House of Representatives
11 August 1905

2nd Parliament · 2nd Session



Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., andread prayers.

BUDGET.

Mr. DEAKIN(Ballarat- Minister of

External Affairs). - It may convenience honorable members if I take this opportunity to announce that the Treasurer proposes to deliver his Budget on Tuesday, the 22nd of this month.

page 850

QUESTION

CLASSIFICATION OF CUSTOMS OFFICERS

Mr LONSDALE:
NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. How many officers in the Customs Department of New South Wales were paid the increases provided under the Classification scheme before the close of the year 1904-5?
  2. Is it a fact that some officers were denied such increases, and have not yet been paid the differences in their salaries?
  3. How many officers have been so treated ; what are their names ; and what is the amount due to each of them?
  4. Why have these officers been treated differently from others, seeing that their increases were provided by Parliament?
  5. Have any officers in any other States been similarly treated, and if so, how many?
Mr GROOM:
Minister for Home Affairs · DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND · Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. No increases have yet been paid under the classification, but where the officers were entitled to a sub-divisional increase, irrespective of the classification, it was paid. One hundred and four officers were so treated.
  2. The officers have not been denied the increases shown in the classification, but the payment of the amounts is awaiting the adoption of the classification.
  3. Forty-six officers have not yet received payment up to the full classification amounts, but will be so paid when classification is adopted. If the honorable member wishes a list of the names and amounts it will be furnished to him.
  4. The increases in these cases are due to classification, and payment is awaiting its adoption.
  5. Yes, a considerable number in each State, but it has not yet been found possible to prepare a return giving the numbers.
Mr MAUGER:
MELBOURNE PORTS, VICTORIA

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

  1. Is it a fact that there are a number of officers in the Trade and Customs Department, Sydney and Melbourne, who were not visited by the Public Service Inspector in connexion with the classification?
  2. If so, why were they not visited?
  3. Will arrangements be made for an inspector to visit these officers, with a view to their being given the same consideration as those who were visited previous to the reclassification?
Mr GROOM:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. In cases where the work was of. a similar character, and the class and value of it well understood, it was unnecessary to personally visit the officer.

  1. The inspectors will be constantly visiting the officers, when any case of. the kind’ can be brought under notice.

page 850

QUESTION

COUNCIL OF DEFENCE

Mr McCAY:
CORINELLA, VICTORIA

asked the Minister repre senting the Minister of Defence, upon notice -

  1. Has the Council of Defence met since the present Government took office?
  2. If not, when is it intended that the Council shall meet?
Mr EWING:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES · Protectionist

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -

  1. No.
  2. Shortly.

page 850

QUESTION

ELECTORAL LEGISLATION

Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917

asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -

Is it the intention of the Government to submit to Parliament the proposals prepared by the late Government for the redistribution of the electorates?

Mr GROOM:
Protectionist

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -

The intentions of the Government with respect to redistribution will be announced on the occasion of the introduction of the Representation Bill.

page 850

QUESTION

PUBLIC SERVICE CLASSIFICATION

Mr GROOM:
Minister of Home Affairs · Darling Downs · Protectionist

– I beg to lay upon the table the following paper: -

The amendment of the classification of the Public Service by the Public Service Commissioner under the Commonwealth Public Service Act of1902.

I move -

That the document be printed.

I think it is hardly necessary that a lengthy explanation should be given to honorable members for introducing this matter to their notice at the earliest moment possible. It will be remembered that the original classification of the Public Service was made some time ago, and, on a question being asked in regard to it in this Chamber, the honorable member for Bland, who was then Prime Minister, made an official announcement on the subject. Now that I have laid the amended classification on the table, it is exceedingly desirable that the matter should be finally dealt with, so that the Public Service may be placed on- a sound and definite footing at the earliest date possible.

Mr Tudor:

– Is the amended classification that contained in the Gazette of June 23,1905?

Mr GROOM:

– Yes. It is absolutely essential that we should secure uniformity in connexion with the Public Service of the

Commonwealth, but until this classification is adopted, the Public Service Commissioner will have to Continue to work, to a certain extent, under various States Acts, under which there is an extreme diversity of practice, and every day’s delay in the adoption of the classification means additional expense to the Commonwealth.

Mr Mauger:

– Are we to infer, from that statement, that in the classification of the service there have been many reductions of salaries?

Mr GROOM:

– No. I will make an explanation on that head presently. Another important reason for adopting the classification as soon as possible is that it is desirable that those who are administering our Public Service shall be able to administer it upon the absolutely defined and settled principles underlying this scheme, so that the service may be put upon the definite statutory footing contemplated’ by the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The question may naturally be asked, Why is the classification laid before the House for discussion? It was contemplated by the Public Service Act that a Commissioner would be appointed who would be absolutely free from political interference of any kind to give effect to the principles of the measure. But when reference was made to the matter in this Chamber it was mentioned that, although the object of the scheme was to carry into effect the provisions of the Public Service Act, we were practically laying down fundamental principles which it was hoped would last, if not for all time, for a very long while, and would fairly and honestly define the position of the public servants, in their own interest and_ that of the Commonwealth as well. At that time the reasons of the Commissioner supporting his classification, contained in the covering letter of his report, had not been printed and circulated1 among honorable members, so that the underlying principles of the scheme were not known to them or to the Public Service. A further reason for delay in connexion- with the adoption of the scheme was that the appeals of the Service against the classification had not been, considered, and it was thought desirable that an opportunity should be given for the criticism of the general policy of classification before they were considered.

Mr Mauger:

– Can we do no more than criticise the scheme now?

Mr GROOM:

– I will answer that question presently. I am now only histori cally stating the position. The Prime Minister of the day pointed out very clearly that the Act did not contemplate discussion in this House or elsewhere of the cases of individual public servants who were ag-‘ grieved because they had not been awarded particular rates of pay, since machinery is provided in it giving a right of appeal, and laying down a method for the investigation of their grievances. But, inasmuch as it was thought that there might be questions of policy involved, requiring the consideration of Parliament, the promise was made to this House that before the scheme was adopted an opportunity would be given to honorable members to discuss the whole matter,, so that any suggestions made by them could be submitted to the Commissioner for consideration before the final adoption of the scheme. In accordance with that promise I have moved this formal motion for the’ printing of the paper which I have laid on the table, which will enable honorable members who desire to do so to criticise the underlying principles of the scheme, and to make such suggestions as they mav think necessary. But in criticising the scheme as a whole the problems which the Commissioner had to solve must be borne in mind. We have to remember that as a Commonwealth we took, over the affairs of the six States, with all their varying practices with regard to district allowances, increments, emoluments, leave, and so forth, and that by virtue of our Public Service Act the Commissioner was asked to introduce throughout the Commonwealth absolute uniformity of practice. Another underlying principle of the Act was that the old rule with regard to seniority should be set aside, and that every opportunity should be given to those public servants who could show merit, zeal, and efficiency, to advance in accordance with the ability they displayed. The Commissioner, therefore, had these principles to observe in organizing the service. I think that in criticising his work, we should look at the whole scheme, and consider the effect that any suggested alterations in, favour of a particular class of officers would have upon the Public Service as a whole. Honorable members are in possession of the very full suggestions made by the Public Service Commissioner in his letter covering the classification scheme. In that communication he states -

The end steadily borne in view has been the adoption of a scheme which, while being fair’ to the officers, and allowing full value for the work performed, yet will not press unduly upon the finances of the Commonwealth. -According to the Commissioner’s statement, she has, whilst trying to do justice to the public servants of the Commonwealth, endeavoured not to press unduly on the finances. Later on he says -

In formulating the scheme of classification, an *endeavour has been made to provide that every ^officer in the employ of the Commonwealth who gives efficient and willing service shall have a fair chance of advancement, and, at the same time, the organization of the service has been effected on such clearly defined lines as will, it is believed, materially assist in the economical and sound business administrattion of the Departments.

That is to say, whilst organizing, as far as in his judgment seemed fit, the Departments, as a whole, on sound, definite, business lines, he has so arranged matters that opportunities of advancement and promotion on the- lines laid down in the scheme are given to every officer. So that there is no position, however lowly, from which an officer cannot rise, by the various methods prescribed, to the highest position in the service. The Commissioner’s desire is to give every opportunity to efficient officers to secure preferment, ‘and- I think that was the intention of Parliament. I should particularly like to refer to the effect of any alteration that might be made in this scheme of classification, and I would first remind honorable members of the magnitude and extent of the Public Service with which we are dealing. According to the figures given at page n of the first annual report of the Public Service Commissioner, which was printed last year, there were in the various Departments at the date of transfer to the Commonwealth- 11,191 public servants who received salaries amounting to .£1,439,938. On January 1st, 1903, the number of public servants had increased to 11,374, and the expenditure in salaries totalled ,£1,521,051. On the 1 st January, 1904, it was estimated that there were 11,661 public servants, and that the expenditure on salaries was £1,578,861. Since then the appeals in connexion with the classification have been heard, and the effect of the decisions given has been to increase the expenditure on salaries by £4,215; the district allowances bringing up the total increase to £6,770. In addition to that, since 1st January, 1.904, there have been further, although inconsiderable, additions to the Public Service. In the event of any increase of the rates of pay of any particular officers being suggested, I would ask honorable members to bear in mind that since the’ transfer of the Departments to the Commonwealth there have been continual increases in the rates of pay, I am glad to say, mostly in the lower ranks of the service. I have had a return specially prepared, showing the increases of salaries which have taken place in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, since its transfer to the Commonwealth, as indicated by a comparison of the Appropriation Act of 1901-2, with the similar measure for 1904-5. The return is as follows : -

It appears that when the Queensland service was taken over, the officers of that State were among the best paid. Therefore the increases of salary do not ‘amount to more than 4 per cent, on the average.

Mr Higgins:

– Perhaps that accounts for the large debt for which Queensland is liable.

Mr Tudor:

– The officers in Tasmania must have been the most poorly paid.

Mr GROOM:

– We have to remember that Tasmania is a small State, and that the volume of work that its officers had to perform in pre-Federation days was smaller and paid for at a lower rate. I have mentioned these figures only to show that the Commissioner, in carrying out the classification, has certainly not overlooked the interests of the Public Service. I think, at the same time, he will be able to prove that, by the rearrangement of duties, the grading of offices, and the appointment of officers, from time to time, to various positions where the nature of the work to be performed will correspond with the salaries fixed for those offices, he will be able to maintain the Public Service on fair lines, so far as rates of pay are concerned, without increasing the burdens of the people. He hopes to secure this result by consolidating the various offices and administering the Act on economic line’s. That is certainly his intention. I would remind the House that we have to look a.t the classification as a whole. It must not be forgotten that if an increase be granted to the officers in one particular branch of the service, others who are discharging similar duties in another branch will be entitled to like consideration. Every time an effort is made, so to speak, to remove one of the bricks from the building, the whole structure may be endangered. The classification, as a whole, has been carried out on scientific principles, with a view to securing a complete Public Service for the Commonwealth. A suggestion has been made that the salary of one particular class of officers should be increased, but if that proposal were adopted, it would mean a further expenditure of about ,£30,000 per annum.

Mr Tudor:

– To what division of the Public Service does the honorable and learned gentleman refer?

Mr GROOM:

– I do not wish to name the branch in question, unless the matter is brought up during the debate. I have referre’d to it only by way of illustration.

If the suggested increase were extended to other officers, who would be just as much entitled to it as would those on whose behalf this claim has been made, it would necessitate a .further expenditure of about £40,000 per annum, and in the end, an increased yearly expenditure of £100,000 might thus be incurred. We must remem- ber that it is necessary to recognise the increases that ha.ve been granted by the Commissioner himself to the Commonwealth officers, ‘and pay due regard to the position occupied, for the last few years, by officers who are members of the Public Services of the States. Whether or not the State officers have been fairly treated is a matter that is not for me to criticise; but in dealing with this question, we need to have some sense of proportion. We have to consider the position not only of our own servants, but of the general body of taxpayers, as well as the finances of the States, upon which the expenditure of the Commonwealth has an important bearing.

Mr Salmon:

– The Premier of Victoria said the other night that he was quite prepared to meet a considerable increase in regard to one class of officers.

Mr GROOM:

– The point is that the Premier of Victoria, so far as this matter is concerned, is not in a position of responsibility, and that we are. It is an easy matter for him to promise increases to officers of the Commonwealth employed in this State, but we are administering the affairs not of Victoria, but of the nation. I can just as easily advocate an increase in pay of the State officers. We must remember that Commonwealth finances are a matter of very serious concern to the State Government of Tasmania - and also to Queensland, whose public servants have suffered drastic retrenchment consequent upon certain local conditions. Therefore to grant, as has been suggested, an increase to one particular class might be to put those in other States in a very embarrassing position. The Commissioner, in drawing up the classification scheme, had to consider the nature ‘of the work being done by the officers throughout the Commonwealth, and to allot them fair rates of pay, having regard to the services performed by them. .

Mr Hughes:

– Does the Minister think that has been done in the generality of cases ? tlx. GROOM. - I am prepared to’ hear of any case in which that has not been done.

Mr Bamford:

– The complaint is that t’he decisions have been very erratic.

Mr GROOM:

– Honorable members will now have an opportunity to show, if they can, that the principles on- which the classification was to be carried out have not been observed. This motion has been submitted iri order to give honorable members- an opportunity to discuss the scheme.

Mr Hughes:

– I think it can be shown that those principles have not been observed.

Mr GROOM:

– Honorable’ members will now” have an opportunity to criticise the principles of the scheme. The principles of the Act and of the administration are in the possession of the House by virtue of the report which has been placed before it, and I can only say that the Government will do that which was promised by the Ministry led by the honorable member for Blan’d : That whatever criticism of the scheme is offered will be submitted to the Commissioner for his consideration. Before I conclude, I wish to refer shortly to the legal position of the Commissioner. The Public Service Act provides for his appointment, and by section 9 we decided that -

The Commissioner shall recommend to the GovernorGeneral for determination the division class sub-division of class or grade of every officer, and shall keep a record of all officers’ showing with regard to each officer his age and length of service the office he holds and his division class sub-division of class or grade and salary under this Act. Provided that where the Governor-General does not approve of any such recommendation a statement of the reasons for -not’ approving and for requiring a fresh recommendation shall be laid before the Parliament.

In addition to that, under section 50 the right of appeal is given. Under that section any officer aggrieved by any report or recommendation under the Act has a right to go to the Appeal Board. The section provides that upon his taking that action -

The board shall hear such appeal and transmit the evidence taken together with a recommendation thereon to tCe Commissioner who shall thereupon determine such appeal. Provided that in the case of reports or recommendations made by the Commissioner to the Governor-General all such appeals must be taken before the reports and recommendations are dealt with by the GovernorGeneral under the provisions of this Act.

Under the Public Service Act the Public Service Commissioner is to be free from political considerations.

Mr Mauger:

– Personal political considerations.

Mr GROOM:

– The Act provides that he shall be responsible for’ the administration of the Public Service.

Mr Mauger:

– To this House.

Mr GROOM:

– I have stated the position in which the Commissioner was placed by Parliament.

Mr Hughes:

– We cannot reject the scheme in toto or in detail?

Mr GROOM:

– The Commissioner is responsible for this classification. We have parted with our power. By our own Act

Ave have created ai Commissioner who is to decide these matters.

Mr Tudor:

– That being so, is it worth’ while our discussing these questions ?

Mr GROOM:

– It is, because any question of public principle that is brought before the House can be sent to the Commissioner for his report.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– Is it the intention of the Government to send the various criticisms to the Commissioner for consideration’ and report?

Mr GROOM:

– It is. Any criticisms that are offered in the House will be submitted to him. That was, of course, implied in the promise that was given. Every matter that is brought up will be sent on to the Commissioner for report, and action will not be taken until that has been done.

Mr Higgins:

– Is that only if the Go.vernment approve of the recommendation ?

Mr GROOM:

– Before the Government cam consider a suggestion, they must have the report of the Commissioner upon it, and prior to submitting the whole classification to the Governor-General they themselves will consider the position.

Mr Hutchison:

– If we brought individual cases of injustice before the House, would not the reply of the Commissioner be that there was an appeal open to the person or persons aggrieved?

Mr GROOM:

– I presume that the Commissioner will extend to honorable members the courtesy of considering any matter that is brought forward. If a complaint referred, in any individual case, to something that had been determined in accordance with the provisions of the law, the position to which the honorable member alludes could not arise. Any injustice that has been done, if brought under the Commissioner’s notice, dan be remedied by an amended classification* I have only to repeat iri conclusion that all recommendations made in the House will be placed before the Commissioner for his consideration and report.

Mr Tudor:

– Different suggestions might be made by different members, and in dealing with any one complaint the Commissioner might say that it was only the representation of one honorable member.

Mr GROOM:

– I am sure the Commissioner will give to each case the consideration which its merits demand.

Mr Mauger:

– I should like your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to the position of honorable members in connexion with the matter under consideration. Can a motion bearing on any particular item be submitted, or are we confined simply to a motion objecting to the recommendation of the Commissioner.

Mr SPEAKER:

– I find a little difficulty in dealing with the point of order which has been raised. I recognise that it is my duty to determine all points of parliamentary practice arising out of the Standing Orders, and that sometimes that duty may involve a consideration of the intention of the Constitution Act. But what I am asked to determine this morning is not so much a matter of parliamentary practice or rule, or of the meaning, of the Constitution Act, as a question of whether or not this Parliament may take some course which may be conceived to be by some within, and by others without, the powers of an Act which it has passed, namely, tlie Public Service Act. That is, I think, a matter on which I should not definitely rule. If it related to the Standing Orders or the Constitution, I could definitely rule, but as it relates to another question - the power of Parliament under an Act which it has passed - I am not prepared to give a definite ruling. I. would, however, suggest, after some careful consideration of the matter, that a course which might be followed in a motion I should be prepared to accept, would be one referring any case or cases, or class or principle, involved in the classification back to the Public Service Commissioner for his consideration. I do not now lay that down as a rule from which I would not accept any departure, but for the reasons I have stated-

Mr Mauger:

– Would a motion be in order, sir, which not only conveyed a recommendation, but set out a request, to the Public Service Commissioner?

Mr SPEAKER:

– I should not feel myself in a position to refuse to receive such a motion; but the question of whether it should be submitted to the Commissioner would raise a question of law as to which I do not feel that I am called upon to give a decision. I have already mentioned what appears to me a reasonable course which might be followed.

Mr Groom:

– I think, sir, that the promise we have made ought to meet the position of the honorable member, as it is not desirable to lay down a precedent. To adopt the proposition which the honorable member suggested would be practically to constitute the House a court to decide on the merits of a case and make a recommendation, when, by the Public Service Act, we have already created machinery for the judicial consideration of any position in the Public Service.

Mr Mauger:

– I desire, sir, to ask whether the House has the. power to reject the whole scheme and send it back to the Public Service Commissioner?

Mr SPEAKER:

– That again, the honorable member will see, is a question of, not the interpretation of the Standing Orders or the Constitution Act, but the interpretation of an Act df Parliament, which I do not think the Chair ought to attempt to do.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– In addressing myself to the question of the classification of the Public Service, I wish to say a.t the outset that I am quite satisfied with the promise which the Min’ister has made, namely, to send on all the recommendations made here to-day to the Public Service Commissioner for consideration and report to the Cabinet. Nothing more could be expected, for Parliament deliberately gave away a large portion of its powers to that officer when it passed the Public Service Act,: and therefore it cannot very well take them away from him except by an amending Bill. Under the circumstances we are indebted to the Government for this chance to discuss what we conceive to be the anomalies of the present position. I propose to avail myself of that opportunity to put before the House and the Commissioner some of those subject-matters which appear to me to involve some elements of injustice. At the same time, I do not say that this officer has not accomplished a very stupendous task indeed. I know of no man who could have done better than he has done under very adverse circumstances. But no one man can possibly consider every outlook connected with such a huge task, and no matter how well he may have been served by his officers, yet certain points of consideration may have been inadvertently overlooked. I say this advisedly,- because I believe him to be absolutely just. I believe him to be a man with a very full and wide sympathy ; and, judging by his past efforts, I should say that every representation made to him will get that fair consideration which an honest, fair and sympathetic man can give. I have risen principally to discuss what may be conceived to be the rights of officers under the Constitution Act. I do not propose to enter into any of the claims which they make outside that Act. As a matter of fact every one wishes to get as high pay as possible for the work he does,, and every one is justified in doing all that is within his power to receive that pay. But what this House has to consider, I think, more particularly is whether any of the promises made in connexion with the Federation of Australia are being broken by the action of the Commissioner, or have been in any way set aside by the Public Service Act. In this connexion I wish to direct attention to the claims of the officers in the general division, more particularly the Victorian section. It so happens that prior to the consummation of Federation I was a member of what was called the Federation League of Victoria. On one occasion it was part of my duty to address a huge gathering of public servants in this city on the rights and privileges they would enjoy after Federation had been accomplished. It was a most business-like meeting. The men understood exactly what their rights and privileges were under the Victorian law. Of course, they could have no knowledge of what their rights and privileges were likely to be under Federal law. In common with other speakers, I was asked to attend the meeting and endeavour to persuade these men to vote for the acceptance of the Constitution Bill, and to assure them that it would secure to them any rights or privileges which they then possessed.

Mr Higgins:

– It was the honorable members best stock in trade.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– It was the only thing I could do, and I did it honestly, believing that every right and privilege of these men had been properly secured to them. For that reason I have always felt particular interest in what I conceive to be the claims of these men under the Consti tution Act. What is the position? Take, for instance, the claims of the lettercarriers under that Act. Have any of those claims been set aside by the present classification scheme of the Public Service Commissioner? I am inclined to think they have. Under the Victorian Public Service Act these men were entitled to proceed by annual increment to a salary of ^132^ but subsequently an Act was passed by the Victorian Parliament which gave them the right to receive a salary of £150 per annum.

Sir William Lyne:

– When was it passed ?

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– It was passed just prior to the consummation of Federation.

Sir William Lyne:

– A few nights before !

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– The fact that it was passed prior to Federation is, I think, very important, and the circumstance that it was passed only a few days before that event is of no consequence, because other States did precisely the same thing. New South Wales, taking time by the forelock, secured for her civil servants statutory rights, which have been recognised by, the Public Service Commissioner only because her Parliament happened to pass an Act a little earlier than did the Victorian Parliament.

Mr Watson:

– There was no alteration in the position’ of civil servants in New South Wales immediately prior to Federation. It was in 1896 that statutory rights were accorded to them.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– I speak, of course, subject to correction, but my information leads me to believe that not very long prior to the consummation of Federation, and in view of that event as a matter of fact, certain statutory rights were conferred on the civil servants of New South Wales, which have been recognised bv the Public Service Commissioner in his classification scheme.

Mr Watson:

– Federation was not thought of when those rights were conferred.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– If that is not so, I am subject to correction. But what I say about the Victorian matter is that the time when the Act was passed is of no consequence. The important fact is th’at the Parliament of Victoria deliberately, and apparently in good faith, conferred upon these men cer- tain salaries which have not been recognised by the Public Service Commissioner, and apparently are not to be recognised. I believe that they are entitled to them. I believe that these salaries are amongst the rights and privileges which were conserved to them under the Constitution Act. Believing that to be the case, I have risen in my place to put forward some arguments in support of that contention.

Mr Higgins:

– Is there power for the Commissioner to take away those rights?

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– I doubt it, and that is why I am asking that the Commissioner shall reconsider the subject. I doubt whether he has the right to take away a statutory right conferred by the Victorian Parliament under which these men were to receive up to £150 per annum after the passing of that Act. In some of the other States also men in the same grade receive up to £150 per annum. The proposed classification limits the maximum to .£138 per annum. So that, speaking from the financial point of view only, it would appear that the men are deprived of a statutory right, involving ;£i.2 per annum in salary. If that is so, I think that the Public Service Commissioner has done them a wrong; and if it can be established, as I think it can, that they are entitled to these salaries, by reason of the provisions of the Federal Constitution itself, the Commissioner, in all justice, ought to make them the advance which they have claimed. They further allege, and I think there is some justice in their claim, that the grading system which the Commissioner has adopted is likely to do them another injustice, in view of their statutory claims. There was no grading system under the Victorian Act. They received their increments by annual amounts rising up to the sum that I have named. But it is now believed that by reason of the grading system a large number of these men will be kept at the lower rates of salary until they are so old that they will have to retire from the service; and that in any case, if they do get the increases, they will receive them so late in life as to enjoy them only for a short period, and as a result the additions will not be of very much use to them.

Mr Higgins:

– That is a “de-grading” system.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– It may be so described. One of the cases which, perhaps, I may be permitted to cite at. length, as it is exceedingly interesting, puts the matter in a nutshell. There are three grades provided for in the reclassification scheme. The case which I shall cite is that of Mr. J. Dempsey, who was appointed at a salary of £78 five and a half years ago, and is now receiving £118. The following are the facts: -

Mr. J. Dempsey entered the service 15 years ag°. (Page 13)* No. 75), and was promoted to the position of Letter Carrier 5^ years ago at a salary of ^78 per annum. He is now receiving ;£ii8 per annum, and would be entitled to a £14 increment in five months time - 27/12/05 - under State increments, had the Department not been transferred.

I wish that point to be’ particularly noted, because the assertion made is that, under the State increment system, he would have received a £14 increment at the end of the present year ; which increment he cannot, and will not receive under the classication scheme which we are now considering. If that be so this particular individual is being deprived of a statutory right, and all others similarly situated will be in the same position. The statement proceeds as follows : -

The classification sets his case out as follows : - “Assistant Letter Carrier” at £118 per annum, although he is doing the same work as other Letter Carriers. His next promotion will be tothat of Porter, which salary is now fixed at £114 to £126. He has a chance of being promoted to the latter position in three years. He will then rise by a £2 and a £6 increment to £126. He will then be promoted to Letter Carrier, Grade 1, but will receive no increase of salary. There are 400 Letters Carriers senior to him, and as there have only been 53 promotions during the past 13 years, and if- we allow 100 per cent, more promotions during the next 26 years, it will be seen that there are still 200 ahead of him. His age then- would- be .56 years, and he would still be on ^126 per” annum.

If that statement be correct, this particular individual - who-is a representative and type of his class - is being deprived of rights which ought to have been secured to him;’ and he will have lived to an old age, and probably be out of the service, before any of the increments which, under the State law, he would have received, can possibly be given to him under the new scheme. The final statement made under this head, and perhaps the most startling of all is that, whilst depriving this officer of the increment of £14 to which he is entitled, the Commissioner is increasing the salaries of two officers in a higher grade from £132 to £I38 per annum, which salary Mr. Dempsey can never reach. If it be proved that the £14 which this man and other officers of his class ought to have received is being kept from them in order to give increases to men in higher grades, I think a double injustice is being done. I do not say that that is so.

Mr Groom:

– It is not so.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– But the statement is made here in all seriousness. It is put forward deliberately in behalf of a representative body of men, and it is a statement which ought to receive, at the hand of the Public Service Commissioner, that consideration which its seriousness deserves. The men say that the. position of assistant letter-carrier was totally abolished, if not in all the States, certainly in Victoria prior to Federation. As a matter of fact, these men are all doing the same class of work. There ought, in my opinion, to be a chance for them to rise to the salary of £150 per annum. I am not one of those who would say that the ‘grading ought to be swept aside altogether. I do not know that it is altogether wrong. But what I do affirm is, that any man in the Public Service ought, at some reasonable period in his career, to have a chance to rise to a salary of at least £3 per week. That is not an excessive salary. It is not above what it would be fair to pay a man of average intelligence in artisan or other life outside the Public Service. Apart from that, I think it is part of the duty of Governments, the Commonwealth Government more especially, perhaps, to give a lead in the payment of reasonable rates to those who have to conduct their business. The man who receives .£3 per week, if -he lives decently, reputably, and honorably, rears a family, and does justice by them, will not have saved very much at the end of his career. All that I ask is that at some period he shall be able to rise to a salary such as I have mentioned. Surely that is not asking for too much. Indeed, I for one should have been prepared to go -Q6 higher than the present maximum, and to say that £156 a year, an

absolute £3 a week, would be a reasonable amount to pay to any man in any division of the Service, provided, of course, that he were a good servant, reputable in his conduct, painstaking and attentive to his duty. These men do not claim for those who do not possess these qualities, that they shall be so treated. The claim they make is on behalf of those who are such officers as I have described. I direct attention to the case of these letter-carriers because I think it is worthy of very serious consideration indeed. I make a special point of asking the Min,ister to look into the matter personally, and, as representing the Department, and as a man of considerable legal ability,, to consider .whether there is not an infringement of rights and privileges under the Constitution Act. Finally, I wish, under this particular head, to say that the statement made in the press this morning, and repeated by the Minister, that the cost involved will be something like £100,000, is, according to the case which the men have put. forward, greatly exaggerated.

Mr Groom:

– I said that the cost would be about ^30,^00 net.

Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT

– When this matter was first put before me by the men, I asked what in their opinion would be the extra cost, and whether they had any figures in support of their position ; because it is only fair that we should consider this .matter in full possession of all the facts. The men went to work, and have supplied me with figures which show that the total cost of providing for these transferred payments will, at the end of twelve years, involve only some £21,000 extra annual expenditure. I do not, of course,know whether the figures supplied are right or wrong, but they are contained in the following table: -

But from that total the men make what, in my judgment, arecertain veryproper deductions, as follows I have much pleasure in handing that statement to the Minister for his consideration. The men do not ask for anything but what is fair, and if their figures are wrong, they are prepared to admit the fact on proper proof being forthcoming. As briefly as I can state them, these are the considerations which govern the case of the letter-carriers, who do not ask for the substitution of a higher salary which, in their opinion, is not a fair one. I do not ask as a matter of sentiment merely, that these men shall receive the money, but I do ask that the rights and privileges which they allege to be theirs under the Constitution, shall be conserved to them. In that aspect of the case I, on their behalf, and on behalf of those who took part in the Federal movement, and induced those men to vote for Federation, contend there should be extended to them the consideration which the merits of the case deserve. I now wish to draw attention to another set of men, who allege that they have been improperly treated. I allude to the telegraphists, whose case differs from that of themen of whom I have just been speaking. Perhaps I can best illustrate the position of the telegraphists by citing a case which was submitted to the Public Service Commissioner. For the purpose of illustration, we may call this telegraphist **Mr. A** ; and he was appointed in the year 1900 at a salary of £90 per annum. By 1903 he was entitled to receive, and as a matter of fact, did receive, under statutory increment, a salary of£100 per annum. And he was then, under State law, entitled to annual increments of£20 until he reached a salary of£160. The Public Service Commissioner in his classification scheme has stopped all annual in crement in that respect, and telegraphists are nowcalled upon to pass a test, instituted by the Commissioner, before they can obtain further increases. This examination in itself may involve some invasion or infraction of the men's rights, but as to that, I need not say very much. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- What is the nature of the examination? {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- It is a test in telegraphy. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- It is a practical test. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- Surely that is only a proper thing. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- As I said, this test may involve some infraction of the men's rights, but I was going to add that I do not think they object toany test of a practical nature which will prove their fitness for the positions they occupy. On the contrary, I am assured by their representative that they welcomeany test, provided it be a fair one, and not one instituted merely to place them in certain grades and to keep them there. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- That would be a cruel proceeding. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- The men do not object to any test, the object of which is to discover their proficiency as telegraphists. The question I asked in connexion with this matter was, whether this particular man would be stopped at£120 per annum, by reason of not passing the telegraphy examination, and, if so, under what section of the Public Service Act? The Public Service Commissioner, in his reply, said - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. There are cases of this nature. 1. The officer was not entitled to proceed by annual increments to £160 per annum, either under the State orCommonwealth Act. We dispute that; we say that the Public Service Commissioner is misinformed, and ask him to look again at the Constitution Act, and consult the Attorney-General, or whoever is his legal adviser. The Commissioner added - >Under the State Act No. 1324, which governed the case .of this officer when appointed telegraphist, no officer of the Clerical Division received automatic increases. Increases were obtained 'by sub-divisional promotion, and no officer could be advanced fi om one sub-division to another, for instance, from the fourth subdivisions ^'120, to the fifth sub-division, *£140,* except he was recommended by the permanent head and the Public Service Board. See section 12- As a matter of fact, I understand that whenever the permanent head makes a recommendation, the Board in no case vetoes or blocks a man's promotion. The permanent head, whenever men are qualified to do the work, always makes a recommendation; and, therefore, the statement that the men get no statutory increases, is, in itself, a kind of quibble, and is not borne out by the facts discoverable from the practice of the Department. If, as these men allege, their pay is to be stopped at £120, there does seem to be "some infraction of those rights which they possessed under State law, and I ask, in this connexion, for consideration of their claim. Then, again, with respect to the senior telegraphists, there seems- to have been something done which is not altogether fair. As I have already said, I speak more particularly for the Victorians, about whom I know most, and with whom I am most closely associated. It is alleged that, in making this classification, the Commissioner, in his division, has distinguished between the several States ; in short, that the system of classification is not uniform- in all the States. One method has been adopted in New South Wales, and another in Victoria, and very fine distinctions indeed have been drawn as between men performing similar duties in the States named, and drawn in such a way as to be to the detriment of operators who are working in Victoria. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- The honorable member should not set uo that argument. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- If that is so, I think it has been done in ignorance, because I believe the Commissioner is not only an impartial, but a sympathetic, man. I have said that before, and I now repeat it. T am not accusing him of doing anything unfair, but I am merely making the statement made to me, and making it in good faith to secure reconsideration by the Commissioner. In the circumstances, it is asked that the same system should be adopted in all the States, so that uniformity may be secured. It appears - and this is not disputed by the Commissioner or any one else - that in order to determine who were most efficient in all the States, certain methods were adopted. One method was adopted in one State, and a different method in another. The method adopted in Victoria was to put the men to a practical test, by a board of some kind. As a result, the men have now been regraded, not in accordance with their original positions of seniority or salary, but in accordance with their efficiency and proficiency, as displayed in the practical test. From this method of grading, an anomaly has arisen in this way : The men who were junior are now to be senior, because they have been, shown to be more efficient; and men who were senior are now to be junior, because they are not quite so efficient. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- That exists in all the States. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- That may be so; I do not dispute it. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- lt means that there are incompetents in every State. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- I expected to hearthe word " incompetents " used by some honorable member. That is the point I wish to argue. It is not a question of incompetency, inefficiency, or lack of proficiency, but a question of this kind : Men who were absolutely efficient and proficient a year or two ago may to-day, by reason of the strain of heavy work on particular lines, have become to a certain extent broken down, whilst junior men who have not been subjected to that strain are now, simply because they are younger men and stronger in nerve, passed over the heads of seniors, who have become less efficient. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- Many of themwere never efficient. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- I am speaking of senior men who have been, efficient. I can quote the case of a man whom I knowwell. He was for some years in Melbourne employed on the heaviest line, thatbetween Melbourne and Sydney. He was, as a matter of fact, the most efficient and-1 proficient operator in the Department. This man is now made junior to men who werepreviously junior to him. He broke- downunder the strain, and could not carry on_ His wrist first gave way, and he could not write as rapidly as he had previously done. His services as an operator became, of course, less valuable, because his hand and nerve had to a certain extent failed, and now men who have not been subjected to the severe strain to which this officer was subjected are placed above him. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr Wilkinson: -- Their turn will come later. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- That is the point. These younger men will go on for a little while, and then their turn will come ; they will break down under the strain of the heavy work, and they will be superseded in all probability in the same way. In the meantime every senior position in the Department will be open to these promoted juniors, in priority to the men who have borne the heat and burden of the day in connexion with telegraphic work, and who are now superseded because they have broken down under the strain of the work previously imposed on them. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- What would the honorable member do with those who have broken down? {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- I am now going to state what is suggested. These men admit that they are not as young as they were, and they are quite content that other men who are more efficient should be promoted to do the work which they have been doing; but they ask that, inasmuch as they have not done anything contrary to the rules of the Department, have given meritorious service, and that, as a matter of fact, their inefficiency is the result of hard and strenuous work performed for the Department, some avenues of promotion should be left open to them, which will not deprive them of their seniority, and which will give them a chance to rise in the Department in some other way until they are in receipt of salaries commensurate with' the meritorious services they have performed. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- Those places are open to them now are they not? {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- They are open to them now, but the promoted juniors will have the prior claim, and these seniors will have only a secondary claim. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- How is that? {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- Because, according to the Public Service Commissioner, and we have his own statement for it, the men who are receiving the higher salary will be considered the senior men. As a matter of fact, I wrote to the Public Service Commissioner asking him if that were so, and this is his answer to me - >The officer receiving the higher salary will be the senior. But it does not follow that the senior efficient telegraphist will secure appointment to a position as postmaster, because telegraphic duties form only a portion of the work of such positions. It is, quite possible that a telegraphist who has failed in efficiency purely in the work of a telegraphist, may he the successful applicant for a position as postmaster. That seems to be a fair statement of the case, but the very fact that the Commissioner positively states that the men receiving the higher salary will be considered the senior men, seems to involve an element of injustice to men who are at present seniors, and whose promotions are to be blocked by the proposed grading giving seniority to their juniors, who are more efficient. The suggestion they make is that the position of postmaster should be open to them, or that there should be some long service increment, some increment based on merit, or something of that kind, in lieu of the promotion which they would have received had they remained as efficient as their juniors. That seems to me to be a reasonable proposition to make. It is certainly based upon some sort of sentiment, but it is a sentiment which I think will appeal to the fairmindedness of honorable members, and also to the Commissioner, who is, I am persuaded, a man of such temperament as to give heed to those who have just and proper claims to make. I have nothing further to add on this head. I have stated as fairly and as succinctly as I can what I believe are the claims of these men who have been superseded in the manner I have indicated. All I ask now is that their case also should receive the consideration which I think its merits deserve. There is one other matter about which I wish to say a word. I am indeed loth, and speaking generally I think it would be wrong, to bring forward in this House the case of any one individual. I think as far as possible we should deal with unions, associations, or committees of employés. But it so happens that in the particular case to which I am about to refer, there could be no question of a union or committee, as the man occupies a unique position, quite apart from that of any other officer in the Department. {: .speaker-JOC} ##### Mr Batchelor: -- Has the honorable member brought the case before the Commissioner ? {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- No. I propose to bring it forward here. I will not occupy more than a moment. I hope I shall be pardoned for mentioning the case, but it is so peculiar, that I trust I may be excused. The man appealed, under the provisions of the Act, to the Public Service Appeal Board, and his appeal was unanimously upheld by that body. In addition, he has been recommended by every officer of his Department for the salary which he claims, yet notwithstanding that, his appeal has been set aside, and he remains without redress. {: .speaker-JWY} ##### Mr Chanter: -- There are many of these cases. {: .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- This is the only case of its kind in the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-JWY} ##### Mr Chanter: -- I know , of other similar Gases. {: #subdebate-3-0-s3 .speaker-K4I} ##### Mr HUME COOK:
BOURKE, VICTORIA · PROT -- I doubt the similarity. The points I wish to make are that this man occupies a singular position in the service; that he has a clean record extending over nineteen years ; that he was recommended for the salary which he claims by every officer of his Department ; and that, when he appealed against the classification, he was successful in getting the Appeal Board to recommend his claim. But through some oversight on the part of the Commissioner, or because there was not time to give full consideration to his case, or for some other reason, he has not got what he is' entitled to receive. The officer to whom I refer is the officer in charge of the telegraphic messengers in Melbourne. The boys under his charge sometimes number over 100. He was recommended for a salary °f £150 a year by the Appeal Board and by the officers of his Department,, but he has had no recognition of his 'claim, and I feel, therefore, that he has been unfairly treated. Although I am loth to bring forward the case of any particular individual, I make bold to ask the Minister to request the Commissioner to give consideration to this case. The officer in question is almost a clerical officer, and, as a matter of fact, ought to be so classed. He checks the work of clerical officers, and has to relieve them on occasions. He engages the temporary staff connected with the telegraphic messengers' Department, and has full charge of the stores of that Department. He is the officer appointed to investigate and adjust all claims arising from transactions between the officers of his Department and the outside public, and to adjudicate on claims be tween the suburban offices and the central office. I think that his case should receive support from the Minister, and that it is entitled to recognition, not on sentimental grounds, but on its merits. I have nothing more to add, except to say that I am delighted with the attitude which the. Ministry have taken up in this connexion, and the promise made to-day, that they will cause every representation made here to be taken into consideration by the Public Service Commissioner, so that when the scheme comes before the Executive for final adoption, they may be able to do justice to every servant of the Commonwealth. {: #subdebate-3-0-s4 .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER:
Melbourne Ports -- I have listened with great interest and attention to the very able statement of the Minister of Home Affairs, and I recognise the force of a great many of the views to which he gave expression. I realize that the task of classifying the public service is a stupendous one, which could not have been undertaken by a body like this House. From all I can gather, the gentleman appointed to do this very striking and remarkable work has endeavoured to perform it honestly, with fairness to all, and to the best of his ability. But I believe that a mistake was made in giving such immense power to one man, and practically abrogating the functions of this House, even for the effective revision of the scheme. Unless the Commissioner is to give full weight to, and' to carry into practical effect, the speeches made here to-day, I fail to see what good result will come from the discussion which is now taking place. Either we should not discuss the scheme at all. or we should be able to make concrete recommendations in respect to it which must command respect. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- Revert to political control? {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- I do not wish for "that. I do not think that any one can charge me with even attempting to log-roll, either in the State or in the Commonwealth Parliament. {: .speaker-KZH} ##### Mr Robinson: -- No one has charged the honorable member with that. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- The insinuation is that, because we contend that the pendulum has swung to one extreme, we wish to go back to the old system of political log-rolling. {: .speaker-KZH} ##### Mr Robinson: -- If we go back to the old system, we must have political logrolling. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- No one has advocated going back to the old system; but surely there is a middle course, which it would be of advantage to follow, in the interests .of Parliament, the people, and the Public Service. There is always a danger in going to extremes. I contend that, in handing over the important work of classifying the Public Service to a Commissioner, and abstracting all responsibility and all practical power of interference from this Parliament, we allowed the pendulum to swing to an extreme. There is a happy middle path between the two extremes, which it would be in no way detrimental to the public interest to follow, and, to my mind, it would be a better course to pursue than that which we have adopted. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- Let us have just a little political influence occasionally? {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- I have not said, and I have not suggested, that I mean that. But there is a danger of official influence. {: .speaker-KZV} ##### Mr Ronald: -- Which is worse than political influence. {: .speaker-JOC} ##### Mr Batchelor: -- And has always been so. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- Yes. I do not mean to infer that the Commissioner is anything but an honorable and straightforward man ; but let him be ever so honorable, if he has to depend absolutely upon the recommendation of his officers, he has to depend upon those who are just as likely to be corrupt and ill-advised as are Members of Parliament. {: .speaker-JOC} ##### Mr Batchelor: -- Very much more likely. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- I will not go to the length of saying that. But if ill becomes men who have been placed1 in a responsible position to shelter themselves behind the theory that they cannot act in a matter of this kind without being politically corrupt, or being moved by influences of an unfair character. I am convinced that I am right when I affirm that under this scheme, unconsciously, but nevertheless actually,, official and social influences have had weight when they should not have had weight. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- Then thehon.orable member should impeach the Commissioner. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- I am not in a position to do so, and I do not make a charge against Kim. I say that this influence has had weight unconsciously, but I am. convinced that it has had weight. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- The honorable member does not make that suggestion in regard to the Commissioner himself? {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- Not for an instant, and I do not wish that inference to be drawn from my remarks. The Minister, in answer to a question I asked to-day, replied that the officers who have been classified could not be inspected and conferred with in every individual instance. They could not be inspected and conferred' with in hundreds, and even in thousands, of instances. That being so, the Commissioner had necessarily to depend on the recommendations of his inspectors with regard to those men. While there is danger in political patronage, there is also danger in official and social patronage, and I am convinced that I am right when I say that the influence of orders, of societies, and of sectional religious grades, is just as dangerous as any political influence, and infinitely more insidious. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- And those influences are not present in Parliament, I suppose ? {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- If they are, they are present in the open light of day. Every one can see them. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I do not know sp much about that. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- I think so. I am convinced that the pendulum has swung to the other extreme, and that we have given too much power to the Public Service Commissioner. I am speaking impersonally, because I do not wish to breathe one word of insinuation against the present Commissioner. I believe that he has performed his gigantic task to the best of his ability, and that he has worked night and day in doing so. I am speaking now of a principle which I believe to be wrong, and which I think should be set aside in the interests of the public, and of the officers in the service. Take the case of the letter-carriers. As a matter of fact,i the Commissioner proposes a very serious reduction of salaries. Under the system now in existence, the lettercarriers have opportunities of rising, which I shall show are exceedingly rare - opportunities with which honorable members would not be satisfied'. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- Does the honorable member say that the Commissioner has proposed a reduction in all the States? {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- I believe that the reduction will affect all the States. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Does the honorable member say in all the States? {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- I think so. If not, the arrangement is absolutely unfair to the officers in those States wherethe reductions will apply. Why should a lettercarrier in New South Wales, Western Australia, or South Australia, be able to rise automatically to the maximum of £150 per annum, while officers in Victoria are denied a similar opportunity ? {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- The same conditions apply to all the States. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- Then my previous statement is quite right that the men in Victoria are being placed in a worse position than they were before. I do not wish to trench on the ground that has already been covered by the honorable member for Bourke, who has referred to the fact that the calculations of the men most interested are altogether different from those of the Commissioner as to the extra expenditure that would be involved by the proposed alterations. The Commissioner estimates that the increase of the maximum would involve an additional outlay of £100,000. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- No, the increase would involve an additional outlayof£30,000 in the case of letter-carriers, and if the same conditions applied to all other officers doing similar work, the increase would amount to £100,000 per annum. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- Is it not a fact that the Commissioner has paid regard, not to the justice of the claims of the officers, but to the large extra expenditure that would be involved - has he not given that consideration more prominence than it is entitled to? We appoint Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts to fix minimum rates of wages, and minimum standards of living, and the cry of the employers that our action will involve them in extra expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum has no weight with us. We say that it is just, that the increased wages should be paid, and I hold that no extra expense would be involved in complying with the requests of the officers of the general division that the Commonwealth should not be able to meet. All that we have to consider is what would be fair. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Do I understand the honorable member to advocate a return to semi-political control ? {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -I am opposed to semipolitical control, or anything like it. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- I wanted to know whether the honorable member was in favour of semi-political control. He spoke of a mean course between two things. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr MAUGER: -- Yes, and I meant it. I do not call that semi-political control, but an equitable supervision, which Parliament has a perfect right to exercise. I would point out that in Victoria, during the last thirteen years, only fifty-three letter-carriers have been promoted sufficiently to entitle them to the maximum rate of wages, which I am anxious to see retained. In view of the fact that there are 450 letter-carriers, surely the system has not permitted of very rapid promotion. It can be seen that it is absolutely impossible for fully three-fourths of the men ever to reach the maximum rate of pay. In New South Wales only fourteen letter-carriers have been promoted to the maximum rate during the last ten years, and in the other States the position is even worse, as no promotions have been made. I believe that the Commissioner's calculations are based on an estimate of thirty promotions per year; but I do not know what data he has to justify him in that conclusion. Of course I am not in a position to view this matter in the same way that the Commissioner does. One of the objects of this discussion is to elicit facts, and that seems to me to be the only end that is attainable at present. If, by free and fair discussion, we can enlargeour information on the subject, the time spent in this debate will not be wasted. The estimated cost of making the proposed alterations, and the reductions that might be made in connexion therewith, have been referred to by the honorable member for Bourke, but I desire to briefly advance one or two reasons why the grading system should not be applied to the general division. In the clerical division there is no grading until a salary of £160 per annum is obtained. Why, therefore, should the grading system operate in the general division to prevent the advancement of the officers to a maximum salary of £150 per annum? The promotions are so rare that it is absolutely impossible for three-fourths of the officers ever to attain the maximum. The position of the letter-carriers is admitted by the Commissioner to be superior to that of assistants, senior assistants, porters, pillarclearers, mail -drivers, and postal assistants, and although he has fixed £138 per annum as the maximum grade, it will be absolutely impossible for threefourths of the letter-carriers ever to obtain more than *£126* per annum. Therefore, that salary is practically the maximum for those three-fourths. The point is, should we adopt a system which will prevent these letter-carriers, during terms of service ranging from twelve to twenty years, from automatically rising to a salary of £150 per annum? lt seems to me that at this juncture it would be unwise to bring forward any definite resolutions. But, apart from the Public Service Commissioner's scheme, or any party bias, or the introduction of political patronage, I intend to avail myself of the first opportunity to move that the grading system shall be abolished in the general division ; and that by a schedule to an Act of Parliament, the letter-carriers, like the officers in the clerical division, shall be enabled to rise to £150 per annum. Having regard to the nature of the work which they perform, the interests involved, and1 the character of the men themselves, I do not think that this proposal is unreasonable. I fully realize the position of the Minister in charge of the scheme, and am anxious not to embarrass him ; but I desire him to fully inquire into the merits of the class of servants to whom I am now referring. I hope that a desire to deal justly and equitably with the service will weigh more with him than will any question as to an increased expenditure of a few thousand! pounds per year in this branch of the service. I am not an advocate of extravagance, and I contend that the granting of my request would not involve anything approaching unreasonable expenditure. These officers should be enabled to reach the very reasonable maximum that I have named. I shall not refer to individual cases, but there is one phase of the question that has' been brought under my notice to which I trust the attention of the Commissioner will be directed. It has been said that an officer who, when the classification was being carried out, temporarily occupied a position of greater importance than that of his *confreres,* has been inadvertently placed in a higher division, and put over the heads of men who have been longer in the service, and, generally speaking, have more responsible duties to discharge. These men have a right to a similar classification. A case of this kind in connexion with the Customs Department has been brought under my notice. Three officers, whose names can be furnished privately, were temporarily filling what were said to be more responsible positions than their fellow-servants, and they have been placed in a higher class and given *z* higher rate of pay than that of a number of men who are doing just as important work, and have been longer in the service. This must have occurred inadvertently, and I am sure that if my statement be correct - and I believe it is - the Commissioner will give it the consideration it deserves. Notwithstanding the statement recently made by the Minister in reply to a question, that the fact that an emplOYé is a female is not a bar to promotion, there is a strong feeling, supported by considerable reason, that female employes in the service are not being promoted as their merits deserve, and that in some cases they are not being paid in accordance with the character of the work they are called upon to perform. The general feeling is that female public servants should be paid, not according to their sex, but with due regard to the duties they discharge, and that that principle has not been observed, although it is the desire of Parliament that it should. I trust that all these matters will be referred to the Commissioner, and that they will receive that consideration which I 'feel confident the Commissioner will be prepared to extend to them. {: #subdebate-3-0-s5 .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON:
Lang -- I am perfectly sure that honorable members on all sides will agree that in classifying the Public Service the Commissioner had a most stupendous work to carry out, and that they will be equally ready to testify to the skill, ability, and care that he has exercised in performing that difficult task. It seems to me that it was absolutely impossible for any one to conceive that such a scheme, affecting as it does, so many thousands of persons engaged in the service could be carried out with absolute satisfaction to every individual. In a work of this kind, some apparent injustices must inevitably creep in, and some real injustices, which were absolutely inevitable, at any rate, for the time being, have occurred. We can only trust to time in some cases perhaps to re-adjust matters on a basis that will be more acceptable to those who feel themselves seriously injured by this classification. I am satisfied that the great anxiety of the Commissioner has been to deal absolutely justly and reasonably with every member of the service, and to do his best for every one, with due regard to the necessity of keeping the public expenditure within reasonable limits. For these reasons, it is in a perfectly friendly spirit, and with no desire to assume the position of a dictator, that I propose to submit certain matters for his reconsideration. I certainly have no desire to even attempt to interfere with' the right which his position gives him to determine the justice of the various cases with which' he has to deal. But several instances of what are considered by those affected to be unfair treatment, have been brought under my notice, and I have promised to bring them before the House. In bringing forward these cases, I have no desire to refer to individuals, for I recognise that that would be most improper. We- can deal only with the various grades, with anomalies, and various matters requiring some adjustment at the hands of the Commissioner. Dealing first with the Federal Postal Service, it appears to be the desire of the sorters, mail carriers, and distributors, that all grades in the general division carrying a salary of less than .£150 per annum, should be abolished, and that that salary should be the maximum, to be reached by annual increments. In the clerical division, officers are not graded until they reach a salary of £160 per annum, and it is the desire of the members of the general service, so far as I can gather, that they should not be graded until a salary of £150 per year has been reached. I wish to refer in this connexion to some apparent peculiarities in connexion with the Postal Service, as affecting the mail sorters' branch. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- In New South Wales? {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- In the service generally. I wish to make a comparison in this case between the postal officers in New South Wales and Victoria. It appears from the statement which has been forwarded to me that, in New South Wales, there are 220 men who do the work of 256 men in Victoria, and that the cost of the work is £33,542 in New South Wales, as against £44,832 in Victoria. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- Does the honorable member say that the 220 men in New South Wales do as much work as the 256 men in Victoria? {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- I do not make that statement as a fact, within my own personal knowledge, but it is so represented to me. Of course, I do not pretend to know the absolute facts. Knowledge of that kind is necessarily the result of infor mation imparted by others. The statement contains the following passage : - >The amount of work done in New South Wales and Victoria is about the same. If all the appellants in New South Wales were placed on the minimum salary of ^138, which would mean an additional cost of ^1,136 for the first year only, there would still be a saving of .^0,153 per annum in favour of New South Wales. Then comes a statement showing that, notwithstanding that a minimum, as well as a maximum, salary has been fixed by the Commissioner, a number of men receive less than the minimum. Of men who receive less than the minimum, in New South Wales there are eighteen, in South Australia, ten, and in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania none. Of- men who receive a salary of £126 per annum, there are thirty-nine in New South Wales, none in Victoria, eight in South Australia, one in Western Australia, seven in Queensland, and three in Tasmania. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Has the honorable member any information as to the effect of the amended scheme upon the figures contained in the printed statement from which he is reading? I believe that the appeals have affected the figures to some extent. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- I shall be glad to hear from the Minister that the appeals have had the effect of getting rid of the anomaly complained of. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- The amended scheme has a certain effect upon these statements. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- Of men who receive a salary of £120, there are fourteen in New South Wales, two in South Australia, and none in Victoria, Western. Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania. Of men who receive a salary of £114, there are thirteen in New South Wales, and none in the other States.- {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Seventeen sorters have received promotion as the result of the appeals. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- The point I wish to bring before the notice of the Minister, and through him, the Commissioner, is that a minimum and a maximum salary are allowed under a certain grade, but that, notwithstanding that fact, a number of men are employed below the minimum, for what reason I do not know. As the Commissioner recognises that the minimum value of the work performed by a sorter shall be £138 per annum, is it fair to give sorters *£6* yearly increments for one, two, three, and four years before giving them " the minimum value for the work performed?" That is the real point at issue, in connexion with these figures. Perhaps, for the purpose of saving time, I may be permitted now to quote from a general statement, in which the letter carriers point out what they consider the disabilities under which they labour. In this printed circular, the officers state in detail some of their grievances. For instance, they say - >We would point out that the term " Letter Carrier " is a misnomer. We not only deliver letters, but we also do the sorting and arranging of them, which occupies two or three hours of the day's work. We would also emphasize the undoubted fact, that the door of promotion is hopelessly closed against the vast majority, as the following statement will show : - > >In Victoria 53 letter carriers have been promoted during the past 13 years. > >In New South Wales 14 letter carriers have been promoted during the past 10 years. > >In the other States - Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, no promotions have been made. When we come to consider statements of that kind, without being in possession of the full facts governing them, they certainly bear the appearance of hardship. I dare say that the Commissioner may have, probably has a reasonable explanation to offer, but I feel quite sure that if there is any means of removing what appears to be such a hardship, he will be only too glad to most sympathetically consider it. From my knowledge of the Commissioner, derived from having come in contact with him on several occasions, I am confident that his sense of fairness and justice will induce him to do everything he can in reason to give satisfaction to all those who are engaged in the various branches. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- In New South Wales, there was no promotion for a letter carrier. The rule was that, once a letter carrier, always a letter carrier, but in the scheme of our Commissioner there is a method of promotion. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- I shall come to that point directly - >In New South Wales the ratio of promotions is only fourteen in ten years, therefore their prospects are worse than Victoria. In the other States the position is infinitely still worse. > >The following are the recommendations of the Public Service Commissioner : - No. 2 Grade - salary£130 to£138 per annum ; No. 1 Grade - salary £114 to£126 per annum; Assistant Grade - salary£60 to£110 per annum. > >The following were the salaries which were paid by theseveral States prior to Federation : - > >New South Wales. - Grading system, highest salary,£150 per annum. > >Queensland. - No grading system, highest salary,£140 per annum, attainable by increments. > >Western Australia. - No grading system, highest salary, £140 per annum, attainable by increments. > >South Australia. - No grading system to £132 per annum, attainable by increments, and a proportion of the letter carriers receive£150 per annum. > >Victoria. - No grading system, highest salary, £132 per annum, attainable by increments, and subsequently the maximum was increased to £150 per annum. > >It will be seen by the above statement that the salaries paid by the respective States Governments were much better than those which are now contemplated by the Commonwealth. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- In New South Wales there were only six officers who got the maximum salary. There were 411 officers who received less than £126. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- The circular goes on to say - >As the door of promotion is practically closed against three-fourths of the letter carriers of the respective States, and most of them have been letter carriers ten, fifteen, and twenty years, we think that the grading system should not apply to salaries under£150 per annum. > >In the clerical division there are no grades until a salary of£160 per annum is reached, and we fail to see why a grading system should apply as low as£ 1 10 per annum for the general division. Most of the officers are married and have families, and a maximum of£150 per annum is not too much to ask to enable an officer to live decently, seeing there is practically no further chance of promotion. When the £110 per annum minimum salary was passed we are confident it was never intended that a salary equal to that amount, or a little above it, should become the maximum. That seems to me to be a reasonable contention on their part, and one to which we can direct the attention of the Commissioner without laying ourselves open to a charge of attempting to bring political pressure to bear upon him. I recognise, of course, that, although a particular increase may appear to be small in itself, yet when it is granted to a number of officers it may involve an increase of several thousands of pounds on the Estimates. I understand that in some branches of the service even apparently small increases to the individuals concerned would involve £40,000 additional expenditure in connexion with that branch or grade alone. I realize that there are very grave difficulties which the Commissioner has to consider. He has to consider the claims of the public servants themselves, and he has to have regard to the revenue also. When the revenue is declining the problem becomes still more serious. Therefore, I have every sympathy. with him in the task which confronts him. This circular goes on to say - >The Public Service Comissioner's tree of promotion looks well on paper, and if we could live into the next century, then we might have a chance pf being promoted somewhere. We would respectfully ask - First, for the total abolititon of all grades under ^150 per annum. Secondly, that annual increments be provided from a minimum of ^,100 per annum to a maximum of ^150 per annum. Thirdly, for the total abolition of the term " assistant letter-carrier," as fixed by the Public Service Commissioner. The concluding paragraph of a small circular which reiterates some of the statements that I have already quoted, I may as well read. It says : - >The chances of promotion are hopeless unless some awful epidemic eventuates and he is thus enabled to succeed to " dead men's shoes." This, briefly, is the position, and it cannot be denied. We hope you will do all you can to accede to our wishes, as they are just ones, and if not rectified now there will not be any possible hope for years, as this classification is the foundation of the status and salary of every officer of the Commonwealth Public Service. Then the circular goes on to say - >It may, however, be said, " You had the right of appeal." Quite true, and we have availed ourselves of that provision, but the constitution of the appeal boards is not wholly equitable. The inspectors, as chairmen, are practically judging their own work- That is a point that seems to me to be well worthy of attention. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- To alter that would involve an amendment of the Act. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- I suppose that it would, and for that reason, perhaps, it would not be in order for me to refer to it. {: #subdebate-3-0-s6 .speaker-10000} ##### Mr SPEAKER: -- The honorable member can refer to the matter, so far as I can see. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- I refer to it in order to show that when the Public Service Commissioner says that the officers have a right to appeal, they very properly reply that thev object to the constitution of the board as being partial, because, as they point out, the Publics Service inspectors, (who have practically the duty of making recommendations to the Commissioner, are afterwards appointed to be the judges_of their own- work. It is not reasonable to expect that inspectors who have made certain recommendations will be in any great hurry to find reasons for considering that their own work is faulty. It is an inevitable phase of human nature 'that a man should not be eager to see the force of reasons for objecting to his own work and his own actions. The objection made in the circular is, therefore, a reasonable one, and it is a matter which I recognise will have to be dealt with in another way. I hope that some action will be taken in regard to it, and that, while the Public Service inspectors have a right to sit on the appeal boards, there will also be independent and impartial judges to act between the inspectors and those whose salaries and positions are affected. I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister another complaint which I have received from a number of officers in the general division, who are performing clerical and telegraphic duties. In their statement of their case they say - >Many of us have been upwards of ten years in the service, and are performing the duties of telegraphists, postal money order and savings bank assistants. 2nd. We have successfully passed the departmental or technical examination, proving our ability as telegraphists. 3rd. Most of us have been away from school for many years, and feel that we are not in a position to compete in a scholastic examination against youths fresh from school, who may- be able to pass the clerical examination and yet possess none of the qualifica-tions which we already, by probation and experience have gained. 4th. We are acting *in* responsible positions, handling in the course of our duties many hundreds of pounds weekly. Notwithstanding this responsibility, we are graded with, and do not receive any higher salary than, labourers, switch attendants, or mail boys, whose duties are totally different to ours, and, whilst we would be able to perform the duties of these officers, they would be unable to take up the duties we perform. 5th. After performing our usual daily duties, we do not feel mentally fit to study for a scholastic examination. 6th. In our daily dealings with the public, we are expected to be neatly and cleanly attired, and, not having a uniform supplied, or work a-way from the view of the public, we are, I think, you will admit, under much more expense under this heading than the labourer, &c. 7th. We have spent much time and patience in mastering the telegraphic duties, and have completed so many years service in the Department, that we appeal to you to make an exception in out case, and allow us to be graded as clerical, or, if we cannot at present be so graded, we humbly ask you to consider whether we could not be graded separately as assistants, entitling us to a salary between that of the General and Clerical Divisions. What I have read is a copy of an original appeal which was sent to the Public Service Commissioner, so that that gentleman has already had these points brought under his notice. I call attention to that appeal now because I have been requested to do so, and because it seems to deal with matters which might fairly claim the notice of the Commissioner. There is another point I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister with a view to its being submitted to the Commissioner. I refer to cases where men are, either temporarily or permanently, appointed to higher positions, and yet are not paid the salaries attaching to those positions. If, for instance, a man receiving £250 per annum is removed to .some other district, and another officer, whose salary is £150, is appointed to the higher position, the latter, in consideration of the work and his responsibility, ought to be paid at the higher rate. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Only during the time he is doing the work, 1 suppose? {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- Yes. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- That would open the door to a lot of official influence as to the person to be selected for the higher position. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- That is only a possibility, which does not destroy the equity of the position. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- It is quite possible that the higher amount is more than the Commissioner considers equitable. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- In that case, the officer who had been paid the higher salary must have received more than the position is worth. Mir. Groom. - Relieving officers are sent to various places at varying salaries. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- I am not now referring only to relieving officers, but also to other men. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- As regards relieving officers, we should have the salary varying from day to day and from month to month. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- Let us put aside relieving officers, and deal only with others who are appointed to such positions. In those cases, I think,, there is some reasonable justification for the contention that they ought to be paid the salaries attaching to the offices. For instance, the case of 1 timber measurer at the port of Sydney has been brought under my notice. The previous occupant of the position received a salary of £350 per annum, but his assistant, who was appointed to the higher position, is paid only £210 per annum. There seems to be a great discrepancy between the two salaries ; and yet, on the signature of this officer, duties amounting to £45,000 per annum are collected. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- What does the Commissioner consider the work worth according to the classification? {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- The classification might afford some explanation, but I did not receive this communication in time to look closely into the matter. Another grievance brought under my notice affects mail-guards. Under the classification: scheme, those men are classified as despatching officers, who are required to work indoors. In some cases, mailguardshave been for many years accustomed to outdoor work, and their health becomes affected very shortly after they are called upon to perform duties in the office. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- - What are the duties in the office ? {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- The duties of maildespatching officers. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- What does the honorable member suggest? {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- Some have asked that while being classified as despatching officers, they shall still be allowed to continue their outdoor duties, this request being made mainly on the score of health. I understand that last year £700 was put on the Estimates to meet increases of salary, and I think some point was raised as to the non-necessity for using that sum. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Those men were moved from one class into another, the divisional' increase to wait pending classification, and* all arrears to be paid on the passing of the scheme. {: .speaker-K99} ##### Mr JOHNSON: -- Some other matters, have been brought under my notice, but I have referred only to those cases which appear to justify the attention of Parliament. There are numbers of complaints, which seemed capable of adjustment without reference to Parliament, and those COm.plants I have carefully refrained from bringing forward, feeling that they can be arranged by means of an interview with-, the Public Service Commissioner. In submitting these considerations I have not theslightest desire to cast any reflection whatever on the work or impartiality of the Public Service Commissioner. I am perfectly sure that **Mr. McLachlan** is only anxious todo his best, and that all honorable members will agree that, under the circumstances, the Commissioner may be highly complimented on the completion of so stupendous a work in a manner which, on the whole, is so satisfactory. If" it be possible to so readjust matters that there shall be the minimum amount of dissatisfaction and complaint, I feel confident that the Commissioner will do all hecan to bring about that result. **Mr. HENRY** WILLIS (Robertson).I arn very glad to find that there is some likelihood of the classification scheme being adopted. It is a very fine scheme, capably prepared by a most efficient officer. It is some consolation to feel that once it is out of the way we shall not be so much worried by correspondents who expect honorable members to look into their individual cases. It is long since the general public made up their minds that all questions affecting public servants should be removed from political influence. Personally) I should be one of the last to bring such matters forward in such a way as to exert political influence on the Minister responsible. I hope that the Minister of Home Affairs, when replying, will say something about the increases due to officers. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Does the honorable member mean generally ? {: #subdebate-3-0-s7 .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr HENRY WILLIS: -- Yes,, in the Post and Telegraph Department. In many cases these increases are long in arrear. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Does the honorable member refer to the increases recommended by the classification scheme? {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr HENRY WILLIS: -- No; to increases due before the compilation of that scheme. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Due under State statutes? {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr HENRY WILLIS: -- Yes. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- To which States does the honorable member refer? I wish to be able to identify the cases to which he refers. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr HENRY WILLIS: -- I speak of New South Wales. There are innumerable complaints on the subject. I hope the Minister will look into the matter, and will see that if any arrears are found to be outstanding, they will be settled. I have no intention to continue the debate, and I express the hope that for all time these matters will have been removed from political influence in the Commonwealth. {: #subdebate-3-0-s8 .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON:
Hindmarsh -- I rather fear that this is likely to be a somewhat unprofitable discussion, as it would appear that the only power which honorable members have is to direct attention to apparent anomalies arising from the classification scheme, in order that they may be brought under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner. That officer' has had all these grievances before him on appeal, and it can hardly be expected that he wi'l'l go back on. his second decision. No doubt honorable members have ever) sympathy with the Public Service Commissioner iri the performance of the great task committed to him-. , Even if he were an archangel it could hardly be expected that he would satisfy everybody; and whatever his abilities, it could not be expected that there would not be in his classification,, at all events, some apparent injustices. As we have the opportunity to bring forward apparent anomalies, I should like to get some explanation from the Minister in his reply, or later, from the Public Service Commissioner, in respect of several matters. One of the great grievances is in connexion with promotions. I recollect that some time ago the honorable member for Barker received a reply from the Minister of the day, to the effect that officers doing similar work in each State are classified alike. In view of that reply, I should like to have some explanation as to why it is that in South Australia, for example, a landing surveyor is classed as a third class inspector, whilst officers filling similar' positions in Victoria are, I find, classed, two as first class,i arid three as second class inspectors. With respect to landing waiters, the only difference, so far as I can discover between' the respective duties of officers in South Australia and in Victoria, is that in Victoria the invoices are approved on the wharf. Of two officers doing this particular work in South Australia, one receives salary up to £335, and the other up to £285. I find that in Victoria there are sixteen officers performing similar duties whose salaries range from £310 to .£485. These figures disclose a discrepancy which I think ought to be explained, because it must naturally be a cause of irritation to officers receiving the smaller salary if they are really doing similar work. Of course, the volume of work will be greater in Victoria than in South Australia, but there will on that account be a larger staff in Victoria, and the individual officers will not be doing much more work than they might reasonably be expected to do. Another matter which I, in common with other honorable members, have brought under the notice of the House repeatedly, is that dealing with the travelling allowances now paid to travelling lettersorters. The late Postmaster-General, the honorable member for Macquarie, promised to look into the matter, and that if the complaints made were discovered to be well-founded, he would do his best to see justice done. These travelling letter-sorters used to receive a travelling allowance of 6s. while away from home. That amount has been reduced to the ridiculous sum of 2s. 8d. I have never been able to get a satisfactory reason for the reduction. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- The honorable member refers to men travelling on the railways. {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- Yes, travelling while at work. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- Does the honorable member say that the allowance is only 2s. 8d. per day? {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- Yes, 2s. 8d. for bed and meals. To make the matter worse, if a junior is sent out to learn the duties under a travelling sorter receiving the allowance of 2 s. 8d. per day, the junior receives an allowance of 6s. per day. Another point requiring attention is that these officers who receive an allowance of as. 8d. per day have to put up at the same hotels as officers receiving allowances running up to 15s. per day. **Mr- Groom.** - I am informed that the allowance has been increased ; but I shall get further information for the honorable member. {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- I shall be very glad to hear that it has been increased. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- Does this apply to those who have to travel by mail boats as well ? {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- No; it applies to sorters travelling in trains from point to point within a State, and who have to be away from their homes for a night. There is also a complaint that under the classification scheme, sorters in Grade I. can only rise to a salary of £150, which has been made the maximum salary of the grade, although as letter-carriers they would now be entitled to that salary, and under the State arrangements would be entitled to receive ^156 per annum. The complaint is made that this is really an infringement of State rights. I understand that all accrued rights were to be preserved to officers in all the States, and if there has been any infringement of those rights, we should have some explanation of if. I find that it is admitted by the Public Service Commissioner that officers in the clerical division have been placed in the general division. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- From what is the honorable member quoting? {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- I quote from an extract in the *Commonwealth Gazette,* page 12, paragraph 3. If officers are reduced from the clerical to the general division, in which the payments are reduced, and the chances of promotion are less, that does appear to be an injustice to officers now in the service. If this were made the rule for new-comers into the service, there would be nothing to complain about. We cannot lose sight of the fact that under the classification scheme, officers who have been many years in the service know that there are so many others who must get promotion before they do, that they cannot possibly live to get promotion themselves. It seems very hard, speaking of the lower-salaried officers, that one-half of those in a particular branch may make sure of getting promotion, whilst the other half can have no hope whatever of promotion. This should be some justification for making increases automatic, so long as the salaries are not allowed to reach an unreasonable amount. I have every sympathy with the Public Service Commissioner, who has, I believe, honestly tried to do his duty. I have very substantial grounds for the fear that the facts connected with the promotion of officers in the service do not always reach the Commissioner. If the head of a Department who is supposed to receive from his under officers any statements in regard to grievances does not send them on to the Commissioner, the latter cannot remedy them, and the officers aggrieved can do nothing. They are not allowed - and properly so - to approach a member of Parliament on the subject, and may not send a statement of grievance direct to the Public Service Commissioner. This being so, I think that a method should be adopted whereby aggrieved officers who have not been fairly treated by their superiors may communicate directly with the Minister or with the Commissioner, so that justice may be done to them. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- Have they not remedies under the Public Service Act ? {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- No. Under the Public Service Act, if they are aggrieved they may send a statement of their grievances to their superior officer, and he is supposed to forward them to the Commissioner. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- And1 why should he not do so? {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- I am sorry that instances have come to my knowledge in which superior officers in both the Commonwealth and the States services have had a bias - to use as mild a word as possible -against some of their subordinates, and have, consequently, done them injustice, for which they unfortunately had no remedy. Such action on the part of superiors should be provided against. I should have a great deal more to say in regard to individual cases if I thought there was a chance of getting these grievances remedied ; but I feel that we should not ask the Public Service Commissioner to go back upon decisions at which he has arrived after a careful inquiry for the second time. In many instances he has not been seized of all the facts in connexion with the cases with which he has dealt because they have not all beenpresented to him. Had it been otherwise, I do not think we should have had the complaints which have come from all parts of the Commonwealth, many of them, to my mind, justifiable, and only a small fraction of which have been heard of to-day. I am glad that the Government have given the House this opportunity to discuss the classification, but I am sorry that we cannot express our satisfaction or dissatisfaction with it. {: .speaker-L1D} ##### Mr Henry Willis: -- What does the honorable member think of it? {: .speaker-KJ8} ##### Mr HUTCHISON: -- I think that a mistake was made in placing such an enormous number of officers as there are in the Commonwealth Public Service under one Commissioner, because it is almost beyond the power of any one man to do justice to the task which has been set him. Although I am opposed to political interference, I have never thought it the best course to place the Commonwealth Public Service under one Commissioner. In my opinion there should be political interference only to the extent of the presentation by a member of Parliament of the facts of any case in, which injustice has been done to a public servant. I have always been entirely opposed to the exercise of political influence to secure an officer's promotion. It was the abuse of political influence in that direction in connexion with the Public Services of; the States that induced this Parliament to place the public servants of the Commonwealth under a Commissioner. If I thought that there was an opportunity to obtain a remedy for some of the grievances which I might bring before the House, I would proceed with them; but, as to my mind nothing is likely to come from this discussion, I have only to add that the classification scheme is not all that some of us would desire it to be. {: #subdebate-3-0-s9 .speaker-KED} ##### Mr KENNEDY:
Moira -- I do not intend to deal with any of the details of the classification of the Public Service Commissioner. I fully realize, from past experience, that it would be hardly possible to find a body of men more incompetent to deal with a scheme of this kind in detail than is a Parliament. The work of the Commissioner has been a work of very great magnitude, but, having read his report, and having listened to a good deal of the criticism of his classification that has been made in this Chamber, I have come to the conclusion that there are no very serious objections to be made to the scheme. So far as I can judge, it is only in regard to matters of detail that criticism is justified at all, and, as I have said, it would be impossible for this House to satisfactorily deal with such matters. This Parliament framed the Public Service Act, providing for the administration of the Commonwealth Public Service by a Commissioner, with the deliberate intention of removing the service from political influence, and I am pleased to hear from the Minister of Home Affairs that the Act has been effective "n that direction. It is a good thing for the service, and for the public, if that is so. In my opinion, Parliament cannot review the work of the Commissioner except in regard to broad principles. For honorable members to go into details in regard to the classification, and to attempt to fix the rate of pay for any particular officer, would be an absolute absurdity. Having listened to what has been said in regard to the grievances which have been complained of, and having heard the statement of the Minister of Home Affairs that in every State, in one branch of the service, there has been a considerable increase in the rates of pay, more particularly so far as the lesser-paid public servants are concerned, I venture to express the opinion that it would be ridiculous for this House to attempt to improve on the work of the Commissioner. {: #subdebate-3-0-s10 .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON:
Moreton -- In common with other honorable members who have spoken on this subject, I agree that the Public Service Commissioner has undertaken a colossal work, which he has carried out very well. Like the honorable member for. Moira, I deprecate the introduction of individual cases into the discussion of the scheme, because I do not think that we can be too careful about preventing the operation of political influence in connexion with our public servants. Parliament, of course, should be the final court of appeal as between the Public . Service Commissioner and the officers who have to work under his control and direction ; but we must deal with general principles, as distinct from individual cases. We are, however, the representatives of the public servants just as we are the representatives of other sections of the community, and are therefore justified in stating our agreement with or objection to the general principles on which this classification of the service has been founded. While I do not profess to have any special expert knowledge, I have had something to do with organizations of employes, and I think that a mistake has been made in carrying the grading system too far. It is an old adage generally recommended to young persons just setting out in life that, however crowded the professions and occupations may be, there is always plenty of room at the top. But the effect of the grading system appears likely to be to take from the deserving and aspiring young officers in the service all incentive to strive to better their positions, because it practically forces them to wait for dead men's shoes, with the knowledge that they may die before those whose positions they hope to step into. There is nothing in such a state of affairs to stimulate those in the lower grades of the service to qualify themselves for higher positions. The grading system is calculated to destroy all incentive on the part of officers in the lower grades of the service to qualify themselves to occupy higher positions, to which they have a right to aspire. In a community like ours the highest positions should be open to any one in the service, provided that he proves his qualifications; but under the present system of grading it is almost impossible for an officer in the general division to secure a rate of wages such as an ordinary mechanic would receive. The position seems to have been rendered much more difficult by the action of the Commissioner in reducing a number of officers in the clerical division to the general division. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- The status of the officers who have been transferred from the clerical to the general division will be preserved, and whenever an opportunity occurs they will be re-appointed to the clerical division. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- The Minister is, I believe, voicing the intention of the Commissioner that the status of such officers should be preserved, but if the information I have received is correct, the regulation dealing with that matter will prove inoperative. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- No, it will not. That is a matter of administration. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- A barrister in New South Wales was asked if the officers who had1 been reduced from the clerical division would retain their former status, and his reply was that the status of officers as members of the clerical division under the State law was put an end to by their inclusion in the general division of the Commonwealth service. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- I think that it will be found that their status is preserved. However, I will make a note on the subject, and inquire further into it. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- The officers affected admit that the regulations provide lor the preservation of their status, but the legal opinions they have received indicate that the regulations would not hold good in law. One of the objections raised is that men who have been in the clerical division for a considerable time have had their status reduced and their position generally made worse, inasmuch as their hours of labour have been lengthened, their rates of pay for overtime have been reduced, and their annual increments are now calculated on a lower scale. They are not only injured in this respect, but they have helped to swell the ranks of the men in the general division, for whom the chances of promotion, even within their own grades, are exceedingly slight. By adding to the number of these men the opportunities for promotion to the maximum, which is practically represented by a salary of £126 per annum, have been still further reduced. 1 do not know that the objections I have urged would apply with equal force to the higher grades of the service, in which duties of a more onerous and responsible character have to be performed. In such cases it is no doubt necessary to inquire closely into the qualifications of the officers, and to take into account length of service, character, and other considerations. The Commissioner seems to have proceeded on these lines, because he has made it a condition that the fitness ot an applicant to fill any vacancy shall be proved before his appointment is made. One of the complaints made by the officers who have been reduced to the general division is that, after having passed certain examinations, and proved their fitness to perform clerical work, they have been reduced to an inferior status, and that in the event of a chance occurring for restoring them to the clerical division, they will have to begin in the very lowest grade, and, perhaps, occupy positions inferior to those held by others who were formerly their subordinates. I : am quite satisfied from my knowledge of the working of the public Department in which I was employed for a number of years, that if a spirit of discontent is fomented by regulations which have the effect I have indicated, we shall not receive the same effective service from our officers that we should do if it were made plain that the highest positions would be open to those who could show that they were qualified to fill them. If, as would appear from the regulations, a certain class of men are to be restricted to a certain class of work, no incentive will be afforded to officers to qualify themselves to fill higher positions. They will say, " The most I can hope for is to obtain a salary of ,£138, and I do not see the use of qualifying myself to fill a higher position, which I know I can never attain." The result will be a general falling off in efficiency. I understand that it is estimated that the proposed changes would involve an extra outlay of £100,000 per annum. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- That is, speaking generally. That estimate covers not only the proposed additional pay to letter-carriers, but also the increments which would have to be given to men in other classes. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- The figures with which I have been furnished relate' only to that portion of the general division in which the letter-carriers are classed. Calculations have been made showing that if the grading system were abolished, and the letter-carriers were permitted to rise to the positions of letter-sorters, and higher still, with annual increments of something like £3, extending over a term of twelve years, the granting of these increments would not involve more than a total expenditure of £20,000, which would be spread over a period of twelve years. I am1 not in a position to say how this system would operate with regard to the general division as a whole, but although it would involve the additional expenditure I have mentioned, I think we should get value for our money. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- All that we have to consider is whether it is just. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- We should have good value for our money, in the incentive that would thus be offered the men to. give ready and cheerful service. I wish now to draw attention to what appears to be an anomaly with regard to the regulations affecting the different States. My complaint applies more particularly to officers of the clerical division, and those to whom I have previously referred as having been reduced from the clerical to the general division. The following statement has been supplied to me by a representative of the clerical officers who have been reduced to the general branch: - >An officer receiving £180 per annum as his " fixed " salary, having been advanced in the general division to *£192* per annum, and desiring to take up his rightful position on the clerical staff, must do so at ^185, that being the bottom of the next grade on the clerical staff. Meanwhile, officers who were junior to him at ^180, and who retained their clerical positions, have become his seniors. The next sentence is that to which I desire to draw the special attention of the Minister - >This " fixed salary " provision does not appear to extend to South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. Why, therefore, to New South Wales and Queensland? {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Is the honorable member quoting from a document which has been circulated generally ? {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- I think it has, but I shall hand my copy to the Minister. I said at the outset of my remarks that I did not think it right to specify individual cases, and I do not intend to do so; but when we think that the general practice of the Commissioner's Department appears to conflict with even-handed justice, I hold that we have a right to say so - not because we may believe that an injustice has been willingly perpetrated, but because perhaps full information has not been conveyed to the Minister by those responsible. A matter affecting the female clerks under the classification has been brought under notice. I do not intend to deal with it at length, because I believe other honorable members will have something to say on the point ; but I distinctly remember that when the Public Service Bill was under consideration,; the intention of the House was that a woman who was doing work similar to that performed by a male employ^ should be treated just as he was. It was clearly the intention of the Parliament that service should be paid for regardless of sex. It appears to me that "that principle is not being observed, and that female officers are being penalized on account really of their sex. I do not say that that is so-a reasonable explanation will perhaps be forthcoming - but 1 mention the matter in order to add a little weight to what may fall from the lips of others in regard to the same question. The only other matter to which I shall refer is that which has been mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, regarding representations made by individual officers for transmission to the Commissioner. In the Public Services of the States it was only with extreme difficulty that a subordinate could get his representations conveyed to the head of his Department. After complying with all constitutional requirements, as well as with the departmental method of sending on a communication to his immediate superior officer, a man often found that his representations were suppressed on the way. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Such a thing is contrary to the regulations under the Federal Act. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- I do not know that this system prevails in connexion with the Commonwealth service, but it certainly existed in the Public Services of the States. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- I have caused inquiries to be made, and do not think that the practice is carried on in the Federal service. No complaint of the kind has been made. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr WILKINSON: -- I am not saying that the practice does exist in connexion with the Federal service; I trust that it never will. Every officer who has a grievance to bring under the notice of his Department should take action, through the proper channel.. He should first approach his immediate superiors, but in the event of an obstacle being placed in the way of his obtaining justice, he certainly has, in my opinion, the same right as is possessed by every citizen. Every citizen has a right, to lay his petition at the foot of the Throne, and I believe that in the circumstances I have just mentioned, every officer of the Public Service should have a right to lay his petition at the feet of the Commissioner himself. When he fails to get justice in that way, his final court of appeal is Parliament. I hope that there will be no occasion to complain that the system I have indicated prevails in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I have not heard of any cases of the kind, but there seems to be an impression, on the part of certain honorable members and others outside this Chamber, that an attempt has been made to introduce this objectionable practice into the Public Service of the Commonwealth; and that even when the representations of an officer with a grievance have reached the Commissioner, they have been so loaded with observations, recommendations, and remarks by the officers through whose hands the papers have passed that the prejudices Of these officers have penetrated the Commissioner's office, and the appellant has had but little chance of -success. I maintain that an officer, whether he be°a lettercarrier, a telegraph messenger, or any one else, has a right of appeal, through the proper channels, to the Commissioner, and that he should also be permitted to see what has been alleged against him in rebuttal of his claim. There may be difficulties in the way of doing this, but a prisoner on trial has a right to hear the evidence against him, and a (public officer should know what his superiors have had to say against any request made by him, or as to any charge made against him. I can only speak in complimentary terms of the great work which the Commissioner has accomplished. Even if there be a few faults in it, we must remember that "to err is human," and that one who could carry out such a colossal work without evidencing some little difficulties, would1 be something more than human. {: #subdebate-3-0-s11 .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH:
Corio -- I agree with the honorable member for Moreton as to the splendid work that has been accomplished by the Commissioner and his officers, but unless we can arrange that not only the terms, but the spirit, of the Act - the intentions of this House when it was passed - shall be carried out, we shall be constantly called upon to deal with the grievances of public officers. In order that every officer should be fairly treated, we decided that an appeal board should be created, but the statement which the honorable member for Bourke was able to extract from the Minister shows that even when public servants have successfully appealed to the board that was expressly appointed to take evidence, and see that justice was done, they have found that the Commissioner himself has a right to review the decision of that tribunal. In these circumstances', it seems to me that every man will be able to have a constant' grievance, which must be brought up in the House as the final court of grievances. In some cases the complaint of a man will be that' his "appeal, When heard and de-, tided for him, was not carried through, and in other cases a man will say that he did not appeal simply because he thought it would be of no use, as the Commissioner was really the position of High Court sitting in judgment on a Full Court, which had decided against him. That is a very unfortunate state of affairs. I trust that, quite apart from any special or general rights or grievances which public servants may have, the Minister, in the interests of the House and of keeping the Public Service clear from political influence, will see that when a man has successfully appealed he shall get what is his right, and what I am certain the House intended that he should get. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Section 50 of the Act throws the burden upon the Commissioner. He is only acting in accordance with the law. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- Yes, but that is a phase of the law which I am sure was not understood by the House at the time it was passed. It thought that it was appointing a competent board of appeal from the acts of the Commissioner. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- What is the good of a board or appeal in these circumstances ? {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- It is only a board of advice to the Commissioner. That is really what the Minister has decided. I do not think the honorable gentleman should allow the Commissioner to act upon a little phrase which escaped the attention of the House. I believe that under the Act the Minister has final power in all thesematters. If he will read the debates on the subject in the House he will find, if he is not already aware of it, that the intention was to create a board of appeal, and not merely a board of advice. As regards the general class of grievances against the reclassification scheme, I understand that he does not intend to come to any decision to-day, but proposes to refer to the Commissioner the *Hansard* report, and to ask him to reconsider his scheme in the light of this debate. Under these circumstances, I propose to read certain correspondence which has reached me. In the first place, I wish to refer to the position of some country postmistresses. On the 10th July, 1904, at their request, I put certain questionsto the Minister of Home Affairs. In the first place, I asked - >Has the Public Service Commissioner, in his classification scheme, classified Victorian postmistresses lower than postmistresses in New South Wales; and, if so, why? To that question I received this answer - >As the principle was followed of not reducing any salary paid under the State regulations, it will be found that some postmistresses in New South Wales are paid higher than those in Victoria. To have raised every officer to the maximum salary would have entailed a very largely increased expenditure. That is an admission by the Commissioner that in these cases, although similar work is being done, postmistresses are paid less in Victoria than in New South Wales. The replies to the other questions I asked on that occasion I do not wish to read in detail. I only propose to read the replies which were made to the answers to my questions, so that they may appear in *Hansard,* and be considered by the Commissioner - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. I fail to understand what the Commissioner means by gradual increases. If such were intended why fix the salaries of postmistresses and grade the offices? According to the reclassification, the only prospect for promotion is, through the death or retirement of officers in the higher grades. Only one of our number can advance. From past experience, we know what a forlorn hopethis is. With fourteen officers in highest, twenty-six in intermediate, and forty-nine in lowest grade, there exists little hope for officers in lowest ever reaching the highest grade. 1. The postmistresses are willing to accept the risk of being displaced by male telegraphists, provided similar opportunities for advancing are given to them. Many of the postmistresses are skilled telegraphists, and could undertake telegraphists' duties. Granted that there are some postmistresses who are inefficient telegraphists, a similar fact is applicable to some of the postmasters. 2. Why not give postmistresses a similar opportunity as is given to telegraphists by passing an examination to demonstrate their efficiency as telegraphists? Postmistresses and telegraphists hold similar certificates. The efficient majority should not be penalized for the sake of inefficient few. I have always understood that only one standard of efficiency in telegraphy existed for both classes of officers. 3. Under the reclassification, the postmistresses at Brighton and Footscray have been replaced by postmasters receiving£260 per annum. The postmistresses were receiving£150 per annum. This fact shows that some of the Victorian postmistresses were underpaid. A further criticism reads as follows: - >The Commissioner evidently desires to depreciate the value of women's labour. We perform similar duties and obey same regulations as postmasters. Should we commit a breach of the regulations no leniency is extended on account of sex, nor do we expect it. We do not ask to be paid at same rate as postmasters. We only ask what we consider a fair reward for our services. The next matter has already been referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and that is the position of female clerks under the reclassification scheme. 1 do not know whether the Minister has received a copy of the circular I propose to read. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- I "have. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- Then I will not read it, and trust that the honorable gentleman will give his consideration to the circular, even though it will not appear in *Hansard.* I understand that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne was requested to state the position which these ladies desire to put before the Minister. I regret that my honorable and learned friend is not here at this minute, and therefore I would like the Minister to make a note of the fact that these ladies consider that they are being unjustly treated. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- I shall take that mattei into consideration. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- All I promised to' do was to support any representations which the honorable and learned member might put forward. 1 would ask the Minister to listen to the following statement of the case of one of these ladies : - >My case (though, as I said, I do not wish it made prominent as a special case), shows the anomaly existing where a qualified clerical officer of twenty years clerical service has complied wilh every direction, as far as examinations are concerned, and is now performing duties to be classed under the reclassification report as General Division, and thus will, according to reclassification scheme, receive the salary of a General Division officer while performing duties classed in the General Division, though entitled to rise by annual increments to the maximum salary of a fifth class clerical officer. In regard to telegraph operators, one Western Australian representative officer puts his case thus. - > The Commonwealth Public Service Regulations set down that the maximum of the 5th class telegraphists is j£i6o, and the minimum of the 4th class is ^185 per annum. Under this particular regulation, telegraphists naturally anticipated (those who were on a salary between those classes, such as my own, ^170) that they would be brought up to the minimum of the 4th class, because", as we stood, we were in no particular class, and uniformity did not exist. However, our Commissioner, **Mr. Green,** has given it out that, as we are in receipt of more than ^160 per annum, and less than £185, we are over-paid officers, being classed as 5th class officers. I would like to know on what logical grounds we can be termed overpaid officers. Some of us were in receipt of ;£r7o prior to the Commonwealth Constitution, so I take it as a piece of presumption on **Mr. Green's** part to say we are over paid. > >As the Commonwealth Public Service Regulation clearly defines the minimum and maximum - ^185 and ^160 for 4th and 5th class tele graphists, respectively, can you find out, in the interest of myself and a number of others in Western Australia, if we are likely to have our state of indefiniteness removed through being lifted to the minimum of the 4th class. It seems to be an extraordinary thing that, although these telegraphists are set down as 4th class officers, they are paid a salary that does not even reach to a 4th class rate. The salary received is less than that set opposite the class to which they belong. The only other matter which I wish to mention is in regard to the letter-carriers, to whose case the honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports have addressed themselves. It seems 'to me to be a very unfortunate thing indeed that the grading system has been adopted. Perhaps the Minister is not aware that grading was tried in Victoria, and abandoned. It was in force in this State from 1890 to 1892. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- It is provided for in the Commonwealth Public Service Act. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- I could understand a system of grading whereby a certain man should receive a lower salary than that paid to another man who had a longer term of service. But the grading system, as adopted in the Commonwealth service, is not fair. Whatever the Commissioner may say, the Minister will recognise that it is unfair to establish the possibility of any man not being able to get to the top of his class, however long his service. From statements that have been put into my hands, and which I have no doubt have been referred to in detail in the course of the debate, it appears that there is a maximum of £138. In some of the States the maximum was £150. In the case of *Bond.* v. *the King,* it was shown that in South Australia there was a maximum of .£150. In Victoria, as was shown in Bond's case, when the Commonwealth came into existence, there was a maximum of £150 legally required and consequently paid. Such was also the case in New South Wales. Reading the decision in *Bond v. the King,* with the Constitution, it seem's to me that these officers have a right to work up to a maximum of *£150.* Is the Public Service Commissioner going to have a class of men who can get up to £150, and another class for whom the maximum is to be £132 ? This Parliament, I admit, can,, by taking certain steps to amend the Constitution, deprive these men of the rights which they have under the Constitution. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- Surely this Parliament cannot take their rights away from them? {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- That is a legal question. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- They could be taken away, if we took the proper legal steps provided for by the Constitution itself for its amendment. But seeing that three States at the time the Constitution came into force had a maximum of £150, and also that it is a good thing that a salary of £150 should be within each officer's reach, even though he had to wait until he attained the age of fifty-five or sixty to get it, it is not desirable that the maximum of £132 should be retained. The letter-carriers do not desire that there shall be any rush to the top of the class. I am told that they will accept any increment, so long as one is provided. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- They even suggested *-£3* a year. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- That sum certainly is not excessive, seeing that in Victoria the increment allowed by the regulations was £6 a year. {: .speaker-KFK} ##### Mr Groom: -- Was an increment of £6 a year paid in Victoria regularly? {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- I do not say that there were regular increments to that extent, but there were such increments in some positions, and £6 a year was also the amount in South Australia. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports says that *£5* a year would be accepted by the letter-carriers. I am not putting it in the form of a bargain, but rather as a claim that what is right should be granted to these men. There should be a total abolition of 'all grades for men receiving less than £132 per annum. If the Minister likes to have a sort of top class, it could be done, but it should be possible for a man's salary to be raised up to £150 by regular increments. After seeing the circular which has been issued, I had an interview with one gentleman who knows something about the matter, and he told me that there was no request that annual increments should be provided for those receiving less than the minimum of £110. The Act already sufficiently provides for them, as if they start at *j£6o,* they must rise in three years to /no. There are some men who entered the service between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, and the maximum for that class is £110. The minimum for a man who has been three years in the service is £110. Therefore, there need not be a maximum salary for men who are under twenty-one years of age. Seeing that a large number of those men do enter the service, there is no doubt that the minimum of £60 should be maintained, and I do not think any proper attack can be made on such a suggestion. If a man is to get ,£110 per annum when he is twenty-one years of age, and after three years' service, there must be some minimum wage for him before he has fulfilled those conditions. I ask the Minister to see that the term "assistant letter-carrier" is not applied. Personally, I should like to see the grades abolished ; but at any rate, when a man has been a letter-carrier, it is rather a reproach or a reflection on him to term him an assistant letter-carrier. The position is somewhat analogous to that of a sergeant in the Defence Force, for whom, on the score of economy or some other ground, a position in his own rank cannot be found ; but in the army there is a sentiment which prevents such a person, although he may be actually only performing the duties and receiving the pay of a corporal, from being deprived of his sergeant's stripes. The only time when a sergeant has one of his stripes removed is when he has been guilty of some misconduct. Another analogous case might be found if in this House only exMinisters of the Crown were entitled to be called "members," all the rest being termed "assistant members." This is not a mere matter, of cash, the letter-carriers having a strong sentiment that when they have once been letter-carriers, they should not be degraded in the public eye. The men feel the injustice so much that, if their views cannot be met, they are ready to return, if desired, to the State salaries, as being more equitable and just right throughout the Commonwealth. If the whole of the lettercarriers would be better satisfied with the old conditions, it is evident that, in their opinion, they suffer from a great injustice. I should now like to direct the Minister's attention to the way in which the Public Service Commissioner has classified his own office. In that office there are one first-class clerk, one second-class clerk, three thirdclass clerks, seven fourth-class clerks, and only four fifth-class clerks. Apart from the four fifth-class clerks, every man in that office seems to be superior to the men in other Departments, where the bulk of the clerks are of the fifth-class. Dealing only with the central staffs of each Department, I find that in the Defence Department there are two first-class clerks, one third- class clerk, three fourth-class clerks, and two fifth-class clerks. The percentage of officers of the first, second, and third classes on the central staff of the Defence Department is 37 5 ; in the Public Service Commissioner's office, 32 ; in the Post and Telegraph Department, 23-1 ; in the Audit Office, 316 ; in the Department of External Affairs, 28-6 ; in the Department of Home Affairs, 20 ; in the Customs Department, 25 ; and in the Treasury, 20. I suppose that the Treasury is the most important Department, and that, though the staff is only small, every member of it is an expert ; and yet only 20 per cent, of the officers are of the first, second, and third classes. The only staff on which there is an officer of the second-class is that of the Public Service Commissioner. I have too much respect for that gentleman to suggest that he has too-highly staffed his own office ; but, on the face of them, the figures I have quoted are very strange. The average salary in the office, of the Public Service Commissioner is £208, as against £149 in the Customs Department, and £148 in the Treasury. As a matter of fact, every thirdclass officer on each of the central staffs, except that of the Public Service Commissioner, would have to go outside his own office in order to get promotion, seeing that there are no second-class positions to fill. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- Does that not arise from the fact that the Public Service Commissioner's staff is small, and purely administrative ? {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- I should say that the most administrative staff is that of the Treasury, which has no large departments behind it, and works through subaccountants paid by the States; indeed, I should say that the staff of the Treasury is the most concentrated and administrative of the lot. As compared with the staff of the Public Service Commissioner, the staff of the Treasury consists of one first-class clerk, three third-class clerks, six fourthclass clerks, and ten fifth-class clerks - a total of twenty ; and the percentage of officers in the first, second, and third classes is twenty, while the average salary, as I stated before, is £148, or £60 below the average salary paid in the office of the Public Service Commissioner. {: .speaker-F4S} ##### Mr JOSEPH COOK:
PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906; LP from 1910; NAT from 1917 -- That may mean that the work of one office is more susceptible of grading than the work in another office. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- I will make the comparison with any central staff that the honorable member for Parramatta likes to name. The Department of Home Affairs has a large central staff, and controls a number of what might be called outside dependent departments. {: .speaker-L0Y} ##### Mr Wilkinson: -- There is also the Electoral Office. {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- The remarks I have made also apply to the Department of Home Affairs, the Customs Department, and the Audit Office. I am glad to see that the Minister has taken up a reasonable position. My desire was to have the whole of the classification scheme dealt with like a Bill in Committee - -though I see the Minister does not like the suggestion - so that each page might be discussed on its merits. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- -How long does the honorable and learned member expect to live? {: .speaker-K7U} ##### Mr CROUCH: -- It would be well for the Minister to note that what we are doing now will save discussion on the Estimates, because, unless anomalies are adjusted, these questions must arise year after year. I put it to the Minister that it would mean a saving of time to the House and to the country if the appeal board were permitted to do the work which Parliament intended it to do. If the Minister does not change the attitude of the Public Service Commissioner in this respect, Parliament, as the final court of appeal, will continue to be invoked by public servants who believe they have grievances, and their cases will have to be dealt with at length in the discussion of the Estimates. I believe that the better plan would have been to have had the classification scheme considered in Committee, as that would have saved a great deal of discussion on the Estimates. We have the promise of the Minister that the matters to which reference has been made in this debate will be given consideration. I am sorry to have troubled the House with so many different questions, but in every case to which I have referred the complaint raised has been a representative grievance of a class, and not of an individual. {: #subdebate-3-0-s12 .speaker-L1N} ##### Mr WILSON:
Corangamite -- I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister a matter affecting letter-carriers in the country, who appear to have been placed at a disadvantage as compared with officers doing similar work in the large cities. Men who were for many years seniors amongst letter-carriers have not been raised to the position of sorters under the classification scheme, as they were led to expect. This seems to have been brought about through letter-carriers in the larger cities having been appointed acting sorters, although junior to letter-carriers employed in the country districts, and the latter have thus been deprived of opportunities of promotion. Many of the acting sorters, although really letter-carriers, are under the scheme classified a grade higher than men who were their seniors on the list of letter-carriers. The result has been that men in the country are left stranded, without any hope of the promotion to which they have been looking forward, in some cases for twenty years. I rather think that the Commissioner is placed in a somewhat autocratic position. As the honorable and learned member for Corio has just pointed out, appeals against his recommendations are heard under the Act, and then he is allowed to say whether he will accept the judgments of the appeal board or not. He is really, therefore, in the position of an autocrat. It would appear that we have given too much power to one man, though I should not be prepared to advocate or agree to the proposal suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corio, as I prefer that the session should terminate, if not by an immediate dissolution of both Houses, at least by the transaction of the business which the Government have to put before us some time before Christmas. If we were to take the classification scheme through Committee in the same way as a Bill, I am afraid that the Parliament itself would have expired by effluxion of time before we should have concluded its consideration. There are some other matters in connexion with which' assistants in country post-offices would seem to have been unjustly treated, but, unfortunately, there would appear to be no redress for them. I desire specially to bring under the notice of the Minister the grievance of letter-carriers in the country, who have not had an opportunity to obtain promotion, although they are perfectly willing to undergo the examination required for sorters, as to a knowledge of the towns and districts in the Commonwealth. In some cases men very high up on the list as lettercarriers have lost, apparently for ever, all chance of promotion in this particular direction. I shall not detain the House on this occasion with a reference to any other matters. {: #subdebate-3-0-s13 .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES:
West Sydney -- The classification scheme which has been brought up by the Public Service Commissioner is a work of such magnitude as might well have called forth a great deal of criticism, seeing that practically it devolved upon the Commissioner to investigate the claims and determine the status of some thousands of public servants throughout the Commonwealth, and that, in a comparatively short time. That such a scheme should not be perfect, was only to be expected, and that Parliament is both legally and actually incapable of dealing with anomalies and injustices which arise under the scheme is also apparent. While we may say that the scheme, as a whole, is a very good one, that does not alter the fact that there are, relatively, a very large number of cases in which injustice has been done to individuals, and serious anomalies present themselves. I am not at all sure as to the meaning of section 9 of the Public Service Act. It provides that - >The Commissioner shall recommend to the GovernorGeneral for determination the division class, sub-division of class, or grade of every officer, and shall- keep a record of all officers, showing, with regard to each officer, his age and length of service, the office he holds, and his division class, sub-division of class, or grade and salary under this Act. It does not say how many times the Commissioner is to make his recommendation, when he is to do it, whether he must, if necessary, do it regularly, or when he thinks fit. It merely says that he shall do it, and it is then provided that - where the Governor-General does not approve any such recommendation, a statement of the reasons for not approving, and for requiring a fresh recommendation, shall be laid before The Parliament. 1 apprehend that that means shortly that if the Government, after hearing the reasons put forward by the public servants themselves, by their representatives, or by the representatives of the people in Parliament, come to the conclusion that the scheme is not a good one, or is undesirable, it will be referred back to the Commissioner. Whether it is to be referred back to the Commissioner as a whole, or in part, is not quite clear from the section. It would certainly appear that there is nothing to prohibit the scheme being referred back to the Commissioner for further consideration in sections. That it could not be referred back, as far as individual cases are concerned is, I think, certain. It is not now my intention to review the scheme as a whole. But a word or two may not be out of place in regard to some of the matters of which other honorable members have spoken, as well as in regard to matters which have not been put before the House. I think that an injustice has been done to the letter-carriers of the Commonwealth, and to those in the general division of the Public Service, by the determination of the Commissioner to regard the minimum wage provided for in the Act as the maximum. A salary of £110 per year is a better salary than *j£6o* or £80 per year, and before the amendment moved by the honorable member for Yarra, and providing for the payment of the minimum salary of £110 to all who had reached the age of twenty-one, and had complied with certain conditions, took effect, there were cases to my knowledge in which lettercarriers who had been for sixteen years in the service of the State of New South Wales, were being paid only £60 or £70 per year. {: .speaker-KWL} ##### Mr Tudor: -- It was the same in the Victorian service. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- Those officers are now receiving ;£no per year, but it was not intended that that should be the largest salary given to their class. That amount was fixed by Parliament as a minimum, I apprehend, under the impression that it was the lowest wage on which a man might bring up a family decently. Surely we are not to think that Parliament intended that a wage should be fixed on which a man could not do that. It has been said by a gentleman of great standing in this country, that marriage is a luxury, and it is one that many pay dearly for indulging in; but after the revelations which have been made in regard to the declining birth-rate of the country, and the need of population, everything that can be done should be done to promote our civic welfare by providing conditions under which our citizens may bring up their families decently and well. It is useless to ask people to come here from other countries while our own people cannot marry and rear families, and are therefore driven or drift into courses which are, to say the least of them, highly undesirable and immoral. It would appear from what one can gather, that there is a system now existing in the Postal Department which practically prohibits the promotion of letter-carriers. They are utterly unable to obtain a higher salary than .£138 per annum. They are asking that in the fulness of time they may be allowed to reach the salary of *£1* 50 per annum, which is not an extraordinary request, nor one which it ought to be impossible to comply with. It should be the business of this Parliament to see that those who put their lives at the disposal of the State' shall, in the fulness of time, receive a salary of at least £150 a year. Any scheme which does not provide for promotion, except when vacancies are caused by death, will not do justice to a very large section of the service. It is said by many of those who oppose' the extension of the functions of the State, that the State is an extravagant employer, but on the facts before us, it is a penurious employer, which has been in the habit of sweating its officers to an extent to which no large private employer would, be guilty. The plan now being pursued, is to keep men down to the wretched minimum that complies with the letter of the law. But the spirit, as well as the letter of the law, must be observed, and it would be acting in accordance with the spirit of the law to give every employe who does his duty faith fully and well, an opportunity for advancement. In my opinion, the Commissioner should be allowed to reconsider that part of the classification which prevents the promotion of letter-carriers to a salary of *£150* per annum. There should be no grading until that limit is reached. At that salary, we pass what I. may term the limit of mere subsistence. I say emphatically, in face of the fact that thousands of persons manage on less, that £3 per week is little enough to keep a wife and family on. It has been my lot lately to deal with men who get considerably less than £3 per week, ,and how they exist is a conundrum to me, although,, perhaps, I know more of their circumstances , than does any one else. It would appearthat injustice is also being done by th'isclassification to some officers who were in the clerical division, but have now been, placed in the general division. Paragraph 3. of section 84 of the Constitution Act, says, in regard to transferred officers - >Any such officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, and shall be entitled to retire from office at the time, and on the pension or retiring allowance, which would be permitted by the law of the State if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service, with the State. Such pension or retiring allowance shall be paid to him by the Commonwealth; but the State shall pay to the Commonwealth a part thereof, to be calculated on the proportion which his term of service with the State bears to his whole term of service, and for the purpose of the calculation his salary shall be taken to be that paid to him by the State at the time of the transfer. That provision is perfectly clear, but, notwithstanding, a large number of men have been removed by the Commissioner from the clerical to the general division, although the work which they do is precisely the same as that which they did when in the service of the States. They are supposed to retain the status of officers in the clerical division, but status is not merely a matter of book entry. It depends on treatment, and upon the enjoyment of rights and possibilities, and, in my opinion, there has been a change of status in these cases, and the accruing or existing rights of these transferred officers have not been preserved to them. One of the accruing rights of officers in the clerical division is the right to promotions, increments, or increases available to members of that division, but these officers have been deprived of these rights' by being removed to the general division. Let me give a case in point. A number of officers who formerly belonged to. the clerical division, and who are now engaged in the general division of the Post Office in New. South Wales as officers in the mail branch, complain, and very rightly, that they are denied such increments as belong by law to the division in which they were previously classed, and that they are permitted to enjoy only such increments as belong to the general' division. By section 84 of the Constitution Act they are entitled to retain their existing and accruing rights. One of their accruing rights is the title to such promotion as belongs to the division in which they were previously classed, whereas they now have only such . opportunities of promotion as attach to the general division. This is a matter of some importance to them in money alone. For instance, if these officers were to retire, would they be entitled to the retiring allowance fixed for officers in the general division, or to that given to officers in the clerical division ? The Public Service Commissioner has taken advantage of the provisions of section 20 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act to grade these officers at a fixed salary. Section 20 reads, as. follows: - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act the Governor-General may, on the recommendation, of the Commissioner, fix by order the rate of. salary to be paid to- an officer occupying any particular office at any sum within the limits of bis class or grade, and such sum shall be the salary attached to such officer while he holds such office. 1. No order shall be made so as to diminish the rate of salary received by the occupant of any office at the time of making such order. A number of officers in New South Wales have been brought under the operation of this section, and have been given a fixed salary. One of the peculiarities of their present position is that no sort of promotion can be obtained by them outside of the particular division in which they are now placed, and I venture to say that the provision in the Act which I have just quoted was never intended to apply in the way that the Commissioner has applied if. In effect, that section is now applied in such a way as to deprive a number of officers of the rights to which they are entitled under section 84 of the Constitution, and under corresponding sections of the Public Service Act. The question whether these officers retain their status in the clerical division after having been drafted to the general division was referred for ;the opinion of two well-known Sydney barristers - **Dr. Cullen** and **Mr. Langer** Owen. Their reply was : - >The status of these officers of the clerical division as members of the clerical division under the State laws is put an end to by their inclusion in the general division under the Federal law. Therefore, the opinion of these two barristers, whose opinions as constitutionalists are worth v of some consideration, is most emphatically that the officers so transferred have lost their status. Under section 84 of the Constitution, they cannot be deprived of their St*US, and therefore any action that may have that effect is *ultra vires:* If you grade a man in- the general division, his status cannot be retained merely by placing opposite his name the letter C. You might as well put- a man in gaol and place opposite his name the letter F to signify' that he was free. He would not be free all the same. {: .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr Higgins: -- Were counsel asked as to the effect of section. 84 of the .Constitution ? {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- I shall reply' to that question .presently. You cannot retain the status of these men by merely placing the letter C opposite their names, and if the. Commissioner has caused them to for- feit their status everything that has been done in that direction is *ultra vires.* I am not expressing my own .opinion,, but I am merely quoting the opinion of the two barristers whom I have named. It may be pointed out that section 84 of the Constitution has been violated, owing to the fact that lower increments are paid1 in the general division than in the clerical division, that the hours of work, overtime, pay, and the general regulations are different. The increment in the clerical division is from £20 to £25 per annum,, whereas in the general division it is £6 per annum. The working hours in the clerical division are 68 per fortnight, whereas in the general division they are from 88 to 93 per fortnight. These comparisons show that the officers who have been transferred have forfeited rights which existed at the time ,of transfer, or which would accrue by virtue of their hold.ing a certain status. Not only has this removal involved injustice to the officers who have been transferred, but also to the officers properly belonging to the general division, because the clerical officers have been sandwiched in amongst men whose chances of promotion are thereby lessened. Not only have the chances of promotion of the clerical officers been lessened, but the increments to which they are entitled are very much smaller than previously. There seems no reason why this should have been done. Further, it would appear that fixed salaries have been adopted only in New South Wales and Queensland. In the other States that principle does not appear to have been applied. {: .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr Higgins: -- We have fixed salaries here, too. {: .speaker-DQC} ##### Mr HUGHES: -- I shall now quote the exact questions that were submitted to counsel. They are as follow : - - {: type="1" start="1"} 0. Whether the transferred officers, being classified as clerks, and being assigned duties in the General Division, forego 'the increments of salary which would accrue to them had they retained their former clerical position? 1. Do they retain their clerical status if they are to be governed by the General Division Regulations ? 2. Can the clerical status -be considered as retained if the designations of " Despatching Officer," " Sorter," and Senior Assistant," call upon them to perform duties of an inferior nature to those performed by them as clerks at the time of reclassification? 3. If counsel is of opinion that the classification has affected the status and rights of the officers, is such in contravention of section 84 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act? The opinion given by, counsel was that what had been done was opposed to section 84 of the Constitution - that is to say, that the officers had not retained their existing and accruing rights as provided for in section 84. I think this matter ought to be brought under the notice of the Public- Service Commissioner, and that he and this Parliament ought to express' their emphatic opinion that these men have not forfeited their clerical status. If it should appear that the opinion I have quoted is borne out, a case ought to be cited for decision by the High Court, so that these1 men may know their position. I do not think Parliament ever intended that men should' lose their status, or that such conditions should have been imposed as have been laid down by the Public Service Commissioner. With all due deference to the Commissioner, and fully realizing the difficulties of his position, and' the enormous- extent of his labours, I think we shall act wisely 'if we seek the decision of the High Court. In the event of our finding that these men have forfeited their rights, Parliament should be asked to pass an amending Act restoring to them their rights and placing them in a proper position. The case of an officer in the Department of External Affairs rather calls for comment. In the *Gazette* of - Friday, 23rd June last, giving an amendment of classification, the result of an appeal by L. F. Foenander as to classification,' is notified. The classification of his position was reduced from class 3 to class 4, " appellant to retain, present classified salary." The present classified salary is £310 per annum, but the salary allotted to the position is only. £185 per annum. I utterly fail to see why a man who is receiving £310 per year should be asked to do work that is worth only £185 per annum. A very great injustice has been done to this officer. There could hardly have been that inquiry into the nature of his duties and his qualifications that the matter demands, and I am sure that the Commissioner, on further investigation, will see that such an injustice ought to be rectified. In other respects, the officers of the Depart*ment of External Affairs- appear to have been treated anything but generously', or even fairly, and I do certainly say. that in all these matters the ' Commissioner ought to have an opportunity to review the position, and amend the classification.- if he thinks fit. The status of the clerical officers should be definite. If necessary, a case should be stated for the High Court by the Government.. A friendly case might be stated by one of the officers, and their position in that way could be established. As to the letter-carriers and the general division as a whole, I desire to emphasize what I have already said, that it was, never intended that the minimum salary should become the maximum, and that every opportunity, consistent with the good government of the service and of the country, should be afforded these officers to rise till they obtain £150 per annum. {: #subdebate-3-0-s14 .speaker-KDD} ##### Mr G B EDWARDS:
SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT -71 desire, in the first place, to express ray regret that this Parliament has seen any necessity to review the classification scheme after divesting itself of all the trouble connected with Public Service appointments, by creating the office of Commissioner. But since we have entered upon a discussion of some of the decisions of the Commissioner, that we do not feel we can altogether indorse, I wish to emphasize the point made by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, in regard to the alterations that have been made in the status of some of our public officers. I refer particularly to those employed in what is known as the mail branch of the Post-office. This very branch, in New South Wales at all events, has given us some of the best qualified and most highly-prized officers in the service. The Commissioner now, for reasons which are probably very good in themselves, but which, so far as the officers are concerned, are certainly inequitable, has decided that the mail branch shall be removed from the clerical to the general division. This course is to be taken, notwithstanding that the officers in the branch have qualified for the clerical division, in consonance with all the rules laid down, not only by the Commonwealth Public Service Act, but by the Public Service Acts of the States, and for years have occupied certain positions with the clear understanding that they were in the clerical division. They are to be disrated, however, and will thus be deprived pf many of the privileges and pecuniary gains that appertain to the clerical branch of the service. They will lose their annual increments, as well as certain holidays, and other rewards which are naturally given in a greater degree to the more highly qualified members of the service, or to those who are submitted to a greater stress than others. They naturally .consider that they have a grievance. I am one of those who believe that Parliament, having intrusted the work of classification to the Commissioner, should interfere as little as possible with his decisions. No doubt we did wisely in divesting ourselves of all patronage, and of the power to interfere with the status and advancement of our officers ; but if the Commissioner, in the exercise of his discretion, thinks fit to decide that officers recognised hitherto as possessing a certain status shall no longer enjoy that status,, because of the duties they discharge, we must protect the rights of those who, under a different system, were led to believe that the occupation of certain positions entitled them to the rewards appertaining to .the higher grades of the Public Service. As the honorable and learned member for West Sydney said, these men have a constitutional right to the recognition of the status which they held prior to their transfer from the Public Service of the various States. A singular act of injustice will be done if they are disrated, and thus lose all the advantages of the positions they have occupied. If the Commissioner in his wisdom thinks it right that the mail branch, or any other section of the service should be placed in a different division, I; for one, am prepared to say that he is better qualified than I am to decide to what division certain officers should belong. But neither the Commissioner nor any one else is better qualified than I am to pronounce a decision with regard to an act of injustice. If these men have occupied certain positions, carrying certain emoluments, and a certain status, it is wrong to interfere with that status, merely to bring about the reorganization of the Department. I am willing to admit that if, with regard to the future, the mail branch is considered to be one which by reason of. the lesser demand that it makes upon the qualifications of its officers should be reduced to a lower grade, it should be so reduced. But as a matter of equity and good conscience, and, what is more, as a matter of constitutional right, the position which these officials occupied prior to their transfer to the Federal service should be recognised. Although I am as loath as .any -man to interfere with the free action of the Commissioner in re-organizing the Federal service, I hope that the Minister who has listened to this debate will be able to convey to him the opinion of many honorable members, that whatever may be necessary in regard to the future, we cannot afford to depart from those principles of justice which should always actuate us. We are bound to acknowledge and preserve the accrued rights of civil servants as a matter of both justice and constitutional law, and as soon as it is possible to remove the officers to other positions, where their qualifications can be recognised. In strong support of that view, I would mention that the present Deputy Postmaster-General, and several others of our best officials in New South Wales were employed in the mail branch for a considerable time. When other officers were offered appointments to the mail branch, very naturally they thought that, as certain officers had been promoted therefrom to the highest position in the Public ^Service, they would risk nothing in accepting the offer. But when the Commissioner came, down with a decision that, because these men, in his opinion - and probably this was a very wise and necessary qualification - were . doing work which was not of the importance of the higher status in the service, should be degraded, they felt that their rights were being ignored. I submit that it is necessary for both the Commissioner and the House to see that justice is done to individuals, and that no mistakes which have been made shall be rectified at the expense of rights and privileges which are enjoyed in justice and equity under the Constitution by those officers who served under a different system or decision prior to the days of Federation. {: #subdebate-3-0-s15 .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr HIGGINS:
Northern Melbourne -- 1 think the Government is pursuing a wise policy in allowing this discussion, and I recognise the wisdom of it all the more inasmuch as the course pursued was the one proposed to be taken by the Watson Ministry. I regard it as a kind of safety valve to let escape a seething and increasing volume of discontents. There are bound to be discontents under this new scheme, affecting, as it does, thousands of persons and their families throughout the Commonwealth. We delegated to an officer of high qualifications and standing the duty that we had of fixing the positions and the remuneration of our officers, numbering some thousands. He has discharged that duty with great efficiency, on the whole, and with great care. But, at the same time, there is bound to be friction; it cannot be helped. I feel sure that, although this discussion may appear at first sight to be aimless, and may perhaps result in little or nothing, still the mere fact that certain grievances have been ventilated will have a useful effect upon those who are affected by what is called the reclassification - a word which does not occur once in the Public Service Act. There is no reclassify cation authorized by the Act. All that it' authorizes is a recommendation by the Commissioner to the Governor-General in Council as to the dividing and subdividing of officers by. classes and1 so forth. It must be remembered, and it cannot be too strongly emphasized, that this is a recommendation to the Governor-General in Council for its determination, and that it cannot come into effect unless Ministers adopt it. It is not for the Parliament to adopt it. Ministers must take the responsibility of saying, as to each part and as to the whole, whether they will adopt it or not? The Ministers are here, and are responsible to the House. We are intimating to Ministers, who have the final approval or disapproval, what we approve of and what we do not approve of. It is a position of responsibility which they cannot evade. They have to ask the Governor-General to sign or not to sign. That being the position, many questions have been raised as to the expediency of certain alterations. That is very legitimate, but we ought to keep-t-he question of expediency altogether apart from the question as to whether the alterations are valid, whether they have any operative force. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs to inform the House whether or not he has made up his mind that the rights to salary and other privileges which' existed when Federation came into force are to be treated as existing, notwithstanding this so-called classification scheme. Because that question is bound to be raised, and so far as I could gather, is bound to be raised in the Courts. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- That is the place to settle it. {: .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr HIGGINS: -- Yes, but I want Honorable members to keep the two classes of ideas separate. By the Public Service Act the Commissioner is given tremendous powers over the livelihoods and over the lives of thousands of persons. And while we do not intend, so far as I know, to go back upon the scheme which is embodied in the Public Service Act, and while we shall give our moral and other support to the Commissioner so long as we know that he is doing his duty diligently and faithfully, we must carefully keep ourselves from the position of accepting hil statement that he can interfere with existing salaries. I do not intend to go into that question at length in the House, because this is not the place for its consideration. But I would ask the Minister 'not only to considerthe following provision in section. 84 of the Constitution:- >Any such officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, but also to refer to what we put into section 60 of the Public Service Act, where we find almost word for word the same provision. So that even if we had under the Constitution a power to affect existing and accruing rights we, in the Public Service Act, have preserved them. The section provides : - > >Where a Department of the Public Service of a State has become transferred to the Commonwealth, every officer of such Department who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth, or > >where any officer in the Public, Railway,or other service of a State is transferred to the Public Service of the Commonwealth, every officer so transferred, shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, and shall be entitled to retire from office at the time and on the pension or retiring allowance which would be permitted by the law of the State from which he was transferred if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with such State. So that there is a great deal to be said for the view that this classification scheme, even if it were the most perfect within the competence of man, even if it were the best scheme that could be conceived, must be read subject to the rights of existing officers. I wish now to refer to the point of expediency with regard to a certain class of people who cannot speak for themselves. I ask the Minister to consider the ridiculous mode in which female clerks have been treated under this scheme. You may have a female clerk doing the same kind of work as a male clerk, in the same room, but she is treated as being in the general division, whilst the male clerk is treated as being in the clerical division. Of course the result is that, as the privileges and increments of the clerical division are higher than those of the general division, the female clerk is kept down. If she applies to be put in the clerical division, she is told " No." The only clerks who can be promoted to the clerical division are males. These female clerks have to pass the minimumwage examination as well as the clerical examination, and they are fully qualified. They go through the same ordeal as do the male clerks; yet they are entirely differently treated. They find that males who come into the same office as themselves, at a later date, are put into superior positionsover them. In the clerical division theycan rise, by annual increments, to a salary of £160 per annum; but by virtus of being in the general division, their maximum is £120. I suggest to the Minister that, in working out this scheme, and the recommendations of honorable members, he should not merely hand over to the Public Service Commissioner a copy of *Hansard,* and ask him to read it. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- He could not gather the feeling of honorable members from *Hansard.* {: .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr HIGGINS: -- I should like to have a photograph of the honorable member's feelings. The Minister of Home Affairs will no doubt recognise that the Government cannot put all the responsibility on the shoulders of the Public Service Commissioner. He has done his work, and done it well. It is now the business of the Government to consider the grievancesthat have been referred to, and to say that they approve of what the Public Service Commissioner has done, or that they do not. If they do not approve of it, I hope they will say so, and will lay on the table of the House their reasons for disapproving. {: #subdebate-3-0-s16 .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- I cannot help observing that the criticisms on the reclassification scheme expressed by two ex-Ministers - namely, the honorable and learned member for West Sydney and the honorable arid learned member for Northern Melbourne - are rather belated, because, as a matter of fact, notwithstanding all the alleged defects of the scheme, the Government to which they belonged adopted it. {: .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr Higgins: -- The honorable member is wrong. He will find that we said we would let the House have an opportunity of discussing it. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- I will quote the exact words of the honorable and learned member's former leader. {: .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr Higgins: -- I was present. He corrected his expression directly afterwards. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- I have it here. {: .speaker-KHC} ##### Mr Higgins: -- Does the honorable member deny that he said . he would let the House have a chance of looking into the subject ? {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- I am not alluding to that at all. I say that, as the honorable and learned member has suggested that the present Ministry should say plainly whether they approve of the adoption of the scheme or not, he ought to remember that the late Government acted upon that principle. Honorable members will see from page 2652 of *Hansard,* volume XX., that duringa debate on the Public Service classification scheme, the honorable member for Bland, who was then Prime Minister, was asked whether he would promise that the Government would not accept the scheme, and he replied - >I cannot promise that the Government will not accept this scheme, because, so faras we are concerned, it has been accepted. I quite admit that he also gave a promise, which was likewise given by subsequent Governments, that the House should have an opportunity to discuss the scheme; but he declared that, so far as his own Ministry was concerned, it had accepted the scheme. I cannot help remarking upon the incongruity that two members of that Ministry should have criticised the scheme which they as members of a previous Government accepted. I quite agree with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, that it is proper that we should have from the present Government an expression of their determination as to the acceptance or non-acceptance of the scheme. I recognise that we are now on our trial as regards our determination to keep political influence from the control of the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I do not say that any complaint of error, injustice, or inequality should not be brought before this House by honorable members who are acquainted with the facts. That should be done. But to gofurther, and to try to effect alterations against the will of the Commissioner,after he has made full inquiry, would mean one of two things - either that the Commissioner had performed his work so unsatisfactorily that he ought to be removed,or that we were determined to return to the state of political control from which we have sought to get away. The difficulties of the position of the Commissioner have been freely admitted; but I do not think that sufficient attention has been drawn to the fact that he has not merely had a very large service to classify, but that he has had to introduce Commonwealth conditions where there have been six different sets of conditions in existence in the various States. It is perfectly evident that unless he provided the best conditionsin every case, there must be complaint from some of the States as to the terms of the Commonwealth service not being so advantageous as those under some one State. I am sure that every honorable member will admit that the Commissioner based his scheme on most liberal lines. He started with the determination that no officershould receive less than he was receiving when he entered the Commonwealth service, except in cases where there was a doubt as to the legitimacy of certain action, which was taken by one or two States before Federation, and which, improperly to my mind, put officers of those States in a superior position as comparedwith officers of other States; I must say that the action of the Victorian Parliament, which, at the eleventh hour before Federation, attempted to give increases, not to all its officers-, but only to the officers of the Departments which were to be transferred, is One that is no credit to that Parliament. If the legality of that action is admitted in the Public Service, as, of course, it must be admitted if the High Court decides in favour of the officers, the whole classification will be disturbed. {: .speaker-K5D} ##### Mr King O'Malley: -- It was an act of political barbarism. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- It was nothing of the sort. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- If the legality of the action is admitted, the salaries of the officers affectedwill have to be brought to the level of the highest paid in any of the States, nomatter what the special reason may have been for paying the higher amount.Surely we would not stand by and see other State officers treated disadvantageously in comparison. If that action of the Victorian Parliament be upheld, the highest salaries prevailing in any one State will have to be paid, no matter whether the latter has been fixed for climatic or other special reasons, such as the cost of living. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr mauger: -The salaries have only to be paid up to a certain amount. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- But the largest number of officers are affected. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -The very highest salary is not very serious. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- I have looked into thematter, and Isay that when extended to all the States the increases will mean hundreds of thousands of pounds of additionalcost. My own opinion is that the classification scheme before us is as good a result as we could possibly expect fromany one man'sefforts. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- Speaking generally. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- I am speaking generally. No human being could, even after the appeal s, have removed, on the first effort, all inequalities. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- Not even an archangel could have done it. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- The good of such a discussion as this is that attention will be drawn to supposed inequalities. No doubt replies to the statements made here to-day will be forthcoming, and I myself could reply to some. As is always the case, when both sides have been heard, the conclusion will be very different from that arrived at from the hearing of only one side. {: .speaker-KNJ} ##### Mr Mauger: -- That cuts both ways. {: .speaker-KW6} ##### Mr DUGALD THOMSON:
NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES · FT; ANTI-SOC from 1906 -- One side has been stated to-day, and, in those cases, no doubt, the consideration of the Commissioner will be given to the representations made. First of all, we require to establish a classification, and then to gradually remove any real injustice or objectionable inequality, or any unfairness or lack of opportunity that exists, and that ought not to exist, in different sections of the service. I feel sure that the Public Service Commissioner, who has acted so liberally in this classification, and has produced such an efficient scheme as a start, will, when he is given opportunity, and has that fuller acquaintance, which time only can afford, with the conditions in all the States, eventually create a Commonwealth' Public Service which will be reasonably well treated, and in which, I hope above everything, will be found what is notfound in some public services, namely, that merit, and not merely length of service without merit, will be rewarded. Debate (on motion by **Mr. Tudor)** adjourned. {: .page-start } page 888 {:#debate-4} ### ADJOURNMENT {:#subdebate-4-0} #### Order of Business : Allowance to Colonel Price {: #subdebate-4-0-s0 .speaker-009MD} ##### Mr DEAKIN:
Minister of External Affairs · Ballarat · Protectionist -- I move - >That the House do now adjourn. I am somewhat disappointed that we have not managed to have another hour's discussion this afternoon. {: .speaker-K5D} ##### Mr King O'Malley: -- On a Friday? {: .speaker-009MD} ##### Mr DEAKIN: -- Yes, on a Friday. There are so many branches of the service to be considered, putting individual cases aside, and there are so many complications, with statements and counter-statements, that it was very desirable to have as much ofthe discussion as possible reported in *Hansard,* in order that the complaints might be reviewed by the Minister before we further deal with the matter on Tuesday next. The classification scheme has been made an order of the day for Tuesday, in order that there may be no lack of continuity in the debate; and I shall ask honorable members to then give it their best attention, and, condensing their criticisms as far as possible, to sit on long enough to conclude the discussion on the same evening. At the. conclusion of the discussion on the classification scheme, the business will follow the order on the notice-paper. {: #subdebate-4-0-s1 .speaker-JX9} ##### Mr FRAZER:
Kalgoorlie -- There was a paragraph in last night's Melbourne *Herald* to the effect that the Government intended to place an amount on the Estimates for the payment of an allowance to Colonel Price. If that be the intention of the Government, I ask the Prime Minister to give Parliament an opportunity to express an opinionon the Estimates before the payment is made. {: .speaker-009MD} ##### Mr DEAKIN: -- It is mot possible for the Government to follow any other course. The Estimates are to be finally considered by the Government this week, and then, and then only will there be an authorized decision upon individual cases, such as that to which the honorable member refers. Any statement of the kind mentioned as having been made in the newspaper is purely anticipatory. The Government are dealing with special claims, and if they resolve to make this or any other proposal of a similar nature if will, of course, be subject to the decision of the House on the Estimates. Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 4 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 August 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050811_reps_2_25/>.