable to the Government that such a small amount’ should be granted to these men. I admit that, as a rule, the Commonwealth has treated its officers fairly, and I would urge that something should be done to improve the position of the officers to whom I have referred. I have received a great many complaints; but, as I have already stated, I think the proper time to deal with them will be. after the appeals have been heard.
– It has been very gratifying to me to listen to some of the speeches delivered by honorable members this evening. I thought that, in the eyes of some honorable members, and especially of the honorable member for Macquarie, the late Government, and. especially myself, ‘could do nothing right.
– I complimented the Government at the time upon making a good appointment when they selected Mr. McLachlan as Public Service Commissioner.
– Either I did not heat the honorable member or the incident has escaped my memory. Mr. McLachlan was appointed, to a large extent, upon my recommendation, to the Cabinet, and his selection has proved a very fortunate one. The same may be said of all the other appointments I have made. I have had some experience in making appointments, and I endeavoured to select an exceptionally good man for the position of Public Service Commissioner. I had known Mr. McLachlan for twenty-five years in the Public Service of New South Wales, and I felt sure that every officer, irrespective pf the State to which he belonged, would receive justice at his hands. The Commissioner has discharged his important duties with the utmost- ability. He is charged with very grave responsibilities under the Act, and although he is, to a very large extent, free from Ministerial control, I have always held that the Government possesses the inherent power to override any recommendation the Commissioner mav make, if it cares to assume such ‘ a responsibility. It would be impossible in carrying out a work intended to harmonize the divergent conditions previously existing in six States to avoid
some anomalies, but the proper course for all those who have grievances is to exercise their right of appeal. I have no doubt that whenever a good case is made out the Commissioner will be prepared to apply the necessary remedy. With regard to the statement of the honorable member for Lang that the Commonwealth servants, in New South Wales have been dealt with upon such a basis that they may be placed at a disadvantage as regards salaries, compared with the Commonwealth servants of Victoria, I am satisfied that there must have been good cause for any distinctions that may have been made. The Commissioner would not allot lower salaries to the public servants in New South Wales simply because they were in that State instead of in Victoria. The honorable member made a mistake when he stated that the Collector of. Customs in Victoria had previously been in receipt of £750 per annum, and that his salary had been raised to £800. whilst the Collector of Customs in New South Wales had a salary of £95°- The honorable member made the mistake of comparing the salary of Mr. Smart, who is now the Collector, and who was formerly second in command to’ Dr. Wollaston, with the salary attached to the. position of Collector of Customs in New South Wales. A comparison might more properly have been instituted between the salary formerly drawn by Dr. Wollaston and that attached to the’ position of Collector in New South Wales. Mr. Smart was formerly in receipt of. £75.0 a year, and upon his taking the position of Collector of Customs his salary was raised to £800. I hope that there will not. be any undue interference with the work of the Commissioner, unless grave anomalies are shown to exist. If the ideas which the public servants now entertain as to .the fairness and justice of the Commissioner are strengthened, he will be enabled to exercise far greater control over the service than if complaints are continuously brought before this House, and attempts are made to clip his authority. I have such faith in Mr. McLachlan that I would leave the whole matter in his hands, and I hope that’ the service will speedily recognise that he is worthy of their fullest confidence. There are two or three other matters to which reference might be made in this connexion. We have to remember that in December, 1900, a Bill was passed bv the Victorian Parliament raising the salaries of a number of officers in the Departments to be transferred to the Com- monwealth, and that that measure did not receive the Royal Assent until 10th February, 1901 - after the establishment of Federation. . Under that measure most of the officers taken over from the State of Victoria had their salaries raised, and the expenditure of the Commonwealth was in this way largely increased. I have always felt that that was an improper Act, and in view of the fact that it did not receive the Royal Assent until after the establishment of the Commonwealth, I consider that it was really ultra vires.
– No case, arising under that Act, has been mentioned by the honorable member for Lang. As a matter of fact, theCommissioner has not acted under it in carrying out the classification.
-I simply refer to the passing of the Act in order to show the difficulties of the position occupied by the Public Service Commissioner. The passing of that Act- greatly accentuated the difficulties with which he had to contend.
– No only that Act, but others.
– Similar measures may have added to his difficulties, but I would make special reference to the Victorian Act. The aim of the Commissioner has been, and will be, to fix salaries according to the work to be performed, and the climatic conditions under which’’ public servants are called upon to labour, in the various parts of the Commonwealth. His endeavour will be to . see that the rates prevailing in one State are not higher than those paid by the Commonwealth in others, and that unless a public servant has been .transferred from the State service with certain rights,, which cannot be interfered with, he shall not receive a higher salary than is paid to other officers discharging corresponding duties. The Commissioner’s task has been a most arduous one, and save, perhaps, for a few mistakes, he and his officers have carried out the work of classification in a marvellously effective manner. I must again express my gratification that, although complaints of mistakes in the scheme of classification have been made during this debate, every honorable member, who has taken part in it, has expressed his confidence in, and admiration for, the officer at the head of the service.
Question resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 9 48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 July 1904, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040714_reps_2_20/>.