2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister had brought under his attention the reported refusal of the German authorities to allow. British vessels to trade with the Marshall Islands, and, if so, can he inform the House as to the representations which he proposes tomake on the subject?
– I believe that representations were made through the GovernorGeneral by either the late Government or its predecessor as to the difficulties thrown in the way of British trade with the German, possessions in the South Seas. But whether that be so or not, I shall certainly take the matter up, and make representations on the subject, because 1 considerit a very important one.
– Will the Prime Minister, in selecting the members of the proposed Royal Commission to inquire into the working of the Tariff, provide for the representation of the various States?
– The first consideration must be competence, and if, while securing perfect competence, it can be arranged that each State shall have a representative on the Commission, I think general satisfaction will be given.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, 1 wish to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. In the recently circulated statement of receipts and expenditure for the quarter ending 36th September, there appears under the heading “ Treasurer’s Advance Account,” sub; heading “ Defence,” the item -
Cost of entertaining the Due d’Abruzzi and staff, £17 4s.
I wish to know to what that item refers.
– I am sorry that the Treasurer is away to-day through ill-health, and that I am not in a position to answer the question.
– What about the Minister of Defence?
– If that honorable gentleman is in a position to answer the question-, I shall be glad if he will do so, but, if not, I shall cause inquiries to be made, so that the honorable member may be furnished with theinformation he desires. The amount seems wonderfully small.
– As the PostmasterGeneral is not present, I wish to know from the Prime Minister if any steps are being taken in regard to the mail contracts, and, if so, whether he is free to inform the House as to what they are?
– The Postmaster-General will not be able to attend this afternoon until after the time for the asking of questions has elapsed, and I, therefore, ask honorable members who have notices of questions on the business-paper to postpone them until to-morrow. In reply to the honorable and learned member, I have made a statement as to the. fate of the tenders for the mail service, and the Postmaster-General will be glad to make a further statement as to any arrangements which have to be made consequent upon that, but as our decision was arrived at only on Thursday last, the matter may require a day or two’s consideration.
– It is a very urgent matter.
– Everything is urgent.
Mr. REID laid upon the table the following paper : -
Copy of a letter from the Premier of Queensland to the Prime Minister on the subject of Sugar Bounties, dated 18th October, 1904.
Ordered to be printed.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Return to an order of the House; dated 27th October, 1904, with regard to “ Stripper Harvesters.”
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will take any steps for the purpose of rendering Federal Ministers, Members, and officers liable to pay their share of income tax, notwithstanding the recent decision of the High Court ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
It seems to me that the effect of the decision of the High Court is that no income tax can be enforced against Federal officers by State laws, nor can the Federal Government compel officers to pay a tax declared to be unconstitutional.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the judgment of the High Court of Australia in exempting certain persons from the income tax is against the democratic principle of making all obey the same laws, and will he take into consideration the necessity of taking action, so that each State having an income tax shall not suffer by such judgment?
The reason why I ask this question is that the judgment seems to differentiate between citizen and citizen.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The judgment of the High Court cannot be set aside by any authority within the Commonwealth ; nor can the Government take any actios to compel observance of a law which that judgment declares to be unconstitutional and also illegal.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th November, vide page 6594);
Department of Home Affairs
Division 20(Public Service Commissioner), £10,7 59
– This is the item which caused all the trouble on Wednesday last, and I desire to again move -
That the item “ Registrar,£420,” be reduced by£20.
The Treasurer told us on Wednesday last that these increases would depend upon the adoption of the classification scheme.
– Not all of them ; some of them are statutory increases.
– I desire to make myself perfectly clear upon that point. I have no desire to reduce the increments to which officers are. entitled- by statutory provision, but I object to sudden jumps amounting, in one case, to £150 in two years. Those honorable members who vote for increases such as that proposed in the case of the Registrar are really committing themselves to the adoption of the classification scheme. I believe the officers whose salaries are provided for in this division had a hand in the preparation of the classification scheme, and it is peculiar that the officers of the Public Service Commissioner’s Department should be granted increases to which no other public servants are apparently entitled.
– Perhaps I may add to the explanation I gave when this matter was formerly discussed in a thin Committee by stating, in the first place, that the increases provided for under . the classification scheme will not be paid until honorable members have had an opportunity to approve of the classification.
– Then why should we be asked to vote the increases ?
– One reason is that it was. thought desirable that honorable members should know the extent of theexpenditure involved under the classification scheme. Another reason is that the Estimates were really prepared by our predecessors, and that if an alteration had been decided uponby us, the reference back to the various Departments would have involved such delay that it would, have been impossibleto present the new Estimates within a reasonable time. Therefore,the increases have been provided for in the
Estimates, but a reduction has been made to cover what may not be paid during the present financial year.
– If the classification be approved of, the increases will have to I e paid as from the beginning of the current financial year.
– Yes. as from 1st July last. I desire to point out that the whole of the salary increases provided for in Subdivision No. 1 of the Department of .the Public Service Commissioner are not due to the classification scheme. The total of the increases is ,£383, of which amount ,£213 represents increments under the Public Service Act, irrespective of the classification. The Secretary of the Department has no increase. The Registrar has an increase of £20 under the classification scheme, and the Examiner has an increase of .£50, made up of £10 ordinary increase and £40 under the classification scheme.
– Why should he receive an ordinary increase of ;£io?
– That is the ordinary increment. One ‘ clerk is to receive an increase, not from £260, as would appear from the Estimates, but from .£285 to .£310. That is not exactly a mistake. .£285 was the actual salary received by the officer last year. Honorable members will see that provision was made upon last year’s Estimates for increments and adjustment of salaries to the extent of £65, of which £58 was expended, and an ordinary increment of £25 to the officer in question was provided for by that means. Therefore, the actual increase which he is given under the classification is £25. Another clerk for whom £285 is provided is to receive an increase, not under the classification scheme, but by way of ordinary increment, .of £2$. Another clerk who is to receive £260 will derive the benefit of an ordinary increment of ,£15, and an increase by classification of £25. The next item of £210 includes an ordinary increment of .-£20, and a further item of £160 includes an ordinary increment of ,£20. Two clerks, who receive salaries of £60, are entitled to an ordinary increment of ^10 j another in receipt of the same salary is to derive the advantage of an ordinary increment of £8 and a classification increment of £o.* Therefore the increases by classification will amount to £170, and the increments due to statutory advancement to ^213.
– That does not affect my objection to Che increments proposed under the classification for the Registrar, the Examiner, and one clerk.
– I should like to point out that the Commissioner, in forming his staff, had opportunities of selecting from the, whole of the Commonwealth Departments the men whom he deemed best qualified for the work he had to perform. Naturally he chose those who in the judgment of their superior officers were the most able men for his purpose. Their salaries remained at their State levels or-
– No. The Examiner received only ^200 a year when in .the employ of the State Government.
– The salaries of some officers remained at their State levels, whilst those of others were increased in proportion to the greater importance of their duties.
– The salary of the Examiner has been doubled.
– I think that I explained that matter to the honorable member the other evening. Upon that occasion I emphasized the qualifications of the Examiner, and the important nature of the work which he has to perform. I also pointed out that he is in receipt of a lower salary than the officer who occupies a similar position in the New South Wales Public Service. When he undertook the classification of the service, the Commissioner had to estimate the value of these officers’ work, and I have his assurance that he has placed no higher valuation upon it than he has upon that of the work of other officers in the service. If they have risen more rapidly than have others he explains that it is due to the fact that in his selection he chose officers, not according to their grade in the service previously, but according to their qualifications and capacity. He has now graded them upon those qualifications, and upon the capacity demanded by the work which they are performing. I merely desire to put these facts before the Committee, because some honorable members were absent when I spoke upon this matter upon a previous occasion.
– I was not present when the Minister of Home Affairs, in reply to the honorable member for Maranoa, made an explanation in regard to the salary of the Examiner. I should like to know where is the justification for an increase of an additional £40, admitting that he is entitled to a statutory increase of ^10? It appears to me that .this officer cannot be fully employed. I would point out that no competitive examinationfor admission to the Public Service has been held during the present year. I understand that the duties of this officer are merely to frame examination papers, and subsequently, with assistance from outside, to examine the papers of the candidates.
– I would point out that we are now dealing with the salary of the Registrar, and the discussion must therefore be confined to that item.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Page) proposed -
That the proposed vote be reduced by *£20.
– In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Herbert, I desire to explain that Mr. Healy was an officer of the Victorian Public Service, in which he obtained considerable experience in two Departments. He is a graduate of the Melbourne University, M.A. and LL.B. I may also add that the Commissioner speaks very highly of his capabilities and his work. The duties are high class and technical, and any one who performs them with ability is worth ^400 per year. He started as a telegraph messenger, but by application and study reached the clerical branch. He took up telegraphy, and became a highly competent telegraphist. While engaged in this work he pursued his studies, and by thirty years of age had obtained the degrees already mentioned. He is also a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The Commissioner further points out that although a salary of .£400 a year is paid to this officer, more than that amount is returned to the Treasury in the form of fees which are paid by candidates who are examined. Mr. Healy is also called upon to do a great deal of work in addition to that cast upon him by his duties as Examiner. He deals with the legal’ questions of the Department, and when a large amount of overtime was worked in that Department during the past year, the greatest amount fell to the lot of this officer.
– I think that I was Minister of Home Affairs at the time this appointment was made, and I remember that considerable difficulty was experienced in securing the services of a really competent man. One objection which was urged against Mr. Healy’s appointment was that he was receiving a very low salary in the service of the State. The matter was specially brought under my notice by the Commissioner, and, in turn, I brought it under the notice of the Cabinet. Neither the Cabinet nor myself thought that the fact that he was in receipt of such a small salary should, if his qualifications were as good as they were represented to be, constitute a bar to his appointment Up to that time, Mr. Healy had proved himself an exceptionally able officer. As the Minister stated just now, he commenced his career as a telegraph boy, and worked up to the position which he occupied at the time of his appointment to the Commonwealth service.
– There is no objection taken to the individual. My objection is to an increase of ,£50 in one year.
– I quite appreciate the honorable member’s point. I am aware that the salary paid to the Examiner in the New South Wales service is considerably higher than that which is paid to this officer. Upon his appointment to the Commonwealth service, I think that he received an increase of something like £50.
– I think that he received an increase of j£i$o.
– I admit that it is not, as a general rule, advisable to grant large increases in any one year. But 1 point out that in view of his special qualifications and energy, the salary which this officer receives is not a high one. Indeed, I regard it as being rather inadequate. I have always contended that it is not wise to recognise only automatic promotions in the Public Service. If that plan is rigidly adhered to. we cannot expect to secure the brightest intellects.
– We cannot get them for £400 a year.
- Mr. Healy possesses very high qualifications. While I think that the Committee acted wisely ‘ in fully discussing these increases until it obtained a statement from the Minister as to the reasons why they are proposed to be paid, I feel that we may trust the Public Service Commissioner. I knew him long before he was appointed to his present position, and would implicitly trust him to do justice.
– He is not infallible.
– No; but it remains for those who feel dissatisfied because it is not proposed to grant them any increases to put their case before the Public Service Commissioner. He will do justice to all. I am satisfied from what I know of him, that he would not favour any one, and that even the pressure of a Ministry would not induce him to depart from what he conceived to be his duty. It is well to be able to speak in this way of a gentleman holding so responsible a position. Apart altogether from the question of the increases to the Registrar and the Examiner, I find it difficult to understand how the scheme on which these Estimates are based is going to work out. According to the statement of the Minister, the increases proposed to be paid are provided for in detail in the body of the Estimates of the Department, but a deduction is made from the totals at the end on the presumption that they probably will not be paid during the present financial year. If we are not going to grant these increases, provision should not be made for them.
– All the appeals may not be dealt with by the end of the financial year.
– It is dangerous to provide for increases when it is probable that they will not be payable within the financial year. In such circumstances there is always a temptation to pay them. If by way of a general deduction at the end of the estimates of the Department, we practically struck off the amount of these increases. I doubt whether the Minister would be able legally to pay them, even if the classification were passed before the end of the financial year.
– There would be more danger in adding something.
– I admit that is so, but say, for example, that the increases to be provided for under the classification scheme amounted to£10,000, and we voted only£8,000, should we be justified in paying the full sum ? If we should, what is the use of making a deduction ? The Minister should take this matter into consideration before allowing the Estimates to be dealt with in this way. The explanation has been made that they were prepared during the term of office of the late Government, and that any alteration would involve a good deal of confusion. That, however, is not a sound argument in support of the passing of the Estimates in this way. They should’ be so submitted as to provide for the moneys actually intended to be paid.
– A foot-note would explain the matter.
– If a foot-note were included as part of the schedule, it would give power to pay these increases. That course used to be followed in connexion with the Schedule of the Public Works Department of New South Wales.
– It is still used.
– Quite so. In the absence of such a foot-note, the State Minister was tied down, and could not expend money just as he might desire to expend it. It would be wise to give permissive power to the Minister to make deductions from or increases to salaries according to the classification as finally dealt with.
– Although some alterations have been made in these Estimates, they were mainly prepared under the direction of the late Government; but owing to the classification intervening, and rendering it necessary to refer them back to the departmental heads for revision, there was no opportunity for their consideration by the last Cabinet. As to the method adopted in framing the Estimates, I have only to say that I gave directions that increases in salaries due under the classification scheme should be specified in every case. It seemed to me that if that were not done honorable members might very properly object to the Estimates on the ground that they did not set forth what was actually intended to be paid. Although the giving of these details might involve some delav, it appeared to. me that it was right that they should appear in order that it might be possible to obtain a true conception of what the classification involved.
– So that we should know the maximum.
– That we should, so to speak, know the worst. Whatever method be adopted it is somewhat difficult to deal with the position in view of the fact that as the appeals have not yet been dealt with, alterations are still possible in regard to all these salaries. For this year at all events we have to act upon rather tentative lines. We cannot expect to have everything placed definitely before us until the classification shall be completed and dealt with by the Parliament. I d’o not think that honorable members should complain of too much information having been afforded them, and I believe that I adopted the right course in insisting upon the proposed increases being specified in each case.
– I intend to vote for the amendment simply as an indication that I take exception to the increases generally to the higher paid officers. The Minister of Home Affairs has referred to the qualifications of the Examiner, who, I have always understood, is a gentleman of high abilities, capable of worthily fulfilling the duties of his office, but it is strange that he has not said a word about the Registrar.
– I referred to the proposed increase of salary in his case when the Estimates were before us last week.
– Although I have been in the Chamber throughout the debates, I have not heard the honorable gentlem’an refer to the qualifications and duties of the Registrar, but, of course, I accept his assurance. I am not greatly alarmed by the outcry in the press as to alleged extravagance on the part of the Commonwealth, but if behoves us, I think, to- be very cautious. If we provided for all these increases, it might be held by the Appeal Boards, who have yet to deal with a number of appeals, that Parliament had practically agreed to the classification, and that the increase should be paid in each case. Those who were appealing to the board would certainly use such an argument.
– We have a tribunal which knows a little better than that.
– In addition to that fact, we know that in the event of the classification being finally dealt with before the end of the financial year, these salaries would date from July last - from the time of the classification. It is to be regretted that an opportunity was not afforded us to deal with the classification before being called on to consider the Estimates. Had that course been followed, every honorable member would have known exactly what he was doing in voting for these Estimates. I do not intend to vote for increases which I consider to be too high, though I do not say that I shall vote against all increases. I shall vote for the reduction of £20. proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa, in order to express my disapproval of the increase of the salary of the Registrar.
– I trust that the honorable and learned member for Maranoa will withdraw his amendment. The Commonwealth Parliament should, not, in any circumstances, be swayed bv outside clamour as to what salaries should be paid. We should recognise that if we want ability we must pay for it. The very degrees of B.A., and of LL.B., which Mr. Healy, the Examiner, possesses, are surely worth £100 per annum per letter. We should not offer an inducement to ignorance and stupidity, of which, goodness knows, there are already enough in Australia, without our further encouraging them. This gentleman is to receive a salary of £400 a year. His degrees should make him worth a thousand a year.
– It is possible to buy such degrees for a few dollars in America.
– One of the candidates for the Presidency of the United States, Alton B. Parker, started in life much as this ‘officer did. The country should be proud of such men, and we should be glad to have them in the Commonwealth service. The Public Service of the Commonwealth should set a wage standard for ‘Australia. There is no power that is so efficacious in civilizing humanity as good pay for honest work. Why should we take £20 a year off the vote? I have sat in this Parliament for over three years, and have constantly pointed out that the £400 a year, at which we are paid1, is a starvation wage. Now because a young man has struggled to a good position, by reason of his ability we are asked to cut down his salary. I should be ashamed to look an honest man in the face if I voted to reduce the amount by a penny. Indeed, I would vote to make it higher if I could. I would rather be defeated at the next election because I voted to give this officer a substantial wage than I would be returned’ because I voted to reduce his salary. I believe in paying our officers wages upon which they can keep their families in comfort, buy them decent clothes, take them to the theatre - or even to the races - occasionally, and enable them to qualify for the battle of life. I know that a good deal is being said about a recent decision in the High Court in reference to the salaries of public servants ; but that ought not to affect our determination. We need to have courageous men - men with pluck - in the Parliament of this country. If we can secure to fill positions of responsibility officers who have earned University degrees, which are the hall-mark of civilization, progress, and intelligence, we should be glad to have their services, and not cut their salaries down to a miserable paltry £350 a year. A Government which would do such a thing is a savage Government, only fit to go into the midnight darkness of Central Africa and hire blackfellows and Chinamen, and certainly not to govern an enlightened country.
– I do not quite follow the Minister of Home Affairs in his statement that if an attempt were made to recast the Estimates it would involve delay, inasmuch as communications would have to be made with distant States. That cannot apply to the Estimates under consideration, or, at any rate, to the Public Service Commissioner’s branch of the Department, because, that Department is concentrated, and the Minister can communicate with every officer in five minutes. I do not altogether agree with reducing salaries, or with failing to recognise the ability and the merits of public officers. Honorable members who are disposed to cut into the salaries of public servants should remember that a member of the service is absolutely cut off from any other employment. When he enters the service he relinquishes every opportunity ‘to gain extra emoluments outside unless he be a capitalist, and can speculate to advantage. In the public interest, it is desirable to pay good salaries to our officers. But I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that although the great classification scheme of the Commissioner has been completed, every one of the subdivisions in this Department shows a considerable increase. For instance, in subdivision 1, which we are now considering, we have an increase of about .£640. The Minister of Horn© Affairs says that a portion of that is a statutory increase. But I apprehend that there is no compulsion on the Public Service Commissioner to remove an officer from one subdivision to another unless the officer deserves promotion. Therefore, the Public Service Commissioner is just as responsible for the -statutory increase of £213 to which reference has been made as for the increase of £170 under the classification scheme.
– The increases are within certain classes.
– But it is within the discretion of the Commissioner to recommend an increase or otherwise. It is within his discretion to say to an officer. “You shall not pass from this subdivision into a higher subdivision just yet, because I do not think that you are deserving of it ; you are, getting all that you are entitled to get for the work you are doing.” I am not absolutely certain about the point, but I mention it because the Minister of Home Affairs seems to be absolving the Commissioner entirely for the responsibility for these statutory increases.
– They are the an.nual salaries of the ‘Subdivisions of classes.
– That does not satisfy me that it is absolutely necessary to transfer an officer from a lower to a higher subdivision unless his record shows that he is deserving of the promotion. That being so, it seems to me that the Public Service Commissioner is just as much responsible for any increases under that heading as for increases which are caused by the classification.
– I take it that according to the schedule to the Act, the officers are to get increases if they deserve them.
– I understand that that was only an indication that when a man approached a certain age, and had a good record, and so forth, he would receive the increase set out in the schedule. However. I find that the total sum provided for the Central Staff is £3,212 as against an expenditure last year of £2,572 - an increase, in this part of the subdivision alone, of £640. There is another increase further on of £200 in connexion with the clerks to inspectors, junior messengers, and so forth. In subdivision No. 2, under the heading “Contingencies,” there is an increase of £842. I do not know why there should be these increases.
– The honorable member is comparing the actual expenditure last year with the estimate for this year, and not the appropriation with the proposed appropriation.
– That is true, but I can take only the expenditure of the previous year as a basis of comparison with the proposed expenditure of this year; that, I think, is a perfectly fair method. The mere fact that Parliament over-estimated the expenditure last year is surely no argument for inducing us to vote more money than is necessary this’ year.
– The proposed’ provision has to be made, but we mav have savings.
– I have no doubt savings will be made, but, at the same time, it is perfectly legitimate, from my point of view, to compare the proposed expenditure this year with the actual expenditure last year. I emphasize the further point that, as the classification scheme, which entailed an enormous amount of expense in connexion, not merely with inspectors, but with the whole staff, has been drawn up, we should have expected a reduction rather than an increase; and this is a matter calling for some inquiry from the Public Service Commissioner. Why is it that, having disposed of the great work on which he and the whole of his staff have been engaged for some years, he should now, when there will be much less work, propose to spend about £2,000 more? I should certainly like, before we go to a division on. the item which has been challenged, to have a little further explanation from the Minister.
– I do not propose to discuss the Stems, especially those increases proposed under the classification scheme, my chief reason being that the appeals are still being heard. It would, I think, bs rather a disadvantage to those who are conducting the appeals, and also, possibly, to those whose appeals are being heard, to have the items debated in Parliament. When the matter is settled, so far as the Appeal Boards are concerned, every item will come under review by Parliament. If we choose to exercise our powers, we can then deal with the matter without prejudicing the claims one way or another.
-Why should those increases be included in the Estimates?
– The leader of the Opposition, and also the Minister, have already explained that point.
– It is just what has not been explained.
– What I rise to draw the attention of the Minister to particularly is the fact that the inspectorial staffs will in the near future have to be curtailed, or have further duties placed upon them. As the honorable member for Coolgardie said just now, the heavy work of classification is pretty well finished, though, of course, appeals are still being heard, and that, perhaps, is a reason why the expense will be much the same this year as last year. As soon, however, as the work is completed, it will be necessary to give the inspectors and their staffs additional duties. I know that some of them recognize that when the work of classification is completed, as it will be on the adoption of the scheme by Parliament, there will be very little for them to do, especially in some of the States. There will not be nearly enough work to occupy the time of valuable officers receiving salaries of £600 per annum. I see that under another heading, which has been passed, and which, therefore, I cannot discuss, but may merely mention, the Commonwealth Electoral
Officer of Tasmania is acting as Public Works Inspector and Deputy Public Service Inspector; so that there we have an amalgamation of duties.
– And the cost is charged to the Electoral Department, which it should not be.
– The way in which the expenses of the amalgamated offices is charged is quite wrong, and I have already spoken to the Treasurer in regard to the matter. The greater portion of the Tasmanian officer’s time is occupied in connexion with the Public Service work. I draw the Minister’s attention to the desirability, between now and when the classification scheme is completed of devising some method of amalgamating the duties of Commonwealth officers, so that those receiving high salaries may have their time fully occupied.
– In the unfortunate and unexpected absence of the Treasurer, who, of course, has had to deal with these matters, I find I am in error in stating that an amount has been deducted for salaries that may possibly not be paid during the year under the classification scheme. The classification, as it has been made, has been provided for, and, of course, the promise has been given that whilst officers receiving only up to , £160 per annum will receive their increments, those officers whose salaries are over that amount will not be paid their increments until Parliament has had an opportunity to approve or disapprove of the scheme of the Commissioner.
– Will the increments date back?
– The increments will date back when Parliament approves. Parliament, therefore, retains in its own hands the whole scheme.
– Not the whole scheme.
– Except as regards those who only receive up to £160 per annum. The whole scheme, with that exception, remains in the hands of Parliament, under the promise given by the Treasurer, that Parliament will be afforded an opportunity to express its approval or disapproval when the appeals have been heard.
– Will the increments actually be paid?
– Not to those whose salaries are ever £160 per annum.
– The increments will be kept back until the scheme is com- pleted.
– Until Parliament approves or disapproves df the scheme.
– That, of course, is only as to salaries so far as they are affected by the classification.
– Yes. In view of the appeals, it is not desirable, I think, to discuss the scheme in detail at the present time; and the abstention of members is an indication that they are of the same opinion. The comparison made by the honorable member for Coolgardie was not as between the appropriation of last year and the Estimates of this year, but between the actual expenditure of last year and the Estimates of this year. Provision must be made for certain expenditure in case it is required, but, as usual in all the Departments, only what is really required will be expended. It is often found that a. considerable saving can be made on the vote passed. That was the case last year in connexion with this vote, and the amount asked for this year is only about£300 in excess of last year’s estimate. The proposed increase has, I think, been fully explained during the discussion which has already taken place.
– In connexion with some of the items more was spent last year than is proposed this year.
– That is so. For instance, the printing cost more, but that was due to the classification scheme and so on. Of course,the cost of printing will be heavy this year also, because the classification is an annual classification.
– But it remains in type.
– Still, the cost of material and printing will be very considerable.
– It should not be anything like the cost of setting up originally.
– If a smaller amount than is asked for is found to be sufficient, that is all that will be expended. In the meantime, a considerable sum must be provided under this heading, because, asI have said, the provision made last year was exceeded. The Commissioner hopes in future to be able to make reductions in certain directions. It has already been pointed out that, whilst the classification work was very heavy, it was largely accomplished by overtime work. I have stalled the immense amount of overtime that was worked by the; Commissioner’s Department. That is accounted for by the fact that the work was of such a nature that strangers could not be brought in to deal with it, and it could be done only by certain officers. It was largely accomplished by overtime work, which was not paid for. There will still be a great deal of work in the Department, for although the classification is finished, the regular work will begin under it, the work of examining the different Departments and ascertaining if there is an excess of officers, and so on.
– Has not that alreadybeen done.
– It has been partially done, but it has been quite impossible to do it completely.
– So far as general increases are concerned the work has not 1 een partially done.
– I think that every possible step was taken by the Commissioner, in view of the difficulties with which he was confronted. There will be a great deal of work to do throughout the Commonwealth in future, because the classification is an annual matter. Certain increases are provided for, and it will be necessary to see that the various officers are entitled to them. It has to be seen whether there is an excess of officers in any one Department, and if the heads of different Departments claim that their Departments are undermanned, it has to be ascertained whether the claim is justified. In the general supervision of the service, though savings may be made in some directions, there must -always be a considerable expenditure involved. The honorable member for Boothby has referred to the inspectorial staff, and I may say that the matter is receiving attention. Wherever possible we shall make use of the services of these officers, as in the case of the officer working in Tasmania, whose services have been made use of for the Electoral Department. Every effort will be made to make full use of the services of . these officers. Some saving may in this way be made in the future in the case of the smaller States, but I hardly think that this can be done in the case of the inspectors for the larger States.
– I would like to understand why these increases should appear on the Estimates if it is not proposed to pay them after Parliament has agreed to the Estimates?
– Unfortunately the honorable member was not present when the explanation was1 mate.
– I am present now, and I should like to have some information on the subject. With respect to the statement of the honorable member for Boothby that he feels some hesitation in voting for a reduction merely because of the reduction in the work of the inspectorial staff, if the honorable member will consult the Estimates he will find that there is actually an increase provided for the inspectorial staff. I wish to know whether there is any justification for these increases. Why should we give a passive assent to increases of salaries now when we are told that we shall consider only the merits of the matter on some future occasion?
– The increases will be given, if agreed to, as from the first day of the financial year.
– I am aware of that, and that is another, matter with which I have to find fault. If we decide to do something we should do it immediately we have made up our minds, rather thani make our future action retrospective. The honorable member for Coolgardie has1 said that members of the Public Service are precluded from doing other work, but I would remind the honorable member that the conditions surrounding their employment do not apply to those outside the service, who are exposed to the cold blast of the world’s competition. They have permanent employment at, generally speaking, a fair rate of wages. In the particular case to which reference has been made, I recognise that Parliament is not a competent authority to judge as to what the proper salary should be. We have a highly-paid officer employed to advise us in such matters, and we can only review his decision in a general way. The honorable member for Hume has told us that amongst these officers there is one who was brought into the service only within the last few months at £200 per annum.
– I do not know whether it was £200 or not.
– I do not question the statement that this officer is highly qualified, but it is now proposed to pay him £400 a year. I would ask whether honorable members think that it is possible for men of equal ability outside to expect to double their rate of pay within the same time? For the reasons I have given, I shall not support any proposal for increases in the salaries of highly-paid officers. There is always a difficulty in securing increases for those who are getting barely sufficient to enable them to live. But as soon as a man has become what is termed an officer, and is getting £300 or £400 a year, there appears to be no difficulty in raising his salary, even by 50 per cent. In the case of an unfortunate man who is receiving 6s. or 8s. per day - an amount which I consider barely sufficient to provide his family with the necessaries of life - if an increase of £5 or £10 a year be asked on his behalf, the reply is made that the conditions of the country are such that it cannot be granted.
– But all the officers whose salaries are under £160 are getting their increments.
– That is the one redeeming feature of this business. We all know of the treatment to which the public officers of the States have been subjected during the last two or three years. Instead of receiving an increase, they have been compelled to submit to a very serious reduction. But throughout the ramifications of the Public Service of the Commonwealth there has been a considerable increase in the salaries. For these reasons I shall not commit myself to voting for an increase, especially in the case of highlysalaried officers. I am prepared to make an exception where it can be shown that a man is receiving what I term a mere pittance, for I consider that £150 a year is not more than sufficient to enable a man to provide his family with the bare necessaries of life. But in the case of those men who are fairly treated, and who received an increase last year, I cannot assent to a further increase.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume).- The honorable member for Moira has given expression to the feelings I entertain on one or two points. The remarks I made on a previous occasion have been emphasized today by the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs, that, except in the case of salaries under £160, the increments are not to be paid until Parliament has had an opportunity of dealing with the classification scheme. In the first place, I wish to know when it is likely to have that opportunity ? Certainly it cannot arise until the appeals have been dealt with.
– When will they have been dealt with?
– So far as I can learn, considerable time must elapse before they can be completed.
– About six months.
– Are we going to vote these increases with the possibility that it may not be decided until six months hence, whether they shall be paid or not?
– They are not going to be paid until the classification scheme has been completed.
– Why vote the increases until that work has been done?
– Because it is necessary, in order to let the honorable members see what the classification scheme involves.
– If Parliament is to deal with the classification scheme six or twelve months hence, I presume that each increase will again have to be submitted separately, and dealt wilh. Why should Parliament be asked now to vote a sum of money for increases which may not in many cases be paid, especially when there is no necessity to take that course?
– They will date back. It is intended to pay the increments as for the financial year, and, therefore, they appear on the Estimates for the year.
– If the sums are not to be submitted until after next June, they could be put in such a way that they could be paid and debited to this financial year. They cannot be paid until the House has come to a decision.
– That would mean that we should have to make two years’ payments in one year.
– No. The proposed vote would lapse at the end of the financial year, and must be re-voted.
– Not necessarily.
– So far as I can see, there is no object to be gained from submitting the Estimates in this way. We are asked to create a very bad precedent indeed. Until the last hour, I was not aware of the position which the Ministry are taking up. It is an improper act on their part to ask the Committee to vote these increases when they cannot be paid if the promise to the House is to be carried out.
– In the case of two Departments, the increases have already been voted.
– That may be the case. Unfortunately, I was absent through illness, and did not have an opportunitv of discussing the Estimates generally. But when the Committee comes to realize what is being done in this regard, it will, I think, hesitate to proceed further in the same direction. Although the increases for one or two small Departments may have been voted, still that is no reason why the increases for all the Departments should be voted.
– The Treasurer fully explained the reason for this proceeding when he delivered his Budget speech.
– So far as I can judge, the Minister of Home Affairs has furnished a clear explanation, but at the same time he ‘has shown that it will be almost an impossibility to pay these increases during this financial year.
– Not impossible.
-I think so, if the promise of the Government is to be carried out If, in accordance with that promise, the Parliament is to deal with this subject again, it must deal with the increases in detail. Until the appeals have been heard and the revised classification scheme has been submitted, the Government should not ask the Committee to vote large increases which cannot be paid in this year. It will be quite time enough to vote the money when the classification scheme has been laid before honorable members. It is a very unwise thing to vote this money too soon. The increases which have been voted for one or two Departments do not represent a very large sum, and the time has arrived, I think, when the Committee should cease to vote any increases which cannot be paid in this year. I do not wish to take any step which would be antagonistic to the Government, but I am quite prepared to support any amendment to I omit all these increases until such time as the classification scheme can be dealt with.
– Another crisis ! One crisis a day!
– The right honorable gentleman is not fair in making that remark.
– That is what it means.
– I do not desire the right honorable gentleman to point his finger at me - let it be pointed at some one else. I think I have shown clearly that I am not influenced by an antagonistic spirit in dealing with the Estimates. I have tried, in a reasonable way, to show that what is being done was never previously done by a Ministry. I shall support an amendment to strike out all the increases. I do not wish it to be understood that I shall vote against the proposed increases when they are submitted in a proper way, and at the proper time. My contention is that they should not be dealt with until such time as the Government are prepared to pay them. Last week the Minister for Home Affairs said that a deduction had been made at the end of the Estimates.
– I corrected that this afternoon.
– The honorable gentleman has admitted that he made a mistake, that the matter was discussed, but that nothing was done. Therefore, the objection I raised to the voting of a lump sum is removed. . I accept the statement made by the Minister as to what has actually taken place in regard to these Estimates. I would again urge the Committee not to pass these increases, not because I am opposed either to the increases or to the classification scheme, but because the present time is noi opportune. I should like all increases of salaries over £160 to be taken off these Estimates and submitted simultaneously with the classification scheme.
– I am very anxious that we should, if possible, get on with the business of passing the Estimates. This matter was gone into fully by the Treasurer in his Budget speech. He explained why the Estimates were framed in this way, and the difficulties which compelled him to take this course, and I submit that on this item we cannot raise a matter which was very properly discussed in the general debate on the Budget speech. We are discussing now the proposed vote for a particular division ; we are not discussing any other proposed vole. The Committee has already proceeded through several Departments on the lines which the Treasurer suggested, for the reasons which he gave, and honorable members are not , likely to stultify themselves, after some week’s of such procedure, by saying, “ We do not like this way of dealing with the Estimates; we want to upset it.” That’ would not be a business-like way of proceeding with public affairs. Besides, so far as I can see, the question cannot be raised now. A difficulty occurs in connexion with these matters, owing to our desire that the Treasurers of the States ‘ shall have the fullest knowledge of what our expenditure for the year will probably be. When the appeals have been heard, we shall have to pay any proposed increase as from the ist July last, and the only way in which we can inform the Treasurers of the States in this matter is to place the amounts on the Estimates for the current year. As honorable members know, the Government are not bound to spend the amount voted in Committee. The words ‘ not exceeding ‘ ‘ apply to every line of the Estimates. The votes given in Committee do not require the Government to spend every penny voted. What the Committee says is, “ You shall not spend more than the amount voted for any particular service.” So far as the salaries affected by the classification scheme are concerned, the Committee says to the Government, “ You are not to spend more than a certain amount,” and Ministers say, “We shall not spend increases provided for in accordance with the classification scheme until that scheme has been approved by the House.”
– When will that be?
– We hope to have the classification scheme dealt with before the new financial year begins.
– The right honorable gentleman’s colleague said that that would not be so.
– He said that it might be six months before it was dealt with.
– The financial year ends on the 30th June next.
– Yes. This -is not the proper time for anything but the consideration of the Estimates. We are now following a line of procedure of which the Committee has approved, and we cannot go back.
– What nonsense ! Why can we hot go back?
– A majority, of course, can do anything. A majority could say, “Although we assented to the course proposed by the Treasurer, and have been following it for some days, we wish now to undo everything that we have done, and to tear up the Estimates, although it will take a few months to. prepare a new set.” I do not think that that would be a businesslike course to take, or that it would lead to results useful to’ the public. It is highly desirable that the States should know their total liabilities for the year, and since their finances depend upon ours, that no addition Ito those liabilities should be sprung on them at the end of the year. It seems to me that the whole discussion is foreign to the question before the Committee, though, if honorable members wish to indulge in discursive debates, it is a matter for themselves and for the Chair, and I shall not place any obstacles in their way. I think, however, that as the Treasurermade a full statement of the position in his Budget speech, as no objection was urged to the course which he proposed, and as the Committee has been following it for some days, we should not now retrace our steps, and undo everything which has been done, which is really what the honorable member for Hume proposes.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume). - I think that the right (honorable gentleman has been exceptionally unfair in his statements. I have shownno antagonism to the Government in this matter, nor any desire to obstruct the Estimates. Unfortunately, illness compelled me to be absent when the Treasurer made his financial speech, and I was not present during its subsequent discussion. It is nonsense, however, for the Prime Minister to say that it is too late to discuss this matter. It can be brought up on every item in connexion with which there is an increase, right through the Estimates. The point which I raise is, I think, an important one. The Treasurer has told us that it is practically impossible topay these increases before the 30th June next, except so far as public servants getting £160 or less per annum are concerned. Other increases provided for under the classification scheme are not to be paid until that scheme has been submitted in detail to the House, and the appeals which will be made have been dealt with. If it is six months before this matter can be submitted to honorable members, we’ shall then be very near the 30th June next, and there will be practically no time to consider the classification scheme and pay the increases before that date. The simplest way will be to vote these increases after the whole matter has been dealt with, if necessary charging the expenditure to the accounts of the present financial year, instead of to the accounts of next year. There is no reason why an amendment should not be moved on every item for the striking off of increases, with a view to bringing that about. The Prime Minister hadno right to impute to me a desire to oppose the Estimates. The course which is being followed is an exceptional one. We are being asked to vote sums of money which cannot be paid during the financial year.
– The Government are asking us to vote amounts which they have not parliamentary sanction for paying.
– That is another strong argument in support of my contention. There will be no parliamentary sanction for the proposed increases until the classification scheme has been approved by Parliament. It is unreasonable to ask the Committee to take the course which is now being taken. The Prime Minister has said thatit is being taken to show the Treasurers of the States what we shall have to pay, and to give them an idea of the amount to be deducted from their returns. I remember that on one occasion in New South Wale, the Premier - I believe it was the Prime Minister himself - who desired to convey certain information as to proposed increases of salaries, but did not wish the Committee to vote the money, added to each of the Departments a schedule, which was not passed, showing the amounts that would be required.
– Such a thing never happened. Sir WILLIAM LYNE.- The amount of money represented in the Estimates was that which was to be paid during the year, but information was given with regard to the increases in the form of a schedule. Therefore, if it had been considered desirable to inform the States Treasurers of the extent of the increases involved by the classification scheme, the particulars could easily have been embraced within a schedule, which need not have been passed by the Committee.
– I should like to suggest a course by which the views of the honorable member for Hume can be met, and which will also insure that action shall be taken at the proper time. We have already told the Committee - if we have not, we shall do so - the total amount of the increases involved by the classification. We have given the total amount of the statutory increases for which the law provides, and for which honorable members are willing to vote, and also the total amount which hangs upon the classification. A very distinct method of testing the matter in the sense in which the honorable member wishes to test it-
– I do not wish to test it by means of a censure motion.
– I am going to make a suggestion quite different from that; I shall propose a business-like step’ which could not possibly acquire any party significance, but which would leave the matter quite open and free. If. when the Appropriation Bill is introduced, the majority of the Committee think that it is preferable that the element of chance involved in the classification scheme shall be left out, it will be quite competent for any honorable members to reduce the amount provided for in the Appropriation Bill accordingly.
– It is very hard for a private honorable member to reduce the amount provided for in the Appropriation Bill. The right honorable gentleman would regard any such proposal as a vote of censure.
– I am just suggesting a course which would not involve that. How could a proposal of that kind, suggested by me, toe regarded as a vote of censure? We have not quite lost our faculties of apprehension. I know that party feeling will carry some people to extreme lengths, but’ the public expect us to possess some remnant of sanity. The mere reduction of the Appropriation Bill by the amount of increases, which we are admittedly incapable of finally expending, could not be resented by the Government. The Committee appropriate a sum not exceeding a certain amount, and they could say, “ You shall not expend the proportion of that amount which is subject to an element of chance until we have approved of the scheme of classification involved.” That could be done by way of resolution.
– What is the amount involved ?
– £19,000, I believe. Any honorable member who thought proper could move the reduction of the appropriation by that sum, and that would have the effect of altering every one of the salaries in the manner that the honorable member for Hume desires. A reduction at the end of the Estimates upon that basis would have the effect of reducing all the items affected by the classification increases.
– After they had been passed.
– The honorable member will understand that the liability attendant upon a certain thing happening, namely, the approval by the House of the classification scheme, had to be shown upon the Estimates. If the classification be approved then the Estimates will show every line accurately, and provide fully for the expenditure of the year. We all know that the majority of these increases will be approved. I* do ‘not think that the House will resolve itself into a classification committee for the Public Service. We do npt want to sit here continuously for twenty- four months out of three years, or anything of that kind. The classification will probably be dealt with as a whole. If the House thought it was unsatisfactory it would not begin to do the Commissioner’s work over again. They would say, “ We are not satisfied with it,” and no harm would be done. Not a penny will be spent until the House has had an opportunity of approving, or disapproving of the classification scheme. If the House approves of it, the Estimates will be in order, and show the actual amount of money to be expended. If, on the other hand, it disapproves of the scheme, a reduction of £19,400 would put the whole thing right. The discussion of every separate line of the Estimates in which increases occur, would occupy many weeks.
– Would the £19,400 include the exemptions mentioned by the Minister of Home Affairs?
– I am not referring to the statutory increases, because those are secured by law.
– But it is proposed to pay all the increases upon salaries up to £160 per annum, even including those provided for under the classification scheme.
– Those increases would, of course, have to be deducted from the amount of £1.9,400.
– Where is that amount of £19,400 shown?
– In the Treasurer’s statement - it is not shown on the Estimates.
– The Minister of Home Affairs said that the increases would amount to £54,000.
– That would ; include tha statutory increases.
– According to the Treasurer’s statement, the increases involved by the classification scheme amount to £24,000.
– Whether the amount be £20,000 or £24,000, the increases upon the smaller salaries which, I understand, honorable members are agreeable to provide for, will have to come out of the total involved under the classification. I understand that there is not going to be any fighting over the smaller salaries, which only rep’resent a living wage. The increases upon these smaller salaries represent considerably more than half of the £24,000 referred to. If the Committee desire they can reduce the Appropriation Bill by the amount provided for increases of. salaries over ,£160.
– Why could we not do that in connexion with the Estimates?
– Because thousands of items would have to be reduced separately.
– Could not a test vote be taken in connexion with one item?
– I shall not object to any method that would facilitate a decision upon this matter. We do not wish to preclude honorable members from expressing their opinions, and I do not for a moment say that a reduction of the Estimates in the direction indicated would involve any question affecting, the life of the Ministry.
– I do not wish the proposal to take that aspect at all.
– I promise the Committee that I shall afford them an early opportunity to test the matter. I desire, however, to think out a method that will not be unfair to any particular officer.
– The basis already laid down would he a fair one to adopt.
– What is that?
– That of fixing the minimum salary upon which increases are to be paid.
– I promise the Committee that we shall think out some method of deciding this matter, perhaps during the present sitting, in a way that will not be unfair to any one officer. Probably, inasmuch as the question is contingent upon the classification, it would not, after all, be unfair to a particular officer if the Committee expressed its opinion by way of a reduction to the extent of the increase, because we should understand that it was not intended that the salary should be affected, but only that the chance element of it should wait. That suggestion would not be unfair to the officer regarded in that sense.
– That is exactly what I wish to see done.
– I do not object. I can see that it will not injuriously affect the officer in question. The suggestion simply means t hat we do not wish the classification recommended by the Public Service Commissioner to appear in the finanical statement for the year, until the classification scheme has been finally determined.
– Hear, hear.
– Very well. There is a fair way of testing the matter.
– I cannot say that I approve of the proposal of the Prime Minister.
– Let us vote upon the question at once. Surely we ought to do some work.
– I would point out that the right honorable gentleman has occupied the time of the House for threequarters of an hour this afternoon, whereas I have not even obtruded a legitimate interjection. Personally, I do not believe in attacking the salaries of officers who are in receipt of less than£300 annually. . The Minister of Home Affairs has informed us that increments will be paid upon salaries up to £160.
– The Treasurer said that.
– I do not desire to attack salaries of less than£300. Consequently, I can see that a difficulty will arise. One section of the House may desire that salaries of less than , £200 per annum shall not be reduced, another may fix the amount at £160, whereas, I believe that we should not interfere with emoluments of less than . £300. But there is another feature of these proceedings to which I strongly object. We are asked to vote increments to certain officers before we have approved of the classification scheme. We have been assured by the Government that if we vote this money, we shall subsequently be afforded an opportunity of approving or disapproving of the classification scheme, and that the only increments payable to officers will be those which are paid in conformity with our own decision. Personally, I am of opinion that the Committee should first discuss the classification scheme, because when we have approved of it, either in whole or in part, the Government will know the exact amount which Parliament is desirous of voting, and will be able to place it upon the Estimates for next year. It seems to me that we are going the wrong way to work. Since the creation of this Department the salary of the secretary has been increased by £150; similarly, the remuneration of the Registrar has been increased by , £120 within two years.
– Are we not discussing the classification scheme now?
– We have a perfect right to discuss it if we so desire. Under the heading of the “Public Service Commissioner,” we are at liberty to deal with any officer under his control. I would further point out that, since his appointment, the salary of the Examiner has been increased by£150. I regret that the history of the States Parliaments, in regard to their public servants, seems likely to be repeated in the case of the Commonwealth. In the States Legislatures it has been customary for Governments to submit ill-digested schemes for increasing the salaries of their public officers. A few years later, Commissions have almost invariably been appointed to inquire into the work performed by these officers and the salaries which they received. What has been the result? In most cases it has been found that the Departments were overmanned and overpaid. Then an agitation is aroused similar to what was known as the “Kyabram movement” of a couple of years ago, and a violent desire is exhibited to cut down salaries indiscriminately. If we follow those lines we shall ultimately land the Commonwealth in a state of chaos, so far as the Public Service is concerned. Ill-feeling will be engendered between the servants of the Commonwealth and the Public Service Commissioner, or the Government of the day. That is the sort of thing which we should endeavour to avoid. I protest against this vote upon the ground that we are asked to vote an amount which is nearly £2,000 in excess of that which was spent last year. That is a very large increase.
– The Committee is not asked to sanction an expenditure of nearly£2,000 in excess of the vote of last year.
– That is so. But the difference between the amount which was actually expended last year and that which we are now asked to vote is nearly , £2,000. We find that this Department is growing day after day, and that the management of the Public Service of the Commonwealth, roughly speaking, involves an expenditure of£1 per head.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that a general discussion of this kind would have been in order on the first item in the. Estimates of the Department, but that the honorable member has no right on this item to indulge in general observations concerning the whole Public Service.
– We are now dealing with the Public Service Commissioner’s Branch of the Department, and any matter affecting the classification of the service may be discussed on this item. The salaries paid to officers cannot be discussed, however, save in regard to the increases for which the classification provides.
– I am surprised that the honorable member should have raised such a point of order, considering that he has been so long in Parliament.
– I have never known a general discussion of this kind to be allowed, save on the first item in the Estimates of a Department.
– Then the honorable member has not seen much. I only desire to show that under the present system the cost of management is out of all proportion to the extent of the Public Service, and that it is necessary for us to curtail the expenditure. If the cost of the management of the service goes on increasing in the same ratio, it will, sooner or later, cause the Government a good deal of trouble, and give rise to further irritation between the States and the Commonwealth. We must remember that this expenditure does not relate to transferred Departments, but is wholly, new, and has to be borne by all the States. That being so, wet ought to be very guarded in dealing with it, and I trust that reductions will be made in items relating to all salaries above , £300. The course proposed by the Prime Minister is a very inadequate one, and I hope that it will not be adopted. If an amendment were submitted to reduce the amount provided for in the Appropriation Bill it would be said to be tantamount to a motion of want of confidence.
– The Prime Minister proposed a vote on the Estimates to decide the matter.
– Even that is a most unsatisfactory proposition. It seems to met that the Government should instruct a clerk in the Treasury to deduct all the increases of salary provided for in the Estimates, so that as each item came before the Committee the Minister in charge would be in a position to ask that it be passed less the amount of the proposed increase. That course might be followed without difficulty, and would not involve any general remodelling of the Estimates.
– We should have very great difficulty in separating the amounts.
– I do not think so. If we reduced the amount provided for in the Appropriation Bill by £24,000, we should still be unable to compel the Government to allow . for the reduction by striking off increases in certain salaries. The reduction might be provided for in a hundred and one ways. An Appropriation
Bill must necessarily cover the sum voted by the Committee, and if the total appropriation were reduced by £50,000 or £60,000, the Government would not be forced to reduce the salaries of any of their pet officers.
– The .proposal to which the honorable member refers has been withdrawn ; it is now desired to take a test vote on the Estimates.
– The suggestion is that we should take a test vote on the Estimates, and, if a reduction be made, to reduce the Appropriation Bill accordingly. That, however, would be impracticable. The honorable member for Maranoa has moved that this vote be reduced by .£20, his desire being that the Appropriation Bill shall provide for the payment of salaries, less the general increases under the classification. But, if the amendment were carried, the only result would ‘be that the Appropriation Bill would cover the whole sum voted on the Estimates, less the one reduction of £20. I do not think that any Government would admit that an Appropriation Bill introduced by it could be reasonably reduced by £24.000. I submit that the Prime Minister’s proposal is utterly impracticable, and that the only course for us to adopt is that which I have suggested. For the reason that I am opposed to the position taken up by the honorable gentleman, I will not allow myself to be dragged into supporting that procedure. I will be no party to allow these increases to be paid in1 any cases in which the salary exceeds £300, and I shall vote against them.
– There seems to be a necessity for a little more light upon this matter. As I understand the position, certain salaries are payable under the Public Service Act, with certain increments attached to them. Under the classification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner, another set of conditions has arisen. When the subject was discussed by the Treasurer some time ago he made it clear to me, and I think to honorable members generally, that- what he proposed to do was to pay the statutory salaries plus the statutory increments, and1 nothing more. That is to say, if an officer were receiving £130 a year, and were entitled under the Public Service Act to an increment of £10, that would be paid, giving him a salary of £140. But if the classification scheme proposed to increase his salary by £10 more, making the salary £150, the further increase would not be paid until such time as Parliament had pronounced generally on the scheme.
– That is the intention.
– If that be right, the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs must be wrong ; because what he said was that the Government intended to pay the classification increases as well as the statutory increases on all salaries below £160 a year. That would put the Committee in a very unfair position. We ought to have the right, in accordance with the Treasurer’s promise, either to accept the classification scheme or to reject it, as a whole. We ought not to pay certain increases under the classification scheme, and leave other recommendations for increases untouched. We should have an opportunity to pronounce upon the whole scheme, and to approve or disapprove of it.
– That will be done; increases under the scheme are not to be paid until Parliament deals with the whole position.
– I think we must pay the statutory increases, but Parliament ought to have an opportunity to say yea or nay to the Commissioner’s scheme as a whole, before any increases are paid under it. The Minister of Home Affairs says that he proposes to pav increases under the scheme in part. To do so takes away our right to reject the scheme as a whole, and commits us to, perhaps, two-thirds of it. What I desire to know from the Prime Minister is, whether he adheres to the Treasurer’s statement that statutory increases only will be paid, and that no classification scheme increases will be paid ; or whether he adopts the statement made by the Minister of Home Affairs, that both increases will be paid to a certain extent? If the Prime Minister accepts the former statement, I think there will be no trouble, and the Committee will vote the salaries without any more ado. But as to the rest of the increases, my view is that we certainly ought to have an opportunity to accept or reject the classification scheme as a whole. I could not, under the circumstances, vote for the reduction proposed by the honorable member for Maranoa. I think it is unfair to single out one individual. But if the Government regard the amendment as a test of the whole question. I shall cer.tainly vote for it, because, as I have said, I think we ought to have, a right to consider the whole scheme before any increases are paid under it.
– There has been a little misunderstanding, and the speech of my honorable friend the member for Bourke gives me an opportunity to make the position clear. The Treasurer has made it clear,’ and we do not propose to depart from his statement, that so far as the classification scheme leads to increases of salary, no payment is .to be made to any one until the House has approved of the scheme. That was stated by the Treasurer in his Budget speech. Unfortunately, he is now absent; but I am not aware of any statement that he has since made qualifying his original announcement. I took the opportunity of referring to my right honorable friend to ascertain whether he had since his Budget statement made any other statement at variance with that; but my colleague informs me that he has not at all departed from that position in any way. Consequently I can state absolutely to the Committee that the statement made by the Treasurer in his Budget speech has not been varied, and that no classification increases will be paid under these Estimates until the House has approved of the scheme. But there is one class of increase which seems to be mixed up with the classification, which I know every honorable member is thoroughly in favour of. As honorable members know, in the lower salaries until they reach a certain amount - I think it is j£i6o - there is an annual increase of £10 by process of law. In cases of that sort - supposing we find that there is no time to apply the classification scheme this year after all - for some reason or other the House may not have had an opportunity of discussing it during the currency of the year - of course, the legal rights of these officers in receipt of smaller salaries to statutory increases must not be taken away from them, because a classification scheme also involves the payment of increases. If there is no classification scheme adopted the statutory increases must be paid, but nothing else will be paid.
– No one objects to that.
– I am glad to have an opportunity to make the position clear.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - After listening, to the two statements of the Prime Minister on the classification scheme. I am quite satisfied that he does not wish to hide anything- from the Committee. But ‘I wish the Committee fully to understand that when the classification scheme comes before the House, it will have ‘ to be accepted or rejected as a whole. We cannot accept it in part. The present is the only opportunity that honorable members will have to go into details.
– That is right.
– I want to be thoroughly fair to the Government, and I believe that the Government want to be fair to the Committee. The cases of these three officers of the Public Service Commissioner’s staff are the most palpable in connexion with the classification scheme. In one case there is an increase of £70. and in. another of £50. Last year one of the officers received an increase upon his State salary of £150, and in the next twelve months the Commissioner arrives at the conclusion that the services of the officer are worth £50 a year more.
– It seems that we had him too cheap before. .
– I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made that interjection, because it enables me to point out how long it took Mr. Healy to get up to a salary of £200 in the State service.
– The honorable member would, I am sure, be the last man to block ah able man from coming to the front.
– I have no one to thank for my own position but myself, and I like to see every other man get paid according to his merits. But I have a duty to my constituents, just as the Prime Minister, and also I myself, have to the public servants. I wish to see all men well paid; and, as I said before, any increments which become due should be paid without hesitation. But when a man receives increments amountingto £200 in two years, we know there is something wrong somewhere. The Prime Minister said that the Department found out in twelve months that the examiner was worth £50 more.
– I do not know what was found out. I only say that he must have been too cheap.
– Then there must be “something rotten in the state of Denmark, ‘r when, at the end of twenty years, his services were valued at only £200 per annum.
– He was not then an examiner.
– It does not matter what hewas; be accepted the position under theCommonwealth when it was advertised.
– There are honorable members .who received only £200 per annumas parliamentary representatives of the
States-; but who now receive £400 per annum as representatives of the Commonwealth.
– In one State, parliamentary representatives receive only £100 per annum, if that is any news to the right honorable gentleman. But that is only by the way. The officers who are directly under the eye of the Public Service Commissioner are the only officers who receive such enormous increases. On the other hand there are poorly paid individuals who receive less than £160 per annum, and in Brisbane alone such men have had £2,200 deducted from their wages under the classification scheme. Such a deduction means to the individual a new frock for the child, or it may be butter for the meal in the morning. In many instances, men of this class may, throughout their whole lives, not receive increments amounting to £50 or £60.
– But the overtime which those men receive must be set against the sum deducted.
– But this class of men are short the amount of money I have mentioned ; that is the information they give me. 1
– I think they are wrong.
– The Treasurer told us that the increases amount to £54,564. Of this sum the State and statutory increments represent £34,653, leaving a balance due to classification of £19,911-, or, roughly speaking, £20,000. Of the increases amounting to £541564, men receiving salaries under £200 receive £41,852, while officers with salaries of .over £200 receive £12,092. I want to know how much of this £19,911 represents increments to officers receiving over £200, and how much represents increments to men receiving under £200 per annum ? If we can obtain that information, we shall get at “ something near the mark.” As -to the statements laid before us by the Minister of Home Affairs, I have nothing to say about Mr. Healy’s qualifications ; I think he deserves every -credit for the position he has attained. But when a position in the Commonwealth service is advertised, as the Public Sendee Act declares it shall be, the State servant who secures it knows very well what he is applying for, and to what extent the salary represents an increase on that paid in the State. What is the position in Queensland to-day? A Royal Commission has inquired into the whole question of the Public Service, and, in consequence, there have been reductions throughout, not only in numbers, but in salaries. We propose increases in the Federal Service in face of the fact that in Queensland men have had their salaries reduced as much as £100 per annum. Only last week the State Parliament of Queensland passed a special Retrenchment Act ; and we now propose increases in the Federal Service of £50 to £70, one individual receiving increments amounting to £200 in two years. Where is the fairness of such treatment of public servants? I protest that the Federal officers I have mentioned are more than overpaid. The States cannot bear the expenditure, and if increases are to go on year after year we shall have, as in Queensland, a Royal Commission, with the climax of a special Retrenchment Act. If the Public Service Commissioner is honest, and desires to do the Public Service Justice, let him give the men in the lower ranks, whether in the clerical or general division, the same ratio of increase that he gives to the officers in his own Department. I have no desire to block public business; my only object is to impress on the Committee that if we do not vote on these particular items now, there will be no further opportunity when the classification scheme is brought before Parliament.
– I have listened with care to the discussion, and have heard the Prime Minister’s promise to do something to find a remedy in the direction indicated by honorable members on this side. The more one thinks of the matter, the more one inclines to the conclusion that some action should be taken to relieve us of the puzzling problem presented in the classification scheme. The honorable member for Maranoa has told us that when the classification scheme comes before Parliament we shall have no right to deal with items, but must deal with the scheme as a whole. I desire the Prime Minister to be reasonable, and to come to a speedy determination as to what he intends to do to relieve us from the anomalous position indicated by himself and1 the Minister of Home Affairs. We desire to know whether the Prime Minister is agreeable to strike out all those increases which are the outcome of the classification scheme, seeing that they cannot be paid now, and that possibly the money will not be required until after the end of the financial year.
– The Government db not propose to do that, but we are willing to have the question tested, as it will be, by the division on this amendment. If there is a majority in favour of the amendment, we shall take that as an indication that the Committee wishes the amount to be deducted.
– I cannot see that the right honorable gentleman is aiming at economizing the time of the House.
– Surely the honorable member does not desire anything more than a decision by the Committee?
– I am suggesting a course which might economize time, namely, that the Prime Minister shall agree to strike out all the increases which arise out of the classification scheme.
– Those amounts will not be paid until Parliament has accepted the scheme.
– I understand that, but we shall have no right to discuss particular increases after the scheme is accepted.
– Yes. we shall. 1
– We shall only be able to discuss the scheme as a whole. I should like to know if there is any reason why these increases should be added to the Estimates., The position in which we are placed is that we are being asked to vote increases which have not yet been authorized by the Appeal Boards under the Public Service Act, and which have not yet been confirmed by Parliament in an indorsement of the classification scheme. It seems to me that we are absolutely reversing the proper order for dealing with the matter. The Treasurer has shown no necessity for including these increases in the Estimates, nor has the Minister of Home Affairs, and the Prime Minister now tells us that he proposes to consider some means by .which we shall be able to decide on one test motion whether the increases proposed by the classification scheme shall be agreed to. The Prime Minister will be economizing the time of the Committee if he will adopt the course I have suggested. As to the wisdom or otherwise of granting these additional amounts’ to various officers in the Public Service I have nothing to say, because I do not profess to be able to judge whether a particular officer is or is not entitled to an increase of £40 or £50. But I do say that until the Appeal Boards under the Act have had an opportunity to deal with the appeals, we should not be asked to vote the money. We do not know whether these increases will be sustained after the appeals have been dealt with. We may take it for granted that officers who are recommended for increases will not object; but officers whose salaries are not increased by the classification may appeal against it ; and if we now vote these increases we shall be in a condition of greater confusion than ever.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I should like to ask the Prime Minister’ whether, in the event of our agreeing to these Estimates, and the classification scheme being subsequently approved, we shall be prevented from moving a reduction in the salary of any particular officer as submitted in future Estimates ?
– The rule prevails in this, as in every Parliament that every time the House goes into Committee of Supply upon Estimates, it is absolutely within the right of the Committee to reduce any item of those Estimates. Nothing can deprive a Committee of Supply of that right. The House must approve or disapprove of the classification scheme as a whole. Honorable members may say, .” We will not reject this classification scheme, because in certain individual cases we think the salaries proposed are too high. We shall not throw the whole thing into confusion, but will approve of the scheme, and” reserve to ourselves the right in Committee of Supply, which no one can take away from us, of dealing with individual cases of which, we do not approve.” In connexion with any particular case that comes before Parliament in the following year on the Estimates, it will be a” perfectly consistent position for any honorable member who has approved of the classification scheme as a whole, to decline to approve of that item on the Estimates. His right will be preserved to him in Committee of Supply to propose a reduction in any vote of the Estimates. That right can ‘ never be taken away from a Committee of Supply.
– There will then be a very poor chance of succeeding.
– Of course majorities must rule, even in Committees of Supply. In reply to the honorable member for Gwydir, I should like to say that we have ascertained that, as distinguished from statutory increments, the exact amount involved in the increases provided for in the classification scheme in connexion with subdivision No. i is £170. So that if some honorable member will move the reduction of the vote for that subdivision by £170, such an amendment will test the question whether classification increases shall be taken out of these Estimates.
– In the circumstances, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
– I object.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- I think that when the honorable member for Kennedy realizes the fact that the honorable member for Maranoa asks leave to withdraw his amendment in order that a general amendment may be made, affecting all increases under the classification scheme, he will see the wisdom of withdrawing his objection.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I should like to point out that many honorable members of the Committee are not aware that we propose to take a test division on this matter.
An Honorable Member. - That is their fault.
– I admit that, and I am not apologizing for anybody. Every honorable member must manage his own affairs. But the fact remains that a number of honorable members who are opposed to these increases are not aware of the arrangement which has been come to to test the matter on this vote.
– We shall tell honorable members as they come in.
– That would be a rather long process.
– We cannot arrest public business.
– Do I understand that we are to have a general discussion now ?
– No; but, of course, no one could be prevented from speaking.
– I do not wish to throw any obstacle in the way of honorable members who desire to test the question in this way. All I want is an opportunity to vote against the increases in salaries over £300
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra). - I am quite willing that the honorable member for Maranoa should have leave to withdraw his amendment, but I am afraid that the general amendment, outlined by’ the honorable member for Gwydir would place some honorable members in the awkward position of voting against increases to the salaries of officers who are not highly paid.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I have just been informed that if an amendment be moved to deduct this amount, we shall be voting against an increase of, say, £10 to an officer whose salary is only , £160. But I hope that that will not be the case.
– I do not believe in reducing any salary below . £300. I do not wish to be placed in an awkward position.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- I wish to point out to the honorable member for Kennedy that, in voting for the suggested amendment, he will not be voting to reduce the salary of any officer, but merely to indicate whether the proposed increments should be submitted in fresh Estimates after the appeals had been dealt with. I hope that he will see the wisdom of withdrawing his objection.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- I move-
That the proposed vote be reduced by£170.
It has been stated by the head of the Government that this sum represents allthe increases which are recommended in the classification scheme to the officers of the Public Service Commissioner whose salaries are included in this sub-division. My object in moving the amendment is to ascertain the feeling of the Committee on the subject of these proposed increases. I think that all the arguments which were addressed to the previous amendment equally applyto this amendment. We wish to arrive at a general understanding as to what is meant by a reduction of the vote by this sum. I maintain that no injustice would be done to any public officer by the elimination of the increments which have been recommended by the Public Service Commissioner.
– I think, sir, that we might as well have honorable members present in order that they may know that a new amendment is being moved. There is no quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– I wish honorable members who did not hear my opening remarks, to understand that this amendment is being moved in order to ascertain whether it is the wish of the Committee that these increases which have been granted under the classification scheme should be voted in these Estimates, or submitted in other Estimates after the appeals have been dealt with. I maintain that no injury would be done to anv public officer by the omission of the amounts from these Estimates. The Prime Minister has indicated that if the Committee orr.it the sum of £170, which represents all the increases for the officers on the staff of the Commissioner, he will take that vote as an indication that it does not desire that these increments should be retained upon these Estimates. I do not know whether he is prepared to accept the amendment, and so save time.
– I wish the Committee to decide the question ; it has been considered as well as discussed over and over again.
– It has not been discussed here.
– I was not quite clear as to whether the right honorable gentleman would accept the amendment, and so let us get on with the business of the country. But as he does not seem inclined to take that course, we must contend for the ideas which we hold. I do not wish to offer any unwarranted opposition to the passing of the Estimates.
– I thought that the Minister intended to give the Committee an opportunity of dealing with the question.
– That opportunity is afforded by the amendment I am moving. This is a matter which, so far as I can see. does not affect the public servants at all ; because the appeals from the classification of the Commissioner have not yet been decided, nor has the classification scheme been approved by Parliament, and, until both have been dealt with, the increases cannot be paid. If we do not reserve our right to oppose these increases later, we must, when the classification scheme comes before us, either reject it, or accept it as a whole.
– That does not follow.
– We should not otherwise be able to consider it in detail, because’ we could not interfere in any particular case. Furthermore, by voting the increases now, we shall be approving the expenditure of money before we have a thorough knowledge of all the circumstances.
– The voting of the increases on the Estimates will not give the public servants a right to the money.
– But such action will practically mean the indorsement by Parliament of the increases which have been granted, subject to any revision which may be made by the Appeal Board.
– The Appeal Board will know that Parliament has voted the money.
– Exactly. If we vote these increases, it will be reported’ to the members of the Appeal Board: that, as Parliament has agreed to them, there is no more to be said. We have no right, however, to vote the money until we have approved the classification scheme under which the in creases have been given. According to both the Treasurer and the. Prime Minister, there is no likelihood of this money being required before next June.
– The Prime Minister has said that it will be required before the end of the financial year.
– No harm can be done to the public servants by not voting these increases now, and such action will reserve our right to criticise the classification scheme in detail. I appeal to the Committee not to vote the money unless we are assured that it will be required during the current year. There are two bad payers, those who pay before an account is due, and those who never pay at all. We do not desire to be either. I have never known a State Parliament to vote increases which have not been properly authorized.
– If the money would not be required until the next financial year, there would be no objection to the amendment; but I believe that we can deal with the classification scheme before the ist July next, when the next financial year begins, and if that is done, those who are entitled to increases will, if the House approves, then be promptly paid. If the course proposed by the honorable member for Gwydir is followed, it may happen that we shall not be able to pass the Appropriation Bill until as late in the financial year as the date on which the Appropriation Bill for this year is likely to be passed, and in that case those to whom the increases are due will have to wait several months for their money, since it would be unfair to honorable members who objected to individual increases to ask them to approve of the whole by voting a lump sum in a Supply Bill, when individual cases could not be considered. No harm will be done by voting this money now, because the increases will not be paid until Parliament has approved of the classification ; but they will be paid promptly after that approval has been given.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume).- When the classification scheme is submitted to Parliament, it must be submitted in detail.
– Parliament will be asked to express its approval of the scheme.
– Though the details of the scheme may not be mentioned in the motion submitted to Parliament, they will be involved in it.
– If Parliament went into every detail, it would practically be discussing the Estimates over again.
– The classification scheme contains the increases which are shown in these Estimates, and it would require only a month after the approval of the scheme by Parliament to provide for the passing of them in a Supply Bill.
– Then, upon an emergency Supply Bill, we should have a long discussion in regard to matters of detail, which might occupy days and days, and prevent us from meeting the urgent requirements of the Public Service.
– If such a delay were to take place, there would, no doubt, be ample justification for it. That is why I urge that it is not wise for us to vote the increases before we have decided that they shall be paid. We should not allow these amounts to remain on the Estimates as having been voted by Parliament, in view of the fact that when the classification scheme comes before us next year, it may be rejected. I think that at present it will be wiser for us to leave, as they are, all salaries, except those below a certain amount. The annual increments provided for by statute will have to be paid - Parliament cannot stop those.
– Oh, yes, we can.
– The increases involved by the classification are very important, and in the interests of every one concerned, and particularly of the States, we should defer dealing with them for the present. There are now serious objections on the part of some persons to the scale of salaries paid by the Federal Government.
– The increases will not be paid until the classification scheme is approved of.
– My point is that the Government are proposing to proceed in an unconstitutional manner. I do not for a moment suppose that the increases will be paid, but if the classification, scheme were rejected, we should be placed in a most ridiculous position. We should have voted certain moneys, and would then have to turn round and say that we would not pay them. We should have to bring up the Estimates again and cancel the votes passed.
– No such thing.
– If the Estimates were passed in their present form, and the classification scheme were rejected, as is not improbable, we should have to annul the Appropriation Act.
– We could refrain from spending the money.
– The honorable member means that we need not re-vote it. That would practically amount to the same thing. Tf the classification scheme were dealt with before the 30th June, 1905, we should have to annul the Estimates, or allow them to gp on and refrain from revoting the increases next year. I never knew of a case in which a Parliament was asked to vote money which it was known would probably not be required for expenditure during the current year.
– We never had a classification scheme in New South Wales that offered any comparison to the present one.
– We had a very similar case in 1895, when the salaries of the public servants of New South Wales were reduced by the lump sum of £301,000, and the Public Service Commissioners had, in a haphazard manner, to cut down salaries, some of which have never been properly re-adjusted to this day. The Parliament in that case proceeded in the dark, because they did not know whether they were re’ducing the Estimates by the right sum. We are in a very similar position, and I do not think that we should be acting wisely if we voted these increases at this stage. We should leave the Estimates as they were last year, and if the classification scheme be adopted we can make the necessary provision for the increases by means of a supplementary Appropriation Bill.
– I am surprised to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Hume, because he must know that out of the millions of money which are yearly voted in every State many thousands are never spent. It would be impossible to spend year by year every penny of the money voted.
– That applies to appropriations for public works, and not to salaries.
– It applies to all kinds of votes. The honorable member, as a Minister of many years’ experience, ought to know that salary votes are hardly ever spent to the last penny, and that it is quite common for votes to be transferred from one Department to another by the action of the Executive. The fact that the money is not likely to be spent this year should not prevent us from voting the increases as now proposed.
– ,£1,300 of the money voted last year for this very Department was not spent.
– Exactly. There are always unexpended balances in connexion with the Departments, and when amounts of ,£6,000,000 and £8,000,000 are passed upon the Estimates, the expenditure cannot be accurately calculated to within £[100,000 a year.
– The expenditure can be fairly gauged as far as salaries are concerned.
– The same difficulty arises in connexion with salaries as in other matters, although I admit not to the same extent as in the case of public works votes. I understood the Treasurer to say that he adopted the present course purely in the interests of the States. Honorable members are arguing, however, as if his action were likely to prove detrimental to the States. The Treasurer’s object was to inform the Treasurers of the States of the probable increases, and to make the necessary deductions from their returns month by month, so that the provision might be made gradually instead of by p the payment of a heavy lump sum in any one month. The whole proposal originated in the mind of the Treasurer, with a. view to ease down any trouble that might ensue in the event of the adoption of the classification scheme being unduly postponed. I venture to say that two years will elapse before the classification will come into operation.
– What will become of the money in the meanwhile?
– The Treasurer will simply retain it, and put it on one side. The classification scheme when adopted will be retrospective in its action, and the increases will have to be paid as from the beginning of the current financial year. Unless deductions were made month by month to meet such an emergency, the States would be called upon to provide, perhaps £70,000 or £[80,000 in a lump sum in one month. I venture to say that the course proposed by the Government .is the proper one, that it will involve the least trouble to the States, and will be fairer to all concerned.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- Some honorable members have been arguing as if the voting of these increases committed us to the adoption of the classification scheme, but. that is not so. AH that we are asked to do is to give the Treasurer authority, in the event of the classification scheme being adopted, to pay the increases as from the 1st of July, and thus enable him to dispense with another Supply Bill. The passing of the Estimates themselves confers no right upon the public servants to increases of salary.
– Would the Treasurer retain the money if the increases were not granted for years to come ?
– Of course he would. When the Estimates were prepared we could not possibly forecast exactly when the classification scheme would be complete, but it was expected that it would be adopted before the end of the current financial year. Hence it was absolutely necessary to make provision upon the Estimates for the additional sum that would probably have to be paid to the public servants by way of increase. Then the question arose as to the best method of doing this - whether we should provide a lump sum, or show upon the Estimates the increase to be paid to each officer. I venture to say that if a lump sum had been placed upon the Estimates, there would have been an outcry from honorable members for information upon matters of detail.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that it is clear now?
– It is as clear as it can possibly be made. Seeing that the result of the appeals against the classification scheme is not yet known, it is impossible to determine absolutely what the increased cost of the Public Service will be,
– There is nothing to distinguish annual increments from classification increases.
– The classification increases are shown in the classification scheme itself*
– What the Committee desire to know primarily is the additional, amount which will be required to carry on the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and the officers to whom increases are to be given. Whether the increases accrue statutorily or as the result of the classification scheme is quite immaterial.
– By authorizing the Treasurer to pay these amounts do we. not approve of them ?
– Certainly not. As the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out, Parliament very frequently votes a sum of money for a particular office - just as it does for a public work - which is not expended. Necessarily it must be so. The object of submitting Estimates to Parliament is to show the way in which the Government propose to spend the; money which is voted.
– And the maximum amount ?
– Yes. Of course, the maximum is never exceeded. The chief use of the Estimates is to assist in the keeping of the public accounts. The accountants of the various Departments look to the Estimates to see that they possess the necessary parliamentary authority before sanctioning any public expenditure. I shall certainly not vote with the honorable member for Gwydir. In my judgment, the Committee have no ground for complaint, because, under the* peculiar circumstances existing, this is the best way of dealing with the Estimates.
Mr. BAMFORD (Herbert).- If we agree to the Government proposal, I should like to understand the position which the Committee will occupy in regard to the Registrar and Examiner. Personally, I object to granting the proposed increase to the Examiner. It is not likely that that officer will appeal against his classification, and I desire to know how we shall be able to discuss his salary at a later stage?
– Is not the increase proposed in his case a classification increase?
– Then it will not be paid - irrespective of whether he appeals or not - until this House has approved of the classification scheme.
– Will the Committee be afforded an opportunity of dealing with every item in detail?
– Upon the Estimates afterwards honorable members can deal with particular items.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- The amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir places some honorable members in a very awkward position. The £170 which he has specified is made up by an increase of £60 to two officers who are in receipt of over £300 a year, by a second addition of £100 to public servants who are receiving between £200 and £300 a year, and by an extra £ro to a messenger, whose salary is £60 a year. Thus if an honorable member desires to vote for an increase to the messenger he will be obliged to support the proposed increments to the higher-paid officers, whom I have mentioned, and vice versa. Honorable members are thus placed in a very unfortunate position, and under the circumstances I shall feel obliged to vote against the amendment.
– Upon the present occasion honorable members are very awkwardly placed, simply because the classification scheme has not yet bee:i d:alt with. I avail myself of this opportunity to point out how unsatisfactory is the position to this House, and how much more unsatisfactory it* is to the rank and file of the public servants. The latter have been looking forward to receiving their increases under the classification scheme, but apparently there is very little hope that they will obtain them during the present financial year, even if this vote be carried. We know that the appeals against the classification recommended by the Public Service Commissioner are so numerous that it is practically impossible for the House to deal with that scheme during the present session. It seems very probable, too - as was pointed out by the honorable member for Parramatta - that the hearing of these appeals will not be completed in time to enable the scheme to be dealt with early next session, and consequently during the present financial year. That position is unsatisfactory to this House, and infinitely more ^unsatisfactory to the civil servants. The honorable member for Gwydir contends that this Committee should not consider the question of increases until the classification scheme has been submitted, and honorable members have been afforded an opportunity of judging the whole position from that stand-point. That is a very good position to take up. We wish to be in possession of all the available information in connexion with this matter. We do not desire to record any votes in the dark. On the other hand, we must consider the position of those public servants whose interests are at stake, and also how we may adjust matters so as to best serve the interests of the State. Whilst I strongly sympathize with the honorable member when he declares that this Committee ought not to sanction any vote upon which it has not the fullest information, we are compelled to acknowledge that in regard to this vote we, unfortunately, occupy that position. Until the classification scheme has been adopted, it is impossible for the Government to supply us with complete information. But I ask honorable members to regard this matter from the stand-point of the public servants. We know that if the classification scheme be not adopted before the end of the financial year, the public servants will not receive the increments which are due to them. But if the Estimates sanctioning those increases have been agreed to, it will be a guarantee that their claims have not been overlooked, and that Parliament does not intend to reject the classification scheme merely because it involves the granting of certain increases to public officers. If, however, the amendment of the honorable member for Gwydir be carried, that construction might be placed upon our action. If honorable members wish to affirm that the public servants of the Commonwealth are already sufficiently well paid, and that they are not prepared - even under a well-thought-out classification scheme - to further augment their salaries, they stand upon firm ground in refusing to sanction these increases. If, on the contrary, they think that public servants are entitled to increments, no harm can result from agreeing to this vote, on the promise given by the Government that the increases will not be paid until the scheme has been approved. In this way we shall give the Public Service a guarantee that we shall be prepared to consider their claim, to increases under the classification as from the beginning of the current financial year, as soon as we can deal with the scheme. There is much force in the contention advanced by the honorable member for Parramatta, that if we pass this vote the Government will be able month by month to make deductions in respect of these increases from the surplus returnable to the States. If the amendment were carried, however, no such deduction would be made.
– It would mean making provision next year for a double increase.
– Exactly. It would mean that the deductions, instead of being made in respect of the year for which the increases were payable, would all be made at the one time - that the increased expenditure so incurred would fall with double force on the finances of next year, and that the States would probably not be prepared for so heavy a call. If the whole of the surplus, irrespective of the amount required to meet these increases, were handed to them this year, they would naturally expend it, and incur obligations which would render it more difficult for them to provide for the additional payments. It appears to me that the wiser course for us to follow is to agree to this vote, so that the deductions to be made from the surplus returnable to the States will be spread over two years. I am prepared to support the Government proposal, because, while I think there is a good deal in the objection that we are asked to a large extent , to vote in the dark, I feel that there are other more cogent reasons why we should pass the vote. I support it on the understanding that these increases will not be paid until the classificationscheme has been adopted.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir). - I am not disposed to withdraw the amendment, because the more we; discuss it the more we must recognise the wisdom of it. The suggestion that if we pass this amendment we shall render it impossible for those in the higher divisions of the Public Service to receive their increases, while those in the lower branches of the service will be paid them, does not appeal to me. Justice should be done to all. Every member of the Public Service, whether he is in the higher or the lower divisions of the service, should receive any increase to which he is entitled, and there is nothing in the contention that we should not vote for the amendment because it might involve the withholding from certain officers of an increase of salary. It has been admitted even by the honorable member for Parramatta that there is no likelihood of the classification scheme being finally dealt with for another two years or more.
– I hope it will be dealt with before then.
– Judging by the number of appeals yet to be heard, we are being asked to vote for increases which will certainly not be payable during the current financial year.
– The payments will have to date back to the time of the classification, and we must make provision for them.
– I realize that, but if the classification scheme is not adopted the Treasurer will hold the money represented by these increases throughout the present financial year.
– It is hoped that the appeals will be dealt with during the financial year, because many of them may depend on one point.
– I am not in a position to say when the Appeal Boards will finally dispose of the many cases submitted to them, but I cannot recognise the wisdom of providing for increases under a classification which has- not yet been adopted. The whole classification may be rejected, and that being so, what purpose will be served by making provision for increased salaries under it? Assuming that the classification is not finally dealt with by the Parliament for another two years, the money provided to meet increases of salaries under it will remain in the hands of the Treasurer, and he may be inclined to draw upon it from time to time to meet urgent demands, just as was done in the case of the money passed to provide for the fortification of Fremantle.
– If the present scheme be rejected, another one will have to be framed.
– Exactly ; but we must be cautious in dealing with these matters, and I think we ought to eliminate the provision made for these increases.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie).- The subdivision, “ Contingencies, £6,145,” affords further evidence of the excessive cost of carrying on this Department. I do not think that the explanation made by the Minister, in reply to my remarks as to the completion of the classification, was wholly satisfactory. The preparation of the classification scheme is the principal work which the Public Service Commissioner has had to carry out since his appointment. The work which involved a large portion of the expenditure in connexion with this Department has been done, and I do not see whv an increase should be required. The Minister spoke about the overtime that the officers have worked. What is meant bv an expenditure of £879 for temporary assistance if the officers worked overtime?
– That was in addition to the overtime.
– There must be a great deal to do in the office. Why is temporary assistance to the extent of £500 required this year? One would have thought that by this time the work would have got down to normal dimensions. If so much extra clerical’ assistance is required, why does not the Department adopt the proper course, and, instead of employing temporary officers, make permanent appointments of junior officers at small salaries ?
– How is it that postage this year is estimated to cost £900 less than last year?
– I suppose that arises from the fact that the classification scheme must have involved a considerable amount of telegraphing. The item “other printing, £1,000” is very large. The printing of the classification scheme and of the
Commissioner’s report were expensive, but the work is not required to be done again. The Ministerhas said that the classification scheme will involve an annual report, but he overlooks the fact that the type is all set up, and that the cost of issuing the document in succeeding years will be almost nominal.
– But there is the printing of examination papers, and so on.
– The examination papers are not expensive. The expenditure on “ other printing “ last year was £1,190. Now that the bulk of the work is done. I cannot see why the Commissioner requires £1,000 worth of printing this year. Then £1,000 is set down for travelling expenses. That is a very generous allowance for six inspectors, now that the work of classifying the service is done.
– There are. always Courts of Appeal.
– But Courts of Appeal and Boards of Inquiry are provided for otherwise. The Commissioner seldom leaves Melbourne.
– The travelling expenses are not for the Commissioner alone; the inspectors have to travel in connexion with appeals.
– Not to a great extent.
– The Commissioner himself has travelled a good deal.
– I believe that he has travelled on the suburban lines; but I never heard of his going further.
– He has been to Sydney recently.
– Then again, we have the item “ expenses, Courts of Inquiry, £250,” and “expenses, Boards of Appeal, £1,000,” being an increase of £500 over last year. The “ expenses of holding examinations, including advertising,” are £750; “other advertising,” is set down at £100; “ incidental and petty cash expenditure,” at £500. The Minister ought to look into these items. We Were told when this Department was established, that it would be economical, and would manage the Public Service at a purely nominal cost. But we find the total expenditure approaching, £11,000, and involving an increase of nearly £2,000 in one year, although the main portion of the work- of the Department has practically been completed. I do not know whether the Minister feels satisfied with the position of this office.
Judging from what I can hear, the work does not give satisfaction to the public servants, and I am quite sure that it is not satisfactory to the public, seeing that it costs so large an amount of money. Nothing could be more ill-considered than the grading of some of the post-offices in Western Australia - a grading which, on further consideration, had to be altered.
– To what heading do the honorable member’s remarks apply?
– They are incidental to the vote under consideration. The Minister claims that the travelling allowances of these inspectors are not too great. I wish to show that these officers have not travelled to good purpose, or have not had their eyes open when travelling. I do not wish to labour the point, but before we adopt these Estimates, we should have a statement from the Minister as to whether some of the items are justified. I feel inclined to move for a reduction of the travelling expenses, but will give the Minister an opportunity to reply before I do so.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas). - In connexion with the item, “boards of appeal, £1,000,” I presume that that sum is intended to cover the expenditure of boards of appeal under the reclassification scheme. If that be so, in view of the debate which has taken place on earlier items, I wish to take the opportunity to urge strongly upon the Government the advisability of endeavouring to have the appeals dealt with as speedily as possible. The honorable member for Parramatta seems to think that the hearing of the appeals will probably extend over two years. If that be the case the Government should take steps to strengthen the machinery so as to reduce the time. The matter is one which seriously affects the Public Service. Until the appeals are dealt with, the increases which the officers are entitled to under the reclassification scheme cannot be paid to them. I know that we cannot hope to discuss the scheme this session, but I trust that the Government will endeavour to expedite the hearing of the appeals so as to enable the public servants to receive the money to which they are entitled before the end of the present financial year.
– I understand that there is a verv large number of appeals.
– They are very numerous, but many of them turn upon the same point.
– I can quite understand that one case may afford a test for a very large number, and that being so, the work involved in dealing with them will not be so great as might appear upon the face of matters. I quite understand that the appeals are so numerous, and of such a character, with so many points involved, that their hearing will take a considerable time. That is the reason I make the appeal, in the interests of the public servants and of good government by this Parliament, that the whole matter should be settled as speedily as possible - that a special effort should be made to have the question decided by the end of the present financial year. Parliament would then be in a position to deal with the classification scheme, and the Government would be empowered to pay the public servants their increased salaries. I do not propose to take objection to any of the items, but merely to press the suggestion I have made. If the present machinery under the Public Service Act is not sufficient, the Government should take the means at their disposal to strengthen the machinery.
– The honorable member for Coolgardie raised some questions, on which I shall briefly reply. I have already taken steps to see that the items of expenditure referred to are made as low as safety requires. I have had reasons adduced by the Public Service Commissioner why the amounts in the Estimates should be maintained. The classification list will have to be reprinted ; that will cost a considerable sum, although a great part of the type is already set ‘up. Then additional printing will be required by the office, a great many forms passing to and fro amongst the various branches in the Commonwealth, and, in addition there is the ordinary printing for the Department itself. As to the matter of temporary assistance, it will be observed that the cost of that assistance has been reduced by £379- The cause of that reduction is the carrying out of the suggestion of the honorable member for Coolgardie, that permanent appointments should, in some measure, be made to replace the employment of temporary assistance. There must, however, be an amount available for temporary assistance, because in connexion with examinations and other work there are often rushes of business, and it. is quite impossible for the ordinary staff, unless it be unduly enlarged, to get through without assistance. It is much better, in my opinion, to have temporary assistance to meet special rushes of business than to. enlarge the staff to such a degree as to be able to cope with the work under every condition. The honorable member will quite understand that there has been no opportunity for this Government to effect, many reductions ; but every attention will be given to the desirability of keeping the expenditure down to the lowest point. As to the remarks of the honorable member for Canobolas, I, by interjection, stated that many of the appeals hang on the same point. For instance, a number of the appeals are in connexion with what is really a legal question, namely, the statutory rights carried over from the States services. Whether those appeals will be satisfactorily settled by an Appeal Board has to be seen ; but a great number of the cases, as I say, hang on that one point. So with other appeals, and every effort is being made to complete the business as rapidly as possible. But it must be remembered that the inspector has by the Act to be a member of the board, and, therefore, there cannot be a multiplication of boards. The Commissioner is very hopeful that, so far as the appeals can be settled by the Appeal Boards, there will be a conclusion of the work within the next few months.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 21(Public Works Staff), £11,641
– I think there ought to be some discussion on this division. It is notorious that the Public Works administration in the various States is of an unsatisfactory character. I know, from my own experience, that unsuitable buildings have been erected in some places, while in other places considerable delays have occurred in the carrying out of the most trifling improvements; and. generally the management of this branch is almost in a state of chaos. I am told that in Victoria the erection of a chimney was estimated to cost1s. per brick. Specifications were called for Brunswick bricks to be delivered at Wood’s Point, where it was proposed to erect the chimney, and the local contractors made the estimate which I have given.
– I do not think that that estimate is quite accurate.
– It may not be quite accurate, but it is near enough for all practical purposes.
– Were thev fire bricks?
– No; ordinary bricks. I admit that Wood’s Point is very remote and difficult of access.
– I think 4½d. was the actual cost.
– I do not know how the officers of the Department arrived at that cost, but contractors, who know quite as much about the matter as the officers, estimated the cost at1s. per brick. I understand that for forty years similar buildings, of stone, have stood in the same locality, and are almost as good now as when first erected. Evidently, however, the local stone was not good enough, in the opinion of the officers of the Department, and they specified bricks for this remote place. Even at the cost of only 4½d. per brick, it is monstrous to spend such a large sum when there is available local material which, in the opinion of contractors and of the general public, has been proved to be sufficiently durable.
– The honorable member should state two things - that the building was only a chimney, and that the Public Works Department of the State, which had erected both rubble and brick chimneys in other buildings, are of opinion that brick, in the long run, is the cheapest.
– I suppose that must be their opinion, but it is diametrically opposed to the opinion of contractors and of the general public in the neighbourhood. Even taking the Minister’s estimate as correct, 4½d. per brick is a very absurd price to pay for the erection of a chimney. We should have men in the Commonwealth service, especially those charged with the carrying out of public works, who are more imbued with the idea of economy. I suppose that the salaries proposed here are reasonable. I notice only one increase - £60 to the chief draughtsman; it is not a very large increase, and if the officer is a good man he must be worth the salary here proposed.
– Where is he stationed ?
– I presume that he is stationed in Melbourne.
– Is the £60 increase due to classification?
– I do not think that the salary proposed is excessive for a good man, and I shall not make any motion in connexion with it.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh).Some information might be given with respect to superintendents. There are superintendents for New South Wales and Victoria at a salary of £600 a year each. Then wehave an Inspector-General of Works at £800 a year; but no mention is made as to the cost of supervision in other States than Victoria and New South WaJes.
– Will the honorable member look at the bottom of the page?
– I see that £6,000 is put down for the purpose.
– That sum is based principally on a 6 per cent, commission on cost of works.
– I should like to have some definite statement as to what the supervision, amounts to.
– In States where we have no superintendent, and to a lesser extent where we have superintendents, various works are carried out by the Public Works Departments of the States. The arrangement is that on the larger works, at any rate, they get 6 per cent, commission for the preparation of plans, the supervision of the works, and the passing, of accounts so far as their supervision is concerned.
– Does that apply to new buildings, the plans of which are submitted to the head office of the Commonwealth ?
– Plans are furnished by the Public Works officers, and submitted to the Department concerned, as well as to the Public Works branch of the Department of Home Affairs. With respect to smaller works, there are arrangements by which clerks of works are paid, though not on a percentage basis, and in some cases small payments are made for plans. That is the system adopted except where Commonwealth public works are carried out by our own Department, or by the superintendents we have in two of the States. These superintendents have been found necessary in the two larger States, where a considerable number of works are required to be carried out, and it has been found economical to employ them.
– They will be required in every State.
– In some of the States the expenditure on Commonwealth public works is very small. It is intended to employ a registrar of works, but the employment of a superintendent is unnecessary in some of the States.
– Will not the commission amount to more than the salaries in some cases ?
– Not in some of the States, but I point out that even in those States where we have superintendents they cannot supervise all the Commonwealth public works undertaken. Many of the works are defence works, some are in the interior of the States, and some on the coast, and no one officer could possibly accomplish the whole of the architectural work and the inspection required in any of the States. Consequently, the States Departments have to be drawn on to a very considerable extent. The InspectorGeneral of Works was appointed on. tha consent of Parliament to the passage of the last Estimates. Parliament voted a salary of £1,000 a year for the office, and the then Ministry appointed the present InspectorGeneral of Works at a salary of £800 a year. Every effort will be made to give full effect to the intention of Parliament that the utilization of the services of this officer should result in a saving ratherthan an increase of expenditure.
– What are his duties ?
– He has to superintend the whole of the public works of the Commonwealth. All requisitions have to be submitted to him. He has to give instructions for the preparation of plans where the work is done by the Department itself, he has to inspect plans prepared by local superintendents and States Public Works Departments, to approve or disapprove of them, and to suggest alterations which may lead to savings.
– He has to travel.
– He has to travel occasionally, and he visited Western Australia only the other day.
– He should go there again.
– He needs to go there again.
– He has to design forts.
– Yes, he possesses military knowledge, and is a military engineer. That fact led to his appointment, because works in connexion with fortifications form a large portion of the public works undertaken bv the Commonwealth. There is a considerable reduction on the vote of last year torecoup the States for the salaries of professional officers employed by the Commonwealth. That is partly due to the fact that now that we have an Inspector-General of Works, other officers of the Department are enabled to do more of the work of supervision in the States. Their salaries will therefore to some extent be recouped by a saving in the amount of commissions hitherto paid to the States.
Mr. HENRY WILLIS (Robertson).This is a badly managed Department. It seems to me that the Minister of Home Affairs has no control whatever over works. Works which have been approved by the Commonwealth Parliament are placed in the hands of State officers, and it is left to their discretion to say when each work shall be completed. To my knowledge, for six months certain works have been at a standstill. The officers in the Commonwealth Department say that everything has been done by them which can be done, but that it rests with the State authorities to say when the works shall be carried out, and the cause of the delay has to be reported by them to the Minister.
– I admit that sometimes the States Departments are busy.
– Let us admit that they are very busy.
– They are very busy sometimes, but not just now.
– Why should a post-office be kept locked up and unused for six months, simply because the State authorities have not thought fit to proceed ?
– The Government which the honorable member is supporting will alter all that.
– My remarks do not apply to this Government only, but to the Administrations which have held office during the last six months. Although I have complained of the delay from time to time, still it has been allowed to continue. It is owing to the system which was started, and continued. I believe that the time is not far distant when we shall have to create a Public Works Department, in order to carry out our public Works more successfully and economically.
– Will it not entail a huge cost if we do not make use of the States Departments?
– While we have that large spending Department of Defence, and are paying first-class officers handsome salaries, we should have some control over the execution of our public works. The Minister of Home Affairs has no such control after a work has been intrusted to the States Departments of Public Works. The post-office at Wellington has been completed for six months, with the exception of a small building which is required for an exchange. The wires are erected, the telephone instruments are connected with the houses of the sub scribers, but that small office for the exchange is not likely to be completed for a considerable time, as the Minister has no control.
– Let the honorable member communicate with me about these buildings.
– I communicated with the Department of the PostmasterGeneral, and the reply I received was that everything which could be done had been done.
– If the honorable member will call upon me, I shall see whether something more cannot be done if the money has. been voted.
– I shall communicate with the honorable gentleman this afternoon by letter. We have no complaint to make against the Government, because the money has been voted, and they have done everything which could be done.
– What is the hitch?
– The hitch is that the Minister has no control, because the Public Works Departments of the States can carry out the works at their will, and they are not ready to proceed. We should adopt a system by which our works could be completed within a reasonable time.
– I recognise the difficulties which confront the Government of the Commonwealth in dealing with the Public Works Departments of the States. I think it would beabsolutely impossible for the Commonwealth to institute a Department of Public Works, and take over the sole control of public works in all the States; an arrangement must be made with the States Departments. I wish, however, to enter a protest against some of the works, which have Been carried out, particularly in Western Australia.
– We are taking the Estimates for this Department in subdivisions, and, strictly speaking, honorable members would not be in order in discussing a work which is being carried out by the Public Works Department of a State. If honorable members will permit me, I shall put the three subdivisions as one, and then it will be competent for any one to discuss the relations of the Commonwealth with the Public Works Departments of the States.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– In Western Australiapublic offices have been erected which, to my mind, are entirely unsuitable for the locality. The workmanship has been of the most questionablecharacter. After a few months the offices have begun to fall in pieces. The windowsills have fallen out, and the counter has warped, because seasoned timber had not been used.
– Bad Western Australian material ?
– No; the best wood in the world for this kind of work is coming from Western Australia. This bad workmanship is entirely due to the want of supervision. Like the honorable member for Robertson, I have had several post-offices in my constituency finished for some months, and when the officials in the Central Department here were asked why the buildings -were not opened for use, they replied that the Commonwealth Government had not been advised that the works had been completed. That is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. Again, take the condition of the buildings after they have been erected. Only to-day I received from a municipal council in my constituency a protest against the state of disrepair into which the post-office building at Bulong had been allowed to fall. It seems to me that we have no well-organized system for seeing that public buildings in’ different’ portions of the Commonwealth are attended to. The Superintendents of Works should be allowed to travel in all portions of the Commonwealth and see that those State Officers who get remuneration from the Commonwealth to do certain work earn their money.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs what has been done with regard to the payment of moneys on contracts in the States? On many occasions during the regime of the last Ministry contractors could not get payments made in Queensland. For instance, the contrac- tor for the Tambo post-office in my electorate could not get his money. I inquired in Brisbane if there, were not some means by which the money could be placed to the credit of the Department there. On mv arrival in Melbourne, I saw the late Minister of Home Affairs, who told me that an arrangement had been made for sending up the amount of the contract and allowing the State Department to pay from time to time. Are these payments being made in all the States by the Public Works Department, and, if so, is it the policy of :i .e Government to continue that system, so that the contractors can be paid for the work which, they have performed?
– In reply to the honorable member for Maranoa, I may say that this question has engaged the attention of previous Ministers, as well as myself, with a view to removing all ground for complaint in that respect. The arrangement to which the honorable member has referred is Being acted upon. A certain amount is advanced to the State out of which it can make the -payments. Some regulations which have been framed by the Inspector-General of Works, and are being sent round to different Departments, will, I think, remove all difficulties in connexion with such payments.
Mr. MAHON (Coolgardie). - I think that it is rather misleading to group together all the items contained in subdivision 3 of Division 21. Honorable members would have had more enlightenment if the proportion of the total amount expended in each State had been shown.
– It cannot be said how much will bes expended..
– Last year the appropriation was £9,000 and the expenditure £6,278. The honorable gentleman might tell us how that expenditure was divided amongst the various States.
– The expenditure in the various States differs every year, according to where the works are, and what is done by the States Departments.
– I know that the expenditure varies every year ; I am asking about the expenditure of last year. My question is surely a very simple one. I wish to know,, too, as nearly as the honorable gentleman can tell me, how the proposed vote is to be expended in the various States. I. think that the Minister of Home Affairs will do well to communicate with the Premiers of the States in regard to the manner in which the work of these officers is discharged. I know from the very best information available that in many cases they perform their duties in a most perfunctory fashion. In one instance coming under my notice, where some £1,700 had been voted for the erection of a post-office in an important town, a most unsuitable and inconvenient building - certainly not such a structure as a private person who had the money to expend would have put up - was erected right on the street frontage, no space being left for a verandah, while the design was not in agreement with the architectural Style of the other public buildings in the town. On what basis are the payments to State officers assessed? Is a percentage paid on the cost of the work constructed, or is a fixed sum given to each officer? If a percentage is paid on. the total expenditure, it is to the direct interest of the officers, where no effective superintendence can be exercised, to swell the cost as much as possible. It may not be in their power to exceed the amount for which the contract has been let, but they can increase the expenditure by alterations in the original plan, and by other devices with which those who have had anything to do with building are familiar. I have heard very strange statements in regard to the expenditure of this money, and the desire of certain State officials to procure a share of it. It has been freely reported outside that works have been kept back, difficulties having been invented to delay them, because certain officials had not been paid the percentage to which they considered themselves entitled.
– Are they not paid by the States?
– They are. I was going to mention that. This work is done by officers whose salaries have not been diminished by the States, -and it has not given them more to do thanthey had to perform prior to the transference of certain States Departments to the Commonwealth. I understand that, in one case at least, an effort has been, made to bleed the Commonwealth for commission for work performed by a State officer, which, prior to Federation, he had to do without additional remuneration.
– I understand that the commission is paid directly to the State, and not to the officer.
– I think the honorable member will find that, when the State officers do work for the Commonwealth, in what is called their own time, they are allowed to draw fees for it.
– The fees are paid to the Governments of the States, unless it is requested that they shall be paid to the officers concerned.
– I think it would be a good rule to pay these charges to the Governments of the States rather than to their officers.
– That is done now. I do not know of any exceptions.
– I am not aware that fees have been paid by the Department of Home Affairs to State officers.
– What about the item in Division 25 -
Allowance to State officers acting as officers of Commonwealth sub-treasuries ?
– I do not know of any case in the Department of Home Affairs in which fees have been paid to officers; but I should like the assurance of the Minister that no such fees have been paid. Whatever the procedure may be, however, it is very difficult to get public works carried out expeditiously in Western Australia. I know of a case in which a municipal council applied to have private letter-boxes erected for the convenience of the public at the local post-office. The Department of the Postmaster-General at Perth refused the request, but the central office at Melbourne granted it, and the boxes were sent from Perth to the local office, and lay in the yard there for nine months before being erected. In this office there was only one public window, and as there were 2,000 miners, in addition to a considerable general population, in the town, it very often happened that ten or fifteen persons were at the window seeking to register letters,” send money orders, or hand in telegrams. The consequence was that great delay and inconvenience were caused. The PostmasterGeneral agreed that an alteration, costing about £20, was desirable in the interests of the postal officials, as well as of the public, but I can assure honorable members that it took me nearly twelve months to secure that little improvement. The system that leads to such delay, and the officers who are so regardless of the public convenience as to throw difficulties in the way of effecting such small improvements, stand self-condemned. I hope that the Minister will be able to infuse a little more life into his officers, and that instead of the Inspector-General of Works and the Superintendents of Works confining their attention to New South Wales and Victoria, they will occasionally visit the outlying States.
– The InspectorGeneral has recently been in Western Australia.
-Yes, but he. did not go any further than Fremantle. We do not want the supervising officers to merely go over to Fremantle, and come back by the next steamer. We ought to insist upon effective supervision in all the States. It is idle to pretend that an officer, who slips over to Fremantle, and comes back by the next boat, can exercise any effective supervision.
– A supervising officer is required for Western Australia solely.
– I quite agree with the right honorable gentleman that more supervision is required. At the same time, I recognise the difficulty mentioned by the Minister in insuring effective supervision over public works in isolated places far removed from railway communication, and I am quite prepared to make every allowance for circumstances of that kind. But there is too great a tendency on the part of the higher officials to remain in the comfortable capitals and leave the back country to take care of itself. The back country is the backbone of Australia, and the people who reside there require, and ought to- receive, a little more attention from’ our officials. I am quite sure that the Minister agrees with me to a very large extent, and that, if he remains in office, he will do ‘his best to stimulate his officers into a little more activity. In the meantime, 1 think that before we . vote the very large sum that it is proposed to appropriate, honorable members should be furnished with some particulars as to the way in which the £6,278 disbursed last year was distributed among the States, and that we should also have some information as to the steps which the Minister proposes to take to insure more effective supervision.
– I have no desire to delay the passing of these Estimates, but it seems to me that we are piling up “other” expenditure rather unduly. The new works we are undertaking are being constructed out of revenue instead of, as formerly, out of loan funds; and we have to take this fact into account when we consider the exigencies of the States. We have an Inspector-General of Works at a salary of £800; a superintendent for New South Wales at £600; and a similar official for Victoria at the same salary. When public works similar to those now being undertaken by the Commonwealth were being constructed by the States, their officials had to supervise them, and it appears to me that some arrangement might be. made for the supervision of the Commonwealth works by States officers. There may be some reason for employing the Commonwealth officers to whom I have referred, but in view of the fact that the cost of the works has to be charged to the States, we should make as much use as we can of the States officials.
– The appointments referred to by the honorable member are not new ones - the officers were provided for on the last Estimates.
– Do I understand that these Commonwealth officials were formerly employed by the States?
– They were previously States officials.
– Does their employment by the, Commonwealth relieve the States of expenditure equivalent to the amount represented by their salaries?
– It should do so, but that matter rests entirely with the States.
– If the States are relieved to an extent corresponding with the extra expenditure incurred by us, my remarks do not apply ; but I object to the appointment of new officers who are not needed.
– The officers referred to have held their appointments for some time.
– Even so. If the States officials were competent to do the work, honorable members were somewhat lax in allowing the appointments to be made. We are not carrying out any more works than were previously undertaken by the States, and therefore the States officials should be competent to do everything now required.
– Or there should be an equivalent reduction in the States expenditure.
– I understand from the Minister that it is not intended to appoint inspectors of public buildings, but to utilize the services of the inspectors employed by the States.
– Yes, the amount provided for at the foot of the page is to be used for paying the States for such services.
– There is another matter to which I wish to direct attention. I notice that in connexion with every Department, certain charges are made for postages and telegrams. In the aggregate these items represent a very large sum, and serve to greatly swell our expenditure.
– “Under the States management, the services rendered by the Post and Telegraph Department were very seldom charged to the other Departments.
– It is well that the public should know that these amounts are merely transferred from one pocket to another, and do not represent an actual outlay on our part.
– In the Electoral Office alone it will amount to some . £12,000 or £14,000.
– That is a case in point. In estimating the expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in administering its affairs, all these charges are included. Of course, in the Post and Telegraph Department they are regarded as revenue. But we have to recollect that the average elector is accustomed to compare the present cost of these Departments with their cost prior to theestablishment of the Federation.
– I notice that upon these Estimates provision is made for the nucleus of a staff which is intended to supervise works carried out by the Commonwealth Government. Upon that staff I observe that there will be about sixteen hands during the current year. In my judgment there is considerable force in the objection which was urged by the honorable member for Coolgardie to the manner in which Federal public works are carried out. I believe that it is the desire of the present Government to bring about a betterunderstandingbetween the Commonwealth and the States in all matters in which their interests are identical. Unfortunately for us, the States officers do not appear to realize that the carrying out of Federal work is a legitimate portion of their duties. The difficulty which we experience is that a preference is given to State work over Federal work, unless the latter is pushed forward by reason of extreme urgency. That fact is responsible for very serious delay. When the Commonwealth Government desire to undertake any particular work the matter is referred from the Department originating it to the Department of Home Affairs. The latter hands it over to its representatives in the particular State concerned. Those in turn pass it on to the State Public Works Department. Thus the undertaking filters through a variety of channels, involving an endless amount of red-tapeism. Serious delay is, therefore, inevitable. I repeat that the States officers fail to realize that Federal work forms a part of their duties. If a better understanding could be arrived at with the States, I feel satisfied that Commonwealth public works would be carried out much more expeditiously than they have been in the past. I would further point out, that in the States capitals - notably in Melbourne and Sydney - there is, in addition to an Inspector-General, a Superin tendent of Works, and a small staff of officials, who are employed in supervising the operations of the States Departments in regard to Federal undertakings.
– Under the new regulations it is intended that our own officials shall carry out some of the works.
– I am very glad to receive that assurance. It appears to me that in the capitals of the different States, many of these works could be carried out more economically and efficiently if they were placed under the direct management of the Federal staff.
– A new regulation has been framed for that purpose.
– During the past year, a very important work has been carried out in New South Wales in connexion with the completion of the General Post-Office. Under the old system, a large part of that work was carried out upon the day-labour principle. There were special reasons why that was so. Latterly, however, the State has largely curtailed the system which was previously in vogue. I understand that it has been very anxious to get rid of the supervision of this particular work, and that some time ago a recommendation was made that the day-labour system should be replaced by the contract system. The last Government, however, did not see its way to give effect to that recommendation, and consequently the day-labour system has been in operation up to the present time. That is an instance in which the work could have been more efficiently carried out under the direct control of the Commonwealth offiers. I am very glad to have the assurance of the Minister that a new regulation has been framed dealing with that matter.
– I should like to ask the Minister to give some explanation of the intention of the Department in regard to post-office clocks. I understand that, although it is a detail in that Department-
– It is really a postal matter.
– I do not intend to read a letter of a very striking character which I received to-day in reference to the condition of one of the clocks in my own constituency. I happen to know that some difficulty has been experienced in placing money upon the Estimates for this purpose in various parts ofthe Commonwealth. Quite apart from my very important constituency, I should be glad if the
Minister will tell us what he intends to do in .regard to that particular item in postoffice expenditure?
– I might inform the honorable and learned member for Parkes that the matter to which he has referred is one more particularly for the decision of the Post and Telegraph Department than for the decision of the Department of Home Affairs. The Post and Telegraph Department always indicates its requirements in respect of any post-office to the architect charged with the duty of preparing a design, and if a clock tower is not mentioned as necessary it does not form’ part of the design. I would inform the honorable member for Coolgardie, who desired to know what proportion of the sum of £6,000, in respect of supervision, was to be expended in each State, that only an approximate estimate can be formed. The sum to be expended will depend upon the works that may be constructed in each State - it will depend, not merely upon’ the amount upon the Estimates, but on the time available to complete the works for which provision - is made. An approximate estimate for the current financial year, as well as a statement as to the actual expenditure last year will be found in one of the Budget papers - ,No. 19 - circulated by the Treasurer. The honorable member also remarked that some of the States officers received a direct commission, but I believe that he qualified1 that observation by saying that he did not know whether that commission came from the Works Department. I have merely to say that the only application for the payment of a commission direct to a State officer, which has been made to me since I have been in office, has been declined. I said that all payments in respect of services rendered to the Commonwealth by the officers of a State must go to the State Government, and that it was for the State Government to determine their distribution.
– I understood that the honorable and learned member for Parkes wished to know what was the intention of the Government in regard to the post-office clocks which had fallen into disrepair, and I do not think that the Minister has fully answered his question. We have no assurance as to what will be done with the £6,000 provided for supervision of works. We know that, although the States receive certain payments in respect to public works carried out by them on behalf cf the Commonwealth, many of their officers, who have to supervise these works, are practically sweated to a very large extent. They are asked to do a great deal more than they would have had to do had Federation not been established.
– They used to do all this work before.
– But the Departments are growing, and, apart altogether from increased demands made upon them by their own States, the States officers are being required to attend to additional work for the Commonwealth. Their salaries are not being increased. It seems to me that we should as far as possible appoint Commonwealth officers to supervise all our own works, and that such a system would be more satisfactory than is the present arrangement. We are under an obligation to the States, and while, no doubt, they have been very generous in allowing their officers to attend to any urgent call on the part of the Commonwealth, complaints have beenmade that works which should have been expeditiously carried out have been delayed owing to the failure of the States PublicWorks Departments to prepare the necessary plans. I think it is only reasonable that we should pay the States for services rendered to the Commonwealth, and that, ‘in order that we may know the exact cost of Federation, we should require the States to pay for all services rendered to them by the Commonwealth.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 22 (Works and Buildings), £90,000
– I wish to direct the attention of the Ministerto a matter of considerable importance. He will remember that I brought under his notice some time ago an allegation that one of the contractors carrying out work for the Department was paying less than the minimum wage generally allowed outside. The contractor in question made an affidavit that he was paying the minimum wage, and I subsequently learned that the fault was due,, not to the contractor, but to the Department itself. As a matter of fact, the Department of Home Affairs has scheduled 9s. a day as the standard rate of pay for carpenters, whereas the rate paid by many, if not all, respectable contractors, is 10s. a day. That is little enough for skilled” artisans. I shall content myself by merely mentioning the fact, and expressing the earnest hope that the Minister will see that the Federal Government are in no way a party to the payment of a lower rate of wage than is given by respectable contractors. Ten shillings a day is recognised by the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters as the minimum wage for skilled carpenters and joiners., and it is certainly wrong that the Government should schedule 9s. per day as the rate to be paid on Government contracts. I hope that this matter will receive attention.
– There is a matter, relating to the Post and Telegraph Department which I had intended to bring under the notice of honorable members on a motion for the adjournment of the House, but I think it may well be considered on this division. According to a statement published in the daily press, the Government have agreed to construct a telephone line between Geelong and Warrnambool.
– A very sensible project.
– I havenoobjection to the construction of the line, but I certainly object to the way in which it is proposed tocarry out the work.
– I am afraid that it will not be competent for the honorable member to discuss this matter on the division now before the Committee. The Estimates are set out under different headings, and in the item, “ Electric Light and Telephones,” no provision is made for any expenditure in Victoria.
– Although this work relates to the Post and Telegraph Department, the Department of Home Affairs will have to carry it out.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean to say that his Department will not have to carry out this work?
– It will not be competent for the honorable member to bring up a matter affecting telephones under a division that does not provide for any expenditure for that purpose.
– I do not desire to dissent from your ruling, sir, but I wish to point out that this item includes expenditure on account of repairs and maintenance, fittings and furniture, and electric light and telephones in connexion with works and buildings. However, if I cannot deal with the matter now, I shall move the adjournment ofthe House to-morrow.
– I wish to direct attention to the wide difference between the position of Victoria and New South Wales in the matter of rent paid for buildings. The rent paid in New South Wales on account of the Trade and Customs, Defence, and Post and Telegraph Departments amounts to £12,054; whilst in Victoria the amount is only £2,481. The Department in New South Wales ‘may be securing its buildings at reasonable rents, but I may point out that under the old State system engagements were made many years ago, and buildings have deteriorated in the meantime. It was found when the matter was investigated some time since that the Department was paying a rent that was altogether beyond the value of the buildings. The Minister should look into the subject, in order to ascertain whether the Department ought not to reconsider the amount of rent paid, particularly as the amount paid in New South Wales is more than double the amount paid in all the other States put together. The amount of rent in New South Wales is, as I have stated, £12,054, whereas the amount for the whole of the States is £20,401.
– The answer to the honorable member for Canobolas is that more buildings are rented in New South Wales for Commonwealth purposes than in Victoria. More buildings are owned by the Commonwealth in Victoria than in New South Wales.
– Partly owing to the contractsystem which prevails in Victoria.
– Yes, in connexion with the Post Office the contract system prevails more largely in Victoria than in New South Wales. Then again, in connexion with the Defence Department, there are more drill halls owned by the Commonwealth in Victoria than in New South Wales.
– Are many drill halls rented in New South Wales?
– Yes, a number. In reference to the inquiry of the honorable member for Kennedy-
– I shall move the adno occasion to do so. I was waiting for journment of the House to-morrow.
– There is an opportunity to reply to the honorable member’s statement, and there was no want of courtesy towards him. He should extend the same courtesy to me. I wish to point out to the honorable member that the expenditure on repairs and maintenance is for repairs and maintenance in connexion with the buildings of the Departments mentioned, whilst the expenditure on electric light and telephones covers the cost of electric lighting and telephones also for departmental purposes. That, is all. The construction of telephones and telegraphs is the business of the Post and Telegraph Department, and the expenditure for that purpose is to be found on page 234 of the Estimates.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will not think that there was any discourtesy on my part towards him. I see that the expenditure referred to is provided for on page 234, and under those circumstances I had no desire to discuss it now; but, as some weeks may elapse before we reach the Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department, I shall move the adjournment of the House to-morrow, in order to call attention to the matter.
– I am under the painful necessity of directing the attention of the Government to the large sum they are paying as rent for post-offices in Western Australia. The present system has been going on for many years, even in populous places like Fremantle.
– The amount . is only £780.
– That is a very considerable sum.
– It is not much for the whole State, is it?
– There is no necessity for the Government to pay so much. I noticed, even before Federation, as well as subsequently, that buildings were being rented for postal purposes, when they should be owned by the Government; and’, if I remember rightly, in some cases the rent was extravagant. What I wish to refer to more particularly is the outlay for rent on the gold-fields. Some of the officials seem to labour under the peculiar idea that all mining towns are purely ephemeral, and that the Government are not justified in putting up a small post-office until the public have given absolute proof of the permanence and stability of the place.
– That is the view they hold in respect of all mining towns.
– It is a view which they ought to get rid of very quickly, so far as Western Australia is concerned. Mulline, ‘on the North Coolgardie goldfield, is only a small plage, but for ten years there, has been profitable mining carried on, and a large quantity of gold obtained. The State Government have expended between £10,000 and £15,000 in the erection of a twenty-head battery, with all proper gold-saving appliances, and I have repeatedly applied to the Post and Telegraph Department for the erection of a post-office there. However, from year to year the Department goes on paying £52 a year for a small cottage.
– Is that not a reflection on the late Postmaster-General?
– The late PostmasterGeneral did hot have time to alter the present state of affairs, andi, besides, he had a natural delicacy in dealing with matters affecting his own State. The cottage, though the site is convenient, is unsuitable for the purpose, there being only three rooms, while the public have no place except a bit of board outside on . which to write telegrams. A small postoffice could be erected at a cost of £500 or £600, and if the public have sufficient faith to erect buildings costing nearly as many thousands in such places, and if the State Government, who have the best opportunity to test the stability and permanence of new towns, go to the expense of putting up an expensive battery, surely, the Federal Government should feel justified in providing a modest postoffice such as I have described ? It is not merely that the Government are unnecessarily paying rent, but the buildings are utterly unsuitable for post and telegraph work. Any person having experience as an operator has only to stand in the middle of the street to be able to read every message which is received or sent. In another place, Mulwarrie. some distance away, there is a similar state of affairs. There a building was rented as a post-office which was “cheek bv jowl “ with a public house, and the miners’ children when sent for letters - I need not say that there is not the luxury of a letter delivery - had to run the gauntlet of the undesirable surroundings of such a place. Here, again, a small expenditure of £500 would provide the public with every reasonable convenience. The present state of affairs is still more inexcusable, when we remember that in all these townships the State Government have set apart land for post-offices, which is at any time available to the Commonwealth Government. But the Government will not take the trouble to have the land transferred, and the officers of the Department, for some reason or other, set their faces against the erection of Federal buildings.
– There is an item of £[1,100 for the purchase of post-office sites in Western Australia.
– A sum of £1,100 will not go very far in a progressive country, but I think that item represents the preliminary deposit for the purchase of a postoffice site in the city of Fremantle.
– In Great Britain, post and telegraph business is frequently carried on in grocers’ shops.
– Not official post-offices?
– Yes, official postoffices. Even in a town like Bristol, the whole of the postal work was carried on in such a place up to within a few years ago.
– I cannot draw a line between an official post-office and an ordinary post-office, because, after all, the business transacted is much the same. In the one case, I take it the office is under contract, and conducted by some one not an officer of the Department, while in the other case the management is in the hands of an officer under departmental supervision.
– In large provincial towns in England the business is carried on in shops to the present day.
– I do not object to that arrangement where it is of advantage to the public and economical for the Department. But at the places I have mentioned the officers are official, being conducted by a postmaster and expert telegraphist. Those cottages are not used for any . other business, and there is no advantage to the Department in renting them. The Government, by putting up their own building at a cost of £500, could save from £25 to £30 a year in rent. I am not so much objecting to these offices being in private structures as to the waste of opportunity of which the Government have been guilty in not utilizing the land placed at their disposal by the State Government in more suitable places.
– Is this not a matter for discussion on the postal Estimates ?
– I hardly think so, seeing, that the Department of Home Affairs erect buildings.
– The Department of Home Affairs cannot erect a building unless they are asked to do so by the Post and Telegraph Department.
– That is so. But the Department of Home Affairs impinges rather closely on the Post and Telegraph Department ; and once the plans have been approved the Home Affairs Department manages the rest. Indeed, the Post and Telegraph Department is now little more than a registry for the Home Affairs on the one side, and the Treasurer on the other.
– No, the contrary is the case.
– Experience will satisfy the honorable member that he is mistaken. Under existing arrangements there is little reason for a Postmaster-General, because a clerk at £150 a year could do almost everything that the Postmaster-General is permitted to do at the present time.
– Has the honorable member been long of that opinion?
– I formed that opinion from my experience in the Department. I hope the Minister will consider the idea of utilizing the land placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government in Western Australia, and thereby save a considerable amount of money.
– I should like the Minister to give the Committee some information as to the increased rentals incurred in Victoria for the accommodation of the various Departments. The increase shown on last year’s expenditure in this respect is fairly large, and I was wondering how much of it would be non-recurring. The rent will, of course, go on, but some of the expenditure on fittings, repairs, and furniture may be non-recurrent.
– Considerable expenditure has been necessary in connexion with the new offices in Russell-street, which were taken owing to the needs of the Commonwealth Departments requiring greater office space. There is a vote of £450 for fittings and furniture. A portion of the vote for repairs and maintenance is non-recurring, and, from memory, I think the amount is something like £400. The vote for furniture and fittings has also been increased to some extent in connexion with the removal of Departments to the Commonwealth offices at the corner of Collins and Spring streets.
– Is it proposed to remove the Post and Telegraph Department to those offices ?
– Yes ; I understand that that Department will be removed to those offices this week. The Crown Solicitor’s Department has already been moved into those offices, and the Public Works branch of the Home Affairs Department has been moved from rented offices in Collinsstreet to the Russell-street offices.
– What will be the additional ..annual expenditure due to the changes which have been made?
– Roughly speaking, the additional cost will be from £400 to £450 per year. Of course, the increased space was necessary, and I quite recognise that the late Government had great difficulty in securing suitable and cheap premises in a desirable position. They had to incur considerable extra expenditure to secure premises, which, if they are not absolutely all that, could be desired, and better could not be obtained, are. at any rate partially suitable. Some of the expense involved is being recouped by removing Departments from other rented premises to the offices at the top of Collins-street.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 23 (Governor-General’ $ establishment), £7,406.
– I should like some information with respect to the item under the heading of Sydney Government House, “ Maintenance - House,” and the item “Lighting on public’ occasions and for offices.” The expenditure on both these items last year exceeded the amount appropriated, and in both cases an increased vote is asked for this year. When we previously discussed the expenditure on the GovernorGeneral’s establishment, we were promised that’ the amount then being voted would be the limit, but the vote is gradually increasing year by year.
– The vote asked for now is £500 less than the amount voted last year.
– There is an increase on the two items to which I have referred. On the item “ Maintenance - House” £300 was the appropriation last year, and £427 was expended. On the other item, “ Lighting on public occasions and for offices,” £150 was the appropriation last year and £227 was expended. Then we have an item, “Orderlies, £25,” and it is repeated in this year’s Estimates, although nothing was spent on the item last year. I think we might have some explanation of these items.
– It will be seen that the amount asked for this year, under subdivision r, is some ,£500 less than the appropriation for last year, though the amount asked for is practically the same as the expenditure for last year. Of course there will be .variation in the amounts spent in’ connexion with the various items during the year, as we can only approximately estimate what will be required. As regards the item “ Maintenance - House,” a vote of £73. over the actual expenditure for last year,’ and £200 over the appropriation is asked for. As to the item, “Lighting on publicoccasions and for offices,” the vote asked for this year is £23 more than the actual expenditure of last year, and £100 more than the appropriation for last year. It is thought that the amount provided for here will be found necessary to cover the expenditure required. The vote for “Orderlies” may or may not be required. Last year we were able to make arrangements by which the vote was not required, and we shall endeavour to make the same arrangements this year. I would point out that the expenditure in connexion with many of these items depends upon the length of time during which the House is occupied by the GovernorGeneral - a shorter period of occupation means a lower expenditure.
– The same objection applies to the vote for the next subdivision.
– That may be so, but I am afraid that the Chairman will not permit us to discuss that vote.
– The votes for the two subdivisions might be put together.
– The vote for thi 9 subdivision might be passed, and we could then discuss any objection raised in connexion with subdivision No. 2.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- I object to this very large expenditure, and I would point out that we do not, in these Estimates, get a true statement of the amount which is actually expended. Honorable members will find on page r.6 of these Estimates that we have already passed an item of £[1,000 for -
Official printing, stationery, travelling, telegrams, and other incidental expenditure for Governor-General.
That is in addition to this vote for £7,406!
– That has nothing to do with the Governor-General’s personal establishment.
– If that £1,000 was voted for some one else those who compiled these Estimates should have made that plain. If it was not voted for the GovernorGeneral it should be put> in its proper place.
– It is for the office of the Governor-General, but not for his personal establishment. It is for his official work
– Then, why not put it clown as for his official work? As a matter of fact, past and present Treasurers have been quite willing to swell this amount in any way that might best deceive the Committee.
– There is no deception about it.
– We have great reason to believe there is. Honorable members should consider the whole history of this matter. In the first instance, an attempt was made to vote £8,000 a year for the upkeep of Government Houses.
– That was for extra salary.
– It was for extra salary, but it was put down for upkeep of Government Houses. The Committee felt so emphatically on the subject that it practically took the business out of the hands of the Government, and changed the whole tenor of the Bill by refusing to grant the extra £8,000 required for the upkeep of Government Houses, and granting £10,000 as a special sum to cover certain expenditure. But we find that the sum required for this purpose is gradually creeping up to the amount which we then refused to vote. Treasurer after Treasurer has been prepared to come down here and ask for more. The item of £1,000 on page 16 is only another way of relieving the GovernorGeneral, of certain expenditure.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing an item which has been passed.
– I am only referring incidentally to .the item, which I think should have been inserted under the head of Governor-General’s establishment, so that we might have known exactly what we were doing.
– At any rate, our attention might have been directed to the item by a footnote.
– Yes. We were disdistinctly led to believe that the total vote for the upkeep of Government Houses would not exceed £5,000.
– The House was clearly given to understand by the Barton Government that, apart from the salar)’ of £10,000, a vote of £5,000 would cover the necessary expenditure for the upkeep of Government Houses, namely, £2,000 in Sydney, and £3,000 in Melbourne, making a total expenditure of £15,000. If we include the item of £1,000 to which I have referred, we find that the expenditure has almost reached the sum of £18,406, which is practically £2,000 odd more than the House agreed to vote.
– Does the honorable member wish to abolish the establishments ?
– I certainly think that the establishment in New South Wales should be abolished, so that the expenditure might be kept within the bounds which were set a few years ago What right had New South Wales to receive this special consideration? Melbourne is the Seat of Government, and the official residence of the Governor-General should be here. New South Wales has no more right to the presence of His Excellency than has Queensland, or South Australia, or Western Australia. That concession, was made to New South Wales simply to allay the feeling of State jealousy. The Prime Minister goes upon the platform and talks about the way in which he will try to bring Victoria and New South Wales into harmony. Does he propose to accomplish the object by perpetuating an unnecessary expenditure °f £3.-000? Let us see how this money is to be spent. F or china and glass we are asked to vote £100. It must be a pretty rough function when that worth of china and glass is broken, for I presume that it will have to be replaced.
– Does the honorable member notice how much was spent last year ?
– Why is this enormous sum of £100 required this year for china and glass when only £39 was spent out of last year’s vote of £too? Is a riot anticipated there?
– In Victoria only £14 was spent on china and glass.
– Yes ; but let me remind the honorable member that a larger breakage is anticipated in Victoria than in New South Wales, because no less a sum than £250 is asked for. I should like tl.e two subdivisions to be submitted as one, so that I can move a reduction in the total sum.
– There is no objection.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that I should put the two subdivisions as one.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by .£2,406.
If that reduction be made, the expenditure will be reduced “to the sum which it was agreed should be annually voted for the upkeep of Government Houses ; and after the refusal to grant £8,000 a year for this purpose, it is only fair this reduction should be made. I notice that the total expenditure for last year amounted to £5,991.
Mr. WATSON (Bland). - I think that the honorable member for Kennedy has not a clear recollection of the promise which was made to the House by the Barton Government. I have been endeavouring to find the text of the promise, but in the debate on the Governor-General’s Establishment Bill, I can find no reference to it, and it is quite possible that it was made at a later stage, when the Estimates were being discussed. My recollection is that the promise was that practically the sum we have been voting - over £6,000 - should be spent.
– We were promised that it should not exceed £5,000.
– The vote for last year was £7,387.
– On this occasion I think the honorable member for Kennedy is complaining without reason. Although the appropriation last year was £7,387, the actual expenditure: was only £5,991, so that there was a saving of £1,396 on the amount voted. During the year, there was a considerable expenditure upon the grounds, which had nothing to do with the Governor-General, because we cannot ask him to use his own money in maintaining State property. A recent occupant of the position stated that the sum involved merely in keeping up the large staff of servants necessary for the Melbourne Government House was enormous, which can be easily understood by any one who knows the great size of the building.
– The upkeep of the Sydney Government House is also very expensive.
– Yes ; but there are not so many rooms there, nor are they so large. While I opposed the Governor-General’s Establishment Bill, which provided for the payment of an annual allowance to the GovernorGeneral, I think that the expenditure here provided for is avery proper one. If we require the Governor-General to occupy these premises we must keep them in order for him. The item in division 12, to which reference has been made, is to provide largely for expenditure on cablegrams which are purely official, and for other official expenditure. The Governor-General is the medium of communication between the
Prime Minister and the Colonial Office, and all official cablegrams are sent by him.
– Then why is the expenditure not charged to the Prime Minister’s Department?
– It is charged to the Department of External Affairs. The vote last year was £1,000, and a similar sum is asked for this year, though the actual expenditure last year was only £648. I do not think that there is much to take exception to in any of the items which have been mentioned.
– Although the leader of the Opposition says that Government House, Melbourne, is larger than Government House, Sydney, I find that, whereas last year caretakers, charwomen, and miscellaneous expenditure in Melbourne cost £359, in Sydney they cost £514
– There is a larger expenditure on those services in Sydney, because the Governor-General resides there less frequently than in Melbourne, so that the place is often empty. There are two housekeepers in Sydney, who get £120 each.
– I . do not think that that should account for the enormous difference between the two sums I have mentioned. Neither do I see why it should cost more to keep in order the grounds in Sydney than is spent on the grounds in Melbourne.
– It does not ; but last year there was a special expenditure upon the Sydney Government House grounds, because they had been allowed to get into disrepair.
– That is what I wished to know. Then I find that, whereas £60 was spent to insure the Sydney Government House, the insurance of the Melbourne Government House cost £125. That is another discrepancy.
– The Commonwealth pays merely the insurance arranged for by the States.
– I ask the Committee to consider whether it is not a little unbecoming for a deliberative assembly of seventy-five members to seriously discuss the propriety of the charges for charwomen, and the watering of the Government House gardens when the head of the present Executive, and the leader of the Opposition, who was the head of the last Executive have both indorsed them as fair and reasonable? I think we should consult our dignity more if we dealt with some of the larger items, which involve big public principles, leaving details of this sort, which are matters purely of administration, to the Executive. In view of the assurances given as to the propriety of these charges, it would be a little more becoming on our part to pass them, and throw the responsibility upon the Government. The anomalous condition of affairs in connexion with which we have to maintain two establishments for one GovernorGeneral, is only of a temporary character. Honorable members must know that as soon as the Federal Capital is established, we shall have only one Government House, and one set of charges to defray.
– We were told that we should have three.
– That may be. There is a great deal of State jealousy upon this question. The people of one State are clamouring that the GovernorGeneral shall reside in their State for a portion of his time, whilst others are making similar demands. The Committee, however, should be above all such narrow State feelings, and should recognise that until the Federal Capital is established, the movements of the Governor-General from one to the other of the two largest States must involve something more than normal expenditure. I have no interest in this matter beyond that of any other honorable member, but I feel that the dignity of the House suffers when, in the light of the assurances given to us by . the leaders of the present and the late Government, we enter into all these matters of petty detail. I appeal to honorable members to consider that we are making history, that our proceedings are reported in all the newspapers of the Commonwealth, and that every member, however little he may sympathize with the treatment accorded to such items, is joined in the general condemnation of the microscopic character of our criticism: I ask honorable members to allow these items to pass, and to throw the responsibility upon those who are charged with the administration.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- We have heard a very interesting lecture from the honorable and learned member for -Parkes.
– It was not a lecture.
– The honorable and learned member delivered it as such.
– It was common sense.
– The honorable and learned member told us that we should throw the responsibility for these items upon the Government, but I should like to know how we are to do that unless we discuss them in- this Committee. I do not care whether the Governor-General or any one else is involved, I shall express my opinion with regard to the expenditure proposed with the same freedom that the Prime Minister criticised the action of Lord Hopetoun in connexion with the discussion of certain political matters. We are the keepers of the public purse, and it is our duty to keep a close watch upon the expenditure, and to resist any proposals which we deem to be unfair. A distinct promise was given to honorable members that the expenditure upon the maintenance of the Government Houses in Sydney and Melbourne would not exceed . £5,000 per annum. When the Barton Government proposed to provide for an addition to the salary of the GovernorGeneral to the extent of £8,000, did the honorable and learned member for Parkes speak in favour of the increase ? Honorable members were almost unanimous in their opposition to the proposal, because they thought it amounted to an extortion. They agreed, however, to recoup certain expenditure which had been incurred by the Governor-General. The . head of the Government then stated that sooner or later a certain- sum would have to be voted for the upkeep of the Government Houses in Sydney and Melbourne, but that it would not amount to more than £5,000 per annum. I find that in 1902-3, £2,436 was expended upon the Governor-General’s establishments, and that in 1903-4 the amount had risen to £5,991. Up to that time little or no notice was taken of the increase, because it was recognised that the amount was not far in excess of that agreed’ upon. We were told that the upkeep of Government House in Sydney involved an outlay of something over £2,000 per annum, whilst about £3.000 was spent upon the Melbourne establishment. Now we are asked to vote £7,406.
– That is practically the same amount that was voted last year.
– That is the amount which we are asked to vote this year, and I presume that the Government expect to expend the whole of it.
– They expect to spend at much as may be necessary.
– The amount voted last year was £7,387.
– I admit that, but objection was taken to the increase, and until the expenditure in this direction is kept within reasonable bounds I shall oppose the proposed vote. As far as the dignity of the Chamber is concerned, I shall not be restrained by any consideration such as the honorable and learned member for Parkes has suggested in discussing the affairs of the Governor-General or any other high-salaried functionary. We cannot attack his salary.
– The honorable member is attacking the charwomen now.
– I never said a word about the charwomen.
– One honorable member did.
– Wedo not find the honorable and learned member for Parkes coming forward to champion the cause of the public servants who receive low salaries, and who have to work very hard for what they get.
– This “ poor-man “ business is about played out.
– The honorable and learned member becomes very indignant if any objection is raised to the proposal to spend £7,000 on champagne guzzling.
– This vote has nothing to do with champagne.
– I see that provision is made for the expenditure of £250 upon glassware, and I presume that some of that is used in connexion with champagne guzzling. I resent any suggestion that we are lowering our dignity by discussing matters such as that now before us. We have a perfect right to enter into such details if we think that it is proposed to make improper appropriations. If the honorable and learned member for Parkes desires to obviate such discussions, he should induce the Government to bring down a Bill such as was suggested some time ago, to fix the Governor’s salary and allowances in such a way that we may know exactly the amount we shall have to provide.
– We could not ask the Governor-General to maintain the Government Houses.
– No; but we could appropriate a fixed sum for the upkeep of the two establishments, and avoid the risk of increases being asked for year after year. The States Governments find it exceedingly difficult to carry on, and we should avoid piling up the expenditure.
– I think that it is entirely unnecessary to bring the name of the GovernorGeneral into this discussion. It may add some piquancy to the debate, and show how thoroughly fearless and democratic we are, but the Governor-General has no more to do with these items than we have. Instead of having our own Government House, as honorable members know, we are indebted to the State of Victoria and to the State of New South Wales for granting us properties of enormous value, free of cost, for the use of our Governor-General. Surely that entails the obligation of keeping these properties in a proper state of maintenance and repair. That is all these items are intended to cover. So long as we retain possession of these two Government Houses we must incur the responsibility of such expenses. If honorable members will analyze them they will find that all these expenses represent obligations which devolve upon us as the occupiers of these valuable properties. I admit that the amount asked for does seem large in comparison with that which was expended last year. That fact, however, may afford its own explanation. For instance, last year we voted £7,387, of which we spent only £6,000 - thus effecting a saving of £1,387. Honorable members can readily understand that that saving may be responsible for throwing additional expenditure upon the present year. But the fact remains that Parliament voted £7,387last year, and is only asked to vote an additional £19 this year. Of course, even these votes are subject to the exercise of the greatest economy. If we find it possible to discharge all our obligations more economically of course we shall do so. But it is much better to deal with Estimates of a full character, and thus to avoid claims being subsequently made which involve the introduction of Supplementary Estimates. The Committee may rest assured that we shall not spend all this money if we can avoid it. Nevertheless, the amounts which have been placed upon the Estimates are those which we deen: to be necessary, in view of the obligations to which I have referred.
– I am quite in accord with the intention of the honorable member for Kennedy, but, at the same time. I am glad to hear the remarks of the Prime Minister. I was under the impression that theCommonwealth paid rent for the Government House in Victoria.
– Not a penny.
– Then it ought to. Such an expenditure would be a fitting acknowledgment of the courtesy of the Victorian Government in having placed the larger Government House at the disposal of the Commonwealth.
– The adoption of that course would increase this vote.
– In my opinion, it would be a justifiable increase, and one to which no honorable member would object. Personally, I am of opinion that the sooner we reach the Federal Capital, the better it will be for all concerned. I doubt whether the upkeep of the white House at Washington costs as much as does the maintenance of the Government Houses in Sydney and Melbourne. I feel sure that no honorable member would accuse me of speaking of the Governor-General, save in terms of the highest respect. Nevertheless, I have always opposed the payment of such a large salary to him. In the Victorian Parliament, I submitted a proposal that his salary should not exceed £10,000. That sum is as much as 85,000,000 of Englishspeaking people in the United States pay to their President, without any allowances, and I am sure that the occupant of that office is a very good man. Each year the expenditure upon the GovernorGeneral’s establishment is increasing, and it is time thatan effort was made to check it. I doubt whether the Commonwealth Government will ever be so lavish in its expenditure in that direction as was the Victorian Government. If the honorable and learned member for Ballarat were present, he could quote figures in regard to the expenditure upon the Government Houses in Melbourne and Mount Macedon, which would simply stagger honorable members. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has made some reference to undignified conduct on the part of an honorable member. Personally, I think that no action can be undignified which is prompted by a desire to serve the best interests of the people. I am satisfied that if the latter had any control over the expenditure of public money, the salary of the Governor-General would not be as large as it is. I make this statement without any desire to reflect upon the Governor-General, but I can as sure honorable members that in Australia we have as good men as have ever filled that distinguished office. In my judgment, the Chief Justice of Victoria is quite equal in brain power to any Governor we have had during the past fifteen years. The honorable and learned member for Parkes has made some reference to charwomen. I can assure him that the welfare of the charwomen is to me quite as important as that of the highest lady who has ever danced a minuet in the ballroom of Government House. I should like to know the wages which they are paid. I am aware that, prior to the transfer of the Post Office to the Commonwealth, the manner in which they were treated was barbarous and villainous. I notice that provision is made upon these Estimates for the payment of a sum of £25 to the Governor-General’s orderlies in New South Wales, and of £60 in Victoria. I do not know whether these orderlies are paid by the Police Department in New South Wales, but in Victoria I understand that they are.
– These amounts represent contributions to them.
– I wish to record my protest against the action of one of these orderlies during the recent racing carnival. Judged by that incident, one would imagine that the roads of our country were controlled in a manner which obtains only in Russia. I am credibly informed that two ladies, who were driving in a trap, were almost capsized by the indiscreet action of one of the orderlies. I wish to know to whom that officer is attached. Simply because the ladies in question ventured to pass the Governor-General’s carriage, this brute in human form pushed the trap in which they were seated on to the kerbstone. I am further assured that the horse of a one-time Legislative Councillor was similarly treated. The rule of the King’s highway in England, is that it shall be free to all who desire to use it. If the Governor-General desires to control our roads, surely in justice to the citizens of Australia, notice should be given that no one shall be permitted to use any road while his carriage is being driven along it. I am not aware, nor have I met any honorable member who is aware, of any such rule, and I take this opportunity to lodge my protest against the action of the orderly in question. If he were under the influence of drink, he ought to be punished, and even if he were simply suffering from over-weening importance, some action should be taken. I believe that the incident was simply due ,to the over-weening conceit of the orderly who misbehaved.
– It may not have been the orderly in attendance on the GovernorGeneral.
– I cannot say that it was ; but as orderlies are mentioned in this item, I thought it well to bring the matter under the notice of the Committee, so that if it was the Governor-General’s orderly, some action might be taken. I do not know whether these Estimates were framed by the present or the late Treasurer; but if they were framed by the former, I am surprised that he did not make his proposed appropriation more nearly approximate to the actual amount spent last year, namely, £5,591, or, in round numbers, £6,000. It would have been far better if the Treasurer, in accordance with the great care which he usually exercises, had provided an additional £500, so .that the appropriation would have been £6,500, instead of £7,406.
– We have this year to pay a certain expenditure incurred last year.
– So that, as a matter of fact, the amount spent last year was more than that shown on these Estimates.
– There is a sum of £213, in respect of which a claim was made by the Lands Department for keeping the grounds in order. It should have been paid last year, but the account was not rendered.
– That explains the matter to a considerable extent.
– It makes a -difference of £426.
– I still think that the Treasurer should have followed the rule adopted by him as Treasurer of the State of Victoria. When he found that the amount spent was less than the amount appropriated he proportionately reduced his Estimates for the succeeding year.
– But some additional expenditure has to be incurred in justice to the State to replant trees and keep the grounds in proper order.
– I have a vivid memory of the way in which some of the gardeners at Government House were treated some time ago, and I hope that under the Federal regime they will be more generously dealt with. I take it that the Commonwealth Government have been more reasonable in regulating the rate of wages paid, and that unfortunately the State Government are not sufficiently advanced to copy the rule set by us. I trust that the Prime Minister will ascertain whether the orderly to whom I have referred was in the employ of the Governor-General. If he was, I think that some action should be taken in regard to his misbehaviour.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- It seems to me that we have drifted a little from the track, because the honorable member for Melbourne has been giving us a pathetic description of some sad event which took place recently on the road from the races - an incident which has not much to do with the item relating to the maintenance of the Governor-General’s establishment. I rose to distinguish between what the honorable member for Kennedy understood me to say, and what I intended to convey. I did not, and do not, wish to take exception to the right of any honorable member to criticise any act of the Government which is in the nature of a breach of promise. In the last speech delivered by him, the honorable member pointed out that the total vote is in excess of the amount which the Government undertook to expend upon this particular establishment. I have no objection to such criticism, if he will allow me to differentiate between it and that which he offered on a previous occasion. Such a matter is a fair subject for criticism. Honorable members have not only a perfect right, but a duty cast upon them to see that, where a Government has given an undertaking that any vote shall not exceed a certain amount, it is not exceeded. Failure to respect such an undertaking is maladministration, and is fair subject for criticism. I do not remember what was the undertaking given in 1901 and 1902, when the Barton Government was in power, but if the expenditure now being incurred is distinctly in excess of that which was promised as the limit, I quite admit the honorable member’s right to criticise it. What I objected to as referring to matters of administration, which ought to rest entirely with the Executive Government, was the criticism of the detailed expenditure of this amount. The honorable member for Kennedy will recollect that half-an-hour ago he was actually criticising the amount which should be spent on glassware at Government House, while the honorable member for Hindmarsh was criticising the number and the pay of the charwomen.
– I asked for an explanation of the difference between the cost of the two establishments.
– The honorable member for Melbourne has since drifted into a consideration of the question of the cost of and responsibility attaching to the orderlies. I recognise a clear distinction between criticism of the action of a Government in exceeding the Estimates which they themselves have made and this detailed criticism, in an assembly of seventy-five honorable members, of what is practically the kitchen administration of Government House. The one is a matter of general administration which we have a perfect right to criticise, while the other is a miscroscopic matter of detailed administration, to which, I think, this Committee ought not in its dignity to descend.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).- Had the honorable and learned member for Parkes been in his place in the House when the Barton Government brought in a Bill to increase the salary of the Governor-General by £8,000-
– It is the old gag, “not in your place.”
– I do not know whether it is an old gag.
– It is a very old and stale gag, which I thought was done with.
– It is a true one.
– I do not know whether it is or not, nor can I say that the use of the word “ gag “ is verv dignified. I am surprised that so dignified a gentleman as the honorable and learned member for Parkes should have employed such a word.
– I thought that the honorable member would understand it.
– I do not know whether the honorable and learned member was present or not on the occasion to which I refer.
– But the honorable member would take odds about it.
– Judging by the honorable and learned member’s average attendance, one would be safe in betting two to one that he was not present when the Barton Government introduced a Bill to increase the salary of the Governor-General. If he was. he must know that the House was practically unanimous in refusing to grant the proposed increase.
– I have not objected to the honorable member’s criticism of that matter.
– I did not say that the honorable and learned member had. No doubt he finds it rather difficult to sit here as a supporter of the Government, and not to be at liberty to speak as freely as he used to do as a member of the Opposition.
– The leader of the Opposition has deprecated the honorable member’s action.
– That is my misfortune. I am sure the honorable and learned member for Parkes will pity me in following a. leader who gives away his followers as the honorable member for Bland has done on this occasion. Every member who was here at that time will recollect that we were promised by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, when he was Attorney-General in the Barton Government, and brought forward the Governor-General’s Establishment Bill, that the cost would not exceed £5,000. As far as my memory serves me, that was the amount mentioned. The particulars will be found in the Votes and Proceedings of the House. The Bill, as will be remembered, was taken out of the hands of the Government by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. Practically, the Government abandoned their own measure. The present Minister of Trade and Customs was one of those who opposed the proposal to increase the maintenance charges. I was in favour of cutting down the expenditure, not because I happened to be the representative of an electorate in the Melbourne metropolitan area, but because, as I said, it would be far better to have one Government House. I hope that the time will come when we shall not have to maintain two establishments for the Governor-General. The honorable, and learned member for Parkes says that he does not object to the discussion of this vote. I maintain that if we can show, in regard to any particular item, that the amount expended is greater than the appropriation, we have a right to criticise it.
– I do not question the right ; I question the taste and the policy of doing it after the Government have taken the responsibility.
– This is the only opportunity upon which we can criticise such expenditure. I can understand that if the grounds of Government House are in a state of disrepair a certain amount of expenditure is necessary.
– Things wear out, and we have to replace them.
– I can understand that. I take no exception to expenditure in those directions, if the Government bring down separate proposals to provide for it.
– I think the honorable member is wrong as to the amount; £5,500 was the sum indicated.
– I think the Minister is correct in that statement.
– That estimate omitted the lighting for Sydney Government House.
– But the total expenditure has been increased. If honorable members will turn to the Votes and Proceedings, I am satisfied that they will see that the promise made by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has not been kept.
– I have the paper here, and it shows that the principal increases are on account of the maintenance of the grounds.
– Is that the proposal originally laid before the House?
– That is the first estimate, which the Treasurer told us was in accordance with the agreement arrived at. The amount was £5,500. There is an additional sum for electric light mains; that will not occur again. The other increases are for the maintenance of grounds and lighting.
– How does the leader of the Opposition account for the fact that we were promised that the expenditure would be £5,500, whereas, to-day, it is nearly £7,500?
– The increase is principally on account of the grounds.
– I shall vote with the honorable member for Kennedy if he calls for a division.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I should like to amend my amendment. I find that I made a mistake in saying that the original estimate was £5,000. I have here the document laid upon the table by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat when he was Attorney-General. The extraordinary position of the Barton Government in connexion with the GovernorGeneral’s Establishment Bill is wellknown to honorable members.
– It was all recorded in Hansard and in the newspapers.
– It was stated that we had to do something in connexion with the Governor-General’s establishment, as we could not expect him to pay these sums out of his own pocket. The paper laid before Parliament by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat will be found in the Votes and Proceedings for 1901-2, vol. 2, page 837. The details are set forth, but I need not read them. We were emphatically told that the vote would not exceed £5,500, and upon that assurance the matter was allowed to pass. Last year we spent £491 over and above the amount, and this year we are asked to spend £7,406. The Government tell us that the whole sum may not be spent, but once the amount is voted, they may spend it all. If no exception is taken to it to-night we practically admit that £7,406 ought to be spent. As we were emphatically assured that the expenditure would not exceed £5,500, we have a right to expect that faith will be kept with Parliament, and that the promise will not be broken. I, for one, shall be no party to any increase of the kind. I should like, however, to alter my amendment so as to reduce the amount by £2,000 rather than by £2,406, seeing that the original amount proposed by the Deakin Government was £5,500. I can well remember the indignant protests made by various honorable members at that time, including the present Minister of Trade and Customs. The opinions expressed by honorable members were such that the Government were practically afraid to proceed, and allowed the business to be practically taken out of their hands bv the honorable member for Northern Melbourne. I ask leave to alter my amendment as indicated.
Amendment amended accordingly.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh).- The honorable and learned member for Parkes has told us that it is beneath the dignity of honorable members to discuss certain items in the Estimates. In ray opinion, it is not beneath the dignity of any honorable member to discuss every line in the Estimates, if he thinks that course necessary ; indeed, it his duty to do so. In any case, it ought to be beneath the dignity of the honorable and learned member to misrepresent what is said by other honorable members, and the honorable and learned member was entirely wrong in stating that an attack had been made on the charwomen by honorable members on this side. I am sure that the honorable and learned member would not consider it beneath his dignity to increase the salary of some poorly-paid clerk. We have a right to criticise even the establishment of the Governor-General, and I am astounded that the Prime Minister should even suggest that anything in the nature of a reflection on the very excellent and estimable gentleman who holds that high office may come from this side of the House. I am sure that we all have the highest respect for the Governor-General ; but if His Excellency’s name is not to be mentioned, why is his establishment mentioned in the Estimates? The GovernorGeneral’s establishment ought not to be above criticism any more than is any other branch of the public administration.
– If we criticise every item, we shall be occupied two years over oneyear’s Estimates.
– No honorable member has any desire to criticise every item unless he thinks it is necessary; but if it is necessary, our duty is to criticise. If we are to allow the Government to arrange all those details, we might as well leave them to arrange the whole of the expenditure, and simply discuss the grand total.
– The honorable member wants to convert Parliament into an Executive.
– I shall reserve my right to criticise every item, if in my judgment that is the proper course to take. I shall support the amendment of the honorable member for Kennedy, who has looked thoroughly into the matter, and made sure of the figures. America, with a population approaching 100,000,000, does not pay its President, including all expenses, nearly the sum we pay our GovernorGeneral, and it is time a protest came from this side of the House. When the promise referred to was made, the sum fixed was regarded as reasonable; and that it is reasonable is proved by the amount allowed to the President of the United States. I do not say that the sum now expended is too high for the important office ; but we ought not to allow any increase, considering that there are States Governors as well as a Governor-General. It is time we cut down expenditure in some direction.
– And this is all new expenditure.
– We hear too much about the new expenditure as it is, and it is our duty, especially when some of the States are crippled in their finances, to study economy.
Question - That the proposed vote be reduced by £2,000 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I regret that my amendment has been defeated, because when we were called upon to vote an additional £8,000 to provide for the Governor-General’s establishment, this House almost unanimously refused to do so, only twelve voting for the first proposal.
– I join in this discussion with the greatest regret, because it reflects upon the Committee and every honorable member who takes part in it. Although I have been present in the Chamber for a great part of the time during which the matter has been under discussion, I desired to have nothing to say in connexion with it. When the GovernorGeneral’s allowances were under discussion some time ago, I made a statement as to the limit at which they would then be kept, and the undertaking was strictly adhered to. At the same time, as I then pointed out, I could not and did not pretend to undertake, that the same amount would be found to be sufficient for all time. On the contrary, I said that although I would undertake that for the twelve months the expenditure would be kept within the amount, or practically within it, I specially guarded myself - because we had not enough experience - by saying that only time could tell us what sum would hereafter be required for the Governor-General’s establishment. The questions debated to-night have not been as to the allowances made to the GovernorGeneral - the Governor-General does not receive a farthing of this money, and will not be a penny the worse or a penny the better because of the vote - and yet his name has been dragged into the discussion in order - at all events, I fear that that will be the effect - to convey to the general public an utterly false impression, that we are discussing the question of giving or refusing to give money to the GovernorGeneral. That has nothing whatever to do with this question. Therefore, the honorable member for Kennedy, and those who have supported him, would have acted more in consonance with the traditions of this House, and in the interest of their own credit in it, if they had made this perfectly clear, and had refrained from introducing the name of the GovernorGeneral. Whether or not we spend money on the care of Government buildings, and on one of the residences used by the GovernorGeneral, does not affect His Excellency. So far as he is concerned, we can leave the buildings to fall into decay.
– He would probably save money if that were done, because he would not have to entertain.
– Exactly. It is no concern whatever of the Governor-General. I regret that I interjected with some heat, but did so because of the continuous introduction of the Governor-General’s name, though he can neither be benefited nor injured by the vote. I conclude that the action taken can only have been intended for some purpose other than considerations of economy, or the public weal. I do not wish to be disorderly in suggesting whatthe motives influencing honorable members are. I suggested some of them by interjection, as perhaps I should not have done ; but maintain that the Governor-General’s name need not have been introduced, and the discussion ought not to have been given this turn, either in the interests of the public, the electors, or the public purse. It can only have been done in some other interest, and as to what that is, I leave each honorable member to form his own opinion.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra). - I voted for what I considered to be the promise made to the House by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat two or three years ago, after the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne had taken the business out of the hands of the Barton Government. So far as I know, no honorable member has specially used the name of the GovernorGeneral to-night.
– Not while I was in the Chamber.
– I have heard it used a score of times.
– I have not, and I think I have been present this evening as continuously as the honorable and learned member.
– If the honorable member had been listening to the debate he would have heard the name used.
– I have heard every speech. On every occasion I shall vote to keep the expenditure of the GovernorGeneral’s establishment down to the amount which was promised by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, that is, to about £5,500. We have had some lectures about upholding the dignity of the House, and as to what we should do on this or any other occasion. It would be far better if honorable members were to adhere to the promises which they have made in this chamber and also to the electors than to go back upon them on the first possible occasion.
Mr. MALONEY (Melbourne)- If the honorable and learned member for Ballarat had voted in accordance with the pledge he made in the early days of this Parliament, he would have been with us to-night in favour of economy. The school of politicians which he represents tries to hide as much as possible from the people. We, on the contrary, would give the people the right of voting for the salary of the GovernorGeneral. I, as a citizen of Australia, hold that the people who pay the money should have the right of saying how much should be paid.
– We are discussing not the salary of the Governor-General, but the salaries of the caretakers.
– The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has said that the name of the Governor-General has been repeatedly introduced Here. What is there particularly sacred about his name? He is only a human being, like ourselves. I reverence the name of Northcote. For many reasons I reverence the name of the late lamented father of the Governor-General. But I maintain that the people who pay the money should have the clearest information put before them, and should not be put off with talk about dignity. The honorable and learned member who spoke of dignity represents a conservative school, which is dying out of existence. The Labour Party is the party of the future. Why? Because it trusts the people, and allows them to know everything. In a matter of dignity, I should never compare myself with the honorable and learned member for Parkes, because he is a wide reader, with leisure and a splendid library. But I would ask him to be more lenient with those who have not had so many good opportunities as he has had.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 24 (Miscellaneous), £35,000
– With regard to the first item of £3,500 in connexion with choosing a Federal Capital site, I should like to know what the Government are doing in respect to the Seat of Government Act. I do not suppose that this sum will go very far in the matter of a survey.
– Some of it has gone already.
– Are we to understand that only £3,500 is to be expended during this financial year in connexion with the Federal Capital site? I had hoped that long before its expiration the surveyors would have , been engaged in preparing at least the preliminary plans for the Federal Capital. But it would seem as if the Government were not very hopeful of getting, this matter pushed on when they put this small sum on the Estimates. Perhaps the Minister will be able to give some information as to the progress, if any, of the negotiations which have taken place.
– The press tes reported fairly well the action which has been taken by the Ministry. We forwarded a copy of the Seat of Government Act to the New South Wales Ministry, requested that negotiations should be opened for the arrangement of a Territory, and urged certain reasons why it should be as nearly as possible in accordance with the wish of this Parliament, as expressed in that Act. The Premier of New South Wales replied that it was a matter upon which he must consult his Parliament, and that at the earliest possible date he would endeavour to get its authority to negotiate with the Commonwealth, and try to arrive at an amicable_ settlement.
– Did he give any indication as to when it would be brought before the State Parliament? ‘
– He had intended to bring the matter before the State Parliament by this time. He wired over for certain information to be forwarded at once, as it might be required at any time, “showing that at the earliest possible moment bc intended to introduce the proposal, but I suppose that its introduc tion has been delayed by the pressure of other business. The whole of this amount on the Estimates will not be available for survey or other work on the Federal Capital site. But it is not anticipated that the contour survey - the first thing to be undertaken when a site is fixed - will cost a large. sum, although it will consume a fair amount of time. Even with three surveyors at work - about as many as could operate - the immediate expenditure would not be very heavy. It is intended to go on with the survey immediately it is possible. When this sum was put on the Estimates, it was thought that it would be sufficient to cover the outlay which had been incurred after the State Parliament had come 10 a decision and the subsequent negotiations had taken place. But if more work can be accomplished than is anticipated, it is intended that an amount shall be furnished out of the Treasurer’s Advance Account.
– I desire to ascertain, if possible, what the Government of New South Wales intend to do with regard to the area of territory mentioned in the Seat of Government Act. We have had no definite statement as to when we are likely to get a decision from the New South Wales Parliament. When the Prime Minister and his colleagues sat on this side of the Chamber they never lost an opportunity to impress upon the Government of the day the need for passing the Seat of Government Bill, so that New South Wales might be placed in possession of her Constitutional rights-
– We cannot drive the New South Wales Parliament.
– I am not finding fault with the right honorable gentleman, though I blame the New South Wales Government.
– They have only just come into office, and have had a number of troublesome matters to deal with.
– The matter is an urgent one, and should be dealt with at the earliest possible moment. There will never be a Federal spirit while this Parliament sits in Melbourne, nor should we create a Federal spirit if we went to Sydney. What is necessary for its creation is the establishment of a Federal Capital. That, too, will dca great deal to remove the jealousies of the two chief cities of the Commonwealth. The Minister has assured us that the Government have done all that they can to bring matters to a head, so that the onus ‘of delay must rest with. the New
South Wales Government, and I hope that they will take action as expeditiously as possible.
– In this division there are a number of items about which honorable members should have information. I should like to know, for instance, what is meant by the item -
Expenses in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act, £20,000.
Is that sum being voted to enable the Government to spread over three years the expenses of an election, or is it in addition to the expenses of an election? Then in regard to the item -
Cost of compilation and publication of a new edition of the Seven Colonies, £500 -
I think that it is time that the Commonwealth had a Statistical Department of its own. We now have to depend upon a State officer for all our statistical information, or, if we require up-to-date information, we can get it only through the Customs Department, after waiting a great deal of time for it.
– A Commonwealth Statistical Department would cost more than the present arrangement.
– Yes; but, nevertheless, we should have a Department of our own, and I do not know any gentleman who would better fill the position of Commonwealth Statistician than the gentleman whom we now partly employ.
– Previous Governments, as well as this, have had in view the very important matter referred to by the honorable member for Yarra. I agree with him that it is time we had a Government Statistician, for a number of invaluable purposes, of which the Committee is fully aware, and the Cabinet is now closely engaged upon a proposal for bringing about in a safe way what I think is the desire of the Committee, the securing of the services of an eminent statistician for the Commonwealth Parliament. I think there is no doubt as to who the gentleman chosen should be. We now spend £11,500 for statistical information gathered through the Customs Department, which is not of substantial value, because of the lack of a proper head to direct the labours of those who compile it, and we think that for another £1,500 or £2,000, and the salary necessary for a statistician, we could establish a valuable Commonwealth Statistical Department. Mr. Coghlan now receives sums of £500, £400, and £100 for the service which he renders to the Commonwealth, and I believe that it would be possible to obtain his undivided services for a salary equal to the sum total of those amounts.
– The item referred to by the honorable member for Yarra is, I think, not paid direct to Mr. Coghlan, but defrays the cost of producing the Seven Colonies.
– I am inclined to think that my statement is substantially correct, though the amount referred to by the honorable member for Yarra may not be paid to Mr. Coghlan himself. I think that we shall have the general concurrence of honorable members in bringing about this change.
– Does the right honorable gentleman contemplate that Mr. Coghlan shall devote himself only to the compilation of Customs statistics?
– No. With the nucleus we already have, and the addition of £2,000 or £3,000 to our present expenditure we could make a fair start if we had the benefit of the services of a thoroughly capable Statistician. I believe that it is an open secret that the States Governments are of one mind as to the desirability of obtaining the services of Mr. Coghlan. I may say that without any breach of confidence. I am sure that every member of the Committee would consider Mr. Coghlan the best man available in the Commonwealth for that position. I do not see how we can do the work of the Commonwealth without a proper statistical system, which would be of use from so many points of view.
– It would be of immense value to the Tariff Commission.
– Yes, it would. I feel sure that the Government will have the support of the Committee in taking steps in the direction I have mentioned.
– I think the Government would also have the support of the Committee if they consented to an adjournment at this stage.
– I think we might dispose of the Home Affairs Department.
– There is a good deal to be said in regard to some of these items.
– I should like to dispose of this Department to-night. I shall not raise any objection to an adjournment at a reasonable hour.
– Although I am not disposed to dissent from what the Prime Minister has said with regard to Mr. Coghlan’s work, I think every one who has usedhis books has felt the need of a proper index. I do not care to say that his works are badly indexed, but in most cases the index is capable of very great improvement. Then, again, I think that his language might be made a little more clear, especially in regard to financial matters. I know several persons who have consulted his books in order to ascertain the national indebtedness, and have arrived at opposite conclusions as to the amount. I think that the Seven Colonies of Australasia, as well as some of the other books might be revised, and if we are contributing towards the cost of any of them, I should certainly advocate the adoption of that course. Above all things, it is necessary that in books of that kind the indices should be copious and complete.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member for Yarra has anticipated an inquiry Ihad proposed to make in regard to the expenses in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act. I thought we had disposed of all the items having reference to that matter, and I cannot understand why this item should appear in its present place, instead of under the head of the Electoral Office. No doubt the Minister will explain that. There is one item to which I should like to direct attention, namely, that which relates to the expenses of the by-election for East Sydney.
– That is not in this year’s Estimates.
– Do I understand that that liability has already been liquidated?
– Then I shall have nothing more to say upon that point. I hope that we shall be fully informed with regard to the expense incurred in administering the Electoral Act.
– I am pleased to hear from the Prime Minister that the Government intend to appoint a Commonwealth Statistician. The need of such an officer has been felt in the past, and I do not know how we should have fared if the valuable services of Mr. Coghlan had not been available for us. It is very desirable that such an officer should be appointed as soon as possible, and if the Commonwealth can secure the services of Mr. Coghlan they will act wisely in doing so. The items in connexion with the Electoral Department show what a large spending Department it is. We find that, although £46,923 of the vote for last year was spent in connexion with the last election, an item of £1,500 appears on the present Estimates. I should like to know whether this additional sum will be sufficient to meet the whole of the remaining claims in connexion with the election.
– It is estimated to cover them; they come dribbling in.
– Will the amount cover the honorariums which have been mentioned ?
– Then I presume that matter will receive consideration later on. I should like to know when it is expected that the report of the Electoral Act Committee will be printed and placed in the hands of honorable members. It was laid upon the table some time ago, and I understand that authority for printing it has already been given. If the report is to remain in the hands of the Government Printer until after the close of this session it will lose a great deal of its value. I would urge the Minister to expedite the printing. I notice that provision is made for one item which is apparently transferred from last year. It relates to the expenses of the inquiry into the charges made against Mr. McDowell, the Commissioner for the division of the State of Queensland into electorates. I should like to know whether the gentleman who had charge of this inquiry, who was sentfromNew South Wales, was one of those responsible for the terrible muddle which occurred in connexion with the electoral arrangements in that State.
– With regard to the inquiry of the honorable member for Canobolas, I can only say that, as I was not a member of the Electoral Committee, I cannot say from my own knowledge who was mainly responsible for the muddle which occurred in New South Wales. When the report is printed, it will doubtless be seen that the Committee have indicated where the responsibility lies, so far as they have ascertained the facts.
– The Committee did not deal with this matter at all.
– But I understand that the honorable member is asking whether a certain officer is responsible for the electoral muddle which occurred in New South Wales. I cannot allocate the blame, because I was not a member of that Committee, and, since I have held Ministerial office, no such inquiry has been made within the Department. I shall have no objection whatever to hastening the printing of the Committee’s report; but I understand that it will probably be issued tomorrow. Concerning the £20,000 which appears upon the Estimates, a portion of that amount will be recurring expenditure, but another portion will not.
– What is the proportion of the expenditure which will be recurring ?
– The nonrecurring portion will include the writingup of the registers, which represents an outlay of£1,000 at1s. 6d. per hundred names. Then a considerable portion of the £2,600 which is provided for books, printing, stationery, and ballot box equipment, will not be an annual expenditure, because preparation has been made to furnish every ballot-box with the forms requisite for the conduct of an election.
– With all necessary forms, withthe exception of ballot-papers.
– Yes, the ballot-boxes have been supplied with all the papers which can be anticipated. The outlay for maps will be a recurring expenditure only when a redistribution of seats takes place.
– Does the Department intend to publish maps of the existing constituencies in Victoria ?
-No. I would further point out that the £7,700 which is provided to cover the cost of the police canvass will recur only when such canvasses are necessary. Altogether, about £10,000 out of the £20,000 provided upon these Estimates will recur only at intervals. The balance will be an annual expenditure.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).-I desire to ascertain when the scheme for the redistribution of seats is likely to be submitted to Parliament? Everybody is aware that the present position of parties in this Chamber is very uncertain. Personally, I am of opinion that Queensland is entitled to another representative, and, if that be so, Victoria will probably be entitled to one less. Under the provisions of the Constitution the numerical strength of this House must be practically twice that of the Sepate. I am strongly of opinion that Queensland is entitled to an additional member.
– Attention was promised to that matter at an earlier stage in the debate.
– Will the Government endeavour at the earliest possible moment to ascertain the exact populationof each State, in order that we may decide upon a scheme for the redistribution of seats ? The matter is a very important one, because the return of an additional member by the State of Queensland might have the effect of either retaining or displacing a Government. I trust that the Ministry will give this matter early attention.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Reid) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Upon Thursdayweek I asked the Minister of Defence a question in regard to the consecration of certain military banners. He then promised that the prayer which is to be used at the ceremony in question should be carefully scrutinized by the ministers of the various denominations taking part in the service, and that a copy of it should belaid upon the library table. As the service is to take place on Monday next, and as it seems unlikely that we shall be able to obtain a statement from the Minister upon the Defence Estimates before that date, I should like the Prime Minister to convey to him the gist of my remarks, and to ascertain if the document to which I refer cannot be made available to-morrow.
– I promise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041108_reps_2_23/>.