2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I de sire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he will have a return prepared showing the relative cost of collecting duties in the different States?
– I shall be glad to have prepared the return for which the honorable member asks. It may be that it can be obtained almost immediately, if, as I presume, the accounts of the Department are kept in such a, way as to distinguish between the expenditure in the various States.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, if his attention has been directed to a statement which appears in this morning’s Argus, to the effect that the recommendation has been made that one of the large American insurance companies shall withdraw from business in Australia. In view of the large amount of savings invested in that and other American companies, will he cause inquiries to be made, so that the interests of the insured may be properly safeguarded?
– I have to thank the honorable member for having called my attention to the statement, which had previously escaped my notice, and to say that inquiries will be made. I assume that, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, our authority ends there, until we have passed legislation dealing with the subject. By calling attention to it in this way, the honorable member will attract the notice of those who are interested in the matter throughout the States.
– It is said that the company referred to has sufficient assets in Australia to more than cover its liabilities here.
– I am not alluding to any company. The honorable member’s question will be sufficient to give notice to those who are -interested throughout the States, until we legislate. I had no particular company in mind. It is desirable that some assurance should be given to those who may be anxious.
– The German Government stopped a company’s assets from leaving Germany.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain whether the statement is or is not true, that the Equitable Life Assurance Company of New York has more assets in proportion to its liabilities than has any other company in Australasia?
– Will the Prime Minister communicate with the Government of South Australia to ascertain if it is favorable to the handing over of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, and, if favorable, on what terms?
– My recollection is that the negotiations in that regard ceased at the request of a former South Australian Government. If that be so, it rests with the new State Government to renew them. However, I shall not stand on a point of procedure of that kind, and will look into the matter.
– Have the Cabinet yet arrived at a decision regarding the last communication from the Premier of New South Wales on the subject of the Federal Capital Site? If so, will the Prime Minister announce to the House what it is?
– The last letter of the Premier of New South’ Wales has been replied to, and I understand that he proposes to lay the reply on the table of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales tonight. That letter conveys the decision of the Cabinet, so far as there has been a decision. I had, perhaps, .better wait until the honorable member has seen it before answering his question.
– Has the Prime Minister any objection to telling the House the nature of the communication which he has sent to the Premier of New South Wales ?
– The Premier of New South Wales, in his last communication with’ reference to the Federal Capital, raised a series of questions, and if the honorable member had given me notice of his desire for information on this head, I should have handed to him a copy of my. reply.
– I think the Prime Minister should have laid a copy of it on the table.
– It is being laid on the table of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales by the Premier of that State.
– Then the honorable and learned member had all the more reason for laying a copy on the table of this House.
– My reply will be printed in Sydney, and we shall then obtain copies of further correspondence if there isany,andlaythemonthetable. on the table. If I had had- notice of the honorable member’s question, I would have brought a copy of the reply with me.
– I should like to ob-. tain an answer to some of my questions at some time. I have not had an answer to any of the questions I have asked during the past fortnight.
– Will the Treasurer see that copies of the Estimates are in the hands of honorable members sufficiently early to enable them to master their contents before being asked to deal with them in Committee of Supply ?
– Surely the honorable member does, not ask. for the production of the Estimates before the delivery of the Financial Statement ?.
– No, but I wish to have sufficient time in which to study them before being asked to deal with them in Committee.
– Of course,, ample time will be given to the honorable member.
– I should like to know if the following paragraph, which appears in one of this morning’s newspapers, is an accurate forecast of the intentions of the Government in regard to the very important matter with which it deals -
The States Representation Electoral Bill is to be brought before Parliament towards the end of this week by the Minister for Home Affairs.
– I do not know anything, about the paragraph in question, but we are expediting as much as possible the introduction of the measure referred to.
– If the Government will not answer our questions, we shall take some other course. We are. tired of the treatment we are receiving from Ministers. It is nothing less than insulting.
– The honorable member for South Melbourne placed the following questions on the notice-paper of the 10th August: -
The answers to, the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - .
– The . following cablegram has been received from the Secretary of State for. the Colonies in reference to a matter of . great public importance -
Referring to your telegram of 5th August, note received from German Government to effect that new regulations, Marshall Islands, coming into force on 1st October, will beas follow : -
Commercial firms established in Marshall Islandswill pay trading tax 6,000 marks per annum. This will be only tax on commerce; as taxation on trading stations and export duty on copra will have been abolished. Opportunity to acquire domicile in protectorate wiil be afforded after 1st, October to any one desirous of establishing commercial enterprise, as traders will be allowed to lease with official sanction from natives land required for erection of warehouses. Imperial Commissioner, Jaluit, has been instructed to assist all merchants in conclusion of such leases. Tax 2,000 marks per annum will he imposed on ships engagedintrade on behalf of commercial firms not established in Protectorate. Whole territory of Caroline Islands will be thrown open from 1 st October to all traders, dues to be charged according to Ordinance of 8th August, 1904. Imperial officers, Ponape, have been instructed to issue trading licences to. all desirous of trading, and not to limit licences on ground of insufficiency of occupation, islands. No obstacles will be placed in the way of acquisition of domicile there. Despatch follows by mail.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Copy of telegram dated 12th August, 1905, reporting new trade regulations of the German Government in regard to the Marshall Islands.
Pursuant to the Customs Act1901 - Regulations re. drawback on sugar usedin making jam and similar goods, Statutory Rules, 1905, No. 49.
Pursuant to the Audit Act1901 - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council for the financial year 1904-5, dated August, 1905.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am instructed-
asked the Minister representing ‘ the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I have to inform the honorable member that -
The Government does not consider it is in the interests of the Commonwealth to answer these questions, but the Minister will give honorable members the information confidentially if desired.
– That is a sufficient answer in itself. The armament cannot be adequate if the Minister cannot, in the public interest, answer the question.
– No inference of that kind is to be drawn from my reply.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I have to state that-
The Government does not consider it is in the interests of the Commonwealth to answer these questions,but the Minister will give honorable members the information confidentially if desired.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner advises as follows : -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Are the military clerks, who were in the employment of any State at the establishment of the Commonwealth, eligible for appointment to a position in the corresponding division of the Public Service of the Commonwealth under section 33 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act?
– In reply to the honorable member, I am obtaining information from the Defence Department, and intend to look into the matter. When I am made acquainted with the facts, I shall be glad if the honorable member will repeat his question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I desire to informthe honorable member -
Under these circumstances it is not the intention to mount any of the obsolescent or obsolete guns, as the expenditure would not be commensurate with the value of the fire from these guns.
Bill read: a third time.
Debate resumed from nth August (vide page 888), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That the amendment of the classification of the Public Service by the Public Service Commissioner under the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1902, laid upon the table on the nth August, be printed.
– When the Minister of Home Affairs laid the amended classification on the table on Friday last I was delighted to think that we should have an opportunity to express our opinions ; but when the Minister told us that no matter what view we might take of the classification, no alteration could be made, I interjected that it was practically useless to bring it before the House under such conditions. If the whole of the time occupied by this debate is to be wasted, it would have been far better for the Government to state that they endorsed the classification, and would not accept any amendment.
– Why does not the honorable member move a vote of censure on the Government ?
– I do not intend to do anything of the kind. The honorable member can move in that direction if he so desires. I realize that the position of any Ministry in regard to this matter would be a difficult one. Honorable members did not appear to understand how the matter was to be brought before us, and what means could be adopted for ventilating the grievances of persons who are dissatisfied with the Classification. We all know that a certain number of public officers in every State are by no means satisfied with the re suit of the labours of the Public Service Commissioner, and I have not the slightest doubt that that would have been the case with regard to any classification scheme that might have been drawn up. It would have been easy for the Commissioner to bring forward a scheme that would have given satisfaction to every officer in the service, provided he had been prepared to make the salaries high enough. But if he had pursued any such course, there would have been a great outcry on the part of those who would have to provide the funds. Even last week, when the amended classification was presented, a leading article appeared in one of the daily newspapers, pointing out how the expenditure on the Public Service was increasing year by year. We must remember, however, that more officers are now employed than was previously the case. When I first proposed that we should adopt the principle of the minimum wage, which is now embodied in our Public Service Act, I was told that the change would involve an extra outlay of £45, 000 per annum, but I question very much whether the expenditure has£ been increased by more than ^10,000 or £20,000 per annum. The Minister of Home Affairs, when introducing the amended Classification, read a statement showing that the number of officers in the Post Office Department had been increased, and that the salaries bad, on the average, also been increased by a large percentage in each State. I had that statement placed in my hands only a few minutes ago, and therefore I shall not be able to deal with’ it now. Although a great number of public servants are dissatisfied with the Classification, I have very little doubt that the great majority would be in favour of its adoption in some form or other, so that it might constitute the basis of any future classification. Every one must realize that the condition of affairs which existed in the absence of any clasification scheme was most undesirable, and that the conditions of employment in the Public Service should be definitely set out as soon as possible. I understand that any representations that may be made by us during this debate will be sent on to the Public Service Commissioner, so that he may form a proper conception of the wishes of Parliament. The Commissioner apparently considers that he cannot raise salaries without involving a large increase in the expenditure of the Commonwealth, and that it would not be right for him to increase the expenditure of the Commonwealth in this way without practically securing the sanction of the Parliament. I believe that was his reason for adopting the grading system in relation to certain ‘ branches of the service. This question was brought under the notice of the House lastweek by the honorable member for Bourke in relation to the grading of letter-carriers. I believe it has been stated before the Appeal Boards that Parliament practically sanctioned the .introduction of the grading system throughout the service, but I have not been able to discover that Parliament ever did anything of the sort. It was our desire that the members of the service should receive a fair remuneration. The very fact that we inserted a provision in the Public Service Bill, that adults or those who had been in the service for a certain number. of years should receive a minimum wage of £110 per annum, is absolute proof that the Parliament did not intend that the grades should be started as low as they have been. If honorable members turn to page 17 of the Commissioner’s report they will find a statement to the effect that the lettercarriers have been graded in two divisions, and that provision has also been made for assistants, each grade comprising one-third of the men so employed. I could understand the creation of a grade of. assistants where those so employed are not doing the same work as others in the branch. In the engineering trade, for instance, there are ironworkers’ assistants who are not skilled mechanics, but those in the assistants’ grade of the letter-carriers’ branch of the Public Service perform the same work, cover the same “ walks,” and are employed the same number of hours as letter-carriers in the other grades. When we provided for the payment of a minimum wage it was never intended that the Commissioner should pay employes who may be adults as little as £60 per annum on their joining the service. I had occasion to write some time ago to the Secretary to the Public Service Commissioner in relation to salaries paid to temporary employes, and to that communication I received the following reply : -
I am in receipt of your further letter of the 9th inst. on the subject of the rate of payment to men temporarily employed as porters at the General Post Office, Melbourne, and desire to say that there are two grades in the Porter Class - one-half being classified at £114 to £126, and the other half at £60 to £110.
I hold that the intention of the House was that a salary of ^110 per annum should be the minimum for adults. From returns furnished as to the working of the system in Victoria and New South Wales - similar returns for the other _ States were not produced, although their production was ordered by the House - honorable members were so satisfied that sweating had been rampant in the service that the minimum wage clause was agreed to on the voices. Instead of effect being given to that provision, we now find thai the Commissioner is employing assistant porters,-, letter-carriers, and others at a salary ranging from £60 to £II 0. The Act distinctly provides that temporary employes shall receive the same salary, and’ holidays as are given to permanent employes, but the introduction of an assistants’ grade means that those employed temporarily might only be paid at the rate of £60 per annum. If this system be allowed to continue, without challenge on the part of the House, the Commissioner will be at liberty to employ men at less than 4s. per day in accordance with the Classification scheme before us. I feel confident that this Parliament will not tolerate the practice of employing men at less than 4s. per day to discharge duties for which those permanently employed in the service receive larger pay. I have before me a reply from the Secretary to the Commissioner to a letter which I wrote to him with regard to the position of temporary letter-carriers. In this letter it is stated that these officers have been divided into grades, and that the salary paid to those in the assistants’ grade ranges from £60 to .£110 per annum. The honorable member for Bourke in dealing with this question quoted cases which clearly showed that if these grades were allowed to stand it would be practically impossible for any of the men to reach a higher grade until very many years had elapsed. I presume that most honorable members have received a copy of the circular issued by the executive of the Letter-carriers’ Association, which is representative of the whole of the Commonwealth. From a perusal of that circular, it will be seen that the maximum has been fixed at £138 per annum - or £12 less than was being paid by, some of the States prior to Federation - and that practically there is no avenue to promotion open to these officers. During the last thirteen years, only fifty-three out of about 500 have been promoted in Victoria. In other words, only about 10 per cent, of the letter-carriers employed in Victoria gained promotion during that period. When we remember that during that time the penny post was introduced in Victoria, and that this State passed through the boom which some honorable members have so much cause to regret, it must be recognised that there were then more opportunities for promotion than there will be during the next thirteen years. In New South Wales, only thirteen letter-carriers were promoted, while in the - other States there have been no promotions whatever during the period named. If these grades are to stand, and a salary of £138 per annum is ‘to be the maximum, the result will be that only very few of these officers will ever receive more than that salary. When their case was before the Appeal Board they were told, I am given to understand, that there would be fewer promotions in. the future owing to the fact that the average age of sorters was lower than it had been for some time. If the Minister will glance at the average age of sorters, and on that basis form an estimate of the number of promotions that are likely to be made, he will see that my contention is absolutely borne out.
– When the honorable member speaks of fifty-three promotions for thirteen years, does he include the Commonwealth period, or do the figures relate only to the promotions in Victoria up to the establishment of the Commonwealth ?
– I presume they include the Commonwealth period.
– How many promotions took place during the ten years preceding Federation ?
– I do not know. I presume that the Minister has a copy of the circular to which I have already referred, and I take ‘it that those who framed it would be careful not to exaggerate their position, knowing that” if any of their statements were proved to be incorrect their whole ‘ case would practically go by the board. I know that many of the men who are classified at £138 per annum are at present receiving, in accordance with the decision of the Court, £150 per annum. They will continue to draw that salary until the adoption of the classification. It has been stated time after time that with the adoption of the classification they will suffer a reduction in salary; but as this is a legal question, I cannot pretend to speak upon it with any degree of authority. I would point out, however, that the Constitution distinctly provides that those transferred from the services of the States shall retain their’ existing and accruing rights. as at the date of transfer, and it appears to me that the Commonwealth - just as was the case with the Government of Victoria - will have to face a lawsuit relating to. this question. In his original classification, the Commissioner disregarded the decision of the Court, the reason being, it is said, that, in his opinion, the Court had not decided the extent to which the Commonwealth could be held responsible- under the Act passed by the State Parliament of Victoria. The men have been told that they will probably have to go to law in order to ascertain whether they still retain their existing and accruing rights as at the time of transfer. I have said on several occasions that if there be any doubt on the question it should be dealt with by the Courts, but the men in the lower grades of the service should not be the only officers called upon . to fight this question. Under the Act dealing with officers of the transferred services,, officers in the higher grade also received an increase. Some of them received increases up to £200 per annum. If the men in the lower grades” are compelled to fight for their rights, why did not the Commissioner also classify the other men, whose salaries have been increased at the lower rate. Why did he pick out only the lower paid men, and rate them at a lower salary than they received at. the time of their transfer to the Commonwealth? That is one point which I hope the Minister will put to the Commissioner. The other day the Minister received a circular from ihe Commissioner stating the amount which it would cost if the letter-carriers were given an opportunity of advancing to a salary of £150, without the grades, and it is proved to aggregate about .£30,000 per annum.
– That is by annual increment.
– Yes, that is so; although I am not a lawyer, still I venture to think that the expression “ existing: and accruing rights” in section 84 of the Constitution Act means such rights as civil servants possessed at the time of their transfer to the Commonwealth. If these men should fight their cases in the courts, I think they will have every chance of retaining the salary of £150 which has been decided by the Court, and then we shall have the remarkable spectacle of seeing nearly all the men in Victoria and a few in South Australia and New South Wales, /receiving a salary of £150, while no officers in the other States will have any opportunity of ever getting that salary. It has been stated that these men are in 1 very good position, and that if they were compelled to -work- outside they would not receive anything like the pay they get. But it must be remembered that’ the bulk of the letter-carriers do not have an opportunity of going to their work and finishing it ‘right off, like the men in the clerical division have. I do not desire to set one section of the public service against the other.- The working hours of letter-carriers are spread over the day, starting in the early morning, and ending fairly late in the evening: I have received no direct information from the men, but I know, from personal observation, that they have to be at the Melbourne General Post Office before 6 o’clock in -the morning, and it is nearly 6 o’clock in the evening before they can sign off ; SOl that the period they work, whether it be eight or seven and- a half hours, is spread “over twelve hours per day. . Of course I know that according to their round, they have breaks of an hour or two during the day; Some officers have two breaks in the day, and others, I believe, have three. Although their work is, perhaps, of a nature which can be learned in a short period, still I maintain that they should be fairly paid for it. I consider their claim that they should be allowed to go on until they reach a salary of ^150, and that the grade, system should be abolished, is only reasonable. This cannot be considered a party question. We have heard honorable members on both sides of the House, and belonging to different parties, advocating that, the grade system should be abolished, and that the men should be allowed to go on by annual increment until, at any rate, they receive something like a fair wage. I do not think that £3 a week is a princely wage.
– And they get that only after they have served for a long period - twelve years.
– Yes. If the grade system be allowed, I find that the salary of a man in grade 2, who entered the service seventeen years ago is set down at ,£138. There are .too letter-carriers ahead of him, and as only fifty-three promotions have been made during the past thirteen years, he is not likely to get a chance of promotion for twenty-six years.
– Last year there were seven promotions in New South Wales alone.
– I am referring to Victorian cases. I am quite prepared to hear that that number of promotions has been made in New South Wales, because, for the first time in that State, letter-carriers have had a chance of qualifying, for the position of sorters. Previously any- man could start as an assistant sorter and qualify for the position -of sorter, and the letter-carriers were practically barred. No doubt that would account for the number of promotions in the State last year. Let me now take the case of a man in grade I. A man who has been in the service for fifteen years is receiving a salary of £ 132 - ~ that is £6 more than the maximum of the grade. There are 300 letter-carriers ahead of him, and as there have been only fifty promotions in thirteen years, honorable members -can easily understand what little chance he will have ‘of being ‘promoted should he remain in the service. That, however, is not the worst feature of the case.. Coming to the assistant grade, I think every honorable member will agree with me that the term “ assistant “ is a misnomer, when it is remembered that assistants go out on the same rounds, and do the same work as men who are in grade I. or grade II. An assistant grade . lettercarrier, .who entered .the service fifteen years ago, was promoted to the position of letter-carrier five and a- half years ago at a salary of £78 per annum. He is now receiving a salary of £118, and would have been entitled to an increment of ,£14 next December if the Department had not been transferred from the State ,to the Commonwealth.
The classification sets out his case as follows : - “Assistant letter-carrier” at £118 per annum, although he is doing exactly the same work as other letter-carriers. His next promotion will be to that of sorter, which salary is now fixed at £”4 to ^”6.
He has a. chance of promotion to the latter position in three years, but he has practically no chance of being promoted to a higher grade or to that of sorter if we are to judge by the number of promotions which have taken place in the past, because there are so many letter-carriers who are ahead of him. When the case of letter-carriers in a similar position was taken before the board of appeal it unanimously recommended that special consideration should be shown to this class. The board is composed of the Public Service Inspector for this State, the Deputy Postmaster-General, and a representative of the men, and it unanimously recommended that these men should receive an increment of £14 per annum; but, according to a reply given to the honorable member for Bourke, the Commissioner decided to override that unanimous decision. I do not intend at this juncture to discuss whether the provision for a board of appeal is a wise one or not, but I consider that if the board is to be of any use at all, then in that case the Commissioner should not have overridden its unanimous decision without some very good cause. I hope that the Minister will recommend to the Commissioner that the position of the assistants should be abolished. The grading system I am opposed to altogether, but if it is to be maintained, let there be two grades only, and let none of the men start at less than the minimum wage which was fixed in the Public Service Act. I do not consider that the decision of this Parliament in that respect should be set aside, and ‘ that the assistant grade, which permits men to start at £60, should be abolished. I desire now to -read a return showing the salaries of the letter-carriers in this State under the section of the State Act which granted them an increase: -
Even allowing that the 450 letter-carriers under the classification scheme are on the maximum of their respective grades, which is not likely, the prospective cost of that scheme will be as follows : -
There will be a prospective saving of at least £3,264; which clearly proves to my way of thinking that these men are not receiving as much as they would have done under the State.
– Before the last State Act was passed does the honorable member mean ?
– No, irrespective of the Act passed immediately before they were transferred. I do not think that this Parliament intended that the men should receive less than they would have done under the State regime. The average salary per letter-carrier under the State Government was £131. The average salary of a lettercarrier under the classification is £124.
– As a matter of fact, what were they absolutely paid before they were transferred ?
– That I do not know, but the fact remains that these men would havebeen receiving at least £3,264 more than they are receiving under the proposed classification. It has been stated in the press from time to time that the Commonwealth is increasing salaries all round. As far as the letter-carriers are concerned this return proves that their salaries have not been increased. Dealing now with the position of the sorters, if they had remained under the Victorian Government those now receiving £150 per annum would have been receiving £156. Under the Victorian Act sorters started at £150- Under that Act also letter-carriers were permitted as often as opportunities occurred - which was very rarely the case - to rise to the higher grade of sorters.
– Does the honorable member say that if the sorters were still working under the State Act they would be receiving each £156 per annum?
– No; I say that those now receiving £150 per annum would be receiving £156, at any rate at the end of the present year ; not that the whole of them would be receiving the £156. Sorters, like other members of the Service, are divided into grades. There is g_rade 1, and there is grade 2. Those in grade 1 receive the lower salaries. Under the proposed classification sorters can only rise to £168. This is considered by the sorters to be an infringement of their rights under the Constitution, which this Parliament should have preserved to them. Under the classification the only effect to the general division has been that 13 sorters were raised in salary £6 per annum ; whilst 40 sorters in grade 1 have been practically reduced by £fi Per annum ; showing that the lower paid employes have received no increases whatever, whilst those in the higher grades, as was so ably pointed out by the honorable and learned member for Corio last Friday, have had their salaries increased.
– Does the honorable member speak for the whole of Australia? Does he mean that in New South Wales the bulk of the employes in the lower grades have not received advances?
Mr. TUDOR.In Victoria, according to the figures supplied to me, they have not received advances. The Minister will have an opportunity to contradict my statements if they are wrong.
– I will promise to look into them.
– The grading system applies to sorters as well as to letter carriers. I think the Minister will agree that that system should never have been introduced into the classification. Men should have an opportunity to rise automatically to a reasonable salary. There should not be a certain number in each particular grade, as provided for by the Commissioner in his scheme. There is one point which I think has escaped the observation practically’ of every honorable member who has spoken on this question so far. It is in reference to the men at the head of the mail branch, who are known as supervisors and assistant supervisors. Some eight or nine men are filling these positions at the present time. In Victoria these men worked their way up from the general division. They started at the bottom as lettercarriers, worked through the division of sorters, up to that of mail supervisors and assistant supervisors. These positions have been filled exclusively by men from the mail office during the last fourteen or fifteen years. That practice was continued until about six weeks ago. It will be seen, from page 125 of the classification scheme, that the Commissioner intends that in future the officers for these positions shall be drawn from the clerical division.
– These men are taken from the clerical division in all the other States except Victoria.
– I admit that that is the case in reference to the other States. But as this is practical work, there is no reason why the men should not be allowed to work their way up from the general division. It is not fair to bring in a clerical officer with practically little knowledge of the work, and to put him over officers who have been trained to it. Further, if a supervisor or assistant supervisor has to be relieved, a mail officer is set to do the work. He may be relieving week after week, and month after month. But immediately a permanent appointment has to lie made the mail officer must stand aside and a man from the clerical division is brought in who has practically to be taught his work by the mail officers. It may be true that Victoria was the only
State in which this work was done by men in the general division, but, as it is practical work, it is better that it should be done by practical men who have worked their way up in the service. In Victoria these men consider promotion to this post one of their rights under a memorandum sent out by the Public Service Commissioner of Victoria in 1887, to the following effect : -
Post and Telegraph Department, 17th May, 1887
I beg to inform you that the Public Service Doard has decided to extend the area of promotion of sorters, and, with that view, it is proposed to throw open to them higher offices in the Mail Branch as they become vacant by the withdrawal of the officers of the 4th Class Clerical Division now employed therein. I am, therefore, to state that in order to give effect to such a scheme the Board has recommended to the Honorable the Premier an amendment of the regulations relevant to the rate of pay in the non-clerical division by the insertion therein of the following lines : -
Although the Minister has stated that these officers were drawn from the. clerical division in the other States, it should be remembered that the mail officers in the other States were also in the clerical division. To show that the Commissioner has himself recognised that this work belongs to the general division, he has placed the whole of the mail officers in the general division, and on that account we have had complaints from New South Wales and Queensland. This being the case, the Commissioner had no right to close this avenue of promotion to men in the general division in Victoria who know the work and have to teach the clerical men transferred to these positions.. It might l e said that officers in the clerical division have a right to this work, but, when it is considered that their opportunities for promotion are three times as great as are those of officers in the general division, honorable members will agree that at least this position should be left open to the general division. If honorable members will look at the public servants’ “ Tree of Life “ in the classification scheme they will find that mail officers in the general division are unable to receive more than about£220 per annum, although they have done the whole of this work in Victoria in ths past, and are now compelled to teach the men of the clerical division, who, under the new scheme, are permitted to take their place. It is an insult to the men doing the work at the present time in Victoria to bring clerical men in to take the places to which they looked for promotion,’ and to say that in future only clerical men will be employed to do this class of work. If the Commissioner made inquiries he would find that in Victoria the men drawn from the ranks of the general division to perform this work have given satisfaction.- I am informed ‘that at least 33 per cent, more work is being done now with a smaller staff than was done under a staff of supervisor’s and assistant supervisors drawn from the clerical division in 1890. I am aware that some of the suggestions I have made would involve an increase in annual expenditure, but to do these men justice, by removing the barrier which prevents ‘ officers in the general division taking these positions, the Commonwealth would not require to pay one penny more than is paid to-day. All that is required is that an avenue of promotion should be open to men in the’ general division, which was previously open to them in Victoria, but which under the classification scheme is closed to them. There are about thirty-five of these positions to which officers in the general division might be appointed, enabling them to receive more than £228 per annum, if the positions of supervisors and assistant supervisors are left open to them ; but in the clerical division a man can go from one position to another until he may become a Deputy Postmaster-General, or a secretary to one of the Departments. Another matter referred to, I think, by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, is the position of female clerks in the service at the present time. In Victoria, perhaps to a greater extent than in any of the other States, female clerks have been engaged in the work of the’ check staff of the Accounts Branch, and they were here placed in the clerical division. But under the classification they were placed in the general division- In the other States men were doing this particular class of work, and they have been left in the clerical division.
– In the other States. I am informed, they have been left in the clerical division ?
– Is it not the same in all the States?
– I am not quite sure of that.
– I think the honorable member will find that it is so.
– I tried to find that out the other day, when speaking privately to the Minister, on the subject. There appears to be some little doubt in the matter. The female clerks in this State complain that in the other States men were and are employed in doing this particular class of work, and had- been retained in the clerical division. Although in Victoria these women belonged to- the. clerical division, they had now been transferred to the general division, and the opportunities open to them to improve their position have, thus been reduced. “When in considering the Public “Service Bill, the honorable member for Grey moved the amendment providing for a minimum wage, for clerical officers, I think it was understood that clerical officers would be in exactly the same position as officers of the general division. We find, however, that officers in the clerical division are compelled to pass an examination before they can secure the minimum wage. I do not think this House ever intended that. I believe that we were anxious that no person in the Commonwealth service, should be employed at less than a fair minimum wage to start, with. According to a reply to a question which I put to .the Minister, there are females who have been in the service for upwards of twenty years, but who, failing to pass the examination, are to-day receiving much less than the minimum wage specified in the Act. All officers of the general division, including girls employed in the telephone exchange, can reach the maximum of their class, £126 per annum without examination, but there are women clerks who have been in the service for twenty years, who are expected to pass a very stiff .examination before- they can secure the minimum wage.
– It is awfully absurd.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– What is the stiff examination to which the honorable member refers ?
– The position. I take up is that if these women are not capable of performing the work entrusted to them, the Commissioner should tell them so.
– The examination they are required to pass is not relevant to their work.
– I think I shall be able to prove, when I come to deal with another matter, that one examination which officers are compelled to pass, is not relevant to’ the work in which they are engaged.
– Is not the examination the same for all in this particular class? I thought the honorable member was saying that women1 were placed under a disadvantage.
– No; so far as the examination is concerned, I do not think the women are placed under a disadvantage, but both men and women are compelled to pass a clerical examination. Although women have done responsible work for over twenty years, they cannot get a salary of £110 without an examination, .while persons in the general division - have that advantage without an examination. The women, or some one - on their behalf, have sent along statements of their grievances, and one of those statements contains the following -
Positions for clerks in the 5th Class have been advertised ; and, although highly qualified women clerks, with over twenty years’ service, have applied for them, men, some ‘of whom have qualified only in recent years, have secured the lucrative positions. An unsatisfactory practice is that applications for promotion are not acknowledged ; therefore, the applicants do not know if they reach the Commissioner.
Some of the women feel that some hostility is displayed to them by certain officers. Whether or not that is a fact I do not know, but it is an opinion held by many of the women. It does not matter what their qualifications may be, they ‘are compelled to undergo treatment which they believe is not meted out to men in similar positions. When Parliament decided that telephone or telegraph employes, male or female, should receive a minimum wage, it was never intended that the provision should be a means of preventing females from getting employment. I know that honorable members on both sides of the House held that such might be a probable result of the provision ; but if the department intends that women are to be blocked from holding those positions, women ought not to be employed temporarily and induced to coach themselves for an examination in telegraphy. It has been pointed out to me that a temporary employ^ of the Department, who has been engaged for a long time, and was just about to reach the limit of twentyone years, found it impossible to go up for an examination in order to show her fitness,, while .males are being appointed to such positions. I maintain that if it is -intended to- appoint :men only, these women should not be engaged to do temporary work - that they should not be given to understand they have a chance of obtaining permanent employment. It is two years since a clerical examination was held for females, and it appears that there are not vacancies for them in the Department. I am informed that if a vacancy occurs only a male is called upon to fill it, and that, therefore, it is useless for women to go to the trouble of learning telegraphy. I should like to refer to one other matter, which appears to me one of the most peculiar I have come across in connexion with the classification; I mean the position of Customs lockers. There were in the State of Victoria a number of senior and acting Customs lockers, and a number of juniors. The former were perfectly satisfied with the classification, and did not send in any notice of appeal, because they were left in exactly the same position they occupied under the State Government. But the junior lockers appealed, and their appeals were allowed by the Board, and afterwards by the Commissioner. The result is that juniors are placed over the head of the seniors, and the latter are informed that they now have no right of appeal. Section 50 of the Public Service Act provides -
Any officer (except officers of the Parliament) affected by any report or recommendation made or action taken under this Act other, than a report or recommendation made or action taken under sections thirty-one, forty-six to forty-nine inclusive, sixty-five, sixty-six, and severity-three thereof, may, in such manner and within such time as may be prescribed, appeal to a Board.
It is prescribed in the regulations that an appeal must be made within twenty-eight days of the classification being issued. The improved position of the junior lockers has -only been created by the document which Was placed on the table by the Minister last Friday ; but the seniors to whom I have referred . are, according to the regulations, debarred from appealing. I do not think that that was- the intention of the Commissioner, though, as I say, that is the practical effect. It has been stated that the reason the junior lockers obtained promotion - was that- they were doing a superior class of work.
– Whether temporarily or not, I do not know ; but if the juniors were doing superior work, why were they not given -the superior positions previously? I moved for a return in ‘-connexion with’ these particular bonds, in which these men are employed. I may say that I do not know any one of the men concerned, and I am not taking my present action, because of any feeling of hostility towards individuals; but I maintain that, unless the seniors are proved to be inefficient, they ought to be given the senior positions. It was stated in this House last week, that we had handed over to the Commissioner the right to grade the whole of the service, and that, in this connexion, no political privileges remain to us. I, for one, am delighted that no member of the Parliament has the right to exercise the influence of his position in favour of any one to whom ho may be friendly ; but, if juniors can be promoted in the way I have described, then, in my opinion, we have done something that was never intended. I believe that the Commissioner is acting fairly and honestly as far as possible, but he is compelled to rely on the reports of the officers under him ; and in the particular cases I have in view, the officer in charge is bound to recommend persons to whom he is particularly friendly ; he can place them in the superior positions, and they thereby receive the increases under the classification. I should now like to refer to the appointment of officers from the general division to the clerical division. In this connexion the honorable member for Bourke dealt with the case of one particular despatch clerk, but I do not intend to mention names or individual cases. I am informed, however, that men who have been doing, clerical work satisfactorily for over four years have been sent to do general division work, while juniors who have not been doing clerical work so long have been classified in the clerical division.
– All those different officers are classified as clerical or general throughout the various States, and I do not see how the honorable member’s argument applies. Does the honorable member contend that the officers to whom he refers should be placed in the clerical division, instead of the genera] division ?
– Yes. In the case of one junior in the Public Service Commissioner’s office, his position was defined as clerical, although he had not been in the Department anything like the length of time that other men- had, who were doing clerical work, but were in the general division.
– But the office was clerical, and he was doing clerical work.
– But those other men were doing clerical work for four years ; and in every other State similar work is regarded as clerical. The senior men were “shunted” after four years’ service, and other men put in their places at a salary of £200. I trust that the Minister will look into this matter, and will see that justice is done to every individual. Honorable members know that an examination has recently beer held to determine the merits of the telegraphists in the service, but the men complain that it was. not a practical one, because they were compelled to “receive” from an automatic machine to which they were unaccustomed, and with the sound’s of which they were not familiar, whereas in their regular work they send and receive from ordinary machines. Inasmuch as 77 out of about 120 failed to pass the examination, it means, if the examination was a fair test of their abilities to do the practical work of their office, that threefifths of the telegraphists in the service are not capable. The men claim, however, that the examination was not a practical test. There are many similar cases of complaint in the Department, some men complaining that they are doing work of a class superior to the grade in which they have been placed. In the big cities, owing to the large number who are at all times going in and coming out of the offices, certain watchmen are appointed, and they complain that, so far as Victoria is concerned, the minimum has been practically made the maximum wage for their particular class. Nearly all of the watchmen in the service at present receive more than the amount set apart for watchmen under the classification-. I do not know if their salaries are to be reduced t> the classification level. We have had some extraordinary decisions under the Constitution, and alterations of salaries have been permitted, so that if the Commissioner can make alterations in one case he can, no doubt, do so in another. In my opinion, the work of these watchmen is of at least equal value with that of a mail driver, but, whereas the latter can receive £126 per annum, the former can obtain only £120, and there are in the service watchmen who, under State arrangements, are receiving £140 per annum. A man who was injured in the service of this State, and was appointed to act as watchman, has from time to time asked to be transferred to other employment, but his request has been re- fused, because it is maintained that at one time, owing to some dissatisfaction with the Department, he declined to do other work. Men who were his juniors have been promoted over his head, and are today receiving higher salaries than he is entitled to receive. I believe, with other honorable members, that, taken all round, the work of the Commissioner has been well performed, but it covers such a wide field that there was bound to be a certain amount of injustice. I trust that the grading system will be wiped out to a very large extent, if not absolutely, and that “ assistants “ will be abolished, because, if. we allow “assistants” to be provided for, the Commissioner may employ men under that title at a salary of j£6o a year, or put on temporary hands, and thus defeat the will of Parliament. I trust that the Minister will make a strong recommendation to the Commissioner in regard to the advisability of abolishing the grading system generally, and of doing away with “ assistants.” By so doing, he will greatly improve the classification.
– I agree with the last speaker that the principles of the Public Service Act and the general scheme laid down by the Commissioner for its administration are good. I have always had faith in the gentleman who was appointed to classify the service, and I feel sure that he has done his best in the matter. 1T0 my mind it is probable that some of the complaints which have been made in regard to the grading are really complaints which should be made against the administration of the service ; the classification of the Commissioner may not be wholly responsible for them. At the same time, there are a number of anomalies, and now that this scheme has been submitted to the House it is our duty to express our views in regard to it, to give information as to the existence of anomalies, and to make what suggestions we think wise in regard to the administration of the Service generally. I take it that a very wise principle was laid down by Parliament when it determined to abolish political patronage in connexion with the Public Service, by putting the administration of the Public Service Act into the hands of a Commissioner. But we did not intend by that action to do away with Ministerial responsibility. I am glad that the Postmaster-General is present, as I wish to tell him that there is room for close watchfulness on his part, as well as on the part of other Ministerial heads, to prevent injustice being done by the officers of the Departments towards their subordinates. The Commissioner has based his classification on certain principles which he has set forth in his report. One of them is that promotion shall be according to qualification, and not entirely according to seniority > but that, where other things are equal, seniority shall count. I do not think that exception can be taken to that principle. I have, however, some anomalies to bring forward in regard to the valuation which he has placed on certain classes of work. There are, in our Public Service, conditions which would not be tolerated for a week in private enterprise. Outside the service, especially where employers are trade unionists, certain rates of pay are fixed for certain kinds of work, and while employers may choose their own men, and keep only those whom they think competent, they are expected to pay these minimum rates. In our Public Service, however, a contrary principle prevails. Many anomalies presented themselves at the time of the transfer of the Departments to the Commonwealth. In a number of cases men who were just as highly qualified as were others, and were doing similar work, were receiving much less pay. A disposition has been displayed to attach a much higher value to merely clerical work than to work of a skilled character, such as has to be performed by many of the officers in the general division. This is not in keeping with the conditions of employment in ordinary life, because we know that thousands of ‘clerks are unable to earn the salary that is paid to a good tradesman. In the Postal Department, particularly, numbers of men of skill and experience, who have to exercise their brain power, and to carry on their work under conditions of considerable danger, are in receipt of less pay than is given to clerks whose work consists merely of copying letters or addressing envelopes. I admit that where an officer has to draft correspondence he is called upon to exercise faculties of a somewhat higher order, but that does not affect my argument that too much importance is attached to purely clerical work as distinguished from that which involves bodily exertion and mechanical skill and experience. I enter my strong protest against the unfair distinction that is now being made between the man who handles his pen and the man who handles the pick.
I should like to refer to a case in point. Many men in the telegraph construction branch are doing work for which they are not being adequately paid. In one case a man who has been acting for three weeks at a time as relieving line foreman - work which is valued at £144 per annum - has been paid only his ordinary salary of £120 per annum as a line assistant. I think that when a man is called upon to carry on the work attaching to a .position superior to his own, he should receive the higher rate of pay given to the officer whom he is for the time replacing. I recognise that the Commissioner is not to blame for this inequality, but that it is a matter of administration, and that the existing anomalies could be rectified by the officers of the Department. Then, again, several officers are receiving only £120 per annum, whilst others who possess no more experience, and who, according to the evid’ence given before the Appeal Board, are no m01 highly qualified, are being paid at the rate of £132 per annum. In one case a man in receipt of £132 has been placed under another officer receiving . only £124, in order that he may be taught a certain class of work called cable jointing. The existence of these anomalies must lead to friction and to discontent, and it is desirable that a more satisfactory state of affiairs should be brought about without delay. Some of the men who have appealed are not satisfied with the reply, they have received, to the effect that there are no vacancies in the higher grades, and that they will have to wait for promotion. I entirely support the objections raised by the honorable member for Yarra to the system of grading, because I think it leads to injustice. The men to whom I have, referred have been told that they will have to wait for vacancies, whereas, from what I can learn, vacancies exist at the present time. All the men who are performing similar work, and who are similarly qualified, should receive at least the minimum amount at which suein work is valued. As a matter of fact, many men are not receiving anything like the minimum rate of £132, but only £120 or £124. There is something wrong either in the classification, or in the Departmental administration. Apparently the superintending officers are, for the sake’ of economy, limiting the number of men in the higher grades. 1 do not think that it is desired -by honorable members; that the mien should be treated unjustly. We have done something towards remedying the evils that existed when the Departments, were transferred, but still more remains to be accomplished. At the time of the transfer of the Postal Department to the Commonwealth there were 1,100 officers in New South Wales and Victoria alone, whose periods of service ranged from three to twenty-three years, and who were receiving less than the minimum rate of wage. Upwards of 400 were receiving less than £90 per annum. The fact that this Parliament fixed upon £110 as a minimum rate - of pay for officers of the Public .Service showed that it was desired to pay a fair living wage. I have referred specially to the officers employed in the -telegraph construction branch. There is also a class of employes called instrument fitters. In New South Wales there are fifty-one instrument fitters, or assistant instrument fitters, and these have been divided by the Commissioner into three grades, each comprising seventeen officers. All the men were doing similar work,; but some of them had been iri the service rather longer than others, and the classification appears to have been based upon seniority. The difference between the periods of service of officers in the second and third grades respectively was only six months. In accordance with the valuations placed upon the work, the mechanician received an increase of salary °f £I 5, the chief tester, now called the foreman instrument fitter, received an increase of £29, whilst nine others received an additional salary of £18, and others only £5- Some of the fourteen men who are on the lowest grade at a salary of £115, had been ten years in the service. They have not been engaged in their present work for that period, but have had some years’ experience at it. Some of the officers’ in Noi 2 grade came out of the switch room at exactly the same time as did many of those who are in the lowest grade, and. therefore, so far as practical experience is concerned, are on precisely the same footing. Honorable members will see how unfairly this system works out. The element of unfairness is increased by the fact that those who are in’ the first and second grades receive yearly increments of £6, while officers in the third grade who are doing the same work receive only £115 per annum, and- have to remain’ in receipt of that salary until a vacancy occurs. They are in this grade simply by reason of the accident of time, and their chance of promotion is very remote. The probability is that they would have to live for something like- 200 years before a vacancy would occur in a higher grade. -Those who are their workmates, and who, in some cases, have, not had more experience than they ‘ have had, start off with a salary of £5 per annum in excess of that received by the third class officers, and for the next three years receive annual increments of £6. This is manifestly unfair. If the men ‘in the third’ grade are called on to do the same work as that performed by those in the first or second grades, they should be paid .the value of the work set down by the ‘Commissioner. I took the trouble to inquire what rates of wages were paid to instrument fitters outside the service, and found that Anthony Hordern ‘s, of Sydney, pay 9s. per day’ for the same class of work as that for which these men receive only ,^115 per annum. In New York and other States’ of the United States of America, the men doing this work, by mutual arrangement between their organizations and the telephone or telegraph companies, receive 4 dol. a day.
– For regular- employment?
– Yes. The two-year helpers, as they are called in the United States, receive 2 dol. per day, and the oneyear helpers 1 dol. 50 cents, per day. The wages may vary a little. In a great city like New York the men carrying out these duties doubtless require to be specially skilled, and the wages paid to them may be slightly higher than those received in other parts of the Union; but these figures show that the wage received by the officers iii the third grade of the service is altogether too low, and that it is unfair to refuse to grant them more than £115 per annum, pending their promotion. The likelihood of promotion is so remote that it must be wholly set aside. The remedy must be an amended classification. I do not assert that these cases can be dealt with by administrative act; although I am not satisfied that the others to which I have referred could not be met in that way. There were originally fifty-one men in this class ; but the number to-day is fifty-four. I am informed that the inspector expressed the opinion that the value of the work done by this staff - a very important branch of the service, in which the men must keep uptodate with the march of electrical science - was equal to, if not greater than that of the clerical division. I mention this as an illustration of the unfairness of assessing the work of the whole general division below that of the clerical” division. I wish now to deal with the case of the letter sorters. With’ one important variation, the position of these officers in New South Wales is somewhat similar to that of those employed in Victoria. There are 220 sorters, mail ‘ and despatch officers, in ‘ New South Wales as against some 256 in Victoria, and it is claimed that the work to be performed in the Sydney General Post Office is quite as heavy as that which the larger staff in the General Post Office at Melbourne is called upon to discharge. That is a point, however, which does not materially ‘ affect the. value of the work done, which is assessed by the Commissioner at £138 per annum. The sorters and . mail despatch officers are practically told, however, that they must wait until, by means of annual increments, they reach the minimum value placed upon the work. ‘ Although these men are fully qualified, and, in many instances, have been employed for a long time in the service, they have to start’ off, under the classification by receiving less than the minimum wage. If they were paid £138 per annum from the outset, I believe that the satisfaction which would thus be afforded them would more than compensate for any extra cost that might be incurred in this way. The officers mention in the circular which they have distributed what would be the increased expenditure involved in at once granting them the minimum wage ; but I hold that we have to consider, not the mere question of cost, but the higher one of doing justice to our officers. Out of the 115 men, who receive less than the minimum wage of £138, there are eighty-four in New South Wales, while there are none in Victoria. That in itself suggests an element of unfairness. In New South Wales, where there are fewer employed in this branch than in Victoria, there are eighty-four receiving less than the minimum wage. Eighteen receive £132 per annum; thirtynine, £126 per annum; fourteen, £120 per annum; and thirteen, £114 per annum; there are twenty in South Australia, one in Western Australia, seven in Queensland, and three in Tasmania. There , must be some reason for this disparity, and, although I make no complaint, believing that the Commissioner feels that he would not be justified in enormously increasing the cost of carrying on the various Departments, I think that the House should assure him - if it approves of the value which he has placed upon the work - that it expects that value to be paid. There is another matter relating to the position of the sorters which calls for comment. Some eight men in the General Post Office, Sydney, were asked by their superiors to take the position of acting sorters, on the understanding that they would be appointed sorters at a later date. That understanding has not been carried out. The men appealed unsuccessfully against the classification, and were under the impression that it would be necessary for them to revert to the position of letter carriers as a preliminary to appointment as letter sorters. The Commissioner has informed them that such is not the case. But still that is the position they are in. They fear that as the division is now thrown open to a larger number they will never have a chance of being promoted to a higher position. The position they gave up at the request of the Department was worth ,£120.
– What position did they give up ?
– When they were lettercarriers at a salary of £120 they were asked to become acting-sorters at a salary of £110. They acceded to the request, because - eventually the position of sorter was one which they preferred to have. Having been refused appointment as sorters, they still receive a salary of so that they are worse off than they would have been if they had continued to be lettercarriers.
– But they are still classified as sorters.
– Yes; but they are afraid that, with a larger number of men coming into the grade, they will have no chance of filling a higher position whenever a vacancy occurs. This is one of those cases which ought to be looked into very carefully. The Minister has heard a very full explanation from the honorable member for Yarra with regard to the position of letter-sorters generally, and therefore I do not propose to repeat his remarks on that head. Some cases have been brought under my notice which are not exactly peculiar to New South Wales, but which illustrate the position of from twenty to twenty-five men in this State. Take the case of an officer who, after being eighteen years in the service, is a telegraphist. He was in the clerical division for five years, and was paid a salary of ^180 under the State Act passed in 1900. He is now classed at a salary of ^120, and naturally he feels that he has been treated unfairly. He calls attention to the fact that certain officers in the general division who >were appointed three years later than he was, and at a salary of ,£132, are now classified at. a salary of ^140, while one man who was appointed at the same time as himself, and at a salary of £156, is classified at a salary of £160. It is an anomaly that, after ah officer has been receiving a salary of ^180 for five years he should be brought back to his original salary of ^120, and the salaries of younger officers should be increased. So far as I know, there have been no complaints about his work. I am assured that in this State from twenty to twenty-five officers occupy a somewhat similar position. My attention has been directed to the fact that telegraphists have been called upon to pass an examination. Let me take the case of a telegraphist who was appointed in 1903. He has passed an examination for the clerical division, and as a telegraphist. Fifteen other officers in Victoria are in a somewhat similar position. They think that they should not be called upon immediately to pass another examination in telegraphy. I do not know how their request may be viewed, but, as the grievance affects at least sixteen men in Victoria, I wish to bring it, through the Minister, under the notice of the Commissioner. T do not desire to ventilate individual grievances, except so far as they might illustrate a principle or an act of unfairness. I wish to emphasize again the injustice which seems to be done by the grading system, especially where a large number of officers are concerned, and when there is no possible chance of a vacancy occurring in the higher grades for many years. It is rather heartbreaking to competent men to be continuously employed on similar work to that of men receiving a higher salary. It seems to me that the Commissioner will have to alter that state of things, and possibly by not cutting up the division into grades. Although it is generally recognised that an apprentice cannot expect to receive the same rate of wage as older officers, still when he has shown his fitness to do the work he ought to be given the minimum salary. The men in the general division complain that in regard to increments they are not put on the same footing as men in the clerical division. The latter can get an increment of from £10 to £20 a year each, but it’ is denied to the former. I hold that this unfair distinction should not be made between the two classes of men where the work in the general division is of equal value to the other work, and where skill is required. For instance, take the case of a mechanic, who is engaged in putting up wires and1 looking after the telephones. He requires to have some skill, and certainly some experience. Outside the Department he would be paid a higher wage than he is receiving. Therefore, as , soon as any men are qualified they should be allowed to receive the minimum wage, and then they might be allowed to get an increment from time to time until they reached the maximum. To retain the grading system would be to perpetuate an injustice for a number of3 years. The better way, I think, would be to pay the minimum as soon as a man had ‘qualified, and to allow him to reach’ the maximum by increments if necessary. That it would add to the cost of the Public Service we cannot help. We should not allow any sweating of our public officers to exist, and it is nothing else but sweating when a man is compelled to accept a lower value than the Commissioner has placed upon his work. We can offer no defence when it is pointed out that any men are receiving less than that value. Although I believe that many cases of sweating can be cured by the departmental officers, still I think that there will have to be some little change made in the matter of grading.
– I think the House is now beginning to realize to what a remarkable extent it surrendered its power over the Public Service when it passed the Public Service Act. I do not think that honorable members had an idea until quite recently that they had handed over the entire control of the Public Service to one man, and thus had stripped themselves of every vestige of authority over public officers. For that is the position we are in, I sympathize with the Minister in that he “ has to be the channel of communication between honorable members and the Commissioner - in that he has to consider all the points that have been brought up against this scheme, to do justice to them, and at the same time to defend the position of the Commissioner. When I, for too brief a period, occupied the position that the Minister now occupies,
I had a perfect avalanche of reproaches hurled at me when I presented the classification report to the House. From some of my friends, and from some honorable members, I had to endure not only reproaches but also severe castigation on account of what they considered to be the illiberal nature of the scheme. All the aggrieved public servants naturally thought that it was the duty of the Minister to interfere, whilst all those who considered that their cases’ had been adequately dealt with decided at once that the Commissioner was the right man in the right place. There is no doubt that our Public Service Act was a bold experiment. I think it was bold to the point of audacity to hand over the control of the whole Public Service to one man. Not only was control removed from Parliament, but also from Executive Ministers and from heads of Departments. The latter, to my mind, is really the most serious innovation. We have taken from the heads of Departments, who are personally responsible for the carrying out of the duties of the public servants, the power to appoint or dismiss, to promote, or to transfer, and have given- that power entirely into the hands of an officer who is not directly responsible for the services performed, and under whose eye the men do not work. That is a feature of the system which J. think will not prove in the end to have been wise. I am inclined to think that the result will be tha* instead of the higher officers having that feeling of direct responsibility which they formerly had, the tendency will be more and more towards letting things run in a groove and not attempting to get the very best out of the men of whom they are in charge. They have no voice in the selection of the material with which they have to work. The Commissioner, of course, is a buffer between the public servants and the heads of the Departments. I am quite certain that no head of a private establishment would attempt to run his business without insuring the direct responsibility of the persons who are supposed to carry out the work. One result will be a tendency which will become more and more pronounced towards promotion by seniority. Seniority alone will be the factor in deciding whether or not a public officer shall receive promotion. I do not think there is any scheme which could be devised that would be more likely to bring about a happy-go-lucky method of carrying on the work of the service than promotion by seniority. If officers are not to be rewarded for good work done - for doing their very best according to their ability ; if an officer can see that he is not going to get any more for doing his work any better than is just sufficient to pass muster, he is not likely to put forth any great efforts. Such a system, with its dependence not on the man who is in control, but on a public servant who only looks to the general well-being of the whole service - and will, I think, in the end, look for “the line of least resistance” - will create a tendency towards promotion by seniority .that will scarcely ever be de- . parted from. That will be very bad for the service. I believe that American succes in industry is attributable, to no inconsiderable extent, to the fact that heads of business houses in America pick out smart young men who show ability, and promote them rapidly. Under our Public Service system, and under such a classification scheme as we have before us, such a state of things is practically impossible. No matter how brilliant or smart a public servant may be, if he starts, as lie must do, in the lower grades, nothing but a series of happy accidents will enable him to reach a responsible position at’ any period short of very mature age, when all the verve and enterprise of the man, and all his fresh ideas, have gone, and he has become crystallized and “groovey.” A constant adherence to technical seniority is, in my opinion, likely to be the result of this system. Seniority is reckoned from the date on which a particular salary’ has .been received, and length of service does not enter into the question. The honorable member for Darling has related a rather amusing instance of the effect, of a blind adherence to this principle of seniority. The honorable member quoted the case of a particular branch of a department in which there were fifty-one officers’ doing the same work. To avoid the creation of a fourth grade amongst these officers’ the number was divided by three’, giving three grades ‘of seventeen each, and the officers were allotted to these grades according to seniority.
– All except two, who had certificates from a technical college, and were given some preference.
– Then there was in that case some slight recognition of superior merit ; but it seems to me that such a blind adherence to the recognised principle of seniority was rather ridiculous. I may mention an instance which caine under my own observation recently. A messenger entered the Post Office Department of one of the States a few years ago, and having reached the age at which he should leave the messenger’s business, he was offered a position as a linesman with a country line party, or a position in the stables in the line department. He chose to go into the stables as a linesman, where he had to work seven days a week, as of course the. work of a groom required to be performed on the Sunday as well as on week days. Though his wages per daywere less than those of other linesmen, his weekly wages were higher, because he worked seven, days per week. An opportunity arose for promotion to a superior position, for which linesmen were eligible, and for this position a linesman applied, who had some eight .or ten years longer service, and was in receipt of higher daily wages .than the man to whom I have referred ; but the latter, receiving extra remuneration for Sunday works received weekly wages one shilling in excess of those received by the linesman who had the longer service. The linesman who -was employed in the stables secured the position on the ground that he was senior to the man who had been longer in the service, when, as a matter of fact, he entered the service years later, his daily wages were less, and he was employed in much less responsible work. Owing to the technical interpretation of the term “seniority,” the man with the shorter service secured the promotion. That did not. finish the business, because a messenger lad was - immediately promoted to the position vacated by the stableman, and he at- once ranked senior to the whole of the other linesmen in the department, because Sunday work, involving an extra shilling per. week in salary, gave him technical seniority. It will be seen that if that kind of thing were to go on a stableman who had just joined the service would always be senior to linesmen outside who might have been years in the service. Honorable members will agree that this is an instance of the absolute absurdity of adherence to .the principle of seniority. “Other, things being equal,’” is a term presumed to be taken into consideration in deciding seniority, and to that no one could object, but surely that should not be taken to mean that no attention need be given to the, question of superior merit.
– General proficiency is now made the essence of promotion - not mere seniority.
– It should be, for the encouragement of the best men.
– That is the principle of the classification scheme.
– It should be the principle.
– It is also in the Act.
– If we are to have a slavish adherence to technical seniority we shall get into a very ridiculous position. I am quite with those who have said that in this classification scheme teo many barriers have been erected across the path of the public servants. The regrading has, in my opinion, been somewhat overdone. In saying this I quite’ recognise the extreme difficulty of the Commissioner’s position in the effort to, avoid the difficulty of all the men in the various grades getting to the top of their class, and so overburdening the service at the top. I still believe that it is not advisable in the interests of the service to erect so many barriers, and practically say that only a certain percentage of the number of employes shall be in particular grades, and that until, some of them die, resign, or are dismissed for drunkenness, or something of the sort, there shall be no possible chance of promotion, however smart, intelligent, and active a junior officer may be. We surely do not desire that members of the Public Service should be chiefly interested in the funerals of their brother officers, and should have to look to them as affording Opportunities for their advancement.
– Then we should have to multiply the positions.
– The honorable member does not quite see what I mean. I think it would be a better system to give the smartest men what they are worth as officers than to grade them in such a way as to’ interpose barriers to promotion such as those provided in this scheme. I have been looking at. the “Tree of Life,’.’ .as I think someone, has well named it, appearing as a schedule to the Commissioner’s report. Looking along , the lower line on the left I see that for labourers, . line repairers, watchmen, and storemen the . minimum salary is £110, and the maximum £120. On the other side we have letter carriers, mail drivers, porters, and so on. I wish to deal with the lowest grade - line repairers: Their minimum salary is “the minimum for the service, and they can get up to a salary of £120 per annum.
– They can go higher than that.
– That is the maximum of their grade. As “ line repairers “ they cannot go beyond .£120 per annum, even though one of them were as able and as smart as is the Minister himself.
– He can become a senior line-repairer.
– Then he is a senior line-repairer, and not merely a linerepairer. I have often thought that this work required a considerable amount of skill and nerve. The men spin webs of wire in the air, and have to climb telegraph posts, and reach the roofs of high1 buildings, such as those in Collins-street, Melbourne. That means a considerable amount of knowledge of how to perform their duties without danger to themselves or to the passers in the streets ; and to grade line-repairers as of the very lowest rank in the service seems to show a certain lack of appreciation. The Commissioner, in his report, states -
In the case of instrument fitter, it ‘is considered that as an officer in grade 1 must be possessed of certain technical qualifications, which could only be gained by previous training in the work, promotion to that grade will practically only be obtained by officers who have qualified in the assistant grade attached to that position.
In the various States there are, no doubt, many line-repairers who have followed the occupation for years, and have reached a high degree of efficiency, and yet, no matter how able they may be, they have no hope of going beyond the maximum salary of £120. As to senior repairers, there are very few, three, for instance, being sufficient to perform all the necessary work in Adelaide . and for miles around ; and I suppose one. of those men must die before another appointment can be made. Some of these men do valuable work for the community, and, instead of fixing, a maximum salary of £120, further hopes, of advancement should be held out to those who show extra efficiency. I do not mean to say that every man ought by right to attain the maximum ; but under the present system, the maximum may be attained in two years, by two successive rises of £4. and £6 respectively, and the, men may
The classification of telegraphists has been framed, as far as practicable, on principles consistent with the economical working of the service, and with the claims of officers, as follows : - Twothirds of the total number of telegraphists’ positions in each State have been placed in the fifth class of the clerical division, and the remaining one-third, as nearly as possible, in the fourth class, the latter proportion being, classified in grades as under : -
Grade i. - One-half to be in ist subdivision of 4th Class.
Grade 2. - Three-tenths to be in 2nd subdivision of 4th Class.
Grade 3. - One-tenth to be in 3rd subdivision of 4th Class.
Grade 4. - One-twentieth to be in 4th subdivision of 4th Class.
Grade 5. - One-twentieth to be in 5th subdivision of 4th Class.
I should like to ask the Commissioner, through the Minister, how, if there is any. very brilliant young telegraphist in the service, is he to be pushed ahead under such a system of grading? With such a series of barriers, it will be almost impossible to give proper encouragement to really smart men. Besides, the conditions in the various States are not identical, and, to assume that they are, in fixing the rates of remuneration for officers, does injustice. For instance, in South Australia the business done on the country lines is relatively unimportant, and the earnings much less than the amount obtained from the InterState work. The Inter-State work, which is, to use the Commissioner’s own expression, the more important work of the South Australian offices, is, I think, about fiveeighths of the telegraphic work of the State. All telegrams transmitted from the Eastern States to Western Australia go through South Australia, and so do also most of the telegrams sent from the Eastern States to be cabled to other parts of the world. In New South Wales and Victoria the country lines are relatively of much more importance than they are in South Australia. Therefore honorable members can see that it is not fair to South Australian officers to provide that only one-third of them shall be in the fourth class. I do not wish to go too much into detail, but in dealing with the question of uniformity I would draw the attention of honorable members to the position of the telegraphists at Eucla, where South Australian officers work side by side with Western Australian officers under identical conditions. The names and particulars relating to the South
Australian officers at Eucla are given at page 199 of the classification, and of Western Australian officers at page 228. The head of the Western .Australian staff, who has been in the service for twenty -three years, receives £380 a year, and the head of the South Australian staff, who has been in the service twenty-seven years, or four years more, receives only £240, or £140 less. I do not lay stress upon that difference, however, because perhaps the Western Australian officer may be in charge of the whole office. Then we have a Western Australian officer and a South Australian officer, each at £210, and three South Australians and three Western Australians each at ^185. Following them come two Western Australians at £170, one at £165, and one at £160; while there are six South Australians at £160 each - the lowest salary paid to any Western Australian - one at £140, and one at £120.
– These salaries may have been paid prior to the classification. I think that the honorable member will find that the officers are uniformly graded, irrespective of the State. However, I will look into the matter.
– I at first thought that the differences were due to differences of service, but, on analyzing the lists, I found that the longest service of any Western Australian, apart from that of the Telegraph-master, is thirteen years, that of the others being eleven, nine, eight, and seven years; whereas the longest South Australian service, apart from that of the Station-master, is seventeen years, while three South Australians have served thirteen years, five twelve years, one eleven years, and one eight years. The average length of time served by the Western Australian officers is eight years, and the average salary paid to them £178; while the average length of time served by the South Australian officers is twelve years, and the average salary received by them £165. Both sets of officers are working under the same roof, and it will be difficult to give an explanation of the differences between their salaries which will satisfy the South Australian men. I believe that the real reason for the differences is, as the Minister has suggested, that, prior to Federation, Western Australian officers received more than South Australian officers.
– That is the correct explanation.
– Under these circumstances, no increases should be granted to the Western Australian officers.
– There should be a desire to bring about uniformity in the service as far as possible, according to the offices held by the men.
– I know that all these anomalies will be rectified in the course of a few years.
– Yes, every year is bringing about an improvement.
– I am not mentioning these matters as grievances, but in order to) .ascertain the .principle underlying the scheme, and to ascertain whether it is working fairly. The Public Service Commissioner having found that the salaries paid in Western Australia were much higher than those given to officers doing similar work in other States, has not felt justified in depriving the Western Australian officers of any portion of the rights or accruing rights which are preserved to them under the Constitution. We find, however, that in the case of several postmasters in South Australia, this principle has not been adhered to. Some of the postmasters there were ‘.receiving salaries much higher than those to which they are entitled under the new classification. Their remuneration was made up partly by fixed salary and partly by certain fees, and they have received treatment very ‘ different from that which has been accorded to the Western Australian officials, to whom I have referred. The Public Service Commissioner, in his report, remarks -
In determining the value of the work performed by an officer, I have acted on the assumption that in cases where the rates fixed are lower than the amounts now paid, the reduced rates shall only apply to officers appointed, promoted, or transferred after such reduced rates have come into force.
That, of course, is quite right. The Commissioner did not desire to inflict injustice upon the officers ; but, unfortunately, he has not followed that principle throughout. He says that he has not taken away from any public servant a single penny of his former salary ; but what is the use of saying that when, as a matter of fact, some of the postmasters in South Australia have had their total remuneration- reduced by as much as £182 per annum.
– That does not apply to the actual salaries they were receiving.’
– They were receiving allowances from the trustees of the Savings Bank.
– Yes, and they also enjoyed free quarters, and were allowed a rebate on the sale of postage stamps. In twenty-two cases, the salaries of postmasters have been reduced by from j£i&2 to £21. According to the list I have, one man loses £140, and others £143, £128, £ti3, £98, £86, £63, £86, £48. respectively, and so on. . Is it not absolutely idle to tell these men that their salaries have not been reduced? As a matter of fact the amounts I have mentioned represent what they have lost.
– And yet the Ministry to which the honorable member belonged was prepared to adopt the. Commissioner’s scheme.
– Does the honorable and learned member consider that that is relevant?
– Certainly Ido*
– In the first place, it is not true; and, further, it has nothing whatever to do with the case to which I am. directing attention. .
– Was not the Watson Government prepared to ask the House to indorse the classification, scheme?
– Certainly not.
– They gave us a very different impression at the time.
– I am sorry if the honorable and learned member formed a wrong impression. I do not desire to discuss .the question whether or not I was culpable in that respect. On every possible occasion I have brought the matter before this House, and also before the Commissioner, so that, to the utmost of my power, I have tried to prevent injustice. ‘Honorable members will see that the officers to whom I have referred have suffered a very substantial reduction’ of salary. Not one of them is a constituent of mine, but I consider that they have been most unjustly treated. It must be remembered that special inducements were held out to the public servants to support the proposal for Federation. It was pointed out that they would lose none of . their existing rights, but that’ whatever positions were held and
– They still have to do the work, but the Commonwealth gets paid for it.
– There is no difference in the amount of work they have to perform. The revenue of the Commonwealth is gaining at the expense of these officers, and yet some honorable members refer with pride to the justice of this scheme. The position of the letter-carriers has been ‘ discussed so fully that I do not. think I need deal with’ it further than to say that I agree with those who assert that it would tend to the more satisfactory working of the Department if the grading,, not only of letter-carriers, but of those em. ployed in several other branches of the service, did not commence at so low a salary. The grading is somewhat too low.
– Every honorable member has said that, and I trust that the Minister will take a note of it.
– I hope that someeffect’ will be given to our protests. Personally, I am not” in favour of a necessarily automatic system of granting increments. While I certainly think that those who are rendering efficient service should receive increments from time to time, I hold that steps should be taken to clearly ascertain that their work is really efficient. I should’ like to see special reward for special effort, and in the absence of any provision of the kind lies the weakness of the scheme.
– The principle of rewarding merit runs through the whole scheme.
– I very much question it. The fault may be perhaps not so much that of the scheme as of the Act itself. The tendency of this method of governing the Public Service will be to take the line of least resistance, and to allow promotion by seniority, and seniority alone.
-That would ..be quite contrary to the Act.
– The Minister must recognise that members of the service have not to look for promotion to the officers under whose eye they are working. The officer in charge of a Department has no power to advance his men in any way. Promotion rests entirely with the Public Service Commissioner, who has the, general well-being of the service as a whole to consider. I admit that I would sooner intrust such a power to the present occupant of that office than I would to any other man of whom I know in the whole Public Service of the Commonwealth. The appointment of Mr. McLachlan as Public Service Commissioner reflects considerable1 credit on the Government who made it. He is a sincere, earnest officer, anxious to do his best, not only for the service, but for the Commonwealth. The task that has been imposed upon him, however, is greater than any one man could adequately fulfil.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– I am not prepared to submit any patent brand new scheme to remove these difficulties; I do not believe that any patent political pill would cure all the ills of the service. It seems to me, however, that in our desire to avoid even the semblance of political influence in connexion with the Public Service we have gone too far towards the other extreme. We have erected so many barriers, and graded the whole service in such a way, that it will be practically impossible to reward the smart men and to get the best out of them.
– So many honorable members have expressed the same opinion during the debate that I should like to know precisely what they mean and what they desire.
– When I am appointed Commissioner it will be my duty to propound a detailed scheme.
– But the honorable member was at one time the Ministerial head of the Commissioner’s department.
– Let me assure the honorable member that I believe in Ministerial responsibility and power going hand in hand. I believe in the head of a Department having the power and the responsibility of. rewarding the men under his control. At the present time,, however, heads of Departments have the responsibility of endeavouring to obtain thebest service without power to reward it.It is only in an indirect way that they car reward ability. My own experience is that political influence has not caused anything . like the abuses that have been attributed to it.
– Which is the greater abuse - political or social influence?
– I trust that the honorable member will notput conundrums to me while I am dealing with a question of far-reaching importance. A tendency towards mediocrity throughout the service would be a greater evil than would be occasional favoritism. The lattermight arise under a system of Ministerial or parliamentary influence of any kind ; but it is of the highest importance that those who have the control of our public servants should be in such a position that they can reward the smart and competent men under them. The fact that it is practically impossible for them to do so is due, not so much to the classification scheme, as to the Public Service Act. There is one other matter to which I desire to refer. The system of booking off for an oddhalf-hourortwentyminutes at a time is practised to such an extent in the General Post Office, Adelaide, that the assistant letter-sorters in many cases have to start work at 5 a.m., and continue until 10 p.m., in order to put in eight hours a day. The time off obtained in this way is really of no advantage to the men. They cannot sleep during a half-hour off, although they may leave the office and obtain refreshment if they desire to do so; but to ask men to be on duty from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. every day, in order to make up a working week of forty-eight hours is to expect them to do that which the Commonwealth really does not desire. I am absolutely satisfied that the Parliament does not desire the public servants of the Commonwealth to be kept on duty for such very long hours in return for the wages they receive.
– And we shall not have it.
– Some scheme should be adopted whereby the necessity for this system could be obviated. One other point, and I shall have finished. The question of the retiring age of civil servants has been dealt with by this Parliament. Officers of the Public Service are to retire on reaching the age of sixty-five years; unless their continued engagement is necessary in the interests of the Department. Such, in effect, is the provision that we have passed; and while I am not
– That applies to the moleskin division of the service - it does not apply to those who wear tweed.
– I shall not touch upon the sartorial phase of the question which the honorable member has suggested. I trust that the Minister will put it to the Commissioner whether it is necessary that officers should be retired until they are actually sixty-five years of age. Is it necessary to begin at the age of sixty-four and a half years? The Act says that an officer must retire when he reaches the age of sixty-five years; but the retirement is to take place at the end of the furlough.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a public officer should remain in the service after he is sixty-five years of age, or that he should get a furlough of six months when he reaches that age?
– To tell the honorable gentleman the truth, I do not think that many men are incapable of performing the duties of a furlough when they are sixty-five years of age.
– What does the honorable member suggest? The Act specifies the time when a public officer shall retire.
– The Act says that a public officer must retire at the age of sixty-five years, but the Commissioner might very well interpret the provision to mean that the furlough of an officer shall begin at the time of his retirement, namely, when he is sixtyfive years of age. It would not interfere with the advancement of any officer in the Department, and every man is, I believe) quite capable of enjoying a furlough at the age of sixty-five years. I am rather afraid that the time we are putting in here, somewhat laboriously, is being wasted. I believe that the Commissioner will look into all these matters, and that where he feels he can alter his practice or his scheme he will take that course. With others, I realize what a stupendous task he undertook, and that, on the whole, with the material he bad and working under the Act, he could
– I feel that it is not necessary for any honorable member to apologize to the House for speaking on this question. It seems to me that we are now settling what will be the gradation of the Public Service for many years to come, perhaps for ever, and that time is not wasted where there is a possibility of adjusting what are grievances, and what appear to be inconsistencies in the present recommendations. With the last speaker, I think that the Commissioner, in performing the herculean task which was set him, did all that one man might be expected to do. He brought to bear upon the task an earnest desire to treat fairly and properly the various officers in this great service. We are justified in representing the interests of those persons who have submitted grievances to us. As to those in the lower grades of the general division, I think, with my honorable friends opposite, that there should have been an opportunity afforded to them to get an annual increment until their salary reached the sum of £150. I am not required, I take it, to ask what motives influenced the Victorian Legislature in passing the legislation which put public officers to be transferred to the Commonwealth in a certain position. But we had a specific undertaking in the Constitution Act that “existing and accruing rights “ would- be preserved. Victorian members are entitled to require a recognition of that obligation.” The honorable member for Boothby referred to a very important point when he mentioned that the effect of this procedure under the Public Service Act is such as to establish rather too much of an automatic condition of things in the Public Service, and that there should be some outlet provided for men or women who possess conspicuous ability. That, I know, is practically restricted by the general conditions which underlie the Act. However great was the desire of the Commissioner to do justice to all persons concerned, he was entitled to consider the cost to the Commonwealth. Having regard to all the instructions he received, he performed a great task; but if he had been in a position in which he could have consulted much more with his Ministerial head, in the first instance at any rate, a better solution might have been found for many of the difficulties which mark his great scheme. I quite understand arid appreciate the force of his remark, that, if he were to remove any one portion, it might destroy the whole fabric he has created. ‘ A glance at his report will show that he made some effort to enable those officers who are in the lower grades of the general division to find their way into higher positions. I have a statement under his own hand, in which he says that previously, in some of the States, letter-carriers could rise no higher, and that, under his scheme, the door is left open so. that they can rise to a position worth from £220 to £350 a year. That, of course, is an accurate statement to make, - but, so far as the men receiving the lower salaries are concerned, it is practically a case of being asked to wait for dead men’s shoes. No allowance is made for men who show ability and energy in performing their duties. Still I do not wish to say a single word against the Commissioner in the efforts which he has made to discharge his duties. I give all credit to him for what he- has done. But I think, we are justified in coming to this House, and urging that the grievances endured by officers in contravention of the understanding arrived at when the foundation of this Commonwealth was laid are rectified. Now I will deal with what I may call the lower grades of the general service. First, letter-carriers appointed under the State regulations would have received a minimum of £90, a maximum of £1:32 per annum; the maximum to be reached in five years. In the first yeathere was a £14 rise, in the third year a £14 rise, and in the fifth year a £14 rise. About 1:30 Victorian officers were appointed under this State Act. The classification scheme provides as follows : - Assistant letter-carriers, £54 to £110 per annum; letter-carrier, grade No. 1, £114 to £126 ; letter-carrier, grade No. 2, £132 to £138 ; and £6 yearly increments in each grade. Those 130 letter-carriers, who were appointed under the State Act, and who, under State regulations, would reach to a salary of £132 after five years’ service, now find themselves in this position. About thirty of them were in receipt of £104 per annum, and expected to reach £118 after three years’ service. Instead of this, the Commissioner has given them their rise “ under his classification, which permits them to go up to £110 per annum. It will thus be seen that they lose £8 the first year, £t6 the second year, and £30 the third year. Under the grading system they are certain to remain at £110 per annum for, say, seven years. It will therefore be seen that after the third year these officers will be losing £30 per annum, or a loss of £150 in seven years, as compared with what they would have received under the State regulations. I repeat, in face of these facts, that no apology is needed for bringing these matters before the notice of Parliament, because, in the case of these smaller salaries, the loss of a few pounds per annum means much more than would be the case to officers in the higher grades of the service. If they have justice on their side, I am sure that the Commissioner, the Minister, and Parliament desire that they shall be equitably and justly dealt with. About eighty letter-carriers appointed under the State Act are due to receive £132 in January next. They are at present in receipt of £118 per annum. The Commissioner, in his classification, has actually classed these officers as assistants receiving a salary of £8 over the maximum prescribed, which salary the Commissioner very generously states that he does not intend to reduce. It is very certain that these officers will be in the assistant grade for some years, and they will not receive further increments until they are promoted into the next grade ; whereas - and this is the point that I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister - they were entitled under State regulationsto reach £132 in five months’ time. The circumstances under which’ the State Parliament passed the Act in question is not our concern. This House agreed that their rights under the State law should be the ground upon which the claims of the officers should be considered. Assuming that they are not promoted for seven years, they will be losing £12 per annum, or £84 in seven years, as compared with what they were entitled to receive under State regulations ; and when they are promoted they will not receive a higher salary than £126 pex annum as letter-carriers, grade 2. About twenty of these letter-carriers were entitled to £132 per annum last January, but, instead of receiving an increase, as prescribed by the Act tinder which they were appointed - namely, £14, or from £118 to 132 - the Commissioner has only given them a £2 increment for the first year. When they have completed another year, they will receive another £6, which will increase the salary to £126, which is the maximum for letter-carriers, grade No. r. It is quite certain that these officers will remain at £126 for at least ten years under the classification scheme prescribed. This means that in ten years they will be £78 poorer than they would have been under the regulations in force in 1900. About 80 per cent, of these officers have had from fifteen to twenty years’ service ; the remainder from ten to fifteen years’ service. Take another class. Under the State regulations a letter-carrier could ultimately become a supervisor at the maximum salary of £360 per annum. That was only after he had rendered’ at least thirty years’ service. The statement of the case which has been placed in my hands continues -
This was conserved to the Victorian employes when taken over by the Commonwealth, and it is regarded as an interference with State rights, and a* consequently illegal.
That is going to be tested.
The Commissioner by his classification has made the positions of -supervisor and assistant supervisor clerical, erecting a bar to the officers of the general division ever reaching a higher position than that of mail officer with a maximum of ^228 per annum. It is contended that the officers best able to fill the positions of supervisor and assistant supervisor are those men who have graduated through the ranks, and have demonstrated their fitness and ability by the various promotions they have received from the position of letter-carrier to that of sorter, then mail officer, assistant supervisor, and finally supervisor.
That is the point to which reference was made by the honorable member who preceded me. The statement proceeds : -
By this course the men become thoroughly acquainted with every point of the whole of the duties, and are possessed of an intimate knowledge of the smallest details, and are enabled to command to the fullest advantage the knowledge possessed by the staff in the interests of the service, and to the advantage of the public. In this State officers filling the positions of assistant supervisor have graduated from the ranks, and it has been proved, beyond doubt, that the work is more efficiently performed with this advantage, that it is more economical.
In laying this information before the Minister, I know the honorable and learned gentleman will not expect me to reveal the names of the officers who have supplied it, but I give it as it was supplied to me. -
Under the present classification officers who will have to fill the positions of supervisor and assistant supervisor will have to be taught their duties by their subordinates.
That point has also been referred to by the honorable member who preceded me - not only subordinates in rank and position, but subordinates who were receiving larger pay.
You can well understand that in dealing with the large staff which they will have to command, it will take years before they can possibly obtain a knowledge of the capacity and ability of individual members of the staff, in order that their knowledge may be used to the best advantage. There are only some thirty-five positions in the Commonwealth filled by supervisors and assistant supervisors, “and it is not too much to ask that these positions shall be thrown open to the general division, consisting of several thousand men. There is every reason .why the general division should have these positions placed within their reach.
Certain reasons for this suggestion have been submitted to me, and I feel perfectly justified in bringing them under the notice of the House in the form in which I have received them: -
It is reasonable and common-sense.
It is more economical than the present system.
It is more efficient.
It will act as an incentive, and only those who demonstrate their fitness will obtain the position.
It is to be hoped that the Commissioner will see his way to make provision whereby the rank and file of the service can, in a reasonable time, hope to aspire to the positions of supervisor and assistant supervisor.
I have here a further statement which deals with a still higher grade of the service. I repeat that the members of the service referred to were originally in the Victorian State Service.
– Where are they now ?
– They are now in the Commonwealth Service in Victoria. I must trouble the House to allow me to submit the representations to- me in such a form that the Minister and the Commissioner will be able to consult upon them later on if that should appear necessary.
In these instances I can give the specific cases referred to if that is thought necessary, but these are representative.
These, however, are regarded as class rises, and nothing is paid pending approval of the classification, notwithstanding that two subdivisional amounts of £25 each are comprised in the difference between £160 and £210.
The result has been that one subdivisional increment between the minimum and maximum of a class has been paid in all cases within a class, but in those cases where an officer already at the maximum of a class was advanced to the minimum of the next higher class nothing was allowed, because of the very fine distinction that it was a class rise.
This, in the opinion of those who have asked me to bring the matter before’ the House, is not equitable. The honorable member for Yarra, arid also the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, submitted the case of the letter sorters, and I do not propose to repeat their remarks. I should like to see some practical result from these representations which have been made, otherwise it seems to me that we shall have filled page after page of Han sard to no purpose. Other honorable members may do what I have felt myself in duty bound to do, and place on the records of the House representations coming from interested men who think they have been hardly dealt with under this classification scheme. I think they have taken a justifiable means to remedy’ what they believe to be an injustice done them. No apology is necessary for making these representations to the House, because now is the time to do justice to those who think they are being hardly dealt with. I have cited the case of the letter-carriers, but, as their grievances have already been so ably dealt with, I do not think I should be justified in going over that ground again. I know that the Minister, together with every member of the House, desires to carry out the spirit of the Public Service Act. That Act has to be administered, free from any political interference, and, personally, I shall assist in maintaining the principle which underlies that measure. But we are establishing for all time a classification scheme, and this justifies us, even after the appeals - even after the recommendations which have passed from the Appeal Board to the Commissioner, and from the Commissioner to the Minister - in making representations as to any anomalies or injustice from which members of the Public Service may deem themselves to be suffering. I think we are justified in urging the Minister to agree that public servants, who feel themselves to be under the disability of inequitable recommendations^ - I do not say individual officers, but officers representing classes - shall be placed in a position to re-state their case, clearly and specifically, and that the Commissioner shall, in view of the possibility that there may have been some miscarriage of justice, give these representations reconsideration. In my opinion, and, I believe, in the unanimous opinion of the House, the Commissioner has done his best under difficult and trying circumstances. That gentleman had to consider so many different influences and circumstances’ in the various States, that, in my view, it would have been a good thing if he had been assisted in this first classification by some person from each State, able to represent the peculiar conditions in the varying territories. For example, the experience of the Public Service Commissioner had been entirely confined to New South Wales, and he had .no knowledge, except such as he acquired after his Commonwealth appointment, of the conditions in Victoria; and here such advice and assistance as I have indicated would have been useful. And so in regard to the other States. In Western Australia, for instance, the conditions are, no doubt, different from those which prevail in Victoria ; and I should like an assurance from the Minister that there will be some review of the position of bodies of men who think that they have a grievance. I am sure the House will unanimously agree that a little delay in the settlement of this matter will not’ prove harmful, if the result be the reconsideration of such cases as have been indicated.
– The Minister last week refused to give such an assurance.
– The Minister has now taken up quite a different position. I know that the Ministers desire is to see justice done as far as possible - although, perhaps, he may not be able to give an assurance to the effect desired on the floor of the House - without destroying the whole fabric, which has been so thoughtfully and carefully built up by the Commissioner. I quite appreciate the principle which has actuated the Commissioner in this work, and I recognise that he,, and also the Minister and Parliament, have the right to conserve the interests of the taxpayers throughout Australia. We are not justified in mounting up expenditure in any direction, but, on the contrary, are bound to see that it is curtailed in every way that is right and reasonable. I earnestly submit, however, that there is some ground for the claim for reconsideration of the position of certain officers. My desire is to deal with class rather than individual grievances, but from innumerable letters which I have received I am certain that, even in this scheme, excellent as a whole, here are certain individual cases of dissatisfaction which I am sure every honorable member would like to see removed. We are justified in prolonging this discussion only so long as is necessary to make these representations in the interests of those who think they are aggrieved, and I feel sure there will be the one practical result, namely, the submission to the Commissioner, through the Minister, of further representations on behalf of sections of the Public Service who feel that they have just grounds for the request they are making.
– Like previous speakers, I preface my re* marks with an expression of opinion’ that the classification -scheme reflects nothing but the greatest credit on its author. The report is excellent from a literary standpoint, and also because of the manifest effort made to treat with justice the various and multifarious classes whose positions call for consideration. At the same time, I take the liberty to say that no man can be blamed for not being omniscient or infallible. And that the Commissioner is not omniscient or in fallible is quite patent from the number of anomalies, notwithstanding the many merits and virtues of the scheme. There are one or two points to which I should like to briefly call attention. As previous speakers have said, we should not deal so much with individual cases as with cases typical of a class. The first class to which I should like to refer is that of the female clerks, who, it seems to me, have a very just grievance, to which no Legislative House, Minister, or honorable member who cares to do justice can fail to give serious consideration. On the first of the present month I put a series of questions to the Minister of Home Affairs in reference to female clerks, and received answers more or less - mostly less - satisfactory. The first question I asked was whether the nature of the work or the sex of the worker determined the classification under which he or she should be placed, namely, general or clerical. I received the answer that the nature of the work determined the classification. But I can prove by a hundred instances that that is not so, and that work is classified as “general,” because done by females, which, if done by males, would be classified as. clerical, and paid accordingly. That is an anomaly which should not continue for five minutes. We have declared in the Act that no regard shall be paid to sex, and that merit alone shall determine the rewards and emoluments of the workers. I therefore ask the Minister to draw the attention of the Commissioner to these cases. The honorable gentleman said just now, by way of interjection, that he knows of no instances in which females have been called upon to pass examinations for promotions to higher grades which males would not have been called upon to pass under similar circumstances. But I can prove again that females are called upon to pass, not only the entrance examination, but a promotion examination as well, while men are not always called upon to pass the latter. Whilst chivalry is not a permissible factor in politics, and we are not allowed to give preference to the ladies in the service, by exempting them from examinations, it will be generally admitted that we should put no handicap upon them in their competition with the male members of the service.
– What examinations are females required to pass which, under similar circumstances, males would not be required to pass?
– Females, I am informed, are required to pass the entrance examination, and a second examination to entitle them to promotion to the clerical branch, or to obtain the minimum wage.
– Males and females are in the same position in regard to examinations.
– I am informed that males are promoted as a matter of routine, after the lapse of time, without being called upon to pass examinations.
– Both males and females have to pass examinations to get from the general to the clerical division.
– I am credibly informed that ladies are always called upon to pass an examination to obtain such promotion, but that there are instances in which men are not so called upon. I hope that the Minister will inquire into the matter.
– I am informed that no distinction is made between males and females in regard to these examinations.
– I think that if the honorable gentleman makes a closer inquiry he will find that there have been instances inwhich men have not been asked to pass an examination which women have been required to pass. I shall, of course, be glad to find that my information is not correct; but, if a distinction is made, the Minister should see that an end is put to it. I shall notoccupy time by dealing at length with the objection of the letter-carriers to the classification, for has it not been written in the annals of the House, as contained in Hansard, over and over again? I would, however, emphasize the fact that they have not been fairly treated. But they have put forth their grievances in a very clear and succinct manner, and I am sure that, on second thoughts, the Commissioner will see the need for reconsidering his decision. I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to a case in which two men who have filled the positions of despatch clerks in the Post Office have been reduced to the general division without a reason having been given to them for the reduction. These men, who have fifteen years’ service, and had been four years in their positions, have by the classification been removed to the general division, and others belonging to the clerical division have taken their places. While the position has not been degraded, the men have. Another complaint I have to make is that men who have been many years in the service, who have married, and incurred responsibilities on the good faith of the Government that their positions would be secure, have been considerably reduced in salary. I will not give to the Minister the names of those to whom I refer, but I have a full memorandum of all the circumstances. In another case, after a classification board had admitted the justice of increasing certain salaries, its recommendation was ignored by the Commissioner. Several speakers have referred to the fact that too much responsibility is laid upon this one man, and have said that, for his own comfort, to lessen his own responsibility, and so that justice may be done to the many men in the service, the heads of the Departments should be associated with him. The case to which I have just referred, in which he ignored the recommendation of a classification board to increase a salary from£132 to . £150 per annum, seems to me to require explanation. I would also direct the attention of the Minister to the following question, which must be considered by this House: -
Does the Commonwealth Government intend to promote to the fourth and fifth subdivisions of the third class of the Federal Service, and pay the increments appertaining thereto, to those officers transferred from the Victorian State service(vide Commonwealth Constitution Act), . who - by virtue of the provisions of certain sections of Victorian State Acts, namely, Nos. 773, 1324, and 1 72 1 (which said Acts do, as determinedby legal opinion, override the Commonwealth Public Service Act of 1902, or any classification thereof) - are justly entitled to such promotions and consequent increments, subject to the satisfactory performance of such officers’ duties, as required by the above-mentioned Acts, and the dependent recommendation of the Permanent Head of the Department to the Public Service Commissioner?
I trust that this question will be very carefully considered by the Minister. It has already been “submitted to a number of members of the legal fraternity in this House and outside of it. Sir Edmund Barton, when Prime Minister, in replying to a question by the present AttorneyGeneral, stated that there was not a shadow of a doubt that the existing and accruing rights of public servants in the transferred Departments would be conserved, and I have the opinions of the Attorney-General and the honorable and learned member for Corinella, given in their capacity as members of the legal profession, to a similar effect. At the time that Federation was being proposed, promises were made to the public servants that their rights would be respected by the Commonwealth, and yet no Government has made any serious attempt to see that that compact was kept.
A flagrant breach of faith has been committed, and it is the duty of honorable members to see that the wrongs which have been inflicted are righted. I believe that Ministers have the welfare of the public servants at heart, and I trust that they will do everything in their power to see that individuals as well as classes are justly dealt with. I desire to direct attention to the case of an officer who holds a highly responsible position, namely that of assistant accountant in the Defence Department. Some £600,000 passes through his accounts annually, and yet he is classified at a ridiculously low salary. In cases where grave responsibility exists, and large sums of money pass through the hands of officers, it is not fair to place an undue strain upon their honesty by paying them a miserable pittance. And yet that is happening in the case referred to.
– What salary does the officer receive?
– Three hundred and fifty pounds. He is sharing responsibility with another officer, who is in receipt of a salary of double that amount, and the discrepancy between the two salaries is not warranted by the difference in the amount of responsibility which the respective officers have to bear. The officer who occupies a corresponding position in the War Office in Great Britain, receives a salary of twice the amount that is paid to the assistant accountant of our Defence Department. I trust that the Minister will give his fullest consideration to the various anomalies to which his attention has been called, including those which exist in connexion with the degradation of clerical officers in Sydney to the general division. I think that we should endeavour to secure uniformity of practice, to accord fair treatment all round, and to deal with the claims of officers impersonally. A great deal has been said with regard to political influence and ministerial responsibility in connexion with the classification of public servants. The work that has been performed by the Commissioner has been of a Titanic character, and it would be unreasonable to expect any one man to formulate such a scheme without falling into grievous mistakes. It is now our duty to see that any errors that may have been committed are repaired. It is highly undesirable that our public officers should feel that no’ means of redress is open to them in the event of wrong being committed. The most humble officer in our service should be able to feel assured that any grievance he may have will be carefully considered, and that his claims will be conceded if that result can be brought about without inflicting injury on others. The Minister of Home Affairs will accomplish good work if we can induce the Commissioner to adopt one-third ‘part of the good advice that has. been tendered by honorable members.
– Honorable members must be rather tired of this discussion. The feature that has most struck my attention has. been the constant reiteration of compliments paid to the Public Service Commissioner. The language of eulogy has been almost exhausted by honorable members in their references to the work which he has performed. The word “ stupendous “ has been employed in this connexion, and the honorable member who has; just resumed his seat described the labours of the Commissioner as Titanic. We are not here either to compliment the officer who carried out the classification or to defend him when he is attacked, but the smaller number of grievances to which reference has been made evidence the satisfactory way in which he has carried out his task. I admit that injustices have arisen in some cases, but when we find that under a classification scheme relating, to something like 11,000 officers, so few grievances have arisen, we must admit that, so far as the public servants are concerned, the work has been well, faithfully, and judiciously performed. The Parliament must always be ready to receive the petitions of those who believe they labour under an injustice. It is not the privilege, but the right, of every citizen to appeal to Parliament for the redress of grievances. I trust I shall always, remember that, while some of my constituents may be public servants, I represent a large body of the general taxpayers, and that their interests must also be considered. Whilst I can understand why honorable members fight for higher salaries and improved conditions for our public servants, we must not forget that the great bulk of the people of the Commonwealth are not public servants, but taxpayers who have to find the means wherewith to pay for our various public services. I am satisfied, however, that it is the wish of the taxpayers that no public servant shall be’ underpaid. It is the desire of the people that our officersshall be justly remunerated for their ser- vices, and I wish to state the grievances of public servants who hold that departmental redress has not been given to them - who assert that the appeal board system has. not worked satisfactorily - and that the Commissioner, owing, to the multifarious duties imposed upon him has overlooked their claims. In presenting these claims, 1 do not take upon myself the responsibility of vouching for their correctness. Many of those who feel aggrieved are known to me, and I would not doubt their word; but when a man is stating a claim for improved conditions, he does not always look at the question from the standpoint of those who have to pay. There is a danger that if too much encouragement bt given to public servants to bring forward individual grievances on each and .every occasion that Parliament is called upon to deal with the position of the service, the whole of the officers of the Commonwealth will be demanding the rectification of what they describe as grievances, at the expense of the general body of taxpayers. You, Mr. Speaker, will always fight for the maintenance of this House as an open tribunal for the ventilation of grievances of public servants or other citizens, and it should be our endeavour at all times to remove injustices. I agree with those who say that there is no necessity to apologize for brining forward any case of injustice that has arisen under the Classification, but I cannot go so far as to suggest that it will be practicable to adjust every grievance that may be brought under our notice! I understood the Minister to say that the adoption of the Classification will be delayed until the grievances which have been brought before him in the House have been inquired into.
– They will be sent to the Commissioner for his report.
– “ Unto Caesar shalt thou go.” The Minister says that the Government will delay the adoption of the Classification pending the re-consideration of these complaints by Caesar. Caesar has already arrived at a decision in regard to all these matters, and, in doing so, has had the assistance of the Appeal Boards. According to members of the Public Service, these Appeal Boards have not proved the just tribunals that we expected. One objection is that in some cases inspectors have acted as chairmen of Appeal Boards appointed to deal with recommendations which they themselves have made.
– That is provided for by the Act.
– But if experience proves that any section of the Act is unjust in its incidence so far as the public servants are concerned, the Minister will surely bring in an amending Bill to remove the ‘anomaly. I should like to place on record my belief that whilst no honorable member can shut his eyes to the apparent grievances of public servants who are among his constituents he should not too willingly accept them as such. We have to consider the taxpayers generally, who have to provide the finances of the Commonwealth. Before dealing with concrete cases, there are one or two matters to Which I should like to refer in a general sense without particularizing any class or individual. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports smiles, but I trust that, like the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, he will be prepared to deal with- this question from a Federal stand-point. The kindest words I have heard to-day were those of an honorable member, who admitted that there was such a city as Sydney, and that public servants there had grievances. Official figures which I have gathered from the Appropriation Acts of 1901 and 1904-5 show that public servants employed in the Postal Department of New South Wales are not’ as well treated as are those in the Victorian branch of the service. This is one of the grievances against the Classification. Many of the matters in respect of which complaint has been made against the Commissioner have arisen from the passing of Appropriation Acts providing for the payment of ‘ salaries to Commonwealth public servants in Victoria, which are much higher than are those received by their fellow officers in ‘New South Wales. Throughout the debate,; the Department over which the Postmaster-General presides has been at least as much in evidence as has any other branch of the- service. I suppose it. is an act of sacrilege to admit that I have not read the report on the classification of the Public Service. Some honorable members have been so anxious to compliment the Commissioner that they have even entered on a criticism of his literary style. I expected for the moment to hear the statement that he had copied the style of Addison or Balzac, in order to show that he had given close attention to even the literary excellence of the report. I do not intend to encourage a torrent of adulation in regard to this officer. He is a personal friend of mine, and I believe he was appointed by reason of his full knowledge of and long acquaintance with the Public Service. He was appointed to perform this work, and he has done it well, as he was paid and expected to do. If he had done the work badly it would have been the duty of the Minister who has read the report, or is supposed to have seized himself of its salient portions, not to lay it upon the table. However, he hasaccepted the report, and told us that practically the only power we have now is to ventilate the ‘grievances of public officers. I am not in a position to ascertain whether the grievances are justifiable or not. In their prepared statements, apparently, the officers make out a very solid case for a close inquiry by the Minister, and a further inquiry by the Commissioner. It is some years since I had the privilege of fighting for the abolition of political influence in New South Wales. No man would be more prepared than myself to fight to the utmost against the reintroduction of political influence. I consider that in the majority of cases political influence lias been brought to bear not always by the most deserving public servants, and certainly not in behalf of those who are bereft of political friendship or interest. I believe there has crept in an evil - I am not prepared to say that it exists in the Commonwealth service - which is almost, if not quite, as bad, and that is social influence. If the Minister could show evidence that it has been brought to bear in regard to appointments, promotions, or remuneration then most decidedly he should take a strong stand and punish those who have indulged in this practice. I take it that in the Fost, and Telegraph Department the roadway should be open, and a boy if he possessed the necessary capacity and ability, should be able to rise from the humblest position to that of Deputy Postmaster-General. In all these matters merit, and merit only, should tell. Political friendships and club or social influence should not direct appointments, advancements, or promotions. The Public Service Act was intended to discourage the introduction of this evil, and therefore itprovided that, by a series of examinations, a boy could aspire to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General, and that obstacles should not be placed in his way. I am prepared to believe that the obstacles it set up in the form of a series of examination’s are not the only ones which will meet a man in his onward path. The mere fact that a man has passed examinations has not that mystic effect upon me which it has upon many present. It is thought by some persons that a system ot examinations isthe be-all and the end-all of advancement. I do not share that view, but if that system be adhered to, and no other obstacles of a departmental character placed in the road, I am willing to believe that the roadway in the Public Service would be open to a person from the lowest to the highest position. While my ears are not deadened to the cry of grievances by any person in the community, I recognise that if we too readily take up grievances, the Public Service, not the Parliament of the Commonwealth, will be the master of the situation. When a public servant finds that he can use the lever of Parliament for the advancement of himself or his class he will never lack the opportunity or the desire to use that lever when it can be used successfully. I honestly believe that our duty can best be performed here by guarding the rights of the taxpayers, who have to find the money to pay the salaries of public officers. Before dealing with the general question, or discussing concrete cases of grievances, I wish to point out that the Public Service is a growing concern. Let us imagine a system of Socialism, when nearly every person will require to be a civil servant. It is no wild freak of the imagination to wonder what sort of classification scheme will be presented then. If these Socialists are of the pure merino type, they will require that the lowest and the highest officer shall have equality of salary. But, in any case, if we had a great extension of the departments of Government, then by force of numbers the public servants will control the voting of public money, and those who are on the lower rungs will use their influence in that respect against the men in the highest positions. That is a problem for those who believe in the svstem to think out. From the State stand-point, let me point out the apparent discrepancy in the payment of the officials in the various States. There are practically only two large Deoartments under the control of the Commissioner, namely, the Post and Telecraph Department and the Department of Trade and Customs. Considering that out: of a total number of 11,700 officers in those two Departments, the Postmaster-General controls 10,700 odd, he should, I take it, be as attentive to the discussion of this classification scheme as is the Minister of Home Affairs, to whom the Commissioner is responsible. The great bulk of the grievances that reach this House in regard to treatment at the Appeal Courts or under the classification of the Commissioner emanate from officers in the Post and Telegraph Department. I cannot conceive of any member of the House being in a better position to say whether those grievances are correct than the honorable gentleman could be if he would make the necessary inquiry through his officers. In this matter he ought to be a strong adviser to the Minister for Home Affairs, who will have to look to the PostmasterGeneral for information. It is to be hoped that the honorable gentleman will give close attention to the debate, not only in order to protect the revenue, but also to safeguard the interests of the officers of his Department. If it is not too parochial to do so, I may be permitted to call attention to the way in which New South Wales is affected, in the hope that the Postmaster-General will lend the weight of his influence to the conservation of the interests of the people of his own State.
– The Minister does not say anything as to that.
– Perhaps he is not allowed to say anything. Perhaps the Prime Minister or the Minister of Home Affairs has too much influence over him.
– Mr. Speaker does not permit interjections to be made.
– Interjections are permissible so long asthey are relevant, and I am certain that the Postmaster-General can, if he likes, make a relevant interjection in regard to this matter. I find that in New South Wales, for the year 1904-5, the number of employes in the Post and Telegraph Department was 3,900 odd, and the amount of salary paid was £504,417, being an increase over the year 1901-2 of £77,985. So that the average salary was £127. That is lower than the average for any other State in the Union, with the exception of Tasmania.
– The New South Walds officers got an increase of11 per cent.
– The honorable member, as a member of the Labour Party, should be the last to interject in a hostile manner, especially as in his own State the average salary paid to Post and Telegraph officials was£131.
– That shows that the New South Wales officials must have been sweated prior to Federation.
– The position that I take up is that neither the Commonwealth officials nor the public of this country should be sweated. In that respect we have a double duty to discharge. The fact remains that £127, as an average salary, is considered quite sufficient for post and telegraph officers in New South Wales, whilst in the other States, with the exception of Tasmania, the average is higher. In fact, it is something “beyond the dreams of avarice” for an official in New South Wales to expect more, according to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– Not so.
– Something must be allowed for the extra cost of living in Western Australia.
– Then what is the excuse forVictoria, where the average salary is £131 ? In Queensland, the average is £142. What is the reason- for the differentiation between Queensland and New South Wales in this respect ? In South Australia, . the average is £134. “The climate” is, I suppose, alleged as the reason for the average being higher in all the other States than in New South Wales and Tasmania. In the latter State, the Post and Telegraph officials receive, on an average, £111. According to theargument of the honorable member for Corangamite, the colder the climate is the less the salary should be. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports laughs, but there is no man who would whine more pitifully in this Chamber, no man who would scream more loudly on the platform in this State, if the tale were different from that which I am now telling. There is no man who is more keen to the susceptibilities of the general populace than the honorable member is. There is no man who feels the currents of public opinion more quickly and more astutely than he does. It would, therefore, be more becoming if he would leave off laughing, or frankly say that it does not matter what the average is for New South Wales so long as it is all right for Victoria. That, I suppose, is the broad Federal spirit - the bright and rarer atmosphere - that we were to enjoy under the Commonwealth Parliament. I draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to these facts. If he feels as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does, and is under the influence of the Age, all the worse for the State which he represents. The increase in the amount of salaries paid in 1904-5 was £178,565. It is time, therefore, that some one said a word on behalf of the bleeding public, who had to find the money for the civil servants of Australia.
– Is the honorable member one who is bled?
– I am; . £178,000 isa handsome addition to our Civil Service expenditure.
– Who got it?
Mr.WILKS. - I do not wish to raise the fiscal issue in connexion with this question, or I might remind the House of the argument of an honorable member who once urged that “ as long as you keep the money in the country it does not matter how much you pay.” This increase of £178,000 for the year is not caused through new officers having had to beappointed, because the new appointments numbered only 379. What we have to ascertain is whether that large additionhas gone into proper channels. If, on inquiry, it is found that the higher-paid’ officers have been remunerated to a greater degree than before, that is a grievancewhich the Minister should rectify by returning the classification scheme to the Commissioner. If, on the other hand, that large sum of money has been handed over to the lower-paid officers, that is a further reason why the Minister should give more consideration to the report, in order to determine the directions in which the money has been spent.
– Does the honorable member know how much of that increase went to New South Wales?
– Let me draw attention to some points in connexion with the Post and Telegraph service in New South Wales. I find that there are 220 men employed as sorters, mail and despatching officers, and their salaries amount to £33,543. In Victoria, in the same branch of the service, there are 256 men employed whose salaries amount to £44,832, the expenditure being over £11,000 in excess of that in New South Wales, and the number of men thirty-six in excess of the number employed in the same branch in that State. These figures show that these officials in Victoria are receiving salaries at a higher rate than those performing similar duties in New South Wales. I appeal to the members of the Labour Party to assist me in the representation I make to Ministers that sorters, mail and despatching officers in New South Wales should be placed on an equal footing with those engaged in the same work in Victoria. The character and extent of territory in New South Wales is such that one might expect the postal service in that State to be more expensive than that of Victoria. I have no wish toput this in a harsh manner. I am not cavilling at what the Victorian officers get, but I do take exception to what New South Wales officers get, and I ask the Minister to obtain information from the Commissioner that he may decide whether this matter should be left as it is. Honorable members will understand that these differences in salary may be regarded as pin pricks in the service, and that New South Wales officials, who find that officers in Victoria doing similar work receive higher pay, will naturally be dissatisfied, and will naturally endeavour to have their case brought under the notice of this House. I believe that every member of the House has received a copy of the various statements prepared by members of the Public Service. The case to which I have just referred is one which accounts for public servants being prompted to come here to ventilate their grievances. I find that there is a minimum salary fixed at £138 per annum. No one would contend that for an adult man that is an extravagant salary, but I will admit that there are thousands of citizens of the Commonwealth who are taxpayers who do not receive nearly as much as £138 per annum. The average taxpayer, on hearing that an appeal is made for an increase of this salary, might say, “ If I could get £138, Ishould be well satisfied.” I do not think I make a rash statement when I say £138 is much above the average annual income of the bulk of the people of the Commonwealth to-dav.
– Does the honorable member think that the civil servants are better paid than are people outside for the same kind of work?
– In most cases, I do decidedly think so.
– The biggest sweaters in Australia are the members of the Federal Government.
– If the honorable member thinks so he should prove it to the satisfaction of the Minister. If the Federal Government sweat their employes I sav they have no right to sweat them.
– Does the honorable member think they are paid too much? That is the question.
– I say they are not paid too much on the official scale. I wonder what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will say to my next statement. I find that whilst£138 is the minimum salary, there are in the Postal Department in New South Wales eighty-four men who receive less than that amount.
– I spoke as much for them as for theVictorian public servants.
– Then I should like the honorable member to speak again, and I have no objection to his making an anthem of it. When I look at the Victorian list I find that under the heading of “sorters, mail and despatching officers there is none who receive less than £138 per annum. In other words, . £138 per annum is low-water mark in Victoria, whilst in New South Wales eighty-four officers are submerged below the mark.
– That statement was prepared before the appeals were heard, and some of the defects have since been remedied.
– According to the statements made by the men, they have not been remedied.
– Seventeen sorters were added to the staff in Sydney.
– I am very pleased to hear it, but I. see no reference to it in any of these statements.
– The statements were prepared before the appeals were heard.
– Amongst those who object to the classification are letter carriers, mail drivers, sorters, and others in the general division, some in the clerical branches, and also some Customs House officials. I frankly admit that the letter carriers put their case as strongly as they could before the appeal boards, but they claim that they have not received equitable treatment, and their reason for saying so is that the appeal boards were presided over by inspectors who made the very recommendations to which they took exception. It was a case of Caesar recommending, and an appeal being made from Caesar to Casesar. The Minister’s answer to this objection is that the Act provides for this class of appeal board. For this the Minister is not responsible, but it is for the honorable gentleman and members of Parliament to discover whether that is a good thing or not. If by experience we find these appeal boards do not secure justice to the men and to the country, it is our duty to amend the Act. I find that in the statement of their grievances some of these officials say -
The door of promotion is hopelessly closed against the vast majority.
I have reason to believe that that statement is true.
– Last year seven were promoted in Sydney.
– Ido not care whether there were seven or 100, I am dealing with the question generally. The classification scheme has been referred to in some quarters as the public servants’ “ tree of life “ ; but to them it is apparently a Upas tree, as they claim that they cannot move from the general division to the clerical, or from the clerical to some other division. ‘ The door should be always kept open, so that the humblest member of the service may attain to the highest position in if. The mail-boy in the post-office should be capable of reaching the position of the head of the Department. I am certain that the Postmaster-General would like to see such conditions brought about that those who have the most capacity may secure the highest emoluments. It is contended that whilst provision is made for the preferment of deserving officers in the clerical and professional divisions, no similar opportunities are presented to officers in the general division. Why should any distinction be made? Why shouldany bar be placed in the way of an officer in the general division securing that promotion to which his abilities entitle him? I find, also, that the conditions as to grading in the general division do not hold good in the case of the clerical division. The Minister of Home Affairshas probably heard of the effects of the grading system in New South Wales, Queensland, and other places, and I need not do more than read the paragraph in the communication I have received re ferring to that particular matter. It is stated -
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£110 per annum for the general division.
Most of the officers are married and have families, and a maximum salary of£150 per annum is not too much to ask to enable anofficer to live decently, seeing that 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.’
The Public Service Commissioner’s tree of promotion looks well on paper, and if we could live into the next century, then we might have a chance of being promoted somewhere.
We would respectfully ask : - ist. For the total abolition of all grades under ^150 per annum. 2nd. That annual increments be provided from a minimum of £100 per annum to a maximum of £150 per annum. 3rd’. For the total abolition of the term “Assistant Letter-Carrier “ as fixed by the Public Service Commissioner.
I do not know whether these are proper requests to make. That question is one for the Commissioner to deal with. I am willing, to believe that any Commissioner, if he were in a position to give full exercise to his sympathies, would grant all the increases, increments, and improved conditions asked for by the public servants. I do not for a moment suggest that the present Commissioner turns a deaf ear to’ all the appeals made to him., I believe that his sympathies are as elastic as those of any other ; but he has a public duty to perform, and so long as he can show us that he has fairly considered the claims made, and has paid due regard to the interests of the Commonwealth, we shall have little to complain of. When we find that only a few hundreds of the many thousands of officers who are in the service have appealed, we must conclude that he has done his work well. If there had been no appeals, I should have considered that he had done his work badly. If every . man in the Public Service had been satisfied, we should have had every reason to suppose that the Commissioner had sweated the Commonwealth. Another case to which I desire to direct attention is that of certain members of the clerical staff, who have made out a very strong case. In the first place, I may be allowed to say that, as a representative man, 1 detest ihe introduction of caste, especially in a matter of this kind. It is no concern of mine whether a man is in one division or another, whether he is in receipt of a low or a high salary. All that demands my attention is the merit of the case which he presents. I find that the officers in the clerical division who are making the complaint in this case have laid themselves open to a charge of having apparently .introduced the element of caste. They have been performing work of a clerical character in the mail branch. Now they are displeased because they have been what they call degraded to the general division. They have apparently forgotten the interests of officers in the general division. If there is an altruistic spirit in the Public Service, these men should feel as much concern for the officers in the division which they desire to leave as for those in the division in which they wish to be classified. They should make their appeal upon general grounds. However, they have presented what appears to me to be a very fair case for inquiry by the Commissioner. They say -
Why should a mail branch clerk lose his status as a clerk because he happened to be appointed to the mail branch to do certain work which in five States (New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, and Tasmania), prior to Federation was considered clerical, and performed by clerks?
Over forty clerical vacancies have occured in this State since classification, and though there were thirty-five clerical officers engaged in general division work in mail branch, only two have been removed to purely clerical positions.
That is a very fair claim to make. Apparently what they fear is that the door has been closed, and that there will be no escape for them, as there has been for the two officers who have been restored to the higher classification. They desire that the door shall be thrown open more widely, and that when clerical assistance of the character which they are capable of rendering is required, they shall have an opportunity to pass to the higher class. Thereis another case to which I desire to direct attention. Only seven men, termed “ assistant instrument fitters,” are concerned. They allege that the work connected withthe telephone service is yearly becoming,, more technical, largely owing to the introduction of the condenser system, and the advances made in mechanical devices, and that, as years go on, and electrical improvements make the business more complex, they must increase their technical! ‘ skill. They complain that, although they have this technical work to do, they are graded with telephone attendants and linesmen, and get lower wages than either, inasmuch as the telephone attendants and linesmen receive £120 per annum, and they receive only £115 per annum. They say that their numbers are not sufficient to attract attention to their claims, but they assert the right to be graded as mechanics, and surely that is a right which will be supported in this House, especially by members’ of the Labour Party, of which the honorable member for Wide Bay, who comes from the land of cakes, has just been appointed deputy- leader. This is how they state their case -
By this it is plain that mechanical knowledge and experience of the work is required in our branch (which is not essential in other grades o E the general division where an officer having once mastered the routine duties there is little further to learn).
Incidentally I will remind the PostmasterGeneral that there are more telephones in New South Wales than there are in any other State, and that in Sydney there is’ the largest telephone service in Australia.
– And a very good one, too.
– That is probably owing to the work of the men whose claims I am advocating, which should be recognised. I believe that the Postmaster-General has a good deal of influence with the Minister of Home Affairs, and I therefore hope that he will see that that honorable gentleman acquaints the Public Service Commissioner with the grievances of these men. They say that they have all -
Over eleven years’ service with the Telephone Department and five or six years as switch attendants, and then tranferred to the telephone workshop, and have over four years’ practical experience in the mechanician’s room.
I will now pass from the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to the Customs Department, because there are other honorable members who will, no doubt, occupy some hours in voicing the grievances of these men. I think it will be found that in appealing, they have been appealing to those whose recommendations they took exception, and are suffering because the members of the appeal boards have adhered to their original conclusions. The officers of the Customs Department of New South Wales point out that they were transferred to the Commonwealth in 1901, before they could be regraded by the Public Service Commissioners of the State, and therefore were taken over by the Commonwealth at lower salaries than they would otherwise have been receiving. The postal officials of the State were regraded by the State Commissioners, but the Customs Department of the State was not. These men put their case in this way -
In conformity with the section of the State Act referred to, several of the senior officers of the Customs Department were, in the year 1900 selected to investigate the duties of, and provisionally grade the officers, and had completed their task early in October in anticipation of the quinquennial regrading by the Public Service
Board, and the transfer of the Customs Department to the Commonwealth, when, unfortunately for the officers, the Department was somewhat suddenly transferred, and the officers thereby lost the prospective benefit of the Board’s recommendations. The report, embodying these recommendations, is believed to be still in existence. The Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner, in his annual report 1904 (pages 27 and 28), refers to the unfortunate position of the New South Wales Customs officers in the following terms : - “ As the Customs and Excise Department came over to the Commonwealth on ist January, 1901,1 the Board was not in a position to regrade that portion of the service, so that the officers of that Department were transferred without being classified, but as the Post and Telegraph Department was not taken over till March, the Board undertook its reclassification of that Department in February, so as to have it completed prior to the date of transfer. As a result of this classification, the salaries of a large number of officers we’re increased, amounting in the aggregate to £5,060 per annum. … so that the officers of the Post and Telegraph Department of the mother State were transferred with all their rights legally adjusted.” Taking the result of the regrading of the Post and Telegraph Department, and also the State Departments as a guide, it is certain that a number of officers of the Customs Department would have benefited by the quinquennial regrading, which was an existing and accruing right (section 84 Commonwealth Constitution Act, also section 60 Commonwealth Public Service Act), and would have been in receipt of higher salaries when being graded under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and probably have received higher classification under that Act than they have received. The Commissioner cannot deal with any matters anterior to his appointment.” This was the reply which was received by many appellants when they urged the loss of the quinquennial regrading in support of their appeals.
We know that the Commissioner cannot deal with matters anterior to his appointment, but. as he is aware that injustice has been clone, we ask him to adjust the salaries of these men on an equitable basis. He has had experience in New South Wales, also in the Commonwealth, and he admits that these men have suffered an injustice ; and I ask him not to allow that injustice to continue, but to readjust the salaries on an equitable basis. It is further stated -
This being the position, the only course open to the New South Wales officers is an appeal to the Commonwealth Parliament, in the hope that the members will remedy the injustice under which they will suffer in the event of the classification scheme being adopted without amendment as regards their position.
In New South Wales the population is larger, and there is a greater volume of trade, so that these officers have more work to perform than have officers in similar positions elsewhere. The most casual observation shows that the same weakness prevails in the Customs Department, as I have shown in the Postal Department. Men are performing duties at a less wage than is paid to men for similar work in an adjoining State. I do not ask that those WhO are receiving the higher salaries shall be reduced to a lower level, but that all shall be raised to the higher level, if, on inquiry by the Public Service Commissioner, the work is found to warrant such a course. Either some officials are being too highly paid, or the New South Wales officials are being too lowly paid, and if the former be the case, it is the bounden duty of the Commissioner to reduce some salaries, or to improve the position of the New South. Wales men. I should now like to refer to the professional division; and it may seem remarkable that grievances should be brought forward in Parliament in reference to high salaries. When the ordinary elector sees that men receiving £300 per annum are asking for an increase of their salaries, his first wish is that he was afflicted with a similar grievance, his only trouble being that he can never get a salary approaching £300. But if work performed in the professional division is worth £500, or £1,000, or £2,000, let that amount be paid, but do not pay a salary of ,£500 for services not worth £150. We ought not to pay a man £300 per annum simply because of some social distinction ; and in this connexion I am with those who fear that social influence may replace political influence. Social surroundings or society friendships are not sufficient justification ; the character and ‘importance of the work alone should govern the salar)’. As I say, I do not object to high salaries, so Jong as the Commonwealth is getting full value for the money ; and’ I point out that there may be grievances amongst the highly-paid officials, just as there are amongst those in the lower branches of the service. The lower-paid public servants are naturally the most numerous ; ‘and my only fear is - though I do not know that that fear is justified in the present cases - that highlypaid officials in the Department can more readily get access to the powers that be than can the men on the lower rungs of the ladder. I do not think it is an outrageous statement to make that, in the current of human affairs, those who are closest to the Minister, or to those who are close to the Minister, can readily get their grievances .rectified and their salaries increased, whilst others are forgotten.
– That is absolutely true.
– If it could be proved to rae that the Public Service Commissioner, or any departmental officer, who is a responsible adviser of the Commissioner, had been amenable to social or society influences,, I would deem that sufficient ground for the removal of the Commissioner or departmental officer from his position. In such a case, it is only by drastic treatment that proper administration can be obtained. I do not desire to speak in what might be deemed an insolent manner, but my impression is that, if a highly-paid officer other than one who has been a favoured son of fortune, and has received the benefit of society influence, approached the altar of justice, as represented by the Commissioner, and asked for an increase of salary, he might be refused; so that as much illtreatment could be given to the recipient of what is regarded as a high salary as to the recipient of a low salary. As many acts of ill-nature or unkindness may be committed in respect of a highly-paid man as in respect of a man low down in the service. The examiners of accounts occupy, as we all know, an onerous and important position. A careless man in such an office is not worth his salt, but a good man ought to receive proper payment ; and, having in view the protection of the revenue of the Commonwealth, we cannot be too careful as to the character and ability of the men whose duty it is to examine accounts. A case has been stated on behalf of the men who perform this duty in New South Wales. They inform us that years “ago, before Federation, when the work was much less than at present, the comptroller expressed the opinion that the duties performed were worth more than £300 per annum. The examiners of accounts are now Commonwealth officials, and have to perform much more onerous and farreaching work, and the officer now in charge in New South Wales also estimates the work at considerably over £300 per annum. These officers, however, find that their appeal has not been considered. They establish a comparison which shows that the first seven salaries of the senior officers in the Melbourne Money Order Branch range from £485 to £325. It will be seen, therefore, that the system of paying higher salaries in Victoria than in New South Wales, or any other State, does not prevail only in the case of mail-sorters and letter-carriers, but also in the case of highly-paid officers. The work of an examiner of accounts is not more onerous in Victoria than it is in New South Wales, nor is the care required greater in one case than in the other. Taking the mere mechanical test of the volume of accounts, although I admit that this is not the best of tests, the work is greater in Sydnev than in Melbourne ; indeed, in Sydney, where the wages are lower, the Public Service inspector admits that the men have additional duties placed upon them. I wish to say, in conclusion, that, personally, I have no interest to serve in making these statements. My desire is to take as broad a view as possible of this question. I have sought to do my duty in presenting the grievances, or alleged grievances, of a number of public servants who disapprove of the classification. I am here, not to say that I consider their claims just, but to present their arguments to the House. It is for the Minister and not for the Parliament to adjust these matters with the Public Service Commissioner. All that we have to do is to provide an open channel for the conveyance of the grievances of Commonwealth servants to the Commissioner, and I am doing my duty in assisting them to that end. I trust that the classification will not be adopted until all these grievances which by this time must be rivetted on the mind of the Minister have been placed before the Commissioner. I do not suppose that the honorable and learned gentleman will thank me for assisting in the work of rivetting. True, he is a member of a profession in which reiteration is much practised, but I am sure that as a Minister of the Crown he does not require to have a complaint reiterated again and again in order to become seized of its importance. I trust that I have presented these claims fairly to the House. Whilst I am bitterly opposed to political influence, I am not prepared to compliment the Public Service Commissioner on his work, because I feel that he has simply done his duty. If he be the man I take him for he is so broadminded as to care nothing for laudatory statements. I trust that the Minister will give consideration to the facts which have been placed before him. I do not wish to appeal to the Postmaster-General, but if he will “ dare to be a Daniel “-not Daniel O’Connor of New South Wales - he will take care that the interests of officers in the New South Wales branch of the Department, over which he has control, are not neglected, and that Commonwealth servants generally in that State are placed on an equal footing with those of other parts of the Union. As some honorable members have said, this is not a party question ; neither can it be a Cabinet question.
– Nor yet a State question.
– Let me tell the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the fact that it appears to have been treated as a State question is one of the many pin pricks under which New South Wales is smarting. She knows that as long as she is a member of the Union neither the Commonwealth servants in that State nor her electors generally will be properly treated.
– But the Commissioner is a New South Wales man.
– When the Minister for Home Affairs submitted the classification to the House the motion which he moved was, “ That the document be now printed.” It strikes me, however, that it is already in print, and that it is a very weighty document. No one can estimate the labour that has been expended on the work. It would ill become me to speak disparagingly of the gentleman who has had the full control of the preparation and publication of the scheme, but as we are permitted to criticise and,’ perhaps, allowed to suggest, I have a few words to say with respect to it. In moving that the scheme be printed the Minister said that the Public Service Act did not contemplate the discussion of grievances of public servants in this House as it provided the necessary machinery for appeals. I am sure that the honorable and learned gentleman must recognise, from the various objections that have been placed before him, that the decisions of the appeal boards too frequently have not been listened to by the Commissioner. There is one matter in respect of which I thank him. As one who moved the insertion of a provision for the payment of a wage of £2 per week of forty-eight hours in the Victorian Reclassification Bill when that measure was before the Legislative Assembly, then sitting in this very chamber - and instead of losing by one vote we should have carried that provision, had not the then Premier, the right honorable member for Balaclava, intimated that if it were car- ‘ried he would lay the Bill aside - I am glad that the Commissioner has stated in this classification, for all time, that every adult in the Commonwealth service shall receive at least £110 per annum.
– -The Commissioner had nothing to do with that; it was decided by the Parliament that a minimum wage of £2 2s. per week should be paid.
– The Commissioner has embodied in his classification that which the Parliament, as my honorable friend reminds me, decided upon. I am pleased that that provision is recognised in the classification scheme, and will not be changed from time to time.
– The Commissioner could not get out of it ; it is laid down by law.
– I do not think that he would try to, even if he could. The Commissioner is responsible for the administration of the service. We created his office, and made him almost independent of us, but no honorable member will maintain that that which Parliament has created cannot be destroyed by it should occasion require. In my opinion, too much power may be given to one individual. If he be a just man, who will use the power wisely and fairly, the power bestowed upon him is well placed; but should he exercise it unjustly, it is the duty of the creator of that power to take it from him. In recalling the time when the right honorable member for Balaclava, then Premier of Victoria, moved in the State Parliament on the 1.8th December, 1900, the insertion of the famous clause 19 in the Public Service Reclassification Bill, No. 1721, I cannot refrain from expressing the wish that the provision had been made as permanent as the House by its vote desired that it should be. It may not be that I am right in my deductions, because after all many have opinions, and truth has but one. I have here a comparative statement of what is described as the “ unfair treatment “ - and I unhesitatingly give it my accord - “ meted out to the officers of the outdoor branch, Trade and Customs, Victoria, vide Blue Books.” In this statement” the position of three officers in the Western Australian branch, namely, Messrs. Bryant, Rosson, and Mattingley, is compared with that of four Victorian officers, Messrs. O’Loghlen, Bartlett, Bride, and Burdeu. . One of these Victorian officers entered1 the service in 1884 - twenty-one years ago - and the others in 1890 and 1 89 1. None of the Western Australian officers joined the service earlier than 1895, but whilst the latter entered the service at 7s. per day, the Victorian officers, one of whom was appointed as far back as 1884, received a higher rate, namely, £126 in three cases, and £124 in the other. But between 1895 and the date of this classification, what do we find? The salary of the officers in Western Australia in« 1905 is £170 each, while of the four officers in Victoria two receive £160 and two £156, showing that promotion has been much slower in this State than there. But the greater injustice to my mind lies in ‘the fact that each of the three officers in Western Australia has had his salary increased by £15, while in Victoria the salary has been reduced by £12 in two cases, and is remaining at the same amount in the other two cases. I think that the officers should receive the same salary throughout Australia.
– Would not the honorable member make an allowance for the difference in the cost of living ?
– Where the climate is unhealthy and the cost of living is higher than in the larger settled States, then certainly an allowance on a fair and generous grade should be apportioned to the officers. My honorable friend, who has splendid medical knowledge, will agree with me that men stationed in the far north should receive a far larger allowance than men who reside in the comparatively speaking much healthier climates of Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Speaking from personal experience, I think that 25 per cent, more in Western Australia is little enough to give. The salary for the position should be the same throughout the continent, and the allowance ought to be increased in a fair and just proportion.
– I think that in the Victorian cases which the honorable member has mentioned the officers are doing different work from those whose salaries have been increased. The positions are not the same.
– I shall leave that matter for the just consideration of the Minister. The position of supervisor or assistant supervisor of the mail department was filled by promotion from the mail officers for about fifteen years, until six months ago, and now an officer from the third-class clerical, with a salary of £350, has received the appointment. It does not require any more clerical knowledge than the work of a mail officer. It is only a matter of looking after the mail depart- ment. If the supervisor or assistant supervisor is relieved, a mail officer is called on and does the work now. When the position is to be permanently filled, the clerical officer appointed may have very little knowledge of the work, and he will have’ to be trained by the mail officer. These positions in Victoria were once only open to the officers in the general division.
– That is a very just claim to which I forgot to refer.
– It is a just claim. The officers in the clerical division have three times as many opportunities for promotion as the officers in the general division, and hitherto all the supervisors and assistants have risen from the ranks. There can be no higher incentive to a man to try to improve his position and to do better work than the knowledge that he can rise by reason of his efforts. We in Australia should make it possible that every one in the ranks, given ability and opportunity, should have the right of rising to the highest position. The officers admit that prior to 1890 at least 33 per cent, more work was done with a smaller staff under practical men than is now done under clerical supervision. There was an actual experiment, and in view of that experience I trust that the Commissioner will see his way clear to end this gross anomaly. Let me state another case. Men who have spent fifteen years in the service of the country, and acted as despatch clerks for four years, have had their salaries reduced from £130 to £114, with only the chance of rising to £126. I understand from the Minister that no man will have his salary reduced who is filling a position that the reclassification has valued at a lesser sum, but that opportunities will be found to place him where he -will be able to earn that salary, except in those cases which come under the famous section 19.
– Why are they specially limited ?
– God only knows ! I wish I could compliment the Commissioner on having given effect, not only to the minimum wage provision in the Public Service Act, but also to section 19 of the Victorian Public Service Act. When the right honorable member for Balaclava sat on the Trea.sury Bench here as Premier of the Victorian Ministry he would not have dared to change that provision. He assured me this veryevening when I was testing my recollection that not one man in the House would have followed him had he dared to submit such a proposal.
– I said that the Commissioner was not reducing the salaries of any officers except those who had special allowances under section 19 of the Victorian Public Service Act.
– I understand clearly that the salary of no man or woman will be reduced, except it is governed in some way by that provision. The two despatch clerks to whom I have referred did this work for four years, and did it well, for a salary of £130 each; but now it is done by two officers, who are called clerical, and draw £200 each. Surely there is something strange in calling the work of two men clerical, and then raising the salary in each case from £130 to £200. I conceive that when a total increase of £140 is granted in that way, it is not taking care of the Commonwealth’s money. An officer in the despatch room was unanimously recommended by the appeal board for an increase, but, of course, it was ignored by the Commissioner. We now come to the question of the employment of women in the Post Office, and throughout the Federal service. If not so provided by actual enactment, I am satisfied it was the desire of this Parliament that employment in the Federal service should be open to men and women on equal terms. According to the letter of the law, that intention is being carried out. But owing to what. T take to be the unjust action of officials of the Post Office, vacancies are being filled by young men who belong to the clerical class, whilst women are wrongfully treated in not being allowed to rise in the service. An examination, called the minimum wage examination, has to be passed. Many women who have been in the service for twenty years are required to pass another examination before they can receive promotion.
– An examination irrelevant to the work which they have to do.
– Quite irrelevant. The following statement sets forth the position of these female clerks in a very clear manner: -
According to the Federal Public Service Act female clerks who passed- the minimum wage examination were entitled to rise by annual increments to the maximum of their class, viz., £160 per annum; and the first of such increments was due from ist July, 1903 ; so that female clerks were entitled to £120 per annum twelve months, prior to the reclassification scheme being issued. By placing their duties in the general division, and by not appointing female clerks to a proportion of the vacancies in the clerical division, as they occur, all chance of obtaining these increments is lost ; and, as a matter of fact, female officers in the general division are now being paid£114 per annum, while female clerks receive £110 though gazetted at£114 in the reclassification report.
I do say that when a female officer has been doing good work for twenty years it is absurd to place her in the general list, and to prevent her from getting into the clerical division unless she passes another examination. But are female telegraphists treated any better? Certainly not. No female telegraphist has been appointed for two years. And why? Simply because the heads of the Department block promotion. I have a very keen memory of one of these old fossils, a gentleman named Croft, who was actually appointed returning officer at the first election for Melbourne. I remember very well how he managed that election. In fact, his conduct on that occasion is a matter of history. There is a legend that on polling-day he was running about the office with one lawyer fastened on to one of his coat-tails and another lawyer on the other side telling hint “Be firm ! Be firm” ! And hewas so “ firm “ that he did not know whether he was on his head or his heels. It is to the credit of the Australian Commonwealth that its Parliament enacted that a woman shall be equal to a man in respect of payment for such servicesas she is able to render. We must endeavour to do them justice if some fossilized official tries to block the intentions of the Legislature. There is one case of a young woman who has been for eighteen months consecutively employed, and has never been given an opportunity to pass the examination. If she reaches the age of twenty-one before she gets a chance to pass she will have to leave the service.
– Is that in Victoria?
– Yes ; and she is blocked by another of the officials I have been speaking about. When the Commissioner advertises that there are vacancies, he calls for applications from males, not females. If the work can be done by a female, why should not women have an opportunity to pass the examination?
– The Commissioner is afraid that the girls will beat the men.
– One remedy would be to have annual examinations like the matriculation examinations for the Uni versity, at which members of both sexes could be examined.
– Does the honorable member say that applications are called for males only?
– Can the honorable member give me the date when that occurred?
– I will obtain it for the Minister. The wrong that is beingdone lies in this . - that when a woman reaches the age of twenty-one, her chance of permanent employment is gone for ever.
– Does the honorable member say that the woman in the case mentioned has been eighteen months in temporary employment ?
– Yes. The examination should be annual, and should be opera to both sexes; and if a woman proves that she is competent to fill (a position, no fossildom should be able to prevent her from obtaining it. In the old days in the State women employes used to earn £4 10s. per month, even after five years of service. I am glad to say that under the Federal regime there is no employeabove the age of twenty-one, male or female, who receives less than £110 per annum. I do not desire to occupy more time, but before resuming my seat, I wish to lodge my protest once and for all against the system of grading. A system that prevents a man or a woman from rising in the service is infamous. Let the examinations be as severe as the heads of the Departments consider to be necessary, but let those examinations be open to every one, and let those who enter the service have a stimulus to rise to higher positions in the Commonwealth, in the hope that they may benefit their country and reap the reward of their own diligence.
– I am not one of those who hold the opinion that this discussion has represented so much lost time. I think that under the conditions which surround the control of the Federal Public Service, the Government have taken a correct course in affording the opportunity for discussion. I am favorable to the control of the service by a Commissioner in matters of detail, where his action should be free from political influence. But, at the same time. I do not hold the opinion that Parliament has up till now handed over the absolute control of the service to any man, and that we have no voice, and can take no action with regard to what he does. Under section 9 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, every facility is given to the Government of the day to review the action of the Commissioner, and, I take it, at the instance of Parliament, to send the Commissioner’s recommendations back for reconsideration in part or in every item of the scheme. Speaking generally, the scheme reflects great credit on the Commissioner, especially when we take into consideration the work which had to be accomplished in the time at his disposal and the limited assistance and advice he could command. But I do not think that that officer is sanguine enough to believe that mistakes have not been made, injustice has not been done, and anomalies have not been created by his scheme. I can speak especially for the condition of affairs in Western Australia, and I say that the attempt to bring into line officers working in the different States under different conditions has resulted harshly in many instances. I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Melbourne say that the conditions in Western Australia cannot be compared with those existing in the Eastern States. In Western Australia a considerable influx of population, the development of rich gold-fields, and the comparative neglect of agricultural pursuits have to a certain extent inflated wages, and increased the cost of living, whilst almost all the necessaries of life have to be imported into that State. It is in the circumstances a fairly reasonable statement to make that it costs 25 per cent, more to live in Perth than in Melbourne. We have to-night heard the honorable member for Dalley referring to the unfortunate position in which New South Wales officers have been placed as the result of the classification. By the courtesy of the Minister, honorable members have been supplied with particulars of the increases in the various States ; and from the statement I find that, whilst the total increases in the Federal service amount to £178,565, no less than £77»985 of that amount has gone to officials in the State of New South Wales. In view of those figures, one might be excused for thinking that the New South Wales officials have been very well treated. Taking the average salary per officer, whilst New South Wales officials are not at the top qf the list, they are not at the bottom. The figures show also that the average in crease per officer is in New South Wales £13, and in Western Australia £7, the percentage of increase being in New South Wales 1 1 , and . in Western Australia 5. I am of opinion that we cannot accurately gauge the position of different officers from a compilation of this description. Owing to the peculiar conditions existing in a particular State, it is possible that there might be in that State an excessive number of officers in either a higher or a lower grade ; but, if we are to follow the honorable member for Dalley in accepting this statement as a basis for comparison, New South Wales officials, with a total increase of salary amounting to £77,985 out of £178,565, have certainly got a very fair whack.
– It is an annual increase also.
– It is an annual increase, of course. The question of allowances is one which, in Western Australia, presents a real difficulty, and is at present a real cause of grievance to the Commonwealth employes in that State. I find that the policy adopted in that State, in common with other States, is to increase the amount of the allowance to officers in accordance with the distance by which they are removed from favoured localities. 1 think 1 can call upon the honorable member for Melbourne to support me in the statement that the conditions existing in Western Australia at the present time, and likely to exist for a number of years, would have justified the Commissioner in placing the most favoured localities in that State on the first scale for allowance, and in grading officers employed in other places in that State on that basis. This has not been done, and it is assumed in this classification scheme that it is as cheap to live in Perth as it is to live in Sydney, which is quite a mistaken idea. When we come to the question of places entitled to receive special treatment in the matter of allowances, I am at a loss to understand on what information the Commissioner has suggested some of the alterations, irrespective of the list in his original scheme. I find that Kalgoorlie is placed in the second scale, whilst Kanowna, twelve miles away, and connected by rail, is placed in the third scale. Then I see that Menzies, about eighty, miles bv rail from Kalgoorlie, is, on the advice of the appeal board, transferred from the third to the fourth scale. I am not prepared to say that the conditions at Menzies do not justify the additional allowance of the higher scale; but, if Kalgoorlie should be in the second scale, I can see no justification for placing a town eighty miles away, and connected by rail with Kalgoorlie, in the fourth scale. I find that Eucla is also in the list. It was mentioned previously tonight, and, as most honorable members are aware, it is situated on the border of Western Australia and South Australia. At the present time it enjoys steam communication, from the Western Australian side, once in three months, and I understand that even that meagre service is threatened. In the circumstances, one would naturally suppose that such a place would be found high up on the scale of allowances; but it is placed in No. 3 scale. I cannot realize the character of the information which must have been presented to the appeal board to justify them in advising that Menzies should be placed in the fourth scale, and Eucla in the third scale. I believe that the provision for the appeal boards constitutes one of the weak spots of the Public Service Act. The appeals by officers stationed on the Kalgoorlie, Boulder, and other gold-field’s with regard to special allowances were heard in Perth, which is 387 miles distant from Kalgoorlie. No provision is made for the payment of the expenses of those who may be called away from their homes in order to conduct their cases before the appeal board. Thus, the appellants living on the goldfields are either involved in very considerable expense, or have to trust to some person in Perth’ to act in their behalf. These conditions do not appear to me to meet the demands of fairness. I think some provision should have been made for hearing the appeals on the gold-fields, so that abundant evidence might have been tendered in support of the claims for special allowances. The banks which have established branches on the gold-fields make an allowance of £50 per annum to their employes.
– Have they always paid that?
– To the best of my belief, they have. Evidence to that effect was given before the appeal board in Perth. Further, the banks stipulate that no officers, except local juniors, shall be employed on the gold-fields unless thev are in receipt of a salary, including the allowance, of at least £200 per annum.. The State Government makes an allowance of ^25 to their officers. By com parison the provision made for officers in the Commonwealth service is quite inadequate. Take, for instance, the case of a telegraph messenger who is in receipt of, say, £60 or £70 per annum. His parents may not be resident on the gold-field’s, and he may be called upon to keep himself upon a small salary, augmented by an allowance of only £15. I consider that the officers in Western Australia, and particularly those who are located in outlying districts, have been treated very badly. If we are to give satisfaction in connexion with the appeals, we must arrange that they shall be heard by. officers other than those who are responsible for suggesting the salaries or allowances in the first instance. I do not wish to. reflect upon those officers who have been engaged in hearing the appeals, because I recognise that they may have conscientiously performed their duties: I believe, however, that the influences which induce an officer to prepare a scheme of allowances will impel him to adhere to them,and I think we should endeavour to arrange for the hearing of appeals by officers who are absolutely disinterested. Several other grievances have been referred to during this discussion, -and it appears to me that the claim of the letter-carriers cannot be ignored. Their case has, however, been elaborated to such an extent that I will not repeat the arguments. I believe that it is the desire of the Government to place the Public Service on such a footing that the taxpayers will be satisfied, and our employes will be enabled to live under reasonable conditions, and therefore I am content to leave the whole matter in the hands of Ministers. .
– When the subject of the classification scheme was. mentioned during the passage of the Estimates through the House last year, we were told by the Treasurer that honorable members would have to approve of the classification. I propose to read’ what was stated by the then Treasurer, because I consider that the interpretation placed by the Minister of Home Affairs upon the Public Service Act is entirely misleading. I am driven to the conclusion that either the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the then Treasurer, the right honorable member for Balaclava, misled the House, or the Minister of Home Affairs is now doing so. I would take the word of the right honorable member for Bala- clava before that of any other member, because I know he would speak the truth.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I have not spoken the truth ?
– To be perfectly candid,. I do not- think that the Minister has. I said -
The right honorable gentleman replied -
These amounts will not be paid unless the House approves of the classification scheme.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that I have told an untruth, because I have, placed a different interpretation upon the Act?
– That all depends on the way in which the matter is looked at. The then Treasurer continued -
In such circumstances, all that the officers will receive will be the increments which they would have received in the ordinary course.
I afterwards asked the Prime Minister -
I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether in the event of our agreeing to these estimates, and the classification scheme being subsequently approved, we shall be prevented from moving a reduction in the salary of any particular officer as submitted in future estimates.
The right honorable gentleman replied -
The rule prevails in this, as in every Parliament, that every time the House goes into Committee of Supply upon estimates, it is absolutely within the right of the Committee to reduce any item of those estimates. Nothing can deprive a Committee of Supply of that right. The House must approve or disapprove of the classification scheme as a whole. Honorable members may say, “ We will not reject this classification scheme because in certain individual cases we think the salaries proposed are too high. We shall not throw the whole thing into confusion, but will approve of the scheme, and reserve to ourselves the right in Committee of Supply, which no one can take away from us, of dealing with individual cases of which we do not approve.”
Now that the classification has been laid before the House, we are told that, although we may talk upon it as much as we like, we must accept it.
– That is the provision of the Act.
– As I have shown, we have had three different opinions on this subject from three legal members of the House, but, in saying that, I do not wish it to be implied that the legal members of the House do not give us their best knowledge in regard to the subjects on which they speak, just as the lay members do. But, I ask, what good will be served by this discussion, if we must accept the classification laid before us? The only chance I see for obtaining a remedy for the grievances which have been brought before the House will be given to us in Committee of Supply, and I, for one, intend to avail myself of it. The Prime Minister has been lauded as the president and high Panjandrum of the anti-sweating league. He believes in giving everybody fair wages for a fair day’s work, and yet in South Australia his Government is sweating postal officials in a disgraceful manner, and to an extent to which the servants of private employers are not sweated. Some of the junior assistants in the post-office at Adelaide are receiving less than £100 a year, and are working from 5 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night, putting in an eight hours’ day. Such a state of things is monstrous, and if the Commissioner and his officers cannot remedy it, the sooner we dispense with them the belter. If the Government have not power to deal with the Commissioner, why do they not bring in a Bill to amend the Public Service Act, and test the feeling of the House on the subject? If I am in Parliament when another Public Service Bill is before the House I shall take care that it ultimately assumes a form very different from that of the Public Service Act. We were led to believe when we were discussing that measure that the Public Service of New South Wales was honeycombed by political influence. But if any member of Parliament acts improperly, it is an easy thing to attack him on the floor of the House,’ and to publicly disgrace him. The social influence which prevails in the service is a much worse thing. If a young man in the service will take out the lady friends of the high officials, and make himself generally agreeable, he will get promotion ; but the poor man who has no social influence is left in the cold. The honorable member for Melbourne referred in glowing terms to what the Commissioner has done in the establishment of a minimum wage of £110, but I would remind .him that it was this House that provided for the payment of that minimum, by an amendment which was made in the Public Service Bill only after a great fight, lasting several days. As a matter of fact, the Commissioner has availed himself of every opportunity to escape from the payment of the minimum wage. In this connexion I should like to read to the House the following question about the position of female employes’ asked of the Minister of Home Affairs on the1st August last. The honorable member for Southern, Melbourne asked the Minister -
Is it a fact that female clerks have been required to qualify by passing both clerical entrance examination and minimum wage examination for clerks, while general division officers have been made clerical in reclassification report without having passed either of these examinations?
To which the reply given was -
Yes, where the nature of the work warranted it.
On the same day the honorable member for Yarra asked -
The Minister’s answer was as follows: -
It seems to me that, if officers who have been in the service twenty years are not entitled to the payment of the minimum wage, the sooner they are got rid of the better; but I know that certain of the officers referred to have been in charge of some of the best post-offices in Victoria, and that when they were relieved they’ had to be relieved by men who were receiving higher salaries. I should like to ask a number of the male employes in the post-office who have a service extending over twenty years to pass this examination. I know what the result would be in many cases; they would find themselves in the field when they should have been in the lane. For the Commissioner to adopt such arbitrary measures in regard to these nine female officers is little short of a scandal. It was never intended that officers competentto fill positions such as they occupy should be debarred from receiving the minimum wage. The Commissioner, however, has taken every opportunity to avoid paying the minimum wage, and to bring salaries down from the maximum to the minimum, in many cases making the minimum the maximum. A circular has been sent to me - I do not know by whom - in which the case of the female clerks is stated thus concisely: -
The duties of female clerks in the General Post Office have been placed in the general division; and, in the case of certain work performed by men in other States, it is classed clerical; where performed by women in this State, it is classed in the general division.
Where is the fairness of that arrangement ? Simply because they wear petticoats the women are put into the general division, while men doing the same work in other States are in the clerical division.
– I am afraid there is some misunderstanding. That statement is not correct.
– I can assure the Minister that I know two or three instances of the kind.
– I wish the honorable member would give me those cases. I think the honorable member will find that all officers are classified in the same way.
– Whenever matters of this sort are brought up a Minister asks for specific cases. The honorable gentleman has been in politics long enough- to know that I, for one, would not give individual cases. Does the Minister think that I want officers tabooed ? I have too high an opinion of the Minister to think that he would countenance anything of the sort, but there are instances in which, when cases have been broughtunder the notice of the Minister in charge, the Commissioner has “ got at “ the officers, not directly, but indirectly. The statement goes on -
Promotion for female clerks is therefore blocked, unless clerical positions are available to them in the 5th class clerical division.
Positions for clerks in 5th class have been advertised ; and, notwithstanding the fact that female clerks have applied for such positions, male clerks, who have passed clerical examinations in recent years, have been appointed to them.
Does the Minister say that that is not correct? If so, I am willing to inform him privately of a case which occurred in Queensland only a few weeks ago.
– Where the woman was more fitted for the position than was the other applicant?
– Where the woman was not more fitted, but equally fitted, for the position.
According to the Federal Public Service Act, female clerks, who passed the minimum wage examination, were entitled to rise, by annual in- crements, to the maximum of their class, viz., £160 per annum ; and the first of such increments was due from ist July, 1903; so that female clerks were entitled to £120 per annum, twelve months prior to the reclassification scheme being issued.
Has’ that been carried out ? I say that it has not been carried out.
By placing their duties in the general division, and by not appointing female clerks to a proportion of the vacancies in the clerical division, as they occur, all chance of obtaining these increments is lost; and, as a matter of fact, female officers in the general division are now being paid £114 per annum, while female clerks receive £110, though gazetted at £114 in the reclassification report.
– It is an outrage.
– It is; and if that is the way women are to be treated in the sendee, it would appear that women are npt wanted, and that this is the method adopted for hounding them out. The honorable member for Melbourne refe’rred to-night to invitations for applications, in which it was expressly stated that no females need apply. Is that what honorable members desire ? I can only say that the female officers with whom I have come in contact in the Public Sendee in Queensland have been much more civil and obliging than the male officers.
– And more honest in lots of cases.
– Yes, we do not hear of female officers getting away with “ the boodle,” as do some of the male officers. The statement goes on -
Female clerks have been required to qualify by passing both clerical (entrance) examination and minimum wage examination for clerks. General division officers have been made clerical in reclassification report, without having passed either of these examinations.
In answer to the honorable member for Yarra last week, the Minister said there was one female officer taken from the general division and put into the clerical division at a salary of £114- I want the Minister to ask the Commissioner whether there was none of the nine officers of the clerical division who failed to pass the examination, competent for the position, that it was necessary to transfer that officer. As to the appeal board, a more outrageous court I have never heard of in all my life.
– As to the £114, those payments will be made as soon as the classification scheme is passed. The delay is owing to the classification scheme not having been confirmed.
– That is better news, but it is strange that this knowledge is not forth coming until an honorable member starts making a noise - directly one makes a noise everything is satisfactory.
– Has the information been, asked for before?
– I should like to ask the Minister a question or two as to the constitution of the appeal board.
– Ask why the appeal board is not a final, court of appeal.
– It is not an appeal court at all ; the man who constitutes himself the final court of appeal is the Commissioner. I ask the Minister, who is a barrister, whether he would go before a magistrate and two justices of the peace who had already tried a case, and appeal to them to reverse the judgment? What case would the Minister undertake on such lines? Knowing the honorable gentleman as I do, I feel confident that he would simply tell his. client to keep his money in his pocket, and swallow the decision. In Queensland the Public ‘ Service Commissioner insisted on his inspector being chairman of the appealboard. It was the inspector and the head of each Department who drew up the classification, and practically appeal” had to be made to those two, because the representative of the officers of whichever division was affected, had a very small say. Unless this divisional representative could carry the head of the Department with him he had very little influence, and in many cases, where the head of the Department did side with the divisional officer, the Commissioner overruled the decision of the board. In my opinion an outsider should have been chairman, and the Public Service inspector, the divisional officer, and the man affected, each allowed to state his case, the chairman being left to decide what he considered right and fair. The members of the Publice Service would have abided by such a decision, but as things are now the Public Service in Queensland is seething with disaffection. Instead of the Commonwealth getting full value out of the officers for the salaries paid, I know that the officers are “dodging” at every turn; more power to them I say. I should do exactly as they do ; nay, I should go further, and organize and have a strike. There have been appeals all over the Commonwealth - some hundreds I should say - and in many cases where the facts have been too glaring, appeals have been allowed by the Commissioner. In the majority of cases, however,: the Commissioner has taken a high hand, and overridden the whole of the appeals. What is the good of men appealing when they have no confidence in the board ? In fact, some of the officers concerned knew before they went into the board room that the case ‘ would go against them. 1 know one instance in particular in Brisbane, where the officer was able to cross-examine the head of the Department so successfully that the latter contradicted himself a good many times. A report of the proceedings was taken, and a copy was sent to the head of the Department with the remark, “I think some of this wants altering. You had better look through it, and see if it tallies wilh your report.” If this examination had taken place in the law courts, what would have happened? Would the Judge have handed a copy of his evidence to the witness, telling him to correct it, and have a reprint made? I think not. Any one who appeals and kicks up a fuss afterwards will for ever be a marked man or woman, as the case may be, in the service. I come now to the complaint made by the letter-carriers and sorters- I refer not to those employed in Victoria or New South Wales alone, but to the letter-carriers and sorters throughout the Commonwealth. In the first place, let me say that I do not believe in the grading system. In the circular which has been issued bv these officers it is stated that -
In the clerical division there are no grades until a salary of ^160 is reached, and we fail to see why a grading system should apply as low as £110 per annum for the general division. Most of the officers are married and have families, and a maximum salary 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.
I think that is a very fair way of putting the case. If some honorable members had to live on £150 per annum, and rear a family of four or five children, they would think the amount was very low.
-. - Some of them cannot do it on £400 a year.
– The circular continues -
When the £110 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.
I thoroughly agree with that. As one who supported the passing of the minimum wage provision, and who listened carefully to the debate, I can safely say that no honorable member intended that the minimum wage should become the maximum. The circular continues -
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.
I have already dealt with that phase of the question, and shall not further discuss it; but I ask the Minister to consider the advisableness of introducing a Bill to so amend the Public Service Act as to give our employes some chance of fair play. That is all they ask, and, as a member of this Parliament, I am always anxious to give every one fair play. Some honorable members have said that these men are well off, and that many persons outside the service would be glad to do the work at a lower salary. It is all very well for honorable members to make these statements.
– But they do not.
– Some of them do. Some training is necessary in order to render our public servants fit for the work they have to do. It is not all pick and shovel work. Those in the general division have to exercise their brains just as much as have those in the clerical division. The one thing above all others that I should like to see removed from our Public Service is that of caste or class distinction. We have drawn a broad line, across which no member of the service may go unless he has received practically a university education. Some of the men who are to-day heads of Departments were at one time messengers running about the streets delivering telegrams, and they are among the brainiest men in Australia. But what chance has a messenger to rise under present conditions? None whatever. Unless he has received a university education, he cannot cross the broad line that has been drawn between the two divisions of the service. The Commissioner has the power to transfer officers from the general to the clerical division, but in how many cases has he availed himself of it? One has only to look at the classification in order to see who are tha men he thinks are ‘.’ the right sort.”
– No one has a chance now unless he writes poetry.
– At any rate, it will be seen that every one of the officers directly under his own supervision have received increments practically from the inception of the Commonwealth. Some of them have re- ceived as high an increase as £250, and most of them have received increases of £50. The Registrar was appointed at a salary of £400, but under the classification scheme it is proposed to increase his salary to £420. The Examiner was appointed at a salary of £350, and now it is proposed to give him £400 per annum , while a clerk in the Commissioner’s office, who took office at a salary of £260, is to get a further increase of £50. When these officers joined the service, the Public Service Commissioner regarded their salaries as ample, but he now recommends an increase of £1 per week to an individual who is receiving £350 a year. Applications were invited by public advertisement for these positions, and the officers, when applying for them, knew very well what were the salaries attaching to them, and what increments would be granted ; but because these men are directly under the notice of the Public Service Commissioner, it is considered that the annual increments they have hitherto received are insufficient, and their salaries are to be raised by leaps and bounds. What has the Commissioner done with the men in the general division - the men who do the pick and shovel work of the whole service, and use their brains as well as their muscle? He has reduced their salaries wherever possible. Wherever he could make a deduction - whether it was in the wages of the smallest telegraph messenger in the service, or in those of the men performing the most menial duties - he did so, regardless of the time they had been in the service. The only question that weighed with him was what they were receiving somewhere else. He has’ taken it out of the men in the general division in order to grease the fatted sow in the clerical division. I wish to draw attention now to what is described as the “door of promotion.” and to show how it is hopelessly closed against the vast majority It is pointed out in a circular before me that-
In Victoria, fifty-three letter-carriers have Been promoted during the past thirteen years.
In New South Wales, fourteen letter-carriers have been promoted during the past ten years.
In the other States, Queensland, South Australia, West Australia, and Tasmania, no promotions have been made.
All this relates to the general division. The diagram embodied in the report of the classification showing how officers rise in the different divisions, looks really well on paper. It is one of the prettiest thingsof ‘the kind on which I have ever gazed, but so far as the officers in the general division are concerned, it is practically valueless. The circular continues -
The promotions, in future, will be considerably less, on account of the position of letter-sorter being now open to every officer of the general division. Previously, the position of letter-sorter, in some of the States, was exclusively for the letter-carriers.
The term “Assistant” is totally erroneous. These officers have been in the Department eight to twenty years, and have been doing, and are still doing, letter-carriers’ duties for the past five to eight years. They were designated by the respective State Governments “ Letter-carriers.” They do not assist. They do the same work as those designated. “Letter-carriers.”
We append a statement showing examples of promotion. The cases quoted are not isolated ones, but those which apply to the vast majority of letter-carriers throughout Australia.
Grade 2. - Mr. J. E. Wearne entered the service seventeen years ago, and his salary is set out in the classification (page 130, No. 120), at £138, Grade 2. There are 100 letter-carriers ahead of him, and as there were only fifty-three promotions to the position of sorter during the past thirteen years, and as this is not likely to be exceeded, and he is now forty years of age, he will reach the age of sixty years and still be a letter-carrier, with no chance of being promoted.
A man has to >die and to be resurrected before he can get promotion, and even then it will be got without the aid of the Commissioner.
Grade 1. - Mr. E. J. Neville entered the service fifteen years ago, and his salary is set out in the classification at £132 per annum, in Grade 1 (page 131, No. 29). He is receiving £6 more than the maximum of the grade, viz., ^126 grade. There are 300 letter-carriers ahead of him. As there were only fifty-three promotions during the past thirteen years to the position of sorter, and as he is now thirty-four years of age he will just about, at the age of’ sixty, get into Grade 2, salary £132 to £138, with no possibility of ever reaching the position of sorter.
These are taken from a number of cases, in order to give honorable members an- idea of what this classification means. The grading system is an accursed one, and how it got into the classification I do not know. What is sauce for the goose, however, is sauce for the gander. If officers in the clerical division are not ‘graded until thev get a salary of £160, why should not officers in the general division be treated in a similar way ? These are all Commonwealth officers, who go to the same tailors’ shops, and eat at the same hotels, and yet the Commissioner draws this class distinction -
Assistant Grade. - Mr. J. Dempsey. entered the service fifteen years ago (page 131, No. 75), and. was promoted to the position of letter-carrier five and a half years ago at a salary of £j8 per annum. He is now receiving£118 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.
The man would have been really better off under the State at a salary of £78 than he will be under the Commonwealth at a minimum salary of £1 10, because his increments -would have been greater.
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 to that of sorter, 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 letter-carriers senior to him, and as there has only been fifty-three promotions during the past thirteen years, and if we allow 100 per cent. more promotions during the next twentysix years, it will be seen that there will still be 200 ahead of him. His age then would be fiftysix years, and he would still be on£120 per annum. By not giving him this increment of £14 the Commissioner is able to increase with it the salaries of two men in Grade 2 -£132 to £138 per annum, which he (Mr. Dempsey) can never reach. There are about 100 letter-carriers in Victoria entitled to this£14 increment. “
If that does not show the falsification of this classification I do not know what does. A man has a chance to go ahead, but he has to wait until 300 men die before he can get an increase.
It may here be said that the Appeal Board unanimously recommended that special consideration should be shown to this class of officer in regard to this£14 increment. The Commissioner, however, in answer to a question in the House of Representatives, has admitted that he has overridden the unanimous recommendation of the Appeal Board. The classification, as at present, is purely robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to the point that the Commissioner has overridden the unanimous recommendation of the appeal board -
There are over 500 letter-carriers in Victoria, and in New South Wales about the same number. 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,£32 to£138 per annum.
No. 1 Grade - Salary,£114 to£126 per annum.
Assistant Grade - Salary,£60to £110 per annum.
The following were the salaries which were paid by the several States prior to Federation-: -
Of the six States, only one, namely, NewSouth Wales, had a grading system prior to the establishment of the Commonwealth, and it appears that the Commissioner brought over with him the accursed and pernicious system.
New South Wales. - Grading system - Highest salary,£150 per annum.
Queensland. - No grading system - Highest salary,£140 per annum, attainable by increments.
West Australia. - No grading system - Highest salary,£140 per annum, attainable by increments.
South Australia. - No grading system to£130 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 State Governments were much better than those which are now contemplated by the Commonwealth.
The Commissioner has also ignored the existing conditions in Victoria by classifying nearly 300 letter-carriers of that State at£138 and£132 per annum, when they are actually receiving £150 per annum. No other officers under the classification throughout The Commonwealth have been classified lower than what they were receiving at the date of transfer.
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 £110 per annum for the general division. Most of the officers are married and have families, and a maximum salary of£150 per annum fs 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
The Public Service Commissioner’s tree of promotionlooks well on paper, and if we could live into th’e next century, then we might have a chance of being promoted somewhere.
We would respectfully ask - 1st. For the total abolition of all grades under£150 per annum. 2ndly. That annual increments be provided from a minimum of100 per annum to a maximum of£150 per annum. 3rdly. For the total abolition of the term “Assistant Letter-Carrier” as fixed by the Public Service Commissioner.
I do not think that these letter-carriers are asking for too much when they ask for a square deal, and so far as I am concerned they will get it. I intend to call for a division on this motion, even if I should have to sit alone, because I think that the whole classification is rotten from beginning to end. There is no good in any branch of it. Even the officers in the professional division in Queensland are dissatisfied, and so also are the officers in the clerical ‘division. As regards the general division, there is wholesale dissatisfaction throughout the Commonwealth. So far as my voice and vote go, I shall do my best, both on this motion and in Committee of Supply, to block the adoption of this scheme in every possible way.
– I feel that perhaps the House has heard enough about this question.
– Not enough yet.
– I have heard a good deal about the question. What we are hearing now is not new matter, but mainly a repetition of statements which from time to time have been made regarding the classification. The promise given by the Minister that all the matters which are ventilated here shall be referred to the Commissioner for report should, I think, deter some of us, at this late hour, from repeating statements which have been made by other.s more fully, and perhaps in a very much better way than we could make them. I feel that the Commissioner undertook a tremendous task, and that, considering its enormity, he has succeeded marvellously well. Those of us who were desirous that political patronage .should be eliminated from the Public Service must recognise that in the Commissioner we have a man who is determined to do his duty to the country according to his lights. I believe that no one has questioned the honesty of the Commissioner in the work that he has done, and no one who has inquired into it can question his industry either. There are one or two points, however, to which I should like to refer. The first is with respect to the classification of post-offices in Victoria. The Commissioner’s report on page 5 says that -
As far as it has been practicable, these offices have been valued, as regards the salary of the officer in charge, on a uniform basis.
I submit that the salary of the officer in charge is not in all cases a fair basis. The work which is carried on in the office should weigh more with the inspecting officer and with the Commissioner, than the salary of any officer who may be in charge. The officer in charge may be a relieving officer at the time the inspection is made. It is not fair that some country offices have been not only regraded, but degraded in status, owing to this action on the part of the Commissioner. There has been a very strong protest from a portion of the district which I represent with regard to the grading of the post-office at Talbot. In that instance, the Commissioner apparently took into consideration the salary of the officer ; but in correspondence with the Borough Council, which took the matter up, the Commissioner- stated in a letter received this week: -
With reference to the letter from the Town Clerk, Talbot, dated 26th ultimo, forwarded to this office by you on the 31st idem, relative to the grade in which the post office of that town has been placed in the classification, I have the honour, by direction of the Commissioner, to inform you that the matter has received further consideration, but the volume of work at the office in question is insufficient to warrant any alteration of its grade. It has been placed in the same grade as all other post offices in the Commonwealth with a similar amount of business.
I submit that a matter respecting the grade of a post-office should be undertaken with very great care. The town in question is a mining centre. Mining there is now undergoing a revival, and it is quite within the bounds of possibility that the volume of business in the office may be doubled within the next twelve months. Yet for many years to come I presume the office will be kept in the same grade, until the Commissioner makes further inquiries. I submit, therefore, that the Commissioner should be very slow indeed to. take action to reduce the grade of a particular post-office. To come to some of the questions which have been referred to in relation to members of the Public Service, there is one case which I do not think any honorable member has brought up. It is that of, I think, only three or four officers who for very many years have been in charge of post-offices in Victoria, and who now find themselves being overstepped by their juniors. These postmasters are losing their seniority under the reclassification scheme because of the rule that “ the salary at the time of classification is to be regarded as the basis of seniority.” Those, I understand, are the Commissioner’s words. This inflicts a very grave and lifelong disability upon three or four men in the £235 grade. On the eve of the service being handed over to the Commonwealth, some of the telegraph operators got an increase of salary from £216 to £264; others to £240. These operators were junior to the three or four postmasters to whom I have alluded. They so appear in the seniority list published in 1 901. Under the classification scheme all these operators are placed senior to the other officers referred to. There are now practically three vacancies for postmasters at £260 per annum, and instead of these offices being offered to the postmasters to whom I have referred, they are being offered to operators, who will probably accept them, and will then rank, of course, for ever afterwards as senior to those to whom they have so long been junior. These postmasters, who went into the country to take up the administration of offices, ought not to lose their seniority on that account. It is not, on the face of it, a fair thing that they should. They have been doing very responsible work whilst the operators have been staying in town. Of course, the latter have also been doing responsible work, but it is work which’ is very largely of a mechanical character. When inquiry was made as to the treatment meted out it was suggested that the officers should come to town and show their fitness to carry on the work of operators. That was a very unfair suggestion to make to men who have been doing the ordinary work of administering post-offices, and have had very little to do with telegraphy. After years of administrative work they would find it utterly impossible to pick up the manual dexterity necessary to enable them to bear comparison with skilled operators. I hope that the Minister will make a note of that question, as I feel that the merits of the case are entirely with the officers concerned. There was a very small number of officers taken over from the State of Victoria whose salaries ranged from £90 to £132. They were due for increments of £14 for the first year, £14 at the end of the third year, and £r4 at the end -of the fifth year, to reach the £132 rate on the 1st January, j 905. Under the classification scheme these men, who were standing at £118, were given £120 on the 1st July, 1904. An increment of £fi was due to them last month, that is. twelve months later. There is now due to them £126 per year. Under this new arrangement, these men, who were only given an increment of £2 in 1904, are now deprived of a further increment of £6 per annum. That is a small class of cases ; I believe that only about a dozen officers are concerned in Victoria, but they are deserving of some inquiry from the Minister. The question with regard to the letter-carriers has been gone into very fully by various honorable members. I also have made some inquiries privately, and I must admit that the principal objection that I made to the Commissioner’s classification has been met by explanations from the office. I do not believe that the best has been done that could be- done under the circumstances.’ When we were starting a new system it was inevitable that some injury should be done to some individuals. Our desire was to secure a government machine which would work equitably to all and would injure none. But it was impossible under such varying conditions as we were faced with in the beginning, that we could accomplish that end. A certain amount of injury to some individuals had to be done. Nevertheless, I feel that the disappointment of a number of officers in Victoria is justified. They were promised over and over again that their rights would not be interfered with under Federation. They regarded their chance of promotion as a most valuable right. It really amounts .to a kind of quibbling, when we find legal minds at pains to frame reasons why these promises should not be kept. I do hope that, even at this late period, the Commissioner will devise some means by which the hopes which, in my opinion, these men were justified in forming shall be realized. Another matter upon which a very little has .been said is the position of females in the service. It was* certainly the intention of the House that women doing men’s work should receive men’s pay. I hope we shall not have a single case in the Commonwealth in which it will be found that the desire of Parliament, so plainly expressed in this regard, is being evaded. I shall say no more on that matter, as I feel that if there is reason to suppose that the intention ‘of Parliament is being evaded action will be taken by the House. Finally, I understand that one who occupies a very high and responsible position in the State of Victoria has announced his sympathy with the claims of the lettercarriers. This gentleman occupies the position of Premier and Treasurer of the State of Victoria, and I hone the Commissioner will take some notice of the statement which1 he has made. After all, we are aware that for some time to come these payments to public servants must be met bv the States * in which the money is expended. I hare not found the Premier of Victoria on the occasions on which I have met him to be extremely complimentary to the Commonwealth. His principal grievance against the Commonwealth Parliament has been” with respect to its alleged extravagance, and it is therefore somewhat refreshing to find him coming out into the open and expressing the opinion that we- should take action which, according to the lowest computation, will involve an additional expenditure of £30,000 a year in Victoria, and which, according to the official computation, will involve an expenditure of some hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. The Commissioner should be acquainted with the fact that the Premier of Victoria has changed his role of late, and we should give the honorable gentleman an opportunity of proving his bond fides in the matter by prevailing upon the State Parliament of which he is the official head to agree to the requisite amount being taken from the State of Victoria, in order that the letter-carriers transferred to the Commonwealth may receive what, in my opinion, thev have been led to expect.
– After listening to this debate, we must all come to the conclusion that this House is in a humiliating position. From all sides in this Chamber we have had complaints, and, with the exception of the last speaker, I have not heard one honorable member approve the classification. Even the honorable member for Laanecoorie has had to admit that injustice has been done in some cases to which he has referred. The classification scheme bristles with anomalies, and yet ‘our hand’s are tied, and we are helpless. We have made this man Public Service Commissioner, and we have also made him master of the situation, and have invested him with power practically to defy the Constitution. The public servants of the various States, who were likely to be transferred to the Commonwealth, were assured, prior to the acceptance of the Commonwealth Bill, that all their rights and accruing rights would be preserved to them bv the Constitution. What do we find to-day ? We find that their rights have been ruthlessly ignored. We find that in the cutting down of travelling allowances the previously existing rate for sorters has been reduced to a fraction which is positively mean.
– It has been increased recently.
– It has been increased, but it is astonishing that any one should have the effrontery to speak of it as an increase. It has been increased by the enormous amount of £d. per hour, and for twelve hours’ work men get an additional allowance of 6d. There has been no pressing demand upon the States to account for the reduction of the travelling allowance previously paid, and even if there had been the Commissioner should have recognised the rights with which these men came over to the Commonwealth service. Under the States law they were entitled to travelling allowances of from 6s. to 10s. per day. Under the lovely scheme we have presented to us, the allowance has been reduced to 2s. 8d. per day, for men who have to provide for a number of meals, and to stay a night away from their homes. To the best of my knowledge, they have to pay at least 2s. a meal. and by the small allowance we give them we force them to put their hands into their own pockets in order to carry out their duties in the service of the Commonwealth. On top of that, we are now told that the allowance has been increased by £d. per hour, and I repeat that it is astonishing that any one should have the effrontery to call that an increase. When by interjection to-day I suggested that there were what we might call the moleskin and the tweed aspects of the service, what I meant was that there is an attempt made on the part of the Commissioner, and those advising him to give men on the lower rungs’ of the ladder no possible chance to climb up. That sort of thing should not exist in the service, if we have any, desire to create confidence in it, and any wish that the genius of the service shall get to the top. What is the reason for the distinction which is made? Why should the clerical division be placed un a footing so much better than that of the general division? Are all the officers in the general division merely carriers of water and hewers of wood? Are there not many of them engaged in highly technical work, requiring them to exert their brains in the interests of the Commonwealth service? Yet they are treated as though they were all mere navvies, men having to wheel barrows and handle the pick and shovel. When the House agreed to fix the minimum wage, it was never intended that it should become, as it has become, for a large number, the maximum wage. I am one of those who believe in automatic increases up to a certain stage. I made that very clear when speaking on the Public Service Bill, and I had about as much to say as the average honorable member on the clause providing for the minimum wage. I pointed out that there would be very few plums in the service, and that there must be a very large number of public servants who could never hope to obtain any of the plums. The service we tried to build up was a service which would not only give a guarantee of a minimum wage, but which would enable a lad or a girl entering it to know that within a certain number of years, with good conduct, they might reach a maximum salary of £160. I do not see any reason why barriers should be placed in the way of the promotion of officers in the general division. I venture to say that very few persons in this House, or out or it, could justify this scheme. We are placed in a most humiliating position. We are told that we cannot amend the Classification, that we can merely make recommendations, and this in face of the fact that many of our public servants have been robbed of their rights. We all agree that injustice has been done, and yet we are told that the supreme body, the Parliament of the Commonwealth, cannot apply the remedy. If this be the case it is the duty of the Government to bring down an amending Bill which will provide means of redress. We should at least provide for the appointment of an appeal court worthy of the name. Whoever heard of an appeal being made to the very persons who first passed judgment? We find ourselves in an absolutely helpless condition. Our hands are tied,, and all that we may say or do will amount to nothing. We are called upon to give an assurance to our public servants that their appeals shall be heard by an impartial body. I think that too much has been made of the increased expenditure upon the transferred Departments since the Commonwealth assumed control. We have been told that the increase amounts ‘to £131,900,’ but is it to be assumed that this augmented outlay has resulted from anything that we have done? Is it fair to load the service with this increase? The Minister of Home Affairs could easily ascertain what proportion of this increase is the result of the operation of States laws, apart from any legislation passed by the Commonwealth.
– The increase is partly due to States increments, and partly to the fact that the Commonwealth has increased the rates of pay to officers in the. lower grades of the service.
– I admit that some portion of the increase is due to the provision for a minimum wage in sections 21 and 25 of the Public Service Act, but I would suggest that the Minister should ascertain exactly the extent to which increases in salary have been granted. I think he will find that the higher emoluments have not been given to officers in the lower grades.
– In the majority of instances they have. .
-The salaries of officers of the Commonwealth administrative staff have been increased to the extent of £6,757, and under the present scheme further increases amounting to £1,700 are provided for. Under these circumstances is it to be wondered at that people outside should think that influences equally as bad as those exerted under a system of political patronage can be brought into operation, that officers who are at the elbows of those in authority can obtain increases of salary, whilst other men have to wait all their lives for the slightest advancement? This condition of affairs should not exist, and it was my objection to the operation of such influences that induced me to advocate the establishment of a living wage, together with a system of automatic increases, so that officers should not be dependent for advancement upon the friendship of those in authority over them. This is what is now being asked for by the officers in the lower grades of the service. They desire to have some assurance that opportunities will be presented to them for attaining at least the maximum salary of their class, whether it be £150 or £160. I have not heard of any attempt on the part of the Minister of Home Affairs to justify the treatment meted out to lettersorters, letter-carriers, and other post-office officials whose salaries would have been increased bv the operation of the annual increments if the Department had remained under State control. I have here a statement relating to the salaries of examining officers and assistant examining _officers in the landing branch of the Customs Department. The classification of these officers bristles with anomalies. In New South Wales there are twenty-three examining officers whose salaries average £302 ; in Victoria, twenty-one, with an average salary of £348 ; in Queensland, nine, with an average salary of £289 ; in South Australia, six, with an average salary of £283 ; and in Western Australia, seven, with an. average salary of £284. How can it be claimed that this classification is based upon justice? The salaries of the assistant examining officers average in New South: Wales, £213; in Victoria, £198; in Queensland, £235 ; in South Australia, £205 ; and in Western Australia, £200. I see no reason for giving the Commissioner credit for having framed a classification having any pretence to uniformity in regard to the scale of wages where the conditions of work are similar. I do not know what the Minister intends to do in this matter, but he should, before the debate closes, tell us whether the Government propose to introduce an amending Bill which will provide for the establishment of impartial appeal courts. I do noi: want to take action on the Estimates, although the honorable member for Maranoa has said that he will do so, because, while in Committee of Supply we can decrease the salaries proposed to be voted, we cannot increase them, and to decrease salaries will not assist those on whose behalf he has been speaking to-night. The only way in which their cases may be remedied is by amending the Act. The Commissioner has refused thousands of these appeals, so I presume that it is of no use to remit the cases again to him, because neither he nor the appeal boards are likely, on a third consideration, to admit that they were wrong on two previous occasions. Therefore, unless some new form of appeal court is established, injustices will continue. I am sure that it is not the wish of the Government that they should continue, and the Minister will allay a considerable amount of. anxiety if he states, before the debate is concluded, that the Government will introduce a Bill to establish tribunals by which legitimate and genuine appeals can be heard.
– I desire to say one or two words before the debate closes, but my remarks will be compressed into a very brief space of time. I - have listened with some interest to the speeches which have been made, and particularly to the remarks of one or two of those on the Government side of the Chamber who have seemed to express a wish to get back to the old political order of things. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, for instance, declaimed against the arbitrary powers which have been placed in the hands of the Commissioner, and suggested that Parliament should not have given up control oyer these matters altogether, while tonight the same doctrine was preached by the honorable member for Boothby, who also said that he believed in Ministerial influence. In my opinion, one of the best things that the Commonwealth Parliament has done, and one of the best acts with which the first Government of the Commonwealth can be credited, is the placing of the Public Service entirely beyond political influence. I say that unreservedly, and after a long experience of both systems. In New South Wales I have seen political control in its most rampant forms, and I know that those who have suffered most from it have been those for whom honorable members to-night have pleaded most - the men in the lowest branches of the service. It is they who ultimately always become the victims of political influence, no matter where it has been exercised. When the Government of which I was a member passed the Public Service Act of New South Wales, three Commissioners were appointed to administer the Public Service of that State, and one of the first things which they did was to discharge 400 hands from the General Post Office in Sydney. I admit that that was a cruel thing to do, and I tried to mitigate the severity of the act in every way possible ; but the Commissioners had been given absolute control in connexion with the reorganization of the service, and they thought that, in the long run, severe measures would prove, the most merciful. I do not think they took a wise course in turning those men adrift, but that is what they did, and it is an undoubted fact that their dismissal and the consequent reorganization of the Department brought about much greater efficiency than had formerly been obtainable. The dismissal of those men show’s the consequences which political control, when allowed to run, rampant, will bring upon a Public Service. I venture to say that when political control is the basis on which a Public Service is administered, these abuses must grow up, because a Parliament is not capable of investigating in all their minutia the details of a service. Therefore I say that one of the best things which this Parliament has done has been to remove the control of the Public Service of the Commonwealth from the sphere of political influence, and to vest it in a Commissioner. The honorable member for Boothby wanted to-night to restore political control, and to abolish the principle of seniority, which, he said, acts detrimentally to the sen-ice. But if the Act is faithfully administered, seniority must be a secondary consideration, because, in language which can be readily understood, and should not be mistaken, the Act provides that efficiency shall be the determining factor, as regards both wages and preferment, and seniority only a secondary consideration. This is what section 42 says on the point : -
Wherever a vacancy occurs in any office, and it is expedient to fill such vacancy by the promotion of an officer, the Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, subject to the provisions of this Act -
Appoint to fill such vacancy an officer of the Department in which such vacancy occurs, regard being had to the relative efficiency, or, in the event of an equality of efficiency of two or more officers to the relative seniority, of the officers of such Department.
It is also provided in much the same terms that the permanent head of a Department must be consulted before a recommendation is made, and after his recommendation, -the Minister has absolute control over the appointment. Therefore, Ministerial influence is provided for in the final determination ; but it must not begin to operate until every means has been expended in the effort to obtain efficiency, and to do justice to all concerned.
– Responsibility rather than influence, though thev go together.
– The two go together to a great extent. There is provision in the Act that the Minister may override every recommendation made by the Commissioner, and, moreover, if the Minister thinks the matter of sufficient importance, he may take on himself the responsibility of making appointments, only he must consult Parliament in so doing. The Act provides all the safeguards that Parliament requires, and if we open the gate to political influence in the Commonwealth Service, it is the men at the bottom who will be the sufferers, rather than the men in the upper grades. What happened in the old days? A Minister could pitchfork whom he liked into the service, and the way to promotion was thus barred to those already in the Departments. I remember that one of the first things I did on becoming PostmasterGeneral in New South Wales was to make a rule from which I did not depart up till the time of the appointment of the
Commissioners, namely, that no vacancies should be filled by outside appointments, but that those within should be moved up, and so bring about a little justice which had theretofore been denied. The same. outside appointments will follow if political influence be once introduced. I think, therefore, that those already in the service have need to wish earnestly that political control may never be restored so far as the regulation of the service is concerned. The Commissioner has, on the whole, done his work well ; that he has done so, is made abundantly clear by the nature of the criticism levelled at him during the debate. Mis-, takes there must always be when human labour of. any kind is involved, and I have no doubt that many mistakes have been made in connexion with the regrading. But I also have no doubt that many of the mistakes will be remedied as the result of this discussion. I do not at all deprecate this debate; indeed, I think that such criticism is very necessary, always, of course, in a reasonable way. There is no doubt that prejudice and favoritism creep into a service in spite of all that can be done to prevent it. Such will occur under the most perfectly regulated service ; but I think that the impersonal criticism applied to the classification in this House will throw a great deal of light on many of these proposals - light that could not possibly get to the mind of the Commissioner through the ordinary, official channels within the Departments. The Commissioner, therefore, would, do well to read those criticisms applied in this impersonal way, and try if possible to remedy some of the abuses ( of which complaint has been made. While, therefore, I do not think that Parliament should go the length of interfering in any of those cases, we certainly exercise a very wise discretion in throwing all the light Ave can on these problems in the impersonal ‘ way I have already indicated. Knowing the fair-mindedness of the Commissioner, and his genuine desire to seek the best interests of the service as a whole, I feel sure that the criticisms of honorable members will have their due weight, and I am very sanguine that the result will be that many of the abuses complained of will be remedied. I do not want to elaborate the criticisms we have heard to-night ; I agree with very many of . them. For instance, reference was made by the honorable member for Dalley to the telephone fitters, and I do not hesitate to’ say that I think they are a body of men who are being treated rather scurvily. Their work, in my opinion, is altogether underrated as to its importance, and certainly it does not receive that payment to which it is justly entitled. It is very difficult work, requiring a great deal of skill and care, and the salaries are miserably small compared with the salaries in many other branches of the service. For instance, a line repairer, who came down from the country for a holiday not long ago, is in receipt, I think, of a salary of £150 or £160. He spent the whole of his fortnight’s holiday in going about with a telephone fitter learning many things appertaining to the work he had to perform, and the man who was teaching him during that time receives £130 a year as salary. That is a condition of things that ought mot to obtain any longer than is possible; and the fitters ought to be paid a much better remuneration. I go further, and say that I am inclined to agree with much of the criticism to-night with regard to the letter carriers. I think that £[50 a year is a small enough maximum salary for the important work of letter carrying, and I hope that as a result of the discussion, they will receive some consideration. One point appeals to me very strongly, and that is the narrowing of the possibilities of preferment by the scheme of grading which the Commissioner has submitted. There will be less and less chance in the future for the letter carriers to get into the more highly-paid branches of the service than there has been in the past.
– I think there will be more chances of promotion.
– There will be more chances of promotion altogether in the general division, but that means a narrowing of preferment for those who had, like the letter carriers, more privileges in this respect in the past. Letter sorters have heretofore been -recruited almost exclusively from the letter carriers; but now, I understand, men in all branches of the general division will be eligible for the position, and, therefore, the chance of letter carriers will be narrow.
– But other men are given a chance which they had not before.
– That is so, and, in my opinion, there should be no let or hindrance to promotion to any branch of the service from the lowest’ to the verv highest - the only barrier interposed should be the barrier of want of efficiency.
– Examination as to efficiency.
– Tests as to efficiency should be the only barrier to every part of the Public Service. I hope that will be the guiding principle which the Commissioner will keep in view. Again I say, I feel confident the criticisms which have been passed, will receive the very fullest consideration, and I hope that many! of the grievances elaborated to such an extent during the discussion, will be remedied. So far as I can see, none of the grievances are so serious as not to be susceptible of adjustment; and I believe that it is possible, under the general scheme submitted, subject to the improvement which this criticism would seem to make feasible to the Commissioner, to get a service second to none in Australia, taking its position, as it ought, at the very head of the States services. I cordially welcome this effort on the part of the Commissioner to regrade and classify the service. I hope he will regard this, not as the final point, but rather as a beginning in the direction of making a perfect service; and I hope that as’ a result we shall have content in all the grades, the public servants knowing that they have the freest access to the heads of Departments in respect of any grievances they may have to place before him. I hope that this will apply also to every section of the service, male and female alike. My own impression of this may be stated in a sentence. It is that there should be no distinction as to sex throughout the length and breadth of the service. The work should be graded, and, by whomsoever performed, should be paid for to the fullest possible extent.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).I have no misgivings on this question. When we were fighting the battle of the appointment of the Commissioner in this House, I opposed the proposal, because I could see that it was wrong to give any one man supreme autocratic power. I recognised that we could set up a Czar without knowing it. I have the greatest respect for the Commissioner, but if I had not known what a fair-minded man he is, and had taken up the scheme without knowing where it was incubated, I should have thought that it was the hash, out of a board meeting of the Employers’ Federation, with Mr. Walpole at the head of it. In such circumstances, it would have ‘appeared to me more like an instrument coming, from some part of Russia, say from Odessa, where a revolution has recently taken place. There is no possible hope for the bottom men - £138 per annum is the most that a letter-carrier can receive. He must put in a lifetime in the service, with no prospect of reaching the maximum of a paltry -Q2 13s. 6d. per week. I thought it was bad enough for a member of this Parliament to receive only £400 per annum, but when I see men who have to face the storms of winter in order to carry letters to the homes of the people of Australia receiving such a pittance, I feel the deepest sympathy for them. Men who have to carry letters away 3’onder in Western Australia, or on the plains of Queensland, on days when most of us prefer to sit by the fireside, are faced with the fact that they may never reach even the miserable salary of £2 1.3s. 6d. per week, and I feel that they must lose all hope. When a man reaches that wage, he abandons hope. And we call this democracy ; we call this progress L I ask the Ministry, do they stand fa- justice or for tyranny ?
– For justice every time.
– It is the old story, that confidence begets jealousy, jealousy begets power, and power begets tyranny. We have an example of this in the Commonwealth. Take another illustration. What hope has a female public servant, under this scheme, of ever being able to earn enough to get a husband?
– The getting of him is all right ; it is the keeping, of him that is the question.
– What hope has she of ever being able to maintain a husband comfortably when she does get him? Instead of the maximum for these officers being fixed at £138 per annum,, it ought to be not less than £156. After all. a salary of £3 per week is ‘only a miserable one. The House ought to insist upon that minimum being fixed. This is the last court of appeal for these poor officials. This is the democratic shelter open to them. This is the tribunal to which they may come when they can look nowhere else with hope. We ought to see that they are allowed to rise until they reach a maximum of £156 as letter-carriers.
– They have a sympathetic tribunal in this House to appeal to.
– We ought to tell the Commissioner so.
– There is no election at hand.
– There are very few of these public officers in my constituency, and I am speaking from principle and not from a desire to win votes. I have seen so much’ misery since I became a member of this Parliament that it is of little consequence to me whether I ever come back. One cannot help being shocked on visiting the slums of this city, to which unfortunate people have been driven by unjust laws. The member of Parliament is a target for every one. It seems to be thought that a man who is receiving a miserable £400 a year, as a representative of the people, is a millionaire, living in clover. I believe that the Commissioner is anxious to do right, but environment has a lot to do with a man’s opinions. If you were living in Toorak, Mr. Speaker, and had the odours of that fashionable suburb all about you what would be the result? The result really would be that you would want to pay the men at the bottom of the ladder low wages, and those on the top high wages. Those about you would say that that was quite right. They would all say “Amen.” They would bie anxious to see the wages of those at the bottom of the ladder reduced time after time, until they were asked to work for nothing; and then they would try to make them pay for their board. Every one knows that; it is unnecessary for me to refer to it. My uncle in America was a man of that sort. The more money one gets the more grasping one becomes. In such circumstances one does not care who are sweated until everything is taken out of them.
– Is that the honorable member’s experience?
– No, I am a poor man.
– The honorable member is not- going back on his proposal to increase the allowance to honorable members?
– If I had the power I would raise it to £1,000 per year to-morrow morning.
– The most sensible speech made to-day.
– What about the taxpayer ?
– I have to pay taxes just as every other man has to do. Do not honorable members think it a mistake to lower the salaries of public servants? The Public Service wage is the standard of pay; the buccaneering boodliers of this country desire to see these men cut down because if a good honest decent salary be paid to public servants they, also must pay decent wages to their employes. I do not like these reductions. I wish to see the public servants of the Commonwealth paid reasonable wages, and let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the giving of good wages for honest work is the best Christianizing influence one could possibly have. There are more persons brought to salvation by means, of good pay than there are by preaching. There are 1,500 letter-carriers in the Commonwealth, and during the last thirteen years only sixty-seven have been promoted. If these men lived until the judgment day they could never hope to reach even the £138 maximum. Take another , point. The supervisor receives £360 per annum, but under the present system men engaged in the general division cannot hope to rise. The Commissioner says to them in effect : “ Unless you can sling your pen, and run up a row of figures,” and badly at that, “ you can have no hope of promotion.” This system is wrong. We ought never to have given such a power to one man. Autocracy, government by one ! You cannot have a pyramid like Egypt has unless you have a broad base, and the people are the base. If the top is wide, and the bottom is narrow, it must tumble. You have one here, and a whole country is on top of him ; he must go down. The .top is at the bottom, and the- bottom is at the top. Democracy is government by consent of the governed. I am opposed to any system which puts power in the hands of one man, no matter how good he may be. Look at Russia tumbling to pieces to-day. Under your system of seniority, Jefferson would have remained outside dusting the doormat.
– Why does the honorable member say “your system “ instead of “ our system “ ?
– I tried not to give this power .to one man, and I was beaten, so that I am not responsible for its existence. Under this system of seniority, which is a. fraud, Adams and Alexander
Hamilton would have remained outside the door sleeping on the mat, whilst some little fellow with’ influence, a member of the nobility or effete aristocracy, would have been inside running the show. Wherever they are running the show it is a failure. Napoleon Bonaparte would have been outside, too, if they had been running the .show. Under Louis XVI., a tin-tack duke would have been inside running the show. The reason why America is advancing over the whole earth, industrially and commercially, is because men do not rise by seniority - they rise by the force of their genius. This system of seniority, this system of rule by heredity, or any other system whereby people get positions on account of the fact that they have a prior claim, and not on account of ability, is a spent force. Unless we try at once to change this thing, we are going to have set up in Australia an autocracy. If a vote is to be taken, I shall vote to re-‘ peal this system. I challenge the Ministry to bring down a proposal. Unless the Commissioner - who is an honest, honorable straightforward man, butunspiritually influenced in this matter - gives us a guarantee, we shall have something to say on the Estimates that will shock the foundations of this House.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - It is not my desire to take up much time in replying to the speeches of honorable members. The parrticular matters which have been brought forward will, in accordance with the promise given, be put before the Commissioner, and before any action is taken by the .Cabinet, the complaints which have been made, together with his report thereon, will receive the fullest and most careful and sympathetic consideration. Of course, a scheme of this description is one that would naturally give rise to considerable criticism; but it is only fair .to the Commissioner, before closing, the debate, that I should emphasize this fact, that his one idea has been to try to secure an efficient Public Service. His sole desire has been to classify the Public Service in such a way that a man who is zealous and efficient, and is desirous of rising in the scale, shall have the opportunity of doing so. But, of course, in framing this scheme of promotion, of necessity it will be found that the Commissioner gives rise to criticism from various branches in a Department. For instance, immediately he gives an opportunity of rising to all those in the general division, he appears to take away from the letter-carriers in some States their right to rise on a particular line. But what he has done has been to give to every person in the general division the right to go through a certain line of promotion, from the lowest to the highest. It has been stated that this scheme of promotion is practically moonshine ; that there is no opportunity for a man to get promotion. To give an idea of the difficulty which the House has in dealing with a matter, without hearing both sides, let me state that some of the information which has been put forward - honestly and fairly, of course - is incomplete. We are told, for instance, that during the ten years preceding Federation there were no promotions of letter-carriers in Victoria. 1T0 a certain extent, that statement is true; but that was a period when, owing to a retrenchment policy and the bad condition of the State’s finances generally, it was impossible to give any promotion. . So far as the Commissioner is concerned, last year promotion was given to seven officers in New South Wales alone, where formerly no promotion was given to these men.
– A full seven ! We ought to give three cheers.
– That is in one State alone. Again, illustrations were given of the maximum rates of pay that existed in the various States. We were told, for instance, that in New South Wales, the maximum rate of pay was £150. But on inquiry we find that out of a total of about 500 letter-carriers only six pf long service received that amount. The range of salaries, I may mention, was from £65 to £150, so that the general rate was not .£150. Let me now give an idea of the way in which the Commissioner has treated the Victorian section. Before Federation, a special reclassification board in this State valued the services of a letter-carrier at £108. The Commissioner thinks that that rate is too low. Under his scheme, about £126 is regarded as the average rate. But, in addition, he has given the men the right to rise to even the highest rate. The sole object of the grading system is to give an opportunity to men of rising according .to the efficiency they display.
– Why does he make a distinction between the general and the clerical divisions ?
– The Commissioner had to make that distinction, because he was directed by the Act to divide the officers into administrative, professional, clerical, and general divisions.
– Why did he make a distinction in the grading, as regarding those two divisions ?
– The Act told the Commissioner to grade the officers. He has only carried out the desire of the House. After all, there is something to be said in favour of the grading system, because a man gets the opportunity of rising from the lowest to the highest grade if he shows that he is efficient. We were told to-night that seniority only ought not to be the test. If we are to have any other test, it- must be efficiency. If there is to be a reward for efficiency, we must have various grades or steps, which are really the reward of efficient service. That was the idea of the- grading system. I wish to mention another matter, in order to show that the Commissioner has not altogether overlooked the desire of the House. In the Public Service the women are not being treated in any manner differently from the men. They have just the same right to go up for ari examination as the men have, but sometimes, in considering the merits of the applicants, it may be that a man is found to be more fitted for a position than is a woman. But women cannot claim to have priority. If they come into competition with men in the walks of life they must of course prove their efficiency for any position to which they aspire. It is only fair that we should compare the way in which the women were treated by the Commonwealth and the States. . Prior to Federation, in Victoria, the salary of female clerks was fixed by law at £84. They could never have proceeded beyond that amount. Although their work in some instances has now been graded in the general division, these officers have a chance of rising to £126. Under the State the maximum was £84, but under the Commonwealth they have a chance to rise to £126. Moreover, they have the right of getting into the clerical division. At the present moment threefourths of the Victorian women are in that division, and they have the right of rising to .£160, in the same way as other officers in the Public Service. As regards the Victorian postmistresses, they, before Federation, could only reach a maximum of £115. In the Commonwealth service they can reach a maximum of £144.
So that I think we can show that the Commonwealth has not treated the women unfairly in its employment of them. I only mention these matters to show that it is impossible in this House to decide absolutely upon the facts of the case without hearing both sides. Here we have had submitted to us one side ; we as a Government intend to call upon the Commissioner to report and to give us the other side. When we are in possession of all the facts of the case we shall consider them and endeavour to do justice, not only to the taxpayers, but to the public servants of the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to reply to a question which was put to my colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, earlier in the evening by the honorable member for Barker. The Minister has requested me to do so for him. The question was -
Whether the Minister of Trade and Customs will have a return prepared showing the relative cost of collecting duties in the different States?
The answer is as follows : -
Relative cost of collecting duties in the different Slates for financial year 1904-5 - New South Wales, £21s. 7d. per cent.; Victoria, £2 us. 6d. per cent. ; Queensland,£4.133.11d. per cent. ; South Australia, £3 14s. 6d. per cent. ; Western Australia, £2 13s. 5d. per cent. ; Tasmania, £3 145. per cent. The above figures were compiled before the final returns were to band, and are subject to alteration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 August 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050815_reps_2_25/>.