2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the, follow ing papers : -
Copy of telegram from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated London, 29th October, 1904, acknowledging resolutions of Commonwealth Parliament of 28th October.
Report by the Agent-General for Victoria upon the establishment in London of a Federal dep6t for the display of’ Australian produce.
Amendment of financial and allowance regulations, Statutory Rules 1904, No. 68.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
– On Thursday last the honorable and learned member for Parkes asked me without notice a question relating to the sugar bounties payable, and to the areas under cultivation by black and by white labour, in Queensland. In reply I mentioned that I had been struck with the peculiarity that practically equal areas of land under cultivation by white and by black labour produced very different quantities of sugar, and I mentioned that I was trying to ascertain from Queensland the explanation of the figures which had been furnished to me by the Customs Department there, and upon which I had to’ depend, because the Treasury has no means of checking them. To-day the following letter, dated 26th October, reached me from the Collector of Customs at Brisbane, and I will read it for the information of honorable members : -
Sir, - Referring to your telegram of 24th inst., which reads, “As the acreage under black and white labour in Queensland is nearly equal, how is it that so much more sugar is produced by black than by white labour,” I have the honour to advise that in my wire of 12th September, X904, it was stated that the approximate number of acres of white grown cane in 1904 was 56,289 acres, and the black area was 57,492, or a total area of 113,691 acres. The black area was arrived at by deducting the white area from the total area under cultivation. With regard to the question asked, it is pointed out that the bulk of the coloured area is situated in the northern districts, where the production of sugar is greater per acre than in the southern, also the whole of the coloured area is under cane, and will in all probability be crushed during the 1904 season, which will account for the larger estimated production of coloured sugar. The white area of 56,289 acres, chiefly situated in the less productive southern districts, represents the acres registered for bounty, but does not show the area under productive cane, as white growers give notice to register a white plantation, say 50 acres, of which 10 may bc cane to be crushed, 20 to be planted, and the balance to be planted the following years; also in the case of growers who are giving up coloured labour, the crop will be taken ofl as black sugar, and the land afterwards registered for bounty under the twelve months’ notice, which has been done in several cases. These factors were taken into consideration when arriving at the approximate number of acres, black and white, for 1904. ‘ It is probable that the whole of “the white area given for 1904 may produce sugar in the coming season, 1905. If it is required to show the actual area under whitegrown cane, irrespective of the area registered for bounty, it would be advisable to amend sugar regulation 12, so as to provide for the giving of white and black-grown areas separately in the annual returns, as a number of growers produce both black and w’hite cane, and the areas under cultivation are constantly varying by ploughing out old cane, and allowing the land to remain fallow.
What i had asked forwere figures as to the areas under cultivation by black and by white labour, and I naturally assumed that the figures supplied related to the areas actually under cultivation, and not merely to registered areas, only part of which might be under cultivation during the year. I hope to get more accurate figures from the Customs authorities in. Queensland, and., if so, I shall publish them, and I shall take care that no similar error occurs when the next Budget papers are laid before honorable members. It is very annoying that this misapprehension has occurred, but I am glad that honorable members have drawn attention to the matter, though I had myself noticed the discrepancy, and had asked for an explanation prior to it being mentioned in this Chamber.
– When will the Prime Minister be in a position to introduce the promised’ Bill relating to bills of lading for the carriage of perishable produce? It will be well for it to be circulated as soon as possible, so that there may be no complaint towards the end of the session that time is insufficient for its consideration.
-The draft of the Bill was finished on Monday, and as I am quite as sensible as is the honorable and learned member of the urgency of the measure, and the importance of letting the House have it as soon as possible, I hope to lay it upon the table within the next two or three days.
– When will the information for which I asked on Friday last, relative to the revenue and expenditure of the Postal and Telegraph Department of Queensland, be available ?
– The information relative to the expenditure and revenue of the Department since ‘Federation is available now, but the information in regard to the period prior to Federation has to be obtained from the Queensland Government, and we are endeavouring to get it as soon as possible.
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I have to state -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions ate as follow : -
Where this has been departed from, it has been under the special circumstances of the case.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 28th October, vide page 6325) :
– In the ordinary case, the next items we should have to deal with in Com- mittee of Supply would relate to the Attorney-General’s Department. I said in my Budget Speech that the Minister of Defence desired to make an important statement regarding matters in his Department, and that he would do so on the Defence Estirr.ates. I find that according to the practice which we have adopted, when the Defence Estimates were called on, and the first item had been put from the Chair, the Minister would be able to make his statement; but it seems that it is impossible to postpone a particular item after it has been put. It would be unfair to ask honorable members to proceed with the. discussion before they have had an opportunity to consider the Minister’s statement. It is a very important matter; Therefore, I would suggest that the Committee might give its concurrence to the Minister of Defence making his statement before the. first vote in connexion with the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is considered. That would enable him to place his proposals before the Committee, and we could afterwards proceed with the consideration of the Estimates in the regular way.
– Is it the desire of the Committee that the. Minister of Defence should be allowed to make a statement ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Leave is granted.
Administration and Control of the Defence Forces.
– I have to thank the Committee for the courtesy of allowing me to make this statement now, in order that honorable members may have areasonable opportunity to consider the proposals of the Government in connexion with the future administration and control of the Defence Forces before the Defence Estimates come on in the usual way. I suppose that those Estimates will come under the consideration of the Committee in the course of a day or two ; I hope so, certainlv. But, in the meantime, honorable members will have an opportunity to ascertain how far they agree with, or to what extent they dissent from, the proposals of the Government. It is not ray intention, sir, at this stage to enter into a discussion or explanation of the Estimates themselves. I desire above all things to be reasonable as to the length of time which I occupy in what I have to say. If I were to speak upon the Estimates generally, I should probably wear out the patience of honorable members before I had finished. I may say, with regard to the scheme which I am about to outline this afternoon, that I have had prepared a minute which gives the essence of the views of the Government upon future Defence administration and control. That minute is now being printed, and I believe will be ready for circulation amongst honorable members before the House rises this evening. It is impossible for this Govern ment to have been able to consider and resolve upon any vital alterations in Defence policy as a whole. We have been in existence as a Government for something less than three months, and for more than half of that time, our allegedly precarious life has been the object of vigorous attacks. So that we have not had much more than a month in. which we could’ be engaged upon considering questions of policy.
– But the honorable and learned gentleman has had special experience in Defence matters.
– I may say at once that I have my own ideas on a number of matters of importance in connexion with Defence fairly well formulated. But there is a custom in connexion with parliamentary government, as we know it, for Ministers to obtain the sanction of the Cabinet before they propound their own theories of policy on important matters. I should like to say, in passing, that the whole question of Defence is very closely bound up with the question of expenditure, and that it is as impossible for this Parliament or the public of Australia to get the things they want without paying for them as it is for any private individual to do so; and that, consequently, any development of Defence policy is more than likely to be accompanied by an increase in the cost of that policy. In that connexion I should like to mention, in passing, one or two matters which are not immediately connected with the subject of my remarks this afternoon. The first is with regard to several establishments - such as an arsenal and a military college. Matters of that sort are inevitably accompanied by expense, and the Government have had no time yet to consider ways and means in connexion with them. However desirous they may be of carrying out such ideas, we are not in a position, and shall not be in a position, to make any intimation on these subjects at present. With regard to the equipment of our troops - and that is the only other matter to which I shall refer that is not connected with the future administration of the Forces - it is, of course, not complete. We have a complete scheme, practically’ approved of by Parliament, although the money has not actually been voted ; the expenditure of something over ^500,000 being spread over a series of four years, and the last of those years being the year 1006-7. I am glad to say. however, that there seems every reason to believe that we shall have the equipment complete by that time. I think I can safely say this : that when what is contemplated is carried out, the land forces of Australia will be in a satisfactory position, so fax as equipment is concerned. I know that honorable members have been anxious with regard to those first essentials of defence - rifles and field guns. As the Committee is already aware, I have, with the consent of my colleagues, anticipated parliamentary authority - or rather my predecessor anticipated parliamentary authority - with regard to ordering 5,000 shortened rifles - new magazine rifles - of which some are now about to be delivered, although they have not yet reached Australia. I have also ventured to anticipate parliamentary authority by ordering twenty modern field guns from England. There was a proposal to procure 15-pounders - the gun which is now being discarded by the field artillery in the’ British Army. That proposal was made, I believe, in the belief that we should not be able to get the new 18½ - pounders for a couple of years to come. But, feeling very strongly that if possible we should get the new guns, and not the 15 - pounders which would have to be replaced in the course of two or three years at any rate, by 18½ - pounders I made inquiries through the Governor-General and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, with the result that the other day I received information that there is a reasonable degree of certainty that we shall be able to obtain the new guns before the end of the financial year. I therefore ordered twenty of the 18½ pounders, and as soon as they come to hand, although our field artillery will not be equipped as we should like them to be equipped, because there will still be a number of 15-pounders in use, I believe we shall be able to have our field artillery in a reasonable state of efficiency so far as equipment is concerned. Leaving that subject, I now desire to come to the future administration of the Defence Forces, both military and naval. Honorable members who take an interest in the matter have probably already surmised from what has been said by the right honorable the Prime Minister, of the intention to introduce a Bill to amend the Defence Act this session; that the Government propose substantial changes in the mode of administration. It is urgent that a decision should be arrived at. Our, present General Officer Commanding - our first Australian General Officer Commanding, Major-General Sir Edward Hutton - came out here under a three years’ engagement, which expires on the 281th December qf this year. ‘He leaves for England before that date, in accordance with the ordinary practice which enables a General Officer Commanding, or a similar officer, to leave in time to be in England again upon the date on which his term of service expires. Therefore, the Government were compelled, by the stress of circumstances, to decide more quickly, perhaps, than they would have done if they had had a reasonable amount of time at their disposal, upon the future method of administration. I do not think that we should have been able to arrive at a decision even now, if it had not been for the efforts of my two immediate predecessors,
Senator Dawson, Minister of Defence in the Watson Administration, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the Minister of Defence in the Deakin Administration. The services rendered by the right honorable member for Swan, who previously occupied the position of Minister of Defence, are acknowledged as a matter of course. It was about the time that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro became Minister of Defence, that the question of the future administration of the Defence Forces became more urgent than previously, owing to the approaching termination of the engagement of the General Officer Commanding. If it had not been for the work of my predecessors, I do not think that it would have been possible for the Government to be ready with proposals now, and . I desire, at the outset, to acknowledge to the full the very great service and assistance I have derived from the records they left behind them. I found all the facts collected and collated. The honorablemember for Eden-Monaro left behind him a proposed scheme, the main features of which I am putting forward to-day. I also found that Senator Dawson had appointed a Committee to draw up a scheme, and that scheme, in its main features, is that which I am about to propound. I claim neither originality nor novelty. I found the whole of the material in the Department, and the work almost completely done. As a matter of fact, it is my’ good fortune to be able to announce to the Comn.ittee the results of work done almost wholly by my predecessors, and I wish it to be understood that I desire to give full credit where credit is due in that respect. The proposals I am about to lay before honorable members, not only have the imprimatur in effect of the Ministers of Defence in the Deakin and Watson Administrations, but they also possess a further recommendation in that they practically follow the precedents of every important country in the world. England has been the last of the nations to abandon the principle of the Command-in-Chief in connexion with her army in times of peace. The United States, Switzerland, that chief prototype for Australia in so many respects, and all other countries that have constitutional government, have found that the system of Command-in-Chief, in addition to the other disadvantages it unfortunately possesses - of course, I recognise that it has many advantages also - looked at from the political side, has never been altogether satisfactory to the . community. There have always been inevitable difficulties in properly adjusting matters of responsibility and administration under that system, and that, I venture to think, has been, in some respects, the chief cause of difficulty and dissatisfaction from time to time, not only here, but in the motherland. I may say that the system it is proposed to follow is, in all essential features, the same as that adopted in Switzerland, but not under such advanced conditions as those which prevail in that country. Switzerland has advanced further along the road we desire to follow than the Government think it possible for us to proceed at present. I suppose that honorable members will agree with regard to one thing - however much they may differ so far as details are concerned - that the Australian ideal is that our defence should be carried out by citizen forces - army and navy alike. I venture to think that the ideal citizen force is one in which everything that can possibly be conceived of is being done by citizens, as contrasted with professional soldiersor sailors. The latest Swiss system - which has not yet been adopted, or even finally approved of, by the Swiss Federal authorities, but of which a week or two after I took office I had the good fortune to receive an advance copy through the courtesy of an officer who had just returned from England - provides for a citizen soldiery developed to its full. That is to say, everything that can be done by citizen soldiers is done by them, and nothing is left to permanent or professional soldiers, except that which, owing to its nature, requires the services of a permanent bureau. I trust that honorable members will not think that I am overlooking the importance of the naval side of our defences if I refer to the army more frequently than to the navy. Our land forces are more completely developed than are our naval forces. Our land forces, at present, constitute the main factor in our defences, and I am sure honorable members will pardon me if I speak mainly of the army.
– We have the redoubtable Cerberus still.
– Yes. Our case is not entirely hopeless. I shall, however, deal with that matter a little later on. I think that if we began with a purely professional army in which, in peace time, the whole of the administration, instruction, and training were carried on by professional soldiers, and in which the whole of the rank and file were also professional soldiers, the first step that could be taken in order to develop a citizen force would be to provide that that section which required the least training should be constituted of citizens - that is, of course, the rank and file. We have long passed that stage in Victoria. The second stage is that in which the executive command, as distinct from the administration and instruction, is handed over to citizens and taken away from the permanently employed men. That stage we have reached in Australia, and have almost passed through it, because, with the exception of a few of the higher commands, the whole of the executive command and training is carried on by citizen soldiers and sailors. The third stage of the development of Gitizen forces is that in which not only are the troops composed of citizens, and the executive command carried out by citizens, but the instruction preparatory to training and commanding on service in the field is given by citizens also. That stage they have reached in Switzerland. We have not yet gone so far in Australia, and I do not think that we are in a position to proceed to that length at present. Our professional soldiery must still be maintained for the higher instructional purposes, because given two Australians of equal ability, the man who devotes the whole of his time to professional soldiering or professional sailoring must obviously be better qualified to perform his duties than is the individual who devotes only a portion of his time to them. Therefore, until Australians either can or must - and I say “ must “ advisedly - give more time to preparation for service in the defence of their country we cannot hope to make our instructional staff a staff composed exclusively of citizens. Australian conditions render it impossible for us to advance much further along the road of service by citizens than we have already done. Until we reach the stage at which men can devote more time to being themselves instructed in defence matters, they cannot hope to be qualified . as citizens to impart the higher instruction to others. Therefore, so long as the citizen service is very limited in extent - as it is now - so long as we have not the long courses which are adopted in Switzerland, and which for one or two years extend from forty days to 120 days, so long as those methods are not possible to us, we shall have to maintain our higher instructional staff - a staff Composed of professional men as contrasted with a staff of citizens.
– Surely the Minister does not refer to the whole of the officers?
– I am afraid that I have not conveyed my ideas very clearly to the honorable member. I am speaking only of instructional work. We have an instructional staff, which is composed perhaps of twenty or thirty officers, who are scattered throughout Australia.
– Will not the instructional officers be Australians?
– I have not uttered a single word in regard to that aspect of the matter. I appreciate the honorable member’s anxiety for information, but perhaps he will permit me to reach that particular point in my remarks before I deal with it. I am now dealing with the question of how far our forces can be purely of a citizen character. I hope that I shall live to see the day when nothing but the small nucleus of our Defence Forces, to which I am abo,ut to refer, will be composed’ of professional soldiers.
– I am afraid that the Minister is hoping for too much.
– It is better to hope for too much than for too little. We shall probably achieve more by aiming high than by aiming low. There is, however, an irreducible minimum of professional men required. In Australia training goes on all the year round, at irregular intervals. But, even if it took place only at fixed periods, a vast amount of administrative work would require to be performed - work which requires continuous attention. Therefore, administration pure and simple has to be carried on by permanently employed men. In Switzerland - and I must be pardoned if I frequently refer to that country, because it affords the type to which, to a large extent, we desire to conform - that fact is also recognised. In connexion with the recent proposals in that country there is a very interesting appendix, which sets forth the reasons for and against them. These contrast the present system of administration with that of instructional and executive command. It is pointed out that continuous administration is essential, and that therefore some officers must be permanently employed. If that be the irreducible minimum of professional defenders, it seems to me that it is sound common sense to say, “Separate the irreducible minimum from, those things which are now professional, and which may afterwards fall into the hands of our citizens, and then work in the other direction towards the desired ideal as rapidly as circumstances will permit.” Therefore the first and essential point in the Government proposals - as it was in those of my predecessors - is that administration shall be separated alike from instruction, and from executive command. The administrative bureau is to be established to administer the Defence Act. There will be a staff of instructional officers to instruct, and the executive commanders will command and train the troops. So much for administration itself. But there is something which is even more important than this. In Australia we have long suffered, not from a lack of defence policy, but from a lack of continuity in defence policy.
– And from lack of funds.
– The difficulty suggested, by the honorable member is .an interminable one. I do not propose to say anything in regard to that matter just now, though I should certainly not be in a position to ask either the Cabinet or Parliament next year for a less sum than I am asking for this year. Practically these Estimates were framed before I took office, though I accept full responsibility for them. Consequently the Government - even if it had wished to do so - could not have made any substantial alterations ‘.in them, nor should I have ventured to recommend any such changes. I think it is incumbent upon a new Minister to make sure that he knows what he is doing before he initiates any change. Should it be found necessary to make any substantial alterations of policy, the Government must wait until they reach that haven of which we hear so much - the haven of recess.
– Why does not the Minister consult the honorable member for Wentworth ?
– No doubt I should find his services of use. He does me the honour of talking to me about some of these matters, and I gain an advantage in that way, just as I do from’ conversation with the honorable member for Maranoa, whose assistance I also hope to receive in connexion with the Government proposals. I repeat that we have long suffered from a lack of continuity in the defence policy of Australia. We have suffered from it as the inevitable result of the system of having a Com- 10 m 2 mand-in-Chief. Where we have a CommandinChief - if we have men of wide experience and of developed ideas upon high military matters - we do not always find them agreeing absolutely. Military men, as well as lawyers, sometimes differ. Consequently, we may find that one man’s scheme does not meet with the full approval of his successor. It is inevitable, therefore, that there must be a risk of lack of continuity in the defence policy of Australia if we continue the system of having a General Officer Commanding the forces. Consequently, the Government propose to form as the highest defence authority a Council of Defence. The proposed Council will be constituted as follows : - The Minister of Defence, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth - because the higher matters of defence always imply an expenditure of money, as the leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well - the Inspector-General of the Military Forces, the Naval Director - whose position in relation to the naval branch of the service corresponds as nearly as practicable with that of the Inspector-General of the Military Forces - and the Chief of the General Staff upon the military side. At the present time our Naval Forces are comparatively limited in extent, and;, therefore, do not require the same elaborate machinery that our Military Forces do. These gentlemen will constitute the regular members of the Board. I do not say “permanent members,” because there are two Ministers upon this tribunal, and there is nothing permanent about their positions. There ‘will also be consultative members of two kinds. The Government attach considerable value to this means of obtaining advice, especially in relation to local conditions - advice which the regular mem bers of the board might not so fully possess. The consultative members will be selected representatives of the citizen forces, and expert advisers, who may be called in from time to time. There may be. for example, a gentleman available who is very skilled with regard to fortifications. I have one in my mind’s eye at the present time who is in the service of the Commonwealth, but is not a member of the Defence Department, and we might find it serviceable to call him in, and obtain his opinion in regard to certain matters which come up for consideration. This will be the constitution of the Council of Defence, whose duty it will be to discuss questions of general policy, and questions involving Defence expenditure as a whole. In order to have continuity of records, it will also keep minutes of its proceedings, and will have as its Secretary the Permanent Head of the Department. In ordinary times, the Council will probably not need to meet more than once a quarter, but on special occasions it may require to meet more frequently. Besides securing continuity of policy in this way, we shall bring the Cabinet as a whole, which is responsible through the Minister at the Head of the Department, into more direct touch with the defence policy of Australia, and we shall also maintain a closer touch between the carrying out of that policy and the Parliament which, as the representative of the people, controls it. The Council of course will not be able to override the Cabinet, any more than a Cabinet can override Parliament, but we hope that, consisting, as it will, partly of members of the Cabinet, partly of some of our best and most experienced professional soldiers and sailors, and partly of experienced members of the citizen forces, it will be able to bring the intelligence, as well as the knowledge of defence matters and of Australian feeling to bear upon questions that come before it, which will enable it to frame a policy, from time to time, that will be alike satisfactory to the public and sufficient for the protection of Australia. For example, when the Estimates are put into shape by the Minister, it will be called upon to consider the great lines of expenditure to be followed. It will not be asked to discuss minute details : to say, for instance, whether the contingencies under a certain subdivision should be limited to £120 or , £150; but it will look at the great lines of expenditure that are being incurred, and will consider how far they are proper and appropriate. The Government hope that in this way we shall be able to derive very considerable advantage from the constitution of the Council, which will cover the two branches of defence - the Army and the Navy, our Land Forces, and our Sea Forces. In dealing with our Land Forces, I may, perhaps, be permitted to speak of them as an Army. They are not an aggressive, but only a defensive, force, but the word “ army “ is the most appropriate that I can call to mind to shortly describe them. The administration of the Army will be carried out by a Military Board, just as the administration of the Naval Forces will be carried out by a Naval Board. I would warn honorable members that they must not confuse the Defence Council - which will deal with matters of policy, and other great questions - with these administrative boards, which will supervise the work of administration even in its smallest details. The Military Board will consist of five regular members. The Minister of Defence, who will be a member of it, will have, as at present, the final administrative power. He now has to take the responsibility of finally determining any important matter of administration, and he will have to continue to accept that responsibility, because any delegation of his powers to the board would interfere with the principle of parliamentary control and Ministerial responsibility. This scheme is in accordance with the practice which has been laid down in England in connexion with the establishment of a similar board. In addition to the Minister of Defence, there will be three military members of the board, to whom I have given provisionally the names of (1) Chief of General Staff ; (2) Deputy Adjutant-General ; and
– Will the finance member be a civilian member of the Public Service?
– Yes, because he will have to give his time continuously to the duties of his office. It is impossible to carry out administration except by continuous work. We practically have finance members at the present time, in the shape of the Departmental Secretary and the Chief ‘Accountant, who, at all events, keep an eye on the expenditure, and see that it does not exceed the amount authorized by Parliament.
– Will they all be paid?
– I think I have already said that to my mind administration must be permanent, and, therefore, these men must be permanently employed and paid in the ordinary way. I propose that there shall be only three military members of the board instead of four, as suggested in previous schemes, or as they have in England. My reasons for this are that I think that a satisfactory division of duties may be arranged and allotted to these members, and that it is much easier to increase the number to four if it be found necessary to do so, than it would be to reduce that number to three. I think it is safer to begin with the smaller number. The Minister, of course, will have full Ministerial responsibility ; but, summarizing the duties of the board, the Chief of General Staff will have to do with everything that may be described as the intellectual preparation for a war. He will have to do with schemes of mobilization and defence, with arrangements as to co-operation between the military and naval forces. These higher branches of the work pf the Department, including staff rides and intelligence work, will fall within his province. The D’eputyAdjutantGeneral will have full control with regard to the personnel and the transport of troops. That is to say, he will control all matters dealing with the numbers of troops and their equipment and transport. The third member of the board, the Chief of Ordnance, will have one specialized duty to perform. He will have to be an officer specially skilled in regard to artillery work, in order to be able to deal with the highly technical and scientific questions which that branch embraces. Employing general terms again, he will also have control of supplies before they reach the troops. Perhaps I may be permitted to put the position in this way : the Chief of Ordnance will look after the obtaining of things required by the men, and will hand them over to the Deputy Adjutant-General, who will find the men, move them about, and distribute the necessary supplies and equipment to them, while the Chief of General Staff will lay down the general principles on which they are to be used. The things required by the men will be supplied (by the Chief of Ordnance; the men, with the things they require, by the Deputy A~djutant-General ; and the method in which they are to be used will be determined by the Chief of General ‘ Staff. These three officers may need more or less assistance in the performance of their duties. Their assistants, who will probably be called directors, will be kept down to the lowest number consistent with efficiency. I shall say a few words with regard to the cost of the whole arrangement in a few minutes.
– Does the Minister propose to put the whole ordnance under military control ?
– That does, not necessarily follow. It does not necessarily follow that a soldier member of the Board may not control civilians as well as soldiers. He will have to do with outside contractors, and will come into contact with civilians, whereas the others will not. The point of contact between the outside world and the forces practically ceases with the Chief of Ordnance. The Deputy AdjutantGeneral and the Chief of Staff deal with the forces, supplies, and equipment which are actually existing. With regard to making the ordnance purely military, I may explain that at the present time it is partly military and party civil, and, although I have an. inclination in one direction, I have not )jet made up my mind whether it should be made wholly military or not.
– That question requires careful consideration.
– Yes. Otherwise I should have made up my mind upon it sooner. As our naval forces are very small in comparison with our military forces, there will not be so many members on the Naval Board’.; The Minister will foe a member of it, but there will be only one naval member, the Director of Naval Forces, whereas1 on the Military Board there will be three military members. There will also be a finance member, as on the Military Board, and, as consultative members, representatives of the citizen forces. I hope that Australia, through its Parliament, will see fit to permit our Naval Forces to grow and develop, and if they do so, the Naval Board can keep pace with that growth and development. The duties of the two Boards w.ill be to supervise administration. Questions which State Commandants do not desire to decide for themselves, as involving in their view possible questions of policy, or other important administrative points, will be referred to the members of the Board in whose province they come, and they will personally take the responsibility for any decision which is given. It is not intended that three or four members shall divide up the responsibility, and that no one shall accept it ; each member must take responsibility for the matters falling within his own province. If a matter concerns two members of a Board, they will consult together. I hope that the Minister and his secretariat, and the members of the two Boards, will be housed in the one building, so as to get rid of that undesirable system of minuting which has grown up to so large an extent, and which is almost inevitable under our present system. When matters are referred to the Board, the Secretary will distribute the communications as they come in, to the members whom they concern. If a member finds that the matter which he is asked to decide affects another member as well as himself, he will take the papers into that member’s room, talk the matter over with him, and then note his decision. Every communication going from a member of a Board will be read by him before being sent out, so that the present system, under which communications to which a man’s name is attached but which fie may never have seen in their exact form, are sent out, may be avoided. The Naval Board will perform the same duties for the Naval Forces as the Military Board for the Military Forces.
– The Minister will do wonders if he does what he suggests.
– I do not anticipate that everything I wish to do will be accomplished.
– The Minister is on the right track, in any case.
– If only part of what I hope to achieve is accomplished, some good will have been done.
– There will be more common-sense and less red tape in the arrangements.
– Well, I am no lover of red tape. The abolition of a General Officer Commanding means probably that we shall not have on the Board, or in command, any one man as good, or possessing as wide, varied, and as valuable an experience as an officer whom we could get for a high position such as that of General Officer Commanding. Personally, I do not think that any substantial harm will result, because when the work is cut up, we shall not require a man who is an expert in all the branches of administration and command relating to warfare. We shall require only men who are skilled so far as administration is concerned, and more especially in the work which immediately comes within their purview. I recognise fully that there is no position under the new system of the same importance and high standing as that of General Officer Commanding, and, therefore, if we wished to obtain elsewhere than in Australia an officer to fill any one of these important positions, we should neither ask for nor obtain one of the same rank as we should ask for and obtain as General Officer Commanding. One effect of separating the administrative from the instructional and executive command is that we shall have to decentralize, which, I think, is very desirable. In England and in Switzerland they have found that they must decentralize, but in the latter country the decentralization, according to the new scheme, is carried on to such an extent that one might fear that the authorities had gone too far in that direction. The General Officer Commanding, in his last annual report, discussed this matter, and expressed the opinion that, although decentralization might serve for the British Army, because of the vastness of the Imperial interests making it impossible for one Commander-in-Chief to control it throughout its length and breadth, it is not applicable to Australia, because our forces are comparatively small.
– He forgets the large area of territory to be covered.
– Our forces are small, and insignificant compared with the strength of the British Army and Navy; but until the Transcontinental Railway has been constructed our means of communication Wil be in some respects as incomplete and our “ touch “ as faulty as that between the extremes of the British Army. Certainly, in Australia, compared with the British Isles, our forces are scattered over an immeasurable space. Therefore, although the reasons for decentralization may not be the same in the two cases, they apply with regard to our forces as much as with regard to the British Army. Here we have six States, comprising a territory with a coast line of 8,000 miles, and “with a total population which is only an insignificant handful. Decentralization is essential if only for the reason that the man on the spot, the State Commandant, the man . in immediate control of the forces which are within a reasonably restricted area, may learn what he cannot learn under a system of centralization - independence of thought and initiative, so that he may act when the emergency arises in accordance with . previously matured schemes. No General Officer Commanding can be everywhere in Australia at one time, nor could he be sure that he would be at the right spot at the right time if trouble arose through an invasion of Australia, and there were substantial necessity for using our land forces. Therefore, the extent of our territory and the peculiarity of our conditions make it necessary that we should decentralize as much as we can without interfering with efficiency. It will be necessary when this Board of Administration is appointed - and I may say, in passing, that I hope to have the whole scheme in operation by the end of the year, which is not a very long time for the Committee to allow me-
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman think he will be in office at the end of the year?
– I am quite sure of that; and if I was not sure, I should not “ own up” to the honorable member. I think that the Committee will agree that it is necessary to give me that time to bring this scheme into operation. We need, as I have said, decentralization. The State commands will become more important than they are at the present time. The one possible injurious result from decentralization, and the distribution of responsibility that arises from an administrative Board, is that you may get diversity instead of uniformity, and may possibly get a lower state of efficiency than you have under a centralized authority. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that some system should’ be brought into operation to insure the maintenance of uniformity and efficiency. Here again we propose to follow the system which now finds favour in England, which is favoured in practically all other countries, and which, indeed, has been in operation with regard to some of the arms - certainly with regard to one arm - of the English military service for many years. We propose to create the office of InspectorGeneral, and to make that officer what I may call a continuous auditor. He is not to be personally responsible for the laying down of lines of defence policy, though he is to have a seat upon the Council of Defence in order that his wisdom and experience may be at the service of those who may have to accept the final responsibility. He is not to be responsible for .the administration carried on by the Board. He is not to be responsible for the executive commands: he is not responsible for the training of the troops. The State Commandants are to be responsible for that. But his responsibility is to go round Australia almost like the wandering Jew. restins; not 3ay or night, seeing, Inspecting, not merely troops, but everything - inspecting administration, inspecting instruction, inspecting training. He is not to report once a year in a formal report to be laid before Parliament, but is to report as often as he thinks fit, or as often as the Board thinks fit, to ask him to report, or as often as the Minister thinks fit to request him to supply information. He is to inspect and to report to the Council of Defence and to the Minister what he thinks is happening as the result of the system which has been inaugurated. Is the system satisfactory-? Is the administration satisfactory? Is the Act satisfactory ? Is the equipment satisfactory? Is the training satisfactory? What are the faults which he may observe? He is to be there as an absolutely independent and impartial officer. If he makes recommendations, and they are not followed, those who are in office must take the responsibility of not following them. We may have in important positions men who are committed to favoring their own views, as every reasonable man must and does ; because, once any man has made up his mind that a certain course of action is the right course to follow, it is a fact in human nature that he will have a leaning towards his own ideas. But this independent officer will be in such a position that he will have nothing to fear from telling the truth, however unpalatable it may be. He will have to tell what he believes to be the truth about our forces, however unpleasant it may be to hear it. Being in that position, he must be an officer of rank and experience.
– How is it proposed to protect him?
– I will come to that point in a few moments. We hope by this means that we shall be able to secure and maintain a proper standard of efficiency, and also - what is very important - a proper standard of uniformity as between the whole of the troops of Australia. I have now outlined the proposals of the Government with regard to future administration. The leader of the Opposition will recognise that I have not merely followed closely the scheme of my precedessor, but that practically this is the same scheme. Indeed, it is practically the scheme of the whole civilized world, and I, like my predecessor, and like other Ministers, have simply fallen in with the conclusions which have been arrived at elsewhere as the result of experience. Some honorable members may recollect that on former occasions I rather leaned in the direction of maintaining a centralized system under a General Officer Commanding. Speaking two years ago I said that I did not think the time was yet ripe for inaugurating a new system. My leanings were decidedly in that direction. But after giving the fullest consideration to the subject, and recognising the responsibility which rests upon me personally, as well as upon the Government, I frankly and fully admit that I am now a convert. I now fully believe that this is the proper system for us to adopt. I assure honorable members that if I did not feel so about it I should have no hesitation in asking the Government and the Committee to agree to continue the old system.
– Who is going to take charge in time of war?
– Will the Minister tell us something about the extra expenditure involved ?
– I will come to those questions. I will take first the question raised by the right honorable member for Swan with regard to what will happen in time of war. In time of war the man who should be placed in command of our forces is the man who knows, so to speak, the individual capacity of the members of the Defence Forces. The man who knows what the officers can do and what the men can do is the man who should command, because he knows to what extent he can try them. The man who best knows that is the Inspector-General. Therefore, he would be the Commander-in-Chief in time of war. The Commander-in-Chief needs a staff. The staff of a Commander-in-Chief should be a staff that knows, first, as regards the strategical side, the general theory that is running through the system of defence of the country. The Commander-in-Chief needs to have a man who knows how many troops there are, how they are equipped and provided, how transport is to be secured. He also wants a man who knows what supplies are available for the forces, and where they can be obtained. Those requirements are exactly met in the three members of the Military Board. Therefore, in time of war, all you require, it seems to me - I may be wrong - is an Order in Council which changes the Inspector-General into a CommanderinChief, and makes the military members of the Board his staff. He can add to their number as he requires.
– Will not that necessitate the Inspector-General being as good an officer as can be obtained ?
– It will. He will be the best man we have, undoubtedly.
– What would be the good of having an Inspector-General if he was not a good man?
– That can be taken for granted. And I wish to point this out - that administration is not the highest duty of a soldier or a sailor. His highest duty is actual command. These positions on the Board will not necessarily be the highest prizes of the military profession in Australia. The position of Inspector-General will be the highest prize. Some, at any rate, of the State commands will be higher prizes than a seat on the Board, and I should like to say in that connexion that the Government think that no officer who holds a position on the Board, or the position of InspectorGeneral, should hold such a position for a period of more than four years. Officers can go on the Board, and at the end of that term can go off it and fill other positions. We believe that if men were left indefinitely for very long periods on these Boards, they would invariably get into a groove, and1 rust, and that there must be a sufficient current of change to insure freshness of thought and action.
– Will that also apply to the Inspector-General?
– Yes ; I think that, as in the case of the Adjutant-General, or the Commander-in-Chief of England, the InspectorGeneral will have about exhausted the possibilities of his military career, unless he is prepared to take a less responsible position at the expiration of his term. If change is insisted upon in the highest positions, as well as in regard to inferior commands, the officer who reaches the top of the tree will have achieved everything that is possible, and he must, at the end of his term, bring his career to an end, unless he is prepared to accept a lower position.
– He must be an old man.
– Not necessarily.
– Unless he were an old man, he would not be content to finish his military career, after having occupied the position of Inspector-General for four years.
– Then he could go back to some other work. I do not see why an officer should not accept an important State command, when he could no longer remain in the position of Inspector-General. I cannot appreciate one or two of the objections which have been raised to this system. The first is that it will make the Australian Military Service a happy huntingground for those who desire to exercise political influence. I do not suppose, however, that the people or the Parliament would ever permit such an interference with the Forces as would substantially interfere with their efficiency or discipline. So far as Parliament is concerned, I hold that it has the right of challenge in regard to details as well as with respect to matters of importance, if it thinks they are of such a character as to lead to serious consequences. Having regard to my experience as a citizen soldier for a good many years, however, I say frankly that, so far as I have been able to see, no serious injury has been done by Parliament, since the establishment of Federation, to the discipline or morale of the Forces. Now I come to the question of the training of our professional soldiers. We have no Military College in Australia at the present time, and it would cost us a considerable sum of money to establish one. I entirely differ from one of my outside critics, who seems to think that we could in some mysterious fashion save money in other ways if we were to establish a Military College. We should not require one man less in the Forces if we had such an institution, and it would certainly add to the cost of the higher instruction of our officers. However, at present we have no Military College, and I am not just now prepared to say when we shall have it - perhaps not for some considerable time. At any rate, while we have no Military College, and probably even when we have one, it will be necessary to afford our officers opportunities for securing the widest possible experience. I believe that even Australia is scarcely large enough as a field to enable our officers to gain the experience they require, and1 we propose to make arrangements to supply the deficiency. This difficulty can be met in two ways. With regard to the wonted method of importing large numbers of officers from the Imperial Army from time to time, I may say that we do not wish to import officers if we can obtain *e men we require in Australia. But I am not certain that we shall be able in every case to obtain what we want here.
– We should do all we can in that direction.
– We propose to do so. I do not intend to deal with the personnel of the Boards to-day, for the reason that, although I have a fairly clear idea with regard to them, the matter has not been before the Cabinet. Then for some of the positions there are men available whose qualifications are about equally balanced, and I do not wish to say anything with regard to them at present. I think that we must insure that our Australian officers shall have the greatest possible opportunities to obtain experience. Therefore, we propose to continue tha system that has been pursued in the past of sending home selected officers for a (special course of training, especially in expert work. We think that at least two officers should be sent abroad each year, and1 a larger number if it can be arranged. We also think that a system can be established which will assist to harmonize administrative and other methods in Australia and in other parts of the Empire, and the Government have reason to believe that it will be practicable to make arrangements with the Army Council at home for the regular exchange of officers for something like threeyear periods. The idea is that an officer < or two shall be sent away from Australia each year to some other portion of the Empire - not for a course of instruction, but to carry on work in connexion with the Army there - and that we shall receive in exchange an officer or two from other parts of the Empire to perform work in annexion with our own forces.
– Those would not be pleasure trips, but would involve work.
– It is not merely a question of bringing officers out here to control our Forces, and sending other officers Home to be trained. There are two separate proposals. In the one case, we propose to send officers Home for instruction, and, in the other, to exchange our officers for others belonging to the Army in other parts of the Empire. Honorable members will I am sure agree that, if that can be arranged, it will be very satisfactory.
– What does the Minister mean by sending officers Home?
– I have stated two or three times that I propose to exchange officers with other portions of the Empire.
– It is not proposed to send them to other countries?
– We cannot exchange officers with other countries.
– No, but our officers could visit other countries in order to obtain information ?
– Yes, in connexion with special work. Anything that can be done within reasonable bounds, with an assurance that the officers will be at work, and not at play, will be done. But the two essential ideas are that we should send officers Home for training-
– That is being done at present.
– Exactly. I stated that we propose to continue the present system of sending Home selected officers for special courses of training, and that we also propose to negotiate with the Army Council with a view to initiate a system of exchanging officers with the Army in other portions of the Empire. We believe that mutual advantage will flow to other portions of the Empire and to ourselves, if such exchanges can be made. We shall send our officers wherever we think they will gain by their experience, and we shall accept in exchange, officers who are likely, to be benefited by working in connexion with our Forces for a short period. These are the two methods - one old, the other new - which the Government propose to adopt for insuring sufficient vitality of thought and development of knowledge, with regard to warlike matters as a whole, amongst the professional officers of Australia. There, is only one other matter which I need mention before I sit down. If there be any point upon which honorable members desire information, I shall be glad if they will direct my attention to it.
– The Minister said that he would give us some information with regard to the cost of the proposed scheme,
– I shall read a paragraph from the minute which is now being printed which will express all that is necessary with regard to cost. It reads as follows: -
The cost of the new system will differ very little from that of the present system of CommandinChief, but is likely to be less.
I do not pretend that we shall save substantially by the change, but I claim that we shall get more for our money. Of course it must be understood that I make these remarks without any derogation from the work that has been done. Now thai the matter has been suggested to vat. I desire to say publicly that, in my opinion, Australia owes a verv great debt o? gratitude to the General Officer Commanding for the valuable work which he has performed in organizing our defences and in laying down lines of policy which, in many respects, I venture to believe, will continue to be followed for many years to come - at any = rate, long after we have ceased to take an active part in politics. The proposed chance is not being undertaken because we think that any officer has failed. For my own part, I believe that Australia owes a great deal to the gentleman who has been the first - and it may be the last - General Officer Commanding the Common wealth Defence Forces. Now, as regards the personnel of these positions, the Government would have no hesitation - if it were necessary - in saying to this House that they proposed to introduce officers from elsewhere to whatever extent they believed to be requisite to enable the work to be properly carried out. It is because I believe - and the Government believe - that there is only one of these positions which cannot be filled by an Australian officer that we do not propose to ask the Army Council for more than one officer. That officer will fill the position of Chief of Ordnance j but even in regard to that office I do not say finally, that we shall not appoint an Australian. ‘ Nevertheless, I tell the House frankly that I believe we shall not. Honorable members will recognise that that officer must possess an up-to-date knowledge of artillery, and that knowledge can be gained only by his close association with the most modern ordnance and by seeing it at work. It is expert knowledge of a scientific kind which is required in that office, and it is no reflection upon Australians to say that from lack of opportunity we have not an officer who is capable of filling it at the present time. However, by the expiration of the term of service of the first Chief Ordnance Officer appointed, I hope that somebody - if it be not myself - will have the pleasure of appointing as his successor an Australian officer, who has been sent home to be trained for that particular work.
– What are the Government proposals in reference to the cadets ?
– That question reminds me of another matter. Taking the several matters in the order of their importance, it seems to me that our first requirement is that our Land Forces should be thoroughly prepared and thoroughly equipped. They are not yet so equipped. Secondly, we require our outer line of defence, namely, the Squadron of the Imperial Navy. In the third place we need a line of defence which at the present time is in a very incomplete state, although the matter is engaging the serious attention of the Government. I am ready to submit proposals of very great importance for the consideration of the Cabinet, but we are not able to deal with them at the present moment. I repeat that our Land Forces require to be thoroughly equipped, and we need the protection of the Imperial Navy, but the central matter of importance relates to our coastal and harbor defences, both fixed and floating. I say, without any hesitation - because I suppose that the rest of the world is aware of it - that our harbor and coastal defences are incomplete. I tell the Committee frankly that we shall not get that sort of defence for nothing, and if Parliament wishes to complete our system it will have to pay for it.
– Parliament is ready to pay for it.
– I believe it is. There are others, however, .who suggest that, in defence matters, we ought to make bricks without straw, and as the Department over which I preside is the greatest spending Department of the Commonwealth, proposals for expenditure by it are naturally viewed with suspicion. But our central line of defence is deficient. We have not commenced to develop our harbor and coastal defences in the same systematic way that we have developed our system of land defence.
– What does the Minister mean by “ coastal “ ?
– I mean that before very long Australia must expect to become an assistant to the squadron of the Imperial Navy, so far as the protection of our harbors and of our coastal shipping is concerned. We cannot expect the Imperial Navy to be our final protector. Most countries which possess a coast line adopt a triple line of defence.
– In his speech upon the proposal that Australia should contribute to the increased Naval Subsidy the honorable and learned member for Ballarat stated that the Imperial Squadron formed a part of our defence system.
– So it does. We have a Land Force and a sea-going Fleet, but there is an intermediate line of defence - our harbor and coastal defences - which has not vet been developed. The Imperial Squadron is not intended primarily to protect our coastal shipping. True, it is intended to protect it, but a more important duty may claim its attention. There is no country in the world which has not ships that are charged with the special duty of undertaking coastal defence.
– The British Navy has undertaken to protect us.
– But the Admiralty has also said - “We must be at liberty to use this Fleet for some purpose other than that of protecting the coastal trade of Australia.” I am not endeavouring to depreciate the value of the Imperial Navy, but I wish to emphasize the fact that it is not our second line of defence, although at present it is practically performing the duties of a second line. I hope that our naval policy will develop upon lines which will provide an auxiliary to the Imperial Squadron. I have no desire to see the arrangement with the Imperial Government terminated at the end of the present agreement, but undoubtedly it is our business to develop our coastal and harbor defences.
– What about our bases?
– Upon the whole, they are fairly well protected. I repeat .that our first duty is to complete the equipment of our Land Forces. Our second obligation relates to our sea-going Fleet, and our third to the completion of our coastal defences. I believe that a more efficient and more widely spread system of training our youths would be of great advantage to Australia. It would inculcate a love of country, and would teach them to perform their duty towards it. It would also assist in enabling our forces to be more rapidly mobilized. I have absolutely no belief in the theory that because a man can fire a rifle he is therefore a good soldier. It is true that good marksmanship is essential to military success, but I hold that a man must also have military training. Unfortunately, the Cabinet has been so busy that I have not yet had an opportunity to invite my colleagues to consider this matter. I propose, however, to approach the Premiers of the States, with a view to arranging with them for a systematic cadet training, under the joint control of the Commonwealth and the States, for a certain fixed sum, which, at the beginning, need not be very large. Indeed, I have cut it down to very small dimensions; but on the understanding. I hope, that the States will recognise that expenditure so incurred is not to be regarded as a reason for cutting down other portions of our defence expenditure. We must not expend large sums of money to provide for the future until we are ready for the present; but at the same time it seems to me that we must take care to be prepared for the future. I therefore hope to make arrangements which will practically mean - if the States accept the scheme I have prepared - that, while we shall supply the instruction, so to speak, the States will supply the management in connexion with the’ training of our boys in the schools of Australia.
– Do the Government propose to establish a school for the training of naval cadets?
– I think that the honorable member is asking me to go into too many details.
– We must first have the men ready.
– We must have the men ready for to-day before we train the boys for to-morrow. That is the difficulty. In the first speech on defence matters which I made in this House, I strongly supported the cadet movement, and I have not departed one iota from the views to which I then gave utterance. I realize, however, that I must perform the task set to my hand for to-day before proceeding with the work of tomorrow. I am sure that this matter will be considered by the Governments of the States, and I hope that a reply will be received from them in time to enable the Prime Minister todiscuss the question with the Premiers of the States at the Conference to be held in February next. I am very sanguine of making some arrangement in this direction. I consider that naval as well as military development is important to Australia, and I hope that a scheme for the training of naval cadets, as well as of military cadets, will form part of any agreement arrived at; but there are more difficulties in the way of the training of naval cadets than there are in regard to the training of military cadets.
– Do the Government propose to import experts from outside the British Empire?
– I have not suggested the importation of a single expert.
– What about an ordnance expert ?
– I have suggested the importation of a specially trained artillery officer.
– The Government might import such officers from abroad.
– I think there are enough experts in the British Empire to see Australia through any difficulty without our seeking outside assistance.
– Obtain them from Canada.
– Is not Canada a part of the British Empire? I have not suggested that any systematic importation of experts is to take place.
– Our best chance to train our own men.
– I do not understand the honorable and learned member’s interjection. If it were relevant to anything I have said, it would be excellent.
– Do the Government propose to increase the strength of the Australian Light Horse?
– We shall be able to deal with that matter when we are considering the Estimates in detail.
– Is a Bill to be introduced to give effect to this scheme?
– Yes; it will be a Bill covering scarcely one page. In order to give effect to our scheme it will be necessary only to alter two or three sections of the Commonwealth Defence Act, practically substituting for the words “ General Officer Commanding “ . the words “ Board of Administration “ or “ Inspector-General.” I think that I have explained the principal outlines of the views held by the Government in regard to a scheme of defence. I do not hope to achieve everything that one could imagine as possible, but I believe that in adopting this system we shall be starting on the right road. I believe that the method I have outlined is one which will enable us, if we use our opportunities, to develop to the full the idea of a citizen army, that it recognises the anxiety of Australians to do the work of their own country, and that it proceeds on safe and sound lines towards the ultimate security of Australian shores from all attacks.
Division 15 (Secretary’s Office). £2,932
– I should like the Treasurer to explain the reason for some of the proposed increases to officers in this Department. For example, an increase of £20 is provided for in the case of the Chief Clerk and Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman.
– These are increases proposed under the Classification scheme; but they are not to be paid until the Classification has been dealt with by the Parliament.
– I have received several letters from members of the Public Service in Queensland, who complain that, although deductions from their salaries have been made since 1st July last, increases under the Classification scheme have not been paid. I do not think the scheme will ever be carried into effect if the hearing of appeals is to go on as at present.
– The honorable member for Bland, as Treasurer, prepared the Estimates, and, although one or two changes were made, they were ultimately framed on the basis of the Classification scheme. It was anticipated that the scheme would be dealt with at an early date, and it was therefore necessary to make provision on the Estimates for the payment of increased salaries provided for by it. As I mentioned in my Budget speech, provision has to be made for a large number of increases throughout the service, which would be payable under the Federal Public Service Act, or under the Acts of the States even if the Classification were not adopted. While the increases altogether amount to about £54,000, the increases actually given by the Classification represent only about £24,000. I am not certain whether the officer to whom the honorable member for Maranoa has referred is entitled to this increment as a matter of right, or whether it is proposed to pay it to him under the Classification ; but the Estimates have been framed on the principle that provision must be made for any payments required under that scheme, it being understood that the increases will not be paid until we have had an opportunity to deal with it. If it be found that we cannot deal with the Classification during the present financial year, it will be for the Public Service Commissioner to say whether he will give his certificate entitling certain officers, either under the Federal Act, or existing States Acts, to increased salaries.
– I should like the’ Treasurer to explain the item “ Defence of prisoners, £100.”
– Under the Judiciary Act, provision is made for the defence of certain prisoners who have no means of their own. If a prisoner desires to have counsel assigned to him, application must be made to a Judge of the High Court, who has power to direct that his defence shall be conducted at the expense of the Crown. A case of this kind has already occurred in Victoria, in connexion with a prosecution under the Electoral Act. Application was made for the defence of the prisoner at the cost of the Crown, and the Judge, holding that the person charged was without means, granted the request. The Victorian practice was for the Crown to provide defence for a person charged with a capital offence who had not the money to defend himself. This goes considerably further.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think that £100 will be of any assistance?
– That is the estimate of the Department.
– The Department has not had much experience.
– I do not think there will be many cases. They will all be strictly investigated.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 16 (Crown Solicitor’s Office), £2,077; division 17 (High Court), £5,385 ; agreed to.
Department of Home Affairs
Division18 (Administrative Staff), £7,886, agreed to.
Division 19 (Electoral Office), £4,111
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs prepared to tell the Committee what the Government propose to do with regard to the reorganization of the Electoral Office? The Committee which inquired into the administration of that office has reported, so that there is no longer a reason for withholding information. Do I understand that the Government propose to first collect the rolls, and to then introduce a definite scheme of redistribution? I know that that work will take some time, and will be a matter for the consideration of Parliament next session, but I hope that the Government will, during the recess, prepare a scheme for the redistribution of seats, upon such basis as may seem to them fair. With regard to the administration of the Department, I had hoped that the Select Committee would make some definite recommendation. Having looked at the matter as carefully as I can as an outsider, I have come to the conclusion that the electoral arrangements of the Commonwealth should be placed under the control of an independent Commission, whose position would be similar to that of the Public Service Commission and which’ would be free from political control. I would go the length of allowing the Commissioners to redistribute seats without reference to Parliament. That was done recently in New South Wales in connexion with the reduction of the number of seats, and gave every satisfaction.
– It gave satisfaction to one section.
– That is a remark unworthy of the honorable member. There is not a tittle of justification for it.
– It is a very true remark.
– It is not true. No complaint has been made against the Vew South Wales redistribution, and the honorable member cannot find a passage in the New South Wales Hansard which shows that it has been regarded as unfair. I hope that some such arrangement will be made in connexion with any future redistribution of the Commonwealth seats.
– I hope that the Minister will not take into consideration the suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta. Whatever the Department may feel it necessary to do, it is our duty to our constituents to form an opinion as to the effect of their proposals, and Parliament must give the final decision in regard to them.
– We have given away too much power already.
– Yes ; it is time that we put a stop to this handing over of everything to Commissioners. We are here to perform the duties allotted to us, in the best interests of the people.
– We do not do it.
– If we do not do it, that is our fault.
– It is often our interests that stand in the way. What do we individually know as to what electoral arrangements are the best for all Australia?
– We know more about electoral arrangements than do people outside, because we are brought personally into contact with them, and are therefore able to advise the Government, and to decide upon any scheme which may be submitted.
– I wish to know if arrangements will be made for the proper and adequate supervision of poll ing places at the next elections? On the last occasion unseemly disturbances took place in some of the polling places, and a number of irregularities occurred. I be lieve that if the whole matter were made the subject of a judicial inquiry, very many offences against the Act would be disclosed. It is necessary that police officers should be told off to exercise supervision.
– They were, in the metropolitan area.
– In many country places they were not ; so that in some places the polling booths were rushed, and in some! places, I have been told, were filled by what was really a disorganized mob. It was a common occurrence to see others besides the voter enter the retiring compartment in which he was supposed to exercise the franchise alone and unaided. The Act makes provision for assistance being given to illiterate voters, but precaution should be taken to see that all other electors vote secretly, and without interference or assistance of any kind. Arrangements should be made to prevent the repetition of the abuses which occurred at the last elections, and that can be done only by the presence of authorized officers, preferably in uniform, to see that the law is duly carried out. I hardly care to mention here many of the cases which occurred at the last elections, and which came under my own observation, or within my own knowledge. Some excuse -may be made by the Department on the ground that there had been a revolution of the franchise; but no such excuse should be made after the next elections. The electoral office is charged with the duty of properly enforcing the law, and it should make such arrangements as will lead to that being done. Persons who have recorded their votes should be required to retire from the booth, and not be allowed to loiter about watching other voters, and examining the ballot-papers. It is notorious that that was frequently done in Victoria. I wish also to ask the Minister to give some consideration to the remuneration of electoral officers. It has been complained of by many that those who compile the electoral rolls are inadequately paid, and I know of an instance in which a man was offered 2s. 6d. or 3s. for compiling a roll. I have been told that the remuneration is based on the number of names collected ; but there should be a fair minimum’ rate, because in scattered districts the collection of a roll necessitates a good deal of work, and considerable supervision. I think that the office of a collector should be a continuing one, carrying with it a certain yearly salary, so that the possessor of it may be always ready to assist in maintaining the completeness and purity of the roll for’ which he is responsible. It may be urged that to increase the allowances now paid, if even by only1s. or 2s. per man, would largely swell the Commonwealth expenditure. But if the work is to be properly done, it should be adequately paid for. Bad work should not be excused on the plea of so-called economy, which is really parsimony in its most contemptible form. I also ask the Minister for some information in regard to the arrangements for the revision of the rolls. Are they to be revised from time to time? If so, at what intervals, and how often are the revised rolls to be printed and made available to the public? Once in three years, or once in four or five years? We should have some security that the rolls will be adequate and complete whenever a general election takes place. It may necessitate a revision, or partial revision, every year.
– I move -
That the vote be reduced by , £200.
I have a very serious complaint to make against the Electoral Office. The last general election was conducted in Queensland upon very parsimonious lines. After the elections I had an interview with the right honorable member for Swan, who was then Minister of Home Affairs, and he promised me that divisional returning officers who were outside the Commonwealth Public Service should be paid a bonus of £20. These officers received the £20, but the payment was made to them in a very peculiar manner. The allowance was approved of by the right honorable member for Swan, but when the honorable member for Boothby took office he saw a chance of cutting down the expenses of the Electoral Department, and, instead of giving the officers £20 over and above their annual allowance of £26 per annum, he added £7 to the half-yearly instalment of their allowance - £13 - thus making up £20. I subsequently interviewed the present Minister of Home Affairs, who told me that he could not interfere with the decision of his predecessor. I had informed one officer that he would receive a bonus of £20, as promised by the Minister, and I felt called upon to make up the deficiency when I found that the Minister refused to give him the reward to which I thought he was justly entitled. The Government have appointed a permament Commonwealth Electoral Officer of
Queensland at a cost of some hundreds of pounds per annum. Prior to the last general election, all the work that was required was performed by Mr. Woodyatt, an officer of the Postal Department, but the authorities suddenlv discovered that a permanent officer was required. I have called several times at the Commonwealth Electoral Office in Brisbane, and have found that a young lady was the sole person in charge. I desire to obtain some information with regard to this special appointment, which, so far as I can gather,, is the only one in the Commonwealth. I can quite understand New South Wales and Victoria requiring permanent officers, but there seems to be no reason why two sets of electoral officers - one for the State and one for the Commonwealth - should be maintained in Queensland. I do not wonder at the grumbling that has been going on at the extravagance of the Commonwealth if unnecessary appointments are to be made in this way, and large salaries are to be paid to men with nothing to do but curl their hair. I trust that honorable members will not entertain the idea of handing over the Electoral Department to the control of a Commissioner. We have had quite enough of Commissioners, and I am sure that if honorable members had an opportunity to repeal the Public Service Act and cancel the appointment of the PublicService Commissioner, they would take advantage of it. If we appointed an Electoral Commissioner, the Minister of Home Affairs would become a mere recording clerk, and the Commissioner would be entirely beyond the control of Parliament, in the same way that the Public Service Commissioner is to-day. It is impossible to obtain any satisfaction from the Public Service Commissioner, and the only way we can deal with him is by refusing to vote any money for his Department. I propose to do what I can in that direction. We should do well if we paid off the Public Service Commissioner, and let him go for a holiday for the rest of his term of office. So far as his appointment was concerned, we were led into a trap by the representatives of New South Wales, who induced us to believe that a great improvement had been effected in the Public Service in that State by Commissioners. That service must have been in a very rotten condition before the Commissioners were appointed. There is scarcely an honorable member who has not some grievance against the Public Service Commissioner.
– He is a good man. Mr. PAGE. - He is too good ; that is where the trouble comes in. If the Electoral Department were placed under the control of a Commissioner, the Labour Party would have no show. We had an Electoral Commissioner in Queensland, and whenever a labour candidate had a good chance of winning a seat some obstacles were thrown in the way of holding Revision Courts, and those who were entitled to vote were precluded from having (heir names placed on the roll. If we are to appoint Commissioners in the way suggested, we might as well shut up Parliament, because everything would be placed beyond our control So far as I can judge from the report of the Electoral Act Committee, the administration of the Electoral Department is fairly satisfactory, and the opportunities presented for citizens to have their names placed on the rolls are such that no reasonable cause for complaint exists.
– I can hardly understand the attitude of the honorable member for Maranoa in wishing to reduce the vote. I consider that a readjustment of the boundaries of the electoral divisions must soon take place. Some honorable members will have a vivid recollection of the references that were made upon a former occasion to gerrymandering in connexion with the electoral divisions. Those honorable members who supported the Deakin Government in maintaining the present divisional boundaries did not object to the proposed redistribution upon the score of the changes that would be made in the boundaries, but thought that the time was inopportune, on account of the drought having caused an abnormal movement of population for the time being from the inland districts towards the large centres of population on the coast. I think the wisest course for the Government to adopt would be to endeavour to bring the States and Federal Electoral Departments into line.
– Does the honorable member suggest that our Department should be brought into line with the present Victorian system ?
– I suggest that the electoral administration of the States and of the Commonwealth might very well be carried out by one set of officers. I understand that at the last general election, considerable jealousy existed between the officers of the Commonwealth
Electoral Department and those of the State Department in New South Wales, and, as a result, many difficulties were thrown in the way of the former.
– The franchise is the same in both cases, is it not?
– No; but with very little difficulty the same officials could perform both the Federal and the State work.
– I thought that adult suffrage obtained in New South Wales.
– But a difference prevails in respect of the residential qualification. In my opinion a good deal of the odium which has been cast upon the Commonwealth Electoral Department is undeserved. When, we recollect that an entirely new Act had to be administered by a new set of officers, and that the election was “rushed,” the results must be regarded as very satisfactory indeed. We know that a little trouble occurred in the Melbourne and Riverina divisions, but, considering the vast area which the ‘ electorates embraced, and that the officers were unfamiliar with the provisions of the Act, I claim that very good service was rendered by them. Consequently, I think there is a great deal in the contention of the honorable member for Maranoa regarding the payment of these officials. I can quote a case similar to that which he has cited in connexion with my own electorate. It is admitted that the returning officer for Eden-Monaro - who is not a member of the Commonwealth Public Service - is a very excellent officer; indeed, he received great praise for the way in which he discharged his duties ; but when it came to paying him for his services, he expressed dissatisfaction. It was decided that for the conduct of the last election he would receive the sum of £20. The amount of £26 per annum had been fixed as payment for general work, and the authorities have deducted from the £20 the sum paid for so many weeks at 10s. per week, thus unfairly reducing the amount granted for conducting the election.
– No election was held in the Eden-Monaro electorate.
– There was a Senate election. The Returning Officer in question is an agent, and as honorable members are aware, agents make a livelihood by combining quite a number of lines. Yet, immediately this officer discovered that his remuneration had been fixed at £26 per annum, he stated that the amount was not sufficient for the work, and resigned his position. I maintain that the Government are acting wisely in appointing Commonwealth officials to perform electoral work as far as possible. Nevertheless, we ought to treat men who have performed good service in a reasonable way. We must recollect that a great deal of responsibility rests upon them. Had the returning, officer for the Riverina division been capable, the honorable member who now represents that constituency would have been spared the expense which he was obliged to incur in establishing his return, and also’ the expenses of contesting a second election, which I hope he will be recouped. We ought to aim in bringing the Federal and State officials into line.
– How would the honorable member accomplish that object, seeing that the franchise varies?
– I am quite in accord with the honorable member in his desire to establish a uniform franchise throughout Australia, but at the same time, I hold that even though the Federal franchise may differ from that of a State, the sp me officers could undertake both Federal and State electoral work. My own experience is that the present system is not as satisfactory as was the old system under which the police collected the rolls.
– Do not the police collect them in New South Wales?
– Yes, but they regard the collection of Federal rolls as Commonwealth work; and State officials, when called upon to perform both State and Federal work are expected to give the former precedence over the latter. That is a state of things which we ought to remedy as early as possible. Some Commissioners will require to be appointed to undertake the work of redistributing the electoral boundaries in New South Wales, and it seems to me that whatever appointment is made, it must provoke a certain amount of dissatisfaction. We are bound to be very critical where our own interests are concerned. Nevertheless. I am of opinion that verv little difficulty will be experienced in securing the adoption of any reasonable re-adjustment. That re-adjustment, however, must be undertaken in a normal season. I am not prepared to support the abolition of the office of the Public Service Commissioner. Doubtless all honorable members have a grievance against him, because to a very great extent the Public
Service of the Commonwealth has been removed from political control. If it were possible, I should be inclined to penalize any attempt on the part of Members of Parliament to influence the Public Service Commissioner in any way. Now that the service has been freed from political influence, I should resent very strongly even a shadow of suspicion of social or club influence. I do not suggest that that has occurred in connexion: with the Commonwealth services ; but we know that it has in connexion with the States services. In my judgment, we are exceedingly fortunate in having secured the services of such a strong man as Mr. McLachlan, who, I am satisfied, is actuated only by a desire to do what is right. I feel sure that the sense of fair play on the part of the Minister of Home Affairs will cause him to recognise that it is only proper that the electoral officers to whom I have previously referred should be treated reasonably well. In New South Wales many men who were employed as presiding officers and poll clerks were not informed prior to their appointment of the amount of their remuneration. Naturally when asked to render their accounts they demanded the sum which they had been previously paid by the States, for the performance of similar work. Thereupon the Commonwealth Electoral Office protested that the claims were too high, and resisted them. To my mind, when an individual is appointed, either as a poll clerk or presiding officer, he should be informed of the remuneration which he is to receive. Had that been done, no difficulty would have been experienced. I say, “ Let the public servants of the Commonwealth understand that no favoritism is to be exercised, but that seniority and merit, upon which the Commissioner lays such emphasis, will always count, other things being equal.” Then, when a vacancy occurs, public servants will know that’ they cannot be appointed to it unless the officer who is senior to them refuses to accept it. If that system were generally observed, there would be less warrant for public servants approaching Members of Parliament. I have received several letters from deserving officers of the Commonwealth, in which they affirm that vacancies in the service are practically filled before ‘.he advertisement inviting applications is published in the Gazette. If that be so, the present practice merely deludes them.
– The Public Service Act compels the Commissioner to advertise.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. McDonald). - I would remind the honorable member that the Public Service Commissioner’s salary is included in the next vote.
– As I have practically concluded my remarks under that heading, I shall be saved the necessity of repeating then, when the next vote is under consideration.
– I wish to indorse every word which has fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Maranoa. I should like to ascertain from the Minister of Home Affairs, whether the appointment of a permanent electoral officer in Queensland has affected the expenditure of that Department? I understand that hitherto the Department there has been administered by a postal official. I gathered from the remarks of ‘he honorable member for Maranoa that an officer whom we were not able to retain in the Postal Department, has been permanently appointed to the Electoral Office. I should like to know whether the cost of that office has been increased by his appointment? I protest most strongly against any additional expenditure on the part of the Department in Queensland. I also heartily concur in the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa in respect of the Public Service Commissioner. I think that far too much power has bee/ placed in his hands. For two consecutive years, Parliament has sanctioned the payment of an increased salary to a certain officer, but the Commissioner has utterly ignored our decision. That is not right, and I hope a change will be made. My object in rising, however, was to request the Minister to explain whether the expenses of the Electoral Department in Queensland were to be increased by the appointment of a permanent Electoral Officer.
– The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has stated that at certain country polling places there was a lack of supervision on the occasion of the last general election. I am not in a position to say what was done in the rural districts, but I know that two or more constables were on duty at each polling-place in the metropolitan area, and that the proceedings at those booths were not characterized by any of the unseemly disturbances to which the honorable and learned member has referred.
– It would be impossible to provide constables for every polling place.
– I admit that it would be impossible to have a constable on duty at every small polling place, but the honorable and learned member spoke of booths where hundreds of persons had to vote. Surely there would be some kind of police supervision at such places ? I do not know whether the honorable and learned member’s complaint was brought under the notice of the Select Committee on the Electoral Act, but I think it should have been. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said he thought it would be well for the Commonwealth and the States to employ one set of electoral officials. That would be possible if the franchise and the electoral districts were uniform; but in many cases the State electoral districtsoverlap the Federal districts to such an extent that it would be impossible to give effect to the proposal. A State electorate - more particularly in the metropolitan area - may form part of two or three Federal electorates, and it would be impossible to employ one set of electoral officers to deal with them. As the honorable member has said, a certain amount of jealousy between the States and the Federal electoral officers was evinced at the last general elections, many of those employed by the State apparently considering that a reflection had been cast upon them by the failure of the Federal authorities to call upon them to undertake the work. Judging by the return presented to the House as to the cost of the general election of 1901:, which was entirely carried out by State officials, and that of 1904, which was carried out by Federal officials, the latter was conducted on far more economical lines. In my own constituency the last general election was conducted quite as satisfactorily as was that of 1 90 1, but I do not know whether this remark would apply to other Federal electorates. The suggestion has been made that the police should not be’ intrusted with the duty of compiling the electoral lists. Notwithstanding that the population of the electorate which I represent has been practically stationary for the last twenty years, the collection made by the police resulted in an increase of 33 percent, in the number of male voters placed on the Federal rolls, as compared with” tlie number on the State rolls. The franchise in both cases was the same, and, although there should have been, if anything, a slight advantage in favour of the State, inasmuch as property- owners have the right to be on the ratepayers’ roll, this large increase occurred. It shows that the work of the police must have been effectively performed. I knowthat in regard to the State rolls, the responsibility is thrown upon the elector of ascertaining for himself whether his name is on the roll, and the position will be the same so far as transfers and new applications which will be made after the police have collected the names under our own system are concerned. I am anxious to know what the Ministry are going to do in regard to the redistribution of electorates.
– That is all right; they are to remain in statu quo.
– Those who wish the electorates to remain as they are should bring in a Bill to amend the Electoral Act. We should either administer the Act as it stands, or strike out the provision, relating to the redistribution of electorates. After the theatrical display made by the present Prime Minister in connexion with the redistribution which took place last year, it would be interesting to learn what the Government propose to do in regard to this matter.
– The Prime Minister resigned his seat on that occasion.
– There is no likelihood of his doing so in regard to this or any other matter whilst he is in office.
– He is going to make an alteration.
– The sooner the better. I certainly should not like to see the work allowed to stand over, as was the case last year, until practically the last moment. In some cases there was perhaps a legitimate excuse for the plea that it was too late to refer the reports back to the Commissioners ; and, so far as New South Wales and Victoria are concerned, the matter is one that requires to be dealt with in the near future. I do not think that we ought necessarily to accept any report submitted by a Commissioner.
– We should not accept a report unless it suits us.
– We should not accept it unless it is satisfactory, not to any individual member, but to the House generally. Reference has ‘been made to the pay of officers in the Electoral Department, and I understand that since the last general election the Electoral Office has framed a scheme providing for increased rates of pav to certain officers. I trust that an increase will be made in the pay of poll-clerks. At the last election, many of these officers were compelled to be in the polling places from 7.40 a.m. until 1 a.m. next day. They had to pay for their own meals, and go out when relief was available to obtain refreshment, and yet they received only 15s. each. We expect these officers to do good work, and such a rate of pay is altogether too small. Under the Victorian Electoral Act, poll-clerks have always received either j£i or £I is. per day, although their duties are not so heavy as are those of the Commonwealth clerks. Poll clerks engaged in the Federal elections have to assist in counting the ballot papers, both for the Senate and for the House of Representatives, and they certainly deserve better remuneration than they receive. I do not know that I can support the amendment, but if it has been submitted merely as a protest against the appointment of an additional officer to the Queensland branch of the service, I am prepared to follow the lead of the representatives of that State. We have an officer doing this work in Victoria, and I think, it is absolutely necessary that there should be one in each State, possessing a complete knowledge of its electoral conditions. I do not think it is necessary, however, to have a returning officer permanently appointed for each electorate. A suggestion to that effect was made at a conference of returning officers, but if the proposal means that a gentleman is to be permanently appointed, to do nothing but attend to the duties of returning officer-
– That is not the intention. The officer is to receive £26 per annum.
– -Is he to be a postal official?
– A Government official, where possible.
– At the last general election a Government official carried out the duties of returning officer for the electorate which I represent, and did his work very effectively. I do not think that any one could find just cause for complaint against him, although I am aware that complaint was made in regard to the actions of Government officials intrusted with this duty in other electorates. Those complaints were largely made by State officials, who felt aggrieved because they had not been called upon to act for the Commonwealth. 1 should like to know how often the
Government intend to have the rolls revised and at what intervals the rolls, as revised by the revision court, will be displayed? No such revision has been made since the last general election, although shortly prior to that event complaint was made that hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of names had been left off the rolls. The rolls should be revised and displayed from time to time, or a supplement showing the alterations made by the revision court should be printed at stated intervals, and displayed in such a way as to enable every elector to determine whether his or her name appears on the roll. I trust that the Minister will give effect to the suggestion made by the honorable member for EdenMonaro.
– It is to be regretted that the ex- Minister of Home Affairs or some other member of the late Government is not present to reply to the statements made by the honorable member for Maranoa. The complaint as it stands is a serious reflection on the late Ministry ; but if any member of it were present he would possibly be able to give a satisfactory explanation. It is also to be regretted that the honorable member should have combined with his complaint a proposal to reduce this item by £200. If Queensland does not need the services of the officer in question, it is for her representatives to say so ; but if we carry the amendment we shall cast a reflection on the Electoral Department without securing any guarantee that a reduction will be made in the particular direction desired. The alteration which the honorable member seeks to effect should be specifically stated. We were to some extent responsible for” the confusion which arose in connexion with the conduct of the last general elections, because we reduced the term for which the first Parliament was elected by practically six months. The elections took place much sooner than was anticipated when the officers entered upon their work, and having regard to this circumstance as well as to the fact that there were some 30,000 officers under the direction of the central office in connexion with the general election, it is astonishing that the Select Committee should have been unable to discover any serious case of negligence. That anomalies existed, and blunders occurred - that some of the officers in subordinate positions did not understand the directions they received - cannot be denied; but when we remember that the system was new, so far as four States were concerned, and that in the two States in which it was known no anomalies arose, we must, recognise that the officers carried out their task fairly well. I think that we should avoid any unnecessary duplication of the work of State officials. Commonwealth offices have been piled up one by one, with the result that Federation is regarded by some persons as a very expensive luxury, and the day is not far distant when some inquiry will be necessary to discover if unnecessary duplication has .taken place. I am not prepared, on the information at my disposal, to vote for a bald proposal to reduce the item by £200..
– I should have thought that, in view of the report of the Select Committee upon the administration of the Electoral Act, the honorable member for Maranoa would not have moved this, amendment. I was the Minister in charge of the Department at the time of the last general elections, and was quite prepared to learn that many errors and omissions occurred. The elections were hurried on, and much difficulty was experienced in compiling and printing the. rolls in time to be of service. Everything was hurried so that the elections for the House of Representatives might be held at the same time as the Senate elections, and thus save ,£50,000. I am glad that a Select Committee has reported on the administration of the Department. I am sure that we are all agreed that if there were incompetence, negligence, or corruption in the administration of this or any other Department it should be closely investigated and removed. The Chief Electoral Officer was charged by some honorable members with incompetency, if not worse, and it is gratifying to me to find that the report of the Select Committee does not bear out what was said either against him or against his administration. Those who made tha statements in this Chamber should have been prepared to prove them before the Select Committee. Indefinite statements made against an absent man - unless those making them are prepared to give the facts on which they base their charges - are not creditable to those who make them. The members of the Committee, who were chosen from both parties, report that -
Though many causes of complaints were said to exist, with respect to the administration of the Electoral Act, your Committee cannot, upon the evidence submitted to them, find that their number or nature were such as to justify the adverse criticisms passed upon the Chief Electoral Office
With respect to the administration by the Chief Electoral Office, no complaints of a serious nature were sustained, and your Committee find that strenuous efforts were made by the officers to bring into due operation the Electoral Act, and to secure the efficient conduct of the general election.
The report, which is a very long one, seems to be very favorable to the Department, and even in the case in which it was proved that some omissions had taken place, in the Macquarie division, the “ Committee find that-
In view of the immense amount of work that had to be done by this officer, this omission is possibly one of inadvertence only.
Finally, they place on record their recognition of the very valuable sendees rendered to them by the Secretary lo the Department of Home Affairs, and express their entire satisfaction with his administration.
– Nothing was ever said against that officer.
– As Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs he had a great deal to do in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act. What was said against the Chief Electoral Officer, however, does not seem to have been borne out by the report of the Select Committee. I am very glad that he has been shown not to be incompetent. I know that while I, as Minister of Home Affairs, controlled the Electoral Office, he displayed great application, and I formed the opinion that his great desire was to conduct the affairs of his office in an independent and impartial manner. I think that it is as necessary that the Electoral Department should be free from political influence as that the officers of the Supreme Court should be so, because we all know that, wherever there is an opportunity to use influence, some one will avail himself of it. I hope that the Minister will now bc able to deal with the re-arrangement of the Commonwealth divisions. It is not easy to lay down rules to be followed, but those who are intrusted with the re-arrangement should upset existing arrangements as little as possible, because people have got accustomed to them. I know that the Commissioner who was appointed to re-arrange the Western Austraiian divisions, and who is a thoroughly competent and impartial man, in whom- I have the greatest confidence, altered one or two of the divisional boundaries when there was no need to alter them, because the number of electors -which they contained was- within the statutory limits. Of course, where a division contains more or fewer electors than the Act allows, it is necessary to alter it, but in making a new distribution the interests involved, and the avocations of the people concerned, should be taken into consideration. Wherever possible, two classes, with separate interests, the votes of one of which might nullify the votes of the other, should not be placed in the one division. When I arranged the Western Australian divisions in 1900 I used every care to provide that the people of the mining districts were kept apart from the people of the farming districts, and that the metropolitan districts were kept apart from the mining and country districts, and in that way I managed to give great satisfaction. I hope that the Minister will provide for a re-arrangement of divisions as soon as possible, so as to carry out the intentions of the Act ; but that there may be no greater interference than is necessary with’ existing boundaries. I shall oppose the amendment.
– The right honorable member for Swan has attacked those who were responsible for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the administration of the Electoral Department during the last general elections. As I moved for that Committee, I take all responsibility.
– I objected to the statements that were made, not to the appointment of a Committee.
– If the right honorable member will compare my speech with the report of the Committee, he will find that everything that was said which led up to the appointment of the Committee has been fully substantiated.
– The report is favorable to the administration.
– It is favorable to the administration of the Secretary to the Department, whose work was never questioned. It was the officer under him, who has the direction and control of the electoral branch, who was criticised.
– Paragraph 3 of the report says that the. causes of complaint did not justify the adverse criticism passed upon the Chief Electoral Officer.
– I admit that a considerable amount of the adverse criticism levelled against the Department did not find expression before the Committee, because., although people will make charges very readily, they cannot be got to substantiate them. That happened on this occasion. However, making all allowances for that, the inquiries made by the Committee disclose that their appointment was fully justified. They elicited a large amount of information with regard to the directions in which the Act might be strengthened, and the weaknesses of the administration were also brought to light. In one case it was shown that the list for a polling-booth in the electorate of Macquarie should have contained 250 names. The list was sent down to the electoral office in Sydney, and forwarded .to the Government Printer, by whom it was set up.
– That was known beforehand.
– Then the right honorable gentleman kept it very quiet.
– No, I did not. The Postmaster-General knew about it.
– He brought the matter under .the notice of the Department, and caused an investigation to be made. The Electoral Department subsequently sent to the Government Printing Office a list of sixty names which did not appear on the first roll sent in. It was assumed .that these sixty names were to be regarded as supplementary to those originally forwarded, whereas the evidence showed that they had never been submitted to a Revision Court, but represented electors who had no right to be included in the list for that particular polling-place. The Government Printer com.municated with the Electoral Department - which the right honorable gentleman for Swan regards as such a model - and all the information he was able to elicit was that the list of sixty names was to constitute the roll for the polling-place referred to. The consequence was that the original list containing 250 names was discarded, and the list containing only sixty names was adopted. The district staff had done their duty, but through some mysterious muddling at the Chief Electoral Office in Sydney the wrong list was adopted^ and 250 persons who had resided in the district for years, and who were entitled to be on the roll, found themselves disfranchised. That was a very serious matter. It is true that no evidence was given to show that this mistake was due to improper motives on the part of any of the officials. The Committee were not in a position to ascertain how it came about. Another abuse was disclosed in connexion with one of the , Tasmanian electorates. One of the returning officers discovered that a number of names had been omitted from the roll submitted to the Revision Court. He constituted himself the revising authority, and took it upon himself to. supplement the roll to the extent required to repair the omission. That, of course, was distinctly contrary to the law, which requires that the lists must first be submitted to a Revision Court. A similar thing happened in the Hunter electorate. In one of the mining districts a large number of electors were left off the roll, and considerable friction resulted. The Electoral Officer in Sydney thereupon telegraphed to the officials in the district, instructing them to poll the votes of the electors whose names were included in the State electoral roll. That, again, was contrary to the law, and if any question had arisen the election would have been upset. Then, again, in the Riverina electorate, the Divisional Returning Officer, without executive authority, constituted certain polling places. In addition, two elections were upset by the High Court on the ground that the Electoral Department had committed breaches of the Act. All these cases tend to show that there was considerable ground for the complaints which led up to the appointment of the Committee. The Committee was not armed with power sufficient to enable it to make a thorough investigation. All that it could do was to accept the statements of those witnesses who were willing to give evidence. No oath was administered, and no special action was taken to sift matters. If future elections are to be conducted in the same way as the last, there will be further serious ground for complaint. Honorable members and the community generally were prepared to make every allowance for the electoral officials, but much of the difficulty that arose was due to the unnecessary delays in the head office, for which the Minister was chiefly responsible. But for the ability displayed by Colonel Miller, the Secretary for Home Affairs, the trouble would have been greatly intensified, and the causes of complaint much more serious.
– Surely that is a most severe condemnation of the Electoral Department.
– That is the way in which I regard it, but the right honorable member for Swan chooses to adopt a different interpretation, and to put the whole blame upon honorable members who asked for the appointment of a Committee. We recognised specially the excellent work performed by Colonel Miller, who, in spite of the fact that he had a hundred and one things to attend to besides those relating specially to the Electoral Department, performed many of the duties which should have been undertaken by the Chief Electoral Officer.
– When is the report of the Committee to be presented?
– I understand that it is on the table, and ought to be made available to honorable members very shortly.
– We shall then have lost our opportunity to discuss it.
– It can be discussed on the Appropriation Bill.
– I think that the Government ought to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss it, because it is a very important matter. Honorable members must know from their own experience, apart from any special report, that the manner in which the last elections were conducted was far from satisfactory, and I would urge that now is the time at which we should consider the necessary reforms. The officials in the various electoral divisions had good cause for complaint with regard to the instructions sent to them. It should be the aim of the Chief Electoral Officer to, as far as possible, maintain good feeling between the central administration and the divisional officers. Now it is alleged that, at a conference which- was held prior to the last election, and which was presided over by the Chief Electoral Officer, the Divisional Returning Officers were given to understand that they would be allowed a sum of £20 each for their conduct of the elections, and that thereafter they would receive a. permanent appointment carrying a fixed salary of £20 or £26 per annum. In accordance therewith the permanent appointments have been made, and the salaries have been fixed. But the other part of the undertaking has not been carried out. I may mention that there is a wonderful unanimity amongst the Divisional Returning Officers that the understanding which I have outlined was arrived at. Indeed. I know a number of officers who incurred expenses, which they expected to be recouped to them in this way. The Electoral Department, however, has practically repudiated the understanding. I am led to believe that the Chief Electoral Officer has forgotten all about it, and as a result of the action of the Department considerable friction has been created. I gather that some representations have been made to the Government upon the subject, and I trust that the misunderstanding will be cleared up to the satisfaction of the officials who conducted the election.
– To what expenses does the honorable member refer?
– To the general expenses of the Divisional Returning Officers in connexion with the last general election.
– All those accounts have been paid.
– The Department affirms that they have been, paid, but ihe Returning Officers deny it.
– I have no accounts of the sort.
– Has the Minister any claim from Divisional Returning Officers in the State of New South Wales for a bonus °f £20 as a special grant for carrying out their duties ?
– There is such a claim, but I have no account for expenses out of pocket.
– Upon what was regarded as an authoritative statement on the part of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Divisional Returning Officers did not keep any special account. They expected that the “bonus in question would cover these expenses.
– Is that the matter to which the honorable member for Maranoa referred ?
– It is a similar case.
– It seems to me that, in its extreme anxiety to establish a record for economy in the conduct of a general election, the Electoral Department has done a gross injustice to some of its officers. I am willing to admit that some of the officers of the States piled up the expenses, but that remark does not apply generally. Upon the last occasion, the Electoral Department applied the pruning-knife so severely that if a general election occurred, considerable difficulty would be experienced in securing that efficient assistance which was obtained last year. These remarks bring me to the question of whether it is wise to confine the allotment of electoral duties to officers of the Commonwealth or a State. I know that previously the Government thought that thisshould be done, as it was expected that a larger measure of control could be exercised over these officers. It should not be forgotten, however, that whilst public servants may be very competent in the discharge of their own particular functions, a certain technical knowledge is required in connexion with the proper administration of the Electoral Department which those officers do not often possess. How could the Commonwealth do better than select those individuals who for years past have discharged similar duties on behalf of the States ? In New South Wales, I cannot recall a single case in which a State official was appointed to discharge Federal duties. The appointments were all made from outside the State service. As the result of long training, the State electoral officers possess a local knowledge which cannot be picked up by outsiders in a day. I will undertake to say that if it were not for the valuable assistance which these experienced officers rendered to the new Divisional Returning Officers the last general elections would not have been conducted as efficiently as they were. Instead of discouraging that assistance, we ought to encourage it wherever necessary, but we cannot do so by creating friction over small accounts. Certain payments were promised, which were afterwards repudiated.
– Does the honorable member say that these officers would require £20 a year, in addition to an annual allowance?
– I do not. But they were promised £20 upon the last occasion as a special grant, and that ‘ amount should have been paid. It is understood by these officers that the yearly allowance of £26 will cover that grant in future.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the present Minister of Home Affairs should deliberately revoke what the last Minister did? I understand that he settled the matter.
– A dispute exists between these electoral officers and the Chief Electoral Officer as to whether this payment was promised.
– The honorable member for Maranoa said that the matter had been investigated.
– It has, so far as I am concerned.
– But it has not been thoroughly investigated in New South Wales,I understand that the officers in question have made special representations to the Minister upon the subject.
– Not to the Minister, but to the Department.
– Under the circumstances it would be well to consider their claim as a fair one, and to meet them in this matter. The promise which was made ought to be honoured. The redistribution of the electoral boundaries is a very important matter. In New South, Wales the existing divisions were devised by the State Parliament before the first Federal Parliament was elected.
– They are very good divisions, too.
– We must recollect that under the Constitution the divisions must, as far as possible, contain an. equal number of voters. Since the present divisions were determined, population has shifted, so that to-day there is considerably more than the quota provided in some constituencies whilst in others there is considerably less. That position of affairs can be remedied only by a redistribution. If that work is to be performed, it should not be delayed until the last moment. Those who are charged with its performance should have an opportunity of doing justice to it. We should respect the provisions of the Constitution as far as possible. As to the advisableness or otherwise” of removing the Electoral Department from direct political control, and placing, it under the control of a Commission, I claim that there is a great deal of reason in the suggestion. In the first place, the Department is under the direct political control of the Ministry of the day. I do not suggest that there has been very much wrong-doing in this connexion,but the existing state of affairs subjects the Government to a good deal of suspicion. I believe that the appointment of a properly constituted board -to control these matters would be a move in the right direction., and would banish any suspicion that an improper use of the power vested in them was being made by any Ministry for the purpose of gaining a party advantage. Whilst our Electoral Act contains very liberal provisions, it is faulty in many respects. The last general election revealed some of these faults, and an amending Bill is necessary to remove them. If the Select Committee which has been investigating this matter has rendered no other service, it has established the fact that the provision in the Act relating to absent voters is open, to a very grave abuse, and calls for immediate remedy. Personally, I hope that we shall either provide proper safeguards to prevent that abuse, or that we shall wipe out the entire section relating to absent voters.
– I can support, to a very large extent, the remarks of the honorable member for Canobolas as to promises that were made to Divisional Returning Officers. I am unable to say that they were promised a grant of £20, but it cannot be denied that a promise was given that they should receive some allowance to cover the expenses to which they were put. The Divisional Returning (Officer for New England, who practises as a solicitor at Tamworth, has complained to me of the position in which he was placed by the action of the Department. He informs me that, from the time of his appointment until the eve of the election, one of his clerks was continuously employed in the work of preparing for the poll.
– Were these promises made by letter?
– I cannot say. I saw a telegram sent to the Divisional Returning Officer for New England, inviting him to meet the Chief Electoral Officer in conference with other Divisional Returning Officers in Sydney, and at that conference, I understand, that some promise was made that a grant sufficient to cover the cost of preparing for the election would be made. I am unable to say whether that promise has been fulfilled ; but the Divisional Returning Officer for my electorate informs me that he has received no remuneration for the work performed by him. The Minister should make some inquiry to see whether these officers have been treated in the way of which they complain. An inquiry would certainly set the matter at rest. A great deal of work was carried out by these officers, who were not appointed until practically the last moment. It will be remembered that postmasters were at first appointed as (Divisional Returning Officers, but that at almost the last moment their appointment was revoked, and the work handed over to officers who had formerly carried it out. Owing to this action on the part of the Department, the ‘Divisional Returning Officers had to make special efforts to carry out all the necessary arrangements to enable the election to be legally conducted. It may be that many of these difficulties were due to defects in the Act, which was passed very hurriedly. I know that the provision that an elector shall vote at his own polling booth would have resulted in one half of the electors of the New England province being disfranchised, had not a liberal supply of Q forms been sent to the polling places.
– The difficulty was largely due to the way in which the electors were allotted to the different polling places.
– That is so. The allotment* was made not by local men, as it should have been, but by some one in Sydney, who apparently adopted a rule of thumb method in carrying out the work. On one occasion, I met a gentleman at Tamworth from whom I was anxious to obtain some particulars as to the route to be followed by me in order to visit a certain part of my electorate, and in the course of conversation, he told me that he would vote at Limbri. I replied that there was no polling place there, and he then said that he would vote at Moonbi. On turning to the roll for that polling place, I found that his name did not appear on it, and, as the result of our investigation, we found that fifty-one persons whose names should have been on the rolls for Limbri or Moonbi were not accounted for. I at once telegraphed to the Sydney office.
– Were they supporters of the honorable member?
– The gentleman to. whom I was speaking was opposed to me ; but I believe that every man, whether he be an opponent or a supporter of mine, should be afforded every facility to exercise the franchise.
– Did the honorable member really hunt up the names of men who were opposed to him?
– I do not say that, but I knew that the gentleman in question was opposed to me. At my request he furnished me with a list of those whose names should have appeared on the rolls for Limbri or Moonbi, and I sent them on to the Electoral Office in Sydney. I inquired whether there was any other polling place in respect of which these names might have been enrolled, and finally we discovered that they were on the roll for Niangula. In order to reach that polling place a number of electors had to travel across the ranges, although there was a more convenient polling booth only five miles from the district in which they lived. I sent a telegram to this effect to the Electoral Office in Sydney, and pointed out that unless a number of Q forms were sent up one-half of the electorate would be disfranchised. This blunder was made by the Electoral Office in Sydney. . I believe that the police made a satisfactory collection. As a matter of fact, I was informed by the police who made the collection in another part of my electorate that many of the names sent in by them had not been placed on the rolls. To my mind, the police are the most suitable persons to collect lists, and, so far as I am aware, they have always carried out this duty satisfactorily. An effort should be made to combine to some extent the work of the Electoral Departments of the Commonwealth and of the States in order to reduce expense. It does not seem to be necessary to make separate collections for the States and for the Commonwealth rolls. The one setting up of type should also be sufficient. Of course, the boundaries of the Federal and of States electorates are not the same, but the names set up for the States rolls might easily be transferred . to the Commonwealth rolls. If the Federal and the State Electoral Offices were to a large extent combined, the work would be done more effectively and cheaply than at (present. I admit that the Committee itself could not make such a change, but the Minister might well inquire into the matter, and see what could be done in this direction, for it would be well if the rolls could be prepared and sent out from the one office. I agree that the redistribution of electorates should be taken in Hand as quickly as possible, so that we may have as far as practicable uniformity of representation in this House.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I congratulate my honorable friend who has just resumed his seat on the possession of some peculiar qualities. I have always had a kindly feeling towards him, and I think we have abundant evidence that he is a good old Christian. That must be said of any man who goes looking for electors who will vote against him. This is the first time that I have heard of a candidate asking an elector who he knew would vote against him, to get his name placed on the roll. Had I anticipated that the debate would be prolonged, I should have made, in the first instance, a somewhat extended reference to the point which I originally raised as to the desirability of appointing an independent Commission to administer the electoral law of the country. Honorable members have incidentally paid some very- fine tributes to the merits of the Public Service Commissioner. If he does his work well, and other Commissioners are working well for the interests which have been intrusted to them, surely the administration of the electoral law might be intrusted to Commissioners.
– The Public Service Commissioner is a very costly luxury.
Mi, JOSEPH COOK. - I do not agree with my honorable friend. I do not think the work could be put into better or more efficient hands. Honorable members forget the vast difference between the States services and a service which extends over the length and breadth of the Continent. My impression is that to efficiently administer and control the electoral affairs of the Commonwealth is as difficult and exacting a task as is intrusted to any public servant. It is a very different thing from the control of States electoral arrangements. When one recollects the varying conditions under which the Commonwealth electoral law has to operate, and remembers the different habits and customs, electorally speaking, of the people of Australia, he must admit that it is a matter of the greatest difficulty to make our electoral administration run smoothly. I have never found fault unduly with the conduct of affairs at the last general elections, because I recognise that it was a matter of supreme difficulty to get our electoral machinery into proper working order then. But as I realize the great importance and difficulty of electoral administration, I think that we should select for the control of the Department the best man whom we can find, and pay him an adequate salary. Instead of doing that now, we employ as Chief Electoral Officer a man to whom we pay £300 a year, while we give his chief clerk £50 or £60 a year more.
– Is not that because the Chief Electoral Officer receives a pension from a State?
– I believe that it is ; but it is nevertheless disgraceful for the Commonwealth to sweat him on that account. It has nothing to do with the Commonwealth whether this officer does or does not receive a pension from a State. Whatever services he renders to the Commonwealth should be fully paid for. I hope that the Government, in re-organizing the Department, will see that the services of the best man available are secured, and that he will be given carte blanche to do the best he can for us. I say that because I believe that an independent officer could do better for us than we could do for ourselves. Particularly is that so in regard to the redistribution of electorates. We have not enough information to judge properly in regard to that work. The right honorable member for Swan admitted that the Commissioner who prepared the redistribution scheme for Western Australia just prior to the last general elections is a man of ability and experience, for whom he has the greatest respect, and yet he told us that he should have done this, that, or the other, instead of doing what he did. The more knowledge honorable members have about electoral matters the greater will be the differences of opinion in regard to any proposed scheme, and the greater the need for an independent officer who can finally settle the matter.
– Does the honorable member propose to intrust the whole of our electoral machinery to a Commission?
– If that were done, no one would be responsible for errors.
– The Commissioner would be responsible just as the Public Service Commissioner is responsible, and could be indicted if he did wrong. I would make the salary of the Commissioner subject to the annual appropriation of Parliament, which would give Parliament control over him. I do not think he should be placed beyon’d Parliamentary criticism or control j but he should be left absolutely free in connexion, with the vital work of redistribution.
– If what the honorable member proposes were done, the Commissioner would not be removed from political influence.
– He would be so far as his immediate work was concerned. That work would be reviewed afterwards, when his salary came to be voted.
– Under such an arrangement, there would be as much political influence as there is now.
– I do not think so. The Commissioner’s work would have been finished by the time his salary came to be voted, and we should have secured the advantage of free action on his part in. regard to the redistribution of seats. The honorable member for Maranoa objects to my proposal, because of something which occurred in Queensland in connexion with the appointment of a Commissioner. The officer to whom he referred, however, was appointed by the Government. My proposal is that Parliament, not the Executive, should choose the Commissioner, and leave him free to do his work as he thought right. There should be more than one Commissioner, or, if only one Commissioner, a staff of State inspectors, because our Commonwealth electoral machinery requires constant policing and attention during every month of the year. For instance, in my electorate at the last elections over 600 informal votes were polled. In some parts of the electorate Assistant Returning Officers treated as informal votes which were not treated as informal in other parts of the electorate, and in two places where’ the number of votes cast was the same, there were 120 and twenty informal votes respectively., It is important ‘that we should have uniformity in regard to a matter of that kind, otherwise, at a close election, it would be the officers in charge of the various booths, and not the public themselves, who would determine who should be chosen.
– The instructions which are now issued provide for uniformity.
– It often happens that two officers will interpret the same instructions differently. I suggest that an electoral inspector should be appointed for each State, whose tin.e would be occupied in seeing that the returning officers all understood their instructions in the same way.
– There is no need for inspectors in South Australia to prevent the casting of informal votes.
– That may be because there are only seven electorates, in South Australia. In populous States like New South Wales and Victoria, or where a State is as large as Queensland is, and population is scattered all over , it, there would be ample work for inspectors. The greatest need, however, is that the Department shall have an efficient head, and that no political influence shall be used. There should be both continuity of administration, and uniformity of method, so far’ as they can be secured. I do not see how that is possible while the Department is under the control of Ministers who are here today and gone to-morrow. The honorable member for Maranoa, for instance, told us of a case in which the right honorable member for Swan, when Minister of Home
Affairs, decided to give a Queensland officer a bonus of £20, which the honorable member for Boothby, who succeeded him, reduced to £7. If decisions may be altered in this way through Ministerial interference, it shows that there can be no continuity of administration, whereas both continuity and uniformity are essential to efficiency. If they are secured, and a good man is placed in control of the Department, we shall have done all that human ingenuity can contrive for electoral administration.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that a Commissioner would administer the electoral law more efficiently than it is now administered by Ministerial control. I do not approve of the suggestion that we should appoint a person outside Parliament to deal with important and complex matters of this kind, and take from him responsibility which now attaches to Ministers. Party Government has given opportunity for the display of a good deal of fair-mindedness on the part of members of various Administrations. It is a singular commentary on the question which has been raised- that nothing has been said during this debate on the important matter which was discussed last session - the disfranchisement of electors which would come about if the present distribution of seats were allowed to continue.
– The matter has been discussed.
– The Prime Minister resigned his seat last session rather than remain in a Parliament which had rejected a redistribution scheme. One would have thought .that the first measure of a Government at whose head he was would’ be to bring in a Bill to correct the anomalies against which he inveighed.
– A Bill is not necessary. The right honorable gentleman’s complaint was that the redistribution of seats which was necessary had not been made.
– The right honorable gentleman protested against the action of this House in rejecting a scheme of redistribution put forward by a Commissioner appointed by the then Government. He resigned his seat in order to emphasize what he considered a departure from the true principles of representative Government.
– He said that the Government of the day should have asked for a new scheme of redistribution, if they were not prepared to accept the original scheme.
– I understand that he thought that the Ministry of the day were all but political manipulators of the worst type. The right honorable gentleman would not have taken that extreme step unless he considered that there was great danger of abuse, amounting to little short of political corruption. We have no guarantee that >the condition of affairs then complained of does not still exist, and, in view of the possibility of an appeal being made to the electors within a very short time, the remedy should be applied without] delay L ‘think, (however, tha’t /the Prime Minister absolutely failed to substantiate the statements he then made. So far as my own electorate is concerned, the number of votes polled was greater than that recorded in the Brisbane division, which had a very much larger number of electors on the roll, and where greater facilities existed for exercising the franchise. Another important matter is the necessity for securing uniformity in regard to the Federal franchise throughout the Commonwealth. In Victoria- and New South Wales, certain persons are included in the calculations made for the purpose of arriving at the number of representatives to which the States are entitled. In Queensland, the same class of persons are excluded from the calculation, and I do not see why the operation of any State law should prevent the whole of the States from being treated upon the same footing.
– The Constitution provides for that.
– The Constitution provides for uniform treatment, but a certain interpretation has been placed upon one of the Queensland Acts, which disentitles that State to (have included in the count certain classes of aliens. The whole question turns upon the interpretation of the word “all,” in section 25 of the Constitution, which reads as follows: -
For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then in reckoning the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted.
The whole of the population of Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania are counted for the purpose of arriving at the proportionate representation to which those States are entitled. Queensland has 18,038 aliens, South Australia 2,805, and Western Australia 4,999, who are not included in the count. Our contention is that some of the aliens in Queensland, of the class excluded, do exercise the franchise, but the point has been taken that that applies only to the case of those who have a property qualification, and that, therefore, under the provision in the Constitution, all persons of the race to which they belong should be excluded from the count. If all the States were treated alike, and all the aliens were excluded from .the count, New South Wales would, according to .the returns compiled upon the 30th June, 1903, be entitled to twenty-six representatives, Victoria to twenty-two, instead of twenty-three. Queensland to ten. instead of nine, South Australia to seven, and Western Australia and Tasmania to the minimum number, 5. I contend that a wrong interpretation has been placed upon the Constitution, and that Queensland is, in consequence, being deprived of its full representation. I think it is highly desirable that the Government should be in a position to present reliable statistical information to honorable members, so that in dealing with matters of this kind, we may feel assured that we are upon safe ground. I am glad that the Government favour the establishment of a Statistical Department, which will enable Ministers to present accurate statistical data to Parliament. I hope that the earliest opportunity will be availed of to introduce a Bill to provide for the redistribution of seats, and the proper representation of the various States. I heartily approve of the proposal, which I understand has found favour with the Minister of Home Affairs, namely, that of re-grouping within the various districts the assistant returning officers, and investing them with larger powers. The divisional returning officer is at present the only person who can exercise the full discretion allowed to electoral officers under the Act in regard to permitting electors to exercise the franchise when they are absent from the districts for which they are enrolled. I hope that a larger number of assistant returning officers will be appointed at convenient centres, and that such officers will be invested with all the powers of a divisional returning officer, except that of exercising the casting vote . I am sure that such an arrangement would prove economical, and would at the same time serve the convenience of the electors. I am not here to make loud complaints about the way in which the last election was carried out. I think that, taking everything into consideration, the results were satisfactory. That, however, would be no justification for continuing a system that might be improved, and I look forward with some interest to the introduction of a Bill which will cover all the suggestions that have been made by the Electoral Committee.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas). - I understand from the Prime Minister that probably an opportunity will be afforded later on to discuss the report of the Electoral Act Committee. Some correspondence has passed between the Victorian Electoral Officer, Mr. Outtrim, and the Department of Home Affairs, on matters similar to those dealt with by the Committee, and as Mr. Outtrim was not examined by the Committee, I would ask the Minister to consider the advisableness of laying, the correspondence on the table, so that it may be discussed in conjunction with the report.
– I have no objection to lay upon the table any correspondence bearing upon the questions dealt with by the Electoral Committee, but I should like the honorable member to indicate, privately, exactly what he means. I need hardly say that I shall give the matters to which honorable members have referred my most careful consideration. I believe that nearly every one of those matters has already had my attention. I quite agree with the remarks of those honorable members who supported the suggestion of the honorable member for Parramatta that it is necessary to give attention to the important matter of redistributing the electoral boundaries. I feel as strongly now as I did previously the necessity for conferring that equality of voting power which can. only be provided by some approximate equality in the distribution of the electors.
– Allowing for a margin.
– Of course the margin is provided by the Act.
– When is that work to be done?
– There has been no delay in attending to the matter. Of course it is necessary to ascertain with some degree of accuracy the number of electors in the different divisions throughout Australia before any redistribution of electoral boundaries can be effected. The collection of the rolls is now proceeding in some of the States, and it is completed in others.
– In what State has it been completed ?
– In New South Wales.
– Has it been completed in Victoria ?
– It is nearly completed in this State. In one or two other States, such as South Australia and Western Australia, where, owing to some difference between the States and the Commonwealth, delay was occasioned in the completion of arrangements for the collection of the lists, the work will occupy four or five weeks longer. When it is complete we shall have an approximately accurate return of the number of electors in every division of the Commonwealth. It will then be the duty of the Government to take the steps provided for in the Act by appointing Commissioners to whom the work of redistribution will be committed.
– I hope that more than one Commissioner will be appointed for eachState.
– The Act provides for the appointment of one Commissioner only in each State, and we must be governed in that, and in other operations, by the provisions of the statute. The necessity for amending the law is recognised by myself, as it was by my predecessors in office. There are some alterations which the Electoral Committee have recommended, there are others which have been recommended by the Department, and still others which have been rendered necessary by recent decisions of the High Court. There are others, again, for which the Government must accept responsibility when they are proposed, and which will possibly include an alteration of the administrative system under the Act.
– What about an exhaustive ballot?
– I do not propose to discuss questions of policy at the present time, because to do so would enlarge the debate too much. Whilst I hold strong views as to the direction which anv reform should take, those views have not yet been submitted to the Cabinet. They have been purposely withheld, because I felt it was desirable that we should await the report of the Electoral Committee before considering the whole of the amend ments which we might decide to be necessary. It has been agreed that it is impossible to pass an Amending Electoral Act during the present session, but I can assure honorable members that the matter is receiving the very fullest consideration. Should I occupy my present position next session, I hope to bring forward an amending measure, dealing with all those matters which’ have been brought under the notice of the House to-day. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has alluded to the necessity of arranging for a proper supervision of polling places. He brought that matter under my notice some time ago, and, in view of a possible election, arrangements have been made for proper control at polling places, and for the exclusion of those who have no right within their precincts.
– Was that complaint a general one?
– I do nof think so. I have received complaints from only one or two honorable members. Lax supervision occurred in isolated instances.
– It. occurred in the city, too.
– The Act may need some amendment in that respect. At the present time the powers conferred by it are scarcely large enough to prevent some undesirable things occurring at some of the booths. Then a number of honorable members have drawn attention to the rates which are paid to electoral officers. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo spoke of the low remuneration which was given to registrars. He quoted one instance in which a registrar received as low a sum as 2s. 6d. In this connexion I desire to say that it has been found desirable to pay these officers according tot he number of names which appear upon the rolls. In the first place, they are paid is. 6d. per 100 for entering up the names. Afterwards, for attending to their correctness, noting removals, making additions, &c, they are allowed 2s. 6d. per 100. These payments aggregate a considerable sum. If we increased the charge by is. per 100 it would mean an additional expenditure of £1,000 per annum. Where a registrar received only 2s. 6d., there could only have been 100 names upon the roll. It has been found that there are a great number of officers in the service who are ready to undertake this work at the rates quoted-
– Surely that fact would not influence the Minister’s decision.
– Not necessarily, though I am of opinion that public work of this character ought to be performed by citizens in some cases for nothing. But as it is not the rule to accept services for nothing, a rate should be fixed which is reasonable.
– Are the registrars paid 2s. 6d. per 100 for all the names upon the toll ?
– Probably 80 per cent, of them would involve no work at all.
– Exactly. I claim that we require further experience before we are justified in saying that the present rates are not sufficient. I believe that there were justifiable complaints regarding the payments to certain officers lor work performed upon polling day. In this connexion a new scale of fees is being arranged with which the officers so employed have expressed satisfaction, and which, it is believed, will remove the dissatisfaction which was experienced in some instances at the late general election. A question has also been raised in regard to the revision of the rolls. It is most desirable that that revision should, if possible, take place at certain specified times. But I would point out that at the present time it is quite undesirable to have a revision, and for this reason : if we are to have a redistribution of electoral boundaries, it is idle to incur the enormous expenditure of revising and printing the rolls for the present divisions.
– Then how will the Minister be able to ascertain the number of voters in any particular electorate?
– From the collected list. The old roll, with all its imperfections, will be taken and checked by the lists which are collected by the police, by the information supplied by Returning Officers, and by the applications received from electors. Those names which should not be upon the rolls will be struck off. Supplementary rolls will then be prepared, and the names which are not upon the original rolls, but which should be there, will appear upon these. Of course the re-grouping which is proceeding, will cause the alterations to be very extensive. We shall have to strike off from certain polling places upon the original toll a large number of voters, not because they are not resident there and entitled to exercise the franchise, but because of the necessity to include them in the group to which they properly belong. These rolls can be prepared for the Returning Officers. But,- however anxious we may be to produce a revised roll, it is manifest that unless we needlessly expend many thousands of pounds we cannot accomplish our purpose until the redistribution of the electoral divisions has been effected.
– Will the Minister make, the necessary inquiries in regard to the population of Queensland, so as to ascertain whether that State is entitled to ten representatives ?
– As the honorable member has mentioned it, I may say now, instead of later, that what he suggests will be done, and full attention will be given to the matter. A specific complaint has been made regarding an alleged promise to grant Divisional Returning Officers at the last general elections a bonus of £20 in addition to fixing their salaries. That matter was decided by ray predecessor. In justice to him I may say that he decided it upon the ground that there are in the Department copies of the letters which were sent to each Divisional Returning Officer when he was appointed, and which distinctly set forth that the allowance was to be at the rate of £26 per annum. He found no evidence of any promise that would alter the arrangement recorded in those letters, and unless I had information before me which he did not possess it would not be my duty to reverse his decision.
– Some of them received the allowance.
– But not on that ground.. I shall explain to the honorable member what is the exact position. To reverse my predecessor’s decision in the absence of fresh information would be to carry party government to an undesirable extent. I accepted his decision on the facts then, before him, but I shall be prepared to receive evidence either of an individual promise or of a general promise to the Divisional Returning Officers that an allowance of £20 would be made in respect of the election in question, in addition to the annual salary of £26. If such evidence were forthcoming, I should feel it incumbent upon me’ as Minister to carry out the promise, although its fulfilment would involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure of from £1,100 to £1,200.
– Some promise must have been made or they would not have been paid £7 to make up the extra amount.
– That payment was not made as the result of any decision arrived at by me. I intend to explain to the Committee the facts as reported to me in regard to the matter. The attention of the Minister was drawn to the fact that at the first election the work was very heavy - heavier possibly than it would be at any subsequent election, and it was claimed that there ought to be - and some said- it was promised that there would tie - an allowance of £20 to each Divisional Returning Officer in respect to that election. The Minister then said that he would grant an allowance of £20 in respect of the period from October, 1903, to March, 1904, but that from the last-named date the rate of pay would be £26 per annum. He came to this decision because it was during the period named the great bulk of the work involved by the holding of the general election had to be carried out. His decision really amounted to this : that they were to receive an allowance of £20 for that period, less that which they had already been paid as salary, his determination being that the payment of a salary was not to begin until after March, 1904. They were to receive the allowance of £20, less about £13 they would have received by way of salary, making a difference of £] 10s. 2d.
– They received that additional amount for the special work performed by them.
– Yes ; the Minister took the view that no promise was made, and that, consequently, if they were to receive a special allowance they should not receive the ordinary yearly allowance. If this decision were to be taken as a precedent for paying an allowance of £20 to every Divisional Returning Officer at each election it would result in the Commonwealth being put to unnecessary expense. I quite admit that there may have been some special claims for consideration in connexion with the first general election. That fact has been recognised in dealing with Divisional Returning Officers, who were not in the service of the Commonwealth or a State, but those who were so employed have not received this consideration. This course was adopted, I believe, because it was determined, if possible, that none but State or Commonwealth officers should in future be employed as Divisional Returning Officers. Under this decision the services of those who are not members of the Commonwealth or a State service might not be required at future elections, and it was thought that as they would have been employed only during a time of hard work, and would not be acting at a time when merely routine work would have to be performed, they ought to be specially considered to the extent named. Whilst I must stand by the decision given on the facts then before the Minister, I have only to say that if the statement made by the honorable member for Canobolas can be supported by receivable evidence - I may say that it is denied by the Chief Electoral Officer - I shall consider that the Government are called upon to fulfil the promise; but until such evidence be forthcoming, I shall have to stand by the decision of my predecessor.
– The honorable gentleman would need evidence to reverse the contention of the Chief Electoral Officer.
– He questioned whether the promise was made. The honorable member for Canobolas says that the Chief Electoral Officer must have forgotten that he made it at a Conference of Divisional Returning Officers.
– He would not have made such a promise without authority.
– If it were made, the Ministry should support it. We should not encourage officers to believe that an allowance will be paid to them, and then refuse to grant it ; but in the absence of proof of any such promise, I have only to point out that a letter was addressed to these officers, stating that the rate of pay would be £26 per annum. Allusion has been made to the appointment of a Chief Electoral Officer for Queensland. I believe that the appointment of an officer whose duty will be confined ,to the work of the Electoral Office in that State will prove an economy, rather than an expense. This officer was engaged in the Post and Telegraph Department, at a salary of £280 per annum, but he has been transferred to the Electoral Office at a salary of £260 per annum. He accepted the lower salary, because the transfer meant that he would be stationed at Brisbane, where he preferred to reside, whereas had he remained in the Post and Telegraph Department he would probably have been transferred to the country. The head of his Department has reported very favorably upon his qualifications, and speaks of him as an officer likely to render effective service in the Electoral Office. I have no hesitation in saying, from my experience of the Department, that if we have an officer giving his full attention to the electoral business of the Commonwealth in so large a State as Queensland - a State embracing a very wide area, and including a large number of polling places - we shall easily save his salary as compared with the results of having an officer giving only partial attention to the work.
– When the Minister pays a visit to Brisbane I should like him to call at the office and to see what this gentleman has to do.
– The honorable member is thinking of a period when the officer devoted only part of his time to the work. He is thinking of Mr. Woodyatt.
– That is so.
– Howcould he be in the Electoral Office all day when he was required in the Post and Telegraph Department?
– It seems that the Post and Telegraph Department could do without him when he had to attend to electoral matters.
– But the calls made upon him were becoming so numerous that it was absolutely impossible for him to attend to his dual duties. How could we expect any election to be properly carried out unless the framework of the system had been properly prepared in advance? Over 800 registrars are required for the different polling booths in Queensland, and although the Department has been endeavouring to secure these men, I believe that so far only about sixty have been appointed. I am not blaming the electoral officer who has been acting in Queensland, for his attention has been so taken up with State matters that he has not been able to attend to this work ; but I have had to say that these appointments shall be made without further delay. I believe’ that the attention given by an officer who is able to devote the whole of his time to electoral matters in so large a State as Queensland will not result in any loss to the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, this change should save Queensland expenditure. I do not mean to suggest that the officer appointed is a more competent man than is Mr. Wpodyatt. Mr. Woodyatt is a very good officer, but we shall effect a saving by having a man able to devote the whole instead of only a part of his time to the duties of the Electoral Office in. that State. I quite agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that an effort should be made to-co-operate with the States in regard to our electoral system. We would have to assimilate our franchise as much as possible, in order that that cooperation may be effective ; but in any event we must look to co-operation with the States to bring about the greatest saving in electoral matters to the people of Australia. We must recognise more and more that the Parliaments of the Commonwealth and of the States are acting for the one people, and that our franchise must come into line to a greater and greater extent. If this be done, co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth will increase.
– An uniform franchise will be necessary.
– Of course a uniform franchise would be desirable, but a great deal could be accomplished by mutual agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, even without a uniform franchise. I may say by way of illustration, that I struck out an item on the Estimates, as submitted to me, to provide for the expenditure of several thousands of pounds for ballot boxes for the Commonwealth, holding that the same boxes should be made suitable for both Commonwealth and State purposes.
– Is it not a fact that the New South Wales Government caused the alterations made in the ballot boxes for the purposes of the Commonwealth to be removed ?
– They did, for the reason that the attachments which we had made to them were so clumsy that it interfered with their handling.
– There was no necessity to have an attachment under the method of counting.
– A second locked lid has to be provided under the Act. I think that instead of inserting such a provision in the Act itself, we should have left the matter to be dealt with “ as prescribed.” An attachment has now been devised which will do away with the difficulty. It has no staples and no outside locks.
– Which invention have the Government accepted - the one with the slide?
– Yes. An inexpensive alteration only will be necessary to make the State ballot boxes suitable for both Commonwealth and State purposes. There are a variety of ways in which we shall be able to co-operate with the States; and as regards some of the matters I hope an agreement will be arrived at during the recess. The honorable member for Canobolas raised the question as to whether it was desirable to confine electoral positions to States and Commonwealth officers. I do not intend to discuss that matter, as it involves a question of policy which will have to be put forward when the Bill to amend the Electoral Act is before us next session. There is something to be said on both sides Of the question. I have arrived at a certain conclusion ; but whilst I shall give every attention to the honorable member’s remarks, I do not desire at this stage to discuss the matter.
– What about giving the control of the Department to a Commissioner?
– That is another question of policy. There is something to be said for the proposal, but I could say a very great deal against it. I have formed my own opinion on the subject, and if that opinion receives the approval of the Cabinet, I shall be ready to discuss the matter here. The Commonwealth, however, should never lose its grip of the expenditure in connexion with Federal electoral matters. Those matters extend over such a range of territory, and embrace the affairs of so many polling-places, many of them in outlying districts, that if this Parliament has not a close grip of the expenditure, it might increase by tens of thousands of pounds.
– On the other hand, if it takes too tight a grip, it may destroy the efficiency of the Department.
– I agree with the honorable member in that; there are the two extremes. I am not going to enter into any question of policy at the present time; but whatever system may “be adopted, it is important that the Commonwealth Parlia– ment should have a tight and strong grip of the expenditure of the Electoral Department. Honorable members> will understand, when they are informed that there is an army of some 7,000 officials required to conduct the Federal general elections, and to carry on electoral work between elections, how a very slight increase of expenditure by, or upon each of those officials, would increase the expenditure of the Department very largely. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta, however, that we should not push economy to an extreme, and thus cause inefficiency. There is a mean between the two extremes, and it should be adopted.
– I believe, with the honorable member for Parramatta, that the administration of the Commonwealth electoral law should be intrusted to a Commission. The honorable gentleman’s speech to-night should convince any one on that score. During last session, the discussion of electoral administration was brought to a dramatic climax by the resignation of the present Prime Minister, who declared that it was absolutely necessary for him to appeal to the electors upon the question. That incident furnishes one of the strongest arguments that could be obtained for placing the administration of our electoral law in Commission. The Prime Minister and those who supported him at the time, including the honorable member for Parramatta, accused the Government of the day of attempting to arrange the boundaries of divisions to secure their own party ends. Now, a twelve-month later, the Minister of Home Affairs tells us that the Government are not prepared to go on with the redistribution of divisions, because they have not yet sufficient data. Th’e present Government are in exactly the same position as the Barton Government was in.
– No; their lists were in, and the distribution had been made by their Commissioners ; but they asked Parliament to reject it.
– Either the Prime Minister took a course which was childish and unwarranted, or the Barton Government were wrong. The Minister told us that one of the reasons why Revision Courts should not be held now is that there is to be a redistribution of seats in the near future. Yet he is allowing the regrouping of the names on the rolls, which is a much more costly proceeding than the holding of Revision Courts.
– All that is being done is to group names round the various polling booths.
– But the whole of the work may be upset by a re-arrangement of divisions.
– There is always some reason being given for not holding Revision Courts. There was ample time for the Deakin Government, and even for the Barton Government, to hold them. It seems to me that ‘there must be some other reason than that which has been given for not holding them; and as there are so many varied statements in connexion with matters of this kind, it would be better to place the administration of the electoral law under a Commissioner. The election of members to this House should not be affected by the action of any Minister or Government, and ‘the arrangement of electorates should be in the hands of an independent Commissioner, who would be in the same position as the Auditor-General, reporting to Parliament, and not to the Government. This Government is no better than any other. Sooner or later, every Government will do to gain party ends things which are not creditable. I have seen such things done so often, since I have been in political life, that I would not trust any Government, if it were pushed, and especially not a Government which has shown itself willing to retain office after having been spoken to as the honorable member for Wilmot spoke to honorable members opposite. I should like to point out that the present Chief Electoral Officer receives only £300 a year, while his chief clerk is paid £360. Is the chief clerk the superior man? If so, the Chief Electoral Officer should not be allowed to retain his position. On the other hand, if the Chief Electoral Officer is competent, he should be paid at least as much as his chief clerk receives. I do not, as a rule, advocate the increasing of salaries; but the officer in control of an important Department like this, whose maladministration might plunge the country into endless expense, ought to be adequately paid. With regard to the proposal of the honorable member for Maranoa, I would point out that if the salary affected is to be reduced by £200, the officer in question will receive only £80 a year.
– £60 a year. He is receiving only £260 now.
– There seems to have been almost a calling for tenders in order to get the work of the office done at the lowest possible price. Although the finances of Queensland are not in a very flourishing condition, the Government would have good cause to complain if the salary of a gentleman performing such important work were reduced to £60 per annum. I think that the honorable member might very well propose a reduction of £5 instead of £200. I do not see my way clear to support the amendment as it now stands. I see that the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Tasmania also acts as Public Works Officer and Deputy Public Service Inspector, and that he receives a salary of £520. I think that in view of the number of important duties the officer is called upon to perform, his salary is not too high, but there is something incongruous in the varying nature of the duties he is called upon to perform. He is supposed, as a Public Service Inspector, to be quite free from political control, whereas some of the duties which he is now called upon to perform subject him to direct political influence. That condition of affairs should be altered.
– He performs his duties very well.
– I do not question his capacity to perform all the duties assigned to him in the best possible way, but I object to an officer of the Public Service Department being brought under direct political control. It would be preferable to appoint another officer, if necessary, because the administration of affairs in the Public Service Department must be kept absolutely pure. I understand that the Prime Minister has expressed his willingness to afford ample time, at a later stage, for the discussion of the report of the Electoral Act Committee, and, therefore, I shall not refer to that matter at present. I hope that due consideration will be given to the report.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I should like to know under what division provision is made for the electoral officers in the various States.
– Under Division 24.
– Further, I should like to know why the Commonwealth electoral officer for Tasmania should also act as Public Service Inspector and as Public Works Officer, and why the Electoral Department should be charged with the whole of his salary ?
– I desire to know whether any provision is made on the Estimates for the payment of the Commissioners who are to be appointed to redistribute the electorates?
– The salary of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for
Tasmania has been provided for under the head of the Electoral Department, and his duties are enumerated in order to indicate that he performs other work. In Tasmania the duties which have to be performed in connexion with the Public Works Department are so limited that, although a capable officer is required, a large portion of his time can be devoted to other work. The officer in question is a particularly capable man, and it has been found desirable to employ him to discharge very important duties.
– The point is, why is the whole of his salary charged to the Electoral Department ?
– This item appeared in previous Estimates, presumably because it was considered desirable to provide fort he officer’s salary under one head, rather than under several. I have already raised the question suggested by the honorable member for Maranoa, and if a change can be made with advantage it will be effected.
– Is the whole of the salary charged to the Electoral Department?
– We must amend the item, then.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the salaries of a number of other officers whose time is in some degree taken up with work connected with the Electoral Department - for instance, the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs - are not made the subject of any charge to the Department. Similarly, although not to the same extent, officers of the Electoral Department perform work for other Departments.
– Can the Minister point to any case in which an officer of another Department performs work directly for the Electoral Department without any charge to the latter? .
– Yes, there is the case of Mr. Woodyatt, which has already been mentioned. I repeat that I have already raised this question, and that we shall consider, before the next Estimates are prepared, whether some alteration should be made so that the salary of the officer in question can be apportioned among the various Departments for which he performs work. In reply to the honorable member for Gwydir, I desire to say that provision is made under Division 24 for the remuneration to be paid to the Commissioners who are to be appointed to redistribute the electorates.
Question - That the vote be reduced by £200 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 20 ( Public Service Commissioner), £10,759
– I move -
That the item “Registrar£420 “ be reduced by £20.
When the Department of the Public Service Commissioner was created, I joined with several other honorable members in urging that we were embarking upon an expenditure, the dimensions of which we little dreamed. What has since transpired has absolutely justified that prediction. Every year that has passed has witnessed an increased expenditure in the office of the Public Service Commissioner. For instance, last year the Registrar received a salary of £400, but now it is proposed to increase it to £420. Similarly, the Examiner, who was formerly in receipt of £350, is recommended for an increase to £400. In the same manner, it is proposed to give a clerk, who is in receipt of £260 per annum, an increase of £50.
– That is the effect of the classification scheme.
– Where is the classification scheme going to land us? We have not yet had an opportunity of discussing it.
– The officer in question would probably receive that increase as an ordinary increment under a State Act of Parliament.
– I could understand an officer receiving an increase of £20 a year, but I cannot understand why he should make a “ jump “ of £50. I intend to oppose every item contained in this division.
– These amounts will not be paid unless the House approves of the classification scheme. In such circumstances, all that the officers will receive will (be the increments which they would have received in the ordinary course.
– I can quite understand the position of the Treasurer. If it were an. annual increment’ of £20-
– Nothing . beyond annual increments will be paid until the House has had an opportunity of approving of the classification scheme.
– At the time these officers were appointed the Public Service Commissioner regarded the salaries payable to them as ample, and yet within twelve months he recommends an increase of nearly £1 per week to an individual who is receiving £350 a year. The proposal is preposterous. I trust that honorable members will guard the Treasury a little better than they have been doing.
– In submitting my Budget, I mentioned that these Estimates had been prepared so that the money necessary to pay the amounts recommended by the Public Service Commissioner in his classification scheme might be available. I pointed out that as that scheme had not been dealt with by the previous Government, and as 2,000 appeals had been lodged against it, some time must elapse before it could be finally adopted. I do not suggest that the officers to’ whom attention has been called are likely to appeal against the proposed increases in their salaries, but I do claim that it is idle to discuss the classification scheme at present, because most of the arguments which would be advanced would be in favour of those who have grievances against the Commissioner. I repeat that while these amounts are provided upon the Estimates, no increases, other than those of an ordinary character, will be paid unless the classification scheme becomes law before the end of the financial year. I trust that when Parliament re-assembles all the appeals will have been dealt with, that the Government will have had an opportunity of going fully into the whole matter, with a view to seeing whether they can indorse the increases recommended, and so that honorable members may be able to discuss every item, and point out what is unfair either by way of increase or decrease.
– Shall we be afforded an opportunity to discuss the classification scheme in detail?
– Honorable members will be afforded the fullest opportunity of discussing it.
– That will be a big job, will it not?
– That fact cannot be avoided.
– The scheme cannot be discussed in detail.
– But details may be pointed out.
– Does the Treasurer think that the £20 increase which it is proposed to give to the Registrar, is an ordinary increment to which he is entitled.
– I am not certain, but I am inclined to think so. If it is not, the amount will not be paid. The only increments which will be paid will be those which officers would have derived this year in the absence of any classification scheme whatever. Nobody can object to the adoption of that course, and upon the assurance which I have given, I think that the Committee might well allow these items to pass.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I desire to put honorable members in possession of the facts relating to the increases which these officers have received since they joined the Commonwealth service. As Secretary and Registrar of the Public Service Board in Queensland, Mr. J. F. Richards, the Registrar, received £300 per annum. He was appointed to his present position on the istof December, 1902 - just about two years ago - at a salary of £400. Now, under the classification scheme, it is proposed to increase his salary to £420. I do not think that the £20 in question represents an ordinary increment.
– I think that it does.
– However much I should like to assist the Treasurer, I cannot forget that I owe a duty to my constituents. I would further point out that Mr. Healy, as clerk in the office of the Master in Equity in Victoria, formerly received £200 a year. When he was appointed examiner his salary was increased to £350 per annum.
– That is an entirely different position from the one which he formerly occupied.
– I am thinking of the remuneration, and not of the position.
– If he were transferred from the head of the fifth class to a very responsible position, surely he is entitled to be paid accordingly ?
– Nine-tenths of my constituents are required to live upon less than ^150 a year, and many of them upon less than £100. This officer was appointed to his present position on the 20th October, 1902. Whilst in the State employ he received £200 per annum. Upon his appointment his salary was increased to ,£350 per annum, and now it is proposed to give him a still further increase of £50. Similarly, the clerk in the Commissioner’s office, as Private Secretary to the Premier of Victoria, received ^200 per annum. He accepted his present position at an increase of £60, and now it is proposed to grant bini an additional £50.
– My honorable friend must not assume that I approve of these increases.
– I know very well that the Treasurer does npt; nevertheless, I cannot allow the items to pass without a protest.
– I would suggest that, for the convenience of honorable members in discussing these Estimates, it would be well to follow the practice, which is adopted .in some of the States, of having a schedule prepared which would show honorable members at a glance the position of officers in the Public Service. That would help . us very materially in the discussion of any items.
– The classification scheme has been printed, and it gives us all the information.
– Do I understand that salaries as fixed under the classification scheme are provided for in the Estimates as now submitted?
– The Estimates are based on the classification scheme.
– Are we to understand that even if these increases be voted, they will not be paid, pending the hearing of appeals from the classification, except in so far as they are ordinary and regular increments?
– I have made that promise to the Committee on two occasions. I think it is useless for us to discuss the classification until we have an opportunity to deal with the whole scheme.
– I agree with the right honorable member. I am rather surprised to learn that the classification scheme is to be discussed by the House. We sought to discuss it when it was first submitted to the House, but the late Minister of Home Affairs, as well as the honorable member for Bland, who was then Prime Minister, resisted the suggestion.
– They said that it should not be discussed until the appeals had been dealt with.
– If the honorable member turns to Hansard, he will find that the statement was absolutely unqualified - that no reference was made to the matter of appeals. I do not intend to vote for the amendment. 1 take it that the Public Service Commissioner has assessed the services of the registrar and examiner, as he thinks they ought to be valued. He is the officer to determine such matters; but looking at the question as an outsider, it seems to me that this officer is not highly paid, having regard to the fact that he is responsible for the registration of a service embracing 11,000, 12,000, or 13,000 persons, and also the salaries, allowances, or other emoluments received by them. It is not pertinent to inquire what this gentleman received before he entered the Commonwealth service, nor does it seem to me that we are concerned in this connexion with the poor incomes of persons in the various electorates. We all sympathize with them, and wish that their incomes were very much larger; but the only point we have to consider in this case is whether the services being rendered by these officers are worth the emoluments set against their names in the schedule. In considering that question, are we to say what their services are worth, when we do not know the details of the work which they perform? When we appointed a Public Service Commissioner, we confessed that we were not able to appraise the services of these gentlemen.
– Then why discuss the Estimates? Why not give the Public Service Commissioner the money, and allow him to do what he likes with it?
– If the honor-: able member had the slightest proof of his suggestion that the value of the work performed! by this officer is not what it is set down to be, he would have a sympathetic audience; but he has not furnished a tittle of proof ; he has merely pointed to the increase in salary as a sufficient justification for his moving the reduction of the item. That I hope will not appeal to the reason of the Committee.
– There are fairly large increases - amounting, in the case of the examiner, to nearly j£i per week.
– I admit that there are ; but the only question is whether the work is worth the salaries allowed. As to that, we are unable to judge for ourselves, because we have not the necessary information before us ; but as an outsider, I should say that the registrar of a service comprising between 11,000 and 13,000 persons is not overpaid when he receives £420 per annum. In the absence of any detailed reason for the proposed reduction, I shall feel constrained to vote against the amendment.
– It will be remembered that when the Estimates were before us last year, a somewhat similar protest was .made in regard to an item to provide for the appointment of additional clerks in this Department. It was urged then that we were in absolute ignorance of the work which these clerks would be called upon to do. At that time sweating was going on in the Department of Home Affairs which would have been regarded as a positive disgrace to any private employer; yet it was said that we were not in a position to determine .whether ‘the additional clerks were necessary. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that we are not in a position to determine whether this salary is too large. Whilst I sympathize with the honorable member for Maranoa-
– I want votes, not sympathy.
– I cannot vote for the amendment in the absence of information showing that there is good reason for it. When the House appointed a Public Service Commissioner, I refused to interview him, or to have anything to do with him, believing that we should allow him to carry out the trust reposed in him, or else change the whole system. We must follow one of these two courses, unless a better system to deal with the salaries of public servants be propounded than the unscientific one of reducing a vote by £20 or £50 per annum. It does not appear to me that it is fair to compare these salaries with those received by States officials, unless we compare like with like. Mention has been made of one gentleman, who is one of the most estimable men in the service. When in the service of the State he had absolutely no responsibility ; but he discharged his duties so satisfactorily that he was transferred to the Commonwealth service on the nomination of the Treasurer. He is now occupying a position of trust, and I appeal to the Committee to say whether it is fair to suggest that he should receive the same salary that he enjoyed while in the State’s service? We cannot grapple adequately with this question, in the absence of full information as to the duties and responsibilities of the officers, and in view of the assurance of the Treasurer, that these increases will not be paid until the classification scheme be approved by the Parliament, I cannot agree to my honorable friend’s unscientific proposal.
– I feel that I am placed in a very awkward position. If I considered that this officer was being overpaid I should vote for the amendment; but I need some proof of the assertion made by the honorable member foi Maranoa. It seems to be a very easy matter for officers receiving high salaries to obtain increases, as compared with those who are at the bottom of the ladder.
– Does not the honorable member think that an increase of £50 a year is a “fat “ one?
– It depends on whether the salary formerly received by the officer was sufficient. I am not going to say that this officer is either overpaid or underpaid, because I do not know what his duties really are.
– I can give the Committee some information on the point.
– It certainly ought to be placed before us. I know of some members of the service having a knowledge of mechanics, whose appeals have not been sustained, although they are not receiving anything like a fair remuneration, as compared with that given to men in other departments.
– Have the appeals been decided?
– Some of them have been .dealt with by the Board appointed for the purpose. It would not do for me to mention any specific case, because it might affect the position of the officer; but I may say that one man was told by the Board that he ought to be very thankful for what he was receiving, notwithstanding that his salary is the lowest provided for his division. He has been doing the same work for a number of years, and during that time has not received any increase. I should mention, however, that at the end of two years he will receive a small increment. When I learn of such cases, itseems to me that it is high time for us to look into such matters as have been mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa, and to see that the Commonwealth is receiving good value for its money. If the Minister has any information on the point I should be very glad to hear it before we go to a division.
– As the honorable member for Maranoa has stated, this officer was selected from the Queensland State service as one specially qualified for the work. He was placed and retained in the position which he now occupies under the Public Service Commissioner, partly as the result of his original appointment, and partly because of the capacity he displayed. His duties are highly technical and important. He has done a great deal in assisting to organize the service. He conducts the registration work connected with appointments, controls transfers, increases of pay, &c, and in the absence of the secretary of the Department, ‘ acts in his behalf.
– .The officer performing similar duties in New South Wales receives a much larger salary.
– When is the secretary away ?
– Whenever it is necessary. We know that the Department has to deal with officers in all the States.
– So far as I am aware, he has never been away.
– I have just signed an authority for him to be absent from the office on the ground of illhealth, and the second officer will act in his stead. Then the secretary of the Department will also be away on his annual leave, and may be absent from his office while in the discharge of departmental work. ‘ On all such occasions, this officer will- be called upon to take his place, and the Public Service Commissioner speaks very highly of his capacity. I might mention, as the officer next on the list has been referred to, that he is a graduate of the Melbourne University, holding the degrees of M.A. and LL.B. His work in connexion with examinations involves high educational attainments and organizing ability, and his legal training is of the greatest service to the Commissioner in the interpretation of Commonwealth and State Acts, and in other directions. The officer occupying the position of examiner under the New South Wales Public Service Board receives ^450 per annum, and deals solely with examination matters. The legal ‘work of the officer to whom I am referring is at times heavy, and it is of the utmost importance that the Commissioner* (should have available an officer who possesses the requisite legal training. With regard to what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports stated, I may say that the work in this Department has been enormously heavy.
– Did the Minister ever know of any one in the Public Service who died from overwork?
– No; nor have I known any one outside the service to die from overwork, though I have known men to die from over-worry. Some officers in the service work as hard as any man outside. The overtime worked in this Department during eighteen months has been 4,910 hours, or 700 working days, without Pay-
– How many officers have been concerned?
– Eleven. A great task had to be performed in a short space of time, and new- officers could not be brought in to do it, so that those who were in the Department had to work overtime.
– I admit that we are to a great extent in the dark as to the merits of these officers, and the remuneration which should be given to them; but it seems to me singular that those who are responsible for the fixing of the salaries originally should not have known the value of the work which was to be performed. In one case a salary has been increased by £150, and then, by ,£20, and in a number of other cases there have been increases of £,$0. These seem to me to be very suspicious circumstances. Apparently those who established the Department were afraid to let us know what the real cost would be, for fear that we might not agree to its establishment. It is not of much consolation to us to be told that we shall have a chance of discussing the whole matter in connexion with the classification scheme. If that scheme were to be dealt with in detail, a whole session would be consumed. I commend the honorable member for Maranoa for having drawn attention to this matter. It is a remarkable thing that, while the
Public Service Commissioner has not been very liberal in granting increases to the rank and file of the service, those coming under the immediate notice of heads of Departments have been treated very well. We should be culpable if we were to allow these increases to pass without severe criticism, and if the honorable member presses the amendment to a division I shall vote for it, as a protest against the continual increasing of salaries of officers who are most closely in touch with the heads of Departments.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I wish to put myself on safe ground with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who says that he does not believe in sweating, or in paying any officer a low salary. The position is this: The salaries of all the more highly-paid officers have been increased by amounts of as much as £50 each, and in one case by £70; but the officers who receive low salaries have not obtained increases. In this connexion I should like to read the following communication, which I have received from the Letter Carriers’ arid Sorters’ Association of Queensland: -
I have been instructed by the executive of the Letter Carriers’ and Sorters’ Association to hand you herewith a return prepared from the Commonwealth classification, which shows that the bulk of money prepared for increases, goes, in most cases, to higher paid officers, whilst the deductions are from salaries least able to bear them, and is embarrassing lower grade men financially.
This seems to me like keeping down the lower paid men to grease the fat sow. If the officers whose salaries are now being discussed are underpaid, what about those of the rank and file? I do not want sympathy in this matter ; I want votes.
– I agree with the Treasurer, that as a promise has been made that an opportunity will be afforded honorable members to fully discuss the classification scheme, it is undesirable
– Before the end of this financial year?
– Before it is adopted. The money will not be paid before honorable members have been afforded an opportunity to discuss the classification scheme, and I am sure that honorable members will recognise that, as certain cases are sub judice, it is very undesirable that we should discuss them. If statements are made on one side they must be replied to on the other, and the result might be to prejudice cases which are the subjects of appeal. The increases shown, which are not all .due to the classification, but are partly attributable to the ordinary increments, amount to £54,565> of which £41,852 will go to officers who are receiving less than £200 per annum, and £12,092 will be paid to officers receiving salaries of between £200 and £500., Of the balance, £220 will go to officers receiving over £500 per annum, and £400 to officers of the administrative division. The last-named amount is not provided for on these Estimates.
– Does the total include the provision made for the payment of the minimum wage?
– The minimum wage provision was made in a previous year.
– Only partly.
– Provision was made to a large extent in a previous year.
– Does this amount include the increases provided for under clause 19 of the Victorian Public Service Act of 1890 ?
– No; they are not included . in the classification increases. I would pointout that although it was true that the postal officials in Queensland received what was called an “ English mail allowance,” that title is a misnomer, because the payment under the State regime covered not merely the work done in connexion with’ the English mails, but all’ claims in respect to overtime and holidays.-. The special” allowance for’ English mail work has been stopped, because no allowance of a similar character was made in the other States, and all the States had to be brought into line. The Queensland officials, however, will be entitled to the payment for overtime, and they will receive it. The figures put forward by the honorable member for Maranoa are perfectly genuine, but there is another side to the question, because the officers will receive improved opportunities for advancement. In every case I believe something of that kind can be shown, but I think it is undesirable that we should enter into the discussion of matters relating to the classification at the present stage.
– I promise not to do it again.
– In view of the promise given by the Treasurer, I think the honorable member for Maranoa might withdraw his opposition, because there is not the slightest fear of the classification scheme being adopted before the end of the present financial year. The figures presented by the Minister of Home Affairs show that the largest proportion of the increases will go to officers receiving under £200 per annum, but when we consider the enormous number of officers in that grade, it will be found that the increases received by them will average only shillings per head, as contrasted with pounds per head paid to officers in receipt of higher salaries.
– Many of the increases given to the lower paid officers will represent pounds per head.
– No doubt, but, all the same, my contention is correct. I should like to know whether any of the expenditure of £41,000 mentioned by the Minister is owing to the introduction of the minimum wage. When the Public Service Bill was under discussion, I moved for a return showing the salaries received by officers who were being paid less than £110 per annum. The results were so shocking that particulars were not presented for more than two of the States. It was shown that many officers who had been in the service for twenty-six years were receiving less than £110 per annum, and honorable members voted for the minimum wage provision without going to a division. We were told that the provision for the payment of a minimum wage would involve’ the Commonwealth in an extra expenditure of £45,000 per annum. The outlay will not nearly approach that sum. Even if it amounted to £145,000 per annum, I should even more strongly support the principle because there would be all the greater need for a change. I agree that the officers in the administrative branch have an opportunity to show their abilities to the Public Service Commissioner, who alone can improve their position, and I do not doubt that they have done good work. If the number of hours of overtime worked proves anything, it shows that the staff is undermanned and should be increased.
– The excuse made in the first place was there was no accommodation for further officers.
– There is plenty of room now.
– The heavy work which had to toe done in connexion with the classification scheme is now pretty well completed.
– I admit that, and I have no doubt that the gentlemen who worked such a large amount of overtime will have an opportunity to obtain compensation in the shape of holidays.
– In several of the Depart ments the whole staff would have to go off if overtime had to be made up that way.
– I would point out that provision is made this year for £4,600, as against £3,800 last year.
– That does not alter the fact that the great necessity for overtime arose in connexion with, the preparation of the classification scheme.
– I admit that very little good can be accomplished by discussing this matter at the present stage, because the classification scheme cannot be adopted before the end of the financial vear. .
– I understand that it is considered undesirable to discuss items until the classification scheme comes before us for consideration. I should like to have an assurance from the Treasurer that it will be competent for us to deal with the separate items of that scheme. If the matter is to be discussed in the House, as I understand it will be, we shall have to. confine our attention to the policy adopted by the Commissioner, and the principles followed in carrying out his work.
– If we discussed the scheme in detail, we should have twelve months’ work before us.
– If a similar line of conduct were adopted in connexion with’ the Estimates, we should be here for twelve months.
– The object of the honorable member for Maranoa in moving his amendment was to permit of a discussion in detail. The Minister of Home Affairs says that the matter is sub judice.
– I did not say that this particular matter was sub judice, but that the arguments used in connexion with it would apply to cases of officers whose appeals are now being dealt with.
– There are no appeals against increases.
– There may be some applications for further increments on the part of officers who have been granted increases. I know that there are some such cases in my Department.
– If we were to reduce this item by £20, the principle involved in the appeals would not be affected. I was surprised at the argument used by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. He apparently wants the increase to be granted.
– What I said was that we were not in a position to judge as to the value of the work done.
– We shall putthe matter to the test of a vote, and then we shall see whether or not the honorable member wants the increase to be granted.
– I shall certainly vote with the Government.
– It is all very fine to be benevolent with other people’s money, but I would point out that if we grant increases to highly-paid officers those who are in the lower grades of the service will probably be called upon to suffer decreases. The people of the Commonwealth will not sub mit to more than a certain amount of expenditure, and already there are complaints of extravagance. There will be some justification for grumbling on that score if we grant further increases to officers, who have already received generous” treatment, at the expense of officials in the lower grades.
– If the honorable member can show me that these increases will involve reductions of salary in the lower grades, I shall vote against them.
– I would direct the attention of the honorable member to what happened in connexion with last year’s Estimates. The Defence Estimates were reduced, and in order to make provision for increases which were assented to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and others, the wages of artisans, black smiths, fitters, and engineers were reduced from 6s. 6d. per day to 4s. 3d. per day.
– The honorable member is stating the position very unfairly.
– When I find tradesmen being paid 3s. per day, and having to work six years in order to secure a badge, formerly obtainable in three years, which will entitle them to an extra 9d. per day, I shall not assent to any increases such as that now proposed. I want to see justice done to the men who have been unfairly treated in the past, and I feel that the prospect of bringing about that result will be deferred if we grant any further increases.
– To what artisans does the honorable member refer?
– I am referring to permanent engineers who were formerly receiving 6s. 6d. per day, but who are now being paid only 4s. 3d. per day in order to make provision for the payment of increases such as that now before us.
– I have no intention to discuss the Public Service classification scheme, although, in justice, the Government should afford an early opportunity of doing so. It is generally understood that efforts are being made to minimize the number of appeals against the scheme. These appeals do not at all correspond with the dissatisfaction which that scheme has created in the Public Service.
– The honorable member does not mean to suggest that Ministers have endeavoured to minimize the number of appeals?
– No; but strong pressure is being brought to bear upon public servants to induce them to relinquish their right of appeal. We all know how these things can be worked. Probably a hint is thrown out that it will not be to the advantage of officers to exercise their right in this direction. In spite of the fact that the classification scheme has been completed, the total increased expenditure in this Department represents £1,834.
– Probably the whole of the amount will not be expended.
– Why is money placed upon the Estimates which is not likely to be spent?
– The honorable member knows that very frequently there is an unexpended balance.
– I know that upon some occasions, the. expenditure is in excess of the vote authorized by Parliament. I would point out that in one instance ,£800 was voted, and £1,482 expended. In another case, .£1,000 was appropriated, and £1,1 go was expended.
– The honorable member should quote the total expenditure of the Department.
– The total expenditure for 1903-4 was £9,125, whereas the estimated expenditure for 1904-5 is .£10,759.
– The honorable member should recollect that £600 is provided this vear for examinations.
– Why should not these examinations pay for themselves?
– As far as I can recollect, there was a profit upon them last year.
– I would point out that the total increase for clerical assistance in this Department is estimated at £1,056. An additional £20 is to be voted to the Registrar, £50 to the Examiner, £50 to the first clerk, £230 to four other clerks, and £500 for temporary assistance. Seeing that it was possible to formulate a huge classification scheme last year, I desire to know, where is the necessity for an expenditure of £500 for temporary assistance? I shall have something more to say upon these items at a later stage. ] would ask the Ministry if they have ever considered the duplication of work which the attachment of the Public Service Commissioner to the Department of Home Affairs has produced? The functions of that officer do not extend beyond the Public Service, and yet he is attached to a Department which contains fewer public officers than does any other.- I venture to say that threefourths of the Commissioner’s time, and of that of his staff, is absorbed in dealing with postal officials. Would it not save a considerable amount of duplication in the matter of correspondence, if ‘this officer were transferred to the Postal Department? Why was he removed to the Department of Home Affairs?
– Because that Department occupies a similar position to the Chief Secretary’s Department in some of the .States, and the Public Service Commissioner is usually under the control of the Chief Secretary.
– Is there no better reason for it than mere red-tapeism
– Do not talk nonsense.
– I venture, to say that the Treasurer is talking nonsense.
– Then, there are two of us at it.
– I appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs, who has had a large commercial experience, whether it would not be far more economical to transfer the Public Service Commissioner to the Postal Department? At present a large quantity of work is being duplicated. If the Government wish to earn a reputation for economy, they should initiate a revision of the original arrangement. The reason advanced by the Treasurer for the continuance of the existing system is not one upon which any practical man would bestow two minutes’ consideration.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh).- In connexion with this item’, the Minister of Home Affairs has instanced the case of the letter sorters ; but he failed to supply the Committee with- all the information that he might have furnished. If he visited South Australia, he would see what the Public Service Commissioner has done there.
– I merely replied to the instance which was cited by the honorable member for Maranoa.
– I asked the honorable member to furnish me with information as to why I should vote with him upon this item.
– Have I not done so?
– No. The honorable member has not supplied the House with the slightest proof of the value of these officers’ services, and consequently I am not prepared to say that those services have been overvalued. One of the reasons which will influence honorable members in voting either for or against this item is to be found in the manner in which officers in the lower grades of the service are being treated. Whilst, in his classification scheme, the Public Service Commissioner has not hesitated to recommend large increases to officers who are already in receipt of very fair salaries, no reason has been advanced by the Minister of Home Affairs why the lowerpaid officers have not been treated in precisely the same way. In South Australia, I would point out, the letter-sorters used to get an allowance of 6s. per day whilst travelling. That sum is not too much, seeing that they are required to pay for .three meals and a bed. The Public Service Commissioner has actually reduced that” amount to 2s. 8d. per day.
– He ought to be made to travel upon it.
– Is that all that they receive ?
– In South Australia, and probably in other parts of the Commonwealth. What makes the injustice so great is that officers who are in receipt of 10s. or 15s. a day by way of travelling allowances stay at the same hotels, and incur only the same expenditure, as their lowerpaid confreres.
– The allowances do not come within the classification scheme.
– Undoubtedly they do. When I brought the matter forward upon a previous occasion I was assured that the Government could do nothing, because it was under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.
– I repeat that the allowances do not come under the classification scheme.
– Then I hope that the Government will see that in this matter justice is done immediately.
– The honorable member is not in order. He is now discussing a matter which will come on for consideration at a later stage.
– I have merely been debating the question of whether these Estimates should’ be accepted by the Committee, or whether all these increases should not be deferred for future consideration.
Mr. MAUGER . (Melbourne Ports).- If the honorable member for Maranoa will move to reduce the total vote of this division as a protest against the granting of general increases to the higher paid officials, I shall be happy to support him.
– I shall do that later on.
– Then I shall vote with him.
– The honorable member should vote with me now.
– No; two wrongs cannot make a right. We are absolutely in the dark as to the merits or demerits of this case, and as the Treasurer has promised that no increases will be paid until the classification scheme has been dealt with by us, it seems to me that the amendment is not a fair one. The honorable member for Maranoa charges me with proposing to vote for a proposition which will havethe effect of preventing the lower-paid members of the service receiving an adequate wage. He knows full well that in making that assertion he is talking absolute clap-trap. I protested when the proposal was made last year to reduce the Estimates of this Department, and what I said would take place, has certainly occurred. I pointed out that if we voted for a reduction of this kind, without seeing where it was to press, the inevitable result would be that the lower-paid men in the service would suffer. In suggesting a small reduction to indicate that in our opinion there is a disposition to grant increases to the higherpaid members of the service, whilst a reasonable payment is not made to members of the lower branches of the service-
– But the honorable member would have to show that such was the case. I have mentioned the amounts paid.
– Quite so, but the honorable member for Yarra has made the very important point that, whilst a vote passed in respect to the lower-paid branch of the service may appear in the aggregate to oe very large, it has to be spread over so many persons, that it may not do even common justice to them.
– The honorable member admits that he cannot say that the amount proposed in these Estimates is more than sufficient, and yet he would vote for a reduction.
– I protested against the salaries of the higher-paid branches of the service being . constantly increased, whilst injustice was being done to the lower-paid branches. But in picking out individual cases it is impossible for us to deal with them on their merits, and we might unfairly punish an officer. It is because I believe that the amendment would not achieve the desired end that I intend to vote against it.
– I shall support the Government proposal, not because I believe in granting increases generally, but because this Parliament in its wisdom decided some time ago that a Public Service Commissioner should be appointed to deal with the whole question of salaries. Another point is this : Until we have considered the classification scheme, we shall have nothing to do, as the Treasurer has said, but to pass ‘these Estimates as a matter of form, on the undertaking given by him that the proposed increments will not be paid until the classification shall have been dealt with by the House. I quite sympathize with the underpaid servants of the Commonwealth, and if
I thought that the passing of this item would injure them in any way, I should vote against it. I shall support the Estimate, because we shall be able to deal with the whole question of increments when the classification scheme is before us at a later date. Although I vote for the item, it is not to be understood that I am in favour of increasing large salaries at the expense of the lower-paid branches of the service.
– After listening to the debate, one cannot help feeling that we are placed in a very unsatisfactory position, and that the only way in which we can arrive at a reasonable solution of the difficulty is for us to deal first of all with the classification scheme.
– We cannot deal with it until the appeals have been decided.
– The whole service is in a very unsatisfactory state, owing to the want of finality in regard to the classification. It was understood when the Public Service Act came into force that the increments for which it provided would accrue duing the financial year 1902-3. Unfortunately, it was found impossible to complete the classification of the service in time to enable that to be done, and it was decided that whatever increments were granted should be on the old State basis. It was. clearly understood! that the Act would be brought into full operation during the current financial year, but although a classification scheme has been propounded it cannot be considered by us, owing to the delay in dealing with appeals. There is some reason to fear that these increments will not be granted even during the current year, for the appeals, we are told, are not being dealt with in anything like an expeditious manner.
– They are disposing of them fairly rapidly.
– I do not know whether the Minister has provided on the Estimates for the payment of the whole of the increments proposed under the classification scheme.
– Yes, except in regard to increments to heads of Departments.
– So far as the information at our disposal enables us to make a forecast, the probabilities are ‘that if the Government take the reasonably, long recess that they are understood to contemplate; we shall not be able to consider the classification scheme during the current financial year.
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Chairman, whether the honorable member is in order in discussing the general scheme of classification on the item before the Committee. I hope that the honorable member will not consider that I take this point of order because of any personal feeling, but I think that the debate for a long time has been out of order. I sub mit that a general discussion of this kind would have been perfectly in order on the first item in the Estimates of the Department, but that we may now merely discuss the question immediately before the Chair.
– I understand that the proposed increase, to which the honorable member for Maranoa objects, is based on the classification scheme. In these circumstances. I have no option but to allow the honorable member to discuss the scheme, if he considers it right so to do, so far as it affects this item. Whether he should do so after the engagement entered into by the Treasurer is a matter for himself to decide.
– It is not my intention to discuss the classification scheme. I merely desire to point out that it is necessary to expedite the hearing of appeals, if we are to be in a position to deal with it before the end of the financial year. The Minister’s’ promise, if carried out, will mean the consideration of the scheme, not during the present session, but some time during the next financial year, and that being so, this discussion on the Estimates is a mere waste of time. I hope that we shall either be given an opportunity to discuss the classification scheme and its bearing on these Estimates, or that the proposed increases will be withdrawn and dealt with next year, when the scheme is ready for our consideration. In making that suggestion, I would impress upon the Government that, in’ fairness to the members of the service, we should have an opportunity to deal with the classification as speedily as possible. I hope that a special effort will be made to enable us to consider it this session.
– I, too, perhaps, may waste a little time in discussing this item.
– Is the honorable member in order in saying that honorable members are wasting the time of the House?
– I must ask the honorable member for New England to withdraw the remark.
– I do so. It appears to me, however, that the discussion is to a large extent a waste of time, in view of the promise made by the Treasurer, that these increases will not be paid unless the classification scheme be adopted during this financial year. We all know that that cannot be done this session, and I think, therefore, that we should accept the Treasurer’s statement, and let the Estimates pass on that understanding. Of course, if we discuss every item in the classification scheme, it will occupy the time of two or three Parliaments. I am just as much opposed to the reduction of the salaries of lower-paid officers as is any other honorable member; but it is impossible for us to judge as to the value of the services rendered by individual officers, unless we have made personal inquiries, and are acquainted with the nature of the work which they perform. Since we have placed the grading of the public service in the hands of one in whom we have confidence, I think it wouldbe largely a waste of time to discuss the matter further.
– If we do not deal with these increases until we have discussed the classification scheme, the position will be this : Parliament will shortly go into recess, and the general impression is that the recess will last for six months, so that when we re-assemble the end of the present financial year will be very near. If the classification scheme is at once put before us, and a month or so is consumed in its discussion, the year will have been brought to an end. I should like to know whether, under those circumstances, any reductions in salaries will be retrospective ?
– They will take effect from the 1st July last.
– That is what I wish to get at. it seems to me that if we agree to these salaries now, we shall . be committed to paying them until we can take action next year. The Government proposalthat we should pass them now, on the understanding that they may be reduced if the classification of the Public Service Commissioner is not approved, is a mere pretence. It is very doubtful whether, if we pass these salaries now, we shall not be responsible for the payment of the money involved from the 1st July last until the end of the financial year, or. at any rate, until the classification scheme is agreed to. The honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out that no schedule has been presented to us. Pretty well every State “Parliament has presented to it when the Estimates are brought forward a schedule showing who are the officers involved, their classification, emoluments, and so on. I think, too, that we should be supplied with a report from each Department as the Estimates for that Department are called on. Furthermore, it is certainly wrong that we cannot obtain the report of the Auditor-General until some months after the Estimates are passed. I am glad that the honorable member for New England withdrew the expression about waste of time. The discussion has proved very profitable. The information which we have obtained tonight has been practically dragged out of the Minister.
– What nonsense. I was ready to give it at once. I suppose the honorable member is accustomed to having items explained before they have been questioned-?
– Then I do not know by what. Minister.
– The Government seem to me to be trying to entrap members; but the best way to get Estimates through is to furnish the fullest possible information. Honorable members will have information, and when Ministers will notgive it they must be forced to do so.
Question - That the item “Registrar, £420,” be reduced by £20 -put. The Committee divided.
No quorum reported,
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 November 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041102_reps_2_23/>.