2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m.,. and read prayers.
Motion, (by Mr. Watson) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Perth, on the ground of public business.
Motion (by Mr. Sydney Smith) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Balaclava.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. General Booth is reported in a newspaper account to have said to an interviewer in London -
If I sent 1,000 families to Australia they would probably take with them £30,000. …. Those we wish to send out. are men of small means and strong arms. Canada wants workers, but Australia is hampered by her industrial Labour Party.
Is the Prime Minister aware if General Booth has ever communicated with the. leaders of the Labour Party in Australia on this subject? If he has not, can the Honorable and learned gentleman say from what source the General has obtained such a curiously perverted opinion of the attitude of the Australian Labour Party? Will the Prime Minister, in justice to that large party, even though he may differ from them in regard to their methods, and in the interests of the Commonwealth, see that the true attitude is put before the London public ?
– What is the true attitude?
– I am unaware of the source of General Booth’s opinion, nor dp I know1 whether he has communicated with Che leaders of the Labour Party here.
– He has not done so, to my knowledge.
– I’ am not acquainted with any resolution passed by any section of the Labour Party which should afford ground for the opinion which has been expressed, and, in the course of any communications with the General, I shall call his attention to these facts.
– We desire to know what his proposal is?
– Does the Prime Minister consider it an objection that the proposed immigrant’s are capitalists to the extent of ^30 each?
– The honorable and learned member doubtless expects no answer to that question. The advantages of capital in any country are manifest, and its possession is no less advantageous to those who wish to start in a new country. While I believe that character and industry are the best sources of individual wealth, I regard it as desirable that those who come here, intending to settle, should be possessed of some small amount of capital, to assist them in the initial stages of making homes for themselves.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if. he is aware that one% of his predecessors prevented the advertisements of a German, lottery from being sent through the post? Is he also aware that the prospectus and tickets issued in connexion with this lottery are again being sent to every citizen of Victoria? Will he take steps to stop the distribution of this matter ?
– I am aware that those ‘advertisements are being sent through the post, but every precaution’ is being taken to protect the public, and I hope to be able to, do even more, now that I am in possession of the information with which the honorable member has supplied me. I am in accord with many of. the actions of my predecessor, and can safely promise to follow in his footsteps.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the House a- copy of all communications sent to him by the Chamber of Manufactures of Victoria and by the Central Council of Employers with reference to Part VII. of the Trade Marks Bill,- and particularly the opinion of Mr. L. F. Cussen, as to whether the Union Label or Trade Union Mark is a Trade Mark within the meaning of subsection (18) of section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution ?
-My honorable and learned colleague desires me to say that he has no objection.
Motion (by Mr. Austin Chapman) proposed: -
That the House will, on Tuesday next, resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole to consider the following motion : -
That the Bouse approves of an extension of the arrangements entered into on the30th October,1903, by the Commonwealth’ Government for the carriage of mails between Australia, Fiji, and Canada, by the steamers of the Canadian-Australian Royal Mail Line, upon the following terms : -
That the period of the contract be further extended from 1st May, 1905, to 31st July,1906, with a proviso that if neither party gives not less than three months’ notice of termination prior to the latter date, the contract shall continue until the 31st July,1907.
That the amount of subsidy payable by the Commonwealth be at the annual rate of£23,863 12s. 3d. for the period from1st May to 31st July, 1905, and at the annual rate of £26,626 16s. from the 1st August, 1905, the difference between the two amounts being the Commonwealth proportion of a total increase of£6,000 per annum.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).As this is merely a formal stage, I shall reserve what I have to say- on this proposal until we get into Committee; I hope, however, that the Government will not continue to devote the greater part of our sittings to business like this, and then, after only an hour or two’s discussion of the Estimates, complain, as they did last night, that several Departments have not been rushed through.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to incorporate amendments in amended Acts-
– It is customary to recognise the right of Ministers to deal with each other’s business at any stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Bill received from’ the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Fuller) read a first time;
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 12th October, vide page
– Some temporary obscurement of your vision last night, Mr. Chairman, prevented me from getting an early opportunity to reply to the reflections of the honorable member for Parramatta on the attendance here of Victorian members. His attacks were most unfounded and uncalled for.
– They were characteristic of him.
– The honorable member has been absent from the Chamber for a fortnight or more, and yet he presumes to . lecture some of the Victorian representatives upon their nonattendance to their parliamentary duties. He also urges that the Federal Capital should be forthwith established in order that all honorable members may be placed on an equal footing. It appearsthat there is no satisfying New South Wales, upon the Federal Capital question. The honorable member for Corangamite, the honorable member for Flinders, and myself recently made a proposition that, the Federal Parliament should meet in Sydney. We did this with the object of putting an end to the complaints of New South Wales. But every representative,. of that State voted against the proposal. Now that a site has been selected in some portion of New South Wales which very few honorable members have ever seen, the people of that State are still dissatisfied and their Parliament is placing every obstacle in the way of a settlement. The representatives of New South Wales apparently desire that the Federal Capital Site shall be bounded on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by the Desert Railway, on the north by the Day of Judgment, and on the south by the Bottomless Pit. Even if they obtained such a site they would probably have many complaints to urge. Honorable members from New South Wales are rapidly reducing this Parliament to the level of the State Parliament, and we could not possibly descend any lower. They talk as if they were the only persons who were subjected to any inconvenience in attending the meetings of Parliament in Melbourne ; but I would ask if they are in any worse position than the representatives of Queensland’, Tasmania, and Western Australia. Equality of conditions, so far as the personal convenience of honorable members is concerned, could be secured only by fixing the meeting-place of the Federal Parliament in a locality such as the Macdonell Ranges. I strongly protest against the action of the honorable member for Parramatta, who, after several weeks’ unexplained absence from this House, made an unwarrantable attack upon the representatives of Victoria.
– I think it is about time that the Home Affairs Department should be done away with altogether, because it appears impossible to obtain any satisfaction from the officials connected with it. If a post-office has to be built or a rifle range constructed, it is comparatively easy to secure the approval of the Minister, and the necessary appropriation of money : but, whilst at first everything seems to be proceeding smoothly, month after month passes by and nothing is] done. It is eventually found that the matter has been hung up in the Department of Home Affairs. Apparently, one Minister will not assume any responsibility for the actions of another Minister, with the result that it is difficult to obtain any satisfaction whatever. Near West Maitland, in the electorate which I represent, there is a city in embryo, called Kurri Kurri, in the centre of one of the finest coalfields in the world. The town has a population of 2,200 per- sons, and is rapidly growing. The township allotments recently sold by the StateGovernment realized .£35,000, and there isno doubt that a great future lies before thetown and district. I am continually receiving letters from my constituents, who* ask me how it is that I cannot obtain a proper post-office for them. They have been waiting for some time for proper provision to be made in this direction, and they want to know why it is that I cannot aid them in obtaining their rights, whilst the representative of a neighbouring electorate, who happens to be a member of theLabour Party, can obtain for his constituents a magnificent brick structure. When the Reid Government were in. power, they appeared to appreciate what was right and just, and there was little difficulty in securing what was required.
– What request of the honorable member has been refused?
– I cannot say that anything has been absolutely refused, but “hope deferred maketh the heart sick,” and the people of Kurri Kurri have been waiting for months past for reasonable postoffice accommodation. At present the whole of the post and telegraph business is carried on in the verandah of a small store.
– Where is the brick postoffice in the adjoining electorate to which the honorable member has referred?
– At Wallsend.
– Ah ! Wallsend is a city..
– Wallsend is decadent,, whereas Kurri Kurri is growing, and will’ before long have a population of many ‘thousands. The coal measures in the neighbourhood of Wallsend and Newcastle are gradually “petering” out, whereas in the district in which Kurri Kurri is situated, the coal measures, which belong to the Greta system, are without doubt the finest in the world. I have been almost daily in communication with the head of the Department, but I cannot induce him to realize the importance of Kurri Kurri and the justice of its claims. If he would only visit the district, he would be at once convinced that my representations are correct. I believe that tenders have been called for a wooden structure, instead of a substantial stone and brick edifice.
– I think that that was done on the recommendation of the late Postmaster-General.
– Then even his gigantic intellect was incapable of grasping the necessities of the situation. In the end, a weatherboard building will prove much more expensive than a substantial structure. In the first place it would be very liable to destruction by white ants, and in the next place the cost of renovation and repairs would be’ much greater than if the building were constructed of brick and stone. I would ask the Minister to give his careful consideration to this matter, and not to rely solely upon the reports of his officers. I do not suggest that the Minister has been conferring favours upon members of the Labour Party that he has not extended, to members on this side of the Chamber, but at the same time it is very annoying to have one’s attention called to the fact that works are being carried on in an adjoining electorate, whilst the requirements of his constituents are being ignored. I would point out that another important town in my district, Cessnock, is rapidly growing, and that it would be advisable to secure a site for a postoffice before the price of building allotments becomes largely increased. A number of suitable sites are now in the market, and I trust that the Minister will give his attention to this matter.
– I shall make inquiries at once.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I desire to say a few words in reply to the honorable and learned member for Wannon. Yesterday I made some remarks concerning one or two representatives of- Victoria, and I was encouraged by no one more” than the honorable and learned member for Wannon. For instance, when I was referring to the attendance of the Attorney-General in this Chamber, the honorable and learned member for Wannon interjected, “ Why,- I saw him here for a quarter of an hour one clay.” This morning we find him protesting against my remarks, and indulging in criticism which is little short of an anathema. It occurs to me that for an outsider to say anything derogatory to a Victorian representative is very much like the proverbial person interfering in the quarrel between a man and his wife. Whilst the parties themselves do not mind criticising each other to the full, the moment that any outsider takes a hand they fall upon him very heavily indeed. The remarks of the honorable and learned member for Wannon were utterly out of place and en tirely uncalled for. My observations did not relate to him, and he ought to have known that. I believe that he does know it. The)” were addressed to one or two Victorian representatives, and I have not a word to say in qualification of them. In reference to the matter which has been mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter, I wish to say that if there is a place in Australia which should command the sympathetic attention of the Government, it is the magnificent coal-field which is now being developed in the Hunter district. It possesses one of the finest coal seams in the world, and for that reason population is bound to gravitate .there before very long. I know that other enterprises are being undertaken there with an alacrity which should put the Government to shame. It is absurd to erect a wooden post-office at Kurri Kurri. There is no danger of its coal seam petering out. Its position is entirely different from that of a gold-field, the future of which may be in doubt. In - a hundred years’ time Kurri Kurri will be a prosperous and thriving city. If ever there existed a justification for erecting a substantial building, it is to be found in the case of that township. I trust that the Postmaster-General will not consider merely its immediate requirements, because those requirements will be continually increasing. Kurri Kurri is destined to be far more important than any other town in the Hunter district. In view of that fact, I contend that a substantial building and adequate postal accommodation should be provided there.
– I happen to be a native of the Hunter district, and I say that there can be no doubt as to its future. Its advance is assured by reason of its immense coal seams. At the same time, I am not quite sure that it would be wise to erect a substantial postoffice at Kurri Kurri immediately. Settlement increases so rapidly in places where huge coal deposits are worked that if we put up an elaborate building now, it will probably become out of date within a comparatively brief period. Consequently, I am disposed to think it would be better to erect a temporary structure.
– Surely the honorable member must be aware that palaces are being erected all round this spot.
– I know that ali Kurri Kurri hotels have been erected which are quite as large as those to be found in places boasting a population of from 10,000 to 20,000. Indeed, the great majority of the hotels in Melbourne are not equal to them. I have every desire to help the Hunter district, but I think that we should act with judgment. I have always set my face against the wasteful expenditure of money. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that much better postal accommodation should be provided at Kurri Kurri, but I am not quite sure that in the interests of the Commonwealth it would be wise to erect a palatial building.
– We want only a substantial building.
– Probably any building which may be erected will prove to be inadequate for the business which will be transacted there four or five years hence. In looking through the Canadian Estimates, I have been impressed by the fact that we are spending far more money in certain directions than is the Dominion Government. During the course of the Budget debate I suggested that it would be wise to send an officer of intelligence and some breadth of view to Canada for the purpose of ascertaining how the public money is being expended in the different provinces. I maintain that we should cut our coat according to our cloth. Upon all these new mining fields we know that speculators rush to secure land, and that the State is subsequently called upon to pay a very high price for it. I would suggest to the Minister the wisdom of early securing sites for the various public buildings which may be required. Leaving this subject, may I express a hope that an early settlement of the Federal Capital question will be arrived at? Whilst I did not approve of the site that was selected, I have to stand by the statement of the leader 6f the Opposition that we are not likely to get a- better one. I have met many persons in New South Wales who have very severely criticised the action of this Parliament in its choice of a site. An idea is prevalent in that State that the Commonwealth has not treated it fairly.
– It is aFT the other way about.
– That is a matter of opinion. I have no desire to discuss provincial questions. I have never been a provincial ist, and I say that after questions have been decided by Parliament - whatever our personal opinions may be - we must bow to the will of the majority. When people have approached me upon the question of the Federal Capital dispute, I have had to point out that this Parliament undoubtedly acted within its right, and that the action of the New South Wales Legislature has created a great difficulty. Had the latter exhibited more wisdom a settlement of this difficulty might have been reached very much earlier. By withdrawing Dalgety from the list of sites which it was prepared to offer to the Commonwealth it adopted a course of action which this Parliament could not possibly indorse. It practically administered a slap in the face to the Commonwealth Parliament, which was calculated to create a feeling of irritation.
– The New South Wales Parliament should have offered to discuss the question amicably.
– Yes ; and under any circumstances it should have included Dalgety in the Bill which it passed. An opportunity would then have been afforded for a conference between the State and the Federal authorities, and a satisfactory arrangement might have resulted. Returning to the question of the erection of public buildings, I hold that we should not allow any wasteful expenditure. It seems to me that it would be wise for the’ Department to lease buildings in new townships until it ‘ is seen whether they are likely to develop. At Tingha, a township in my own electorate, a private building has been leased for years - long before Federation was established - for the purposes of a post-office, and I understand that the rent already paid would have been more than sufficient to erect a suitable office. I am informed that a State building in the township - I believe it is a school - is about to be vacated, and as the post-office has become dilapidated, it would be wise for the Minister to cause inquiries to be made by the inspector for the State, with a view to the Commonwealth securing its use. Occasionally, expensive public buildings are erected in decaying townships, with the result that in a few years these offices are left on our hands and become useless. We should pay due regard, to economy in these matters.
– Hear, hear; our policy is progress and prudence.
– I hope it is. My desire is that there shall be no waste of public money in my own or any other electorate. I hope that the Ministry will give the claims of my constituency more consideration than did their predecessors, and I shall attempt - although only by fair means - to secure just treatment for it.
– The suggestion made by the honorable member for Hunter is one that I intended to put before the Committee at the first opportunity. Whenever it appears probable that a new township is likely to assume large proportions, I think that the Commonwealth, at the earliest opportunity, should secure whatever land it may require.
– But we have to pay for all these sites out of revenue.
– It is better that the Government should step in at a time when the land may be secured at a low rate than that it should wait until values have increased by perhaps 600 per cent, or 700 per cent. That mistake has been made by the States Governments.
– Would it not be S good idea for the States to reserve land for public buildings in all townships?
– I have always advocated that policy. As a member of the State Parliament of Tasmania, I took care to see, whenever a new township was proclaimed in my electorate, that sufficient land was reserved not only for public buildings but for the purposes of a recreation reserve. Whatever land is required for Commonwealth purposes should be obtained, if possible, at bedrock prices.
– I go further, and say that it should be a condition of a grant to any land-holder that on the survey of a township on his property he shall reserve the land necessary for public buildings.
– That is a matter which rests in the hands of the States Governments.
– The Government are considering the desirableness of asking States, when proclaiming townships, to set apart sufficien’t land for public buildings.
– As to the second point raised bv the honorable member for Hunter, I am inclined to think, from what I have heard, that the Kurri Kurri coalfield is likely to prove one of the greatest that has yet been discovered in1 the Southern; Hemisphere. Unquestionably the township will make rapid progress, and will double its population within the next few years. That being so, it would be foolish to erect a wooden post-office, which, in the course of a few years, would become obsolete, and have to give way to a more extensive structure. Unfortunately our public officers are so bound by red-tape that they erect public buildings in a township of 2,500 inhabitants which is not likely to grow, on precisely the same scale as they would lay out buildings for a town having the same population, but likely to rapidly expand. The officers of the Department ought to exercise their common-sense, and when they find that a town is likely to grow rapidly, they should take care to make proper provision for expansion. It is false economy to erect cheap wooden buildings in districts where it is evident that more substantial and extensive structures will be required in the course of a few years. To my mind, we should erect offices that may be enlarged as the necessities of the district require, and ‘before adopting the suggestion made by his predecessor in regard to the Kurri Kurri Post-office, the Minister should make further inquiries, and see whether it would not be desirable to put up a more substantial building.
– In view of what has been said this morning, I wish to enter my emphatic protest against the way in which the leader of the Opposition and some of his followers appear to regard the business of this Parliament. Incidents like that which occurred last night tend to bring the Legislature into disrepute, and to cast a stigma on those who are honestly endeavouring, to attend to the serious work of the House. If honorable members turn to this morning’s issue of the Age, they will find that it devotes far more space to the make-believe bickerings between the actingleader of the Opposition and some of his followers-
– The honorable member has no right to make that statement.
– I leave it to the Committee to say whether my statement is not correct The Age this morning devotes nearly half-a-column to what was really a make-believe attack by the leader of the Opposition. The report is headed “ Stir in Parliament”; “Attack on Victorian Members.”
– It was not a makebelieve attack, and the honorable member knows it.
– I do not know anything of the kind. In another part of the same newspaper appears a report of an explanation made by the honorable member for
Dalley in connexion with the debate on the question of Home Rule. Notwithstanding that the honorable member made his explanation in what appeared to me to be a spirit of levity, far more space is devoted to it than-
– I rise to a point of order. I say that the honorable member is not in order.
– What cheek ! Who is in possession of the chair?
– I. am at present.
– How long has the honorable member been the censor of political morals ?
– Order !
– The honorable member cannot charge me with having said anything of a personal character. I rise to prevent these personal differences.
– The honorable member knows very well that it is out of order to interrupt another honorable member, and to proceed to discuss what he is saying before stating the point of order raised. The honorable member must begin by stating his point of order.
– I think, Mr. Chairman, that you ought to reprove those who interrupted me. When I rose to state my point of order I was met by the interruptions of the honorable member for Maranoa.
– The honorable member is not acting fairly to the Chair.
– You are not acting fairly to me.
– Order ! The honorable member should not make such an assertion. I caused the interruption of which he complains to cease, and I now ask him to state his point of order.
– I was proceeding, Mr. Chairman, to put it, when you interrupted me. My point of order is that the honorable member for Canobolas has no right to say that the personal explanation offered last night by the honorable member for Dalley was made in a spirit of levity. I hold that he is not in order in dealing with a matter that has no bearing on the Estimates now under consideration.
– I gather from the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie that he desires to raise a point of order, to ascertain whether the honorable member for Canobolas should be allowed to discuss something which occurred in the House, with which this Committee has absolutely nothing to do. I was about to stop the honorable member for Canobolas when the honorable member for Macquarie rose, and, in fact, had called “ Order !” so that the question would have been settled without his intervention. The honorable member for Canobolas will be in order in traversing any of the statements which have been made in Committee with regard to the Estimates of the Department of Home Affairs, but he will not be in order in discussing a matter which occurred in the House, and has not been referred to the Committee.
– I am referring simply to what appears in the newspaper this morning.
– If I allowed a discussion on any matter merely because it had been referred to in the newspapers, any honorable member could discuss at length the mining news, the finance column, or anything else published in the journals of the day. The honorable member’s opportunity for referring to the matter on which he wishes to speak will be when Mr. Speaker is in the chair.
– I shall take that opportunity. I think those who wish to preserve the best traditions of parliamentary government should protest against the exhibition which we have had in this connexion.
– It does not come well from the honorable member for Canobolas to lecture honorable members 011 the manner in which they present their views on important public questions. He spoke of an exhibition; but the worst exhibition to which we have been ‘treated in this connexion has been the speech which he has just made. He tells us, because we advocate the claims of a particular district, that we have no regard for the serious business of Parliament, and, to bring home to us the real seriousness of parliamentary procedure, inflicts on the Committee one of his tedious speeches. The reasons put forward by the honorable member for Hunter for improving the postal facilities of Kurri Kurri are, I think, unanswerable. Less than two years ago there was hardly anybody living in the township, but to-day, owing to the discovery there of one of the finest and richest coal seams in the world - a seam 28 ft. wide, with hardly any bands of foreign matter in it - there is a population of over 2,000, which is increasing at a rapid rate. That being so, it would be opposed to common sense, and to ordinary. business principles, to make inadequate provision for postal business there. If we erect buildings now which will have to be replaced by larger buildings a year hence, the taxpayers wall suffer loss, and in their interests I ask attention to the claims of this district for proper consideration.
– I regret very much that, in- considering these Estimates, we have not before us the report of the Public Service Commissioner on the debate in Parliament on the classification scheme,” so that we might know how the suggestions made by honorable members are to be dealt with. Once the Estimates are passed the information will Be of little value to us. The honorable member for Maranoa last night gave the State salary, the Commonwealth salary prior to classification, and the Commonwealth salary after classification, of a number of public servants who have received very large -increases. While I am prepared to admit that many of our officers are not too highly paid, I think that others receive more than they would get in- private employ. I cannot be accused of being desirous of cutting down salaries, because I have always advocated the payment of a fair living wage for every class of work by both private firms and Government Departments. It was interjected last night that the salaries which are being paid by the Commonwealth are less than the corresponding salaries of States officers. That perhaps is true, but it is well known that many of the higher officials in the employment of the States receive much larger salaries than should be paid to them, and the Commonwealth has been forced to follow a bad example in this matter. I know that both the secretary to this Department and the Public Service Commissioner are trying to act fairly towards the public servants j but, as I pointed out when the classification scheme was before the House, if we allow the term “assistant-“1 to be adopted, the will of Parliament in regard to the minimum wage will be defeated. We find that there are now assistant lettercarriers, and! other assistants, who are getting as little as j£6o per annum. I believe that honorable members are opposed to the payment of such small salaries, and I should like to know the decision of the Cabinet in regard to the matter. With regard to what has been said about the needs of Kurri Kurri, I think that the Department should be very careful when considering applications for public buildings in such townships. It often happens in new settlements that, after the postofficehas been built, the town’ is moved a ml let or two away, and then a new post-office is. required. In a case like this, the Depart-, ment should be careful not to prematurely erect substantial and expensive buildings,and Parliament, in considering such mat’ters should be as careful of the public funds as if it were dealing with its own; money.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I have -never, during my parliamentary career, known an attempt to be made by a Government Department to do injustice to a member because he sat in Opposition. With regard to the Kurri Kurri post-office, it is hardly fair to put the whole responsibility upon the Minister of Home Affairs.. I believe that the matter was under consideration prior to my becoming, PostmasterGeneral, and a sum of ^£600 had been placed on last year’s Estimates for the erection of the building. The smallness of the amount was due to the fact that at the time the Department hardly knew’ what developments would take place. It is; now anticipated that there will be a large population settled permanently at Kurri Kurri ; but the Department think it wise to erect a temporary post-office in the first instance, keeping available a sufficient area of land - I believe they possess there a quarter o.f an acre - to allow7 of any extensions the requirements of the place may demand. As all these works have to be paid for out of revenue, great economy must be observed in every instance. I am a strong advocate of the erection of permanent buildings, capable of being extended to meet increasing requirements, but in the present case the wooden structure provided for will meet the immediate necessities of the case, and as the population increases, and larger premises have to be built, it can be utilized for residential or other purposes. The honorable member for Hunter deserves credit for the energy he has displayed in bringing the needs of his constituents under the notice of the Government. I think that he will admit that,, on the whole, he has received fair treatment, but I could not see my way to spend a large sum upon the erection of a post-office at Kurri Kurri. We have to deal with these matters from the public standpoint, and we recognise that if large sums are spent upon the erection of expensive buildings in the larger centres of population, it will be impossible to meet the pressing requirements of the settlers in outlying localities, who have the strongest claims upon our consideration. I set my face steadily against providing town clocks in connexion with post-offices. Not only is a large initial outlay involved in the purchase of such time-pieces, but the buildings in which they are placed have to be specially constructed ; moreover, the upkeep of the clocks entails considerable expense. ‘My colleagues and I took the view that town clocks, if desired, should be provided by the people themselves. When it ‘is considered that in New South Wales alone there are 6,800 official and non-official post-offices, it will be seen that any attempt to provide clocks upon a large scale would prove enormously expensive, and would cripple the resources of the Department to an extent which would render ‘ them unable to meetlegitimate demands for postal and telegraphic facilities. My late honorable colleague, the honorable member for North Sydney, and myself, had under consideration the adoption of standard plans for post-office buildings, with a view to expediting the work of construction and saving expense. We thought that well-considered plans, adaptable to various circumstances, could be used in a large number of cases with great advantage to the Department and to the general public. I have no doubt that this matter will receive the attention of the present Government. In regard to the question of the Public Service Classification, brought under notice by the honorable member for Yarra, I think it is due to the Committee that the Government should declare their intentions. Thev should take the responsibility of making a specific proposal with regard to the Classification, instead of inviting honorable members to do as they please with it.
– The Government with which the honorable member was connected promised to afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss the scheme.
– Yes; but the intention was that the scheme should be submitted to the Cabinet and carefully considered, and that the determination of the Government in regard to it should be announced to the House. The Commissioner has made certain recommendations, and we have a right to know what the Government intend to do with regard to them. So far they have practically declined to express any opinion on the subject, and have merely told honorable members that they could discuss the scheme as they pleased. We should not be left in any such uncertain position. Another matter to which I desire to refer is the question of dealing with the transferred properties I do not blame the present Government for having failed to arrive at a settlement of this very difficult question, but I would urge upon them the importance of dealing with it as promptly as possible, in order that we may know where we stand in regard to our finances. According to the statement of the Treasurer, the balance available to us at present amounts to only £480,000, out of which we shall have to provide for the interest on the cost of the transferred properties, for a sinking fund, and for the administration of several new Departments, including that of the High Commissioner, quarantine, and the Commonwealth Statistician. The States are clamouring for a settlement, and they are naturally anxious that some arrangement should be arrived at, because they have to meet the interest charges on the loan moneys expended upon the buildings which we are occupying. If it becomes necessary for us to provide £300,000 or £400,000 per annum for the payment of interest on the loans expended upon transferred properties, we shall be face to face with a very serious situation. Our revenue is decreasing, and our expenditure is growing, and the sooner we grapple with the problem which lies before us the better. The expenditure contemplated under the Bonuses for Manufactures Bill may also absorb a considerable amount of money. That measure is on the businesspaper, and the Government have not yet declared their intentions with regard to it. If we are called upon to expend £250,000 by way of bonus to encourage the production of iron, it may become necessary to revise the whole of our Estimates. I am aware that since this matter was previously discussed a very important development has taken place in New South Wales. The Government of that State have entered into a contract with Mr. Sandford for the supply of a certain quantity: of iron and steel rails. It is high time that the Ministry informed the House of their intentions regarding the Bills which have been submitted to us. Upon a previous occasion, I pointed out that whilst this Parliament had constructed certain public works in Queensland out of revenue, the Government of that
State had paid the amount involved into its own Treasury out of loan funds.
– That practice has now been stopped.
– I am glad to say that since attention was directed to the matter the practice has been discontinued. Personally, I regret that friction should exist between the States and the Commonwealth. I cannot understand why the Federal and State authorities should not work together upon the most amicable, terms. I trust that the time is not far distant when we shall all join in giving effect to a policy which will be beneficial to the whole of Australia.
– In looking over some tables which I received from Queensland a few days ago, I found that there are, unexpended loan balances amounting to .£26,000 or ,£27,000 which were appropriated for works in Departments which have since been transferred to the Commonwealth. I think that it would be wise for the Government to approach the Queensland Government with a view to ascertaining if a portion or the whole of this money could not be devoted by the Commonwealth to the purposes for which it was originally borrowed.
– I expect that they want all the money they have.
– But the British creditor advanced that money upon the distinct^ understanding that it was to be devoted-20 carrying out specific works.
– They will reappropriate it for some other purpose.
– How can they reconcile any such action with the purposes for which the money was originally borrowed ?
– The British investor lends money on the consolidated revenue of the country.
– It seems to me that a creditor would be more ready to advance money to a State if he knew that it was to be devoted to carrying out reproductive public works than he would Otherwise be. However, I have no desire to pursue this matter further. While I am at one with those who desire economic administration, I think that it is possible to carry that idea a trifle too far. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter that a place which is of small importance today may1 be one of very great importance to-morrow, and vice versa. In these matters a wise discrimination should be exercised, and where the stability of a town is pretty well assured, provision should be made foc its expansion. This would obviate the necessity, after the lapse of a few years, for tearing down temporary buildings and erecting in their stead buildings more in accord with the public requirements. We are all anxious to see large estates cut up and made available for closer settlement. I can point to many places which, a few years ago, were cattle runs or sheep walks, but which to-day are thriving centres of population. The prosperity of these districts Is built upon a very solid foundation, because the industries carried on there are not likely to peter out., In such localities, it would be wise if the Government exercised reasonable forethought by acquiring suitable sites for any public buildings which may be required in’ the future. In the interests of economy, it has been suggested that the Works Department should be amalgamated with some Department other thanthat of the Home Affairs. I do not favour that idea. We must recollect that there are many services which the Constitution empowers ‘the Commonwealth to take over, which will eventually come under the Department of Home Affairs. For example, before long I hope to see an Agricultural Bureau established, as well as a Meteorological Department and a bacteriological laboratory. These institutions are necessary to assist our primary producers. When these services are taken over by the Commonwealth there will be a considerable increase, of work in the Department. The tendency of the future must be to increase rather than lessen the number of our services. That fact,, however, need not materially add” to - indeed, I think it will rather reduce - the cost of administering the affairs of the Commonwealth as a whole. I wish now fo say a word or two upon a matter which comes, strictly speaking, under the Public Service Commissioner. I refer fo the regulation which provides that telegraph messengers, upon attaining eighteen years of age, must leave the Public Service unless a vacancy exists in some higher division. I am aware that it is impossible to find openings in the Commonwealth service for all the youths who are engaged as telegraph messengers. I am referring to a matter which arises under a regulation framed’ by the Commissioner. Quite recently a notification was issued, presumably by the Commissioner, that tele- graph messengers who desired to qualify for a higher position in the service were required to submit to an examination. Several messengers whom I know underwent this examination, and were notified that they had passed, but they have since received an intimation that their services will not be required after next month. Three of the best years of” their lives have thus been wasted. They accepted the position of telegraph messengers, believing that if thev were able to pass an examination entitling them to promotion they would be able to secure permanent employment in the service, and gradually rise to higher positions.
– But if there were only ten vacancies and twenty applied, only ten could be appointed.
– Quite so ; but the number of vacancies should be distinctly stated, and it should be intimated that the appointments will be given to those who head the pass-list.
– The mistake we made was in fixing the retiring age of telegraph messengers at eighteen years. After that age is reached they are fit for nothing else.
– That is the point I was about to make. These lads enter the service, believing that a career is open to them, and when they are sent adrift on reaching the age of eighteen years, it is too late for them to serve an apprenticeship at some trade. The result is that they have either to endure the drudgery of clerical work, or accept the wages of a labourer. Young fellows who have received more than the average education - who have not hesitated to avail themselves of technical colleges and night schools - are left in this unfortunate position. Some discrimination ought certainly to be exercised. Another point relating to the Estimates now under discussion is that complaints are still being made as to the circumlocution of the Department in dealing with the claims of district returning officers, and also as to the inadequacy of the payment they receive. I do not know that I have ever been guilty of acting as a roads and bridges member and parading before the House the ‘ wants and requirements of my constituency. Those are matters which I bring before the responsible Minister, and I am pleased to say that, no matter what Ministry is in power, when I can show that I have a good case, I receive fair treatment. It is only when that is denied that such matters should be brought before Parliament. But there is evidently good ground for inquiry in regard to the position of these officers. Complaints are being received from all parts of the Commonwealth, and it seems to me that their grievances ought to be removed. If there is one branch of the service in which we should endeavour to secure efficient officers it is that relating to the election of members of the Parliament. I do not think that the actions of those who occupy these positions would be influenced in any way by the remuneration they received, but by parsimoniously limiting their power to employ other capable men to assist them we may force them to engage inefficient assistants, and undesirable results may accrue. Another point that I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister relates to the importance of the establishment of a Meteorological Bureau. We have had sad experience in Queensland of the need for this institution, especially since the abolition of the State Department.
– 1 may mention that, since the honorable member put a question to me on the subject, I have had further communications sent to the States Governments, but, so far, have had only one reply.
– I know that the Minister has the matter at heart. No one recognises more than he does the importance of the question to Australia, and particularly to Queensland), which formerly possessed one of the best Meteorological Departments in Australia, and had certainly a very able gentleman at its head. I am sorry we have lost the services of that gentleman. Although he may have been in some respects eccentric, it cannot be denied that he is highly capable in the particular line which he has made his life-study. It is, at all events, gratifying to know that the measures necessary to be taken for the establishment of a Commonwealth meteorological bureau are in the hands of a sympathetic Minister.
– While it is not my desire that the Minister should adopt a cheese-paring policy in dealing with the services of his Department, I trust that he will closely inquire into any new expenditure that may be proposed. As to the erection of a post-office at Kurri Kurri, I would point out that a building that might meet the present day requirements of the township would be altogether inadequate a few years hence. Kurri Kurri possesses one of the largest coal-seams in the world, and is likely to become a great industrial centre. Its position is different from that of a gold-field, that may be exhausted in the course of a few years. It has, apparently, an inexhaustible supply of coal, and the facilities for placing this coal on the market are such as to insure the stability of the town. In time to come, a large post-office will be necessary, but a temporary building is all that is required at the present time. As to the remarks made last night by the deputy leader of the Opposition, in reference to the attendance of honorable members, I wish to say that I consider he was perfectly justified in drawing the attention of Parliament to the position of the representatives of Victoria. At the present moment, there are certain Victorian representatives sitting on the Government side of the House, and I think that the deputy leader of the Opposition was perfectly justified in apprising the people of Victoria of the way in which their members are attending to their public duties.-
– It was not that to which exception was taken.
– The honorable member took exception to the remarks of the deputy leader of the Opposition, when he was not referring to him.
– All that I said was that we attended to our duties as well as did some of the representatives of Victoria.
– That is so. The honorable member for Canobolas was certainly not justified . this morning in condemning the remarks of the honorable member. I do not think that the deputy leader’ of the Opposition needs to be instructed by the honorable member as to the . wayin which he should address the House, nor do I think that he will pattern his remarks on the honorable member’s model. “ To return to the question of public buildings, I would point out that some of those which come under the control of the Department of Home Affairs require to be improved. Unfortunately, however, the volume of correspondence necessary before one can succeed in having these improvements made, is most unreasonable.
– That state of affairs does not now exist.
– It exists- to such . an extent that one has to make four or five appli-. cations for the carrying out of a work that should at once receive attention.
– Will the honorable member give me a specific instance?
– I shall furnish the honorable and learned gentleman with more than one instance in which repeated applications have been necessary when one should have sufficed. There is a great deal of red-tape in connexion with other Departments, but I shall deal with that matter when the Estimates relating to them are before us.
– I am extremely sorry to have to allude to art incident of a personal character, which took place in the Committee last evening. I refer to the statement made in regard to my attendance.
– What did I say?
– The honorable member said - as I think the Hansard, report will show - that while my attendance, so far as the record is concerned, is very good, I merely pass through the Chamber, and am not seen again.
– The honorable member’s remarks bear that interpretation.
– Will the honorable member allow me to explain? I am glad of the opportunity toput this matter right as between him and myself. I was referring to the AttorneyGeneral’s frequent absences from the Chamber, to his frequent lecturing of honorable members when he came here, and to his desire to sit . late at night. I had some reason for feeling a little sore because of what I regarded as the scurvy treatment which I had received the night before.
– Hear, hear. It. was bad treatment.
– I think that I should have been treated with more consideration and courtesy. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports was interjecting at the time, and therefore I singled him out, saying that, although no doubt at the end of the session his name would be on top of the list of attendances - because it. is well known that he is always here - it did not follow that he spends more time in the Chamber than do some of us whocome from a distance. I do not think that those remarks conveyed any reflection upon him. I went on to say, further, that if he cared to, he could simply register his. attendance, and then go away to look after his private business. I did not’ say that he does so, though . I did say that of the AttorneyGeneral, who, it is a notorious fact. comes in at one door of the Chamber and goes out at the other merely for the purpose of registering his attendance. ‘ That is a public scandal on the part of a man who is paid a high salary to attend to his parliamentary duties.
– The point is, does he do his work?
– No; not his work in the House.
– He does it well - as well as any other honorable member does his work.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is rather exceeding the limits of an explanation, and he has made an observation in regard to the action of another honorable member that I do not think he should have made. He has said that the action of the Attorney-General is a public scandal.
– I referred to his absences from the House.
– I think that that remark should be withdrawn. Does the honorable member withdraw it?
– Of course. I did not intend to reflect on the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who, I freely admit, spends as much time in this Chamber as does any other honorable member ; and I am sorry that he has taken my remarks as referring to him in the same sense as I intended them . to refer to the Attorney-General. The ground of my contention was that it is not fair for honorable members who live in Melbourne, and thus have to suffer no inconvenience in. attending Parliament, to expect us to sit late at night.
– All the representatives of Victoria do not live in Melbourne.
– I am speaking of those who do, and’ particularly of those who have charge of public business. If they would allow us to get away at a reasonable hour, I should not object; but it is . unfair for men. who do not come here until a late hour at night to then try to dragon us into continuing to sit under circumstances which are little less than physical torture. After a racking train journey, we . have had quite enough by. the time 1 1o’clock at night comes, and -to sit longer means physical, mental,, and moral demoralization . The sooner that we get to the Federal Capital, where the sacrifices required of honorable members will be equal, the better it will be for all concerned.
– We seem to have drifted into a general Budget discussion on this Department. I am sorry that the honorable member for Parramatta endeavoured to show that the representatives of Victoria do not attend to their duties here.
– I absolutely deny that I have done anything of the kind.
– I think that, if the honorable member will refer to an interjection made by me last night, he will find that he did draw attention to that fact.
– The honorable member’s denial must be accepted.
– Apart from the parliamentary usage, my regard for the honorable member would make me accept his denial. There is a practice which obtains in all our mines which, in view of what has been said, might, perhaps, be adopted here, honorable members each being given
– The honorable member is discussing a matter which is not connected with the administration of the Department of Home Affairs
– If the time at which each member entered the Chamber, and the time at which he left, were recorded, it would be seen that. . the. representatives of New South Wales do not spend more time. here than do the representatives of Victoria.
– The honorable member must not continue to debate this question.
– I wish to enter my protest against the unnecessary introduction of the subject last night. It is absolutely incorrect that Victorian members do not attend here as they should.
– I have already denied that I said that they do not. Does the honorable member accept my denial ? If he does not, there can be no more between us.
– I wish to refer to the proposal to expend£5,000 on establishing a Commonwealth Statistical Bureau. At the present time there are statistical bureaux under the control of the States, and surely it is not proposed that the Commonwealth shall establish an absolutely independent agency for the collection of statistics. It would be a monstrous waste of public money, to do so. I am desirous of securing uniformity in this matter, and therefore I should like to know exactly what the Minister’s proposals are. I find that our contribution towards the cost of the new edition of The Seven Colonies is only £500. Why then, is at proposed to vote £5,000? Unless the Minister secures the co-operation of the States, there must be an unrighteous duplication of expenditure on the collection of statistics. His efforts should be directed to utilizing the existing agencies. No doubt, eventually, they will be transferred to the Commonwealth, although I understand that at present some of the States wish to keep the control of their Statistical Bureaux. It would, however, be most wasteful to establish an independent Commonwealth Statistical service. Five thousand pounds would -be absolutely ‘inadequate for that purpose, and the expenditure seems to me altogether unnecessary if we are going to avail ourselves of the work done by the States Departments. I agree with what has been said by previous speakers that, as our expenditure is now approaching very closely to our one-fourth share of the Customs and Excise revenue, it behoves us to exercise great economy We are not acting justly to the electors of the Commonwealth in publishing financial statements which take no account of our obligations in regard to the transferred properties. The question of our liabilities in this regard is very largely involved in the consideration of the best method of dealing with the States debts. The whole subject requires to be dealt with in some businesslike way, in order that a definite proposition .may be submitted for the consideration of the States. I have a proposal on the business-paper for the appointment of a committee of members who would be able to take into consideration the whole of these large financial questions, and evolve a scheme which would place matters upon a practical basis. I hope that an opportunity will be presented to honorable members to express .their approval of that proposal, and that we shall very soon reap some benefit from the labours of the proposed committee. I am aware of the proposal of the Treasurer with regard to the adjustment of balances as between the Commonwealth and the States, which has many features to commend it, but it must be remembered that we have to obtain the approval of the whole of the States. The proposal is a very good one, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, but it is possible that it may present quite a different aspect to the States Governments. I trust that the Minister will be able to give us some information as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the treatment of the transferred properties. We are proceeding to deal with a mass of unnecessary legislation, to the neglect of grave questions of practical finance. Furthermore, I should like some assurances with regard to the .£5,000 for which provision is made in connexion with the Statistical Department. I am not a Department trotter, but transact all my business by letter, and I must confess that my representations have met with prompt consideration. It is only just that I should pay this welldeserved tribute to Ministers and their officers, but I desire to direct attention to a departmental practice which is the cause of some irritation. Within a day or two after a letter has been received the Department send out a reply to the writer, intimating that his letter has been received, and, after giving a full digest of his communication, informing him that it will receive attention. This is a small matter, but to the ordinary business man, who has t«» go through numbers of letters per day, it is irritating to receive communications of that formal and unsatisfactory character. Why cannot the practice be adopted of acknowledging the receipt of a letter, and intimating that a reply will be forwarded upon a certain date. Quite a large staffof clerks must be engaged in writing these elaborate acknowledgments, which are quite unnecessary. I trust that, in the interests of economy, the Minister will give his attention to this matter.
Mr. BROWN (Canobolas).- The recent passage-at-arms between the deputy leader of Opposition and one of his supporters, the honorable and learned member for Wannon, appeared to be conducted in a spirit of levity which did not reflect credit upon this House.
– I desire to know whether the honorable member is in order in making that statement.
– I do not see that there is anything disorderly in the remarks of the honorable member, but I feel sure that if they are regarded as offensive he will withdraw them.
– I do not wish to be offensive, and if those honorable members who are primarily concerned consider that my remarks are objectionable, and not properly descriptive of the incident referred to, I shall withdraw them. I wish, however, to enter my protest against the adoption of methods of conducting business, which appear to me to be undignified. I take exception to certain proceedings of this morning and last evening, which reflect anything but credit upon the House. I d’o not wish to set myself up as a censor of the conduct of honorable members. I can appreciate humour, but when remarks of an offensive character are made I do not think that due regard is paid to the dignity of the House. The deputy leader of the Opposition should set an example to other honorable members. The press is the principle vehicle by which the public are made acquainted with our proceedings, and I desire to refer to the reports published in this morning’s newspapers of what took place last evening. Several important speeches were delivered by honorable members, notably by the honorable member for Maranoa, in reference to the large increases in the salaries of public servants, and by the honorable member for North Sydney, who, speaking in the light of the experience gained by him as a member of the late Administration, made a valuable suggestion relating to the transfer of the Electoral Office to the Post and Telegraph Department. The last-named honorable member placed his suggestion before the House in order that honorable members and the public might be prepared for a proposal on his part in the direction indicated by him when the Electoral Bill came before us. During the evening a few minutes were occupied by a personal interchange between the deputy leader of the Opposition and one or two other honorable members. The Argus this morning devotes five lines to the address delivered by the honorable member for North Sydney upon a most important subject, whilst the report of the miserable interchange of personalities to which I have referred occupies about half a column. The Age devotes ten lines to the speech of the honorable member for North Sydney, and nearly half a column to the personal matter alluded to. That indicates the relative importance which the daily press attaches to these matters. As the newspapers are the vehicle through which the public gain their information, they naturally conclude that the time of this Parliament is devoted chiefly to personal exchanges between honorable members, whilst the serious work of the country is neglected. The honorable member for Wentworth’ has inferred that my objection is probably prompted by the fact that the press do not give publicity to my views. Personally, I am indifferent to what publicity they accord them; but I know the course of action which I should adopt if I desired to gain public notoriety. If I were prepared to indulge in exhibitionsof temper, to make inane interjections of a personal character, to vainly attempt to be. humorous, I could achieve all the advertisement that anybody could desire. The newspapers are not to be blamed for the way in which they present their reports of our proceedings.
– I rise to a point of order. I can conceive of nothing that is more derogatory to the dignity of this Chamber than for the honorable member to be allowed to meander on in this fashion, making all sorts of charges against other honorable members.
– As far as I have heard him, the honorable member for Canobolas is discussing the effect of certain statements which have been made during the course of this debate. So long as he does that, he will be im order. At the same time, I think that general remarks upon a matter of this kind could be made more appropriately in the House.
– I had practically, concluded my remarks upon this subject. I merely wish to add that if this House desires the public to respect it and to regard it as worthy of the traditions from which it has sprung, honorable members will refrain from indulging in personalities.
– The honorable member for Hunter desires to secure the erection of a substantial post-office at Kurri Kurri, which heregards as the greatest coal-mining district on earth. The Government have offered toerect a wooden structure, which would, doubtless, be of an up-to-date character, and which, in my opinion, would be adequate for all purposes. Upon the other hand, I represent the biggest gold mine upon earth, and yet I have seen fowlhouses which are better than is the postoffice at Mount Morgan. That building is constructed of wood, and is perched upon a hill. There are steps leading up to it, and it is only strong individuals like myself who can reach it without great exertion. Anybody ‘who is familiar with Mount Morgan knows that at the present time the sum of £250,000’ is being expended in the improvement of the big mine there. The township possesses a population of 10,000, and yet its post-office is scarcely good enough for a fowl-house. All we ask is that the building shall be removed to the corner of a street. The Mount Morgan residents themselves are anxious to obtain a new structure, but I can see no prospect of their wishes being complied with. They blame me for their inability to obtain a new building, though I have done my best to secure one. I appeal to the Government to improve the existing structure and to make it conform more to the requirements of a town of such magnitude. I am sure that the revenue which is derived from it is much greater than that which will be obtained from any post-office at Kurri Kurri. The township of Mount Morgan is the principal centre of a mining, agricultural, and pastoral district. I hope the Minister will see that something is done in the direction that I suggest, without delay. Coming to the question of economic administration, I claim that we are building up a very large staff nf civil servants, whose salaries are out of all proportion to the work which they perform. A great number of these officers would not earn nearly as much if they were in private employ as they are being paid by the State. I believe in paying good wages to everybody, but it is undeniable that in many instances the salaries which are paid to civil servants, and the increments which they receive, are out of all proportion to the “value of the services which they render. Some of them- regard anything less than an increase of £40 or £50 as unworthy of notice, whilst in the lower grades of the service men welcome an increase of £10 as a perfect God-send, I am glad that the warning-bell has been tolled in connexion with extravagance in our public service. There is no doubt that a great many officers are underpaid. I believe that everybody should be provided with a living wage. I trust that this matter will be taken into consideration at a later period, especially in view of our ever-decreasing revenue. ‘Recently, we have heard a good deal in reference to the Federal Capital dispute. Personally, I do not think that the Commonwealth -should do anything more than it has already done. I fail to see how any good can result, from the projected conference between the AttorneyGeneral and Mr. Wade, the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales. I notice, in these Estimates, an item of £1,000 in connexion with the site for the Capital, and I should like to know what that expenditure is intended to cover.
– More picnics.
– The honorand learned member for Wannon, who interjects “ more picnics,” is one of those who never goes outside of Victoria. I maintain that the parliamentary visits of inspection which were undertaken to the various capital sites did not partake of anything in the nature of picnics. Upon one occasion, I recollect, we had to drive seventy miles through rain. That was no picnic, I can assure the honorable and learned member. I do hope that the Minister of Home Affairs will keep down the expenditure in his Department as much as possible. If the honorable member for Hunter is not satisfied with the erection of a wooden post-office at Kurri Kurri, he should get no post-office at all. As to the incident which took place last night, I may say that, although many disgraceful scenes have occurred in this House, I have never figured in one of them. These scenes have increased since the late Government went into opposition. The representatives of New South Wales appear to desire to dominate the whole Parliament. They” have been fighting from the first, and the honorable member for Parramatta seems to be always in the van. One can understand the younger members of the House transgressing when such an old parliamentarian is ready to accuse honorable members of not attending to their duties, and thus to create discreditable scenes. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I trust that the erection of a new post-office at Mount Morgan will be undertaken without delay.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - I shall not occupy the time of the Committee at any length in replying to the various questions that have been raised during the debate. As regards the determination of the site of the Capital, I can assure honorable members that the Government are doing everything within their power to expedite the solution of the difficulty. In reply to the question asked with . reference to the valuation of transferred properties, I may say that the matter was considered at the last Hobart Conference, and that it was agreed that a valuation should be made. In pursuance of that agreement, preliminary conferences between the Commonwealth and States authorities are now being held to determine the basis of valuation, so that the work may be carried out at the earliest moment.
– Has the basis of valuation been determined?
– Not yet. As I have said, preliminary conferences are taking place between the Commonwealth and States authorities to determine the basis of the valuation of transferred land and buildings generally. The principles on which the valuation of the transferred technical properties in the Department of Defence, and also in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, shall be made are also under consideration. Coming to the question of the Statistical Bureau, to which reference was made by the honorable member for Kooyong, I may say that the intention of the Government is that as soon as the Bill now before Parliament has been passed, a Commonwealth Statistician shall be appointed, and that the services of a small number of officers shall be obtained to assist him. It is likewise our intention to utilize to the full the States Departments if a transfer will not be consented to, and also to utilize the services of all the Customs officers who, at a cost of over £11,000 per annum, are now being employed to collect statistical information. The desire is to consolidate and bring all these forces under the one Department, so that the compilation of the statistics of the Commonwealth shall be centralized. The honorable member for Maranoa has referred to increases which have been made in the salaries of certain officers. It is perfectly true, as he stated, that the salaries paid in some instances to officers taken over from the States are in excess of those which they obtained while in the States service. No one will find fault with the honorable member for criticising anything that tends to extravagant expenditure ; and from that point of view he was perfectly justified in raising any question in regard to which he considered an explanation desirable. To Suggest, however - and the honorable member did not make this suggestion - that because of those apparent increases the Commonwealth has been guilty of extravagance is to disregard the true situation. What we have to do is first of all to estimate the value of the offices to which these officers have been appointed - to ascertain the class of . work to be performed - and then to determine what are adequate salaries to fix.
When the offices in question were created applications were invited, and appointments were made. In making any comparison between the expenditure of the Commonwealth and that of the States, with a view to determine the question of extravagance, it is necessary, not only to have regard to the respective salaries paid, but to compare the work done by Commonwealth officers with that which is done by officers holding corresponding positions in the service of the States.
– Do not the States officers work the same number of hours ?
– Even assuming that they do, I think I shall be able to show the honorable member that the Commonwealth has not been guilty of extravagance. As a matter of fact, in some instances the responsibilities of the Commonweal/th officers are much greater, and the duties are heavier than are those of officers occupying corresponding positions in the service of the States.
– The ability of the States to pay has also to be considered.
– Quite so. I propose to refer, by way of illustration, to one or two specific cases. , The honorable member for Maranoa mentioned the case of Mr. Lewis-, chief clerk of the Department of External Affairs. That officer receives a salary of. £360 per annum, but the officer discharging corresponding duties in New South Wales receives £550 per annum, while the corresponding officer in Victoria receives a salary of £560. The next clerk, Mr. Quinlan, receives £310; but in New South Wales the corresponding officer receives a salary of £450 per annum, whilst in Victoria a salary of £350 is paid.
– What. State Department corresponds, in the opinion of the honorable and learned gentleman, with the Department of External Affairs?
– I presume that the Chief Secretary’s Department does so.
– The Chief Secretary’s Department in each State has ten times as much work to do as that which falls to the Department of External Affairs
– I am prepared to refer to other cases in which the honorable member will admit that the work is the same. The honorable member has mentioned the case of Mr. Collins, accountant to the Treasury. It ‘is true that that gentleman received a comparatively small salary while in the employ of the State ; but he is a most competent officer.
– Are not all our officers supposed to be competent?
– That is so.
– We have to consider not the officer, but the office.
– Mr. Collins, as I have said, is at present accountant to the Treasury. In New South Wales the officer occupying that position receives £750 per annum, while in Victoria a salary of £7°° per annum is paid, as against the £480 per annum which Mr Collins receives. I do not think that the honorable member will contend that the work done’ bv the Commonwealth Treasury is of less volume or of less importance than is that carried out by the States Departments.
– Quite so; but I do not think that it is heavier.
– Even assuming that there is only equality of labour involved, the honorable member will recognise that Mr. Collins is receiving a much lower salary than is paid to officers discharging corresponding duties in the States Departments.
– The States Treasuries have three times as much work to do.
– I am speaking only of the work done by the accountant.
– His work cannot be as heavy as is that of the accountant of one of the larger States.
– Even if that be so, we are paying him £270 per annum less than is received by the accountant to the Treasury in New South Wales. Then let us take, by way of illustration, the position of the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth, who receives only £800, as against £1,300 per annum paid to the Crown Solicitor of New South Wales, and £1,000 received by the Victorian Crown Solicitor. I do not wish to unduly occupy the time of honorable members, but I could show, if necessary, that in nearly every instance Commonwealth officers are paid salaries lower than are those received by States officers discharging corresponding duties. We may well lay down the principle that if an officer is doing important work, and doing it well, he is worthy of his hire. I am sure that the honorable member for Maranoa would not lay down a rule that should be applied to one division and not to another.
– If we wish to obtain good men we must pay them well.
– That is so; but we have to be careful that we do not pay excessive salaries to those occupying the higher positions in the service. I think the Committee will agree that the honorable member for Maranoa is perfectly justified in protesting against the payment of excessive salaries, but when he compares the remuneration given to Commonwealth officers with that received by States officers discharging corresponding duties, he will recognise that our payments are not excessive. My contention is that our officers are being paid according to the importance of the work they are doing.
– I think that nine out of ten of the higher officers of the States are overpaid.
– It may be so. I have shown that Mr. Collins is receiving £270 per annunm less than is paid to the accountant of the Treasury of New South Wales, and therefore it cannot be said that his salary is excessive. The honorable member for Maranoa was perfectly justified in ventilating this question, but, in justice to the officers, it is necessary to make the comparison to which I have referred.
– He made no attack on the officers.
– The honorable member made that perfectly clear. He said that he was here to conserve the interests of the taxpayers, and that in that capacity he wished to obtain an explanation with respect to these matters. Another point mentioned by the honorable member related to paragraph b, under the heading of “ Total Cost of Department.” This paragraph deals with the Public Works staff, and the honorable member complained that whilst the expenditure under this head last year amounted to £6,125, the Committee were asked this year to vote £9,048. It is quite true that the paragraph would lead one to believe that an increase had been made. As a matter of fact, however, the apparent increase is due merely to an arrangement made in the Department itself. That is to say, certain new works and additions are now being transferred to “ other “ expenditure, and by reason of that change it has become necessary to increase the “ other “ expenditure. Although it would appear that there is an increase in reality there is not. In the Department of Home Affairs certain increases have been made under the classification, but taking the Department as a whole there is an absolute decrease in the expenditure. As regards the Public Service Classification, to which the honorable member for Macquarie referred, the position may be briefly explained. The classification was discussed in this House, and I made an announcement at the time that the criticism offered by members would be submitted to the Commissioner for report before the Government recommended the adoption of the classification.
– The leader of the Opposition said that he would do the same.
– That is the course we have adopted. As soon as the debate closed I submitted the criticism of honorable members to the Public Service Commissioner, and his report is now before the Cabinet. With regard to the alleged delays in carrying out works, I can assure honorable members that they are not the fault of the Department of Home Affairs. Owing to the fact that the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Act became- law at a much earlier stage of the session than is usual, many works have already been put in hand which otherwise could not have been proceeded with, and we are in a more advanced stage than we have hitherto arrived at in any preceding year since the inauguration of Federation. As to the payment of electoral officers, referred to by the honorable member for Canobolas, that matter came before my predecessor. In going through the papers, I have found that he made special inquiries from the Divisional Returning Officers, that he held conferences, and that he examined the officers of the Department ; and he left a minute, embodying the result of his investigation.. I see no reason for going back on his decision, which was, that these officers should be given an allowance of £10, in addition to their ordinary remuneration, to cover out-of-pocket expenses, provided that they would send in a statutory declaration, showing the amount which they had spent. I think that all the documents have now come to hand, and that the officers have been paid in accordance with the promise made. I cannot find that the Department of Home Affairs has been responsible for any -delay in connexion with the erection of the Woollahra Post-office, to which the honorable member for Wentworth referred. That delay was caused by certain difficulties occurring in connexion with the acquisition of the site.
I shall have the complaint of the honorable member for Hunter, in regard to the Kurri Kurri post-office investigated, and I make the same promise in regard to the Mount Morgan post-office. The honorable member for Coolgardie asked that instructions should be given for the preparation of a correct index in connexion wilh Mr. Coghlan’s statistical publication, and for the verification of certain information in that volume. 1 shall have those matters attended to, and will endeavour to arrange that the index next year shall be absolutely correct.
– Why is £.1,000 provided for the Federal Cap’ital Site?
– That amount is asked for to meet any contingencies which may arise. For instance, there may be a reference to the High Court, in which case a certain amount would have to be expended.
– Last night I put a pertinent question to the Minister of Home Affairs in regard to a matter of policy, to which he has not referred. I pointed out that, in the interests of the Commonwealth, the supervising staff of the Public Works Branch should be fully manned, and properly equipped, and the Minister of Trade and Customs interjected that he was quite in accord with me. I wish to know from the Minister what he intends to do in regard to this matter ? If nothing is done, the branch, although expensive to the community, will be ineffective. I make no reflection on the officers themselves, but I know that it is impossible for them to make their inspection thorough. The Minister, in replying to the criticism of salaries made by some honorable members, tried to establish an analogy between the States “ Departments and the Commonwealth Departments, but that defence is a weak one. Even in regard to the Treasurer’s Department, where it might be thought most likely to succeed, it does not hold good. The accountant of the Commonwealth Treasury has 1 ot nearly so many Departments to supervise as have the accountants of the State Treasury. For instance, the Commonwealth has no Lands Department, no Justice Department, and no Education Department. I am1 not cavilling at the amounts paid, but I think that the salaries should be fixed for the various offices, and not for the various officers. Unless a man is competent, he should not be appointed to a position, and when he is competent, he does not need fulsome compliments on his ability. The Minister of Home Affairs took up the wrong position in arguing that the Committee should agree to a certain salary because of the ability of the officer to whom it is paid. Each officer should receive only the salary which has been fixed as the proper remuneration for the duties of his office.
– Who is the best judge as to what is the proper remuneration? Is not the Public Service Commissioner ?
– That is the work which the Public Service Commissioner was appointed to do. I have no wish to hear officials referred to personally in this Chamber. Our business is to see that the various offices are properly graded. I understand that the honorable member for Canobolas, this morning, gave us a dissertation on the want of dignity of certain honorable members, and referred particularly to the honorable member for Dalley. If he takes the opportunity to speak on the subject on the adjournment, I shall make a feeble attempt to reply to him, because if any one should be ready to defend the actions of the honorable member for Dalley it is myself.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that in every case salaries should be fixed according to the work which has to be done; but, if I remember rightly, the salaries attaching to these offices were fixed before any appointments were made.
– Yes; but the Public Service Commissioner has revised some of the
– If the Minister had made that clear there would have been no misunderstanding.
Mr. MCWILLIAMS (Franklin).- The honorable member for Maranoa opened up a very important subject in referring to the increases proposed in connexion with’ the salaries of some of our public servants. I hope that the Committee will seriously consider all proposals to increase salaries. During the last three years, it has been almost impossible to obtain fair criticism of the Estimates, because they have been prepared bv the Opposition and presented by the Government, and, consequently, any one who has had the temerity to say anything against them has had two barrels levelled at him. The Treasurer expects to have a surplus of £460,000, but that will disappear when we make arrangements to pay for the transferred properties. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that there is no comparison whatever between the work done by some of our Federal officials and that done by officials holding similar positions in the service of the States. The Commonwealth revenue is all obtained through the Customs Department, so that our Treasurer has to deal only with that branch of finance. We have no Lands Department, no Mines Department;, and no Police Department.
– The Treasurers of the States have more anxiety than our Treasurer has.
– They have ten times as much anxiety ; and what is true of the Treasurer applies to the permanent head of the Department, to whom 95 per cent, of the credit for the arrangement of the information in the Budget speech is due. In grading our Public Service, however, we have at all times tried to go one better than the States of New South Wales and Victoria, and have not paid sufficient regard to the revenue of States like Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia.
– The fixing of salaries is the business of’ the Public Service Commissioner.
– Every increase of salary granted to the public servants of the Commonwealth will involve a corresponding reduction in the salaries of States officials.
– If we do not secure good men, our expenditure will soon increase.
– That reason is always advanced in support of higher salaries. I do not wish to see salaries reduced beyond a proper scale. I believe that if good men are required they must be well paid; but whilst we are considering these Estimates we must pay due consideration to the States finances. It will be a bad day for the Federation when we cease to adopt that course. In Tasmania the public servants, who are quite as worthy as are the officials of the Commonwealth, have either had their salaries reduced or have been deprived of their annual increments owing to the increasing expenditure of the Commonwealth ; and I would urge honorable members to be just to the States ‘servants when they are disposed to’ be ‘generous to the public servants’ of the Commonwealth.
Mr. LIDDELL (Hunter). - I desire to thank the Minister of Home Affairs for the favorable reception he has accorded to my request. I take ‘exception to the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia, who expressed the view that I should be satisfied with the post-office building which it is proposed to erect at Kurri Kurri. I point out that I am merely voicing the wishes of the residents of that town who belong to the very class which the honorable member claims to specially represent. I endeavour to the best of my ability to place before this House the claims of my constituents, irrespective of whether they belong to the working class or to any other, and the altitude assumed by the honorable member for Capricornia appears to me to be absolutely unwarranted. There is no reason why the claims advanced by him on behalf of a gold mining community should be treated with any more consideration than those put forward by myself on behalf of a community of coal miners. It is well known that gold-mining settlements are of an unstable character, whereas individual coal-mining enterprises have been in many cases carried on for hundreds of years. There is no question as to the stability of the coal-mining industry in the district which I represent.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– It appears to me that there is too great a disparity between the salary paid to the senior clerk in the Electoral ‘ Office and those paid to the two clerks immediately under him, who together receive £396 per annum, or less than £200 per annum each. It has been stated that these officers have been rated according to the value of the work they perform, but I cannot understand why there should be such a great difference in the rates of pay.
– The officers referred to have been graded by the Public Service Commissioner according to the value of the work performed. The position of the senior clerk is a very important and responsible one, whereas the clerks immediately below him occupy comparatively junior positions. The whole of the circumstances connected with .the work of the office were carefully investigated by the Commissioner, and the salaries were fixed by him.
– I cannot understand why the Chief Electoral Officer should be paid only £500, whilst the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of Tasmania, who has under him only one clerk, at a salary of £185, should receive £520 per annum.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs). - The Tasmanian officer referred to is not only the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for that State, but also the Public Works Officer, and Deputy Public Service Inspector.
– The salary paid in respect of work performed for other branches should be charged to them.
– All the branches referred to come under the Department of Home Affairs.
– But that is no reason why the whole of the salary received by the officer in question should be debited to the Electoral office.
– As a strict matter of bookkeeping the salary should no doubt be split up, but it is desirable to group the amounts in the way now provided for, in order that a proper idea may be formed as to the value of the whole of the work performed by the officer.
– Why is the course adopted in Tasmania not also followed in other States ?
– Because in Queensland a postal official has been doing the work; in South Australia a State official, Mr. Otto Schomburg, has been employed ; and in Victoria a postal . official for the time being has been acting as electoral officer. These officers have been only temporarily appointed.
– I presume that permanent appointments will be made?
– Yes. The whole matter requires to be looked into, and placed upon a definite footing. The Electoral Act contemplates the appointment of a Chief Electoral Officer, and of officers in the various States.. In some instances, it may be necessary to -appoint permanent officials, but in the smaller States no such need will arise. I can assure the honorable member that I am looking carefully into the organization pf the Department, with a view to placing it upon a permanent footing.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - The explanation of the Minister is satisfactory, so far as it goes but I .should like to know when the Electoral, office is to be placed upon a satisfactory footing: This Parliament has been in existence for upwards of four years, and yet our Electoral office is to-day in the same disorganized state that characterized it when the Act was passed. The effectiveness of Parliament as a representative institution depends largely upon the Electoral Department, and we should have a thoroughly efficient organization and staff. In my electorate a state of chaos exists, so far as the principal executive officers are concerned, and it is high time something was done to effect an improvement.
– I desire to know whether provision has been made in the Estimates for the expenses which will have to be incurred in connexion with the proposed redistribution of seats.
– Yes; provision is made under the heading of “ Miscellaneous “ for £21,000 to meet expenses in connexion with the administration of the Electoral Act.
– If I remember aright, that amount represents one-third of the sum which it is estimated will be required to defray the cost of the next general election, and also the general administration of the Department. Instead of voting a lump sum of £60,000 for one year, the amount is split up into three annual votes of £20,000 each. The amount now provided for would cover, amongst other things, the cost of the proposed redistribution. The actual cost of a general election is, I think, about £50,000.
– The last general election cost £46,000.
– I hope that we shall very speedily have placed before us proposals for the redistribution of seats. We have lately been devoting our attention to a Bill which, according to the express announcement of Ministers, is intended to remove the determination of the number of representatives for each State from the Executive, and place the responsibility upon this House. The Attorney-General made it clear that that was the purpose of the Bill, but that is precisely what the Bill does not provide for. Are honorable members aware that, in the form in which the Bill has been introduced in the Senate, it contains no provision for anything beyond the presentation of the certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer, and thai] it is still open to the Executive either to take action to determine the number of representatives to which each State is entitled, or to leave things’ as thev are. There is nothing in the Bill which directs the Minister to do anything.
– The intention of the Bill is clear.
– Order’! The honorable member cannot discuss a Bill which is before another branch of the Legislature.
– I am speaking generally. I cite that Bill as an instance of the way in which the affairs of this Department are being administered. After all the flourish of trumpets on the part of Ministers as to the great changes which they intended to make, and the iniquity of allowing the Executive to take these matters upon their own shoulders, they have left things exactly as they were. That evidences the greatest carelessness on the part of those who are responsible for the drafting of the Bill. It does not contain a single provision under which it is mandatory for the Executive to take any action whatever. Unless some amendment be made in another Chamber, the measure will be a dead letter. With regard to the Chief Electoral Officer, I understand that that position has not yet been filled.
– The Chief Clerk is performing the duties of the office for the time being.
– I think that a permanent appointment should be made without delay. I am under the impression that Ministers are disposed to underestimate the importance of this office. A salary” of £300 or ,£400 per annum used to be paid to the Chief Electoral Officers in the various States, and there is no comparison between the work of the Chief Electoral Officer of a State and that of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth. My own idea is that we should obtain the services of one of the very best officers we can for the proper discharge of these important duties. Personally, I know of no more important functions than those which have to be performed by the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth. It is a position requiring the Highest skill, the greatest resource, and the keenest and soundest judgment, if matters are to work smoothly and .satisfactorily. I trust that one of our best officers will speedily be appointed to the post, so that we may have efficient service at the head of this important branch.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I wish to raise a very important matter ir» connexion With these Estimates. As honorable members are aware, during the first session of the Commonwealth Parliament we passed a Public Service Act which was intended to give the Public Service Commissioner power to grade all the officers of the service. He has classified a large number of them, but I venture to say that very few honorable members are aware of the fact that, whilst the Public Service Commissioner has the right to deal with the salary of every other officer in the Department of Home Affairs, he has no control whatever over that of the Chief Electoral Officer. His salary is fixed by the Government.
– What is the honorable member’s authority for that statement?
– If the Minister of Home Affairs says that I am in error I w’ill- withdraw my statement at once. But I am under the impression that the office of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth is a Ministerial one.
– Only if it is so created by the Public Service Commissioner under the Public Service Act.
– Has it been so created ?
– I know that in connexion with Mr. Lewis’s appointment, it was a Ministerial office for a certain period.
– Mr. Lewis was never in the Commonwealth Public Service. He was only temporarily employed.
– I understood that his salary was fixed by the Cabinet.
– There was no Public Service Commissioner when Mr. Lewis was appointed.
– The position has never been classified or graded by the Public Service Commissioner, and it has never been made an administrative office under the Public Service Act. The officer to whom the honorable member refers was an exempt officer.
– I thought that my statement was substantially accurate. I intend to raise this question in regard to all Ministerial offices. There is a very important principle underlying it. The Public Service Commissioner has graded every other permanent officer in the Department of Home Affairs. The salary of the Chief Electoral Officer, however, is fixed by the Cabinet. If we are going to give the Commissioner power to grade subordinate officers of the services, I contend that he should be clothed with equal power to classify the higher officers. Otherwise, after selecting men suitable for the subordinate positions, he may find all his efforts nullified by a wrong appointment to the office of Chief Electoral Officer.
– Does the honorable member think it would be wise to place that officer under the Public Service Commissioner, seeing, that he may come into conflict with the Commissioner in his recommendations ?
– If the Public Service Commissioner is not to have the power to grade the office, an officer may be appointed at a higher salary, who would undo everything that the Commissioner had done in connexion with the Department.
– Did not the honorable member, when Postmaster-General, fix the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales?
– The House fixed it.
– The honorable member fixed the salary for the new appointment.
– I took the responsibility of recommending the Committee, when passing the Estimates last year, to fix the salary at £920 per annum, but I object to the Cabinet having the power to fix salaries in this way. The matter is one that should be under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, but, unfortunately, the law will have to be amended to enable that to be done. According to the Minister of Home Affairs, every officer in the Electoral branch, with the exception of the Chief Electoral officer, has been graded by the Commissioner. I take the view that the whole of the work of a Department might be seriously interfered with if the head of it were allowed, simply because he had a number of political friends, to secure a higher salary than would be given an officer who could bring no suchinfluence to bear. I know that the Minister of Home Affairs is not responsible for this state of affairs. I am simply pointing out that the law needs to be amended.
– Under section 16, certain officers are defined as being members of the administrative division, and only such other persons as may be recommended to the Governor-General by the Public Service Commissioner mav be included within it.
– In the opinion of the present Attorney-General and his predecessor, the fixing of the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General does not come within the province of the Public Service Commissioner.
– Because he is an administrator.
– I object to that position. Let me point out, by way of illustration, that if a man in New South Wales, which has twenty-six representatives in this House, were to be appointed as the head of a Department, he might be able to bring more influence to bear in regard to the salary to be paid him, than could a man who was appointed from Western Australia, which has only seven representatives.
– The honorable member recommended the appointment ofthepresent Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales.
– I did not. The appointment must be made by the Public Service Commissioner, and the salary is fixed by appropriation. I had merely to ask the House to fix thesalary of the office, and, that having been done, it became my duty torequest the Public Service Commissioner to fill the vacancy. The successful working of the service depends upon our securing the appointment of heads of Departments whose qualifications are such as to satisfy the Commissioner that the work of the men under them will be properly supervised.
– To make sure that they will be under the thumb of the Commissioner.
– No; but even that would be better than that the head of the Department should be controlled by political influence. It is undesirable that the salaries of heads of Departments should be fixed by the Cabinet. I have only to repeat that if it is necessary that subordinate offices shall be graded by the Commissioner, it is equally important that the same course shall be followed in regard to the higher offices of the service.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa). - I think that the criticism to which the Government have just been subjected comes with ill-grace from the honorable member for Macquarie-
– I did not blame the Government. I simply pointed out that the law needed to be amended.
– Why did not the late Government amend it?
– They were not long enough in office.
– I find that for the year 1904-5 an appropriation of£920 was made in respect of the office of DeputyPostmasterGeneral of New South Wales, while inthe Estimates now before us a sum of only . £800 appears in respect of that office. It will thus be seen that the Government has made a reduction of £120. No one more warmly defended the payment of a salary of . £920 to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales than did the honorable member for Macquarie; but if it be wrong now to pay such a salary, it was wrong to do so last year.
– I could not help myself. ‘
– I agree with the general principle enunciated by the honorable member. If the subordinate offices are to be graded by the Commissioner, every office should be graded by him.. The honorable member spoke of political influence, but it is evident that there are other influences atwork. In the Victorian branch of the Post and Telegraph Department an officer was appointed over the heads of fifty men who had sixteen years additional service to their credit. This man was selected simply because he was recommended by an official in a high position.
– The honorable member would surely recognise merit as well as seniority ?
– But surely the honorable member does not say that fifty mail officers in the Department are dunderheads?
– That might be so.
– It is interesting to observe how ready an ex-Minister is at all times to come to the assistance of another. If there are fifty incompetent mail officers in the Victorian branch of the Post and Telegraph Department, I can only say that the honorable member for Coolgardie failed in his duty when Postmaster-General. He ought to have removed them.
– The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with questions affecting the internal administration of the Post and Telegraph Department.
– I referred to the position of the mail officers only to illustrate my point. I have nothing further to add.
– The duties of Chief Electoral Officer are discharged by the Chief Clerk in the Department of Home Affairs. I do not wish, for a moment to suggest that that gentleman is not absolutely competent to discharge those duties ; but I hold that as our electoral arrangements are at the very basis of the satisfactory representation of the people in this House, the occupant of that office should be not only a man of experience, but one who is absolutely independent of Ministerial control. Although the Commissioner is probably doing only that which he is required by the law to do, it seems to me that there is rather a disposition to rate men irrespective of their past experience, and in many cases square pegs have been expected to fit into round holes. I do not think that in any office is experience and knowledge of special administration more necessary than in that of the Chief Electoral Officer, and I hope that when a permanent appointment fs made a man of large information and great experience will be secured for the position. I do not wish to say anything against the late occupant, but I think that he laboured under considerable disability because of his lack of experience. I hope that in regard to any future appointment the only consideration will be the fitness and capacity of the applicants. I regard this position as so important that I should., like to see it made free from Ministerial control, and his emoluments voted by Parliament, which should not be subject to alteration by the Public Service Commissioner. In this matter, I take a different view from that of the honorable member for Macquarie. I regard the Chief Electoral Officer as holding a position which should be almost as independent as that of a High Court Judge.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– As something has been said about the operation of politicalinfluence, I should like to draw attention to a -case’ in which It seems to me that either official or social influence must have been used. In this case, a. letter-sorter was promoted, over the heads of 140 others, to a position in the mail branch here in Melbourne.
Mr.- Thomas. - Perhaps because of his special ability.
– Is it likely that one man would be conspicuously better’ than 140 others in regard to the sorting of letters?
Many of those over whose heads he was promoted were his seniors by lengths of service ranging from ten to fourteen years. I do not believe in political influence, because I think that merit alone should carry promotion in the Public Service. But, as I have stated frequently, social or official influence is much worse than political influence, because it cannot be checked, whereas if a member of Parliament does anything that he should not do he can be brought to book. I know that political influence is dead, so far as the Commonwealth Public Service is concerned, and I am not sorry, because I have no favours to ask on behalf of any one; but I am desirous that our public servants shall all have a square deal, and that neither social nor official influence shall be of any avail in securing promotion.
– The case alluded to by the honorable member for Parramatta was a most glaring one, but I believe that the Public Service Commissioner only indorsed an anomaly which had been created before his appointment. Some of these cases may have happened after the transfer of State officers to the Commonwealth, and before the Public Service Commissioner was appointed. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa that the Public Service Commissioner is largely in the hands of his officers, who can, if they like, push forward subordinates to whom they take a fancy, while those who have the courage to speak out are kept back. Eight or nine weeks ago, I moved for a return showing the amount of overtime worked by certain Customs officers in bonds in Melbourne. The information for which I asked is not! yet to hand. If it were, I should be able to prove that certain officers who have been jumped over the heads of others are being allowed todraw pretty nearly £100 a year in overtime. No doubt it will be said that the Department has been too busy to make up this return ; but I hope that it will be’ ready when the Estimates of the Minister of Trade and Customs are brought ‘ forward for discussion. I think that I shall then be’ able to prove that certain favorites in the Department have been pushed ahead to the detriment of other men. Until social and official, as well as political, influence is eliminated, we shall not have a perfect’ service.
-! would point out that the Public Service
Commissioner, when he took over the Service, found that a number of persons had been appointed to positions to which large salaries were attached, and in making his classification he allowed these salaries to remain as they were. Hence, a large number of anomalies have arisen. I agree that no influence should be brought to bear to secure trie promotion of public servants, and the only way in which that can be prevented is by keeping the Service under’ the control of an officer in whom we can have confidence. Of course, human nature is not infallible, but I have no doubt that the Public Service Commissioner tries to do what is right and fair so far as the members of the Public Service are concerned. I would not contend that seniority alone should be considered in making promotions, because men who have held certain positions for years may not be worthy of promotion to higher positions. Where possible, all promotion should be solely in accordance with merit. It is only under that system that men can be encouraged to do their best to improve their positions. I know that in many cases the Public Service Commissioner has altered the methods of the Service for the better, and has tried to give persons who are lower down in the Service opportunities of promotion which they would not have had in the service of the States. In days to come, large numbers of these men will, in consequence, find their positions very largely improved. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie, however, that all the officers -in the Service should be under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. If the position of Deputy Postmaster-General was worth £920 six or twelve months ago, it should be worth that amount now. The duties performed by these officers are very important, since they control the whole of the postal business of the States, and it is only proper, therefore, that they should be paid large salaries. I hold the view that the power to interfere with salaries should be taken out of the hands of the Minister. One Minister might reduce a salary, and his successor might still further decrease it. I think that we have pursued the right course in placing the administration of the Public Service under the control of a Commissioner. There will always be complaints, because we cannot expect public servants to form an absolutely fair estimate of the value of the work they have to do. It is natural for one man to consider that he is better than another, who is, perhaps, in receipt of a higher salary, and therefore it is necessary to bring some outside judgment to bear in estimating the value of the work. I think that the law, which I regard as rather harsh, has been somewhat strained in the case of the telegraph messengers, who, although they entered the Public Service with a full knowledge of the conditions under which they were to be employed, still feel the hardship of having to leave at the age of eighteen.
– I am afraid that the honorable member for Maranoa left upon the minds of honorable members an impression that the Public Service Commissioner was to blame for having put one officer over the heads of 140 others. The honorable member wanted to know whether, now that political influence had been removed from the Departments, social influences were not being permitted to influence appointments and promotions. I desire to point out that the Commissioner had nothing whatever to do with the appointment in question, because it was made by the Public Service Commissioner of Victoria three months prior to the transfer of the Department to the Commonweal fh
– I desire by way of personal explanation to refer to the question of the salary of the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales. The Government to which I. belonged took the responsibility of submitting the salary that had been previously fixed, and the House agreed to it. Although I was not required by law. to consult the Public Service Commissioner with regard to the matter, I felt that the principle adopted in regard to other officers should also apply to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and I obtained the opinion of the Public Service Commissioner. He expressed the view that £920, as fixed by Parliament, was the proper salary to attach to the position, and I was perfectly prepared to accept his decision, because I recognised that he had a much better knowledge than I possessed of the nature of the duties to be performed, and the value of the work. It should not be left to the Ministerial head of the Department to fix any salaries, but the whole responsibility in that regard should be thrown on the Commissioner. I shall take another, opportunity to bring this matter under the notice of honorable members, because I consider that an important principle is involved, and that serious consequences may ensue unless some definite understanding is arrived at. I was very glad to hear the explanation of the Minister of Home Affairs with regard to the officer referred to by the honorable member for Maranoa. I felt sure that the Public Service Commissioner would not do any injustice.
– He allowed the anomaly to remain.
– I question whether he had the power to remove it.
– I notice that, under the head of “Contingencies,” the amount appropriated last year for temporary assistance was very largely exceeded, and I should like the Minister to explain how that occurred.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs- Minister of Home Affairs). - The amount spent upon temporary assistance was increased, owing to the fact that certain officers whose services were required, and whose permanent appointment had been provided for, could not be definitely installed in their positions until some time after the date originally “fixed. The expenditure upon temporary assistance was thereby increased, but the amount paid away in salaries to permanent officials was reduced to a corresponding degree.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– It is due to the honorable member for Dalley that I should say something in regard to the suggestion that we should have a complete Public Works staff. This matter was very carefully considered by my predecessor, and also by the Conference of Premiers. The desire of the Department has been to, as far as possible, work in harmony with the States, and to thus avoid the necessity of incurring double expense. The Commonwealth works extend over the whole of the States, and frequently have to be carried on in very remote localities. The States officials have to be on the spot, and double expense would be incurred if we also had to send our own officers all over the place. Arrangements have recently been made with the States officials which have resulted in a better understanding. Our works are now being proceeded with under more satisfactory conditions than previously, and I can assure honorable members that there is no urgent necessity for making any change such as has been suggested.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I should like to direct attention to the item of £2,521 for post and telegraph repairs and maintenance. I understand that an amount of £260 has been appropriated for the purpose of carrying out certain repairs at the Cloncurry post-office. I consider that such repairs should never have been authorized, because the building has been almost eaten down by white ants, and will probably prove quite inadequate after the construction of the railway which is now approaching completion. If that expenditure had been held over for a few months, the Government would probably have been able to save it, because within the next year or so they will be compelled to build a new office altogether. The present structure is practically beyond repair. It has been eaten out by white ants, the accommodation provided is utterly inadequate, and the bulk of the business is transacted upon the verandah.
– I will withhold the authorization and make inquiries for the honorable member.
– My principal complaint is that the Department have expended this money without first instituting careful inquiries into the matter.
– I wish to know whether the item “ Post and Telegraphs, £5,836,” in the State of Queensland covers the amount paid in applying the condenser system to telegraph lines?
– No; it provides only for works and buildings.
– Then where is provision made for the maintenance of the telegraph and telephone lines?
– That matter is included in the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– Iri this division there is an item of £80 for rent of buildings in South Australia. I should like to know whether that amount is intended to provide any accommodation for members of this Parliament in Adelaide ?
– No; it merely makes’ provision for the rental of an office for the Public Service Inspector.
– In Western Australia the room provided for the use of members of the Commonwealth Parliament is located in the same building as the office of the Public Service Inspector. But, in South Australia, members of this Parliament are furnished with no accommodation whatever. By the courtesv of the State Legislature, they are allowed to occupy a room belonging to members of the Legislative Council. But as that room is also used by members of the Council itself, it is very inconvenient for honorable members of this Parliament to receive visitors there. Some members of the Legislative Council have even gone to the length of resenting our use of the room, and I should like to ask the Minister whether some better arrangement cannot be made in that connexion ?
– I will look into the matter, and see if that can be done. I cannot make a definite promise at once.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy). - I would point out that in this division there is a sum of , £25,332 for rent. I should like some explanation of this expenditure. In connexion with State politics, I know that whenever it became necessary to rent any building for public purposes, the general idea was that the Government were. pretty good game, and were mulcted in rents very much in excess of those charged to private individuals. If it is necessary to expend such a large sum as £25,000 an rent, I think it is about time that we considered the advisability of erecting buildings of our own. I need scarcely point out that the amount represents interest upon nearly £750,000 at 3 per cent.
– I would point out to the honorable member that many of the items included in this division relate to rents which we are paying to the . various States. Upon the whole, that is the most satisfactory arrangement into which we can enter. In Victoria,for example, we are required to pay certain rents for administrative offices, as it is not considered necessary to erect permanent buildings for our own use during the comparatively short time that we may remain in Melbourne. It is purely a business arrangement, and in each instance due precaution is taken that the Commonwealth shall pay rent only in circumstances in which it is absolutely justifiable.
Mr. PAGE (Maranoa).– The Chief Secretary of Queensland has informed me that the Commonwealth can secure accommodation for its electoral officers in Brisbane, at the Treasury buildings.
– We have accepted the offer of the State Government.
– I am very glad to hear that. As the Minister is a native of Brisbane, and is more familiar with that city than I am, I should like him to tell me where the Commonwealth offices are located there? I do not think I should be able to find them, even with the aid of a microscope. I know that a lot of publications, such as Hansard, which are forwarded to Brisbane, are now lying in the cellars of the Customs House there. That is not a very desirable state of things. When the honorable member for Hume was Minister of Home Affairs, he assured honorable members that an office would be provided in each of the State capitals in which they could transact their public business. So far, no such accommodation has been provided in Queensland. The Government of that State, however, have very generously given us the use of the parliamentary buildings. A more generous offer could not well be imagined. Most of the representatives of Queensland in this Parliament have availed themselves of it. My home is nearly 1,000 miles from Brisbane, and when I am in that city I have either to walk the streets with any constituent who desires to consult with me, or take him to the State Parliament House. I hope that the Minister will at least make arrangements for the use of a room in Brisbane in which honorable members may store their papers.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 25 (Governor-General’s establishment) - £6,000.
Mr. MCDONALD (Kennedy).- The expenditure under this division seems to be well maintained. I notice that the proposed votes in regard to Government House, Sydney, and Government -House, Melbourne, are again very heavy. I had something to say last session in relation to the division, and must once more take strong exception to it. Whilst the Marquis of Linlithgow held office as Governor-General a Bill was submitted to this House by which it was proposed to increase the salary of his office by £8,000 per annum. The measure met with such strong opposition, however, that the Government of the day was severely snubbed, and had to allow a private member to move an amendment which wrought a complete change in its object. In spite of that fact we are once more asked to provide £6,000 for the upkeep of Government Houses at Melbourne and Sydney ; and when we add to this the amount paid to the Secretary of the Executive Council and his officials, we find that the , £8,000 by which it was proposed to increase the salary of the Governor-General is made up. In this way an attempt is being made to flaunt the will of the House. Last year I took exception to the proposal to expend £100 on china and glass for Government House, Sydney, and I notice that scarcely any portion of that vote has been expended. There was also an item of £250 on last year’s Estimates for the provision of china and glass for Government House, Melbourne, but, although it was agreed to, I observe that the money hasnot been expended. As the Committee were against me last year, I suppose that it would be useless for me to again attempt to test the question, and I shall, therefore, content myself by entering my protest against this heavy expenditure.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. In this morning’s issue of the Age there appears a report of the debate which took place last night on the motion relating to Home Rule, in which it is stated that -
Mr. Brown intimated his intention of moving as an amendment that the following words be added to the motion : -
But the sad history of Ireland since the act of union shows that no British Parliament can understand or effectively deal with the economies and social conditions of Ireland.
That statement is not in accordance with fact. The records of the House show that the words in question form part of the motion submitted by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and that in the course of my speech I suggested that they should be deleted. The official re port also shows that I intimated that at the proper time I would move that the paragraph in question be left out. I trust that notice will be taken of this correction. There is another matter to which I desire to refer. In the course of the debate on the Estimates this morning, I proceeded to quote from the Age by way of illustrating the point I was making in reference to the proceedings in the House last night. The Chairman, however, intimated, very properly, that I could not deal with the matter at that stage. As the honorable member for Dalley has taken some exception to my remarks, I propose to complete the observations which I then offered. It was not my wish to take exception to the action of the honorable member in questioning the authenticity of the statement made by the honorable member for Southern Melbourne, in the course of the debate on the motion relating to Home Rule for Ireland, that the Marquis of Linlithgow was not a member of the Orange institution. Suffice it to say that if that distinguished gentleman is a member of the institution in question he is none the less a worthy citizen. A number of my friends and acquaintances belong to the Orange institution, and I find them in every respect honorable and worthy men. My only desire was to question the propriety of the course pursued by the honorable member for Dalley. I have no desire to set myself up as a censor of the conduct of honorable members in this House, but I think I am entitled to express my regret that the incident in question should have occurred. Whilst I appreciate the honorable member for Dalley’s keen sense of humour, I think that on the occasion in question he allowed if to run away with his discretion. The incident is reported in this morning’s issue of the Age under the headings “Irish Home Rule,” “Was Lord Linlithgow an Orangeman?” “Wagers in Parliament,” “ The Speaker to hold the Stakes.” Three parts of a column are devoted to the debate on the motion relating to Home Rule, but two-thirds of the report relate to the personal explanation made bv the honorable member for Dalley. In the course of the debate yesterday we had two or three very instructive addresses. The honorable member for Wentworth dealt with the motion from the stand-point of an opponent, and quoted a number of pertinent extracts that he had collected from reports and addresses of prominent men in the Home Rule movement. In reply to that speech, we had a very instructive and able address by the Prime Minister, who lifted the subject out of the rut into which it had been dragged, and placed it on a higher plane.
– The debate was never dragged into a rut. I never knew a debate to be maintained on a higher plane.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion, but I am entitled to give expression to my own. Notwithstanding the importance of these addresses, only one-third of the report that appears in the Age is devoted to them, the remaining part being given to a description of the funny business indulged in by the honorable member for Dalley. The same remark will apply, although in a less degree, to the Argus report. On page 9 of this morning’s issue of that journal, a column and a quarter is devoted to a general report of the debate on the motion, but on the cable page the remarks by the honorable member for Dalley appear under the heading, “ A Sporting Wager,” “Novel offer in’ Parliament.” It appears to me that such proceedings are derogatory to our parliamentary institutions. For that reason, I take exception to them:. The bit of by-play to which so much prominence is given occupied only a few minutes, but by affording so much space to it, and curtailing ‘tha report of the real solid work of the afternoon, an. unfair presentment of our method of transacting business was placed before the country, and naturally it will be thought by the people outside that the greater part of our proceedings are merely frivolous. If we wish to secure respect for parliamentary institutions, we must respect them ourselves, by dealing with the business of the House in a proper way.
– The honorable member for Canobolas has had a good deal to say about the honorable member for Dalley, and it is only right, if no one else will do so, that I should rise to speak on his behalf. He appears to the honorable member for Canobolas to be quite unaccountable for his actions, and there are occasions when I would not accept responsibility for them. The honorable member for Canobolas, speaking with laborious dignity from the Labour comer, has given us a lecture on deportment and manners. I hope that any future lectures of the kind will first be rehearsed in the caucus of the party of which he is a member. He has also taken upon himself the censorship of the press, and from the rare atmosphere of Canobolas has dictated to the newspaper proprietors what thev should or should, not publish. I trust that any similar remarks that he may feel bound to make will be addressed directly to the editors or proprietors of our newspapers. The honorable member for Canobolas found fault with the honorable member for Dalley for trying to establish the fact that he was not guilty of making an untrue statement in regard to a matter of consequence. To the honorable member for Canobolas, it was of no consequence that the honorable member for- Dalley should be charged with having made such a statement. Apparently, the honorable member for Dalley was expected to sit quiet after the honorable member for Southern Melbourne had practically accused him of telling an untruth, or, if I were in order, I should say an absolute lie. But the honorable member for Canobolas is such a stickler for what is proper, that I will not use that expression. Not only is the honorable member a Chesterfield of debate ; he is also a modern Jeremiah. I have never heard his equal for lamentations. Will he permit me to remind him of some words of the original Jeremiah? -
Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night - for the levity of the honorable member for Dalley. O, ye sacred frogs ! how I lament that the honorable member for Canobolas was offended at the slight appearance of frivolity on the part of the honorable member for Dalley. He forgets how difficult it is for any one to be humorous in Parliament, especially when sitting on the Opposition benches. But in the calendar of the Labour Party it is a crime to be light-hearted. One must be dignified, and no doubt it will not be long before the honorable member for Canobolas rivals in dignity the honorable and learned member for Parkes. I trust that to-morrow morning the Argus and Age will give a column or two to the lecture of this Chesterfield of the Labour corner. Personally, I sometimes wonder at the newspapers publishing so much. If I were a reporter, I should very often not report anything at all - except myself at the treasury of the newspaper office on pay days. So far as Mr. Speaker is concerned, no one has a greater veneration for the dignity of his office than has the honorable member for Dalley, and I presume- that yesterday, when he rushed to make the wager which has been referred to, he was ready to place his stake in the hands of Mr. Speaker, because, in so doing, he was taking less risk than by employing any other honorable member as stake-holder.
– I also wish to make my acknowledgments to the honorable member for Canobolas for the kindly advice which he has given me to-day.
Mr.- Tudor. - As this is an important declaration, we should have a quorum to hear it.
A quorum not being present,
-Speaker adjourned the House at 4.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 October 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051013_reps_2_27/>.